Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. It is very good to welcome my friend, Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of Jordan, here to the State Department and to Washington. Needless to say, we’re very focused on the situation in Israel, West Bank, Gaza, very deeply concerned about the rocket attacks that we are seeing now that need to stop and need to stop immediately, and also, of course, concerns about the violence, provocative actions in and around the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. That violence needs to cease. All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down. I appreciate some of the steps we’ve seen in the last – of the last 24 hours, particularly with regard to rerouting the parade and putting off the decision on the evictions, but it’s imperative that all sides take steps to de-escalate and calm the situation. And again, I’m deeply concerned about the rocket attacks. And even as all sides take steps to de-escalate, Israel, of course, has a right to defend its people and its territory from these attacks.
I know that the foreign minister and I will have opportunity to discuss this. We have a lot else on our agenda as well. Jordan knows that President Biden is a long and strong friend of Jordan, and Jordan has been a long and strong friend of the United States – the closest of partners in dealing with the many challenges that we face together in the region, a very valued and trusted advisor as we confront these issues, as well as some of the real opportunities that are out there. So I’m looking forward to a conversation that covers a lot of this territory.
Meanwhile, Ayman, welcome. It’s very good to have you here.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Good afternoon. And thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for your kind words. I’m looking forward to what I know will be extremely instructive and useful conversation between two friends and two allies, particularly at this very, very critical situation. We’re all trying to tackle the extremely dangerous situation in Jerusalem. We’ve repeatedly said in Jordan that Jerusalem is a redline and that maintaining peace and stability in Jerusalem is key. Our focus right now on ensuring that the escalation stops, and for that to happen we do believe that all immediate provocative measures against either the peoples of Sheikh Jarrah or in terms of the violations into al-Haram must stop, status quo needs to be preserved, and the rights of the Palestinians need to be respected so that we calm the situation and create the political horizon that the U.S., Jordan and all of us want to see towards a lasting, comprehensive peace that would address the rights of all peoples on the basis of the two-state solution.
So today, priority is stop the escalation, make sure that international law is respected, rights of Palestinians, rights of worshippers are upheld, status quo is preserved, and move forward with creating that political horizon.
The United States has a leading role to play – it has the leading role to play, in fact, in terms of trying to bring about the peace and stability that we all want. We all believe in peace as strategic choice; nobody is doing anybody a favor by opting for peace. It’s a right for all. We know the formula of the two-state solution is the one that will get us there. And again, we do look forward to the leadership of the United States at this effort, because this is something that is a common objective for all of us.
As the Secretary said, Jordan and the United States have enjoyed a tremendously strong historical partnership. This is a partnership of which we are proud. His Majesty King Abdullah is looking forward to coming here and engaging with the President as well as the rest of the administration on how we can move forward not just in the interests of the goals for our country, but also their interest of peace, stability, prosperity in the region. We are proud of this relationship, and we do look forward to what I know will be extremely useful and important discussions with the Secretary on, again, addressing the challenges and dangerous situation in the West Bank and Jerusalem right now, but also in the rest of the region. We have a lot of good work that we do together – on fighting terrorism to supporting the stability in Iraq, looking for answers to political solutions in the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen. And again, in all that we’re partners, we seek the same objective, and we’ll continue to be working together.
So again, sir, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. On behalf of His Majesty, on behalf of all of us in Jordan, a big thank you to the United States for the tremendous support that it has shown the kingdom historically and in terms of trying to deal with the many challenges that we are facing, unfortunately, in a very troubled part of the world.
Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you all.
Greetings I’m Sam.
I edit, report and maintain this site. If you have any questions You can mail below me but it could be a while before I get back to you.
- Anti-Money Laundering: Opportunities Exist to Increase Law Enforcement Use of Bank Secrecy Act Reports, and Banks’ Costs to Comply with the Act VariedBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2020Many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies use Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reports for investigations. A GAO survey of six federal law enforcement agencies found that more than 72 percent of their personnel reported using BSA reports to investigate money laundering or other crimes, such as drug trafficking, fraud, and terrorism, from 2015 through 2018. According to the survey, investigators who used BSA reports reported they most frequently found information useful for identifying new subjects for investigation or expanding ongoing investigations (see figure). Estimated Frequency with Which Criminal Investigators Who Reported Using BSA Reports Almost Always, Frequently, or Occasionally Found Relevant Reports for Various Activities, 2015–2018 Notes: GAO conducted a generalizable survey of 5,257 personnel responsible for investigations, analysis, and prosecutions at the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Offices of U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Secret Service. The margin of error for all estimates is 3 percentage points or less at the 95 percent confidence interval. As of December 2018, GAO found that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) granted the majority of federal and state law enforcement agencies and some local agencies direct access to its BSA database, allowing them to conduct searches to find relevant BSA reports. FinCEN data show that these agencies searched the BSA database for about 133,000 cases in 2018—a 31 percent increase from 2014. FinCEN created procedures to allow law enforcement agencies without direct access to request BSA database searches. But, GAO estimated that relatively few local law enforcement agencies requested such searches in 2018, even though many are responsible for investigating financial crimes. GAO found that agencies without direct access may not know about BSA reports or may face other hurdles that limit their use of BSA reports. One of FinCEN's goals is for law enforcement to use BSA reports to the greatest extent possible. However, FinCEN lacks written policies and procedures for assessing which agencies without direct access could benefit from greater use of BSA reports, reaching out to such agencies, and distributing educational materials about BSA reports. By developing such policies and procedures, FinCEN would help ensure law enforcement agencies are using BSA reports to the greatest extent possible to combat money laundering and other crimes. GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 11 banks that varied in terms of their total assets and other factors, and estimated that their total direct costs for complying with the BSA ranged from about $14,000 to about $21 million in 2018. Under the BSA, banks are required to establish BSA/anti-money laundering compliance programs, file various reports, and keep certain records of transactions. GAO found that total direct BSA compliance costs generally tended to be proportionally greater for smaller banks than for larger banks. For example, such costs comprised about 2 percent of the operating expenses for each of the three smallest banks in 2018 but less than 1 percent for each of the three largest banks in GAO's review (see figure). At the same time, costs can differ between similarly sized banks (e.g., large credit union A and B), because of differences in their compliance processes, customer bases, and other factors. In addition, requirements to verify a customer's identity and report suspicious and other activity generally were the most costly areas—accounting for 29 and 28 percent, respectively, of total compliance costs, on average, for the 11 selected banks. Estimated Total Direct Costs for Complying with the Bank Secrecy Act as a Percentage of Operating Expenses and Estimated Total Direct Compliance Costs for Selected Banks in 2018 Notes: Estimated total direct compliance costs are in parentheses for each bank. Very large banks had $50 billion or more in assets. Small community banks had total of assets of $250 million or less and met the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's community bank definition. Small credit unions had total assets of $50 million or less. Federal banking agencies routinely examine banks for BSA compliance. FinCEN data indicate that the agencies collectively cited about 23 percent of their supervised banks for BSA violations each year in their fiscal year 2015–2018 examinations. A small percentage of these violations involved weaknesses in a bank's BSA/anti-money laundering compliance program, which could require the agencies by statute to issue a formal enforcement action. Stakeholders had mixed views on industry proposals to increase the BSA's dollar thresholds for filing currency transaction reports (CTR) and suspicious activity reports (SAR). For example, banks must generally file a CTR when a customer deposits more than $10,000 in cash and a SAR if they identify a suspicious transaction involving $5,000 or more. If both thresholds were doubled, the changes would have resulted in banks filing 65 percent and 21 percent fewer CTRs and SARs, respectively, in 2018, according to FinCEN analysis. Law enforcement agencies told GAO that they generally are concerned that the reduction would provide them with less financial intelligence and, in turn, harm their investigations. In contrast, some industry associations told GAO that they support the changes to help reduce BSA compliance costs for banks. Money laundering and terrorist financing pose threats to national security and the U.S. financial system's integrity. The BSA requires financial institutions to file suspicious activity and other reports to help law enforcement investigate these and other crimes. FinCEN administers the BSA and maintains BSA reports in an electronic database that can be searched to identify relevant reports. Some banks cite the BSA as one of their most significant compliance costs and question whether BSA costs outweigh its benefits in light of limited public information about law enforcement's use of BSA reports. GAO was asked to review the BSA's implementation. This report examines (1) the extent to which law enforcement uses BSA reports and FinCEN facilitates their use, (2) selected banks' BSA compliance costs, (3) oversight of banks' BSA compliance, and (4) stakeholder views of proposed changes to the BSA. GAO surveyed personnel at six federal law enforcement agencies, collected data on BSA compliance costs from 11 banks, reviewed FinCEN data on banking agencies' BSA examinations, and interviewed law enforcement and industry stakeholders on the effects of proposed changes. GAO is recommending that FinCEN develop written policies and procedures to promote greater use of BSA reports by law enforcement agencies without direct database access. FinCEN concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Medicaid: CMS Needs More Information on States’ Financing and Payment Arrangements to Improve OversightBy Sam NewsDecember 7, 2020States and the federal government share in financing Medicaid, a health care program for low-income and medically needy individuals. States finance the nonfederal share with state general funds and other sources, such as taxes on health care providers and funds from local governments. GAO's analysis showed a change in how states finance their Medicaid programs. In particular, states relied on provider taxes and local government funds for about 28 percent, or $63 billion, of the estimated $224 billion total nonfederal share of Medicaid payments in state fiscal year 2018—7 percentage points more than state fiscal year 2008. Nonfederal Share of Medicaid Payments from Provider Taxes and Local Government Funds, State Fiscal Years 2008 and 2018 Note: Percentages do not add up due to rounding. Furthermore, GAO estimated that states' reliance on provider taxes and local government funds decreased states' share of net Medicaid payments (total state and federal payments) and effectively increased the federal share of net Medicaid payments by 5 percentage points in state fiscal year 2018. It also resulted in smaller net payments to some providers after the taxes and local government funds they contribute to their payments are taken into account. While net payments are smaller, the federal government's contribution does not change. This effectively shifts responsibility for a larger portion of Medicaid payments to the federal government and away from states. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—which oversees Medicaid—collects some information on states' sources of funds and payments, but it is not complete, consistent, or sufficiently documented, which hinders the agency's oversight. For example, CMS does not require states to report on the source of the nonfederal share for all payments. Absent complete, consistent, and sufficiently documented information about all Medicaid payments, CMS cannot adequately determine whether payments are consistent with statutory requirements for economy and efficiency, and with permissible financing, such as the categories of services on which provider taxes may be imposed. Medicaid cost $668 billion in fiscal year 2019. GAO has previously reported on concerns about states' use of various funding sources for the nonfederal share. Although such financing arrangements are allowed under certain conditions, they can also result in increasing the share of net costs paid by the federal government and decreasing reliance on state general funds. GAO was asked to review the sources of funds states used for Medicaid and the types of payments made to providers. This report describes states' reliance on provider and local government funds for these arrangements; the estimated effect of these arrangements on the federal share of net Medicaid payments; and the extent to which CMS collects information on these arrangements. To do this work, GAO reviewed CMS information; administered a questionnaire to all state Medicaid agencies; analyzed the estimated effects of reliance on provider and local government funds; and interviewed CMS officials, as well as Medicaid officials in 11 states selected, in part, on Medicaid spending and geographic diversity. The Administrator of CMS should collect and document complete and consistent information about the sources of funding for the nonfederal share of payments to providers. CMS neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but acknowledged the need for additional financing and payment data for Medicaid oversight. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Fraudulent Chicago-Area Tax Return PreparerBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, seeking to enjoin a tax preparer from South Chicago Heights, Illinois, from preparing federal income tax returns for others.[Read More…]
- Telecommunications: FCC Should Enhance Performance Goals and Measures for Its Program to Support Broadband Service in High-Cost AreasBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a program, known as the high-cost program, to promote broadband deployment in unserved areas. Although the performance goals for the high-cost program reflect principles in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, not all of the goals are expressed in a measurable or quantifiable manner and therefore do not align with leading practices. Furthermore, FCC's measures for its performance goals do not always align with leading practices, which call for measures to have linkage with the goal they measure and clarity, objectivity, and measurable targets, among other key attributes. For example, as shown below for two of FCC's five goals, GAO found that FCC's measures met most, but not all, of the key attributes. By establishing goals and measures that align with leading practices, FCC can improve the performance information it uses in its decision-making processes about how to allocate the program's finite resources. Leading practices also suggest that agencies publicly report on progress made toward performance goals. FCC does so, however, only in a limited fashion which may lead to stakeholder uncertainty about the program's effectiveness. Examples of FCC’s Performance Measures Compared with a Selection of Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures According to stakeholders GAO interviewed, FCC faces three key challenges to accomplish its high-cost program performance goals: (1) accuracy of FCC's broadband deployment data, (2) broadband availability on tribal lands, and (3) maintaining existing fixed-voice infrastructure and attaining universal mobile service. For example, although FCC adopted a more precise method of collecting and verifying broadband availability data, stakeholders expressed concern the revised data would remain inaccurate if carriers continue to overstate broadband coverage for marketing and competitive reasons. Overstating coverage impairs FCC's efforts to promote universal voice and broadband since an area can become ineligible for high-cost support if a carrier reports that service already exists in that area. FCC has also taken actions to address the lack of broadband availability on tribal lands, such as making some spectrum available to tribes for wireless broadband in rural areas. However, tribal stakeholders told GAO that some tribes are unable to secure funding to deploy the infrastructure necessary to make use of spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. Millions of Americans do not have access to broadband. Within the Universal Service Fund, FCC's high-cost program provided about $5 billion in 2019 to telecommunications carriers to support broadband deployment in unserved areas where the cost to provide broadband service is high. In 2011, FCC established five performance goals and related measures for the high-cost program. GAO was asked to review the high-cost program's performance goals and measures. This report examines: (1) the extent to which the program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices to enable the effective use of performance information and (2) the key challenges selected stakeholders believe FCC faces in meeting the program's goals. GAO reviewed FCC's program goals and measures and assessed them against applicable criteria, including GAO's leading practices for successful performance measures. GAO interviewed FCC officials and representatives from industry, tribal carriers, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders, to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making four recommendations, including that FCC should ensure its high-cost program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices and publicly report on progress measured toward the goals. FCC concurred with all four recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- North Carolina Man Sentenced to 36 Months in Federal Prison for Preparing False Tax ReturnsBy Sam NewsDecember 23, 2020Gene Hersholt Williamson II, was sentenced yesterday to 36 months in prison for aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return and ordered to pay $637,000 in restitution, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- More than 700 Members Of Transnational Organized Crime Groups Arrested in Central America in U.S. Assisted OperationBy Sam NewsNovember 27, 2020Today, senior law enforcement officials from the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras announced criminal charges in Central America against more than 700 members of transnational criminal organizations, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, which resulted from a one-week coordinated law enforcement action under Operation Regional Shield (ORS).[Read More…]
- Holding the Lukashenka Regime and its Enablers to AccountBy Sam NewsJune 21, 2021
- Laboratory Safety: FDA Should Strengthen Efforts to Provide Effective OversightBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2020The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps intended to improve safety at its laboratories, including those that work with hazardous biological agents. Specifically, FDA created the Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) in 2017 as a safety oversight body for all FDA laboratories. Establishment of FDA's Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) Note: Prior to March 2019, OLS was referred to as the Office of Laboratory Science and Safety. In coordination with FDA's operating divisions—known as centers—OLS has standardized safety policies, incident reporting, inspections, and safety training. However in creating OLS, FDA did not implement key reform practices that could have helped ensure OLS's effectiveness. For example, FDA's centers and OLS did not reach a shared understanding of OLS's roles and responsibilities—a key practice for effective agency reforms. Although senior agency leaders were involved in developing OLS's strategic plan, disagreements about OLS's role raised by center directors at that time still remain. For example, center directors told GAO that OLS's mission should not include science, laboratory quality management, or inspections. Conversely, the director of OLS said OLS remains committed to its mission as envisioned in the strategic plan, which includes these areas of responsibility. FDA officials said they plan to update the plan in 2021, which presents an opportunity for FDA to address areas of disagreement. In its current form, FDA's laboratory safety program also does not meet the key elements of effective oversight identified in GAO's prior work. For example, The oversight organization should have clear authority to ensure compliance with requirements. However, as part of a 2019 reorganization, FDA placed the OLS director at a lower level than the center directors. Also, OLS does not directly manage the center safety staff responsible for ensuring the implementation of safety policies that OLS develops. As a result, OLS has limited ability to access centers' laboratories—in part because they cannot inspect them unannounced—or to ensure compliance with safety policies. The oversight organization should also be independent from program offices to avoid conflict between program objectives and safety. However, OLS depends on the centers for much of its funding and has had to negotiate with the centers annually for those funds, which can allow center directors to influence OLS priorities through the funding amounts they approve. FDA has not assessed potential independence risks from using center funds for OLS. Without taking steps to do so, FDA's laboratory safety program will continue to compete with the centers' mission objectives and priorities. In 2014, FDA discovered improperly stored boxes of smallpox virus, posing a risk to individuals who might have been exposed. This raised concerns about the oversight of FDA's laboratories that conduct research on hazardous biological agents. In 2016, GAO made five recommendations to improve FDA's laboratory safety, four of which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had not fully implemented as of July 2020. GAO was asked to examine FDA's efforts to strengthen laboratory safety. This report examines FDA's efforts since GAO's 2016 report to improve safety in its laboratories that work with hazardous biological agents. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed FDA documents; assessed FDA's safety oversight practices against key reform practices and oversight elements GAO identified in prior work; and interviewed FDA officials, including staff and senior leaders at OLS and the three centers that work with hazardous biological agents. GAO is making five recommendations to FDA, including to resolve disagreements over roles and responsibilities, to provide OLS with the authority and access to facilities necessary to oversee laboratory safety, and to take steps to assess and mitigate any independence risks posed by how OLS is funded. HHS agreed with all five recommendations. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Courts Making Juror Safety a Top PriorityBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsSeptember 10, 2020A small group of judges around the country have presided over jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is growing as the backlog of criminal cases becomes an increasing concern among courts acutely aware that defendants are entitled to a fair, impartial, and timely trial.[Read More…]
- North Carolina Man Sentenced for Violating Fair Housing Act and Threatening a Family Because of Their RaceBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020The Justice Department announced today that Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34,was sentenced to 28 months in prison, followed by three years supervised release, for using threats of force against an African American family because of the family members’ race and because they were renting a dwelling.[Read More…]
- Political Donor Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Lobbying and Campaign Contribution Crimes, Tax Evasion, and Obstruction of JusticeBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021A venture capitalist and political fundraiser was sentenced today to 144 months in federal prison for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee. Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.[Read More…]
- Declining Media Pluralism in HungaryBy Sam NewsFebruary 10, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to Foreign Terrorist OrganizationsBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front, both designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as foreign terrorist organizations.[Read More…]
- Four sentenced for roles in ransom schemeBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 8, 2021Four U.S. citizens have [Read More…]
- Justice Department Signs Antitrust Memorandum of Understanding with Korean Prosecution ServiceBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020Yesterday, the Department of Justice signed an antitrust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Korean Prosecution Service (KPS). The MOU is designed to promote increased cooperation and communication on criminal antitrust enforcement and policy in both countries.[Read More…]
- Owner of Michigan Payroll Tax Services Firm Charged With Employment Tax FraudBy Sam NewsAugust 19, 2020A federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, returned an indictment today charging a Farwell, Michigan, businessman with failing to pay payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and failing to file his own returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan.[Read More…]
- New York Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to File False ReturnsBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020A resident of Newburgh, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- Veterans Affairs: VA Needs to Address Persistent IT Modernization and Cybersecurity ChallengesBy Sam NewsSeptember 16, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced challenges in its efforts to accomplish three critical information technology (IT) modernization initiatives: the department's health information system, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA); a system for the Family Caregiver Program, which is to support family caregivers of seriously injured post-9/11 veterans; and the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) that collects and stores information and is used for processing disability benefit claims. Specifically, GAO has reported on the challenges in the department's three previous unsuccessful attempts to modernize VistA over the past 20 years. However, VA has recently deployed a new scheduling system as part of its fourth effort to modernize VistA and the next deployment of the system, including additional capabilities, is planned in October 2020. VA had taken steps to address GAO's recommendations from its 2014 report to implement a replacement system for the Family Caregiver Program. However, in September 2019, GAO reported that VA had yet to implement a new IT system that fully supports the Family Caregiver Program and that it had not yet fully committed to a date by which it will certify that the new IT system fully supports the program. In September 2015, GAO reported that VA had made progress in developing and implementing VBMS, but also noted that additional actions could improve efforts to develop and use the system. For example, VBMS was not able to fully support disability and pension claims, as well as appeals processing. GAO made five recommendations aimed at improving VA's efforts to effectively complete the development and implementation of VBMS; however, as of September 2020, VA implemented only one recommendation. VA's progress in implementing key provisions of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (commonly referred to as FITARA) has been uneven. Specifically, VA has made progress toward improving its licensing of software and achieving its goals for closing unneeded data centers. However, the department has made limited progress toward addressing requirements related to IT investment risk management and Chief Information Officer authority enhancement. Until the department implements the act's provisions, Congress' ability to effectively monitor VA's progress and hold it fully accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings will be hindered. In addition, since fiscal year 2016, GAO has reported that VA faces challenges related to effectively implementing the federal approach to, and strategy for, securing information systems; effectively implementing information security controls and mitigating known security deficiencies; and establishing elements of its cybersecurity risk management program. GAO's work stressed the need for VA to address these challenges as well as manage IT supply chain risks. As VA continues to pursue modernization efforts, it is critical that the department take steps to adequately secure its systems. The use of IT is crucial to helping VA effectively serve the nation's veterans. The department annually spends billions of dollars on its information systems and assets—VA's budget for IT now exceeds $4 billion annually. However, over many years, VA has experienced challenges in managing its IT projects and programs, which could jeopardize its ability to effectively support key programs such as the Forever GI Bill. GAO has previously reported on these IT management challenges at VA. GAO was asked to testify on its prior IT work at VA. Specifically, this testimony summarizes results and recommendations from GAO's issued reports that examined VA's efforts in (1) modernizing VistA, a system for the Family Caregiver Program, and VBMS; (2) implementing FITARA; and (3) addressing cybersecurity issues. In developing this testimony, GAO reviewed its recently issued reports that addressed IT management issues at VA and GAO's biannual high-risk series. GAO also incorporated information on the department's actions in response to recommendations. GAO has made numerous recommendations in recent years aimed at improving VA's IT system modernization efforts, implementation of key FITARA provisions, and cybersecurity program. VA has generally agreed with the recommendations and has begun to address them. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Worldwide CautionBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020This latest update to [Read More…]
- Fulbright Program Partners with National Archives on New Heritage Science FellowshipBy Sam NewsJanuary 20, 2021
- Former Indiana State Senator and Gaming Executive Indicted for Violations of Federal Campaign Finance LawsBy Sam NewsSeptember 29, 2020A federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Indiana returned an indictment charging a former Indiana state senator and a gaming executive with violations of federal campaign finance laws, false statements, and falsification of Federal Election Campaign (FEC) records in connection with a series of illegal corporate contributions and conduit contributions they made to fund the congressional campaign of the former state politician.[Read More…]
- Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsJanuary 25, 2021In San Antonio today, 22-year-old Cost resident Jaylyn Christopher Molina, aka Abdur Rahim, admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Gregg N. Sofer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division Christopher Combs.[Read More…]
- Arms Control and International Security Since January 2017By Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
- Public Designation, Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption, of Former Guatemalan Minister Alejandro SinibaldiBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- United States and Morocco Sign Cultural Property AgreementBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021
- Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Call with Minister Kyaw Tin of BurmaBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020
- New International Ocean Satellite Completes TestingBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020A team of engineers in [Read More…]
- Remarks at World Sustainable Development Summit 2021By Sam NewsFebruary 12, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- Owner of Texas Chain of Hospice Companies Sentenced for $150 Million Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020A corporate executive has been ordered to serve 20 years in prison after his conviction related to falsely telling thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases, such as Alzheimers and dementia, they had less than six months to live and subsequently enrolling them in hospice programs.[Read More…]
- Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force Announces Eleven New National PartnersBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020The Justice Department announced today that the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) is adding 11 new national partners to the Strike Force, for a total of 29 agencies and offices committed on the national level to combatting collusion, antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes, which undermine competition in government procurement, grant and program funding.[Read More…]
- Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC And Co-Defendants Agree To Pay Over $15.3 Million To Resolve Allegations They Fraudulently Obtained Government-Insured Loan And Misused Loan FundsBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that Lakeway Regional Medical Center LLC (LRMC) agreed to pay $13,580,822.79, and Surgical Development Partners LLC, Surgical Development Partners of Austin Enterprises LLC, G. Edward Alexander, Frank Sossi, and John Prater collectively agreed to pay $1.8 million, to resolve allegations they violated the False Claims Act and other statutes in connection with the development of Lakeway Regional Medical Center, a hospital in Lakeway, Texas. LRMC was formed to develop and operate the hospital. The other settling parties assisted in the development of the hospital and the management and operations of LRMC.[Read More…]
- United States Seizes 27 Additional Domain Names Used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Further a Global, Covert Influence CampaignBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020The United States has seized 27 domain names that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unlawfully used to further a global covert influence campaign.[Read More…]
- National Science Foundation: COVID-19 Affected Ongoing Construction of Major Facilities ProjectsBy Sam NewsJune 9, 2021What GAO Found Since GAO's April 2020 report on the status of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) major facilities projects, the Large Hadron Collider High Luminosity Upgrade program began construction, and it along with the four other major facilities projects in construction (see figure), have weathered schedule delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To partially account for increased costs associated with the pandemic, such as the cost of paying project staff while work is paused, NSF has authorized $38.9 million in total project cost increases to the award recipients constructing three of the five projects: $18.9 million for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, $10.0 million for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, and $10.0 million for Regional Class Research Vessels. Because the pandemic is ongoing and its full effects are not yet known, NSF expects to make further adjustments to the cost and schedule of all five major projects in construction. Design work on an additional major facility project continued without significant interruption from the pandemic. Further, NSF made awards to begin the agency's first three mid-scale research infrastructure projects. National Science Foundation Major Facilities Projects in Construction NSF has fully implemented GAO's prior recommendation on information sharing among award recipients and has drafted guidance or taken other steps towards addressing GAO's three remaining recommendations. To enhance information sharing among award recipients, NSF added a section to its terms and conditions in its major facilities agreements that encourages awardees to share information among awardees and participate in a knowledge management program. Why GAO Did This Study NSF supports the design, construction, and operations of science and engineering research infrastructure such as telescopes and research vessels. These projects include major facilities that cost over $100 million to construct or acquire, and mid-scale research infrastructure projects. Over the past 5 fiscal years, NSF has received over $1 billion in appropriations for these projects. Prior GAO reports reviewed NSF's oversight of the projects, its cost estimating and schedule policies, and the project management expertise of its oversight workforce. Senate Report 115-275, Senate Report 114-239, and House Report 114-605 included provisions for GAO to review and report annually on projects funded from NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. This report, the fourth, examines (1) the cost and schedule performance of NSF's ongoing major facilities and mid-scale research infrastructure projects and (2) the extent to which NSF has implemented prior GAO recommendations related to its management of major facilities. GAO reviewed NSF and award recipient documents for the projects. GAO examined policies and procedures to identify efforts to implement recommendations and interviewed NSF officials for clarifying information.[Read More…]
- Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Visit to BangladeshBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020
- Largest U.S. Seizure of Iranian Fuel from Four TankersBy Sam NewsAugust 14, 2020The Justice Department today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization that was bound for Venezuela. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.[Read More…]
- Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges and Opportunities with Acquiring Space Systems in a Changing EnvironmentBy Sam NewsMay 24, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) is making changes to its space-related processes and organization that will present both opportunities and challenges to the way it acquires its space systems. GAO has reported over the past decades on challenges DOD faces in its space acquisitions—including schedule delays, multibillion-dollar cost increases, significant reductions in capabilities, and in some cases cancelation—and made recommendations that have improved program outcomes. For example, DOD took actions to implement a GAO recommendation to use an incremental approach to acquiring space launch services. DOD's modified approach reduced risk by allowing it to incorporate knowledge gained from early launch competitions to inform subsequent competitions. Many of the most troubled programs are nearing completion, and DOD is starting new programs to develop the next generation of capabilities, some of which are being acquired under a streamlined acquisition process known as the middle-tier of acquisition pathway (see table below). Starting new programs is an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and take measures to put programs on successful paths. GAO's work has shown that in many cases, DOD is attempting to do so. Selected New DOD Space Programs and Near-Term Estimated Costs Dollars in billions New program Current estimated costs for 5-year middle-tier effort Evolved Strategic SATCOM (ESS) Protected satellite communications $1.4 Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) Ground control for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites $3.0 Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Block 0 Missile warning, infrared intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance $8.4 Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) Protected satellite communications $1.0 Source: Department of Defense (DOD) data. | GAO-21-520T However, DOD faces challenges because it will be starting these new programs amid significant changes to the acquisition environment. Some of these changes are external to DOD, such as increased threats to on-orbit space systems. But over the past several years, DOD also initiated substantial organizational and acquisition process changes. While the Space Force offers an important opportunity to streamline lines of authority, accountability, and decision-making and avoid duplication of effort, many details will require careful consideration. In addition, adopting leading practices for acquisition, as previously recommended, could help DOD achieve faster delivery of new capabilities, especially if DOD balances new, streamlined acquisition processes with sufficient oversight to help ensure program success. Why GAO Did This Study DOD space systems provide critical capabilities that support military and other government operations. Space systems can be expensive to acquire and field, costing billions of dollars each year. The U.S. Space Force was recently established as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. As planned, the Space Force will consolidate leadership, planning, and management for some DOD space programs, as appropriate and authorized. This statement discusses the challenges and opportunities DOD faces as it acquires space systems amid changes to the acquisition environment. This statement is based on GAO reports issued over the past 10 years on DOD space programs. It also draws on recent work supporting GAO's 2021 annual report on the progress of major defense acquisition programs.[Read More…]
- Lead Paint in Housing: HUD Has Not Identified High-Risk Project-Based Rental Assistance PropertiesBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020During fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) obligated about $421 million through two grant programs to state and local governments to help identify and control lead paint hazards in housing for low-income households. HUD also issued guidelines for evaluating and controlling lead paint hazards, generally encouraging abatement (such as replacing building components containing lead) as the preferred long-term solution. HUD has supported research on lead paint hazard control and provided education and outreach to public housing agencies, property owners, and the public through publications and training events. HUD monitors lead paint-related risks in its Project-Based Rental Assistance Program, one of HUD's three largest rental assistance programs, through management reviews and periodic physical inspections, but has not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment to identify properties posing the greatest risk to children under the age of 6. HUD's management reviews include assessing property owners' compliance with lead paint regulations—such as by reviewing lead disclosure forms, records of lead inspections, and plans to address lead paint hazards. Inspectors from HUD's Real Estate Assessment Center also assess the physical condition of properties, including identifying damaged paint that could indicate lead paint risks. According to HUD officials, they have not conducted risk assessments in project-based rental assistance housing because they believe the program has relatively few older and potentially riskier properties. However, GAO's analysis of HUD data found that 21 percent of project-based rental assistance properties have at least one building constructed before 1978 (when lead paint was banned in homes) and house over 138,000 children under the age of 6. If HUD used available program data to inform periodic risk assessments, HUD could identify which of the properties pose the greatest risk of exposure to lead paint hazards for children under the age of 6. Unless HUD develops a strategy for managing the risks associated with lead paint and lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing, it may miss the opportunity to prevent children under the age of 6 from being inadvertently exposed to lead paint in those properties. Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties with at Least One Building Built before 1978 and That House Children under Age 6, as of December 31, 2019 Note: Children under the age of 6 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure because they have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, often crawl on the floor, and ingest nonfood items. Lead paint exposure in children under the age of 6 can cause brain damage, slowed development, and learning and behavioral problems. Exposure to lead paint hazards can cause serious harm to children under 6 years old. HUD is required by law to reduce the risk of lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted rental housing—including project-based rental assistance (subsidies to make privately owned multifamily properties affordable to low-income households). The 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act Joint Explanatory Statement includes a provision for GAO to review, among other things, HUD's oversight of lead paint and related hazards in affordable rental housing. This report (1) describes how HUD programs and guidance address lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted and other low-income rental housing, and (2) examines HUD's oversight procedures for assessing risk for lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing. GAO reviewed HUD and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint regulations and documents on lead programs and methods for addressing lead paint hazards. GAO reviewed HUD oversight policies and procedures and analyzed HUD data on building and tenant age. GAO interviewed staff at HUD, EPA, and organizations that advocate for safe affordable housing. GAO recommends that HUD (1) conduct periodic risk assessments for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Program and (2) develop and implement plans to proactively manage identified lead paint risks. HUD agreed to conduct periodic risk assessments and develop and implement a plan to proactively manage risks. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Black Hole Collision May Have Exploded With LightBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020In a first, astronomers [Read More…]
- Wrongful Detention by the Houthis of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi By Sam NewsNovember 11, 2020
- Victims of Identity Theft, 2018By Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021(Publication)
This report describes the number of persons age 16 or older who experienced identity theft in 2018.
4/1/2021, NCJ 256085, Erika Harrell [Read More…]
- Rocket Attacks in ErbilBy Sam NewsFebruary 16, 2021
- Togo’s National DayBy Sam NewsApril 27, 2021
- NASA CubeSat Will Shine a Laser Light on the Moon’s Darkest CratersBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020To support the next wave [Read More…]
- Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime Charges After Using Dating App to Target Gay Men for Violent CrimesBy Sam NewsJune 3, 2021A Texas man pleaded guilty yesterday to federal hate crime charges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.[Read More…]
- Brazil Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Brazil [Read More…]
- US-European Mission Launches to Monitor the World’s OceansBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020Sentinel-6 Michael [Read More…]
- Uganda’s Independence DayBy Sam NewsOctober 9, 2020
- Armenian Independence DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Alabama High School Student Names NASA’s Mars HelicopterBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Vaneeza Rupani’s [Read More…]
- The United States Takes Actions Against Supporters of the Illegitimate Maduro Regime’s Fraudulent ElectionsBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020
- Indiana Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing PesticidesBy Sam NewsAugust 20, 2020An Indiana man who distributed unregistered pesticides to the tenants and managers of an apartment building he owned has pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).[Read More…]
- Imposter Nurse Sentenced to Prison for Fraud and Tax EvasionBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020A nurse formerly employed by an Ann Arbor, Michigan, health care consultancy was sentenced to 65 months in prison for defrauding employers of over $2.2 million and evading more than $697,000 in taxes, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken on National Land Use, Land Cover, and Ecosystems Monitoring System (SIMOCUTE) InitiativeBy Sam NewsJune 4, 2021
- United States Unseals Superseding Indictment Charging Nationwide Money Laundering NetworkBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020The Justice Department today announced the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging six individuals with participating in a conspiracy to launder millions of dollars of drug proceeds on behalf of foreign cartels. This superseding indictment is the result of a nearly four-year investigation into the relationship between foreign drug trafficking organizations and Asian money laundering networks in the United States, China, and elsewhere.[Read More…]
- Promoting Fair and Transparent Selection of Justices to Guatemala’s Constitutional CourtBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Omani Foreign Minister Al-Busaidi By Sam NewsFebruary 24, 2021
- Justice Department Concludes Its Investigation of D.C.-Area Private High Schools’ Decision to Stop Offering Advanced Placement CoursesBy Sam NewsJanuary 11, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it has completed its investigation into whether Georgetown Day School, Holton-Arms School, Landon School, Maret School, National Cathedral School, The Potomac School, St. Albans School, and Sidwell Friends School (jointly, “the Schools”) collectively agreed to stop offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses by 2022 in violation of the Sherman Act. The Schools announced in June 2018 that they would eliminate AP courses from their curricula by 2022.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before Virtual Meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey OnyeamaBy Sam NewsApril 27, 2021
- Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the WorldBy Sam NewsFebruary 5, 2021