Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and Republic of Korea Defense Minister Suh Wook at a Joint Press Availability

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter)  Ladies and gentlemen, foreign and defense ministers.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  We will now start the joint press conference of the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers.  The opening remarks will be made in the order of Minister Chung, Secretary Blinken, Minister Suh, and Secretary Austin.

After the opening remarks of the four ministers and secretaries, we will have a Q&A by two journalists from the Korean and the U.S. side respectively.

First, Minister Chung.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone.  It is my utmost pleasure to welcome and to stand with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, and Minister Suh.

First of all, regarding the gun shoot that happened in Atlanta, Georgia last night, I would like to send our deepest heart to those who are sacrificed.  Among those sacrificed, we confirmed that there are Korean Americans as well.  It is our utmost interest to seek the safety of those Koreans living in the U.S.  Our heart also go to those who are sacrificed as Americans.  Also, in the starting of the meeting today, both Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin expressed their concerns and also the disheartening of the incident.  Thank you very much for mentioning that.

And also, I’d like to welcome two secretaries once again for coming to Korea in the early days of their appointment.  It has been 11 years since we had the both secretaries of the State and Defense from the U.S. that happened in 2010.  We confirmed once again today in this meeting that both countries are the linchpins of the peace, security, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, and the South – in Northeast Asia with the ROK-U.S. Alliance having the 70 years of history.  Based on the solid alliance, we made sure of the commitment to strengthen our strategic communications.  Also, we are expecting that this kind of effort will be – lead to the summit meeting between our two countries in the coming future.

Also, we decided that reciprocal and the future-oriented cooperations will be further expanded having the cooperation of the discussions on the coming issues.  The signing ceremony that happened right before – regarding SMA – has been reaffirming the solidity of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, having resolved a long-term issue.

And also, both countries have confirmed our consensus on three major areas.  First of all, the North Korea nuclear issue is the most immediate issue and it is necessary to have the close coordination between our two countries.

Secondly, in order to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue in a peaceful manner, the best diplomatic efforts will be made based on the solid security base.

Lastly, in the process of review process of the North Korea by the U.S., as well as the implementation period, fully coordinated strategy will be the base for our coordination.  Both countries will continue to have the cooperation for the sake of the progress of the Korean peace process.  Also, for the regional peace, security, and prosperity, both countries have decided to continue our cooperation, reciprocal, and the futuristic manner among the three lateral countries, with Japan.  Also with the New Southern Policy and its cooperation, we decided to have the common prosperity and stability, especially in the Indo-Pacific area.  Regarding climate change and COVID-19, we decided to have the joint responses based on our alliance.  We also decided to have that cooperation of the 2+2 meeting.  It will be very meaningful.

And also, we reaffirmed that when both countries are together, we can have the strongest power, and also our greatest asset, which is the U.S. alliance, can be sound and is reciprocal in the future and meet the time of the demands.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Secretary Blinken, please.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Well, good morning, everyone, and Mr. Minister Eui-yong, thank you for hosting us.  It’s an honor to join you, to join the defense minister, and of course, my friend and colleague Secretary of Defense Austin, for today’s 2+2 ministerial meeting.

Thank you also just for hosting me for two days in a row, and to the people of the Republic of Korea for, as always, their incredibly warm hospitality.  And I want to reiterate again our outrage and grief over the deaths of eight women in Atlanta yesterday, including, we hear, four of Korean descent.  We stand with the Korean community and everyone united against violence and hate.

This trip, as has been noted, is the first by any member of President Biden’s cabinet overseas, and it’s no accident that Secretary Austin and I came here.  The U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance is, as we have long said, the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in Northeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific, and around the world.  But we came here not only to reaffirm that fact and to reaffirm our alliance, but to build on it, and that is exactly what we’ve been doing.

We just witnessed, as the minister said, the initialing of an agreement in principle on the text of the Special Measures Agreement.  And this is the result of very diligent efforts by both sides to arrive at a fair and equitable agreement.  It will strengthen our alliance.  It will strengthen our shared defense.

This effort and our trip to the region is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to reinvigorate and modernize our alliances and partnerships around the world, which are critical and crucial to the security and prosperity of the American people.  That’s the message we’ve underscored earlier this week in our meetings with our counterparts in Japan.  That’s the message you see reflected in the joint statement that we signed and we’ll release today.

Our renewed engagement will put us on firmer footing to address a series of shared security challenges in the region and beyond, including the threat posed by North Korea.  President Biden plans to complete a North Korea policy review in the weeks ahead in close coordination and consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other key partners, including reviewing pressure options and potential for future diplomacy.

But as we conveyed to the foreign minister and the defense minister, the goals of this policy are clear:  We are committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, reducing the broader threat the DPRK poses to the United States and our allies, and improving the lives of all Koreans, including the people of North Korea who continue to suffer widespread and systematic abuses at the hands of their repressive government.

We also discussed China.  We are clear-eyed about Beijing’s consistent failure to uphold its commitments and we spoke about how Beijing’s aggressive and authoritarian behavior are challenging the stability, security, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.  Beijing’s actions make forging a common approach among our allies all the more important at a time when we’re seeing a rollback of democracy and human rights around the world, including in Burma, where the military is attempting to overturn the results of the democratic election by brutally repressing peaceful protesters.

It is more important than ever that we stand together for the values, for the interests that unite us.  And we covered a range of challenges that transcend borders, including cyber security, health security, climate change.  At the time this alliance was forged, many of these threats were not even on the horizon, but they certainly are now, and we’re determined to work together, particularly through trilateral cooperation among the United States, South Korea, and Japan to meet them.  While our diplomacy and security ties are ironclad, I think it’s also very clear that the U.S.-ROK relationship goes even deeper than that.  It’s rooted in mutual trust, in shared values, deeply intertwined economic interests, and, of course – and maybe most important – generations of family and community ties and having one another’s back in the most difficult times.

That’s what we saw in the early days of the pandemic when the Republic of Korea donated two million face masks to our country to help us fill a critical shortfall.  Five hundred thousand of those masks went to our Department of Veterans Affairs, which means that some Americans who 70 years earlier had fought side by side with Koreans found themselves protected from a deadly virus thanks to the masks donated by the Republic of Korea today.  That is what an alliance looks like.

Thank you, and it’s really wonderful to be with you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Minister Suh, please.

*DEFENSE MINISTER SUH:*  (Via interpreter) Today, we have held the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers meeting in five years.  It was a great opportunity for us to reaffirm the rock-solid ROK-U.S. Alliance that has been growing in the last seven decades based on trust and commitment.  We have appreciated the strong combined defense posture of the alliance based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea and extended deterrence.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have successfully completed the Combined Command post training in the first half of this year and created the necessary conditions for OPCON transition in enhancement of the preparedness of the alliance.  The alliance has made coordinated efforts to reach the conditions for a successful OPCON transition and agreed to continue to cooperate for OPCON transition.  The ministers also agreed to closely communicate and cooperate to achieve common goals of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing permanent peace.

We have also decided to continue the harmonious cooperation between the New Southern Policy of Korea and the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.S. for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.  The two ministers will continue to cooperate in a future oriented manner.  Thank you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Now, Secretary Austin, please.

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Well, Minister Suh, Minister Chung, Secretary Blinken, it is a privilege to be here in Seoul with all of you.

And first and foremost, as my colleagues have pointed out, I am also saddened by the horrific attacks in Atlanta, Georgia yesterday, where we believe several women of Korean descent were killed.  Our deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by this horrific crime and specifically the families of those who were killed.  And I share my colleague’s view that violence of this type or any other type has no place in our society.

Now today’s meeting is a testament to the importance of our alliance.  With the many challenges that we face, our bond, forged through shared sacrifice, is more important now than ever.  For 70 years, the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-ROK Alliance has remained – as Secretary Blinken described, has remained ironclad.  It is founded on our shared interests and values and is among the strongest bilateral, interoperable, and dynamic alliances in the world.  And it is critical not only to the security of the Republic of Korea and the United States, but also to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The United States remains fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea, using the full range of U.S. capabilities, including our extended deterrent.  As the United States and the Republic of Korea continue to maintain a robust combined defense posture, we also remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  There is no daylight between us on this point.

And today, we discussed the way forward on a host of critical strategic and operational issues.  And at the top of my agenda was ensuring a shared understanding of the importance of maintaining military readiness.  Our force remains ready to fight tonight and we continue to make progress toward the eventual transition of wartime operational control to an ROK-commanded future combined forces command.

While meeting all the conditions for this transition will take more time, I am confident that this process will strengthen our alliance.  And so we have a lot to look forward to as, together, we address global security – the global security challenges and engage in long-term strategic competition, mainly with China, which, as some of you know, is our department’s pacing challenge in the years ahead.

Today, we continue to work together to identify areas for collaboration within our respective regional strategies, particularly upholding a rules-based international order and building capacity for partners in the region.  I’m especially pleased with the initialing of the Special Measures Agreement, which reflects our commitment to this alliance and illustrate the Biden administration’s promise to revitalize our network of alliances and partnerships.  And so that is why we reaffirmed our commitment to the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral defense cooperation, because we recognize the value of multilateralism.  And we value a forward-looking agenda to address both current and future shared challenges.

Our work in today’s foreign and defense ministerial meetings reflects our firm belief that leading with diplomacy backed by a strong combined defense posture and working closely with our allies and partners will allow us to meet every challenge and outmatch every competitor.  It is why we place great value on the U.S.-ROK Alliance, which has remained the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for nearly three quarters of a century.

We face many challenges together and we’ve risen to the occasion each time.  And we are grateful to the call of the Republic of Korea, one of our closest friends and most steadfast partners, and I’m confident that our two countries will work to – continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder to meet all challenges and any competitor for the next 70 years and beyond.

As I said to Minister Suh in our meeting yesterday, we will continue to go together in the future.  Thank you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Next, we’re going to have Q&A.  Due to time constraint, as previously arranged, two journalists from the Korean and the U.S. sides will ask questions respectively.  First, the Korean side.  We have Mr. Hong Ju-hyeong from “Segye Daily” to ask a question.

*QUESTION:*  (Via interpreter) Nice to meet you all.  My name is Hong Ju-hyeong.  I have two questions.

First of all, North Korea policy – this question goes to Minister Chung and Secretary Blinken:  Do you believe that the U.S. needs to respect the Singapore agreement?  Recently, Choe Son-hui of North Korea said that the difficult situations will continue unless U.S. stops its hostile policy to North Korea.

The second question goes to global cooperation.  Minister Chung, have you been asked to join Quad in this series of meetings?  Secretary Blinken, do you believe Korea can contribute to the strengthening of Quad?  And what kind of active engagement are you planning toward the ROK-U.S. Alliance?

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter) Let me answer the question first.

Regarding North Korea policy, now the Singapore agreement, from the Korean Government’s perspective, is a confirmation of fundamental principles to resolve the UK – resolve the U.S.-North Korea relations, establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, and denuclearization, though it needs to be considered seriously.  Recently, Kim Yo-jong made a statement and Choe Son-hui made another statement today, and I am closely monitoring the situation.  It seems North Korea is reviewing its policy toward the U.S., and it seems that North Korea is closely monitoring the dialogue between ROK and U.S. regarding North Korea policy.  I believe it’s their own way of sending messages to us and the U.S.  Today, we briefly discussed on this issue.  Now we will continue to closely coordinate on this issue with the U.S., and I support the Biden administration’s efforts to engage North Korea, and hope that the talks will be resumed.

On the visit of the secretaries from the U.S., there was no direct discussion about Korea joining Quad.  However, we discussed how we can harmonize and coordinate the New Southern Policy of South Korea and the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.S.  As I have stated several times, the Korean Government’s position is that if it conforms with the national interest of Korea and transparency and inclusiveness is ensured, we can join any regional cooperative body.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Well, thank you very much for the question.  I think as you know, with regard to North Korea, we’re engaged in a comprehensive policy review, which we hope to complete in the weeks ahead.  But what’s significant about that review is it’s being done in very close consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other allies.

We have a shared concern, a shared interest in having a strong, effective, and coordinated policy and proceeding together in lockstep.  We’re focused on reducing the threat to the United States, to our allies, posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, its missile programs, and to improving the lives of people in North Korea, throughout the region as well.  And we will continue to consult very closely in the weeks ahead as we complete the review.

With regard to the Quad, I would just say it’s – I think as you know, it’s an informal grouping of likeminded countries that have come together to deepen cooperation on a whole host of issues.  Many of these issues we’re also working very closely with the Republic of Korea.  We find that working through some of these sub-regional groupings, including the trilateral, the work we do with Korea and Japan, is very beneficial in addressing some of the challenges we face.

One of the – one of the, I think, realities of the moment we’re in is that when you consider virtually all of the issues that are actually affecting the lives of our people and of our citizens, whether it’s climate, whether it’s the pandemic, whether it’s emerging technologies – and I could go down the list – not a single one can be effectively addressed by any one country acting alone.   We have to find ways to deepen cooperation, to deepen coordination with likeminded countries.  That’s exactly what we’ve been doing with our close allies and partners here.  It’s what we do in our trilateral cooperation as well with Japan.  It’s what we do through the Quad.  It’s what we do through ASEAN.

That is, I think, the imperative of the moment we’re in.  And we’re very, very pleased that we’ve been able to do the work we’ve done here today because it’s evidence of our determination to revitalize, to strengthen our alliances, to build on them, because that is the single best way to tackle the problems that actually affect the lives of our citizens.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now, moving on to – would like to receive the questions from the U.S. press.

*MR PRICE:*  The next question will go to Christina Ruffini of CBS.

*QUESTION:*  Good afternoon, gentlemen.  Mr. Secretary, North Korea has so far not responded to U.S. attempts to engage, and as was just mentioned, today the vice minister of foreign affairs called such efforts a cheap trick and said U.S. calls for complete denuclearization were groundless rhetoric.  When it comes to this policy review that you mentioned, given how far the two sides are apart, is the U.S. considering a policy of containment rather than engagement with North Korea?  And will you be asking the Chinese to take any specific actions regarding Pyongyang when you meet in Alaska?

And Mr. Foreign Minister, if I may, you said it appears North Korea is reevaluating its relationship with the U.S.  Do you feel North Korea is more or less dangerous after the efforts of the previous administration, and have you asked Secretary Blinken to convey any message or request from your government to the Chinese?  Thank you.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Thank you very much.  Look, the – with regard to North Korea, the most important outreach and engagement we’re doing is with our partners and allies.  That’s a big part of the reason why we’re here.  It’s a big part of the reason why, as part of the review that we’re doing, we’re in close consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other allies and partners who are concerned by the actions and activities of North Korea.  And I don’t want to get ahead of the review and pre-judge its conclusion.  We’ll have an opportunity, I know, to talk about that going forward.

China has a critical role to play in working to convince North Korea to pursue denuclearization.  China has a unique relationship with North Korea.  Virtually all of North Korea’s economic relationships, its trade go – are with or go through China, so it has tremendous influence.  And I think it has a shared interest in making sure that we do something about North Korea’s nuclear program and about the increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program.

So I would hope that whatever happens going forward, China will use that influence effectively to work on moving North Korea to denuclearization.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter)  Since 2018 on the Korean Peninsula, the peace building, indeed reconciliation of these tensions have been fruitful, in my opinion, especially in September 2018.  The Comprehensive Military Agreement between the two Koreas was a great achievement and meaningful, and that agreement is still the basis for both Koreas to be abiding by.  So that should – worthy of notice.

For the last three years, the ROK and the U.S. have been maintaining close coordination, and based off of that, we have maintained our engagement policy with North Korea.  And we believe that there is a possibility for us to have the denuclearization, and that has been proven in principle.

Through the 2+2 meeting today, both the ROK and the U.S. demonstrated that we have the fully coordinated strategies and plans, and we decided to have further plans in the future.  Based off of that, we can have the full and effective engagement with North Korea.  Having said that, we believe that it’s possible for us to have the full peace building in the Korean Peninsula.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter)  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister Chung.

Now the Korean side.  Mr. Lee Seung-yun from YTN.

*QUESTION:*  (Via interpreter)  Good morning.  I have two questions for Minister Suh.  First, the U.S. is strengthening cooperation with Quad member-states.  Was there any request from the U.S. for a combined military exercise with Quad members or intelligence sharing with the Quad members?  Second, now the U.S. DOD is reviewing the USFK deployment posture.  Did you have any discussion on that?

(In English.)  This question goes to Defense Secretary Austin.  Welcome to South Korea.

In order to strengthen national defense, the Korean Government wishes to build nuclear-powered submarine and a light aircraft carrier.  Do you think that they will be feasible and essential assets for Korea-U.S. combined forces?  And is the U.S. willing to help Korean Government to build nuclear-powered submarine?

Second, although you emphasized the challenges posed by North Korea and China yesterday, China is still necessary to solve out the North Korean nuclear issues.  So how would you cope with this dilemma?  Maybe Secretary Blinken can answer for these questions, too.  Thank you very much.

*DEFENSE MINISTER SUH:*  (Via interpreter) Let me answer the question first.  So the question about intelligence sharing or combined military exercise with Quad member-states, there is no such request from the U.S.  We discussed measures to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific and shared the understanding of the two sides, however there was no specific mentioning or a request on those issues you just raised.

Regarding the military cooperation with the U.S., the U.S. discussed emerging security threats in our responses and stressed the necessary cooperation with the U.S., Japan, and Korea.  Basically, Korea agrees that the trilateral cooperation is important.  With the occasions of bilateral meetings and multilateral meetings, we will continue to cooperate with the U.S. in terms of military cooperation.  And I believe Secretary Austin is better positioned to answer this part of the question.

Now, the U.S. DOD is reviewing the USFK redeployment or repositioning.  And we didn’t discuss this issue specifically in this meeting.  However, basically, the U.S. reaffirmed the importance of USFK in ensuring stability and peace in Northeast Asia, and U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea is steadfast.

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Yeah, so thanks.  On the issue of nuclear submarines or any other capability that the Republic of Korea might seek to acquire, I think it’s best that the leadership of the republic speak to that versus me.  And so I’ll leave it to Minister Suh to entertain those questions in the future.

You should know, though, that we’re focused on ensuring that we have the required capability to defend the alliance and to defend the ROK if and when called upon to do that.  And our efforts to continue to work together routinely to strengthen our capability I think is evident in kind of everything we do.  It’s all – it’s what we really spent a lot of time talking about in the last two days.

So we have tremendous capability at hand.  We’re going to increase that capability by ensuring that we can continue to operate as a combined team.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  And I want to first commend you on demonstrating the art of the multi-party, multi-part question.  (Laughter.)

And again, with regard to Beijing, Beijing has an interest, a clear self-interest, in helping to pursue the denuclearization of the DPRK, because it is a source of instability, it’s a source of danger, and obviously a threat to us and our partners.  But China has a real interest in helping to deal with this.

It also has an obligation under the UN Security Council resolutions to implement fully the sanctions that the international community has agreed are there in response to North Korea’s program and to its provocations.  So we look to Beijing to play a role in advancing what is in, I think, everyone’s interest.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now the last question, back to the U.S. press.

*MR PRICE:*  The final question will to go Lara Seligman of Politico.

*QUESTION:*  Good afternoon, gentlemen.

Secretary Austin, you spoke about the importance of maintaining military readiness.  For the past three years, the joint military drills between South Korea and the United States have been downsized due to ongoing negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.  What impact has that had on readiness?  And do you plan to continue the smaller-scale exercises in future, or will they return to their former size and scope?

Secretary Blinken, if I may:  As has been mentioned, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs said today that there would be no dialogue until the United States drops what she called its “hostile policy.”  Can I get you to respond directly to that?  And by insisting from the start that the end state is its complete denuclearization, aren’t you closing the door to talks and setting the stage for four years of stalemate?

And finally, if I may, for Minister Chung:  The U.S. delegation has repeatedly called for the denuclearization of North Korea – specifically North Korea, not the Korean Peninsula.  So does the Government of South Korea back this call rather than the Korean Peninsula?  Or can I have you just to respond to that, please?

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Well, thanks, Lara.  I’ll start, and the question was training and readiness.  And as you would expect, for me and for everyone that works with me and for me, readiness remains a top priority.  And I know that that is a top priority for our teammates here in the republic as well.  And so we’re always looking for ways to make training better, and I think not only here but around the globe we’ve learned to be flexible, we’ve learned to be adaptive, and we have always, always been effective.

In terms of whether or not – what the training regimen will be going forward, that will be a joint decision between us and the ROK, and we’ll continue to work with the leadership here in the ROK to address those issues.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  And Lara, with regard to the comments from North Korea, I’m aware of them.  But what I’m most interested in right now are the comments and thoughts of our allies and partners, which is why we’re here, as we complete our review.  So that’s what we’re focused on.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter)  Yes.  Regarding the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the result of the agreement of the denuclearization of the – both Koreas.  And also because of that we have the manufacturing and positioning and seven very concrete measures of denuclearization measures that have been under that agreement.  And also, that means that we are quite having the very sure definition of the denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula, and also the nuclear weapons will not be owned by – as according to our declaration.  And that was the declaration we made.

When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means that to the North Korea we are showing that South Korea has been already denuclearized.  And also, according to the agreement made in 1995, we are suggesting North Korea that we have to go along together, and the North Korea is fully aware of that as well.

And the international community, rather than talking about the denuclearization of the North Korea, if we can say the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, we are very much more confident that we can convince the North Korea to follow our suit.  So I believe that it is more correct to say that it is about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now this concludes the joint press conference of the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers meeting.  Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    The Department of Energy (DOE) and its national labs have taken several steps to address potential barriers to technology transfer—the process of providing DOE technologies, knowledge, or expertise to other entities. GAO characterized these barriers as (1) gaps in funding, (2) legal and administrative barriers, and (3) lack of alignment between DOE research and industry needs. For example, the “valley of death” is a gap between the end of public funding and start of private-sector funding. DOE partly addresses this gap with its Technology Commercialization Fund, which provides grants of $100,000 to $1.5 million to DOE researchers to advance promising technologies with private-sector partners. Further, DOE's Energy I-Corps program trains researchers to commercialize new technologies and to identify industry needs and potential customers. However, DOE has not assessed how many and which types of researchers would benefit from such training. Without doing so, DOE will not have the information needed to ensure its training resources target the researchers who would benefit most. Illustration of Funding Gap for Commercializing New Technologies DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer activities by setting strategic goals and objectives and annually collecting department-wide technology transfer measures, such as the number of patented inventions and licenses. However, the department does not have objective and measurable performance goals to assess progress toward the broader strategic goals and objectives it developed. For example, without a performance goal for the number of DOE researchers involved in technology transfer activities and a measure of such involvement, DOE cannot assess the extent to which it has met its objective to encourage national laboratory personnel to pursue technology transfer activities. Internal control standards for government agencies call for management to define objectives in measurable terms, either qualitative or quantitative, so that performance toward those objectives can be assessed. Moreover, DOE has not aligned the 79 existing measures that it collects with its goals and objectives, nor has it prioritized them. Some lab stakeholders said that collecting and reporting these measures is burdensome. Prior GAO work has found that having a large number of performance measures may risk creating a confusing excess of data that will obscure rather than clarify performance issues. Researchers at DOE and its 17 national labs regularly make contributions to new energy technologies, such as more efficient batteries for electric vehicles. Technology transfer officials at the labs help these researchers license intellectual property and partner with private-sector companies to bring these technologies to market. However, several recent reports have highlighted barriers and inconsistencies in technology transfer at DOE, including a 2015 commission report that found barriers related to the costs of collaboration and low maturity level of many DOE technologies. This report examines (1) steps DOE has taken to address barriers to technology transfer and (2) the extent to which DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer and commercialization activities. GAO analyzed DOE documents on technology transfer and spoke with officials at DOE and seven national labs, as well as with representatives of universities and private-sector companies. GAO selected labs across a range of DOE activities and based on their technology transfer activities. GAO recommends that DOE assess researchers' needs for commercialization training and develop objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals and a limited number of related performance measures for its technology transfer efforts. DOE concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Candice Wright at (202) 512-6888 or WrightC@gao.gov.
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  • VA Police: Actions Needed to Improve Data Completeness and Accuracy on Use of Force Incidents at Medical Centers
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) policy on use of force states that police officers must use the minimal level of force that is reasonably necessary to gain control of a situation and should only utilize physical control methods on an individual when the force is justified by the individual's actions. To guide officers, VA developed a Use of Force Continuum Scale to define and clarify the categories of force that can be used. Categories of Force on the VA’s Use of Force Continuum Scale According to VA policy, all police officers must receive training on the VA's use of force policy when hired and biannually thereafter. Officers are trained—through classroom lectures and scenarios that emphasize effective communication techniques—to use the minimal level of force to deescalate a situation. Officers record use of force incidents electronically and the chief of police decides which, if any, use of force incidents need to be investigated in accordance with VA guidance. Chiefs of Police at the six facilities GAO visited conducted investigations in a similar manner, by reviewing evidence and comparing an officer's action with the VA's use of force policy to determine whether actions were justified. While most investigations are conducted at the local level, VA headquarters may also run investigations for certain incidents, such as when it receives a complaint against an officer. VA police officers record incidents in a database, Report Executive, but GAO's analysis indicates that VA data on use of force incidents are not sufficiently complete and accurate for reporting numbers or trends at medical centers nationwide. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, Report Executive does not track incidents by individual medical centers. By addressing these limitations, VA can more effectively monitor use of force trends by type of force or medical facility, among other variables, to understand the VA's use of force incidents nationwide. GAO also found that VA does not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers, limiting its ability to provide effective oversight. Specifically, there is no policy requiring Chiefs of Police to submit all investigations on use of force to VA headquarters, and VA does not have a database designed to collect and analyze data on use of force investigations. Collecting and analyzing such data nationwide would allow VA to better assess the impact of its deescalation policies and improve the agency's oversight efforts. About 5,000 VA police officers are responsible for securing and protecting 138 VA medical centers across the country. These officers are authorized to investigate crimes, make arrests, and carry firearms. The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 included a provision that GAO assess aspects of the VA police services. This report addresses (1) what the VA's policies are on the use of force by police officers at medical centers, and what training officers receive on the use of force; (2) how VA records and investigates use of force incidents at medical centers; and (3) the extent to which VA sufficiently collects and analyzes use of force data at medical centers. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed VA policies, procedures, and training materials on the use of force and interviewed VA officials at headquarters and six local medical centers, selected to represent varying size and locations. GAO reviewed VA data on use of force incidents recorded from May 10, 2019, through May 10, 2020—the most recent full year data were available. GAO is making five recommendations, including that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its use of force data; implement a tool to analyze use of force incidents at medical centers nationwide; ensure that medical centers submit all use of force investigations to VA headquarters; and analyze the use of force investigation data. The VA concurred with each of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Releases Report On Modernizing The Administrative Procedure Act
    In Crime News
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  • Financial Audit: Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s FY 2020 Schedules of the General Fund
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting and other limitations on the scope of GAO's work resulted in conditions that prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the Schedules of the General Fund as of and for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020. Such scope limitations also prevented GAO from obtaining sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an opinion on the effectiveness of the Bureau of the Fiscal Service's (Fiscal Service) internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund as of September 30, 2020. In addition, such scope limitations limited tests of compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements for fiscal year 2020. Fiscal Service was unable to readily provide sufficient appropriate evidence to support certain information reported in the accompanying Schedules of the General Fund. Specifically, Fiscal Service was unable to readily (1) identify and trace General Fund transactions to determine whether they were complete and properly recorded in the correct general ledger accounts and line items within the Schedules of the General Fund and (2) provide documentation to support the account attributes assigned to Treasury Account Symbols that determine how transactions are reported in the Schedules of the General Fund. The resulting scope limitations, the first of which GAO reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, are the basis for GAO's disclaimer of opinion on the Schedules of the General Fund. As a result of these limitations, GAO cautions that amounts Fiscal Service reported in the Schedules of the General Fund and related notes may not be reliable. Three significant deficiencies in Fiscal Service's internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund, which GAO reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, continue to exist. One of the continuing significant deficiencies contributed to the first scope limitation discussed above. In addition, GAO identified four other control deficiencies, three newly identified and one reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, which GAO does not consider to be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. Fiscal Service worked extensively, both internally and with other federal agencies, to address two scope limitations from GAO's fiscal year 2018 audit, such that GAO no longer considers these to be scope limitations for fiscal year 2020. Fiscal Service also (1) took action to close six of the 12 recommendations that GAO issued as a result of its fiscal year 2018 audit, (2) is implementing plans for remediating the remaining six recommendations over the next few years, and (3) plans to develop corrective actions for the three new recommendations issued in this report. Fiscal Service expressed its commitment to remediating the scope limitations and significant deficiencies reported for fiscal year 2020, acknowledging that it expects to take several years to resolve them, given the nature and complexity of certain identified issues. In addition, GAO is issuing a separate LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report on information systems controls. Why GAO Did This Study Because GAO audits the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government and the significance of the General Fund of the United States (General Fund) to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audited the fiscal year 2020 Schedules of the General Fund to determine whether, in all material respects, (1) the schedules are fairly presented and (2) Fiscal Service management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund. Further, GAO tested compliance with selected provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements related to the Schedules of the General Fund. As the reporting entity responsible for accounting for the cash activity of the U.S. government, in fiscal year 2020, the General Fund reported over $23 trillion of cash inflows and nearly $22 trillion of cash outflows. It also reported a budget deficit of $3.1 trillion, the largest recorded federal deficit in history. The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws, contained a number of funding provisions that resulted in a significant increase in the cash activity and budget deficit reported by the General Fund during fiscal year 2020.
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  • Aviation Consumer Protection: Increased Transparency Could Help Build Confidence in DOT’s Enforcement Approach
    In U.S GAO News
    The 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 vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Aircraft Noise: Information on a Potential Mandated Transition to Quieter Airplanes
    In U.S GAO News
    Based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data and GAO estimates, most U.S. large commercial jet airplanes are certificated at the minimum required stage 3 noise standards, but nearly all of them are able to meet more stringent noise standards. Sixty-three percent of large commercial airplanes in the United States are certificated as meeting the stage 3 standards; however, 87 percent of them were manufactured with technologies that are able to meet more recent and stringent stage 4 or 5 standards as currently configured, according to FAA's 2017 analysis. By analyzing updated data from airlines and aviation manufacturers, GAO estimated that this proportion is even higher: 96 percent of large commercial airplanes are able to meet stage 4 or 5 standards (see figure). According to FAA officials and aviation stakeholders, the primary reason many large commercial airplanes certificated as stage 3 produce lower than stage 3 noise levels is because engine and airframe technology has outpaced the implementation of noise standards. More recently, some airlines have accelerated retirement of certain airplanes, some of which are certificated as stage 3, due to the decrease in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the generally smaller regional commercial jets (i.e., generally with less than 90 seats), 86 percent are able to meet stage 4 or stage 5 standards, according to manufacturers' data. With regard to general aviation (which are used for personal or corporate flights), 73 percent of the jet airplanes in that fleet are able to meet the more stringent stage 4 or 5 standards, according to manufacturers' data. GAO Estimate of The Number of Large Airplanes in the U.S. Commercial Fleet That Are Able to Meet Stage 3 or Stage 4 and 5 Noise Standards, January 2020 According to stakeholders GAO interviewed, a phase-out of jet airplanes that are certificated as meeting stage 3 standards would provide limited noise reduction and limited other benefits, and could be costly and present other challenges. A phase-out could require recertificating the vast majority of stage 3 airplanes to comply with stage 4 or 5 standards. This process could be costly for operators and manufacturers but would provide little reduction in noise. Further, airplanes currently unable to meet more stringent standards would require modifications or face retirement. For older airplanes that could not be recertificated to meet stage 4 or 5 standards, some operators could incur costs for replacement airplanes sooner than originally planned. Although stakeholders indicated that a phase-out would not substantially reduce noise, they identified other limited benefits newer airplanes generate, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption. Although advances in technology have led to quieter aircraft capable of meeting increasingly stringent noise standards, airport noise remains a concern. FAA regulates aircraft noise by ensuring compliance with relevant noise standards. In 1990, federal law required large jet airplanes to comply with stage 3 noise standards by 1999, leading to a phase-out of the noisiest airplanes (stage 1 and 2 airplanes). Later, federal law required smaller airplanes to comply with stage 3 standards by 2016. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to review a potential phase-out of stage 3 airplanes—the loudest aircraft currently operating in the United States. This report describes (1) the proportion of stage 3 airplanes in the U.S. fleet, and what proportion of these stage 3 airplanes are able to meet more stringent noise standards and (2) selected stakeholders' views on the potential benefits, costs, and challenges of phasing out stage 3 airplanes. GAO reviewed FAA's analysis of December 2017 fleet data, analyzed January 2020 fleet data from select airlines and airframe and engine manufacturers, and interviewed FAA officials. GAO also interviewed a non-generalizable sample of 35 stakeholders, including airlines; airframe and engine manufacturers; airports; and industry associations, selected based on fleet and noise data, stakeholder recommendations, or prior GAO knowledge. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Military Housing: DOD Has Taken Key Steps to Strengthen Oversight, but More Action Is Needed in Some Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    In 1996 Congress provided DOD with authorities enabling it to obtain private-sector financing and management to repair, renovate, construct, and operate military housing. DOD has since privatized about 99 percent of its domestic housing. The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress in addressing weaknesses in its privatized housing program, and GAO has identified additional opportunities to strengthen the program. GAO reported in March 2020 on DOD's oversight and its role in the management of privatized housing. Specifically, GAO found that 1) the military departments conducted some oversight of the physical condition of privatized housing, but some efforts were limited in scope; 2) the military departments used performance metrics to monitor private developers, but the metrics did not provide meaningful information on the condition of housing; 3) the military departments and private developers collected maintenance data on homes, but these data were not captured reliably or consistently, and 4) DOD provided reports to Congress on the status of privatized housing, but some data in these reports were unreliable, leading to misleading results. GAO made 12 recommendations, including that DOD take steps to improve housing condition oversight, performance indicators, maintenance data, and resident satisfaction reporting. DOD generally concurred with the recommendations. As of February 2021, DOD fully implemented 5 recommendations and partially implemented 7 recommendations. DOD should also take action to improve the process for setting basic allowance for housing (BAH)—a key source of revenue for privatized housing projects. In January 2021, GAO reported on DOD's process to determine BAH. GAO found that DOD has not always collected rental data on the minimum number of rental units needed to estimate the total housing cost for certain locations and housing types. Until DOD develops ways to increase its sample size, it will risk providing housing cost compensation that does not accurately represent the cost of suitable housing for servicemembers. GAO recommended that DOD review its methodology to increase sample sizes. GAO has also determined, in a report to be issued this week, that DOD should improve oversight of privatized housing property insurance and natural disaster recovery. GAO assessed the extent to which the military departments and the Office of the Secretary of Defense exercise oversight of their projects' insurance coverage. GAO found that the military departments have exercised insufficient oversight, and that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has not regularly monitored the military departments' implementation of insurance requirements. Without establishing procedures for timely and documented reviews, the military departments cannot be assured that the projects are complying with insurance requirements and assuming a proper balance of risk and cost. The draft of this report, which GAO provided to DOD for official comment, included 9 recommendations, 2 of which DOD addressed in January 2021 by issuing policy updates. The final report's 7 remaining recommendations, including that the military departments update their respective insurance review oversight procedures, will help strengthen DOD's oversight of privatized housing, once implemented. DOD concurred with all of the recommendations. Congress enacted the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) in 1996 to improve the quality of housing for servicemembers. DOD is responsible for general oversight of privatized housing projects. Private-sector developers are responsible for the ownership, construction, renovation, maintenance, and repair of about 99 percent of military housing in the United States. GAO has conducted a series of reviews of MHPI, following reports of hazards (such as mold) in homes, questions about DOD's process to determine the basic allowance for housing rates, which is a key revenue source for privatized housing, and concerns about how DOD ensures appropriate property insurance for privatized housing projects impacted by severe weather. This statement summarizes 1) steps DOD has taken to strengthen oversight and management of its privatized housing program, and work remaining; 2) actions needed to improve DOD's BAH process; and 3) actions needed to enhance DOD's oversight of privatized housing property insurance. The statement summarizes two of GAO's prior reports, and a report to be issued, related to privatized housing. For this statement, GAO reviewed prior reports, collected information on recommendation implementation, and interviewed DOD officials. In prior reports, GAO recommended that DOD improve oversight of housing conditions; review its process for determining basic allowance for housing rates; and that the military departments update their housing insurance review oversight procedures. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Border Security: CBP Has Taken Actions to Help Ensure Timely and Accurate Field Testing of Suspected Illicit Drugs
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has policies and procedures for its officers and agents to test substances that they suspect are illicit drugs—referred to as a presumptive field test. Field officials that GAO spoke with said these policies and procedures provide sufficient guidance for conducting presumptive field testing. The policies and procedures address various topics, such as approved and recommended types of test equipment, use of the equipment, training, and requirements for documenting illicit drug seizures. They also address laboratory confirmation of field test results (confirmatory testing), which U.S. Attorney's Offices require for federal prosecution. GAO found that CBP's Office of Field Operations and U.S. Border Patrol conducted at least 90,000 presumptive field tests associated with an arrest from fiscal year 2015 through 2020. The average time for CBP to complete confirmatory testing across its labs decreased from 100 days in calendar year 2015 to 53 days in calendar year 2020, as of September 2020. This occurred while the total number of requests for confirmatory testing increased from about 4,600 in calendar year 2015 to about 5,600 in calendar year 2020, as of September 2020. With regard to accuracy, CBP officials have taken initial steps to upgrade the software system used to document confirmatory test results. This should provide CBP with information on the extent to which presumptive field test results align with confirmatory test results. Average Time to Complete Confirmatory Testing and Number of Requests for Confirmatory Testing Processed Across all U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Laboratories, Calendar Year 2015 through September 24, 2020 CBP has taken a number of actions to help ensure timely and accurate field drug testing, including: Identifying, testing, and deploying test equipment. For example, CBP tested multiple types of chemical screening devices to determine their performance and capabilities to detect fentanyl at low purity levels. Enhancing presumptive and confirmatory field testing capabilities by building permanent onsite labs and deploying mobile labs in certain field locations. Providing round-the-clock access to chemists who help interpret presumptive field test results. Why GAO Did This Study Within the Department of Homeland Security, CBP reported seizing approximately 830,000 pounds of drugs in fiscal year 2020. When CBP officers and agents encounter suspected illicit drugs, they conduct a presumptive field test. A positive test result is one factor CBP uses to establish probable cause for an arrest or seizure. GAO was asked to review issues related to CBP's field drug testing. This report examines (1) CBP's policies and procedures for testing suspected illicit drugs in the field; (2) available data on CBP's field drug testing; and (3) CBP's efforts to help ensure timely and accurate test results. GAO analyzed CBP data on presumptive field testing and laboratory confirmation of results from fiscal year 2015 through 2020; reviewed related policies and procedures; and interviewed CBP officials in five states at land, air, and sea ports of entry, Border Patrol stations and checkpoints, and CBP labs. GAO selected these locations to include varying levels of drug seizures, among other factors. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
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    At a press conference in Kansas City, Missouri, today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced updates on Operation Legend.
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  • The United States Condemns the Conviction of the Citgo 6
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Remarks at Munich Security Conference Special Session
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS
    In Crime News
    A Maryland tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. According to court documents and statements made in court, Anita Fortune, 56, of Upper Marlboro, provided return preparation services under multiple business names, including Tax Terminatorz Inc. Fortune prepared and filed returns using co-conspirators’ electronic filing identification numbers and identifiers, which they provided in exchange for fees and office space. For the tax years 2011 to 2018, Fortune and her associates fraudulently reduced their clients’ tax liabilities and increased their refunds by adding fictitious or inflated itemized deductions and business losses to the clients’ returns. In total, Fortune caused a tax loss to the IRS of $189,748.
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  • Two ISIS Members Charged with Material Support Violations
    In Crime News
    Two United States citizens who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and recently transferred to the custody of the FBI have been charged with material support violations relating to their support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
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  • On the Passing of Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Identifying Organizations Engaged in Anti-Semitic BDS Activities
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Promoting Accountability for Those Responsible for Violence Against Protestors in Burma
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Releases $58 Million in Solicitations to Combat the Distribution of Illicit Drugs and Improve Officer Wellness
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has released approximately $58 million in three grant solicitations that will advance community policing, help combat the dual scourges of opioid and methamphetamine use, and promote the health and safety of our nation’s law enforcement officers.
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  • Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Meeting on ISIS Threats in West Africa
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • The United States Partners with Australia and Japan to Expand Reliable and Secure Digital Connectivity in Palau
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Littoral Combat Ship: Unplanned Work on Maintenance Contracts Creates Schedule Risk as Ships Begin Operations
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a class of small surface ships with two unique design variants. Both LCS variants carry smaller crews and rely more on contractors for maintenance than any other Navy ship. While this strategy was intended to reduce operating costs, it contributes to challenges in the Navy's strategy for contracted maintenance. Specifically: Contractor travel. U.S. law states that foreign contractors generally cannot conduct certain types of LCS maintenance. This results in the Navy paying for contractors to regularly travel overseas to perform routine maintenance. GAO's sample of 18 delivery orders showed estimated travel costs for the orders reviewed ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $1 million. Heavy reliance on original equipment manufacturers. LCS includes numerous commercial-based systems that are not used on other Navy ships. However, the Navy lacks sufficient manufacturer technical data to maintain many of these systems. This can lead to longer maintenance periods due to extra coordination needed for the manufacturers to assist with or complete the work. Although the Navy is establishing teams of its personnel to take on routine maintenance, contractors will continue performing some of this work. Littoral Combat Ship Variants under Maintenance The Navy is beginning to implement contracting approaches for LCS maintenance in order to help mitigate schedule risk, while taking steps to avoid it in the future. GAO found in the 18 LCS maintenance delivery orders it reviewed that the Navy had to contract for more repair work than originally planned, increasing the risk to completing LCS maintenance on schedule. A majority of this unplanned work occurred because the Navy did not fully understand the ship's condition before starting maintenance. The Navy has begun taking steps to systematically collect and analyze maintenance data to determine the causes of unplanned work, which could help it more accurately plan for maintenance. The Navy has also recently begun applying some contracting approaches to more quickly incorporate unplanned work and mitigate the schedule risk, such as (1) setting a price for low-dollar value unplanned work to save negotiation time and (2) procuring some materials directly instead of waiting for contractors to do so. Such measures will be important to control cost and schedule risks as additional LCS enter the fleet in the coming years. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy plans to spend approximately $61 billion to operate and maintain LCS, a class of small surface ships equipped with interchangeable sensors and weapons. With limited operations to date, these ships have entered the Navy's maintenance cycle. Since 2005, GAO has reported extensively on LCS issues, including ships delivered late and with increased costs and less capability than planned. The Navy also encountered problems as LCS entered the fleet, including higher than expected costs for contractor maintenance and numerous mechanical failures. In 2020, GAO reported that major maintenance on other surface ships using the same contracting approach as LCS was 64 days late, on average. The Navy acknowledges the importance of reducing maintenance delays in order to improve the readiness of its surface fleet. A House Report included a provision for GAO to review long-term contracting strategies and challenges for LCS repair and maintenance. This report (1) describes the effect of the LCS program's acquisition and sustainment strategies on its contracted maintenance and (2) assesses the extent to which the Navy is using contracting approaches to address any cost and schedule risks in maintaining LCS. To conduct this assessment, GAO reviewed relevant Navy documentation, including a sample of 18 delivery orders for LCS maintenance from fiscal year 2018 through April 2020 selected to cover each availability type and each LCS variant. GAO also interviewed Navy officials and contractor representatives. For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or OakleyS@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • How NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Reach the Red Planet’s Surface
    In Space
    The small craft will [Read More…]