September 25, 2021

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Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud

15 min read

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:‎

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke yesterday with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.  The Secretary and the Foreign Minister discussed important work to advance humanitarian assistance and peace in Yemen, the need to overcome divisions between Gulf countries, and the historic Abraham Accords signing.  They also discussed expectations for a productive U.S.-Saudi Strategic Dialogue in October.

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    In U.S GAO News
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    The U.S. Department of Justice, together with Attorneys General in six states and the District of Columbia, sued today in the District of Massachusetts to block an unprecedented series of agreements between American Airlines and JetBlue through which the two airlines will consolidate their operations in Boston and New York City. The civil antitrust complaint alleges that this extensive combination, which they call the “Northeast Alliance,” will not only eliminate important competition in these cities, but will also harm air travelers across the country by significantly diminishing JetBlue’s incentive to compete with American elsewhere, further consolidating an already highly concentrated industry. 
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    In U.S GAO News
    While the military services—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force—provide an annual clothing allowance to replace uniform items initially issued to enlisted service members, GAO found that some items are excluded from the allowance. This can result in out-of-pocket costs for both female and male enlisted service members. Moreover, DOD's uniform allowance policy does not provide the services with consistent criteria for designating which items are considered uniquely military and included in the allowance, and which items are not and are excluded from the allowance. For example, the Air Force and Marine Corps provide an allowance for an all-weather coat, but the Army does not. We found these differences in replacement allowances can also contribute to differences in out-of-pocket costs by service and gender for enlisted service members (see figure). Developing consistent criteria for uniquely military items and periodically reviewing uniform replacement allowances could strengthen DOD's ability to identify and address any out-of-pocket cost differences across the services as well as between female and male enlisted service members. Number and Total Value of Fiscal Year 2020 Enlisted Service Member Clothing Items Included in the Initial Clothing Issue but Excluded from the Services' Calculations for Standard Cash Clothing Replacement Allowances, by Service and Gender The military services made numerous uniform changes over the past 10 years and the changed uniform items were generally more expensive. GAO found that Navy and Marine Corps female enlisted service members and officers were most affected by uniform changes. In addition, GAO found that uniform changes could result in higher costs for officers who generally pay out-of-pocket for uniform costs. While the services have the authority to determine what uniforms are required for enlisted service members and officers, uniform changes have the potential to drive out-of-pocket costs for both. With equity as an underlying principle for compensation, a review of the services' uniform changes and resulting costs could help minimize out-of-pocket cost differences across the department and between genders. The total value of military uniform items for a newly enlisted service member ranges from about $1,600 to $2,400, depending on the military service. Over the course of their careers, service members must replace and maintain their uniforms. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to study service members' out-of-pocket costs for uniforms. Among other objectives, this report 1) assesses the extent to which differences exist in out-of-pocket costs for enlisted service member uniforms, by military service and by gender; and 2) examines the extent to which the military services have changed uniforms over the past 10 years, and how the costs of these changes have varied by service, enlisted or officer status, and gender. GAO reviewed DOD policies and service data on uniform allowances, enlisted and officer required uniform items and their costs, and changes made to uniforms since 2010. GAO also interviewed relevant DOD officials and service organization representatives. GAO is making four recommendations to improve DOD's understanding of out-of-pocket costs and to address any cost differences, including that it develop consistent criteria for excluding items from replacement allowances and review planned uniform changes. DOD concurred with all four recommendations. For more information, contact Tina Won Sherman at (202) 512-8461 or shermant@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The Army has issued soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan personal body armor, comprising an outer protective vest and ceramic plate inserts. GAO observed Preliminary Design Model testing of new plate designs, which resulted in the Army's awarding contracts in September 2008 valued at a total of over $8 billion to vendors of the designs that passed that testing. Between November and December 2008, the Army conducted further testing, called First Article Testing, on these designs. GAO is reporting on the degree to which the Army followed its established testing protocols during these two tests. GAO did not provide an expert ballistics evaluation of the results of testing. GAO, using a structured, GAO-developed data collection instrument, observed both tests at the Army's Aberdeen Test Center, analyzed data, and interviewed agency and industry officials to evaluate observed deviations from testing protocols. However, independent ballistics testing expertise is needed to determine the full effect of these deviations.During Preliminary Design Model testing the Army took significant steps to run a controlled test and maintain consistency throughout the process, but the Army did not always follow established testing protocols and, as a result, did not achieve its intended test objective of determining as a basis for awarding contracts which designs met performance requirements. In the most consequential of the Army's deviations from testing protocols, the Army testers incorrectly measured the amount of force absorbed by the plate designs by measuring back-face deformation in the clay backing at the point of aim rather than at the deepest point of depression. Army testers recognized the error after completing about a third of the test and then changed the test plan to call for measuring at the point of aim and likewise issued a modification to the contract solicitation. At least two of the eight designs that passed Preliminary Design Model testing and were awarded contracts would have failed if measurements had been made to the deepest point of depression. The deviations from the testing protocols were the result of Aberdeen Test Center's incorrectly interpreting the testing protocols. In all these cases of deviations from the testing protocols, the Aberdeen Test Center's implemented procedures were not reviewed or approved by the Army and Department of Defense officials responsible for approving the testing protocols. After concerns were raised regarding the Preliminary Design Model testing, the decision was made not to field any of the plate designs awarded contracts until after First Article Testing was conducted. During First Article Testing, the Army addressed some of the problems identified during Preliminary Design Model testing, but GAO observed instances in which Army testers did not follow the established testing protocols and did not maintain internal controls over the integrity and reliability of data, raising questions as to whether the Army met its First Article Test objective of determining whether each of the contracted designs met performance requirements. The following are examples of deviations from testing protocols and other issues that GAO observed: (1) The clay backing placed behind the plates during ballistics testing was not always calibrated in accordance with testing protocols and was exposed to rain on one day, potentially impacting test results. (2) Testers improperly rounded down back-face deformation measurements, which is not authorized in the established testing protocols and which resulted in two designs passing First Article Testing that otherwise would have failed. Army officials said rounding is a common practice; however, one private test facility that rounds told GAO that they round up, not down. (3) Testers used a new instrument to measure back-face deformation without adequately certifying that the instrument could function correctly and in conformance with established testing protocols. The impact of this issue on test results is uncertain, but it could call into question the reliability and accuracy of the measurements. (4) Testers deviated from the established testing protocols in one instance by improperly scoring a complete penetration as a partial penetration. As a result, one design passed First Article Testing that would have otherwise failed. With respect to internal control issues, the Army did not consistently maintain adequate internal controls to ensure the integrity and reliability of test data. In one example, during ballistic testing, data were lost, and testing had to be repeated because an official accidentally pressed the delete button and software controls were not in place to protect the integrity of test data. Army officials acknowledged that before GAO's review they were unaware of the specific internal control problems we identified.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) has substantially completed three of five planned phases to renovate the Cannon House Office Building (Cannon project). AOC completed Phase 0 utility work; the Phase 1 work to renovate the building's west side, the Phase 2 work to renovate the building's north side; and work is underway on Phase 3 of the building's east side. Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D. C. From 2009 to 2018, AOC consistently estimated the project cost at $753 million, In 2014, GAO found that AOC's cost estimate of $753 million reflected several of GAO's leading practices for high-quality, reliable cost estimates, including that AOC had conducted a risk and uncertainty analysis. GAO found that AOC's cost estimating policies and guidance did not require a quantitative risk and uncertainty analysis nor the reporting of the resulting confidence level of the estimate. GAO made recommendations for AOC to incorporate leading practices into agency guidance and submit confidence levels of cost estimates to Congress. AOC implemented our recommendations. In January 2018, AOC updated its analysis of risks by undertaking an integrated cost-schedule risk analysis. AOC's 2018 analysis arrived at the same conclusion as its earlier analysis—that the project's estimated $753 million total cost was adequate to complete the project. However, AOC's 2018 analysis indicated that inaccurate estimates of costs for risk mitigations, unknown risks, and optimistic assumptions about the effect of risk mitigations on the project's cost and schedule could affect its total cost. AOC updated the analysis in December 2019 and estimated the project cost at $890 million. Two unknown risks materialized after the December 2019 estimate: the effect of COVID-19 and the January 2021 security events–their impact on the project is uncertain. In its March 2021 project summary, AOC reported that a revised budget would be formulated after the completion of an analysis in December 2021. Toward this end, in May 2021, AOC began updating its integrated cost-schedule risk analysis, with the aim of more accurately determining the extent to which the project's costs are increasing and its estimated cost at completion. Why GAO Did This Study In its Cannon project, the AOC intends to preserve the historic character while improving the functionality of the 113 year-old Cannon Building—the oldest congressional office building—as well as address deterioration to the building and its components. The project—nearing year 7 of its planned 10-year duration—is being implemented in five sequential phases with an initial phase (Phase 0) for utility work and four subsequent phases (Phases 1 through 4) to renovate the north-, south-, east-, and west-facing sides of the building. Each phase is scheduled around a 2-year congressional session. This statement describes: (1) the status of the Cannon project and (2) changes to the project's estimated cost at completion. This statement is based on GAO's prior reports in 2009 and 2014 and ongoing monitoring of the project. To monitor the project, GAO has been observing the ongoing construction, attending project meetings, and analyzing AOC documents.
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