Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Greetings. Good to see you.
PRESIDENT KENYATTA: Likewise, Mr. Secretary. How are you doing?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Very well, thank you. Thank you.
PRESIDENT KENYATTA: Wonderful to see you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much for this virtual visit and virtual reception.
PRESIDENT KENYATTA: Thank you very much as well, and thank you for initiating this call, and for me, really, it’s just to say it’s a wonderful opportunity for us just to renew the wonderful relationship that exists between our two countries, our bilateral partnership, our partnership on a wide variety of multilateral issues, to really say how pleased I was to join you with President Biden and the – seeing America back on the scene again with regard to climate change. This is a wonderful thing, taking your leadership position back. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s something that’s great for us, who are sufferers, let me say, of the devastating challenges that have been posed by climate change.
And it’s really wonderful to see yourselves back, truly grateful of our continued partnership on defense, looking forward to continue the ongoing discussions with regard our FTA, looking forward to also in this very difficult moment working together with you with regard to our COVID response and to seeing how America can once again take her leadership and really help our developing nations that, if we don’t take great care, are likely also to bear the biggest brunt of this COVID challenge. As is said, we’re not going to deal with COVID until we all deal with COVID, and we need to really just get to it and say how we are all going to be able to pull together and make sure that we overcome this crisis and get our world back to order.
I also, as an opening line, just to say that I’m really looking forward to working closely with yourselves on our regional issues, which I don’t need to delve into detail at this particular moment, but you’re fully aware that our region right now is quite unstable. And again, we look forward to your friendship, to your partnership, to working together towards stabilizing the Horn and our East African and Central African region altogether.
So once again, it’s our first opportunity to really engage with one another. I’m looking forward to working very closely with you and your team, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to do some great things together.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, Mr. President, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to meet today, to host us virtually. I have very strong memories of spending time in Kenya actually many years ago with my family, but then more recently with both then-Vice President Biden and also President Obama. And it’s particularly good to be reconnected to you today.
I think given the breadth and depth of the partnership, it was especially important for me to be able to visit virtually on this first trip to Africa as Secretary of State, and indeed, I’m looking forward to discussing with you and your team the issues that you put on the table and a number of others, and I really thank all of the members of the Kenyan delegation for joining us as well today. It would be better if we could do this in person. I look forward to the day that we can, but for now, this is at least an important opportunity early in our administration for us to compare notes and to try to move forward on the important work we’re doing together.
And to your point, Mr. President, it was terrific to have your participation in the climate summit that President Biden convened, one of the number of global challenges that we know we have to tackle together. COVID-19 being the other, I could not agree with you more that none of us will be fully safe until everyone is, and I look forward to discussing that and to looking at ways we can make our cooperation even more effective.
I think we both see challenges but also opportunities to, as President Biden puts it, build back better from the pandemic: creating quality, good-paying green jobs for our citizens; improving the global health infrastructure so that not only do we get through COVID-19 but we make sure we’re doing everything possible to prevent or mitigate the next outbreak. And as strategic partners, to your point, we – I think we have a shared vision for our cooperation that we now need to move out on and make good on in the coming years. And that’s building on what is already a very strong foundation in confronting common threats, including terrorism; but also seizing some of the opportunities that are out there, expanding trade and investment, grounded in the shared values of democracy and human rights that bring us together.
We’ve got the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, and through that, our governments are regularly reviewing progress on joint goals, on economic prosperity, on defense cooperation, on democracy and human rights and governance, on regional and multilateral cooperation, on public health.
So we’ve got a very strong agenda for the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, very much looking forward to pursuing that, but meanwhile, for today, thank you for hosting us, and I look forward to a good conversation. I think we’re going to take a brief pause and then we’ll be back momentarily to start the conversation. Thank you.
PRESIDENT KENYATTA: Fantastic. Thank you very much.
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- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of the InteriorBy Sam NewsJune 29, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 10 priority recommendations for the Department of the Interior. Since then, Interior has implemented 5 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking steps to identify and evaluate offshore oil and gas drilling risks and improving regional coordination among federal partners to address energy and mineral issues. In June 2021, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for Interior, bringing the total number to 13. These recommendations involve the following areas: improving oversight of offshore oil and gas activities; taking action to ensure safety, health, and services at Bureau of Indian Education schools; improving Bureau of Indian Affairs' management of energy development on Indian lands; reducing factors that hinder tribal administration of federal programs; and addressing Micronesia and the Marshall Islands' transition to trust fund income. Interior's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Rule of Law Assistance: Agency Efforts Are Guided by Various Strategies, and Overseas Missions Should Ensure that Programming Is Fully CoordinatedBy Sam NewsMay 10, 2021What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated more than $2.7 billion for rule of law assistance from fiscal years 2014 through 2018—the latest available data as of GAO's review. Of that, State allocated over $2 billion and USAID allocated over $700 million. State and USAID funded some of these programs through the Department of Justice (DOJ). Rule of law assistance funded a variety of activities including improving justice institutions, legal reform, and promoting a culture of lawfulness. The agencies implemented these programs globally but allocated most funds to the Western Hemisphere and Afghanistan. Global Distribution of Bilateral Rule of Law Assistance Allocations, Fiscal Years 2014–2018 After Congress appropriates funding, agencies determine rule of law allocations through the foreign assistance budget process. State and USAID identify rule of law as a goal in agency-wide strategic documents and hold an annual interagency roundtable regarding rule of law assistance to determine those allocations. Rule of law assistance is guided by national and agency-, bureau-, and mission-specific strategies that are linked to the national security goals of the United States. These strategies discuss the agencies' roles and responsibilities in improving the rule of law. State and USAID guidance highlights the importance of coordination between agencies as they design and implement rule of law assistance, but not all agencies are included in some of the key coordination mechanisms used in four countries GAO selected for review. Agency officials in the selected countries cited the use of some informal and formal coordination practices, such as the use of law enforcement working groups, but State policy does not require all entities that may be involved in rule of law assistance to participate in these working groups. For example, in three of the four selected countries, officials described coordinating rule of law assistance, in part, through these working groups, which may not include critical agencies such as USAID. According to State policy, these working groups are designed to achieve other goals using agencies and offices that are not involved in providing rule of law assistance. Without verifying that interagency coordination includes all relevant entities, missions may not know whether they are fully leveraging interagency resources or ensuring that they do not duplicate or overlap rule of law assistance. Why GAO Did This Study Rule of law strengthens protection of fundamental rights, ensures a robust civil society, and serves as a foundation for democratic governance and economic growth. According to State, countries with a strong rule of law provide a more level playing field for American businesses to engage and compete, and countries with a weak rule of law can potentially export transnational threats and economic insecurity, undermining the interests of the United States. GAO was asked to review U.S. rule of law assistance around the world. This report examines (1) how State and USAID allocated funds for this assistance in fiscal years 2014 through 2018, (2) how agencies strategically plan and allocate this assistance globally, and (3) what processes agencies have to design, implement, and coordinate this assistance in selected countries. GAO reviewed State, USAID, and DOJ documents and data for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 and interviewed officials in Colombia, Kosovo, Liberia, the Philippines, and Washington, D.C. GAO chose these countries on the basis of funding amounts and other factors.[Read More…]
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- Covid-19 Housing Protections: Moratoriums Have Helped Limit Evictions, but Further Outreach Is NeededBy Sam NewsMarch 15, 2021What GAO Found Eviction moratoriums at the federal, state, and local levels reduced eviction filings during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, some eligible renters may not have benefitted from a recent federal moratorium. GAO's analysis of 63 jurisdictions found that the median rate of eviction filings was about 74 percent lower in the last week of July 2020—when a moratorium included in the CARES Act expired—than in the same week in 2019. Eviction filings remained lower throughout 2020 (relative to 2019) but gradually increased during a separate moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020 (see fig.). During this moratorium, jurisdictions without separate state or local moratoriums experienced larger increases in eviction filings, which suggests that some renters may not fully understand how to use the CDC moratorium (completing required documentation). CDC extended its moratorium through March 31, 2021, but has taken few steps to promote awareness and understanding of the moratorium and its requirements. Clear, accurate, and timely information is essential to keep the public informed during the pandemic. Without a communication and outreach plan, including federal coordination, CDC will be missing an opportunity to ensure that eligible renters avoid eviction. Year-over-Year Percentage Change in Eviction Filings in 63 Jurisdictions Note: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) moratorium is active through March 31, 2021. Local moratoriums include separate state or local eviction moratoriums. Unlike the CARES Act, CDC's moratorium does not prohibit eviction filings, which could explain some increases. By late January 2021, Treasury had disbursed 99 percent of the $25 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance funds to state and other eligible grantees responsible for making rent and utility payments to recipients. Treasury's initial program guidance issued that month did not fully define some program requirements and included requirements that could have delayed the delivery of funds or deter participation. In late February 2021, Treasury updated its guidance to address several of these concerns, such as by providing grantees with flexibility for prioritizing lower income applicants and allowing written attestation of income. Although the guidance did not clarify certain data collection and spending requirements, officials said they will continue to update guidance to address stakeholder concerns and strike a balance between accountability and administrative efficiency. GAO will continue to actively monitor these efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Millions of renters and property owners continue to experience housing instability and financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these concerns, Congress and CDC created eviction moratoriums, and Congress appropriated $25 billion to Treasury to disburse to state and local grantees to administer emergency rental assistance programs to help those behind on their rent. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor federal efforts related to COVID-19. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how eviction moratoriums have contributed to housing stability during the pandemic and (2) Treasury's implementation of the Emergency Rental Assistance program. GAO analyzed data on eviction filings and local policies in a sample of 63 jurisdictions (selected based on data availability) from January to December 2020. GAO also analyzed Census Bureau survey data on rental payments and data from federal housing entities on mortgage forbearance. GAO interviewed officials from CDC, Treasury, and organizations representing renters, property owners, and rental assistance grantees.[Read More…]
- Information Technology: DHS Directives Have Strengthened Federal Cybersecurity, but Improvements Are NeededBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a five-step process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives, as authorized by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The process includes DHS coordinating with stakeholders early in the directives' development process and validating agencies' actions on the directives. However, in implementing the process, DHS did not coordinate with stakeholders early in the process and did not consistently validate agencies' self-reported actions. In addition to being a required step in the directives process, FISMA requires DHS to coordinate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure that the directives do not conflict with existing NIST guidance for federal agencies. However, NIST officials told GAO that DHS often did not reach out to NIST on directives until 1 to 2 weeks before the directives were to be issued, and then did not always incorporate the NIST technical comments. More recently, DHS and NIST have started regular coordination meetings to discuss directive-related issues earlier in the process. Regarding validation of agency actions, DHS has done so for selected directives, but not for others. DHS is not well-positioned to validate all directives because it lacks a risk-based approach as well as a strategy to check selected agency-reported actions to validate their completion. Directives' implementation often has been effective in strengthening federal cybersecurity. For example, a 2015 directive on critical vulnerability mitigation required agencies to address critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS cyber scans of agencies' internet-accessible systems within 30 days. This was a new requirement for federal agencies. While agencies did not always meet the 30-day requirement, their mitigations were validated by DHS and reached 87 percent compliance by 2017 (see fig. 1). DHS officials attributed the recent decline in percentage completion to a 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018/early 2019. Nevertheless, for the 4-year period shown in the figure below, agencies mitigated within 30 days about 2,500 of the 3,600 vulnerabilities identified. Figure 1: Critical Vulnerabilities Mitigated within 30 days, May 21, 2015 through May 20, 2019 Agencies also made reported improvements in securing or replacing vulnerable network infrastructure devices. Specifically, a 2016 directive on the Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices addressed, among other things, several urgent vulnerabilities in the targeting of firewalls across federal networks and provided technical mitigation solutions. As shown in figure 2, in response to the directive, agencies reported progress in mitigating risks to more than 11,000 devices as of October 2018. Figure 2: Federal Civilian Agency Vulnerable Network Infrastructure Devices That Had Not Been Mitigated, September 2016 through January 2019 Another key DHS directive is Securing High Value Assets, an initiative to protect the government's most critical information and system assets. According to this directive, DHS is to lead in-depth assessments of federal agencies' most essential identified high value assets. However, an important performance metric for addressing vulnerabilities identified by these assessments does not account for agencies submitting remediation plans in cases where weaknesses cannot be fully addressed within 30 days. Further, DHS only completed about half of the required assessments for the most recent 2 years (61 of 142 for fiscal year 2018, and 73 of 142 required assessments for fiscal year 2019 (see fig. 3)). In addition, DHS does not plan to finalize guidance to agencies and third parties, such as contractors or agency independent assessors, for conducting reviews of additional high value assets that are considered significant, but are not included in DHS's current review, until the end of fiscal year 2020. Given these shortcomings, DHS is now reassessing key aspects of the program. However, it does not have a schedule or plan for completing this reassessment, or to address outstanding issues on completing required assessments, identifying needed resources, and finalizing guidance to agencies and third parties. Figure 3: Department of Homeland Security Assessments of Agency High Value Assets, Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 through 2019 Why GAO Did This Study DHS plays a key role in federal cybersecurity. FISMA authorized DHS, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to develop and oversee the implementation of compulsory directives—referred to as binding operational directives—covering executive branch civilian agencies. These directives require agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems from a known or reasonably suspected information security threat, vulnerability, or risk. Since 2015, DHS has issued eight directives that instructed agencies to, among other things, (1) mitigate critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS through its scanning of agencies' internet-accessible systems; (2) address urgent vulnerabilities in network infrastructure devices identified by DHS; and (3) better secure the government's highest value and most critical information and system assets. GAO was requested to evaluate DHS's binding operational directives. This report addresses (1) DHS's process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives and (2) the effectiveness of the directives, including agencies' implementation of the directive requirements. GAO selected for review the five directives that were in effect as of December 2018, and randomly selected for further in-depth review a sample of 12 agencies from the executive branch civilian agencies to which the directives apply. In addition, GAO reviewed DHS policies and processes related to the directives and assessed them against FISMA and Office of Management and Budget requirements; administered a data collection instrument to selected federal agencies; compared the agencies' responses and supporting documentation to the requirements outlined in the five directives; and collected and analyzed DHS's government-wide scanning data on government-wide implementation of the directives. GAO also interviewed DHS and selected agency officials.[Read More…]
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- Medicaid: CMS Needs to Implement Risk-Based Oversight of Puerto Rico’s Procurement ProcessBy Sam NewsFebruary 5, 2021Like other U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico implements major functions of its Medicaid program by procuring services from contractors, such as the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2018, procurement costs represented $2.4 billion of Puerto Rico's $2.5 billion in total Medicaid expenditures. A 2019 federal indictment alleging Puerto Rico officials unlawfully steered Medicaid contracts to certain individuals has raised concerns about Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process, including whether this process helps ensure appropriate competition. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for overseeing the Medicaid program. CMS requires states and territories to use the same process for Medicaid procurements as they do for their non-federal procurements. However, CMS has not taken steps to ensure Puerto Rico has met this requirement. Instead, CMS has relied on Puerto Rico to oversee the territory's procurement process and to attest to its compliance. CMS approved Puerto Rico's attestation of compliance in 2004 and has not required subsequent updates. CMS officials told GAO that states and territories are in the best position to ensure compliance with their respective procurement laws. GAO and others have found that competition is a cornerstone of procurement. Using competition can reduce costs, improve contractor performance, curb fraud, and promote accountability. GAO reviewed selected Puerto Rico Medicaid procurements against federal procurement standards designed to promote competition and reduce risks of fraud. States and territories are generally not required to meet such standards. However, GAO and others have found that such standards can indicate whether a state's or territory's procurement process includes necessary steps to achieve fair competition. GAO found that seven of the eight selected Puerto Rico procurements did not include important steps to promote competition and mitigate the risk for fraud, waste, and abuse, underscoring the need for federal oversight. Competitive procurements. The requests for proposals for two of the three competitive procurements GAO reviewed did not include certain information on factors used to evaluate proposals and make awards. In contrast, Puerto Rico's managed care procurement—the largest procurement reviewed—included this information. Noncompetitive procurements. None of the five noncompetitive procurements GAO reviewed documented circumstances to justify not using competitive procurements, such as a lack of competition or an emergency. Puerto Rico officials explained that territorial law allows noncompetitive procurement for professional services regardless of circumstances. Because CMS does not oversee Puerto Rico's procurement process, the agency lacks assurance that Puerto Rico's Medicaid program is appropriately managing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Procurements that did not include important steps to promote competition could have unnecessarily increased Medicaid costs, reducing funding for Medicaid services to beneficiaries. States' and U.S. territories' Medicaid procurement processes can directly affect their ability to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the program. A 2019 federal indictment alleging fraudulent Medicaid procurements in Puerto Rico has raised questions about the program's oversight. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review oversight of Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process and its use of competition. This report examines CMS oversight of Puerto Rico's procurement process from its initial steps through the award, and how it helps ensure competition. GAO reviewed federal regulations, guidance, and Puerto Rico's December 2020 procurement reform plan; interviewed Puerto Rico and federal officials; and reviewed eight awards that represented about 97 percent of the costs of Puerto Rico's procurements in effect as of April 2020. These procurements were selected based on variation in cost, use of competition, and other factors. GAO assessed whether CMS addressed risks in Puerto Rico's procurement process by reviewing selected procurements against certain federal standards that apply to other non-federal entities and aim to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. GAO also assessed CMS's policies and procedures against federal internal control standards. GAO recommends that CMS implement risk-based oversight of the Medicaid procurement process in Puerto Rico. The Department of Health and Human Services concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or YocomC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Nuclear Weapons: Action Needed to Address the W80-4 Warhead Program’s Schedule ConstraintsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has identified a range of risks facing the W80-4 nuclear warhead life extension program (LEP)—including risks related to developing new technologies and manufacturing processes as well as reestablishing dormant production capabilities. NNSA is managing these risks using a variety of processes and tools, such as a classified risk database. However, NNSA has introduced potential risk to the program by adopting a date (September 2025) for the delivery of the program's first production unit (FPU) that is more than 1 year earlier than the date projected by the program's own schedule risk analysis process (see figure). NNSA and Department of Defense (DOD) officials said that they adopted the September 2025 date partly because the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015 specifies that NNSA must deliver the first warhead unit by the end of fiscal year 2025, as well as to free up resources for future LEPs. However, the statute allows DOE to obtain an extension, and, according to best practices identified in GAO's prior work, program schedules should avoid date constraints that do not reflect program realities. Adopting an FPU date more consistent with the date range identified as realistic in the W80-4 program's schedule risk analysis, or justifying an alternative date based on other factors, would allow NNSA to better inform decision makers and improve alignment between schedules for the W80-4 program and DOD's long-range standoff missile (LRSO) program. W80-4 Life Extension Program Phases and Milestone Dates NNSA substantially incorporated best practices in developing the preliminary lifecycle cost estimate for the W80-4 LEP, as reflected in the LEP's weapon design and cost report. GAO assessed the W80-4 program's cost estimate of $11.2 billion against the four characteristics of a high quality, reliable cost estimate: comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible. To develop a comprehensive cost estimate, NNSA instituted processes to help ensure consistency across the program. The program also provided detailed documentation to substantiate its estimate and assumptions. To help ensure accuracy, the cost estimate drew on historic data from prior LEPs. Finally, to support a credible estimate, NNSA reconciled the program estimate with an independent cost estimate. GAO considers a cost estimate to be reliable if the overall assessment ratings for each of the four characteristics are substantially or fully met—as was the case with the W80-4 program's cost estimate in its weapon design and cost report, which substantially met each characteristic. To maintain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, NNSA and DOD conduct LEPs. In 2014, they began an LEP to produce a warhead, the W80-4, to be carried on the LRSO missile. In February 2019, NNSA adopted an FPU delivery date of fiscal year 2025 for the W80-4 LEP, at an estimated cost of about $11.2 billion over the life of the program. The explanatory statement accompanying the 2018 appropriation included a provision for GAO to review the W80-4 LEP. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) the risks NNSA has identified for the W80-4 LEP, and processes it has established to manage them, and (2) the extent to which NNSA's lifecycle cost estimate for the LEP aligned with best practices. GAO reviewed NNSA's risk management database and other program information; visited four NNSA sites; interviewed NNSA and DOD officials; and assessed the program's cost estimate using best practices established in prior GAO work. GAO is making two recommendations, including that NNSA adopt a W80-4 program FPU delivery date based on the program's schedule risk analysis, or document its justification for not doing so. NNSA generally disagreed with GAO's recommendations. GAO continues to believe that its recommendations are valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Allison B. Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Two California Men Indicted in Hate Crimes Case Alleging They Attacked Family-Owned Restaurant and Threatened to Kill the Victims InsideBy Sam NewsApril 27, 2021A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted two Los Angeles-area men on conspiracy and hate crime offenses for allegedly attacking five victims at a family-owned Turkish restaurant while shouting anti-Turkish slurs, hurling chairs at the victims and threatening to kill them.[Read More…]
- Artificial Intelligence: An Accountability Framework for Federal Agencies and Other EntitiesBy Sam NewsJuly 1, 2021What GAO Found To help managers ensure accountability and responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) in government programs and processes, GAO developed an AI accountability framework. This framework is organized around four complementary principles, which address governance, data, performance, and monitoring. For each principle, the framework describes key practices for federal agencies and other entities that are considering, selecting, and implementing AI systems. Each practice includes a set of questions for entities, auditors, and third-party assessors to consider, as well as procedures for auditors and third- party assessors. Why GAO Developed This Framework AI is a transformative technology with applications in medicine, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, defense, and many other areas. It also holds substantial promise for improving government operations. Federal guidance has focused on ensuring AI is responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable. Third-party assessments and audits are important to achieving these goals. However, AI systems pose unique challenges to such oversight because their inputs and operations are not always visible. GAO's objective was to identify key practices to help ensure accountability and responsible AI use by federal agencies and other entities involved in the design, development, deployment, and continuous monitoring of AI systems. To develop this framework, GAO convened a Comptroller General Forum with AI experts from across the federal government, industry, and nonprofit sectors. It also conducted an extensive literature review and obtained independent validation of key practices from program officials and subject matter experts. In addition, GAO interviewed AI subject matter experts representing industry, state audit associations, nonprofit entities, and other organizations, as well as officials from federal agencies and Offices of Inspector General. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Accountability Framework For more information, contact Taka Ariga at (202) 512-6888 or ArigaT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Russian National Convicted of Charges Relating to Kelihos BotnetBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021A federal jury in Connecticut convicted a Russian national on Tuesday for operating a “crypting” service used to conceal “Kelihos” malware from antivirus software, enabling hackers to systematically infect victim computers around the world with malicious software, including ransomware.[Read More…]
- Slovakia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Data Center Optimization: Agencies Report Progress and Billions Saved, but OMB Needs to Improve Its Utilization GuidanceBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) continue to report progress toward meeting OMB's goals for closing data centers and achieving the related cost savings. According to data submitted by the 24 agencies, almost all of them met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As of August 2020, the agencies reported that they expected to achieve 230 data center closures, resulting in $1.1 billion in savings, over the 2-year period. Agencies expected to realize a cumulative total of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidances from fiscal years 2012 through 2020. However, agencies have excluded approximately 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 due to a change in the definition of a data center. Specifically, in June 2019, OMB narrowed the definition of a data center to exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks. GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyber attacks. Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained. However, OMB has not taken action to address the recommendation. Overall, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to help agencies meet their DCOI goals, but agencies have not implemented 53. The 24 agencies reported varied progress against OMB's data center optimization targets for fiscal year 2020 (see figure). Agency-Reported Progress towards Meeting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Data Center Optimization Targets, as of August 2020 Notes: Virtualization measures the number of servers and mainframes serving as a virtual host. Advanced energy metering counts data centers with metering to measure energy efficiency. A metric is not applicable if an agency does not have any agency-owned data centers or if its remaining centers are exempted from optimization by OMB. In June 2019, OMB revised the server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, and then count their underutilized servers. As a result, agencies adopted widely varying definitions and were no longer required to report actual utilization, a key measure of server efficiency. In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation known as FITARA, which included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance. FITARA included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. This report addresses (1) agencies' progress on data center closures and the related savings that have been achieved, and agencies' plans for future closures and savings; (2) agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; and (3) the effectiveness of OMB's metric for server utilization and how the agencies are implementing it. To do so, GAO reviewed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2020, their reported cost savings documentation and data center optimization strategic plans, and OMB's revised utilization metric. GAO reiterates that agencies need to address the 53 recommendations previously made to them that have not yet been implemented. GAO is making one new recommendation to OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency. OMB had no comments on the report and the recommendation directed to the agency. Of the 24 DCOI agencies, five agreed with the information in the report, six did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, and 13 had no comments. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Aviation Consumer Protection: Increased Transparency Could Help Build Confidence in DOT’s Enforcement ApproachBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2020The Department of Transportation's (DOT) enforcement approach generally uses a range of methods to encourage compliance with consumer protection regulations, including conducting outreach and information-sharing, issuing guidance, and sending non-punitive warning letters for those violations that do not rise to the level that warrants a consent order. DOT usually enters into consent orders when it has evidence of systematic or egregious violations. Such orders are negotiated between DOT and violators (e.g., airlines) and typically include civil penalties. DOT officials see benefits from using consent orders, which can include credits for actions taken to benefit consumers or to improve the travel environment. Annual consent orders increased from 20 in 2008 to 62 in 2012, but then generally declined to a low of eight in 2019. GAO's analysis showed that the decline in consent orders was most marked among those issued against non-air carrier entities (e.g., travel agents), those addressing certain types of violations such as advertising, and orders containing smaller civil penalty amounts. DOT officials said that the agency did not change its enforcement practices during this time. Examples of DOT's Compliance Promotion and Enforcement Efforts Airlines and consumer advocates GAO interviewed said that DOT's enforcement process lacked transparency, including into how investigations were conducted and resolved and about when and why DOT takes enforcement actions. Moreover, DOT publishes limited information related to the results of its enforcement activities, notably information about the number and type of consumer complaints it receives as well as issued consent orders. DOT does not publish other information such as aggregated data about the number or nature of open and closed investigations or issued warning letters. DOT is taking some actions to increase transparency, such as developing a publicly available handbook, but none of those actions appears to fully address the identified information gaps such as information about the results of investigations. Some other federal agencies provide more information about enforcement activities, including publishing warning letters or data about such letters. Publishing additional information about how DOT conducts investigations and enforcement, and about the results of enforcement activities, could improve stakeholders' understanding of DOT's process and help build confidence in its approach. Consumer advocates, airlines, and other stakeholders have raised concerns about how DOT enforces aviation consumer protection requirements. DOT has the authority to enforce requirements protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive practices, discrimination on the basis of disability or other characteristics, and other harms. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 contained a provision for GAO to review DOT's enforcement of consumer protection requirements. This report examines: (1) DOT's approach to the enforcement of aviation consumer protections and the results of its efforts, and (2) selected stakeholder views on this approach and steps DOT has taken to address identified concerns. GAO reviewed DOT data on consent orders and consumer complaints; reviewed other DOT documentation related to its enforcement program; interviewed DOT officials and selected industry and consumer stakeholders, including advocacy organizations, which we identified from prior work and a literature review; and identified leading practices for regulatory enforcement. GAO is making two recommendations, including: that DOT publish information describing the process it uses to enforce consumer protections, and that DOT take additional steps to provide transparency into the results of its efforts. DOT concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Justice Department, EPA and the State of Indiana Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Lone Star IndustriesBy Sam NewsJune 3, 2021Lone Star Industries Inc, a subsidiary of Italian company Buzzi Unicem, has agreed to upgrade and optimize pollution control equipment and procedures at its cement manufacturing facility in Greencastle, Indiana, to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management.[Read More…]
- Kiribati Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for ISIS-inspired Bombing in New York City Subway Station in 2017By Sam NewsApril 22, 2021A New York man was sentenced today to life in prison for detonating a bomb in a New York City subway station. He admitted that he conducted the terrorist attack on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister BarzaniBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020Office of the [Read More…]
- Pennsylvania Man Charged with Trafficking in Endangered and Invasive FishBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020A Pennsylvania man has been indicted in the Western District of Pennsylvania for violating the Lacey Act.[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced for Operating Multi-Million Dollar International Money Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsFebruary 11, 2021A Ukrainian man was sentenced today to 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $98,751.64 in restitution after pleading guilty to committing wire fraud, stemming from his participation in a scheme to launder funds for Eastern European cybercriminals who hacked into and stole funds from online bank accounts of U.S. businesses.[Read More…]
- Suburban Chicago Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Federal Prison for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsMarch 3, 2021An Illinois man was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, a foreign terrorist organization (aka ISIS).[Read More…]
- Escort Sentenced to Prison for Underreporting IncomeBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2021A Florida man was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for filing a false tax return. Jami Kopacz, of Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty to filing a false corporate tax return on Dec. 16, 2020. According to court documents and statements made in court, Kopacz worked as a paid escort for clients across the United States. Kopacz received payments directly from his escort clients, and from a private business for whom he worked as an independent contractor. From 2015 to 2018, Kopacz used his corporation, JK Training LLC, to receive income, and then filed false corporate tax returns (Forms 1120S) that substantially underreported the company’s gross receipts and total income.[Read More…]
- Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) Global Emerging Technology SummitBy Sam NewsJuly 15, 2021
- Septuagenarian charged with manufacturing “ghost guns”By Sam NewsJune 17, 2021A 73-year-old has been [Read More…]
- Consumer Privacy: Better Disclosures Needed on Information Sharing by Banks and Credit UnionsBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020Banks and credit unions collect, use, and share consumers' personal information—such as income level and credit card transactions—to conduct everyday business and market products and services. They share this information with a variety of third parties, such as service providers and retailers. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) requires financial institutions to provide consumers with a privacy notice describing their information-sharing practices. Many banks and credit unions elect to use a model form—issued by regulators in 2009—which provides a safe harbor for complying with the law (see figure). GAO found the form gives a limited view of what information is collected and with whom it is shared. Consumer and privacy groups GAO interviewed cited similar limitations. The model form was issued over 10 years ago. The proliferation of data-sharing since then suggests a reassessment of the form is warranted. Federal guidance states that notices about information collection and usage are central to providing privacy protections and transparency. Since Congress transferred authority to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for implementing GLBA privacy provisions, the agency has not reassessed if the form meets consumer expectations for disclosures of information-sharing. CFPB officials said they had not considered a reevaluation because they had not heard concerns from industry or consumer groups about privacy notices. Improvements to the model form could help ensure that consumers are better informed about all the ways banks and credit unions collect and share personal information. Excerpts of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Model Privacy Form Showing Reasons Institutions Share Personal Information Federal regulators examine institutions for compliance with GLBA privacy requirements, but did not do so routinely in 2014–2018 because they found most institutions did not have an elevated privacy risk. Before examinations, regulators assess noncompliance risks in areas such as relationships with third parties and sharing practices to help determine if compliance with privacy requirements needs to be examined. The violations of privacy provisions that the examinations identified were mostly minor, such as technical errors, and regulators reported relatively few consumer complaints. Banks and credit unions maintain a large amount of personal information about consumers. Federal law requires that they have processes to protect this information, including data shared with certain third parties. GAO was asked to review how banks and credit unions collect, use, and share such information and federal oversight of these activities. This report examines, among other things, (1) what personal information banks and credit unions collect, and how they use and share the information; (2) the extent to which they make consumers aware of the personal information they collect and share; and (3) how regulatory agencies oversee such collection, use, and sharing. GAO reviewed privacy notices from a nongeneralizable sample of 60 banks and credit unions with a mix of institutions with asset sizes above and below $10 billion. GAO also reviewed federal privacy laws and regulations, regulators' examinations in 2014–2018 (the last 5 years available), procedures for assessing compliance with federal privacy requirements, and data on violations. GAO interviewed officials from banks, industry and consumer groups, academia, and federal regulators. GAO recommends that CFPB update the model privacy form and consider including more information about third-party sharing. CFPB did not agree or disagree with the recommendation but said they would consider it, noting that it would require a joint rulemaking with other agencies. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or CackleyA@gao.gov or Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Issuance of the Updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business AdvisoryBy Sam NewsJuly 13, 2021
- “We are ready to distribute vaccines all across America”By Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020In a matter of days, our [Read More…]
- United States Sanctions Two Hizballah OfficialsBy Sam NewsOctober 22, 2020
- Felon convicted of trafficking meth with firearmBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021A 42-year-old Corpus [Read More…]
- Vessel Operator and Engineers Sentenced for Oil Waste Discharge OffensesBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021A vessel operating company was sentenced today in Hagatna, Guam, for illegally discharging oil into Apra Harbor, Guam, and for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharges of oily bilge water from the vessel Kota Harum.[Read More…]
- Notice of Intent to Publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity Announcement for NGO Programs Benefiting Displaced Iraqis and Syrian RefugeesBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Justice Department Brings Enforcement Action Against CenturylinkBy Sam NewsAugust 14, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that CenturyLink, Inc. has agreed to settle allegations that CenturyLink violated the court-ordered Final Judgment designed to prevent anticompetitive effects arising from its acquisition of Level 3 Communications, Inc.[Read More…]
- The United States Announces New Assistance to Respond to the Rohingya Humanitarian CrisisBy Sam NewsMay 18, 2021
- Keeping a Steady Eye on Sea Level Change From SpaceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS [Read More…]