Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I offer my congratulations to the people of Samoa on the occasion of the fifty-ninth anniversary of your independence on June 1, 2021.
The United States and Samoa have enjoyed a close friendship that began with your independence in 1962. Most recently, we have worked together to combat COVID-19 and other health threats. The United States is committed to collaborating with you and our partners in the region to help ensure Samoa and neighboring Pacific Island countries recover quickly from the impacts of the pandemic. We also look forward to working with Samoa and other Pacific Island countries to combat climate change.
This year, in the aftermath of the general election in Samoa, the United States calls on Samoa’s leaders to respect democratic processes and uphold the rule of law. These values, and our shared love of freedom and human rights, are the foundation of our democratic societies.
Happy Independence Day to all Samoans.
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- GAO Strategic Plan 2004-2009 (Superseded by GAO-07-1SP)By Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021This publication has been superceded by GAO-07-1SP, GAO Strategic Plan, 2007-2012, April 2007. GAO presented its strategic plan for serving the Congress for fiscal years 2004 through 2009. In keeping with its commitment to update our plan every 2 years, with each new Congress, this plan describes our proposed goals and strategies for supporting the Congress and the nation in facing the challenges of a rapidly changing world while addressing the nation's large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance. Indeed, even since the last plan, much has changed. Policymakers are therefore increasingly being called on to distinguish wants from needs and to judge what the nation can afford, both now and in the longer term. Policymakers also face a world in which national boundaries are becoming less relevant when addressing a range of economic, security, social, and environmental issues. These broad themes--security, the changing economy, global interconnectedness, an aging and more diverse population, scientific and technological change, concern for quality of life, and evolving governance structures--provide the context for GAO's plan. The broad goals and objectives of the plan have not altered dramatically since the last plan, but recent events account for some modifications in emphasis. Because of the large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance facing the nation, GAO has identified this as a separate theme for its plan. Therefore, it will continue to increase its emphasis on work related to the transformation of the federal government, as it addresses fiscal challenges, new priorities and world conditions, as well as a substantial turnover in its workforce. GAO's High-Risk Series, which began more than a decade ago with an emphasis on fraud, waste, and abuse, has most recently expanded to include challenges in broad-based transformation, and GAO will continue to use the high-risk designation to highlight additional areas facing major transformation challenges. Given the continued national focus on homeland security, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the ongoing war on terrorism, GAO expects to pay continuing attention to monitoring the progress of the department and other critical parts of the federal government in becoming effective structures for meeting national needs. Because the pressures to meet the health care and retirement needs of a growing elderly population continue to mount, GAO expects that health care cost and quality, along with public and private pension issues, will come under increasing scrutiny and require additional effort and attention. As the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan continues and other global events unfold, GAO expects to provide additional support to the Congress in overseeing the pace and cost of related federal efforts. Additionally, as the Department of Defense embarks on a major transformation effort following the enactment of sweeping new authorities, GAO expects to report on the department's progress and effectiveness. To help support its efforts on behalf of the Congress and the American people, GAO has set itsself the goal of becoming a model agency and world-class professional services organization--a goal that remains as vital as ever. To make sure that the plan is an accurate reflection of congressional and national needs, GAO invited comments on a draft of this plan from Members of the Congress and their staffs; its sister congressional agencies--the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service; the inspectors general; state and local government audit organizations; and other key accountability organizations. It has incorporated many of these comments in this final version of the plan.[Read More…]
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- Nuclear Triad: DOD and DOE Face Challenges Mitigating Risks to U.S. Deterrence EffortsBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) plans to replace or modernize existing triad platforms including submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and bomber aircraft, as well as many of the nuclear command, control, and communication systems that facilitate control of them (see below). The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to modernize its nuclear infrastructure to life extend and produce warheads and bombs. DOD will be challenged to meet some U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) operational needs with existing triad systems, shown below, through the end of their service lives. DOD must manage shortfalls in quantities of systems that it can field and capability limitations that reduce effectiveness of these systems. For example, the Navy will have to carefully manage resources to meet USSTRATCOM's operational requirements for the Ohio class submarine. Further, DOE faces a long-term sustainment challenge with one of its bombs, the B83-1. Existing Nuclear Triad Platforms DOD and DOE are working to replace triad systems nearing retirement, but these replacement programs face schedule risks that could exacerbate challenges with existing triad systems. Replacement programs have risk factors that include concurrency between phases of acquisition programs from development through production, immature technologies, and limited schedule margin. For example, The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program includes limited schedule margin for testing, and if it fails a major test event it would likely delay initial fielding. The schedules for DOE's life extension programs are highly dependent on the availability of suitable facilities to manufacture, assemble, and assess bomb and warhead components. However, many DOE facilities needed for these efforts are outdated or obsolete, as more than half of DOE's facilities are over 40 years old. DOD and DOE have limited ability to mitigate risks to the efficacy of the nuclear deterrent with their current strategy, and are beginning to consider alternatives. Why GAO Did This Study The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review indicates that DOD's highest priority is the nuclear deterrent, made up of sea, land, and air legs—referred to as the nuclear triad. DOD has reported that due to prior delays and challenges with aging nuclear triad systems, there is little to no margin for delaying replacement systems without incurring risk to the nuclear deterrent. Similarly, DOE faces a demanding schedule for infrastructure projects and programs for the life extension and production of warheads and bombs. In this report, GAO examines (1) the challenges DOD and DOE face in meeting operational needs with existing triad systems; (2) the extent to which DOD and DOE triad acquisition programs face schedule risks, and the implications of delays; and (3) whether DOD and DOE have strategies to mitigate risks to the nuclear deterrent, including acquisition delays. To do this work, GAO analyzed DOD and DOE documentation, interviewed officials, and leveraged GAO work on acquisition best practices, triad systems, and the nuclear enterprise. This is an unclassified version of a classified report we issued in June 2020, and specific classified information has been removed.[Read More…]
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- Waste Management: DOD Needs to Fully Assess the Health Risks of Burn PitsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found GAO reported in September 2016 that the effects from exposing individuals to burn pit emissions were not well understood, and the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully assessed the health risks associated with the use of burn pits. Burn pits—shallow excavations or surface features with berms used to conduct open-air burning—were often chosen as a method of waste disposal during recent contingency operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which extends from the Middle East to Central Asia and includes Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOD Instruction 6055.01, DOD Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program , DOD should apply risk-management strategies to eliminate occupational injury or illness and loss of mission capability or resources. The instruction also requires all DOD components to establish procedures to ensure that risk-acceptance decisions were documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), requires that hazards be identified and risk evaluated as early as possible, including the consideration of exposure patterns, duration, and rates. While DOD has guidance that applies to burn pit emissions among other health hazards, DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials. According to DOD officials, DOD's ability to assess these risks was limited by a lack of adequate information on (1) the levels of exposure to burn pit emissions and (2) the health impacts these exposures had on individuals. With respect to information on exposure levels, DOD had not collected data from emissions or monitored exposures from burn pits as required by its own guidance. Given the potential use of burn pits near installations and during future contingency operations, establishing processes to monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures would better position DOD and combatant commanders to collect data that could help assess exposure to risks. GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense (1) take steps to ensure CENTCOM and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures; and (2) in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second. In a May 2018 status update regarding these recommendations, DOD outlined a series of steps it had implemented as well as steps that it intends to implement. The department believes these efforts will further enhance its ability to better monitor burn-pit emissions and examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health related issues. GAO believes the steps DOD is taking are appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study Burn pits help base commanders manage waste generated by U.S. forces overseas, but they also produce harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in chronic health effects for those exposed. This statement provides information on the extent to which DOD has assessed any health risks of burn pit use. This statement is based on a GAO report issued in September 2016 (GAO-16-781). The report was conducted in response to section 313 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Specifically, GAO assessed the methodology DOD used in conducting a review of the compliance of the military departments and combatant commands with DOD instructions governing the use of burn pits in contingency operations and the adequacy of a DOD report for the defense committees. GAO also obtained updates from DOD on actions taken to assess health risks from burn pits since September 2016.[Read More…]
- Federal Debt Management: Treasury Quickly Financed Historic Government Response to the Pandemic and is assessing Risks to Market FunctioningBy Sam NewsAugust 17, 2021What GAO Found In response to COVID-19, in March 2020 many investors rapidly sold their Treasury securities for cash. This led to a severe liquidity disruption when prices fell and transaction costs rose for Treasury notes and bonds in the secondary market. The Federal Reserve acted quickly to support market functioning, including purchasing trillions of dollars of Treasury securities. This market disruption highlighted risks to the Treasury market. For example, growth in federal debt and regulatory changes may reduce broker-dealers' willingness and ability to intermediate trades (facilitate purchases and sales) of Treasury securities for investors. In April 2021 Treasury initiated an interagency effort to examine options that could help mitigate future disruptions in the market. Following the market disruption, Treasury quickly raised trillions of dollars to fund the federal response to COVID-19. It dramatically increased its issuance of bills—including adding regular, weekly auctions of cash management bills, which have historically been issued irregularly to cover near-term financing gaps. The bills were met with strong investor demand. For example, GAO found almost no difference between cash management bill and other bill yields during this time. Monthly Gross Issuance of U.S. Treasury Bills, Notes, and Bonds Note: Notes and bonds includes Treasury Floating Rate Notes and Inflation Protected Securities. Due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19, Treasury maintained a historically high operating cash balance of around $1.6 trillion. Its stated policy is to hold a level of cash generally sufficient to cover one week of outflows. However, other factors not explicitly reflected in its policy informed how it managed the cash balance during COVID-19. Market participants told GAO that they were unclear about all of these factors. They said that understanding the level and trajectory of the cash balance is important because it affects market expectations for the size of Treasury issuance, supply of bank reserves, and short-term lending rates—all of which inform their business strategies and support market functioning. Additionally, uncertainty about the size of the cash balance can lead to volatility in financial markets. This, in turn, can affect Treasury's borrowing costs. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government's fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased the government's borrowing needs. Treasury borrows money needed by issuing Treasury securities. The ability to borrow large amounts of money quickly and cheaply is especially important during a crisis, when government spending tends to increase and revenues tend to decrease. Any disruptions in investor demand for Treasury securities or the functioning of the Treasury market can have costly implications for the federal government and taxpayers. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines (1) how the cost and liquidity of Treasury securities changed during COVID-19; (2) actions Treasury is taking to mitigate future disruptions; and (3) the actions Treasury took to finance the federal government's response to the pandemic. GAO analyzed data on Treasury securities; reviewed agency and market research; and interviewed market participants across key financial sectors (e.g., broker-dealers, banks, mutual and money market funds), market experts, and Treasury and Federal Reserve officials.[Read More…]
- Defense Science and Technology: Opportunities to Better Integrate Industry Independent Research and Development into DOD PlanningBy Sam NewsSeptember 3, 2020Why This Matters Research and development (R&D) projects in high-tech areas like cybersecurity and biotechnology can help the U.S. military reassert its technological edge. Contractors decide what independent R&D projects to conduct and the Department of Defense (DOD) reimburses them about $4 billion-$5 billion annually. More information about those projects could help DOD guide its own R&D investments. Key Takeaways DOD does not know how contractors’ independent R&D projects fit into the department’s technology goals. As a result, DOD risks making decisions about its multi-billion dollar science and tech investments that could duplicate work or miss opportunities to fill in gaps that the contributions of private industry do not cover. DOD has a database of independent R&D projects, but it is not very useful for informing investment decisions because DOD does not obtain information in these and other areas: Priority. Contractors do not identify whether a project aligns with any of 10 modernization priorities. The department uses those priorities to make decisions about R&D investments. Cost. The database does not capture a project’s complete cost, which could help DOD understand cost implications of future related work. Innovation. The database does not include whether a project is a lower-risk, incremental development or a more innovative “disruptive” technology. Disruptive projects carry higher risk of failure but offer possible significant rewards in the long term. While DOD is not required to review independent R&D projects to understand how they support DOD’s priorities, GAO analysis showed 38 percent of industry projects aligned with DOD’s priorities. To help DOD better understand the scope and nature of independent projects, we recommend DOD determine whether to require additional information in the project database and review projects annually as part of its strategic planning process. DOD agreed with both recommendations. How GAO Did This Study We categorized a sample of completed projects from 2014–2018 by innovation type and analyzed projects completed in 2018 for alignment with DOD's modernization priorities. We also reviewed DOD policies on independent R&D and interviewed representatives from 10 defense contractors. For more information, contact Timothy J. DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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