Request for Statements of Interest: DRL FY20 Iraq Programs

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

I. Requested Objectives for Statements of Interest

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) outlining project concepts and capacity to manage programs in Iraq that will: strengthen effective governance; increase political participation and civic activism; promote fundamental freedoms; and support atrocity prevention, accountability, and reconciliation.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to immediately access SAMS Domestic or in order to obtain a username and password.  For instructions on how to register with SAMS Domestic for the first time, please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions for Statements of Interest at:

The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process.  Applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, 3-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a program idea and its objectives before the development of a full proposal application.  The purpose of the SOI process is to allow applicants the opportunity to submit program ideas for DRL to evaluate prior to requiring the development of full proposal applications.  Upon review of eligible SOIs, DRL will invite selected applicants to expand their ideas into full proposal applications.


U.S. human rights and democracy assistance in Iraq will be tailored to promote governance based on democratic principles, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and peaceful coexistence.  It will also provide for the protection of and advocacy for the rights of the most vulnerable, including youth, women, and religious and ethnic minorities, and mitigate the impact of conflict on Iraqi communities.

Proposed programming must be responsive to immediate needs in-country; flexible in its ability to respond to the shifting context; and in line with the U.S. Government’s democracy, governance, and human rights goals for Iraq.  Programming should also contribute to and support Iraqi efforts where possible.  Helpful resources for applicants include the annual Iraq Human Rights Report, International Religious Freedom Report, and Trafficking in Persons Report (

Applicants must clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration, in addition to organization name, proposal title, budget amount, program length, and point of contact.

With the above in mind, DRL invites organizations to submit statements of interest for programs in the following areas:

EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE, POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, AND CIVIC ACTIVISM.  Programming should promote inclusive, transparent, and responsive governance and should focus on one or more of the following areas.  Elections-related programs should consider not only the anticipated general/national elections, but also promote the establishment of best practices and inclusive institutional policies for future elections, including provincial and regional elections:

I. Promoting Effective Governance

  • Empower officials at the national and local levels to engage on and be responsive to human rights concerns, including the rights of marginalized communities. Increase the capacity and awareness of non-traditional and community leaders to adequately, inclusively, and effectively represent their communities/constituents in governance mechanisms, and to engage with and address the needs of diverse segments of Iraqi society in formal governance processes.
  • Enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Government of Iraq (GOI) and/or Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to demands for anti-corruption efforts. Program activities may include: supporting advocacy and watchdog NGOs to collaborate with and/or encourage government transparency and responsiveness to anti-corruption efforts; supporting journalists to further their engagement and reporting on corruption; and supporting independent and citizen media outlet oversight and integrity in reporting, including fact-based reporting and independent media reporting on corruption and transparency.
  • Address the spread of disinformation, particularly where disinformation campaigns target electoral processes and civic activists. Program activities should strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders to address vulnerabilities in information security; identify and report on bot activity and other disinformation tactics targeting electoral processes and civic activists; and raise awareness of disinformation threats designed to hinder political participation and citizen engagement.  Programming should also facilitate the adaptation of tools to the Iraqi context.
  • Address labor concerns within Iraq and increase access to improved employment by promoting adherence to Iraqi labor laws and international labor conventions. Programs should assist worker organizations or worker-focused institutions in representing worker interests in Iraqi democracy and in advocating for decent and safe jobs, free from discrimination and harassment, the ability to collectively bargain, and freedom of association.  Programs may also assist democratic worker organizations in improving their operations to better represent their diverse operations to better represent their members, sustain outreach to Iraqi workers, and ensure accountability to Iraqi laws in order to prevent labor exploitation.  Programming focused on supporting women workers, workers with disabilities, or other traditionally marginalized groups is encouraged.

II. Increasing Political Participation

  • Strengthen Iraqi citizens’ ability to engage their representatives at the local and national level on social, political, and economic issues, with a particular focus on increasing civil society engagement with the GOI. Applicants should facilitate and sustain locally-driven coalition-building efforts within Iraqi civil society where possible to aggregate and more effectively vocalize citizen concerns.
  • Promote the participation and leadership of women and minorities in decision-making institutions, including federal, provincial, and local government, as well as cross-cutting institutional bodies and political parties.
  • Promote full participation in Iraq’s civic processes, such as elections, particularly addressing barriers to access resulting from specific vulnerabilities (i.e., internally displaced persons, those lacking civil documentation, those with low literacy or mobility issues, etc.). Applicants should facilitate the outreach, education, and championing of IDP-specific interests in elections, particularly as they relate to electoral districts, ID requirements, and voting ability.
  • Promote increased transparency and accountability in electoral processes by preventing voter intimidation and electoral violence – especially against traditionally marginalized populations – and supporting legal efforts that enfranchise voters and compel adherence to electoral laws. Programs should focus on supporting transparency in the pre- and/or post-election environment ensuring a peaceful and inclusive transition of power and demonstrating that elections processes are free, fair, and transparent.
  • Engage workers and worker organizations in strengthening freedom of association initiatives and democracy best practices. Programs should clearly demonstrate links between community demands and worker-derived solutions for feeding into public policy and advocacy.  This may include linking worker groups and rank-and-file workers to tripartite dialogues, supporting worker-centered approaches to problems of national importance, and assisting worker organizations in upholding or advancing human rights and democratic norms both inside their institutions and at the governmental level.  Programs should include traditionally marginalized worker voices like those of women, young workers, unemployed workers, or people with disabilities.

III. Supporting Civic Activism

  • Build the capacity of Iraqi activists by: providing basic skills and training in democratic activism, including advocacy, community organizing, coalition-building, non-violence, conflict resolution, and accountability capabilities; providing ongoing mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities to participating activists and organizations; developing sustainable tools and approaches to achieve impact on policy outcomes and political freedoms. Activities should focus on the design, organization, and implementation of public advocacy campaigns on specific topics rather than general training programs directed to basic organizational capacity.
  • Create and deepen linkages between emerging democratic activists and watchdog civil society groups towards the goal of building a national network of likeminded individuals and groups.
  • Respond to protestor demands to address corrupt practices and grievances around poor governance related to pollution and environmental issues. Activities should promote a culture of respect for the environment within Iraq with the recognition that a safe and clean environment is a fundamental human right, and that corrupt practices and lax regulations have served as a launching point for peaceful democratic protests. Activities should also focus on improving community awareness of pollution and environmental issues, support to communities advocating for environmental justice, and the passage and enforcement of environmental protection legislation.
  • Improve and enforce national social safety net programs and engagement between the private and public sector in line with Iraqi law. Advance multi-stakeholder partnerships that target cross-cutting issues of human rights. Examples may include advocacy by labor-business partnerships to reduce environmental degradation in Iraq or business’s adherence to legal frameworks regarding occupational safety, health, and taxation. Programs that bring diverse coalitions together to engage on common social issues or issues concerning renewal of the country’s democratic social contract are encouraged. Support civil society in Iraq via targeted small grants and technical assistance.
    • DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement. The applicant must demonstrate strong ties to local NGOs across Iraq that can serve as local partners, and demonstrate an ability to effectively manage sub-grants, sub-awards, and subcontracts.  DRL will negotiate with the recipient the conditions and criteria under which these small grants will be awarded.  Both DRL and the lead implementer may propose small grants and partners for activities under this program.  Successful candidates will demonstrate the ability to support a wide range of activities, from advocacy to direct assistance.  DRL may request that the recipient provide targeted assistance to other NGOs or individuals operating in Iraq, either through direct technical assistance or as financial support for these services provided through a small grant.   DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.

FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS.  Programming should protect and advance fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Freedom of Expression

  • Build the independence of Iraqi media, including by strengthening professionalism, specialization, sustainability, editorial independence, advocacy, and/or management of regulatory relationships. Address problematic legislation, including interpretation and implementation of existing legislation that restricts the fundamental freedom of expression and promotes freedom of expression without fear of retaliation.
  • Expand and protect Internet freedom in Iraq by enabling civil society to safely access the open, secure, interoperable, and reliable global Internet through support for proven and next generation technical solutions that provide access to the uncensored Internet during periods of blocking and Internet shutdowns.
  • Empower civil society to engage in domestic and regional advocacy to support the development of laws and regulations that protect the exercise of human rights online. This may include building the capacity of local advocates to encourage policy reform; supporting regional advocacy networks to enhance coordination; and fostering like-minded coalitions to unite civil society, the private sector, technical communities, and other Internet freedom stakeholders.
  • Provide targeted digital security and safety capacity-building support to assist civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists to stay safe online. This may include training for at-risk individuals; training of digital safety trainers; organizational security audits; public awareness-raising campaigns on online risks and harms; online and mobile training resources; and emergency response services to provide rapid assistance to human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, who are attacked for their online activities.

II. Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

  • Provide broad-based support to civil society groups and activists in Iraq’s southern provinces. Proposals should take into consideration both the difficult operating environment for CSOs operating in southern provinces pre-2019 as well as the increasingly difficult situation facing those organizations in the current context.
  • Address problematic legislation restricting fundamental freedoms through advocacy and reform efforts, and support implementation of existing laws that promote equitable status and rights. Programming should include raising awareness within communities on human rights according to Iraqi law.  Programming may also include support to lawyers targeted for their casework and advocacy on human rights issues.
  • Support government efforts to ensure equitable access to decent and safe work through skills training to formal and informal sector workers. Programming should include knowledge training for workers regarding key Iraqi legal frameworks like adherence to the labor law, social security law, and other statutes governing worker rights and obligations.  Programming may also work on barriers that prevent specific populations from accessing and participating in public life.  Examples may include barriers to women’s participation in certain types of careers or the ability of youth to access and exercise their fundamental right to peaceful assembly.

ATROCITY PREVENTION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND RECONCILIATION.  Programming should support inclusive efforts to protect human rights, reduce and prevent violence, and rebuild trust within and between communities and between citizens and the state, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Atrocity Prevention

  • Provide personal safety counseling, psychosocial support, and digital safety skills to strengthen the self-protection capacity and resiliency of activists, journalists, lawyers, and civil society organizations.
  • Provide psychosocial support and awareness around violence and healing from violence. Programs may assess needs, plan treatments, and build referral pathways, and train community practitioners/community development workers to work with those affected by violence, either at the community level or in detention centers.
  • Support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including access to protection (e.g., shelters, either government-run or otherwise) and access to services; activities designed to change societal attitudes and address harmful gender norms that normalize gender-based violence (GBV) or stigmatize and shun survivors , prevent individuals from safely accessing assistance and reporting crimes, and relegate issues of violence against women outside of established justice processes; and promote survivor protection and dignity by providing sensitivity training and technical expertise to advocacy groups. Programs that engage men and boys and include family- and community-based approaches will be viewed favorably.
  • Establish a context-specific, flexible response mechanism to provide emergency support to survivors of GBV and technical support to organizations working to prevent and respond to GBV in Iraq. The mechanism must advance local solutions for addressing GBV and survivors’ needs, and be able to operate nationwide.  Applicants must demonstrate strong ties with local NGOs working on GBV issues across Iraq, and an ability to effectively manage sub-awards and direct cash assistance to individuals.  Coalitions of organizations with nationwide reach, who identify one organization as the lead applicant, will be viewed favorably.  DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.
  • Address the systemic, legal, religious, and cultural barriers preventing the safe, dignified, and voluntary return and reintegration of former ISIS captives and their children, including Turkmen and Yezidis. Programming should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of Iraqi women and children facing barriers to return and reintegrate safely into Iraq from outside the country.
  • Address issues that give rise to intercommunal conflict, including political and social marginalization, impunity and lack of access to justice, violence against women and girls, and other early warning indicators and risks that could potentially lead to escalation of atrocities. Develop and use innovative and sustainable methods to identify and map vulnerable communities and create early warning mechanisms for potential atrocities.
  • Enable Iraqi civil society and advocacy groups to engage constructively and collaboratively with security forces, particularly on inclusive security sector reform and/or oversight to ensure that all parties promote security in a manner that protects all civilians, minimizes the impact of conflict on communities, respects human rights, adheres to the rule of law, and facilitates accountability for atrocities committed against Iraqi communities.

II. Accountability

  • Advance accountability for atrocities committed in Iraq through available legal avenues for justice, including those in third countries, by providing legal, psychosocial, and other types of assistance to victims of abuses.
  • Monitor, track, and document the targeting of civil society organizations, activists, journalists, women human rights defenders, and other vulnerable groups, as well as politically motivated attacks including media incitement of violence.
  • Document and promote accountability for human rights abuses, with a focus on abuses committed by security forces. Combat impunity for human rights violations through legal advocacy and other channels, with consideration given to the unique needs of women and girls.
  • Monitor juvenile and adult detention facilities and judicial proceedings, including gender-sensitive documentation of treatment and anti-torture measures, as well as advocacy for access to information and legal representation. Programs that include activities in pre-trial detention facilities will be viewed favorably.
  • Support to national-level governmental bodies responsible for human rights monitoring, documentation, and reporting.
  • Build the technical capacity of GOI and KRG stakeholders focused on the search and identification of missing and disappeared persons based on international best practices; support the collection, standardization, and preservation of information and potential evidence on the missing and disappeared for a range of accountability and other transitional justice processes; create and manage public education and awareness-raising campaigns that also build trust with local communities, especially families of the missing and disappeared; map and secure mass graves; and support the recovery of victims’ remains and accurate victim identification for justice, truth, and accountability efforts.

III. Reconciliation

  • Promote the rehabilitation, reintegration, and protection of conflict-affected youth, particularly children in detention centers. Programs may include community reintegration, protection of civil rights, provision of or access to legal assistance, psychosocial support, and advocacy with the government on juvenile detention issues.
  • Help restore the relationship between citizens and the state in areas where violence or mistrust has or continues to impact individual and community participation in democratic processes.
  • Support targeted, community-based dispute resolution, conflict management, and non-violent coexistence programs. Programs may include non-humanitarian assistance to help displaced persons integrate in host communities and/or reintegrate should they voluntarily return home; efforts to promote reintegration and non-violent coexistence with those who are negatively impacted by perceived affiliations based on family, tribe, religious or ethnic identity, and area of origin, or between citizens and the state; and advocacy for acknowledgment and recognition of atrocities.  Programs that leverage and support women’s participation are encouraged.
  • Engage tribal leaders and communities in the peaceful, gender-responsive, and sustainable reintegration of individuals and families with actual or perceived former ties to ISIS.


Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources.  DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.

Applicants should conduct program activities throughout Iraq, including within the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), and where security conditions allow, activities should take place within the beneficiaries’ communities. Travel outside of Iraq for civil society representatives in furtherance of a program’s objectives will be considered on a case-by-case basis.    Additionally, programs proposing activities inside IDP/refugee camps or targeting Syrian refugees in Iraq will not be deemed competitive.  Training or workshops may be used as a tool to a larger goal but should not be the main focus of a program.  Projects for which assessments have already been completed that support certain targeted activities or interventions will be viewed favorably.  Projects that have a strong academic, research, or conference focus will not be deemed competitive.

Activities that are not typically considered competitive include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision of humanitarian assistance.
  • English language instruction.
  • Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware.
  • Purely academic exchanges or fellowships.
  • External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months.
  • Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary due to security concerns.
  • Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society.
  • Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives.
  • Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.
  • Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence or fail to provide clear evidence of the ability of the applicant to achieve the stated impact.

Applicants should request not less than $750,000 and not more than $4,000,000.  The target period of performance for projects must be between 18 and 48 months, but upon review of the SOI, DRL may request that the period of performance be extended to ensure safe and effective implementation of proposed program activities.  Applicants must develop unique objectives that speak to the categories outlined in this request.

A proven ability to implement programs in Iraq must be demonstrated.  All proposed program objectives must impact Iraqis inside the country, and working with local partners should be a central aspect of any proposed program.  Proposed programs should also thoughtfully and specifically address the participation and integration of women, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minority communities, and other marginalized populations in all program elements, where relevant and possible.  SOIs that utilize technology in safe and creative ways where possible to shape innovative program strategies will be viewed favorably.

DRL is conscious of the ever-changing security situation in Iraq.  SOIs must realistically address the challenges and limitations the applicant would likely face implementing this program, both within the current context in Iraq and in anticipation of a further evolving landscape.

Applicants invited to submit full proposals upon completion of the SOI process will also be requested to submit:

  • A security plan in order to demonstrate situational awareness and preparedness.
  • Contingency plans for proposed activities.
  • Lessons learned from past programs in Iraq that demonstrate how the implementer has safely operated and responded to challenges, learning from both successes and failures, in the operating environment.
  • A section in the proposal and budget to reflect appropriate resources and support for the psychosocial health of staff (i.e., activities can range from access to educational materials and training opportunities to counseling services to other contextually-relevant support).
  • A gender analysis that clearly articulates how the program’s design will address the different considerations for men, women, boys, girls, and the marginalized groups within these populations throughout implementation.

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the awards that results from this RSOI, DRL reserves the right to execute non-competitive continuation amendments.  The total duration of any award, including a potential non-competitive continuation amendment(s), shall not exceed 60 months or five years.  Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds.  A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).  Additionally, DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of a stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

II. Eligibility Information

Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S.- or foreign-based non-profit/non-governmental organization (NGO), or a public international organization; or
  • Be a private, public, or state institution of higher education; or
  • Be a for-profit organization or business (noting there are restrictions on payment of fees and/or profits under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR 30, “Cost Accounting Standards Administration”, and 48 CFR 31, “Contract Cost Principles and Procedures”); and
  • Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including private sector partner and NGOs; and
  • Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar programs. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal awards.  These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined SOI.  However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners.

DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.  For-profit entities should be aware that its application may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process, and that the Department of State generally prohibits profit under its assistance awards to for-profit or commercial organizations.  Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs.  The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.  Program income earned by the recipient must be deducted from the program’s total allowable costs in determining the net allowable costs on which the federal share of costs is based.

DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its programs and activities.  DRL welcomes SOI submissions irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.

No entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM) is eligible for any assistance or can participate in any activities under an award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”    Additionally, no entity listed on the EPLS can participate in any activities under an award.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the EPLS in SAM to ensure that no ineligible entity is included.

Organizations are not required to have a valid Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number—formerly referred to as a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number—and an active registration to apply for this solicitation through SAMS Domestic.  However, if a SOI is approved, these will need to be obtained before an organization is able to submit a full application.  Therefore, we recommend starting the process of obtaining a registration as soon as possible.  Please note that there is no cost associated with UEI or registration.

III. Application Requirements, Deadlines, and Technical Eligibility

All SOIs must conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at

Complete SOI submissions must include the following:

  1. Completed and signed SF-424 and SF424B, as directed on SAMS Domestic or (please refer to DRL’s PSI for SOIs for guidance on completing the SF-424); and,
  2. Program Statement (not to exceed three pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:
    1. A table listing:
      1. Name of the organization;
      2. The target country/countries;
      3. The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,
      4. Program length; and,
      5. SOI Category
    2. A synopsis of the program, including a brief statement on how the program will have a demonstrated impact and engage relevant stakeholders. The SOI should identify local partners as appropriate;
    3. A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the program’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,
    4. A brief description of the applicant(s) that demonstrates the applicant(s) expertise and capacity to implement the program and manage a U.S. government award.

An organization may submit up to three (3) SOIs total for this solicitation.  Organizations may submit multiple SOIs within the same category.  Applicants must also clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration.  As a reminder these categories are: 1) Effective Governance, Political Participation, and Civic Activism; 2) Fundamental Freedoms; and 3) Atrocity Prevention, Accountability, and Reconciliation.  If your proposal addresses multiple categories, please designate a primary category.  Applicants must create separate applications for each SOI submitted.

SOIs that request less than $750,000 or more than $4,000,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.  Please also note that applicants who propose budgets of $4,000,000 must make a clear and compelling case for requesting the maximum amount of funding.  Organizations that do not provide adequate justification may be asked to reduce the amount of funding requested.   

Technically eligible SOIs are those which:

  1. Arrive electronically via SAMS Domestic or by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Friday, December 4, 2020 under the announcement titled “DRL Request for Statements of Interest: Iraq,” funding opportunity number SFOP0007345.
  2. Are in English;
  3. Heed all instructions and do not violate any of the guidelines stated in this solicitation and the PSI for Statements of Interest.

For all SOI documents please ensure:

  1. All pages are numbered;
  2. All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
  3. All documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. Captions and footnotes may be 10-point Times New Roman font.  Font sizes in charts and tables can be reformatted to fit within one page width. and SAMS Domestic automatically log the date and time a submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether it has been submitted on time.  Late submissions are neither reviewed nor considered unless the DRL point of contact listed in section VI is contacted prior to the deadline and is provided with evidence of a system error caused by or SAMS Domestic ( that is outside of the applicant’s control and is the sole reason for a late submission.  Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their SOI.  It is the sole responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all material submitted in the SOI package is complete, accurate, and current.  DRL will not accept SOIs submitted via email, fax, the postal system, delivery companies, or couriers.  DRL strongly encourages all applicants to submit SOIs before Friday, December 4, 2020 to ensure that the SOI has been received and is complete.

IV. Review and Selection Process

The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all SOI submissions.  All technically eligible SOIs will then be reviewed against the same four criteria by a DRL Review Panel: quality of program idea, inclusivity of marginalized populations, program planning, and ability to achieve objectives/institutional capacity.  Additionally, the Panel will evaluate how the SOI meets the solicitation request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and DRL’s overall priority needs.  Panelists review each SOI individually against the evaluation criteria, not against competing SOIs.  To ensure all SOIs receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Panel will review the first page of the SOI up to the page limit and no further.  All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest agreements.

In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL policy and program offices.  Once a SOI is approved, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposal applications based on their SOIs.  Unless directed otherwise by the organization, DRL may also refer SOIs for possible consideration in other U.S. government related funding opportunities.

The Panel may provide conditions and/or recommendations on SOIs to enhance the proposed program, which must be addressed by the organization in the full proposal application.  To ensure effective use of limited DRL funds, conditions and recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and program activities.

DRL’s Front Office reserves the right to make a final determination regarding all funding matters, pending funding availability.

Review Criteria

Quality of Program Idea

SOIs should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy.  Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated.  Proposals that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged.  DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.

Addressing Barriers to Equal Participation

DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons. As the USG’s lead bureau dedicated to promoting democratic governance, DRL requests a programming approach dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Violence targeting any members of society undermines collective security and threatens democracy. DRL supports program models that assess and address the barriers to access created by violence and discrimination targeting individuals and groups based on their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  Applicants should describe how programming affects all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities under threat of violence and discrimination.  This approach should be an integral part of both the concept and explicit design of all proposed project activities and objectives.  Strong proposals will provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets as appropriate.  Stakeholders shall identify the difference between opportunities and barriers to access and design programs that do not perpetuate these inequalities but rather enhance programmatic impact by including all people in society.  The goal of this approach is to bring communities and those in power together in support of stable and secure societies.

Program Planning

A strong SOI will include a clear articulation of how the proposed program activities and expected results (both outputs and outcomes) contribute to specific program objectives and the overall program goal.  Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable, results-focused, and achievable in a reasonable time frame. 

Ability to Achieve Objectives/Institutional Capacity

SOIs should address how the program will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate.  If local partners are identified, applicants should describe the division of labor among the applicant and any local partners.  SOIs should demonstrate the organization’s expertise and previous experience in administering programs, preferably similar programs targeting the requested program area or similarly challenging environments.

For additional guidance, please see DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at

V. Additional Information

DRL will not consider SOIs that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization.

DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of an implementer and stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

Project activities that directly benefit foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

DRL requires U.S. government Risk Analysis Management vetting of all individuals programming in Iraq, which may include the board of directors from grantee and sub-award organizations, program staff, and any program participants receiving direct assistance through grant funds.  Depending on the type of vetting, the required information requested may include for each individual: full name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, a government issued ID number (drivers licenses are not accepted for any country; if the individual is a U.S. person, a SSN is required), and one piece of contact information (phone number, email address, or Skype account (if Skype is submitted an email must accompany it).  Please keep these vetting requirements in mind when designing your program.

Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement.  Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, program beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.

Organizations should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in SOIs may be considered sensitive or proprietary and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information.  However, organizations are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.

Organizations should also be aware that if ultimately selected for an award, the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities.  Please note that as of December 26, 2014, 2 CFR 200 (Sub-Chapters A through E) now applies to foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all for-profit entities.  The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award.  The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed on DRL’s Resources page at:

The information in this solicitation and DRL’s PSI for SOIs, as updated in September 2018, is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative.  Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding.  Issuance of the solicitation and negotiation of SOIs or applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government.  DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program evaluation requirements.

This solicitation will appear on, SAMS Domestic ( and DRL’s website

Background Information on DRL and DRL Funding

DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally.  DRL supports programs that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world.  DRL typically focuses its work in countries with egregious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure, and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.

Additional background information on DRL and the human rights report can be found on

VI. Contact Information

SAMS Domestic Help Desk:
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at 1-888-313-4567 (toll charges for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from Customer Support is available 24/7/365. Helpdesk:

For assistance with accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See  for a list of federal holidays.

For technical questions related to this solicitation, please contact

With the exception of technical submission questions, during the solicitation period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition until the entire review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.

For reference to international guidance, please see the following: Core Humanitarian Standard Commitment 8.9 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=; and IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings Action Sheet 4.4 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=

More from: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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  • Decennial Census: Bureau Should Assess Significant Data Collection Challenges as It Undertakes Planning for 2030
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    What GAO Found In March 2020, the Census Bureau (Bureau) delayed the start of field data collection because of COVID-19 safety, and then revised several operational timelines in response to the pandemic and Department of Commerce (Commerce) decisions. Nationally the Bureau reported completing more than 99 percent of nonresponse follow-up cases (households that have not responded to the census) by October 15, 2020. The Bureau attributes the use of technology as among the reasons it completed the work by this date. The Bureau, however, had lower completion percentages ranging between 94 and 99 for 10 local geographic areas, in part because of natural disasters and COVID-19. For example, according to the Bureau, in Shreveport, Louisiana, short-term closures stemming from the hurricane impacted data collection for 82,863 housing units. As a mitigation strategy, the Bureau shifted the Shreveport operation to telephone enumeration and brought in more than 1,200 enumerators from travel teams. Despite these efforts, the Bureau was unable to complete 22,588 cases in Shreveport before data collection ended. For these cases the Bureau will need to rely on alternate methods including imputation, which draws data from similar nearby households to determine whether a housing unit exists, whether it is occupied, and, if so, by how many people. In addition to the challenges brought on by natural disasters, the Bureau encountered other difficulties during nonresponse follow-up, such as, the inability of supervisors to reassign open cases in a timely fashion. GAO found that census field supervisors did not have the authority to reassign cases and had to wait for the field manager to make those reassignments. Bureau officials told GAO it would consider the reassignment of cases as it moves towards planning for the 2030 Census. To monitor nonresponse follow-up, the Bureau used quality control procedures, such as real-time monitoring of enumerator activities by supervisors and training assessments. However, GAO found the Bureau did not have proper controls in place, allowing some enumerators to work without having passed the required training assessment. The Bureau agreed that additional controls were necessary. The Bureau planned to count individuals living in group quarters, such as skilled-nursing and correctional facilities, between April 2, 2020, and June 5, 2020, but revised those dates to July 1, 2020, through September 3, 2020. The pandemic made it difficult to count group quarters. For example, Bureau staff found it challenging to locate a point of contact at some group quarters because facilities were closed due to the pandemic. Bureau officials told us that in December 2020 they decided to re-contact more than 24,000 out of approximately 272,000 group quarter facilities to collect data, and that imputation would be used to count individuals at the remaining facilities still reporting a zero population count. The Bureau is updating plans to assess operations and identify resulting lessons learned from the 2020 Census. As part of its planning for 2030, it will be important for the Bureau to assess the impact of the 2020 late design changes and the operations' challenges that arose. Why GAO Did This Study The 2020 Census was conducted under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related Commerce decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. As GAO previously reported, these changes introduced risks to the quality of data that the Bureau provides for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes. GAO was asked to review the Bureau's implementation of the 2020 Census. This report assesses the Bureau's implementation of the: (1) nonresponse follow-up operation, (2) group quarters enumeration, and (3) plans to assess those operations. To address these objectives, GAO conducted a series of surveys of all 248 census offices during the collection of data for those operations. GAO also monitored the cost and progress of operations and interviewed census field supervisors for each operation.
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    GAO's analysis of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data show that in fiscal year 2018, 287,547 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had inpatient stays that included care for severe wounds. These wounds include those where the base of the wound is covered by dead tissue or non-healing surgical wounds. About 73 percent of the inpatient stays occurred in acute care hospitals (ACH), and a smaller percentage of stays occurred in post-acute care facilities. Specifically, about 16 percent of stays were at skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and about 7 percent were at long-term care hospitals (LTCH). CMS data show that Medicare spending on stays for severe wound care was $2.01 billion in fiscal year 2018, representing a decline of about 2 percent from fiscal year 2016, when spending was about $2.06 billion. Spending declined as a result of decreases in both the total number of these stays, as well as spending per stay, which both decreased by about 1 percent. The decrease in per stay spending was likely driven, in part, by a change in where beneficiaries received care. CMS data show fewer severe wound care stays in LTCHs, which tend to be paid higher payment rates. At the same time, more severe wound care stays were at two other types of facilities that tend to be paid lower payment rates: ACHs and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. GAO's analysis of CMS data also show that, while the number of LTCHs that billed Medicare for severe wound care decreased by about 7 percent from fiscal years 2016 to 2018, Medicare beneficiaries continued to have access to other severe wound care providers. For example, CMS data show that most beneficiaries resided within 10 miles of an ACH or SNF that provided severe wound care in fiscal year 2018. Figure: Percentage of Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries Residing within 10 Miles of a Health Care Facility That Provided Any Severe Wound Care, by Facility Type, Fiscal Year 2018 Note: The “other” category includes facilities such as psychiatric hospitals or units. There is limited information on how or whether the decrease in LTCH care for severe wounds may have affected the quality of severe wound care Medicare beneficiaries receive. For example, CMS collects information on the percentage of patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers at post-acute care facilities, but it does not measure the quality of care they receive. Medicare beneficiaries with serious health conditions, such as strokes, are prone to developing severe wounds due to complications that often lead to immobility and prolonged pressure on the skin. These beneficiaries may require a long-term inpatient stay at an ACH or a post-acute care facility, such as an LTCH. LTCHs treat patients who require care for longer than 25 days, on average. In 2018, LTCHs represented about $4.2 billion in Medicare expenditures. Prior to fiscal year 2016, LTCHs received a higher payment rate for treating Medicare beneficiaries than ACHs. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, a dual payment system was phased in that paid LTCHs a rate similar to ACHs for some beneficiaries and a higher rate for beneficiaries that met certain criteria. As this payment system has moved from partial to full implementation, lawmakers had questions about how it may affect beneficiaries' severe wound care. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review severe wound care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. This report describes facilities where Medicare beneficiaries received severe wound care, Medicare severe wound care spending, and what is known about the dual payment system's effect on access and quality. GAO analyzed Medicare severe wound care access and spending data for fiscal years 2016 and 2018 (the most recent data available); reviewed reports; and interviewed CMS officials, researchers, and national wound care stakeholders. HHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or
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  • Taxpayer Advocate Service: Opportunities Exist to Improve Reports to Congress
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The budget for the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) declined by about 14 percent from fiscal years 2011 to 2020, when adjusted for inflation. For fiscal year 2020, TAS used most of its resources to assist individual taxpayers, known as case advocacy. TAS allocated about 76 percent of its $222 million budget and 86 percent of its almost 1,700 full-time equivalents to this purpose. The percentage of resources for case advocacy has decreased during the past decade—in fiscal year 2011 about 85 percent of the budget was devoted to it. For the same period, resources to address broader issues affecting groups of taxpayers, known as systemic advocacy, increased from 9 percent to 14 percent of the total budget. This shift is due in part to the reallocation of staff to better integrate systemic advocacy work and TAS's overall attrition rate more than doubling to 15.9 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2019. Since 2011, TAS has received more than 2 million taxpayer cases, of which almost half were referrals from other IRS offices. TAS closed more cases than it received each year from 2012 to 2017, but its inventory has grown since fiscal year 2018, due in part to attrition in case advocacy staff and an increase in taxpayers seeking assistance (see figure below). Number of Taxpayer Cases Received and Closed, Fiscal Years 2011 to 2020 TAS has recently modified its two mandated reports to Congress by reducing their length and separately compiling legislative recommendations. It shortened its annual reports in part because the Taxpayer First Act reduced the required number of most serious taxpayer problems from “at least 20” to “the 10” most serious problems. GAO identified the following additional actions that could further improve TAS reporting. Report outcome-oriented objectives and progress. The objectives for the upcoming fiscal year that TAS included in its most recent report are not always clearly identified and do not link to the various planned activities that are described. Further, the objectives TAS does identify do not include measurable outcomes. In addition, TAS's reports do not include the actual results achieved against objectives so it is not possible to assess related performance and progress. Improved performance reporting could help both TAS and Congress better understand which activities are contributing toward achieving TAS's objectives and where actions may be needed to address any unmet goals. Consult with Congress and other stakeholders. TAS briefs congressional committees each year after publishing its annual report and solicits perspectives from stakeholders. TAS officials said they incorporate the perspectives into its objectives. However, TAS does not follow leading practices to consult congressional committees about its goals and objectives prior to publication at least once every 2 years. Thus, it misses opportunities to obtain congressional input on its objectives and performance reporting. Consultations would provide TAS opportunities to confirm if its goals incorporate congressional and other stakeholder perspectives and whether its reports meet their information needs. Publish updates on recommendation implementation status. By law, TAS's annual report must include an inventory of actions IRS has fully, partially, and not yet taken on TAS's recommendations to address the most serious problems facing taxpayers. If those recommendations take multiple years to implement, which some have as shown in the table below, updating the inventory would be required. In its objectives reports, TAS provides only a one-time inventory of IRS responses to TAS's recommendations made during the preceding year, including plans and preliminary actions taken for those IRS accepts for implementation. TAS does not publicly update the inventory in subsequent annual reports to reflect actions IRS takes or does not take to address TAS's recommendations. This reporting approach does not provide complete information on the status of actions IRS has taken to address serious problems facing taxpayers and also does not provide the information in the annual report, as required. Publishing such updated status information would support congressional oversight. Taxpayer Advocate Service's (TAS) Recommendation Reporting and Status as of the Fourth Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020 GAO also identified options for TAS to consider to improve its reporting. These options include explaining changes to the list of the most serious taxpayer problems from year to year and streamlining report sections congressional staff use less frequently. Why GAO Did This Study TAS, an independent office within IRS, helps taxpayers resolve problems with IRS and addresses broader, systemic issues that affect groups of taxpayers by recommending administrative and legislative changes to mitigate such problems. Congress mandated that TAS issue two reports every year—one known as the annual report which includes sections on, among other things, the 10 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers, and the other known as the objectives report that discusses organizational objectives. GAO was asked to review how TAS carries out its mission, focusing on resources and reporting. This report (1) describes TAS's resources and workload, and (2) assesses TAS's reporting to Congress and identifies opportunities for improvement. GAO reviewed documents from TAS, IRS, and other sources, including TAS's annual and objectives reports and internal guidance; analyzed TAS's budget, staffing, and workload data for fiscal years 2011 through 2020; and interviewed knowledgeable TAS and IRS officials. GAO assessed TAS's reporting of its objectives and performance against statutory requirements, relevant internal control standards, and selected key practices for performance reporting developed by GAO. In addition, GAO reviewed relevant TAS web pages, analyzed the length and composition of TAS's reports, and interviewed key congressional committee staff to identify additional options to improve TAS's reporting.
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    What GAO FoundAlthough FDIC had implemented numerous controls in its systems, it had not always implemented access and other controls to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its financial systems and information. FDIC has implemented controls to detect and change default user accounts and passwords in vendor-supplied software, restricted access to network management servers, developed and tested contingency plans for major systems, and improved mainframe logging controls. However, the corporation had not always (1) required strong passwords on financial systems and databases; (2) reviewed user access to financial information in its document sharing system in accordance with policy; (3) encrypted financial information transmitted over and stored on its network; and (4) protected powerful database accounts and privileges from unauthorized use. In addition, other weaknesses existed in FDIC’s controls that were intended to appropriately segregate incompatible duties, manage system configurations, and implement patches.An underlying reason for the information security weaknesses is that FDIC had not always implemented key information security program activities. To its credit, FDIC had developed and documented a security program and had completed actions to correct or mitigate 26 of the 33 information security weaknesses that were previously identified by GAO. However, the corporation had not assessed risks, documented security controls, or performed periodic testing on the programs and data used to support the estimates of losses and costs associated with the servicing and disposal of the assets of failed institutions. Additionally, FDIC had not always implemented its policies for restricting user access or for monitoring the progress of security patch installation.Because FDIC had made progress in correcting or mitigating previously reported weaknesses and had implemented compensating management and reconciliation controls during 2010, GAO concluded that FDIC had resolved the significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting related to information security that was reported in GAO’s 2009 audit, and that the remaining unresolved issues and the new issues identified did not individually or collectively constitute a material weakness or significant deficiency in 2010. However, if left unaddressed, these issues will continue to increase FDIC’s risk that its sensitive and financial information will be subject to unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has a demanding responsibility enforcing banking laws, regulating financial institutions, and protecting depositors. Because of the importance of FDIC’s work, effective information security controls are essential to ensure that the corporation’s systems and information are adequately protected from inadvertent misuse, fraudulent use, or improper disclosure.As part of its audits of the 2010 financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund and the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation Resolution Fund administrated by FDIC, GAO assessed the effectiveness of the corporation’s controls in protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its financial systems and information. To perform the audit, GAO examined security policies, procedures, reports, and other documents; tested controls over key financial applications; and interviewed key FDIC personnel.
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    Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) met its goal to expand the 287(g) program. However, ICE has not established performance goals that cover all program activities, such as ICE's oversight of its law enforcement agency (LEA) partners, or measures to assess the program's performance, such as the percentage of LEA partners in compliance with annual training requirements. As a result, ICE is not well-positioned to determine the extent to which the program is achieving intended results. ICE considers a number of factors, such as LEAs' capability to act as an ICE force multiplier, when reviewing their suitability to join the program; however, ICE has not assessed how to optimize the use of its resources and program benefits to guide its recruitment of future 287(g) participants. For example, ICE has two models in which LEAs can participate with varying levels of immigration enforcement responsibilities. In the Jail Enforcement Model (JEM), designated state or local officers identify and process removable foreign nationals who have been arrested and booked into the LEA's correctional facility, whereas in the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) model, the designated officers only serve warrants to such individuals. However, ICE has not assessed the mix of participants for each model that would address resource limitations, as each model has differing resource and oversight requirements. By assessing how to leverage its program resources and optimize benefits received, ICE could approach recruitment more strategically and optimize program benefits. 287(g) Participants in January 2017 and September 2020 ICE uses a number of mechanisms to oversee 287(g) JEM participants' compliance with their agreements, such as conducting inspections and reviewing reported complaints. However, at the time of GAO's review, ICE did not have an oversight mechanism for participants' in the WSO model. For example, ICE did not have clear policies on 287(g) field supervisors' oversight responsibilities or plan to conduct compliance inspections for WSO participants. An oversight mechanism could help ICE ensure that WSO participants comply with their 287(g) agreement and other relevant ICE policies and procedures. The 287(g) program authorizes ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to assist with enforcing immigration laws. The program expanded from 35 agreements in January 2017 to 150 as of September 2020. GAO was asked to review ICE's management and oversight of the program. This report examines (1) the extent to which ICE has developed performance goals and measures to assess the 287(g) program; (2) how ICE determines eligibility for 287(g) program participation and considers program resources; and (3) how ICE conducts oversight of 287(g) program participant compliance and addresses noncompliance. GAO reviewed ICE policies and documentation, and interviewed officials from ICE headquarters and field offices. GAO also interviewed 11 LEAs selected based on the type of 287(g) agreement, length of participation, and facility type (e.g. state or local).While not generalizable, information collected from the selected LEAs provided insights into 287(g) program operations and oversight of program participants. GAO analyzed data on 287(g) inspection results and complaints from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO recommends that ICE (1) establish performance goals and related performance measures; (2) assess the 287(g) program's composition to help leverage its resources and optimize program benefits; and (3) develop and implement an oversight mechanism for the WSO model. DHS concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or
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  • 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes
    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) responded to COVID-19 in multiple phases. The Bureau first suspended field operations in March 2020 for two successive 2-week periods to promote the safety of its workforce and the public. In April 2020, the Bureau extended this suspension to a total of 3 months for Non-response Follow-up (NRFU), the most labor-intensive decennial field operation that involves hundreds of thousands of enumerators going door-to-door to collect census data from households that have not yet responded to the census. At that time, the Department of Commerce also requested from Congress a 120-day extension to statutory deadlines providing census data for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes, and the Bureau developed and implemented plans to deliver the population counts by those requested deadlines. The Bureau implemented NRFU in multiple waves between July 16 and August 9, 2020, to ensure that operational systems and procedures were ready for nationwide use. The Bureau considered COVID-19 case trends, the availability of personal protective equipment, and the availability of staff in deciding which areas to start NRFU first. On August 3, 2020, the Bureau announced that, as directed by the Secretary of Commerce, it would accelerate its operational timeframes to deliver population counts by the original statutory deadlines. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in September 2020 issued an injunction that reversed the Secretary's August 2020 directions for design changes and the Bureau's adherence to the statutory deadlines, but the Supreme Court ultimately stayed this injunction in October 2020 and allowed the Bureau to proceed with its August 2020 design changes. As a result, the Bureau shortened NRFU by over 2 weeks and reduced the time allotted for response processing after NRFU from 153 days to 77 days. GAO has previously noted that late design changes create increased risk for a quality census. The Bureau is examining ways to share quality indicators of the census in the near term and has a series of planned operational assessments, coverage measurement exercises, and data quality teams that are positioned to retrospectively study the effects of design changes made in the response to COVID-19 on census data quality. The Bureau is still in the process of updating its plans for these efforts to examine the range of operational modifications made in response to COVID-19, including the August 2020 and later changes. As part of the Bureau's assessments, it will be important to address a number of concerns GAO identified about how late changes to the census design could affect data quality. These concerns range from how the altered time frames have affected population counts during field data collection to what effects, if any, compressed and streamlined post-data collection processing of census data may have on the Bureau's ability to detect and fully address processing or other errors before releasing the apportionment and redistricting tabulations. Addressing these concerns as part of the overall 2020 assessment will help the Bureau ensure public confidence in the 2020 Census and inform future census planning efforts. As the Bureau was mailing out invitations to respond to the decennial census and was preparing for fieldwork to count nonresponding households, much of the nation began closing down to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic, the Bureau has made a series of changes to the design of the census. Understanding the chronology of events and the Bureau's decisions, along with the factors and information sources that it considered, can help to shed light on the implications and tradeoffs of the Bureau's response. This report, the first in a series of retrospective reviews on the 2020 Census, examines the key changes that the Bureau made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and how those changes affect the cost and quality of the census. GAO performed its work under the authority of the Comptroller General to conduct evaluations on the 2020 Census to assist Congress with its oversight responsibilities. GAO reviewed Bureau decision memos, interviewed Bureau officials, and consulted contemporaneous COVID-19 case data for context on the Bureau's COVID-19 response. GAO is recommending that the Bureau update and implement its assessments to address data quality concerns identified in this report, as well as any operational benefits. In its comments, the Department of Commerce agreed with GAO's findings and recommendation. The Bureau also provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or or Nick Marinos at 202-512-9342 or by email at
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  • Justice Department Publishes Statement on 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Report
    In Crime News
    Today, the Justice Department published a statement on the 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Report, Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods.  The statement is a response to PCAST’s claims regarding what it described as forensic “feature comparison methods.”
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • The Nation’s Fiscal Health: Effective Use of Fiscal Rules and Targets
    In U.S GAO News
    In fiscal year 2019, debt held by the public reached 79 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The government's fiscal response to COVID-19 combined with the severe economic contraction from the pandemic will substantially increase federal debt. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that debt held by the public will reach 98 percent of GDP by the end of fiscal year 2020. The nation's fiscal challenges will require attention once the economy has substantially recovered and public health goals have been attained. GAO has previously reported that a long-term plan is needed to put the government on a sustainable fiscal path. Other countries have used well-designed fiscal rules and targets—which constrain fiscal policy by controlling factors like expenditures or revenue—to contain excessive deficits. For example, Germany's constitution places limits on its deficits. The U.S. federal government has previously enacted fiscal rules, such as those in the Budget Control Act of 2011. However, current fiscal rules have not effectively addressed the misalignment between spending and revenues over time. GAO identified key considerations to help Congress if it were to adopt new fiscal rules and targets, as part of a long-term plan for fiscal sustainability (see table). Key Considerations for Designing, Implementing, and Enforcing Fiscal Rules and Targets Setting clear goals and objectives can anchor a country's fiscal policy. Fiscal rules and targets can help ensure that spending and revenue decisions align with agreed-upon goals and objectives. The weight given to tradeoffs among simplicity, flexibility, and enforceability depends on the goals a country is trying to achieve with a fiscal rule. In addition, there are tradeoffs between the types and combinations of rules, and the time frames over which the rules apply. The degree to which fiscal rules and targets are binding, such as being supported through a country's constitution or nonbinding political agreements, can impact their permanence, as well as the extent to which ongoing political commitment is needed to uphold them. Integrating fiscal rules and targets into budget discussions can contribute to their ongoing use and provide for a built-in enforcement mechanism. The budget process can include reviews of fiscal rules and targets. Fiscal rules and targets with limited, well-defined exemptions, clear escape clauses for events such as national emergencies, and adjustments for the economic cycle can help a country address future crises. Institutions supporting fiscal rules and targets need clear roles and responsibilities for supporting their implementation and measuring their effectiveness. Independently analyzed data and assessments can help institutions monitor compliance with fiscal rules and targets. Having clear, transparent fiscal rules and targets that a government communicates to the public and that the public understands can contribute to a culture of fiscal transparency and promote fiscal sustainability for the country. Source: GAO analysis of literature review and interviews. | GAO-20-561 Our nation faces serious challenges at a time when the federal government is highly leveraged in debt by historical norms. The imbalance between revenue and spending built into current law and policy have placed the nation on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path. Fiscal rules and targets can be used to help frame and control the overall results of spending and revenue decisions that affect the debt. GAO was asked to review fiscal rules and targets. This report (1) assesses the extent to which the federal government has taken action to contribute to long-term fiscal sustainability through fiscal rules and targets, and (2) identifies key considerations for designing, implementing, and enforcing fiscal rules and targets in the U.S. GAO compared current and former U.S. fiscal rules to literature on the effective use of rules and targets; reviewed CBO reports and relevant laws; and interviewed experts. GAO conducted case studies of national fiscal rules in Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. Congress should consider establishing a long-term fiscal plan that includes fiscal rules and targets, such as a debt-to-GDP target, and weigh GAO's key considerations to ensure proper design, implementation, and enforcement of these rules and targets. The Department of the Treasury and other entities provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jeff Arkin, at (202) 512-6806 or
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime News
    A pharmaceutical company headquartered in Delaware has agreed to pay $12.6 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks.
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