October 21, 2021

News

News Network

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, Mexican Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodriguez, and Mexican Interior Secretary Adan Augusto Lopez Hernandez Remarks Before the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue

24 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Merrick Garland, United States Attorney General

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexican Foreign Secretary

Rosa Icela Rodriguez, Mexican Security Secretary

Adan Augusto Lopez Hernandez, Mexican Interior Secretary

Mexico City, Mexico

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: (Via translation) Good morning. I want to give the warmest welcome to the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken. We want to thank the very special presence of the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary Mayorkas.

Mr. Attorney General Garland, thank you very much, thank you for being here. Secretary Mayorkas, Alejandro, you and I talk daily. Welcome to your home. I want to welcome Ambassador Kenneth Lee Salazar, many thanks Ambassador Ken. And to the whole U.S. delegation, thank you for being here.

I want to welcome my colleagues, we are coming from a breakfast with the president, Secretary of Public Security Rosa Icela Rodriguez, Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez, many thanks for being here with us Adan; the Secretary of National Defense General Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the Secretary of the Navy Admiral Rafael Ojeda, many thanks admiral; and of course, we want to thank Mexican ambassador to Washington Esteban Moctezuema for his presence, thank you ambassador; and the commander of our National Guard, General Luis Rodiguez Bucio; Ricardo Mejia, Undersecretary of Security who oversees these issues daily; Francisco Garduño of the National Migration Institute; Roberto Velasco of the Foreign Ministry; Dr. Santiago Nieto chief of the Financial Intelligence Unit, and of course, Mr. Mendez representing the Prosecutor General’s Office today.

I want to briefly say that this is a working meeting dedicated to an understanding. We have called it so, to set the ground and detail joint work on security, health, and safe communities, developing our communities. Today we will review the content and let you know what we arrive at. So as not to go on too long and yield the floor to my colleague Antony Blinken, I will say that what motivates this understanding is firstly mutual respect, respect for each country’s sovereignty, ours and the United States. Secondly, this is not just any cooperation agreement. This is an alliance on security. An alliance has a different qualitative level, different to a limited cooperation agreement. In an alliance, we have a single objective. We have trust. We respect each other, and we set the grounds for how we are going to work.

This understanding is good news for our societies because it will allow us to have better results. Ultimately that is what it is all about. We will deliver good results for our societies. President Lopez Obrador met today with the U.S. delegation and expressed this. We salute President Biden and his expressions of affection and closeness to Mexico, and all U.S. representatives, and I yield the floor to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Gracias, Marcelo. Buenos dias, todos. It’s wonderful to be here in Mexico and wonderful to be here with this delegation and with our colleagues. I am very pleased to represent the United States alongside my colleagues Alejandro Mayorkas, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Merrick Garland, the United States Attorney General; Wally Adeyemo, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, as well as other very senior colleagues from across our administration.

And we’re here because this High-Level Security Dialogue is a vital venue for addressing some of the most urgent challenges facing our two countries. That’s why President Biden and President Lopez Obrador committed together to launch this effort. Vice President Harris reaffirmed that commitment when she traveled here in June, and today we will carry forward the work for the benefit of people on – in both countries.

I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say how pleased we are to launch this new framework. After 13 years of the Merida Initiative, it’s time for a comprehensive, new approach to our security cooperation – one that will see us as equal partners in defining our shared priorities; tackle the root drivers of these challenges, like inequity, like corruption; and focus not only on strengthening law enforcement but also public health, the rule of law, inclusive economic opportunities.

Our countries are connected by vast – economic, cultural, and family ties – and we also share a commitment to give all of our people a free, peaceful, and prosperous future. For that, we need security. Transnational criminal organizations continue to threaten communities throughout both of our countries. They are responsible for most of the illicit drugs and contraband trafficked into the United States, as well as into Mexico and a great deal of violence and insecurity here as well. Both of our presidents have named as priorities pursuing criminal networks, preventing transborder crime, protecting our people.

To do that, we have to do more to disrupt arms and narcotics trafficking and human smuggling, to strengthen border and port security, to dismantle the financial systems that sustain organized crime; and to root out impunity and to hold accountable human rights abusers, and critically, to address public health issues of addiction, which fuel the drug trade, cause enormous pain for families and communities, and fuel demand as well.

These are national security issues; they’re law enforcement issues and they’re justice issues, because supporting the rule of law, combating corruption, promoting human rights, will be woven throughout all of the work we’re doing. And again, that’s why there’s not just a Secretary of State, but a Secretary of Homeland security, an Attorney General, a Deputy Treasury Secretary here today, because all of our departments are committed to this effort working with our counterparts.

Let me just add that criminal organizations are constantly adapting techniques. They’re making the most of new technologies, so we need to adapt as well. We need to be just as creative and nimble. This new security dialogue promises to drive that innovative approach.

Most of all, we have to be fully committed to this fight and fully committed to our cooperation, because these are challenges that Mexico and the United States can only solve working together as partners with shared responsibility. We know that drug trafficking and other transnational crime aren’t just flowing south to north. This is a cycle that continues, because of activity on both sides of the border. And the United States will do our part to try to end the cycle.

So, we’re looking forward, Marcelo, to a very productive meeting, a lot of good work together in the months ahead – again, as equal partners with shared responsibility while we strive to make our countries safer for our people. Thank you so much.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

(Break.)

INTERIOR SECRETARY LOPEZ: (Via interpreter) It’s a pleasure for me to welcome to Mexico, Mr. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Welcome to Mexico, all the participants in the honorable delegation of the United States of America, and Mr. Secretary Mayorkas and the Attorney General of the United States Garland, as well as the other members of the high-level delegation, Ambassador Salazar. And of course, being here with my colleagues – my work colleagues – and I’ll be seeing with the Mexican delegation, high-level delegation, for this meeting led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard.

Our countries share not only a very vast territory border, but also a very long story that is identifying both countries and pushes us to find points of coincidence to strengthen a very old and earnest friendship. This is a friendship that has been ratified by our presidents, Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aiming to promote the development and well-being of our populations. I’m certain that this friendship among our political leaders will guide us to move forward in the strategies and the lines of action that are perfectly defined in the topics that are defined as priority, aiming to build safer communities on both sides of our common border.

Of course, that in the past, in some occasions we have had divergent points, particularly regarding the border situation, which is a very difficult situation. However, both working teams I’m certain will be able to contribute to promote better and better conditions of cooperation that will turn this border into a very adequate space to continue establishing the basis of our friendship.

Of course, there are very strong bonds linking us, and strengthening the political agreements to push forward the bilateral agenda with the utmost respect to the sovereignty of both nations, and that’s when the dialogue and bilateral becomes extremely important to subscribe mutual understanding agreements on the topics that are essential to strengthen our situation and to bring together both societies.

Politics is the most important instrument and the most valuable instrument that we have to bring together our interests and to promote efforts that will continue to bring us forward in a new program that will serve the needs of the most vulnerable populations of both nations so as to, as Mr. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador mentioned this morning, to stop migration from being a need in most of our inhabitants and becoming a voluntary migration. President López Obrador is determined to find new focuses in the high-level negotiation and the reciprocate assistance of both countries that goes beyond our territories and covers the entire American continent, aiming to promote economic development and social well-being, and building a political order that is based on the respect of the rights of everyone.

We know that most relationships that are promoted in the political understanding is not exempt of complex situations, and it’s important to take care of them with the political will and with great vision. If in the future of our relationship this is the intention, then it will not only allow for very close cooperation to completely fulfill our strategic objectives and the commitments, but it will also become the basis for a new and fruitful bilateral relationship that is now 200 years old.

So, feel at home, Mr. Secretary. I wish the yield of this conversation is to allow us to think for a promising future for both nations. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: (In Spanish.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND: Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here to be able to discuss ways in which our two countries can continue to work together, to intensify the way we do work together, to provide security for all of our citizens, of both countries. The United States Department of Justice is firmly supportive of this dialogue, this framework. The best symbol I can offer of that is that this is my first trip to any country outside of the United States, since becoming the attorney general, and it reflects the degree of importance that the Justice Department and the United States accords to these dialogues. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: Thank you very much, Mr. General Attorney. (In Spanish.)

SECURITY SECRETARY RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) (In progress) delegation of the United States led by Mr. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Also, Secretary Mayorkas, Attorney General Garland, and all the delegation, welcome, my colleagues from the cabinet of Mexico. And I would also like to thank the good coordination and the leadership of Chancellor Ebrard. And our friends from the media, welcome.

The security in Mexico and the U.S. is a binational affair that is always seen under the terms of respect of sovereignty and the laws of each country. Under that context, we’ve been working in a coordinated fashion to achieve safer areas on both sides of the border, and we want to continue this way together, facing issues like arms contraband, the smuggling of people, and drug trafficking that are costing so many lives in the fight among criminal groups and the loss of lives due to addictions as well.

This new understanding between our governments is looking to implement a binational strategy that will bring peace to the region. For many years, the issue of security in Mexico has been – had been covered, only measured, by the use of force. So far, we’ve been fighting the causes that are originating this violence with social programs, intelligence, and coordination, hearing men and women in their towns and their municipalities and communities.

As the first woman secretary of security in Mexico, I’ve said that our focus is not to win the war, but to win peace and the tranquility of Mexican people. This binational table is not of main intentions, but also – or good intentions, but also good actions. I would like to list some of the achievements that we had in Mexico working in a coordinated way as the Mexican state. The list includes topics such as the detention of over 1,000 criminals who were main targets, the decommissioning of 2,000 kilograms of fentanyl, 1,300 kilograms of heroin, 1,343 grenades, and firearms.

We’ll continue doing this together because we are neighbors, we are partners. And in many regions, we are family. There is a very close linkage between our binational community, and I can tell you certainly that the United States of Mexico and the United States of America are working together for a closer region because we are bound by peace.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Secretary. Now, we are going to hear Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Security in the United States.

SECRETARY MAYORKAS: Thank you very much, Secretary Ebrard. Thank you to your colleagues, and a special thanks to President Lopez Obrador for hosting us. Thank you very much for a close partnership and friendship.

This is my third trip to Mexico City in the short period that I have been in office as the Secretary of Homeland Security. This focus reflects the fact that our partnership, our relationship, is most important. We are more than just neighbors. We have a special bond and a shared commitment to the people whom we represent together.

I am honored to be with all of you today, as we move forward with a new framework for our bilateral security relationship. I am inspired that the new framework is built on the principle that social development is the foundation for the security and prosperity of our future. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to be a committed partner in executing this new vision.

Our countries have accomplished a great deal together in combating the forces that seek to disrupt order and imperil the everyday safety of our citizens seeking to make a better life for themselves. But there’s more work to do. Too many people continue to suffer, especially those in our society who are the most vulnerable.

They are still suffering, and thus, in the days ahead, and with this new vision for security guiding us, we will focus more intensely than before on the root and core of the forces that threaten us, tackling the underlying reasons, why they continue to exist and grow. This focus will be an important complement to our ongoing collaboration, to more traditional security matters. It will be additive, and I believe its results will be enduring.

I am grateful for the close partnership we enjoy as governments and for the friendships I have developed with you personally. I express my dedication to the new framework we have built and to the shared commitment it represents. This effort will make us stronger and safer together. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State, Merrick Garland, United States Attorney General, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, Marcelo Ebrard, Mexican Foreign Secretary, Rosa Icela Rodriguez, Mexican Security Secretary, Adan Augusto Lopez Hernandez, Mexican Interior Secretary

News Network

  • Reaffirming the Unbreakable U.S.-Japan Alliance
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Human Trafficking: Oversight of Contractors’ Use of Foreign Workers in High-Risk Environments Needs to Be Strengthened
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Current policies and guidance governing the payment of recruitment fees by foreign workers on certain U.S. government contracts do not provide clear instructions to agencies or contractors regarding the components or amounts of permissible fees related to recruitment. GAO found that some foreign workers—individuals who are not citizens of the United States or the host country—had reported paying for their jobs. Such recruitment fees can lead to various abuses related to trafficking in persons (TIP), such as debt bondage. For example, on the contract employing the largest number of foreign workers in its sample, GAO found that more than 1,900 foreign workers reported paying fees for their jobs, including to recruitment agencies used by a subcontractor. According to the subcontractor, these fees were likely paid to a recruiter who assisted foreign workers with transportation to and housing in Dubai before they were hired to work on the contract in Afghanistan (see figure). Some Department of Defense (DOD) contracting officials GAO interviewed said that such fees may be reasonable. DOD, the Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have developed policy and guidance for certain contracts addressing recruitment fees in different ways. However, these agencies do not specify what components or amounts of recruitment fees are considered permissible, limiting the ability of contracting officers and contractors to implement agency policy and guidance. Sample Recruitment Paths for Foreign Workers on a U.S. Government Contract in Afghanistan GAO found that agency monitoring, called for by federal acquisition regulations and agency guidance, did not always include processes to specifically monitor contractor efforts to combat TIP. For 7 of the 11 contracts in GAO's sample, DOD and State had specific monitoring processes to combat TIP. On the 4 remaining contracts, agencies did not specifically monitor for TIP, but rather focused on contractor-provided goods and services, such as building construction. In addition, some DOD and State contracting officials said they were unaware of relevant acquisitions policy and guidance for combating TIP and did not clearly understand their monitoring responsibilities. Both DOD and State have developed additional training to help make contracting officials more aware of their monitoring responsibilities to combat TIP. Without specific efforts to monitor for TIP, agencies' ability to implement the zero tolerance policy and detect concerns about TIP is limited. Why GAO Did This Study Since the 1990s, there have been allegations of abuse of foreign workers on U.S. government contracts overseas, including allegations of TIP. In 2002, the United States adopted a zero tolerance policy on TIP regarding U.S. government employees and contractors abroad and began requiring the inclusion of this policy in all contracts in 2007. Such policy is important because the government relies on contractors that employ foreign workers in countries where, according to State, they may be vulnerable to abuse. GAO was mandated to report on the use of foreign workers. This report examines (1) policies and guidance governing the recruitment of foreign workers and the fees these workers may pay to secure work on U.S. government contracts overseas and (2) agencies' monitoring of contractor efforts to combat TIP. GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 11 contracts awarded by DOD, State, and USAID, composing nearly one-third of all reported foreign workers on contracts awarded by these agencies at the end of fiscal year 2013. GAO interviewed agency officials and contractors about labor practices and oversight activities on these contracts.
    [Read More…]
  • Kroger Shooter Sentenced to Life in Prison for Hate Crime Murders
    In Crime News
    A Kentucky man was sentenced in federal court to life in prison without parole in connection with his racially motivated murder of two Black patrons at a Kroger grocery store and his attempted murder of a third in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. 
    [Read More…]
  • Cybersecurity: Clarity of Leadership Urgently Needed to Fully Implement the National Strategy
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal entities have a variety of roles and responsibilities for supporting efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of the nation. Among other things, 23 federal entities have roles and responsibilities for developing policies, monitoring critical infrastructure protection efforts, sharing information to enhance cybersecurity across the nation, responding to cyber incidents, investigating cyberattacks, and conducting cybersecurity-related research. To fulfill their roles and responsibilities, federal entities identified activities undertaken in support of the nation's cybersecurity. For example, National Security Council (NSC) staff, on behalf of the President, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed policies, strategies, standards, and plans to guide cybersecurity efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has helped secure the nation's critical infrastructure through developing security policy and coordinating security initiatives, among other efforts. Other agencies have established initiatives to gather intelligence and share actual or possible cyberattack information. Multiple agencies have mechanisms in place to assist in responding to cyberattacks, and law enforcement components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are responsible for investigating them. The White House's September 2018 National Cyber Strategy and the NSC's accompanying June 2019 Implementation Plan detail the executive branch's approach to managing the nation's cybersecurity. When evaluated together, these documents addressed several of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, but lacked certain key elements for addressing others. National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan are Missing Desirable Characteristics of a National Strategy Characteristic Cyber Strategy and Plan Coverage of Issue Purpose, scope, and methodology Addressed Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination Addressed Integration and implementation Addressed Problem definition and risk assessment Did not fully address Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and performance measures Did not fully address Resources, investments, and risk management Did not fully address Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 For example, the Implementation Plan details 191 activities that federal entities are to undertake to execute the priority actions outlined in the National Cyber Strategy. These activities are assigned a level, or tier, based on the coordination efforts required to execute the activity and the extent to which NSC staff is expected to be involved. Thirty-five of these activities are designated as the highest level (tier 1), and are coordinated by a functional entity within the NSC . Ten entities are assigned to lead or co-lead these critical activities while also tasked to lead or co-lead lower tier activities. Leadership Roles for Federal Entities Assigned as Leads or Co-Leads for National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan Activities Entity Tier 1 Activities Tier 2 Activities Tier 3 Activities National Security Council 15 7 3 Department of Homeland Security 14 19 15 Office of Management and Budget 7 6 5 Department of Commerce 5 9 35 Department of State 2 5 11 Department of Defense 1 6 17 Department of Justice 1 10 5 Department of Transportation 1 0 5 Executive Office of the President 1 0 0 General Services Administration 1 2 1 Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 Although the Implementation Plan defined the entities responsible for leading each of the activities; it did not include goals and timelines for 46 of the activities or identify the resources needed to execute 160 activities. Additionally, discussion of risk in the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan was not based on an analysis of threats and vulnerabilities. Further, the documents did not specify a process for monitoring agency progress in executing Implementation Plan activities. Instead, NSC staff stated that they performed periodic check-ins with responsible entities, but did not provide an explanation or definition of specific level of NSC staff involvement for each of the three tier designations. Without a consistent approach to engaging with responsible entities and a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to implement all 191 activities, the NSC will face challenges in ensuring that the National Cyber Strategy is efficiently executed. GAO and others have reported on the urgency and necessity of clearly defining a central leadership role in order to coordinate the government's efforts to overcome the nation's cyber-related threats and challenges. The White House identified the NSC staff as responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy . However, in light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan , but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented. NSC staff stated responsibility for duties previously attributed to the White House Cyber Coordinator were passed to the senior director of NSC's Cyber directorate; however, the staff did not provide a description of what those responsibilities include. NSC staff also stated that federal entities are ultimately responsible for determining the status of the activities that they lead or support and for communicating implementation status to relevant NSC staff. However, without a clear central leader to coordinate activities, as well as a process for monitoring performance of the Implementation Plan activities, the White House cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation's cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge. Increasingly sophisticated cyber threats have underscored the need to manage and bolster the cybersecurity of key government systems and the nation's cybersecurity. The risks to these systems are increasing as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO noted that the need to establish a national cybersecurity strategy with effective oversight was a major challenge facing the federal government. GAO was requested to review efforts to protect the nation's cyber critical infrastructure. The objectives of this report were to (1) describe roles and responsibilities of federal entities tasked with supporting national cybersecurity, and (2) determine the extent to which the executive branch has developed a national strategy and a plan to manage its implementation. To do so, GAO identified 23 federal entities responsible for enhancing the nation's cybersecurity. Specifically, GAO selected 13 federal agencies based on their specialized or support functions regarding critical infrastructure security and resilience, and 10 additional entities based on analysis of its prior reviews of national cybersecurity, relevant executive policy, and national strategy documents. GAO also analyzed the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan to determine if they aligned with the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration, that Congress should consider legislation to designate a leadership position in the White House with the commensurate authority to implement and encourage action in support of the nation's cybersecurity. GAO is also making one recommendation to the National Security Council to work with relevant federal entities to update cybersecurity strategy documents to include goals, performance measures, and resource information, among other things. The National Security Council neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Energy: Environmental Liability Continues to Grow, but Opportunities May Exist to Reduce Costs and Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Energy's (DOE) environmental liability is large and growing. In managing cleanup responsibilities related to this liability, DOE faces challenges in contract and project management, and has opportunities to reduce costs and risks.  Why GAO Did This Study DOE is tasked with cleaning up hazardous and radioactive waste created by nuclear weapons research and production sites across the country dating back to World War II and the Cold War. DOE's cleanup mission includes addressing contaminated soil and groundwater, deactivating and decommissioning contaminated facilities, and building facilities to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste. DOE's estimate of the probable costs for this future cleanup is known as its environmental and disposal liability (or environmental liability). This report describes the status of DOE's environmental liability, and challenges and opportunities GAO has identified that DOE faces in managing its cleanup responsibilities. GAO reviewed its prior reports and synthesized key findings and recommendations related to DOE's environmental liability. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (202) 512-3841 or andersonn@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The Gabonese Republic National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Tax Filing: Actions Needed to Address Processing Delays and Risks to the 2021 Filing Season
    In U.S GAO News
    The 2020 filing season occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic, introducing challenges that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had to respond to quickly to fulfill its mission-essential functions. IRS took steps to protect the integrity of its operations, help ensure the health and safety of its employees, and provide relief to taxpayers. For example, IRS closed all its processing and service facilities for several weeks before re-opening with health and safety measures and extended the filing season deadline to July 15, 2020. IRS's 2020 processing of e-filed returns was generally on par with prior years. However, IRS's overall 2020 performance was significantly impacted by its reliance on manual processes such as for paper returns, and its limited ability to process returns remotely while processing centers were closed. As a result, as of December 2020, IRS had a significant backlog of unprocessed returns and taxpayer correspondence. Additionally, costs increased including interest on delayed refunds which exceeded $3 billion in fiscal year 2020. IRS has not revised its estimates for addressing all of the backlog due to operational uncertainties created by the pandemic. Doing so would help IRS determine how best to address the backlog and perform 2021 filing season activities. Refund Interest Paid to Taxpayers, Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020 GAO also found that about 23 percent of business tax returns were filed on paper even though an e-file option is available. IRS has not comprehensively identified barriers to business-related e-filing nor taken specific actions to increase e-filing. Doing so would help reduce the volume of costly paper-based work and improve services to business filers. Further, during the filing season, IRS transitioned nearly two-thirds of its phone customer service staff to telework, but was unable to do so for returns processing staff because most of its paper-based work is not set up to be performed remotely. As of late October 2020, about one-third of these staff remained on paid leave. Identifying and implementing alternative work assignments for staff that remain on paid leave would better support IRS operations and reduce costs. IRS has not fully identified and assessed all risks to the 2021 filing season—including those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—consistent with enterprise risk management practices. IRS identified some risks in October 2020 after GAO raised concerns, but did not fully address all essential elements of enterprise risk management, such as identifying options for risk response. Doing so would better position IRS to respond to risks during the 2021 filing season. In early 2021, after receiving a draft of this report, IRS provided additional information on its risk management efforts. GAO will review this information to determine if these efforts are sufficient to address its recommendation. During the annual tax filing season, generally from January to mid-April, IRS processes more than 150 million individual and business tax returns and provides telephone, correspondence, online, and in-person services to tens of millions of taxpayers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide relief to taxpayers, IRS extended the 2020 filing and payment deadline by 3 months to July 15, 2020. GAO was asked to review IRS's performance during the 2020 filing season. This report (1) describes the changes IRS made to operations and services for the 2020 filing season due to the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) assesses IRS's performance on providing customer service and processing individual and business income tax returns during the 2020 filing season and compare to prior filing seasons, where appropriate; and (3) evaluates IRS's plans to prepare for the 2021 filing season. GAO analyzed IRS documents, filing season performance data, and employee timecard data; assessed IRS's plans for the 2021 filing season; and interviewed cognizant officials. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that IRS revise estimates for addressing its backlog; identify and address barriers to e-filing for business taxpayers; identify and consider implementing alternative work assignments for returns processing staff on paid leave; and identify and assess risks to the 2021 filing season. IRS agreed with four recommendations and disagreed with three. GAO believes that the recommendations remain warranted. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-6806 or lucasjudyj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA Observes Earth Day With Downloadable Art
    In Space
    To honor the day’s [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at Top of Working Lunch with Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Honduran Foreign Minister Rosales
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq: U.S. Ministry Capacity Development Efforts Need an Overall Integrated Strategy to Guide Efforts and Manage Risk
    In U.S GAO News
    Iraq's ministries were decimated following years of neglect and centralized control under the former regime. Developing competent and loyal Iraqi ministries is critical to stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. The President received $140 million in fiscal year 2007 funds and requested an additional $255 million in fiscal year 2008 to develop the capacity of the Iraq's ministries. This report assesses (1) the nature and extent of U.S. efforts to develop the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, (2) the key challenges to these efforts, and (3) the extent to which the U.S. government has an overall integrated strategy for these efforts. For this effort, GAO reviewed U.S. project contracts and reports and interviewed officials from the Departments of State (State), Defense (DOD), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.Over the past 4 years, U.S. efforts to help build the capacity of the Iraqi national government have been characterized by (1) multiple U.S. agencies leading individual efforts, without overarching direction from a lead entity that integrates their efforts; and (2) shifting timeframes and priorities in response to deteriorating security and the reorganization of the U.S. mission in Iraq. First, no single agency is in charge of leading the U.S. ministry capacity development efforts, although State took steps to improve coordination in early 2007. State, DOD and USAID have led separate efforts at Iraqi ministries. About $169 million in funds were allocated in 2005 and 2006 for these efforts. As of mid-2007, State and USAID were providing 169 capacity development advisors to 10 key civilian ministries and DOD was providing 215 to the Ministries of Defense and Interior. Second, the focus of U.S. capacity development efforts has shifted from long-term institution-building projects, such as helping the Iraqi government develop its own capacity development strategy, to an immediate effort to help Iraqi ministries overcome their inability to spend their capital budgets and deliver essential services to the Iraqi people. U.S. ministry capacity efforts face four key challenges that pose a risk to their success and long-term sustainability. First, Iraqi ministries lack personnel with key skills, such as budgeting and procurement. Second, sectarian influence over ministry leadership and staff complicates efforts to build a professional and non-aligned civil service. Third, pervasive corruption in the Iraqi ministries impedes the effectiveness of U.S. efforts. Fourth, poor security limits U.S. advisors' access to their Iraqi counterparts, preventing ministry staff from attending planned training sessions and contributing to the exodus of skilled professionals to other countries. The U.S. government is beginning to develop an integrated strategy for U.S. capacity development efforts in Iraq, although agencies have been implementing separate programs since 2003. GAO's previous analyses of U.S. multiagency national strategies demonstrate that such a strategy should integrate the efforts of the involved agencies with the priorities of the Iraqi government, and include a clear purpose and scope; a delineation of U.S. roles, responsibilities, and coordination with other donors, including the United Nations; desired goals and objectives; performance measures; and a description of benefits and costs. Moreover, it should attempt to address and mitigate the risks associated with the four challenges identified above. U.S. ministry capacity efforts to date have included some but not all of these components. For example, agencies are working to clarify roles and responsibilities. However, U.S. efforts lack clear ties to Iraqi-identified priorities at all ministries, clear performance measures to determine results at civilian ministries, and information on how resources will be targeted to achieve the desired end-state.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Al-Thani 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Suriname Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Czech Prime Minister Babiš
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Muncie, Indiana Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Misprision of Felony for Concealing Crime Committed by Another Officer
    In Crime News
    Dalton Kurtz, 31, an officer with the Muncie Police Department (MPD), in Muncie, Indiana, pleaded guilty today to one count of misprision of felony, for concealing and failing to report a fellow officer’s inappropriate use of force.
    [Read More…]
  • Sixth Anniversary of Iran’s Wrongful Detention of Siamak Namazi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Tennessee Doctor Pleads Guilty to Maintaining an Illegal Drug Premises
    In Crime News
    A Tennessee doctor pleaded guilty yesterday in the Eastern District of Tennessee to maintaining his Knoxville, Tennessee, pain clinic as an illegal drug premises.
    [Read More…]
  • Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
    In Crime News
    Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, my name is Kristen Clarke and I serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the department’s work to implement and enforce the Voting Rights Act and the need to revitalize and restore the Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Climate Change: A Climate Migration Pilot Program Could Enhance the Nation’s Resilience and Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO identified few communities in the United States that have considered climate migration as a resilience strategy, and two—Newtok, Alaska, and Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana—that moved forward with relocation. Newtok, for example, faced imminent danger from shoreline erosion due to thawing permafrost and storm surge (see figure). Literature and experts suggest that many more communities will need to consider relocating in coming decades. Shoreline Erosion at Newtok, Alaska, from July 2007 to October 2019. Federal programs provide limited support to climate migration efforts because they are designed to address other priorities, according to literature GAO reviewed and interviews with stakeholders and federal officials. Federal programs generally are not designed to address the scale and complexity of community relocation and generally fund acquisition of properties at high risk of damage from disasters in response to a specific event such as a hurricane. Unclear federal leadership is the key challenge to climate migration as a resilience strategy. Because no federal agency has the authority to lead federal assistance for climate migration, support for climate migration efforts has been provided on an ad hoc basis. For example, it has taken over 30 years to begin relocating Newtok and more than 20 years for Isle de Jean Charles, in part because no federal entity has the authority to coordinate assistance, according to stakeholders in Alaska and Louisiana. These and other communities will rely on post-disaster assistance if no action is taken beforehand—this increases federal fiscal exposure. Risk management best practices and GAO's 2019 Disaster Resilience Framework suggest that federal agencies should manage such risks before a disaster hits. A well-designed climate migration pilot program that is based on project management best practices could improve federal institutional capability. For example, the interagency National Mitigation Investment Strategy—the national strategy to improve resilience to disasters—recommends that federal agencies use pilot programs to demonstrate the value of resilience projects. As GAO reported in October 2019, a strategic and iterative risk-informed approach for identifying and prioritizing climate resilience projects could help target federal resources to the nation's most significant climate risks. A climate migration pilot program could be a key part of this approach, enhancing the nation's climate resilience and reducing federal fiscal exposure. According to the 13-agency United States Global Change Research Program, relocation due to climate change will be unavoidable in some coastal areas in all but the very lowest sea level rise projections. One way to reduce the risks to these communities is to improve their climate resilience by planning and preparing for potential hazards related to climate change such as sea level rise. Climate migration—the preemptive movement of people and property away from areas experiencing severe impacts—is one way to improve climate resilience. GAO was asked to review federal support for climate migration. This report examines (1) the use of climate migration as a resilience strategy; (2) federal support for climate migration; and (3) key challenges to climate migration and how the federal government can address them. GAO conducted a literature review of over 52 sources and interviewed 12 climate resilience experts. In addition, GAO selected and interviewed 46 stakeholders in four communities that have considered relocation: Newtok, Alaska; Santa Rosa, California; Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana; and Smith Island, Maryland. Congress should consider establishing a pilot program with clear federal leadership to identify and provide assistance to communities that express affirmative interest in relocation as a resilience strategy. The Departments of Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development provided technical comments that GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Hospital Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Steal Trade Secrets and Sell to China
    In Crime News
    An Ohio man was sentenced yesterday to 33 months in prison for conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.
    [Read More…]

You may have missed

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.