Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Let’s take all of this to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Thanks for being with us. Mr. Secretary, you’ve heard the reaction from the generals who’ve commanded troops in Afghanistan, including the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and David Petraeus, who went on to become CIA director, who say this will leave America more vulnerable to terrorist threats, with Joe Dunford saying it would also have a catastrophic effect in Afghanistan itself. Your reaction?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, Martha, I just got back from Kabul. I met with President Ghani. I met with other leaders there. That was just after coming from NATO, meeting with all of our allies. And across the board I heard support for the President’s decision and the path ahead.
Here’s the reality – and by the way, I have great respect for General Petraeus, General Dunford, and others. But we had a very deliberate and fully informed process leading up to the decision by the President, and the fact is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago, and we went because we were attacked on 9/11, and we went to take on those who had attacked us on 9/11 and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorism directed at the United States or any of our allies and partners.
And we achieved the objectives that we set out to achieve. Al-Qaida has been significantly degraded. Its capacity to conduct an attack against the United States now from Afghanistan is not there. And of course, Osama bin Laden was brought to justice 10 years ago. So the President felt that as we’re looking at the world now, we have to look at it through the prism of 2021, not 2001. The terrorism threat has moved to other places, and we have other very important items on our agenda, including the relationship with China, including dealing with everything from climate change to COVID, and that’s where we have to focus our energy and resources.
QUESTION: To that point, I’ve heard for decades the military talk about how hard it was to train Afghan forces, asking for more time and more time. But there’s also the argument that clearing out all of our forces leaves us with intelligence gaps. You had the new CIA director saying that it was simply a fact that our intelligence capability will diminish. Do you agree with that? And what do you do about it?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think if you look at the full statement, including from the CIA Director Bill Burns and also what you’ve heard from the National Security Advisor and others, we will have the means to see if there is a resurgence, a re-emergence of a terrorist threat from Afghanistan. We’ll be able to see that in real time with time to take action. And we’re going to be repositioning our forces and our assets to make sure that we guard against the potential re-emergence.
By the way, the Taliban in the agreement reached by the Trump administration with the Taliban is also committed not to allow al-Qaida or other terrorist groups that might target the United States to re-emerge. We’re going to hold them to that commitment.
QUESTION: But you yourself have said you don’t really trust the Taliban.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, that’s exactly why we’re going to make sure that we have assets appropriately in place to see this coming if it comes again, to see it and to be able to deal with it. This is, again, a very different world than the one we had in 2001. We have different capabilities, different assets, and I think a greater ability to see something coming with time to do something about it.
But look, the other thing is this: We are very much invested in trying to pursue the peace process for Afghanistan, to bring the parties together to see if they can come to some kind of political settlement. Ultimately, it is in no one’s interest in Afghanistan, whether it’s the Taliban or anyone else and certainly not the people of Afghanistan, for the country to descend once again into civil war, into a long war. And if the Taliban is going to participate in some fashion in governance, if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah, it’s going to have to engage in a political process.
And our goal ultimately is an Afghanistan that finds a just and durable settlement to this conflict that has been going on for four decades. And in that situation and that environment, terrorism is less likely to emerge.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the Taliban again and talk about women and girls in Afghanistan. We’ve talked to many people about that. The Director of National Intelligence says the Taliban is likely to attempt to retake power by force if we leave. And right now, in some of the Taliban-held areas you have young women, you have girls who are beaten; there’s no chance for an education. Why is that acceptable?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s not acceptable. And when I was in Kabul, I met with some extraordinary women who are leading as a mayor, a member of parliament, a youth activist, and doing other things. And what they’ve done with our support is quite remarkable. And I think Afghanistan in many ways is a transformed society.
But again, here is the thing: No one, starting with the Taliban, has an interest in going back to a civil war, because I think what everyone recognizes is there’s no military resolution to the conflict. So if they start something up again, they’re going to be in a long war. That’s not in their interest either.
Second, we’re going to be continuing to support the Afghan Security Forces. We’ve trained more than 300,000 over the years, and it’s a strong force. It’s going to continue to have international support, including ours. We’re going to be engaged in the peace process to see if we can move this in a better direction.
And the final thing is this, and I want to repeat it: If the Taliban has any expectation of getting any international acceptance, of not being treated as a pariah, it’s going to have to respect the rights of women and girls. Any country that moves backwards on that, that tries to repress them, will not have that international recognition, will not have that international status, and indeed, we will take action to make sure to the best of our ability that they can’t do that.
QUESTION: And I want to move on to refugees. The Biden administration is poised to break a major promise to increase the number of refugee admissions to 62,000, calling it unlikely; instead signing an emergency presidential determination that keeps the cap at 15,000, which was President Trump’s historic low number. Refugees International President Eric Schwartz said the President’s decision to reaffirm the refugee admissions calling – ceiling of his predecessor is deeply disappointing. Now, I know on Friday the White House said there was some confusion with that, and we’ll talk about it again in May. Can you please clear that up? Is the cap on? And how far could it go?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, Martha, one of the biggest problems we faced was inheriting a broken system. And the refugee system that we found was not in a place, did not have the resources, the means, to effectively process as many people as we hoped. But what we’ve done now, what the President has done now in signing the initial directive, is to make sure we can start the process of actually bringing – bringing people in, and beyond that lifting restraints and – that the previous administration had imposed so that no one, for example, from Africa or the Middle East could come in. That has now been eliminated.
QUESTION: I know what you’ve done in that. But how many refugees do you think will be let in this year? And if you don’t make that 62,000, will there be 125,000 next year, which was your goal?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think what the President has – and the White House have said today is that based on what we’ve now seen from – in terms of the inheritance and being able to look at what was in place, what we could put in place, how quickly we could put it in place, it’s going to be very hard to meet the 62,000 this fiscal year. But we’re going to be revisiting this over the coming weeks. I think there’ll be an additional directive coming out in the middle of May and – but the good news is we’re now starting, and we’re able to start to bring people in who’ve been in the pipeline and who weren’t able to come in. That is starting today. And we’re going to revisit it in the middle of May.
QUESTION: A hundred and twenty-five thousand next year, is that your goal?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, the President has been clear about where he wants to go, but we have to be focused on what we’re able to do when we’re able to do it.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks so much for joining us this morning, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Martha. Thanks for having us.
QUESTION: You bet.
- Arkansas Project Manager Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud and False Statements in Connection with COVID-Relief FraudBy Sam NewsAugust 6, 2020A project manager employed by a major retailer has pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges for filing fraudulent bank loan applications seeking more than $8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.[Read More…]
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- Global Health Security: USAID and CDC Funding, Activities, and Assessments of Countries’ Capacities to Address Infectious Disease Threats before COVID-19 OnsetBy Sam NewsApril 14, 2021Pour la version française de cette page, voir GAO-21-484. What GAO Found As of March 31, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had obligated a combined total of more than $1.2 billion and disbursed about $1 billion for global health security (GHS) activities, using funds appropriated in fiscal years 2015 through 2019. USAID and CDC supported activities to help build countries' capacities in 11 technical areas related to addressing infectious disease threats. The obligated funding supported GHS activities in at least 34 countries, including 25 identified as Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) partner countries. U.S.-Supported Activities in Ethiopia to Strengthen Global Health Security U.S. officials' assessments of 17 GHSA partner countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats showed that at the end of fiscal year 2019, most countries had some capacity in each of the 11 technical areas but faced various challenges. U.S. interagency country teams produce biannual capacity assessments that USAID and CDC headquarters officials use to track the countries' progress. According to fiscal year 2019 assessment reports, 14 countries had developed or demonstrated capacity in most technical areas. In addition, the reports showed the majority of capacities in each country had remained stable or increased since 2016 and 2017. The technical area antimicrobial resistance showed the largest numbers of capacity increases—for example, in the development of surveillance systems. GAO's analysis of the progress reports found the most common challenges to developing GHS capacity were weaknesses in government institutions, constrained resources, and insufficient human capital. According to agency officials, some challenges can be overcome with additional U.S. government funding, technical support, or diplomatic efforts, but many other challenges remain outside the U.S. government's control. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in February 2021. Information that USAID and CDC deemed sensitive has been omitted. Why GAO Did This Study The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in December 2019 demonstrated that infectious diseases can lead to catastrophic loss of life and sustained damage to the global economy. USAID and CDC have led U.S. efforts to strengthen GHS—that is, global capacity to prepare for, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats and to reduce or prevent their spread across borders. These efforts include work related to the multilateral GHSA initiative, which aims to accelerate progress toward compliance with international health regulations and other agreements. House Report 114-693 contained a provision for GAO to review the use of GHS funds. In this report, GAO examines, for the 5 fiscal years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, (1) the status of USAID's and CDC's GHS funding and activities and (2) U.S. agencies' assessments, at the end of fiscal year 2019, of GHSA partner countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats and of challenges these countries faced in building capacity. GAO analyzed agency, interagency, and international organization documents. GAO also interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, and in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Senegal, and Vietnam. GAO selected these four countries on the basis of factors such as the presence of staff from multiple U.S. agencies. In addition, GAO analyzed interagency assessments of countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats in fiscal year 2019 and compared them with baseline assessments from 2016 and 2017. For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- COVID-19: Federal Efforts Could Be Strengthened by Timely and Concerted ActionsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020In the government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Congress and the administration have taken action on multiple fronts to address challenges that have contributed to catastrophic loss of life and profound economic disruption. These actions have helped direct much-needed federal assistance to support many aspects of public life, including local public health systems and private-sector businesses. However, the nation faces continued public health risks and economic difficulties for the foreseeable future. Among other challenges, the public health system, already strained from months of responding to COVID-19 cases, will face the additional task of managing the upcoming flu season. At the same time, many of the federal, state, and local agencies responsible for responding to the ongoing public health emergency are called on to prepare for and respond to the current hurricane season. Timely and concerted federal leadership will be required in responding to these and other challenges. GAO has identified lessons learned and issues in need of continued attention by the Congress and the administration, including the need to collect reliable data that can drive decision-making; to establish mechanisms for accountability and transparency; and to protect against ongoing cyber threats to patient information, intellectual property, public health data, and intelligence. Attention to these issues can help to make federal efforts as effective as possible. GAO has also identified a number of opportunities to help the federal government prepare for the months ahead while improving the ongoing federal response: Medical Supply Chain The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with support from the Department of Defense (DOD), have taken numerous, significant efforts to mitigate supply shortages and expand the medical supply chain. For example, the agencies have coordinated to deliver supplies directly to nursing homes and used Defense Production Act authorities to increase the domestic production of supplies. However, shortages of certain types of personal protective equipment and testing supplies remain due to a supply chain with limited domestic production and high global demand. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and FEMA have both identified shortages, and officials from seven of the eight states GAO interviewed in July and August 2020 identified previous or ongoing shortages of testing supplies, including swabs, reagents, tubes, pipettes, and transport media. Testing supply shortages have contributed to delays in turnaround times for testing results. Delays in processing test results have multiple serious consequences, including delays in isolating those who test positive and tracing their contacts in a timely manner, which can in turn exacerbate outbreaks by allowing the virus to spread undetected. In addition, states and other nonfederal entities have experienced challenges tracking supply requests made through the federal government and planning for future needs. GAO is making the following recommendations: HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should immediately document roles and responsibilities for supply chain management functions transitioning to HHS, including continued support from other federal partners, to ensure sufficient resources exist to sustain and make the necessary progress in stabilizing the supply chain. HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should further develop and communicate to stakeholders plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate supply chain shortages for the remainder of the pandemic. HHS and FEMA—working with relevant stakeholders—should devise interim solutions, such as systems and guidance and dissemination of best practices, to help states enhance their ability to track the status of supply requests and plan for supply needs for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic response. HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) objected to GAO’s initial draft recommendations. GAO made revisions based on their comments. GAO maintains that implementation of its modified recommendations is both warranted and prudent. These actions could contribute to ensuring a more effective response by helping to mitigate challenges with the stability of the medical supply chain and the ability of nonfederal partners to track, plan, and budget for ongoing medical supply needs. Vaccines and Therapeutics Multiple federal agencies continue to support the development and manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics to prevent and treat COVID-19. These efforts are aimed at accelerating the traditional timeline to create a vaccine (see figure). Traditional Timeline for Development and Creation of a Vaccine Note: See figure 5 in the report. As these efforts proceed, clarity on the federal government’s plans for distributing and administering vaccine, as well as timely, clear, and consistent communication to stakeholders and the public about those plans, is essential. DOD is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of a vaccine. In September 2020, HHS indicated that it will soon send a report to Congress outlining a distribution plan, but did not provide a specific date for doing so. GAO recommends that HHS, with support from DOD, establish a time frame for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine, and in developing such a plan ensure that it is consistent with best practices for project planning and scheduling and outlines an approach for how efforts will be coordinated across federal agencies and nonfederal entities. DOD partially concurred with the recommendation, clarifying that it is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of vaccine. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but noted factors that complicate the publication of a plan. GAO maintains that a time frame is necessary so all relevant stakeholders will be best positioned to begin their planning.On September 16, 2020, HHS and DOD released two documents outlining a strategy for any COVID-19 vaccine. GAO will evaluate these documents and report on them in future work.GAO will also continue to conduct related work, including examining federal efforts to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. COVID-19 Data Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths exists among racial and ethnic minority groups, but GAO identified gaps in these data. To help address these gaps, on July 22, 2020, CDC released a COVID-19 Response Health Equity Strategy. However, the strategy does not assess whether having the authority to require states and jurisdictions to report race and ethnicity information is necessary to ensure CDC can collect such data. CDC’s strategy also does not specify how it will involve key stakeholders, such as health care providers, laboratories, and state and jurisdictional health departments. GAO recommends that CDC (1) determine whether having the authority to require the reporting of race and ethnicity information for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is necessary for ensuring more complete data, and if so, seek such authority from Congress; (2) involve key stakeholders to help ensure the complete and consistent collection of demographic data; and (3) take steps to help ensure its ability to comprehensively assess the long-term health outcomes of persons with COVID-19, including by race and ethnicity. HHS agreed with the recommendations. In addition, HHS’s data on COVID-19 in nursing homes do not capture the early months of the pandemic. HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 data to CDC by May 17, 2020, starting with information as of May 8, 2020, but made reporting prior to May 8, 2020 optional. By not requiring nursing homes to submit data from the first 4 months of 2020, HHS is limiting the usefulness of the data in helping to understand the effects of COVID-19 in nursing homes. GAO recommends that HHS, in consultation with CMS and CDC, develop a strategy to capture more complete data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes retroactively back to January 1, 2020. HHS partially agreed with this recommendation by noting the value of having complete data, but expressed concern about the burden of collecting it. GAO maintains the importance of collecting these data to inform the government’s continued response and recovery, and HHS could ease the burden by incorporating data previously reported to CDC or to state or local public health offices. Economic Impact Payments The Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued economic impact payments (EIP) to all eligible individuals for whom IRS has the necessary information to do so; however, not everyone eligible was able to be initially identified. To help ensure all eligible recipients received their payments in a more timely manner, IRS took several actions to address challenges GAO reported on in June, including a policy change—reopening the Non-Filers tool registration period for federal benefit recipients and extending it through September 30—that should allow some eligible recipients to receive supplemental payments for qualifying children sooner than expected. However, Treasury and IRS lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds. The lack of such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, (1) update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts and (2) make estimates of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP, and other relevant information, available to outreach partners to raise awareness about how and when to file for EIP. Treasury and IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations and described actions they are taking in concert with the recommendations to notify around 9 million individuals who may be eligible for an EIP. Coronavirus Relief Fund The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is the largest program established in the four COVID-19 relief laws that provides aid to states, the District of Columbia, localities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. Audits of entities that receive federal funds, including CRF payments, are critical to the federal government’s ability to help safeguard those funds. Auditors that conduct single audits follow guidance in the Single Audit Act’s Compliance Supplement, which the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updates and issues annually in coordination with federal agencies. OMB issued the 2020 Compliance Supplement in August 2020, but the Compliance Supplement specified that OMB is still working with federal agencies to identify the needs for additional guidance for auditing new COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, as well as existing programs with compliance requirement changes. According to OMB, an addendum on COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, will be issued in the fall of 2020. Further delays in issuing this guidance could adversely affect auditors’ ability to issue consistent and timely reports. GAO recommends that OMB, in consultation with Treasury, issue the addendum to the 2020 Compliance Supplement as soon as possible to provide the necessary audit guidance, as many single audit efforts are underway. OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation. Guidance for K-12 Schools State and local school district officials tasked with reassessing their operating status and ensuring their school buildings are safe are generally relying on guidance and recommendations from federal, state, and local public health and education officials. However, portions of CDC’s guidance on reopening K-12 schools are inconsistent, and some federal guidance appears misaligned with CDC’s risk-based approach on school operating status. Based on GAO’s review, Education has updated the information and CDC has begun to do so. GAO recommends that CDC ensure that, as it makes updates to its guidance related to schools’ operating status, the guidance is cogent, clear, and internally consistent. HHS agreed with the recommendation. Tracking Contract Obligations Federal agencies are tracking contract actions and associated obligations in response to COVID-19 using a National Interest Action (NIA) code in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation. The COVID-19 NIA code was established in March 2020 and was recently extended until March 31, 2021, while a draft of this report recommending that DHS and DOD extend the code beyond September 30, 2020, was with the agencies for comment. GAO has identified inconsistencies in establishing and closing these codes following previous emergencies, and has continued concerns with the criteria that DHS and DOD rely on to determine whether to extend or close a code and whether the code meets long-term needs. GAO recommends that DHS and DOD make updates to the 2019 NIA Code Memorandum of Agreement so as to enhance visibility for federal agencies, the public, and Congress on contract actions and associated obligations related to disaster events, and to ensure the criteria for extending or closing the NIA code reflect government-wide needs for tracking contract actions in longer-term emergencies, such as a pandemic. DHS and DOD did not agree, but GAO maintains implementation of its recommendation is essential. Address Cybersecurity Weaknesses Since March 2020, malicious cyber actors have exploited COVID-19 to target organizations that make up the health care and public health critical infrastructure sector, including government entities, such as HHS. GAO has identified numerous cybersecurity weaknesses at multiple HHS component agencies, including CMS, CDC, and FDA, over the last 6 years, such as weaknesses in key safeguards to limit, prevent, and detect inappropriate access to computer resources. Additionally, GAO’s March 2019 high-risk update identified cybersecurity and safeguarding the systems supporting the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as health care, as high-risk areas. As of July 2020, CMS, FDA, and CDC had made significant progress by implementing 350 (about 81 percent) of the 434 recommendations GAO issued in previous reports to address these weaknesses. Based on the imminent cybersecurity threats, GAO recommends that HHS expedite implementation of GAO’s prior recommendations regarding cybersecurity weaknesses at its component agencies. HHS agreed with the recommendation. As of September 10, 2020, the U.S. had over 6.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and over 177,000 reported deaths, according to federal agencies. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions and turmoil. Four relief laws, including the CARES Act, were enacted as of September 2020 to provide appropriations to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of July 31, 2020, the federal government had obligated a total of $1.6 trillion and expended $1.5 trillion of the COVID-19 relief funds as reported by federal agencies on USAspending.gov. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report bimonthly on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This third report examines key actions the federal government has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving lessons learned relevant to the nation’s response to pandemics. GAO reviewed data, documents, and guidance from federal agencies about their activities and interviewed federal and state officials, as well as industry representatives. GAO is making 16 new recommendations for agencies that are detailed in this Highlights and in the report. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Housing: Preliminary Analysis of Homeownership Trends for Nine CitiesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Following a decade of decline, including after the 2007–2009 financial crisis, the national homeownership rate started to recover in 2016 (see figure). Homeownership Rate in the United States, 1990–2018 Note: Shaded areas indicate U.S. recessions. However, not all Americans have benefitted from the recovery, even in housing markets that appear to be thriving. GAO examined homeownership trends during 2010–2018 in nine core-based statistical areas (cities)—Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, South Carolina; Denver; Houston; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. In summary, among the nine cities reviewed, GAO found that during 2010–2018: The homeownership rate declined or was flat in all cities. The homeownership rate significantly declined in Chicago, Cleveland, and Houston and remained statistically unchanged in the other cities. Average home prices grew in all cities, but at considerably different rates. For example, real house prices increased significantly in Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle but much less in Chicago, Cleveland, and Columbia. The homeowner vacancy rate dropped in all cities, indicating growing constraints on the housing supply. Most significantly, by 2018, the three cities with the largest house price increases—Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle—all had homeowner vacancy rates below 1 percent and the three lowest rental vacancy rates (below 5 percent), indicating more severe constraints on supply. Most cities became denser, and some also expanded outward. Cities such as Houston and Washington, D.C., both became denser (added more housing units in developed areas) and expanded outward (added housing units in previously undeveloped areas), while cities such as Seattle and Denver grew largely by adding more density to already high-density areas. Chicago, and Pittsburgh became less dense, as limited growth came largely through outward expansion. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly higher-income. All nine cities saw growth in the estimated number and percentage of households reporting annual incomes of $150,000 or more (the highest income category reported by Census). Similarly, with the exception of Columbia, real median incomes of borrowers increased in the selected cities. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly older and more diverse. Most cities saw growth in homeownership among households aged 60 and older, often with corresponding decreases among younger owners. Additionally, loan originations by minority borrowers increased in all cities. GAO's analysis of homeownership trends in these nine cities during 2010–2018 illustrates two main points: (1) Cities grew differently and accommodated growth to differing degrees, and (2) who owns and who can buy a home differs by location and type of buyer, sometimes substantially. Historically, owning a home has been one of the primary ways Americans built wealth and financial security. This is one reason why the availability and price of housing is consequential to both households and policymakers. GAO was asked to assess the state of the current domestic housing market and this report, one in a series, focuses on homeownership trends. To conduct this work, GAO used data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data (loan and application data filed by mortgage lenders), among other sources, to identify trends in nine selected cities during 2010–2018, the most current data available at the time of GAO's review. This report examines trends prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and does not account for the profound effect it likely will have on homeowners. GAO has ongoing work that will examine implementation of foreclosure and eviction protections authorized in recent legislation. GAO makes no recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Puerto Rico Electricity: FEMA and HUD Have Not Approved Long-Term Projects and Need to Implement Recommendations to Address Uncertainties and Enhance ResilienceBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020As of October 2020, 3 years since the hurricanes destroyed much of Puerto Rico's electricity grid, neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had approved long-term grid recovery projects in Puerto Rico. In 2019, GAO made four recommendations to FEMA and HUD to address identified challenges in rebuilding the electricity grid in Puerto Rico. As of October 2020, FEMA had fully implemented one recommendation and partially implemented two others, while HUD had not implemented its recommendation. Specifically, FEMA established an interagency agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) to clarify how the agencies would consult on recovery efforts. FEMA had taken actions to partially implement recommendations on improving coordination among federal and local agencies and providing information on industry standards. However, further steps are needed, including finalizing guidance on FEMA's process for approving funding for projects. Regarding HUD, it has not addressed GAO's recommendation to establish time frames and requirements for available funding. Damaged Power Lines in Puerto Rico in November 2017 after Hurricane Maria Until HUD and FEMA implement GAO's recommendations, uncertainty will linger about how and when federal funding for long-term grid recovery will proceed. In particular, it is uncertain how available funding sources will support measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, such as smart grid technology. FEMA officials told GAO that additional funding sources could be used for resilience measures but that this would not be determined until specific projects are submitted to FEMA for approval. Moreover, although FEMA finalized a $10 billion cost estimate for grid repairs in September 2020, several steps remain before FEMA approves funding for projects—a process officials said they were drafting. HUD funding could supplement FEMA funding but, as discussed above, HUD has yet to establish conditions for using these funds and has not established time frames and a plan for issuing this information. According to HUD officials, they plan to publish requirements in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, but this depends on other factors, such as input from other federal agencies. Further delays in publishing the conditions could contribute to delays in Puerto Rico's ability to initiate grid recovery projects. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged Puerto Rico's electricity grid, causing the longest blackout in U.S. history. It took roughly 11 months after the hurricanes for power to be restored to all of the customers with structures deemed safe for power restoration. Since electricity service has been restored, local entities have undertaken the longer-term task of more fully repairing and rebuilding the grid. GAO reported in 2019 on challenges hindering progress in rebuilding the grid and recommended that FEMA and HUD take actions to address these challenges. This report examines the status of efforts to support long-term grid recovery in Puerto Rico, including actions taken by FEMA and HUD to implement GAO's 2019 recommendations. For this report, GAO assessed agency actions; reviewed relevant reports, regulations, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal and local officials. GAO previously made three recommendations to FEMA and one to HUD to provide needed information and improve coordination to support grid recovery. Both agencies disagreed with GAO's characterization of their progress made addressing these prior recommendations. GAO continues to believe additional actions are needed to fully implement these recommendations. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Philadelphia Man and Woman Convicted of Tax FraudBy Sam NewsJuly 16, 2021A federal judge convicted two Philadelphia residents at a bench trial of conspiring to defraud the United States and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.[Read More…]
- NASA’s Cold Atom Lab Takes One Giant Leap for Quantum ScienceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020A new study describes [Read More…]
- Spain Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Macroprudential Oversight: Principles for Evaluating Policies to Assess and Mitigate Risks to Financial System StabilityBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021GAO is providing a framework for evaluating macroprudential policy—that is, activities designed to assess and mitigate risks to financial system stability. The framework presents six general components of macroprudential policy and 18 principles (see table), as well as related standards, for establishing the foundation of such policy and putting it into operation. Government actors—such as the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and its member agencies—are responsible for meeting or contributing to framework principles as they relate to the actors' individual areas of macroprudential responsibility or authority. GAO refers to government actors with collective macroprudential policy responsibilities as the macroprudential entity. GAO Framework for Evaluating Macroprudential Policy Component Principles The macroprudential entity should: Mandate and scope Have a clear mandate Have a scope of responsibilities that extends across the financial system Establish measurable and specific intermediate objectives reflecting the full scope of its responsibilities Governance Have a governance structure promoting willingness to mitigate risks to financial stability in a timely manner Have authorities promoting ability to act consistent with mandate and scope Have transparency requirements promoting the effectiveness, legitimacy, and predictability of macroprudential policy Risk assessment Establish a risk-assessment program corresponding to the scope of the financial system and the entity’s intermediate objectives Identify and analyze potential sources of systemic risk Develop criteria to evaluate significance of risk Establish policies and procedures to conduct systematic risk assessments Risk mitigation Develop a range of macroprudential tools consistent with mandate and scope of responsibilities Develop policies and procedures for conducting risk-mitigation activities Evaluation Evaluate effectiveness of its efforts Document and communicate evaluation findings and promptly remediate issues Data and information Use quality data Develop useful information for decision-making Document information appropriately Establish policies and procedures for sharing data and information Source: GAO. | GAO 21 230SP The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established FSOC to identify and respond to threats to financial stability in the United States. Other countries have created similar entities, and a growing body of research has developed around these macroprudential structures and approaches. This report presents a principles-based framework to serve as criteria for assessing the financial stability efforts of FSOC and its member agencies. It is intended as a resource for GAO and other auditors, FSOC and its member agencies, and Congress. It also may be useful to others, both domestically and internationally. In developing this framework, GAO reviewed literature on macroprudential policy, prior GAO reports, relevant laws and regulations, and international risk-management guidelines. GAO also interviewed or held discussion groups with representatives of FSOC and its member agencies; international financial stability entities, supreme audit institutions, and international organizations; public interest and industry groups; former regulators and civil servants; and academic and regulatory experts. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or ClementsM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsJune 23, 2021
- Former Bureau of Prisons Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing an Inmate and Witness TamperingBy Sam NewsJuly 20, 2021Eric Todd Ellis, 32, a former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) corrections officer at the FCI-Aliceville facility in Aliceville, Alabama, pleaded guilty today in federal court to one count of sexual abuse of a ward and one count of tampering with a witness.[Read More…]
- Houston gang member charged for trafficking young teen for sexBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 2, 2021A local gang member has [Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of EnergyBy Sam NewsJune 30, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 20 priority recommendations for the Department of Energy (DOE). Since then, DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have implemented four of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to better ensure subcontract audits are conducted so that DOE may be able to recover unallowable costs within the Contract Disputes Act 6-year limitation period. In June 2021, GAO identified nine additional priority recommendations for DOE, bringing the total number to 25. These recommendations address the following areas: project and program management. contract management. financial and cost information. planning for the future of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. nuclear modernization challenges. DOE's environmental liability. cybersecurity. worker protections. electricity grid resilience. DOE's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Covid-19 Contracting: Observations on Federal Contracting in Response to the PandemicBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Government-wide contract obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic totaled $17.8 billion as of June 11, 2020. Four agencies accounted for 85 percent of total COVID-19 contract obligations (see figure). This report provides available baseline data on COVID-19 federal contract obligations. Contract Obligations in Response to COVID-19 by Department, as of June 11, 2020 About 62 percent of federal contract obligations were for goods to treat COVID-19 patients and protect health care workers—including ventilators, gowns, and N95 respirators. Less than half of total contract obligations were identified as competed (see figure). Top Five Goods and Services and Percentage of Obligations Competed, as of June 11, 2020 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 30, 2020, the United States has documented more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and more than 125,000 deaths due to COVID-19. To facilitate the U.S. response to the pandemic, numerous federal agencies have awarded contracts for critical goods and services to support federal, state, and local response efforts. GAO's prior work on federal emergency response efforts has found that contracts play a key role, and that contracting during an emergency can present unique challenges as officials can face pressure to provide goods and services as quickly as possible. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included a provision for GAO to provide a comprehensive review of COVID-19 federal contracting. This is the first in a series of GAO reports on this issue. This report describes, among other objectives, key characteristics of federal contracting obligations awarded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO work will examine agencies' planning and management of contracts awarded in response to the pandemic, including agencies' use of contracting flexibilities provided by the CARES Act. GAO analyzed data from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation on agencies' reported government-wide contract obligations for COVID-19 through June 11, 2020. GAO also analyzed contract obligations reported at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs—the highest obligating agencies. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or MakM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Acting Assistant Secretary Peterson’s Travel to Democratic Republic of CongoBy Sam NewsJune 14, 2021
- Department Of Justice And U.S. Patent And Trademark Office To Host Public Workshop On Promoting Innovation In The Life Science SectorBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a virtual public workshop on Sept. 23rd and 24th, 2020 to discuss the importance of intellectual property rights and pro-competitive collaborations for life sciences companies, research institutions, and American consumers.[Read More…]
- Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsJanuary 25, 2021In San Antonio today, 22-year-old Cost resident Jaylyn Christopher Molina, aka Abdur Rahim, admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Gregg N. Sofer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division Christopher Combs.[Read More…]
- Courthouse Closures for Hurricane LauraBy Sam NewsAugust 26, 2020Federal courthouses in Louisiana are closed due to the effects of Hurricane Laura.[Read More…]
- Turkey Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Joint Statement on Extended “Troika” on Peaceful Settlement in AfghanistanBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021
- University Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for ChinaBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021An Ohio man and rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China was sentenced to XX months in prison for making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme.[Read More…]
- Once wanted felon sentenced for illegal gun possessionBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021A 42-year-old Corpus [Read More…]
- Arkansas Businessman Pleads Guilty to Income Tax EvasionBy Sam NewsOctober 14, 2020A Bentonville, Arkansas, resident pleaded guilty today to income tax evasion announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- Genetics, Diagnosis, Treatment: NIH Takes On Sickle Cell DiseaseBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020Each year, some 150,000 [Read More…]
- Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Tampa-Area Physician, Pharmacy, and Clinic Owners for Controlled Substances Act ViolationsBy Sam NewsFebruary 19, 2021The United States filed a civil complaint seeking to permanently enjoin the owners of a Tampa-area clinic and pharmacy from unlawfully dispensing opioids and other controlled substances, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- On the First Anniversary of the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi By Sam NewsOctober 27, 2020
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Tony Perkins of Washington Watch with Tony PerkinsBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with South African Minister of Foreign Relations and Cooperation PandorBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021
- Remarks at Perth USAsia CenterBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021Ambassador Atul Keshap, [Read More…]
- Small Business Loans: SBA Generally Incorporated Key Elements for Estimating Subsidy Cost of 7(a) ProgramBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020The Small Business Administration (SBA) develops its subsidy cost estimates for the 7(a) loan guarantee program—that is, estimates of the program's net long-term cost to the government—using a cash flow model. The model uses historical data, econometric equations, and macroeconomic projections to estimate cash flows—such as guarantee fees, SBA purchases of defaulted loans, and recoveries on those loans—for the loans SBA expects to guarantee in the next fiscal year. The net present value of the cash flows (value in current dollars) is the subsidy cost estimate. SBA generally incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimates for the 7(a) program for the fiscal year 2020 budget. Specifically, GAO found that SBA's estimation process was largely consistent with eight key elements GAO previously identified that help ensure subsidy estimates are supported, reliable, and reasonable. For example, SBA generally validated historical data, documented the cash flow model and key assumptions, analyzed the sensitivity of estimates to alternative assumptions, and had documented policies and procedures. SBA made changes in its estimation process that collectively increased the 7(a) program's subsidy cost to $99 million for fiscal year 2020 (a 0.33 percent subsidy rate when expressed as the cost per dollar of credit assistance) from $0 for fiscal year 2019 (0 percent subsidy rate). Some of these changes were routine updates to data and economic assumptions used in the cash flow model, while others were revisions to the estimation process. Additionally, some individual changes increased the subsidy costs, while others decreased it. Some of the changes that had the largest impact on the subsidy rate included the following: Incorporating the President's economic assumptions for fiscal year 2020 decreased the rate by 0.27 percentage points. Updating the basis for the size and composition of the loan cohort SBA expected to guarantee in fiscal year 2020 increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. Revising the methodology for estimating purchase amounts for defaulted loans to better reflect the outstanding loan balance at the time of purchase increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. The 7(a) program is SBA's largest loan guarantee program for small businesses, with about $95 billion in outstanding loan principal as of the end of fiscal year 2019. Federal agencies that provide credit assistance are generally required to estimate the net long-term cost to the government—known as the subsidy cost—for each annual cohort of loans. SBA initially estimated a zero subsidy cost for each cohort from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, but estimated that the fiscal year 2020 cohort would have a positive subsidy cost and require appropriations. GAO was asked to evaluate SBA's subsidy estimation process for the 7(a) program. This report examines (1) how SBA estimates 7(a) subsidy costs, (2) the extent to which SBA incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget, and (3) the changes SBA made in its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget. GAO reviewed SBA documentation on its estimation process, including information on SBA's cash flow model, and compared SBA's process to key elements that GAO previously identified ( GAO-16-269 ). GAO also interviewed officials from SBA, the Office of Management and Budget, and outside auditors and contractors that annually review SBA's process and model. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Appointment of António Guterres as UN Secretary-General for a Second TermBy Sam NewsJune 18, 2021
- Two Men Convicted for Roles in $4.5 Million International Telemarketing SchemeBy Sam NewsJuly 16, 2021A federal jury convicted two men Wednesday for their roles in a $4.5 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded victims in the United States from a call center in Costa Rica.[Read More…]
- Cyprus Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentBy Sam NewsJuly 6, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 17 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since then, HUD has implemented 5 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to help HUD strengthen the monitoring of disaster recovery block grant funds and improving information technology management. In June 2021, GAO identified 1 additional priority recommendation for HUD, bringing the total number to 13. This recommendation involved improving the Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process. The 13 recommendations fall into the following areas: Improve Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process Address Ginnie Mae's risk management and staffing-related challenges Strengthen processes to address lead paint hazards Enhance oversight of Moving to Work Improve cybersecurity risk management and workforce planning practices Improve information technology management HUD'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 John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Facing Long Post-Hurricane Recovery, Court in La. Gets Help From FriendsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020Hurricane Laura has left a lasting impact on the Western Louisiana community of Lake Charles, and the federal courthouse could be closed a year or more. Despite the disarray, courts in New Orleans, Texas, and even Alaska have reached out to support the court’s staff in getting back on their feet.[Read More…]
- Texas Man Charged In $24 Million COVID-Relief FraudBy Sam NewsOctober 9, 2020A Dallas-area man was charged in an indictment filed Thursday for his alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking approximately $24.8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Alleges Conditions at Massachusetts Department of Corrections Violate the ConstitutionBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts today concluded an investigation into conditions at the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC).[Read More…]
- Texas Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Tax FraudBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021A Texas resident pleaded guilty Thursday to filing a false individual income tax return.[Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Mark Belling of the Mark Belling ShowBy Sam NewsNovember 11, 2020
- Commemorating World Refugee Day 2021 By Sam NewsJune 20, 2021
- COVID-19: Efforts to Increase Vaccine Availability and Perspectives on Initial ImplementationBy Sam NewsApril 14, 2021What GAO Found The federal government has taken several actions to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses and indicated it expects to have enough doses available for all adults in the United States by the end of May. As of April 1, 2021, the government had purchased 1.2 billion doses of one- and two-dose regimen vaccines. Also, vaccine companies reported making additional manufacturing sites operational, among other actions to expand capacity and mitigate challenges. Federal officials said projecting future availability of vaccine doses can be difficult, in part because of uncertainty surrounding complex manufacturing processes. Given this uncertainty, coupled with the significant manufacturing and distribution increases needed to have enough vaccine doses available for all adults, managing public expectations is critical. GAO's prior work has found that timely, clear, and consistent communication about vaccine availability is essential to ensure public confidence and trust, especially as initial vaccine implementation did not match expectations. COVID-19 Vaccination Site Stakeholders GAO interviewed identified challenges with initial COVID-19 vaccine implementation. For example, some stakeholders said states often did not have information critical to distribution at the local level, such as how many doses they would receive and when. The federal government has begun initiatives—outlined in a national response strategy—to improve implementation, such as creating new vaccination sites. In its March 2021 distribution strategy, CDC provided a high-level description of its activities and noted that more details would be included in future reports to Congress. To meet the expectations set by recent announcements, such as the planned expansion of vaccine eligibility to all adults and the introduction of tools to help individuals find vaccines, it will be imperative that the federal government effectively coordinate and communicate its plans, as GAO recommended in September 2020. Why GAO Did This Study Providing the public with safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19 is crucial to mitigating the public health and economic impacts of the disease. The U.S. had almost 30 million reported cases and over 545,000 reported deaths as of March 27, 2021. The federal government took a critical step in December 2020 in authorizing the first two COVID-19 vaccines and beginning distribution of doses across the nation. The government had distributed about 180.6 million vaccine doses, and about 147.8 million doses had been administered, as of March 27, 2021, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines, among other issues, actions the federal government has taken to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses, and challenges with initial vaccine implementation—that is, prioritizing, allocating, distributing, and administering vaccine doses—identified by stakeholders and steps the federal government has taken to improve vaccine implementation. GAO reviewed documents from the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, transcripts of public briefings, data from CDC, and interviewed or received written responses from federal officials, vaccine company representatives, and select public health stakeholders. GAO incorporated technical comments from the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as appropriate. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Justice Department and Board of Elections of Oneida County, New York, Reach Agreement under National Voter Registration Act and Help America Vote ActBy Sam NewsJuly 12, 2021The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a proposed consent decree to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the Board of Elections of Oneida County, New York.[Read More…]
- Vivint Smart Homes Inc. to Pay $3.2 Million to Resolve Allegations of False Statements to Federally Insured BankBy Sam NewsJanuary 6, 2021Vivint Smart Home Inc. (Vivint), based in Provo, Utah, has agreed to pay the United States $3.2 million to resolve allegations under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) that Vivint employees made false statements to secure financing for customers’ purchases of Vivint’s home monitoring products, the Justice Department announced today. FIRREA imposes civil penalties on any person or entity that violates certain predicate federal statutes.[Read More…]
- Cambodia National DayBy Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020
- Florida Tire Importer Pleads Guilty in Tax ConspiracyBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020A Miami, Florida, tire importer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the government, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida.[Read More…]
- Lao People’s Democratic Republic National DayBy Sam NewsDecember 2, 2020