Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, Russia is considered the mind of cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns that try to destabilize Western democracies. What is, in your opinion, the goal of Moscow? And what – which is the best way to fight?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s hard to say what Russia’s goal is because it’s hard to put oneself in – necessarily the mind of Russian leaders. But what I can tell you is this: President Biden met with President Putin recently in Geneva and told him very clearly that we would like a more predictable, stable relationship. And if we have that, I think there are areas where we can work together because it’s in our common interest. On the other hand, if Russia chooses to engage in reckless or aggressive actions, we’ll respond, not for purposes of conflict or escalation, but because we will stand up for our interests and values.
I think what came out of the meeting are some possibilities, at least, of working more productively, for example, on strategic stability, arms control so that we get control of some of the nuclear weapons that remain in an effective way. Also in the cyber area, we’ve had this – these recent attacks, so-called ransomware. And we want to make sure that it’s clear that no responsible country should be in the business of harboring, giving refuge to criminal organizations engaged in these kind of attacks. I think we had some constructive conversations and we’ll see if there are practical results that flow from it.
QUESTION: You said we will respond. How – what kind of response?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think we’ve already demonstrated in the past, President Biden has demonstrated that he will respond. For example, we responded to the efforts to interfere in our elections, to the so-called SolarWinds cyber attack, to the attempt to poison Mr. Navalny with a chemical weapon. There were clear and strong responses from the United States in terms of, for example, sanctions. And many of these were done in coordination with European partners, with Canada, the United Kingdom, and others.
QUESTION: China and U.S. seem to disagree about everything: trade tariffs, expansionism, and most of all, human rights. Is there any common ground on your horizon?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The relationship with China for all of us – for Italy, for the United States, for other countries – is a very complicated one, it’s – you can’t sum it up in one word. It has adversarial aspects, it has competitive aspects, and competition is good if it’s fair. It has cooperative aspects, including hopefully on things like climate change. But the common denominator that we’ve been discussing with all of our European partners, including Italy, is that whether it’s adversarial, whether it’s competitive, whether it’s cooperative, we’re much better off engaging China together than we are alone. And I think you’ve seen that in the G7 meeting, in the NATO meeting, in the U.S.-European Union meeting, there is increasingly convergence on engaging with China together from a common position.
QUESTION: After nearly 20 years, U.S. troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan. Don’t you think you are leave the country in the hands – are leaving the country in the hands of extremism, Taliban extremism?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have to start by remembering why we went to Afghanistan in the first place. September 11th, 2001, the United States was attacked by al-Qaida, bin Laden. Our closest allies and partners at NATO, Italy, and our other friends stood up in our defense. They invoked Article V of NATO for the first time: an attack on one is an attack on all. And together, we went to Afghanistan to find the people who attacked the United States on 9/11, to make sure that they could not do it again. And we were largely successful in that effort. Bin Laden was brought to justice 10 years ago. Al-Qaida in Afghanistan currently does not represent a real threat to the United States, to Italy, to any of the other countries.
Meanwhile, 20 years, $1 trillion spent by the United States, and sacrifices by our partners, including Italy as well. But also, we’re withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, but we’re not leaving Afghanistan. We will remain engaged diplomatically, supporting Afghanistan with economic, humanitarian, development assistance, assistance for their security forces, and doing that with our partners.
So I think it’s a fact that we were there for a reason, we succeeded in accomplishing what we set out to accomplish, and at some point Afghanistan has to find its own future with our strong support. That’s where we are now.
QUESTION: USA-Iran – a new beginning, or the same-old story? I mean, how many chances are there to revive the 2015 nuclear deal?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’ve now had six rounds of discussions with Iran indirectly through our European partners. We’ve narrowed a lot of the differences that existed in terms of how to get back into the nuclear agreement, but we haven’t resolved all of them. There are some very significant differences that remain. I can’t tell you whether we’ll succeed in overcoming those differences. It mostly depends on decisions that are made in Tehran by the supreme leader. If Iran is willing to do what is necessary to come back into compliance with the nuclear agreement – an agreement that was working, that was working to contain Iran’s dangerous nuclear program – we are fully prepared to do that. But I think right now the decision is with Iran about whether it’s serious about doing that.
QUESTION: Israel-Palestinians peace process is at stake. President Biden reiterated that two-state solution is still on the table, is the goal —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It is.
QUESTION: — or is the proposal of the United States. Will U.S. embassy remain in Jerusalem?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The U.S. embassy will remain in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: It’s not a problem?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s not. What is a problem is that currently, the conditions that would be most conducive to being able to try to move forward on a two-state solution are simply not there. And the immediate challenge that we have after the violence that we saw a month ago in Gaza and beyond Gaza – the most immediate challenge that we have is, first of all, the humanitarian situation in Gaza and helping people there, then helping to rebuild what needs to be rebuilt, and making sure to the best of our ability that there are no more points of friction that could lead to a renewed conflict and to try to calm the situation, as well as start to create some hope among Palestinians for the future.
We’ve now re-engaged the Palestinians. We’ve restored assistance that had been stopped. We’re going to have a consulate again in – that engages the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. And my hope is that over time we can create a much – a more productive environment, better conditions, and then see if there is a possibility for really advancing negotiations for two states. It does remain the best – in some ways the only – answer for a Jewish and democratic Israel and a Palestinian state.
QUESTION: The last question is about Cuba. A few days ago, United States voted against the UN resolution to end the Cuba embargo. It has been the – if I remember well – 29th time —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — while 184 countries voted yes. Why Cuba is still the enemy? I mean, the dialogue begun by Former President Obama is over forever?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re in the midst of reviewing our Cuba policy. We’ve – President Biden’s been in office for about six months. There have been a lot of things on our plate. He focused immediately on revitalizing our relationships with our partners and allies, like Italy, re-engaging in multilateral institutions – rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, re-engaging with the World Health Organization, convening a summit of leaders on climate. And then, of course, we’ve had the G7, which has made very important progress with all of our countries working together. On COVID, a billion vaccines for the world, working to – on climate, to prevent the financing of coal-fired plants, the biggest contributor to global emissions. A very strong and important agenda, both bilaterally with our closest partners and multilaterally in these international organizations.
And so there’s only so much you can do in six months’ time, so one of the things that we’re looking very hard at right now is the policy toward Cuba. It’s under review. I can tell you that as a matter of basic principle, the – any policy we pursue would have democracy and human rights at its heart, and we would want to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to empower the Cuban people to decide their own future.
QUESTION: I know human rights are important also about Cuba, but you talk to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey. Maybe dialogue is necessary to improve the condition of people, Cuban people?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve never resisted dialogue anywhere. The question is: What is the overall policy? And that’s what we’re reviewing. We’ve done that in a number of areas. We spent some months reviewing our policy toward North Korea, for example, and announced that policy just a few weeks ago. We’re doing the same on Cuba.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good to be with you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
- Justice Department Obtains $20,000 Settlement Against Tampa, Florida Towing Company for Unlawfully Selling Deployed Servicemember’s CarBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2020The Justice Department today announced that Target Recovery Towing Inc. (Target) has agreed to enter into a court-enforceable consent order to resolve allegations that it failed to obtain a legally required court order before auctioning off a car belonging to a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant who was deployed overseas.[Read More…]
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- Medicaid: Data Completeness and Accuracy Have Improved, Though Not All Standards Have Been MetBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021GAO found that the completeness and accuracy of Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) data have improved. Over the past decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been implementing T-MSIS, which is the agency's initiative to improve state-reported data available for overseeing Medicaid. CMS's assessment of two key T-MSIS data sources reflect these improvements. I. Priority items. Priority items are areas of data CMS identified as critical for program oversight, such as beneficiary eligibility and managed care. CMS's assessment of states' data submissions for the first 12 priority items identified significant improvement in meeting CMS data standards over a 22-month period. CMS's assessments of additional priority items similarly indicate improved completeness and accuracy. Improvements in the Number of States Meeting CMS Standards for Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System Priority Items One through 12 Number of priority items that met standards Number of states as of October 2018 Number of states as of August 2020 10 or more 6 41 7 to 9 26 10 6 or less 18 0 Source: GAO analysis of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) priority item data. │ GAO-21-196 Note: CMS assessed data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. CMS excluded Wisconsin from its October 2018 assessment, because the state had not submitted sufficient data. II. Analytic files. Analytic files are publicly available, research-ready T-MSIS data. GAO's review of CMS's assessments found that all states submitted some data for 67 of the 69 topics relevant to their Medicaid programs. This is an improvement from what GAO found in 2017, when none of the six states reviewed submitted all T-MSIS data applicable to their programs. GAO also found that states' data for 52 of the 69 topics were acceptable—meaning that CMS determined most states' data did not have significant problems that would affect their usability. While CMS's assessments of priority item and analytic file data indicate improvement in the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data, GAO also found that these assessments highlight areas where data do not meet the agency's standards. For example, 30 states did not submit acceptable data for inpatient managed care encounters. Accurate encounter data are critical to ensuring that Medicaid managed care beneficiaries obtain covered services and that payments to managed care organizations are appropriate. GAO has made at least 13 recommendations related to improving T-MSIS data and expediting their use for program oversight. CMS has addressed five of these recommendations, and has not fully addressed eight—including recommendations to improve data for overseeing payments to providers and managed care organizations. Implementing these recommendations would help CMS strengthen program oversight through improved T-MSIS data. Since adding Medicaid to its High Risk List in 2003, GAO has identified multiple limitations in program data affecting CMS's ability to ensure beneficiaries' access to care and proper payments to health care providers. CMS intends T-MSIS be a national repository of data to manage and oversee Medicaid, which served approximately 77 million individuals at an estimated cost of $673 billion in fiscal year 2020. Prior GAO work found issues with the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data and recommended that CMS expedite efforts to improve T-MSIS data and to use them for program oversight. CMS has taken steps to improve T-MSIS data and has made some T-MSIS data publicly available. Yet, questions remain about the usability of T-MSIS data for program oversight. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to examine what is known about the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data. GAO reviewed CMS's assessments of two T-MSIS data sources: (1) states' submissions of T-MSIS priority items; and (2) the 2016 T-MSIS analytic files, which was the most recent analytic file data available when GAO began this work. GAO also reviewed CMS documents, prior GAO reports, and reports published by others examining T-MSIS data. GAO interviewed officials from CMS and seven states selected based on variation in their progress submitting complete and accurate priority item data, among other factors. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Warfighter Support: DOD Needs a Complete Picture of the Military Services’ Prepositioning ProgramsBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021The services preposition combat and support assets ashore and afloat worldwide, including in the Indo-Pacific region. Prepositioned assets include combat vehicles, equipment sets for engineering and construction, and protective gear for chemical or biological attacks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Defense (DOD) used prepositioned medical assets for personnel in Guam, South Korea, and Germany. All of the services have reported some shortfalls in their prepositioned assets from 2015 through 2019—including mortars, combat vehicles, and medical equipment. In the Indo-Pacific region, for example, the Army reported shortfalls in equipment to construct bridges over difficult terrain. All services also cited challenges, such as insufficient storage space, storage facilities located far away from intended points of use, and the perishability of some assets. In some cases, the services are taking actions to address these shortfalls and challenges. In others, the services are accepting risk because, according to officials, not all shortfalls and challenges can be fully addressed. Sailors and Marines Offload Assets from a Prepositioning Ship during the COVID-19 Response in Guam DOD has taken steps to implement a joint oversight framework but does not have a complete view of the services' prepositioning programs. DOD revised two guidance documents—an instruction in 2019 and a strategic implementation plan in 2020—to establish a joint oversight framework. However, DOD has focused much of its joint efforts to date on preparing a required annual report to Congress on the status of the services' prepositioning programs. While the report provides some useful information, GAO found inaccurate and inconsistent information in multiple annual reports, which hinder their utility. DOD does not have a reporting mechanism or information-collection tool to develop a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. The current annual reporting requirement expires in 2021, which provides DOD with an opportunity to create a new reporting mechanism, or modify existing mechanisms or tools, to enable a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. By doing so, DOD could better identify gaps or redundancies in the services' programs, make more informed decisions to mitigate asset shortfalls and challenges, reduce potential duplication and fragmentation, and improve its joint oversight. The U.S. military services preposition critical assets at strategic locations around the world for access during the initial phases of an operation. DOD uses these prepositioned assets for combat, support to allies, and disaster and humanitarian assistance. For many years, GAO has identified weaknesses in DOD's efforts to establish a joint oversight framework to guide its ability to assess the services' prepositioning programs. This has led to fragmentation and the potential for duplication. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the services' prepositioning programs and associated challenges. This report (1) describes the types of assets the services preposition worldwide, as well as asset shortfalls and challenges the services have identified, and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing a joint oversight framework for the services' programs. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed DOD prepositioning documents and interviewed DOD and State Department officials from over 20 offices. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in December 2020. Information that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO recommends that DOD develop a reporting mechanism or tool to gather complete information about the military services' prepositioning programs for joint oversight and to reduce duplication and fragmentation. DOD concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202) 512-5431 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Meet and Greet with Embassy San Jose StaffBy Sam NewsJune 4, 2021
- Whistleblower Protection: Actions Needed to Strengthen Selected Intelligence Community Offices of Inspector General ProgramsBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020The six Intelligence Community (IC)-element Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) that GAO reviewed collectively received 5,794 complaints from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, and opened 960 investigations based on those complaints. Of the 960 investigations, IC-element OIGs had closed 873 (about 91 percent) as of August 2019, with an average case time ranging from 113 to 410 days to complete. Eighty-seven cases remained open as of August 2019, with the average open case time being 589 days. The number of investigations at each IC-element OIG varied widely based on factors such as the number of complaints received and each OIG's determination on when to convert a complaint into an investigation. An OIG may decide not to convert a complaint into an investigation if the complaint lacks credibility or sufficient detail, or may refer the complainant to IC-element management or to another OIG if the complaint involves matters that are outside the OIG's authority to investigate. Four of the IC-element OIGs—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) OIG, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) OIG, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) OIG, and the National Security Agency (NSA) OIG—have a 180-days or fewer timeliness objective for their investigations. The procedures for the remaining two OIGs—the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) OIG—state that investigations should be conducted and reported in a timely manner. Other than those prescribed by statute, the ICIG and NGA OIG have not established timeliness objectives for their investigations. Establishing timeliness objectives could improve the OIGs' ability to efficiently manage investigation time frames and to inform potential whistleblowers of these time frames. All of the selected IC-element OIG investigations units have implemented some quality assurance standards and processes, such as including codes of conduct and ethical and professional standards in their guidance. However, the extent to which they have implemented processes to maintain guidance, conduct routine quality assurance reviews, and plan investigations varies (see table). Implementation of Quality Assurance Standards and Practices by Selected IC-element OIG Investigations Units ICIG CIA OIG DIA OIG NGA OIG NRO OIG NSA OIG Regular updates of investigation guidance or procedures — — — ✓ — ✓ Internal quality assurance review routinely conducted — — ✓ — — — External quality assurance review routinely conducted — ✓ — — — — Required use of documented investigative plans ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ — ✓ Legend: ✓ = standard or practice implemented; — = standard or practice not implemented. Source: GAO analysis of IC-element OIG investigative policies and procedures. | GAO-20-699 The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency's (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Investigations states that organizations should facilitate due professional care by establishing written investigative policies and procedures via handbooks, manuals, or similar mechanisms that are revised regularly according to evolving laws, regulations, and executive orders. By establishing processes to regularly update their procedures, the ICIG, CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NRO OIG could better ensure that their policies and procedures will remain consistent with evolving laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and CIGIE standards. Additionally, CIGIE's Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General requires OIGs to establish and maintain a quality assurance program. The standards further state that internal and external quality assurance reviews are the two components of an OIG's quality assurance program, which is an evaluative effort conducted by reviewers independent of the unit being reviewed to ensure that the overall work of the OIG meets appropriate standards. Developing quality assurance programs that incorporate both types of reviews, as appropriate, could help ensure that the IC-element OIGs adhere to OIG procedures and prescribed standards, regulations, and legislation, as well as identify any areas in need of improvement. Further, CIGIE Quality Standards for Investigations states that case-specific priorities must be established and objectives developed to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. CIGIE's standards state that this may best be achieved, in part, by preparing case-specific plans and strategies. Establishing a requirement that investigators use documented investigative plans for all investigations could facilitate NRO OIG management's oversight of investigations and help ensure that investigative steps are prioritized and performed efficiently and effectively. CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NGA OIG have training plans or approaches that are consistent with CIGIE's quality standards for investigator training. However, while ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG have basic training requirements and tools to manage training, those OIGs have not established training requirements for their investigators that are linked to the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities, appropriate to their career progression, and part of a documented training plan. Doing so would help the ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG ensure that their investigators collectively possess a consistent set of professional proficiencies aligned with CIGIE's quality standards throughout their entire career progression. Most of the IC-element OIGs GAO reviewed consistently met congressional reporting requirements for the investigations and semiannual reports GAO reviewed. The ICIG did not fully meet one reporting requirement in seven of the eight semiannual reports that GAO reviewed. However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, firstname.lastname@example.org or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Decennial Census: Bureau Should Assess Significant Data Collection Challenges as It Undertakes Planning for 2030By Sam NewsMarch 22, 2021What GAO Found In March 2020, the Census Bureau (Bureau) delayed the start of field data collection because of COVID-19 safety, and then revised several operational timelines in response to the pandemic and Department of Commerce (Commerce) decisions. Nationally the Bureau reported completing more than 99 percent of nonresponse follow-up cases (households that have not responded to the census) by October 15, 2020. The Bureau attributes the use of technology as among the reasons it completed the work by this date. The Bureau, however, had lower completion percentages ranging between 94 and 99 for 10 local geographic areas, in part because of natural disasters and COVID-19. For example, according to the Bureau, in Shreveport, Louisiana, short-term closures stemming from the hurricane impacted data collection for 82,863 housing units. As a mitigation strategy, the Bureau shifted the Shreveport operation to telephone enumeration and brought in more than 1,200 enumerators from travel teams. Despite these efforts, the Bureau was unable to complete 22,588 cases in Shreveport before data collection ended. For these cases the Bureau will need to rely on alternate methods including imputation, which draws data from similar nearby households to determine whether a housing unit exists, whether it is occupied, and, if so, by how many people. In addition to the challenges brought on by natural disasters, the Bureau encountered other difficulties during nonresponse follow-up, such as, the inability of supervisors to reassign open cases in a timely fashion. GAO found that census field supervisors did not have the authority to reassign cases and had to wait for the field manager to make those reassignments. Bureau officials told GAO it would consider the reassignment of cases as it moves towards planning for the 2030 Census. To monitor nonresponse follow-up, the Bureau used quality control procedures, such as real-time monitoring of enumerator activities by supervisors and training assessments. However, GAO found the Bureau did not have proper controls in place, allowing some enumerators to work without having passed the required training assessment. The Bureau agreed that additional controls were necessary. The Bureau planned to count individuals living in group quarters, such as skilled-nursing and correctional facilities, between April 2, 2020, and June 5, 2020, but revised those dates to July 1, 2020, through September 3, 2020. The pandemic made it difficult to count group quarters. For example, Bureau staff found it challenging to locate a point of contact at some group quarters because facilities were closed due to the pandemic. Bureau officials told us that in December 2020 they decided to re-contact more than 24,000 out of approximately 272,000 group quarter facilities to collect data, and that imputation would be used to count individuals at the remaining facilities still reporting a zero population count. The Bureau is updating plans to assess operations and identify resulting lessons learned from the 2020 Census. As part of its planning for 2030, it will be important for the Bureau to assess the impact of the 2020 late design changes and the operations' challenges that arose. Why GAO Did This Study The 2020 Census was conducted under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related Commerce decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. As GAO previously reported, these changes introduced risks to the quality of data that the Bureau provides for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes. GAO was asked to review the Bureau's implementation of the 2020 Census. This report assesses the Bureau's implementation of the: (1) nonresponse follow-up operation, (2) group quarters enumeration, and (3) plans to assess those operations. To address these objectives, GAO conducted a series of surveys of all 248 census offices during the collection of data for those operations. GAO also monitored the cost and progress of operations and interviewed census field supervisors for each operation.[Read More…]
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- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of LaborBy Sam NewsJuly 6, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Department of Labor (DOL). Since then, DOL has implemented one of those recommendations by taking steps to collect better data on how advanced technologies are changing the workplace, which can help DOL and policymakers design training programs that meet the job needs of the future. In May 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for DOL, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations involve the following areas: stronger protections for wage earners; enhancing unemployment insurance; and better protections for retirees. DOL'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 Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Chief Justice Names Conference Committee ChairsBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsOctober 30, 2020Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has named eight new chairs of Judicial Conference committees and extended the term of a current chair by one year.[Read More…]
- Notice of Meeting: U.S. Advisory Commission on Public DiplomacyBy Sam NewsJune 14, 2021
- Over-The-Counter Drugs: Information on FDA’s Regulation of Most OTC DrugsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated most over-the-counter (OTC) drugs—that is, drugs available without a prescription—through the OTC monograph process. FDA has described an OTC monograph as a "rulebook" for marketing safe and effective OTC drugs, such as aspirin, cough and cold medicine, and hand sanitizer. OTC monographs established conditions—such as active ingredients, indications for use, dosage forms, and product labeling—under which an OTC drug was generally recognized as safe and effective. According to FDA officials, before the CARES Act, which was enacted in March 2020, the agency's ability to update and finalize monographs in response to safety issues and to reflect new scientific information was limited by the rulemaking process the agency was required to follow, as well as insufficient resources. Agency officials estimated that it took at least 6 years to complete the required rulemaking process. Additionally, the agency reported it was critically under-resourced to regulate the estimated 100,000 OTC drugs marketed through the monograph process. However, the CARES Act provided for a new process to regulate these OTC drugs rather than the rulemaking process. FDA officials expect it will take less time to update and finalize requirements for OTC drugs using the new process. The CARES Act also authorized FDA to assess user fees to provide additional resources to regulate OTC drugs. Although FDA officials said this new process and user fees should improve its regulation of OTC drugs, the agency's analysis of the effect of the CARES Act is still ongoing. FDA officials told GAO that prior to the CARES Act, they used various methods to identify and respond to safety issues related to OTC drugs. For example, to identify these issues, FDA officials said they read medical literature related to safety issues and reviewed reports submitted to the agency's adverse event reporting system. To respond to these issues, FDA took steps such as issuing drug safety communications to consumers and requesting that manufacturers make changes to a drug's labeling. For example, in 2015, two FDA advisory committees recommended that cough and cold drugs with codeine be removed from the relevant OTC monograph for use in drugs in children. In 2018, FDA also issued a drug safety communication stating the risks outweighed the benefits for the use of these drugs in children. However, FDA officials said these methods were not a substitute for rulemaking because manufacturers could legally market their OTC drugs without making requested safety changes until the rulemaking process was completed. According to FDA officials, the new process for regulating OTC drugs included in the CARES Act could improve FDA's ability to address identified safety risks in a more timely and efficient manner in the future. The act established an expedited process to address safety issues that pose an imminent hazard to public health or to change a drug's labeling to mitigate a significant or unreasonable risk of a serious adverse event. OTC drugs prevent and treat a variety of conditions; for example, sunscreen is used to help prevent sunburn. FDA officials and stakeholders, such as industry representatives and patient and provider groups, have questioned whether the monograph process used to regulate most OTC drugs has been overly burdensome and has limited FDA's ability to quickly update and finalize monographs in response to potential safety issues for consumers. Enacted in March 2020, the CARES Act changed how FDA regulates OTC drugs. The Sunscreen Innovation Act included a provision for GAO to review FDA's regulation of OTC drugs. This report describes, among other issues, (1) the factors that affected FDA's ability to regulate OTC drugs and (2) how FDA identified and responded to safety issues associated with these drugs. GAO reviewed federal statutes and agency documents and interviewed FDA officials and stakeholders familiar with the monograph process. These stakeholders included representatives from the OTC drug industry, health care provider and consumer groups, and researchers. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact John E. Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Czech Republic National DayBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Uzbekistan Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Two Men Charged in Ecuadorian Bribery and Money Laundering SchemeBy Sam NewsMarch 2, 2021Criminal complaints have been unsealed charging two Ecuadorian citizens for their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving Ecuador’s public police pension fund (ISSPOL).[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Colombian Foreign Minister BlumBy Sam NewsJanuary 29, 2021
- Houston man sent to prison for possessing over 56,000 images of child pornographyBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021A 41-year-old [Read More…]
- Developer Agrees to Mitigate Impacts to Streams and WetlandsBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021A developer and his companies have agreed to effectuate $900,000 in compensatory mitigation, preserve undisturbed riparian areas, conduct erosion-control work on streams, and be subject to a prohibitory injunction to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on property north of Houston, Texas, the Justice Department announced today.[Read More…]
- Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty in False Returns SchemeBy Sam NewsMay 12, 2021A Georgia woman pleaded guilty today to preparing false tax returns for clients.[Read More…]
- Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used CryptocurrencyBy Sam NewsMay 5, 2021A federal court in the Northern District of California entered an order today authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on Payward Ventures Inc., and Subsidiaries d/b/a Kraken (Kraken) seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted at least the equivalent of $20,000 in transactions in cryptocurrency during the years 2016 to 2020. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Kraken, a digital currency exchanger headquartered in San Francisco, California.[Read More…]
- Company’s Vice President Pleads Guilty to Negligently Releasing AsbestosBy Sam NewsMay 21, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty today to negligently releasing asbestos and thereby exposing victims to an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury.[Read More…]
- Iceland’s National DayBy Sam NewsJune 17, 2021
- Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Investigation into the January 6th Attack on the CapitolBy Sam NewsJune 24, 2021U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s statement on the investigation into the January 6th Attack on the Capitol:[Read More…]
- Virginia Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Just Over 12 Months for Evading Her Own TaxesBy Sam NewsJuly 16, 2021A Richmond, Virginia, tax return preparer was sentenced yesterday to one year and a day in prison for evading her own taxes.[Read More…]
- COVID-19 Loans: SBA Has Begun to Take Steps to Improve Oversight and Fraud Risk ManagementBy Sam NewsApril 20, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) quickly implemented the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expedited the processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and a new EIDL advance program. These important programs have helped businesses survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to move quickly on these programs, SBA initially put limited internal controls in place, leaving both susceptible to program integrity issues, improper payments, and fraud. Because of concerns about program integrity, GAO added PPP and the EIDL program onto its High-Risk List in March 2021. SBA has begun to take steps to address these initial deficiencies: PPP oversight. Because ongoing oversight is crucial, GAO recommended in June 2020 that SBA develop plans to respond to PPP risks to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. Since then, SBA has developed a loan review process and added up-front verifications before it approves new loans. Improper payments for PPP. GAO recommended in November 2020 that SBA expeditiously estimate improper payments for PPP and report estimates and error rates. SBA has now developed a plan for the testing needed to estimate improper payments. Analyzing EIDL data. Based on evidence of widespread potential fraud for EIDL, GAO recommended in January 2021 that SBA conduct portfolio-level analysis to detect potentially ineligible applications. SBA has not announced plans to implement this recommendation. EIDL oversight. GAO recommended in March 2021 that SBA implement a comprehensive oversight plan for EIDL to ensure program integrity. SBA agreed to implement such a plan. Assessment of fraud risks. SBA has not conducted a formal fraud risk assessment for PPP or the EIDL program. GAO made four recommendations in March 2021, including that SBA conduct a formal assessment and develop a strategy to manage fraud risks for each program. SBA said it would work to complete fraud risk assessments for PPP and EIDL and continually monitor fraud risks. Financial statement audit. In December 2020, SBA's independent financial statement auditor issued a disclaimer of opinion on SBA's fiscal year 2020 consolidated financial statements because SBA could not provide adequate documentation to support a significant number of transactions and account balances related to PPP and EIDL. GAO continues to review information SBA recently provided, including data on PPP loan forgiveness and details on the PPP and EIDL loan review processes. In addition, GAO has obtained additional information from a survey of PPP participating lenders, interviews with SBA's PPP contractors, and written responses to questions provided by SBA's EIDL contractor and subcontractors. Why GAO Did This Study SBA has made or guaranteed about 18.7 million loans and grants through PPP and the EIDL program, providing about $968 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. PPP provides potentially forgivable loans to small businesses, and EIDL provides low-interest loans of up to $2 million for operating and other expenses, as well as advances (grants). This testimony discusses the lack of controls in PPP and the EIDL program and SBA's efforts to improve its oversight of these programs. It is based largely on GAO's June 2020–March 2021 reports on the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 (GAO-20-625, GAO-20-701, GAO-21-191, GAO-21-265, GAO -21-387). For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports; analyzed SBA data; and interviewed officials from SBA, the SBA OIG, and the Department of the Treasury.[Read More…]
- Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite Prepared for LaunchBy Sam NewsIn SpaceDecember 9, 2020The newest satellite to [Read More…]
- Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt Delivers Remarks at Health Care Fraud Takedown Press ConferenceBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020Good morning and thank you for joining us today. We are here this morning to announce the results of truly historic nationwide law enforcement operations led by the Criminal Division’s Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program — part of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.[Read More…]
- Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers Delivers Remarks Announcing People’s Republic of China Related ArrestsBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020Good morning. Today, I’m joined by FBI Director Chris Wray and, remotely, by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Seth DuCharme, to announce charges against eight individuals for acting as agents of the People’s Republic of China while taking part in an illegal Chinese law enforcement operation known as Fox Hunt here in the United States. Five of these individuals were arrested across the country this morning. The rest, we believe, are in China.[Read More…]
- Law Firms Representing Purdue Pharma Agree to Relinquish $1 Million in Settlement with U.S. Trustee ProgramBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement with three law firms representing Purdue Pharma (Purdue) in its ongoing bankruptcy cases. The firms are Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; and Dechert LLP (the Firms).[Read More…]
- Readout of Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall from the Funeral of FBI Special Agent Daniel AlfinBy Sam NewsFebruary 7, 2021Acting United States Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, FBI Director Christopher Wray and President Joe Biden’s Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall represented the United States Government’s official delegation today at the funeral service for fallen FBI Special Agent Daniel Alfin in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[Read More…]
- New Jersey Man Charged with Tax Evasion and Filing False ReturnsBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned an indictment today charging a New Jersey man with tax evasion and filing false tax returns.[Read More…]
- Canadian National Sentenced for Human Smuggling ConspiracyBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021A Canadian national was sentenced to 32 months in prison for conspiracy to bring undocumented immigrants to the United States for private financial gain in connection with his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean and into the United States.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with French Foreign Minister Le DrianBy Sam NewsMarch 14, 2021
- U.S. Seizes Virtual Currencies Valued at $24 Million Assisting Brazil in Major Internet Fraud InvestigationBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that it has seized virtual currency worth an estimated $24 million on behalf of the Brazilian government.[Read More…]
- Additional Civilian Assistance to AfghanistanBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021
- Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability’s (Troubled Asset Relief Program) FY 2020 and FY 2019 Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsNovember 10, 2020GAO found (1) the Office of Financial Stability's (OFS) financial statements for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2020, and 2019, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) OFS maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting for TARP as of September 30, 2020; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2020 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, OFS stated that it is proud to receive an unmodified opinion on its financial statements and its internal control over financial reporting. OFS also stated that it is committed to maintaining the high standards and transparency reflected in these audit results. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, includes a provision for TARP, which is implemented by OFS, to annually prepare and submit to Congress and the public audited fiscal year financial statements that are prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. EESA further states that GAO shall audit TARP's financial statements annually. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- South Carolina Man Sentenced for Making a Bomb Threat to a Clinic and Lying to the FBIBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020Rodney Allen, 43, of Beaufort, South Carolina, was sentenced today in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, to 24 months in prison. Allen previously pleaded guilty to one count of intimidating and interfering with the employees of an abortion clinic by making a bomb threat and one count of making false statements to a Special Agent with the FBI.[Read More…]
- ISIS Militants Charged With Deaths Of Americans In SyriaBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2020Two militant fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, are expected to arrive in the United States today in FBI custody on charges related to their participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.[Read More…]
- Broiler Chicken Producer Indicted for Price Fixing and Bid RiggingBy Sam NewsMay 20, 2021A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment charging Norman W. Fries Inc., dba Claxton Poultry Farms (Claxton), headquartered in Claxton, Georgia, with participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Issues Statement Announcing Decision to Appeal Terkel v. CDCBy Sam NewsFebruary 27, 2021More from: February 27, [Read More…]
- Cybersecurity: Clarity of Leadership Urgently Needed to Fully Implement the National StrategyBy Sam NewsSeptember 22, 2020Federal entities have a variety of roles and responsibilities for supporting efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of the nation. Among other things, 23 federal entities have roles and responsibilities for developing policies, monitoring critical infrastructure protection efforts, sharing information to enhance cybersecurity across the nation, responding to cyber incidents, investigating cyberattacks, and conducting cybersecurity-related research. To fulfill their roles and responsibilities, federal entities identified activities undertaken in support of the nation's cybersecurity. For example, National Security Council (NSC) staff, on behalf of the President, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed policies, strategies, standards, and plans to guide cybersecurity efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has helped secure the nation's critical infrastructure through developing security policy and coordinating security initiatives, among other efforts. Other agencies have established initiatives to gather intelligence and share actual or possible cyberattack information. Multiple agencies have mechanisms in place to assist in responding to cyberattacks, and law enforcement components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are responsible for investigating them. The White House's September 2018 National Cyber Strategy and the NSC's accompanying June 2019 Implementation Plan detail the executive branch's approach to managing the nation's cybersecurity. When evaluated together, these documents addressed several of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, but lacked certain key elements for addressing others. National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan are Missing Desirable Characteristics of a National Strategy Characteristic Cyber Strategy and Plan Coverage of Issue Purpose, scope, and methodology Addressed Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination Addressed Integration and implementation Addressed Problem definition and risk assessment Did not fully address Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and performance measures Did not fully address Resources, investments, and risk management Did not fully address Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 For example, the Implementation Plan details 191 activities that federal entities are to undertake to execute the priority actions outlined in the National Cyber Strategy. These activities are assigned a level, or tier, based on the coordination efforts required to execute the activity and the extent to which NSC staff is expected to be involved. Thirty-five of these activities are designated as the highest level (tier 1), and are coordinated by a functional entity within the NSC . Ten entities are assigned to lead or co-lead these critical activities while also tasked to lead or co-lead lower tier activities. Leadership Roles for Federal Entities Assigned as Leads or Co-Leads for National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan Activities Entity Tier 1 Activities Tier 2 Activities Tier 3 Activities National Security Council 15 7 3 Department of Homeland Security 14 19 15 Office of Management and Budget 7 6 5 Department of Commerce 5 9 35 Department of State 2 5 11 Department of Defense 1 6 17 Department of Justice 1 10 5 Department of Transportation 1 0 5 Executive Office of the President 1 0 0 General Services Administration 1 2 1 Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 Although the Implementation Plan defined the entities responsible for leading each of the activities; it did not include goals and timelines for 46 of the activities or identify the resources needed to execute 160 activities. Additionally, discussion of risk in the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan was not based on an analysis of threats and vulnerabilities. Further, the documents did not specify a process for monitoring agency progress in executing Implementation Plan activities. Instead, NSC staff stated that they performed periodic check-ins with responsible entities, but did not provide an explanation or definition of specific level of NSC staff involvement for each of the three tier designations. Without a consistent approach to engaging with responsible entities and a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to implement all 191 activities, the NSC will face challenges in ensuring that the National Cyber Strategy is efficiently executed. GAO and others have reported on the urgency and necessity of clearly defining a central leadership role in order to coordinate the government's efforts to overcome the nation's cyber-related threats and challenges. The White House identified the NSC staff as responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy . However, in light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan , but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented. NSC staff stated responsibility for duties previously attributed to the White House Cyber Coordinator were passed to the senior director of NSC's Cyber directorate; however, the staff did not provide a description of what those responsibilities include. NSC staff also stated that federal entities are ultimately responsible for determining the status of the activities that they lead or support and for communicating implementation status to relevant NSC staff. However, without a clear central leader to coordinate activities, as well as a process for monitoring performance of the Implementation Plan activities, the White House cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation's cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge. Increasingly sophisticated cyber threats have underscored the need to manage and bolster the cybersecurity of key government systems and the nation's cybersecurity. The risks to these systems are increasing as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO noted that the need to establish a national cybersecurity strategy with effective oversight was a major challenge facing the federal government. GAO was requested to review efforts to protect the nation's cyber critical infrastructure. The objectives of this report were to (1) describe roles and responsibilities of federal entities tasked with supporting national cybersecurity, and (2) determine the extent to which the executive branch has developed a national strategy and a plan to manage its implementation. To do so, GAO identified 23 federal entities responsible for enhancing the nation's cybersecurity. Specifically, GAO selected 13 federal agencies based on their specialized or support functions regarding critical infrastructure security and resilience, and 10 additional entities based on analysis of its prior reviews of national cybersecurity, relevant executive policy, and national strategy documents. GAO also analyzed the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan to determine if they aligned with the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration, that Congress should consider legislation to designate a leadership position in the White House with the commensurate authority to implement and encourage action in support of the nation's cybersecurity. GAO is also making one recommendation to the National Security Council to work with relevant federal entities to update cybersecurity strategy documents to include goals, performance measures, and resource information, among other things. The National Security Council neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Two Senior Managers in Italy Charged with Conspiracy to Cheat U.S. Emissions Tests and Defraud U.S. ConsumersBy Sam NewsApril 20, 2021An indictment was unsealed today in the Eastern District of Michigan charging two Italian nationals, along with a previously charged co-conspirator, for their alleged role in a conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators and customers by making false and misleading statements about the emissions controls and fuel efficiency of more than 100,000 diesel vehicles sold in the United States by FCA US LLC.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMay 12, 2021
- Commercial Space Transportation: FAA Should Examine a Range of Options to Support U.S. Launch InfrastructureBy Sam NewsDecember 22, 2020Launch providers support the deployment of people and payloads, such as national security and commercial satellites or research probes, into space. The majority of these providers told GAO that U.S. space transportation infrastructure—located at sites across the country—is generally sufficient for them to meet their customers' current requirements. This situation is in part a result of the launch providers' investments in launch sites, along with state and local funding. Launch providers and site operators alike seek future improvements but differ on the type and location of infrastructure required. Some launch providers said that infrastructure improvements would be required to increase launch capacity at existing busy launch sites, while a few site operators said that new infrastructure and additional launch sites would help expand the nation's overall launch capacity. U.S. Commercial Launch Sites with Number of FAA-Licensed Launches, January 2015 - November 2020 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was directed by statute to make recommendations to Congress on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure, among other things. However, FAA's initial draft report was limited because it focused only on two existing FAA programs, rather than a range of options. FAA officials stated that they did not examine other options because of limited time and resources, and that the two identified programs could be implemented quickly because FAA has administrative authority to manage them. Leading practices in infrastructure investment emphasize the importance of conducting an examination of potential approaches, which can help identify how best to support national interests; avoid overlap or duplication of federal effort; and enhance, not substitute, participation by non-federal stakeholders. An examination may also help identify alternatives to making funding available, such as increasing efficiency and capacity through technology improvements. By focusing only on these existing programs, FAA may overlook other options that better meet federal policy goals and maximize the effect of any federal investment. Although FAA has already prepared its initial report to respond to the statute, it still has opportunities, such as during subsequent mandated updates, to report separately on potential approaches. Demand for commercial space launches is anticipated to increase in the coming years. FAA, the agency responsible for overseeing the sites where these launches occur, was directed by statute to submit a report—and update it every 2 years until December 2024—that makes recommendations on how to facilitate and promote greater investments in space transportation infrastructure. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to review issues related to space transportation infrastructure. This report discusses launch providers' and site operators' views on the sufficiency of infrastructure in meeting market demand and assesses the steps FAA has taken to identify options for federal support of space transportation infrastructure, among other things. GAO reviewed relevant regulations; assessed FAA's actions against GAO-identified leading practices; and interviewed FAA officials, commercial launch providers, and representatives from U.S. commercial launch sites that GAO identified as having hosted an FAA-licensed launch since 2015 or having an FAA launch site operator license as of August 2020. GAO recommends that FAA examine a range of potential options to support space transportation infrastructure and that this examination include a discussion of trade-offs. DOT partially concurred, noting that it would provide its mandated report to Congress but not conduct a new examination of a range of options. GAO continues to believe that such an examination is warranted. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Settles Claims Against Toms River, New Jersey Over Zoning Code That Restricts Houses of WorshipBy Sam NewsMarch 10, 2021The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the Township of Toms River, New Jersey, to resolve allegations that the Township violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by severely restricting where houses of worship can locate within its jurisdiction.[Read More…]
- Federal Court Restrains Toledo Pharmacy and Two Pharmacists From Dispensing Opioids or Other Controlled SubstancesBy Sam NewsJanuary 15, 2021More from: January 15, [Read More…]
- Promoting Fair and Transparent Selection of Justices to Guatemala’s Constitutional CourtBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021