Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m very pleased that today Secretary Blinken is joining us to unveil the 2021 Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act Report. Secretary Blinken will have a statement. He’ll take a question or two before he has to depart. At that point, we’ll turn to Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations Rob Faucher, who will also make a brief statement and he’ll stay to take additional questions. After that, we will proceed to our normally scheduled program.
With that, over to you, Secretary Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Ned, thanks very much.
Good afternoon, everyone. Good to see you all. Let me just say, before turning to today’s report, I want to speak briefly to the situation in two countries in the hemisphere.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets on the island to exercise their rights to assemble peacefully and express their views. The protesters called for freedom and human rights. They criticized Cuba’s authoritarian regime for failing to meet people’s most basic needs, including food and medicine.
In many instances, peaceful protesters were met with repression and violence. The Biden-Harris administration stands by the Cuban people and people around the world who demand their human rights and who expect governments to listen to and serve them rather than try to silence them. Peaceful protesters are not criminals, and we join partners across the hemisphere and around the world in urging the Cuban regime to respect the rights of the Cuban people to determine their own future, something they have been denied for far too long.
Second, the United States is in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of President Moise. We urge the country’s political leaders to bring the country together around a more inclusive, peaceful, and secure vision and pave the road toward free and fair elections this year. Yesterday we sent an interagency delegation to Port-au-Prince to assess the situation, which, together with our constant contact with Haitian officials and other stakeholders, will help determine how the United States can best support Haiti in a very difficult time.
I want to reiterate our deepest condolences to the family of President Moise and to the Haitian people and wish First Lady Martine Moise a swift recovery.
Now let me turn to the reason we’re actually here today.
Elie Wiesel said that the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.
The report that we release today represents a stand against indifference and a commitment to do more to prevent and respond to atrocities, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
It’s fitting that we’re meeting today. Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of the genocide at Srebenica, when more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim boys and men were slaughtered. The American people join the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in solemn remembrance of those victims and in solidarity with their families. We’re reminded of how important it is to do all we can to prevent atrocities like this from ever occurring.
I want to thank Assistant Secretary Rob Faucher and the entire Conflict and Stabilization Operations team for leading the effort to produce this report, as well as the members of the interagency Atrocity Early Warning Task Force, led by the White House, and the hundreds of American diplomats around the world whose reporting, insights, and efforts are reflected here.
Let me just take a moment to put this report in context.
Over the past decade and a half, the United States has steadily and systematically increased our efforts to stop mass atrocities.
In 2008, a bipartisan Genocide Prevention Task Force, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, produced a blueprint for U.S. policymakers, with 34 recommendations for how to identify and avert genocide.
In 2011, President Obama issued a presidential study directive on mass atrocities, writing, and I quote, “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.”
To deliver on that core interest, we created the Atrocities Prevention Board at the NSC – it’s now called the Atrocity Early Warning Task Force – and soon after, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations here at the State Department.
And in 2018, Congress passed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act.
It codified atrocity prevention as an American priority.
It directed the United States Government to enhance its capacity to prevent, mitigate, and respond to atrocities.
It required the State Department to provide additional training to our teams in Washington and around the world on how to spot warning signs of potential atrocities and early prevention steps to take.
And it mandated the annual report that we’re releasing today.
All this work – under both Democratic and Republican presidents, with bipartisan support from Congress – reflects our hope that, with the right tools, resources, and commitment, we can ward off atrocities before they lead to mass human suffering.
We want to change the story that we’ve seen play out too many times – that by the time senior policymakers are fully engaged, many people have died, the costs of taking action have risen, opportunities for early intervention have been missed.
I say all this with humility, as someone who has served in senior levels of government before, and has been in rooms when we grappled with what to do when political unrest somewhere in the world gave way to mass violence toward civilians.
This is an incredibly difficult challenge. My friend and colleague Samantha Power described it as a “problem from hell.” You’ll recall her groundbreaking book on the subject. And we haven’t cracked it yet. But we continue to believe that it’s possible, and that training, preparation, resources, cooperation – within governments and among governments – are key. And so, of course, is determination.
This year, for the first time, the report provides direct, detailed accounts of atrocities taking place in specific countries, including Burma, Ethiopia, China, and Syria. These places represent some of the toughest foreign policy challenges on our agenda, and we’ll keep working toward resolutions that reflect our commitment to human rights and democratic values.
We’ll use all of the tools at our disposal – including diplomacy, foreign assistance, investigations and fact-finding missions, financial tools and engagements, reports like this one which raise awareness and allow us to generate coordinated international pressure in response – in a whole-of-government approach to preventing and mitigating atrocities around the globe.
At our best, the United States helps bring peace and stability to places where people are suffering. Our work on preventing atrocities represents our highest ideals in action. And the Biden-Harris administration will build upon the work of past administrations to bring us closer to a future in which atrocities are never allowed to happen again.
Thanks very much.
MR PRICE: Shaun.
QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. Could I follow up on your remarks on Cuba? I was wondering what implications this has for U.S. policy. There’s a policy review underway. Does this affect the timeline and when do you expect that to be finished? Ideas like remittances, travel, things that were – that took place under Obama, are those still on the cards now after this?
And on that note, the president of Cuba today said that the U.S. was provoking social unrest. Do you have any response to that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The policy review that you point to focuses on the political and economic well-being of the Cuban people, and obviously we’re looking carefully and closely at what has just happened, what indeed is happening. And as we stated many times, at the heart of the review and at the heart of the policy that would result are democracy and human rights. That’s core to our efforts. That will be reflected in the policy.
I think it would be a grievous mistake for the Cuban regime to interpret what is happening in dozens of towns and cities across the island as the result or product of anything the United States has done. It would be a grievous mistake because it would show that they simply are not hearing the voices and will of the Cuban people – people deeply, deeply, deeply tired of the repression that has gone on for far too long, tired of the mismanagement of the Cuban economy, tired of the lack of adequate food, and of course, inadequate response to the COVID pandemic. That is what we are hearing and seeing in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not of the United States or any other outside actor.
MR PRICE: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: On Ethiopia, do you have an update on the assessment of whether to call events in Tigray crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes?
And if I may on Myanmar, can you update us on the review of whether genocide and crimes against humanity were committed against the Rohingya?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah, appreciate it. Look, both reviews are ongoing. We’re bringing together the facts, the legal assessments, and both are being very actively considered.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
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- Justice Department Settles with Gates Chili Central School District to Ensure Equal Access for Students with Service AnimalsBy Sam NewsAugust 20, 2020The Justice Department announced today that it reached an agreement with the Gates Chili Central School District in Rochester, New York, to resolve the department’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[Read More…]
- Former State Department Employee Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. EmbassyBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021A former U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were sentenced today for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit goods through e-commerce accounts operated from State Department computers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea.[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…]
- Seven charged for roles in a $110 million compound drug schemeBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 19, 2021A compound pharmacy [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Remarks to Embassy Kyiv StaffBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021
- Veteran Suicide: VA Needs Accurate Data and Comprehensive Analyses to Better Understand On-Campus SuicidesBy Sam NewsSeptember 9, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) process for identifying on-campus suicides does not include a step for ensuring the accuracy of the number of suicides identified. As a result, its numbers are inaccurate. VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) first started tracking on-campus veteran suicides in October 2017, and uses the results to inform VA leadership and Congress. GAO reviewed the data and found errors in the 55 on-campus veteran suicides VHA identified for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including 10 overcounts (deaths that should not have been reported but were) and four undercounts (deaths that should have been reported but were not). Examples of Errors on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) List of 55 On-Campus Veteran Suicides for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 (as of September 2019) VA has taken some steps to address on-campus veteran suicides, such as issuing guidance and staff training. However, GAO found that the analyses informing these efforts are limited. Specifically, VHA requires root cause analyses—processes to determine what can be done to prevent recurrences of incidents—for some but not all on-campus veteran suicides. According to VHA officials, only 25 percent of on-campus suicides from October 2017 to April 2019 met the criteria for a root cause analysis. does not make use of all relevant information VA collects about these deaths, such as clinical and demographic data collected through other VA suicide prevention efforts. VHA officials said they could not link the different sources of information, but GAO found that selected medical facilities could do so. Without accurate information on the number of suicides and comprehensive analyses of the underlying causes, VA does not have a full understanding of the prevalence and nature of on-campus suicides, hindering its ability to address them. VA established suicide prevention as its highest clinical priority. In recent years, there have been reports of veterans dying by suicide on VA campuses—in locations such as inpatient settings, parking lots, and on the grounds of cemeteries. GAO was asked to review veteran deaths by suicide on VA campuses. This report examines (1) VA's process to track the number of veterans that died by suicide on VA campuses, and (2) steps VA has taken to address these types of suicides. GAO reviewed the sources of information VHA uses to identify and analyze on-campus veteran suicides, VA and VHA strategic plans and policies related to suicide prevention and reporting, and federal internal control standards. GAO also interviewed VA and VHA central office officials, and officials from three medical facilities that GAO selected because they reportedly had on-campus veteran suicides between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. GAO is making three recommendations, including that VA improve its process to accurately identify all on-campus veteran suicides and conduct more comprehensive analyses of these occurrences. VA did not concur with one of GAO's recommendations related to conducting root cause analyses. GAO continues to believe that this recommendation is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Assault on Democracy in Hong KongBy Sam NewsMarch 12, 2021
- Designation of Iraqi Militia Leader in Connection with Serious Human Rights AbuseBy Sam NewsJanuary 8, 2021
- On the Passing of Ivoirian Prime Minister Hamed BakayokoBy Sam NewsMarch 12, 2021
- 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…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsJanuary 27, 2021
- On U.S. Dedication to Human RightsBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2020
- Duff to Retire as Administrative Office Director; Judge Mauskopf Named as SuccessorBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsJanuary 5, 2021James C. Duff has announced he will retire as the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on Jan. 31. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has appointed Chief Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, of the Eastern District of New York, as his successor, effective Feb. 1.[Read More…]
- Malawi Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel [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…]
- Justice Department Commends ASCAP and BMI’s Launch of SONGVIEWBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020On Dec. 21, 2020, The American Society of Composers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the two largest performance rights organizations (PROs) in the United States, announced the launch of SONGVIEW, a “comprehensive data platform that provides music users with an authoritative view of public performance copyright ownership and administration shares for the vast majority of music licensed in the United States.”[Read More…]
- Release and Departure of U.S. Citizen Vitali Shkliarov from BelarusBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020
- Natural Disasters: Economic Effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and IrmaBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020Between January 1980 and July 2020, the United States experienced 273 climate and weather disasters causing more than $1 billion in damages each, according to NOAA. The total cost of damages from these disasters exceeded $1.79 trillion, with hurricanes and tropical storms accounting for over 50 percent of these damages, according to NOAA. Across the regions affected by these hurricanes over the period from 2005 to 2015, CBO estimated that federal disaster assistance covered, on average, 62 percent of the damage costs. GAO has reported that the rising number of natural disasters and reliance on federal disaster assistance is a key source of federal fiscal exposure. GAO was asked to review the costs of natural disasters and their effects on communities. This report examines (1) estimates of the costs of damages caused by hurricanes and hurricanes' effects on overall economic activity and employment in the areas they affected, and (2) actions subsequently taken in those areas to improve resilience to future natural disasters. GAO conducted case studies of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma, selected for two reasons. First, they were declared a major disaster by the President under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which establishes key programs through which the federal government provides disaster assistance, primarily through FEMA. Second, they had sizable effects on the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia during the period from 2004 through 2018. GAO analyzed federal agency and other data on costs, economic activity, employment, and recovery and mitigation projects in selected areas affected by these hurricanes. GAO also visited selected recovery and mitigation project sites; interviewed experts and federal, state, and local government officials; and reviewed federal, state, and local government reports and academic studies. Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma (selected hurricanes) caused costly damages and challenges for some populations in affected communities. In these communities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated the cost of damages to be approximately $170 billion for Katrina, $74 billion for Sandy, $131 billion for Harvey, and $52 billion for Irma. These estimates include the value of damages to residential, commercial, and government or municipal buildings; material assets within the buildings; business interruption; vehicles and boats; offshore energy platforms; public infrastructure; and agricultural assets. These hurricanes were also costly to the federal government. For example, in 2016, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that federal spending exceeded $110 billion in response to Katrina and $53 billion in response to Sandy. GAO analysis suggests that the selected hurricanes were associated with widely varying effects on overall economic activity and total employment in affected metropolitan areas and counties. Economic activity was lower than expected in the month of the hurricane or some of the three subsequent months in three of the affected metropolitan areas GAO analyzed. Within one year, average economic activity in these three metropolitan areas was similar to or greater than what it had been the year before the hurricane. Total employment was lower than expected in the month of the hurricane or some of the three subsequent months in 80 of the affected counties GAO analyzed. Total employment was higher than pre-hurricane employment on average in 47 of those counties within one year but remained below pre-hurricane employment on average in the other 33 counties for at least one year. Finally, state and local government officials said that the selected hurricanes had significant impacts on communities, local governments, households, and businesses with fewer resources and less expertise, and that challenges faced by households may have impacted local businesses. Communities affected by selected hurricanes have been taking actions to improve resilience, but multiple factors can affect their decisions. Actions taken after selected hurricanes include elevating, acquiring, and rehabilitating homes; flood-proofing public buildings; repairing and upgrading critical infrastructure; constructing flood barriers; and updating building codes. A community’s decision to take resilience actions can depend on the costs and benefits of those actions to the community. Multiple factors affect these costs and benefits, including the likelihood, severity, and location of future disasters, as well as the amount of federal assistance available after a disaster. Finally, vulnerabilities remain in areas affected by selected hurricanes. For example, state and local government officials indicated that many older homes in these areas do not meet current building codes. In reports to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), states indicate they anticipate that the scope of damages via exposure to weather hazards, such as hurricanes, will likely remain high and could expand across regions affected by the selected hurricanes. In addition, some local governments have projected that population will grow in the regions affected by selected hurricanes. For more information, contact Oliver Richard at 202-512-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Cuba Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Cuba [Read More…]
- Housing: Preliminary Analysis of Homeownership Trends for Nine CitiesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Following a decade of decline, including after the 2007–2009 financial crisis, the national homeownership rate started to recover in 2016 (see figure). Homeownership Rate in the United States, 1990–2018 Note: Shaded areas indicate U.S. recessions. However, not all Americans have benefitted from the recovery, even in housing markets that appear to be thriving. GAO examined homeownership trends during 2010–2018 in nine core-based statistical areas (cities)—Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, South Carolina; Denver; Houston; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. In summary, among the nine cities reviewed, GAO found that during 2010–2018: The homeownership rate declined or was flat in all cities. The homeownership rate significantly declined in Chicago, Cleveland, and Houston and remained statistically unchanged in the other cities. Average home prices grew in all cities, but at considerably different rates. For example, real house prices increased significantly in Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle but much less in Chicago, Cleveland, and Columbia. The homeowner vacancy rate dropped in all cities, indicating growing constraints on the housing supply. Most significantly, by 2018, the three cities with the largest house price increases—Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle—all had homeowner vacancy rates below 1 percent and the three lowest rental vacancy rates (below 5 percent), indicating more severe constraints on supply. Most cities became denser, and some also expanded outward. Cities such as Houston and Washington, D.C., both became denser (added more housing units in developed areas) and expanded outward (added housing units in previously undeveloped areas), while cities such as Seattle and Denver grew largely by adding more density to already high-density areas. Chicago, and Pittsburgh became less dense, as limited growth came largely through outward expansion. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly higher-income. All nine cities saw growth in the estimated number and percentage of households reporting annual incomes of $150,000 or more (the highest income category reported by Census). Similarly, with the exception of Columbia, real median incomes of borrowers increased in the selected cities. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly older and more diverse. Most cities saw growth in homeownership among households aged 60 and older, often with corresponding decreases among younger owners. Additionally, loan originations by minority borrowers increased in all cities. GAO's analysis of homeownership trends in these nine cities during 2010–2018 illustrates two main points: (1) Cities grew differently and accommodated growth to differing degrees, and (2) who owns and who can buy a home differs by location and type of buyer, sometimes substantially. Historically, owning a home has been one of the primary ways Americans built wealth and financial security. This is one reason why the availability and price of housing is consequential to both households and policymakers. GAO was asked to assess the state of the current domestic housing market and this report, one in a series, focuses on homeownership trends. To conduct this work, GAO used data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data (loan and application data filed by mortgage lenders), among other sources, to identify trends in nine selected cities during 2010–2018, the most current data available at the time of GAO's review. This report examines trends prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and does not account for the profound effect it likely will have on homeowners. GAO has ongoing work that will examine implementation of foreclosure and eviction protections authorized in recent legislation. GAO makes no recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Close Air Support: Actions Needed to Enhance Friendly Force Tracking Capabilities and Fully Evaluate TrainingBy Sam NewsJanuary 21, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress implementing initiatives to enhance capabilities that are used to identify friendly force locations during close air support (CAS) missions, but GAO identified additional actions that are needed to strengthen these efforts. Specifically, DOD has made limited progress in implementing 10 changes the department approved to address gaps in the interoperability of digital communications systems used to conduct CAS, hindering efforts to improve the speed and accuracy of information exchanges. DOD's efforts to assess the interoperability of digital systems used to perform CAS have been limited in scope. GAO found that DOD had formally assessed two out of 10 approved changes during joint service and multinational events, and these assessments were not conducted in a training environment that replicated capabilities of near-peer adversaries. DOD implemented a new capability in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to help identify the positions of friendly forces during CAS missions. However, GAO found that DOD did not provide adequate training for personnel who operate it or conduct an evaluation to resolve implementation challenges that have hampered its performance. DOD conducts evaluations of training programs for forces that participate in CAS missions, but GAO identified two areas where DOD can improve its efforts. First, the Army and Marine Corps have not systematically evaluated the effectiveness of periodic training for ground observers providing targeting information due to a lack of centralized systems for tracking training data and the absence of designated entities to monitor service-wide training. Second, the use of contract aircraft for training increased substantially between 2017 and 2019, but DOD has not fully evaluated the use of non-military contract aircraft to train air controllers for CAS (see fig.). GAO found that differences between U.S. military aircraft and contract aircraft (e.g., airspeed) can result in a misalignment of aircraft capabilities for certain types of training events. Without evaluating CAS training fully, DOD cannot have assurance that its forces are prepared to conduct CAS missions safely and effectively. Number of Hours Non-Military Aircraft Were Used to Train for Close Air Support for Fiscal Years 2017 through 2019 The use of ordnance delivered by aircraft to support U.S. military forces that are in close proximity to enemy forces on the ground requires detailed planning, seamless communications, and effective training. Mistakes in communications or procedures used to identify and maintain an awareness of the positions of friendly forces on the battlefield during CAS can result in the loss of U.S. military personnel. Senate Report 116-48 and House Report 116-120, accompanying bills for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included provisions for GAO to evaluate issues related to friendly-force identification capabilities in CAS missions. Among other things, this report evaluates the extent to which DOD has (1) implemented initiatives to enhance friendly-force identification capabilities during CAS, and (2) evaluated training for forces that participate in CAS. GAO analyzed documentation and interviewed officials regarding DOD efforts to develop and implement friendly force tracking capabilities for CAS; reviewed CAS training programs; and analyzed training data, including the number of hours that DOD used non-military contract aircraft for CAS training from 2017 through 2019. GAO is making 11 recommendations to DOD, including that DOD implement and assess initiatives to improve the interoperability of digital systems used in CAS and take additional steps to evaluate the training for certain forces that participate in CAS missions. DOD concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021
- Priority Open Recommendations: Office of Personnel ManagementBy Sam NewsJuly 8, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 18 priority recommendations for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Since then, OPM has implemented four of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to collect and share agencies’ information on mission critical occupations as well as hiring data; sharing key practices and lessons learned, including how to address employee misconduct; and implementing a quality assurance review process to re-evaluate security control assessments. We are not adding any new priority recommendations this year. The total number of priority recommendations remaining is 14. These recommendations involve the following areas: improving the federal classification system; making hiring and special pay authorities more effective; improving Enterprise Human Resource Integration payroll data; addressing employee misconduct and improving performance management; and strengthening IT security and management. OPM’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 Alissa Czyz, Acting Director, Strategic Issues at 202-512-6806 or CzyzA@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Syria Sanctions Designations on the Anniversary of Assad’s Attack Against the People of Douma, SyriaBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2020
- New Jersey Man Indicted for Tax Evasion and Not Filing Tax ReturnsBy Sam NewsApril 26, 2021A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned an indictment on April 1, 2021, charging a Springfield man with tax evasion and willful failure to file individual income tax returns.[Read More…]
- Department of Defense: Eating Disorders in the MilitaryBy Sam NewsAugust 7, 2020The Department of Defense (DOD) screens for eating disorders for all applicants entering into the military but does not specifically screen servicemembers for eating disorders after entrance. However, after joining the military, servicemembers receive annual health screenings, and medical personnel may be able to diagnose eating disorders during in-person physical exams. Service branch behavioral health specialists told GAO that DOD medical personnel are trained to notice signs of eating disorders, such as changes in vital signs and emaciated appearance. DOD is examining ways to improve its screening of eating disorders in the military and recently expanded the available research funding for eating disorders in its Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). DOD provides health care services to approximately 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries, including services to treat those diagnosed with eating disorders, through TRICARE, DOD’s regionally structured health care system. Servicemembers can obtain these services at military treatment facilities—referred to as direct care—or receive care purchased from civilian providers—referred to as purchased care. DOD officials told us that the specialized level of care necessary to treat eating disorders is available to TRICARE beneficiaries through purchased care, rather than direct care. The Defense Health Agency (DHA), which oversees the TRICARE program, uses two contractors to develop regional provider networks. According to the two TRICARE contractors’ data for purchased care, as of spring 2020, there were 166 eating disorder facilities located in 32 states throughout the country and the District of Columbia. The facilities vary by geographic location, population served, and level of treatment provided: Geography: About half of the 166 facilities (79) are located in the following five states: California (24), Florida (18), Illinois (15), Texas (13), and Virginia (nine). Population: Of the 166 eating disorder facilities, over three-quarters provide treatment to both adult (132 facilities) and child and adolescent (132 facilities) populations. Level of Treatment: Most facilities provide inpatient hospitalization programs, which are for serious cases requiring medical stabilization (81 facilities); partial hospitalization, which are day programs providing treatment 5 to 7 days a week (133 facilities); or intensive outpatient programs, which are treatment programs providing therapy 2 to 6 days a week (107 facilities). About one-fifth of the facilities (35) provide residential treatment services, which are living accommodations providing intensive therapy and 24-hour supervision. TRICARE contractors have met with some challenges entering into contracts with eating disorder treatment facilities in certain areas of the country, according to DHA officials and both contractors. However, both contractors told GAO they consider it their responsibility to ensure beneficiaries receive the care they need regardless of the location of the facility. No access-to-care complaints related to eating disorder treatment were reported by TRICARE beneficiaries, according to the most recent DHA data for years 2018 through 2019. Eating disorders are complex conditions affecting millions of Americans and involve dangerous eating behaviors, such as the restriction of food intake. They can have a severe impact on heart, stomach, and brain functionality, and they significantly raise the risk of mortality. Many with eating disorders also experience co-occurring conditions such as depression. Research has yielded a range of estimates of the number of servicemembers with an eating disorder, due to differences in research methods. For example, a 2018 DOD study concluded that servicemembers likely experienced eating disorders at rates that are comparable to rates in the general population, while other survey-based research suggested the number of servicemembers with eating disorders may be higher than those with a medical diagnoses of such disorders. The potential effects that eating disorders can have on the health and combat readiness of servicemembers and their dependents underscores the importance of screening and treating this population. GAO was asked to provide information on eating disorders among servicemembers and their dependents. To describe how DOD screens for eating disorders among servicemembers, GAO reviewed DOD policies related to health screening and interviewed behavioral health specialists from the military branches. To understand approaches and challenges with implementing screening in a military environment, any planned or ongoing DOD-sponsored research related to this topic, and available eating disorder treatment, GAO interviewed representatives from the Eating Disorder Coalition, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and the University of Kansas. To describe how DOD provides eating disorder treatment to servicemembers and their dependents, GAO interviewed DHA officials and TRICARE contractors and reviewed the TRICARE policy manual to identify the types of eating disorder diagnoses and treatments that are covered through direct and purchased care. GAO received data from the two TRICARE contractors related to the availability of eating disorder treatment services as of spring 2020. For more information, contact Sharon Silas at (202) 512-7114 or Silass@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Florida Tire Importer Pleads Guilty in Tax ConspiracyBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020A Miami, Florida, tire importer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the government, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida.[Read More…]