September 22, 2021

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Statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Regarding Texas SB8

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<div>The U.S. Department of Justice today issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland regarding Texas SB8: </div>
The U.S. Department of Justice today issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland regarding Texas SB8: 

More from: September 5, 2021

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  • [Protest of Air Force Contract Award for Modernization Support Services]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested an Air Force contract award for systems modernization support services, contending that the Air Force: (1) unreasonably determined that its proposal represented a moderate risk; (2) treated the protester and the awardee unfairly in the evaluation of the two firms' proposed architectures; (3) inappropriately evaluated its bid under the development-implementation processes evaluation factor; (4) should have considered the awardee's poor past performance on three large programs; and (5) should have rejected the awardee's proposal, since the solicitation prohibited the submission of more than one proposal by a bidder. GAO held that the Air Force: (1) reasonably determined the protester's bid represented a moderate risk, since its proposed architecture was based upon emerging technology and would require a substantial amount of custom software development; (2) treated the protester and the awardee fairly in the risk assessment; (3) appropriately considered the bidder's past performance in the bid evaluation, since the solicitation criteria provided for consideration of bidder's relevant experience; (4) properly limited its consideration of the awardee's performance to those procurements that the awardee itself performed as opposed to those performed by affiliated entities; and (5) properly accepted proposals from the awardee and an affiliated entity, since each were a separate business entity within a larger corporation. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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  • Overstay Tracking: A Key Component of Homeland Security and a Layered Defense
    In U.S GAO News
    Each year, millions of visitors, foreign students, and immigrants come to the United States. Foreign visitors may enter on a legal temporary basis--that is, with an authorized period of admission that expires on a specific date--either (1) with temporary visas (generally for tourism, business, or work) or, in some cases, (2) as tourists or business visitors who are allowed to enter without visas. (The latter include Canadians and qualified visitors from 27 countries who enter under the visa waiver program.) The majority of visitors who are tracked depart on time, but others overstay--and since September 11, 2001, the question has arisen as to whether overstay issues might have an impact on domestic security. In this report, we (1) describe available data on the extent of overstaying, (2) report on weaknesses in the Department of Homeland Security's long-standing overstay tracking system, and (3) provide some observations on the impact that tracking system weaknesses and significant levels of overstaying may have on domestic security.Significant numbers of foreign visitors overstay their authorized periods of admission. Based in part on its long-standing I-94 system for tracking arrivals and departures, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the overstay population for January 2000 at 2.3 million. But this estimate (1) excludes an unknown number of long-term overstays from Mexico and Canada, and by definition (2) excludes short-term overstays from these and other countries. Because of unresolved weaknesses in DHS's long-standing tracking system (e.g., noncollection of some departure forms), there is no accurate list of overstays. Tracking system weaknesses make it difficult to monitor potentially suspicious aliens who enter the country legally--and limit immigration control options. Post-September 11 operations identified thousands of overstays and other illegal immigrant workers who (despite limited background checks) had obtained critical infrastructure jobs and security badges with access to, for example, airport tarmacs and U.S. military bases. As of April 2004, federal investigators had arrested more than 1,360 illegal workers, while the majority had eluded apprehension. Together with other improvements, better information on overstays might contribute to a layered national defense that is better able to counter threats from foreign terrorists. A more comprehensive system, US-VISIT, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, is being phased in. The design and implementation of US-VISIT, however, face a number of challenges. It is important that this new program avoid specific weaknesses associated with the long-standing system. Checking for these weaknesses might help identify difficult challenges in advance and--together with other efforts--enhance USVISIT's chances for eventual success as a tracking system.
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  • United States Seizes Oil Tanker Used to Violate Sanctions Against North Korea
    In Crime News
    A New York federal court today entered a judgment of forfeiture regarding the M/T Courageous, a 2,734-ton oil-products tanker used to make illicit deliveries of petroleum products through ship-to-ship transfers with vessels flagged in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) and direct shipments to the North Korean port of Nampo.
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    In Crime News
    Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division issued the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement concerning their proposed rules to support enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act:
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  • Public Health Preparedness: Information on the Use of Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers during Emergencies
    In U.S GAO News
    Almost all states have a network of health care volunteers—the Medical Reserve Corps—who can augment federal, state, and local capabilities in response to public health emergencies, such as those arising from wildfires and hurricanes, and infectious disease outbreaks. Having sufficient, trained personnel, such as these volunteers, is critical to a state's capability to respond and recover from public health emergencies. According to federal data, 48 states and the District of Columbia reported 102,767 health care volunteers in 838 Medical Reserve Corps units as of September 2019, with nurses making up 43 percent. Number of Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers by Type, as of September 2019 Note: These data illustrate 90 percent of total health care volunteers. The remaining five types volunteers each make up less than 5 percent of the total. Other Public Health Medical volunteers may include cardiovascular technicians, sonographers, and phlebotomists. Medical Reserve Corps volunteers in states included in GAO's review—Alabama, California, North Carolina, and New Mexico—were deployed in response to natural disasters in 2018 and 2019, migrants at the southern border in 2019, and COVID-19 in 2020. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) documentation shows these volunteers performed a variety of health care activities, such as providing medical services, setting up and providing support at shelters, and distributing medical supplies. Volunteers from these four states and others also participated in the response to COVID-19 by supporting testing sites, collecting specimens, and performing administrative tasks, such as data entry. For example, one unit deployed four volunteers a day for 3 days to work alongside nurses at a drive-through testing site. In addition to responding to public health emergencies, volunteers participated in preparedness activities, such as an initiative to train the public on how to respond to emergencies. HHS oversees the Medical Reserve Corps program and has assisted units in developing their volunteer capabilities. For example, HHS funded the development of a checklist of activities that should occur during volunteer deployment such as re-verifying medical credentials; provided training to new unit leaders on developing, managing, and sustaining Medical Reserve Corps units; and issued generally accepted practices, such as periodically re-evaluating volunteer recruitment procedures. The Medical Reserve Corps consists of health care volunteers—medical and public health professionals—who donate their time to help strengthen a response to public health emergencies and build community resilience. These volunteers prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, which may include natural disasters—such as hurricanes and wildfires—as well as disease outbreaks, whether intentional or natural. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 included a provision for GAO to review states' use of health care volunteers during public health emergencies. This report describes (1) the number and type of Medical Reserve Corps volunteers; (2) the types of public health emergencies volunteers have participated in; and (3) how HHS has assisted in developing volunteer capabilities. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed data reported to HHS as of September 2019; reviewed HHS documentation on four states' use of volunteers, which GAO selected based on population, number of volunteers, and event; and interviewed officials from HHS who oversee the Medical Reserve Corps program. GAO plans to further examine how states have used health care volunteers to respond to public health emergencies, including COVID-19, and any associated challenges to doing so in a future report. GAO provided a draft of this report to HHS. In response, HHS provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or deniganmacauleym@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the City of Killeen, Texas to Improve Access for Individuals with Disabilities
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced a settlement with the City of Killeen, Texas, to provide equal access in its programs, services, facilities and activities to individuals with disabilities, including veterans.
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  • VA Health Care: Preliminary Findings on the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Budget Formulation for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006
    In U.S GAO News
    This report documents the information we provided to Congress in a briefing on February 2, 2006, in response to a request concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) internal budget formulation process. This includes information that VA develops for its budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but it does not include information on subsequent interactions that occur between VA and OMB. We will do additional work to incorporate information from OMB and complete our analysis in a report to be issued at a later date. Congress requested information on VA's budget formulation process because of its interest in ensuring that VA's budget forecasts are accurate and based on valid patient estimates. In response to the request for information on VA's internal budget formulation process, this report provides the following for fiscal years 2005 and 2006: (1) a description of VA's process for developing its budget submission to OMB for its medical programs, and the role of VA's actuarial model; (2) a description of the medical program activities cited by VA as needing additional funding, and how VA identified these activities; and (3) key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding.VA's internal process for formulating the medical programs funding requests was informed by, but not driven by, projected demand. VA projected costs based on projected demand for medical care under current policy. Throughout the process, VA compared projected costs to its anticipated request level for the OMB submission and made adjustments to address the difference. VA officials stated that this was done in two ways: through cost-saving policy proposals, such as assessing an annual health care enrollment fee, and management efficiencies. After making adjustments to address the difference between projected costs and its anticipated request level, VA developed its budget submission for OMB. VA later cited a number of activities as needing additional funding based on programmatic priorities and an analysis of expenditure data. Among the activities that were cited for fiscal year 2005 was $273 million for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; $226 million for long-term care; and almost $400 million for increases in the number of patients, as well as increases in both utilization and intensity of care. For the fiscal year 2006 budget, VA cited $677 million to cover a 2 percent increase in the number of patients, $600 million to correct VA's estimate for long-term care costs, $400 million for an unexpected 1.2 percent increase in average cost per patient, and $300 million to replace funds VA planned to carry over from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that they chose to highlight activities that were of high programmatic priority and could be supported by workload and expenditure data (e.g. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan). They also reviewed spending and workload trends to determine whether spending trends were on target or whether adjustments were needed. An unrealistic assumption, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding. According to VA, an unrealistic assumption about the speed with which VA could implement a policy to reduce nursing home patient workload in VA-operated nursing homes for fiscal year 2005 led to a need for additional funds. VA officials told us that errors in estimating the effect of a nursing home policy to reduce workload in all three of its nursing home settings--VA-operated nursing homes, community nursing homes, and state veterans' nursing homes--accounted for a request for additional funding for fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that the error resulted from calculations being made in haste during the OMB appeal process. Finally, VA officials told us that insufficient data on certain activities contributed to the requests for additional funds for both years. For example, inadequate data on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an underestimate in the initial funding request.
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  • Two Alleged Hackers Charged with Defacing Websites Following Killing of Qasem Soleimani
    In Crime News
    Two alleged computer hackers were indicted in the District of Massachusetts on charges of damaging multiple websites across the United States as retaliation for United States military action in January 2020 that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
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  • General Aviation: Stakeholders Expressed Mixed Views of FAA Policies on Private Pilot Expense Sharing
    In U.S GAO News
    The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) primary rationale for its policies on private pilots' sharing expenses with passengers is based on passenger expectations of safety. FAA policies allow private pilots to share the cost of certain flight expenses with passengers but prohibit these pilots from engaging in “common carriage,” which is communicating to the public a willingness to fly in exchange for compensation. These policies generally prohibit pilots from using the internet to find passengers. FAA officials said these policies are in place because they are concerned the public might expect a similar level of safety on private expense-sharing flights as commercial flights. However, the safety record of commercial aviation is better than that of private flying (general aviation). For example, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), commercial carriers had a fatal accident rate around 30 times lower than general aviation in 2018. FAA officials said their goal for FAA's 2020 guidance on expense sharing was to restate and clarify existing policies. Example of an Aircraft Private Pilots Could Use for Expense-Sharing Flights Stakeholders described benefits of expense sharing but expressed mixed views on FAA's policies and guidance. For example, stakeholders cited potential economic benefits to the general aviation sector and a potential expansion of the pool of future professional pilots as benefits of expense sharing. Most (eight of 13) stakeholders said FAA's 2020 guidance on expense-sharing is clear and provides sufficient information. However, some stakeholders said the guidance could provide more definitive examples of allowed expense-sharing flights, and others disagreed with how FAA defined certain concepts such as how pilots can be compensated for flying passengers. Also, stakeholders split on whether FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find expense-sharing passengers. Seven of 15 stakeholders, including four representatives from companies with expense-sharing applications, said FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find these passengers by citing, for example, ongoing positive experiences in Europe. However, eight stakeholders, including six of seven professional organizations, said FAA should not. These stakeholders cited safety-related risks of expense sharing including what they characterized as FAA's limited capacity to enforce current regulations and flights using less experienced pilots. Private flying is expensive, and FAA allows private pilots to reduce their costs by carrying passengers and sharing certain flight expenses with them. However, private pilots cannot engage in common carriage. If pilots do engage in common carriage, they are subject to FAA's more stringent regulations covering commercial air carriers. Some private pilots have sought to use internet applications to find expense-sharing passengers. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directed FAA to issue advisory guidance clarifying how private pilots may share expenses. In February 2020, FAA released this guidance as an advisory circular. The Act also includes a provision for GAO to review FAA's policies on expense sharing. This report describes: (1) FAA's rationale for its policies on how private pilots may find expense-sharing passengers and (2) selected stakeholder perspectives on FAA's policies and the risks and benefits of arranging these expense-sharing flights online. GAO interviewed FAA officials on how FAA developed its policies and guidance related to expense sharing. GAO also reviewed FAA's data on enforcement actions related to expense sharing and safety data from NTSB. In addition, GAO interviewed a non-generalizable sample of 15 private-sector stakeholders, including professional organizations, such as trade groups representing general aviation pilots, companies that developed expense-sharing internet applications, and flying clubs. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Rebuilding Iraq: Stabilization, Reconstruction, and Financing Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States, along with coalition partners and various international organizations, has undertaken a challenging and costly effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq following multiple wars and decades of neglect by the former regime. This enormous effort is taking place in an unstable security environment, concurrent with Iraqi efforts to transition to its first permanent government. The United States' goal is to help the Iraqi government develop a democratic, stable, and prosperous country, at peace with itself and its neighbors, a partner in the war against terrorism, enjoying the benefits of a free society and a market economy. In this testimony, GAO discusses the challenges (1) that the United States faces in its rebuilding and stabilization efforts and (2) that the Iraqi government faces in financing future requirements. This statement is based on four reports GAO has issued to the Congress since July 2005 and recent trips to Iraq. Since July 2005, we have issued reports on (1) the status of funding and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, focusing on the progress achieved and challenges faced in rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure; (2) U.S. reconstruction efforts in the water and sanitation sector; (3) U.S. assistance for the January 2005 Iraqi elections; and (4) U.S. efforts to stabilize the security situation in Iraq (a classified report).The United States faces three key challenges in rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq. First, the security environment and the continuing strength of the insurgency have made it difficult for the United States to transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces and progressively draw down U.S. forces. The security situation in Iraq has deteriorated since June 2003, with significant increases in attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces. In addition, the security situation has affected the cost and schedule of rebuilding efforts. The State Department has reported that security costs represent 16 to 22 percent of the overall costs of major infrastructure projects. Second, inadequate performance data and measures make it difficult to determine the overall progress and impact of U.S. reconstruction efforts. The United States has set broad goals for providing essential services in Iraq, but limited performance measures present challenges in determining the overall impact of U.S. projects. Third, the U.S. reconstruction program has encountered difficulties with Iraq's inability to sustain new and rehabilitated infrastructure projects and to address basic maintenance needs in the water, sanitation, and electricity sectors. U.S. agencies are working to develop better performance data and plans for sustaining rehabilitated infrastructure. As the new Iraqi government forms, it must plan to secure the financial resources it will need to continue the reconstruction and stabilization efforts begun by the United States and international community. Iraq will likely need more than the $56 billion that the World Bank, United Nations, and CPA estimated it would require for reconstruction and stabilization efforts from 2004 to 2007. More severely degraded infrastructure, post-2003 conflict looting and sabotage, and additional security costs have added to the country's basic reconstruction needs. However, it is unclear how Iraq will finance these additional requirements. While the United States has borne the primary financial responsibility for rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq, its commitments are largely obligated and future commitments are not finalized. Further, U.S. appropriations were never intended to meet all Iraqi needs. In addition, international donors have mostly committed loans that the government of Iraq is just beginning to tap. Iraq's ability to financially contribute to its own rebuilding and stabilization efforts will depend on the new government's efforts to increase revenues obtained from crude oil exports, reduce energy and food subsidies, control government operating expenses, provide for a growing security force, and repay $84 billion in external debt and war reparations.
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  • Security Assistance: State and DOD Need to Assess How the Foreign Military Financing Program for Egypt Achieves U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Goals
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 1979, Egypt has received about $60 billion in military and economic assistance with about $34 billion in the form of foreign military financing (FMF) grants that enable Egypt to purchase U.S.-manufactured military goods and services. In this report, GAO (1) describes the types and amounts of FMF assistance provided to Egypt; (2) assesses the financing arrangements used to provide FMF assistance to Egypt; and (3) evaluates how the U.S. assesses the program's contribution to U.S. foreign policy and security goals.Egypt is currently among the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, along with Israel, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Egypt has received about $1.3 billion annually in U.S. foreign military financing (FMF) assistance and has purchased a variety of U.S.-manufactured military goods and services such as Apache helicopters, F-16 aircraft, and M1A1 tanks, as well as the training and maintenance to support these systems. The United States has provided Egypt with FMF assistance through a statutory cash flow financing arrangement that permits flexibility in how Egypt acquires defense goods and services from the United States. In the past, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) accumulated large undisbursed balances in this program. Because the flexibilities of cash flow financing permit Egypt to pay for its purchases over time, Egypt currently has agreements for U.S. defense articles and services worth over $2 billion--some of which are not due for full payment until 2011. The Departments of State (State) and Defense (DOD) have not conducted an assessment to identify the risks and impacts of a potential shift in FMF funding. Officials and many experts assert that the FMF program to Egypt supports U.S. foreign policy and security goals; however, State and DOD do not assess how the program specifically contributes to these goals. U.S. and Egyptian officials cited examples of Egypt's support for U.S. interests, such as maintaining Egyptian-Israeli peace and providing access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. DOD has not determined how it will measure progress in achieving key goals such as interoperability and modernizing Egypt's military. For example, the U.S. Central Command, the responsible military authority, defines modernization as the ratio of U.S.-to-Soviet equipment in Egypt's inventory and does not include other potentially relevant factors, such as readiness or military capabilities. Achieving interoperability in Egypt is complicated by the lack of a common definition of interoperability and limitations on some types of sensitive equipment transfers. Given the longevity and magnitude of FMF assistance to Egypt, evaluating the degree to which the program meets its goals would be important information for congressional oversight, particularly as Congress assesses the balance between economic and military assistance to Egypt as well as the impact on U.S. foreign policy interests.
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  • Seven MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Violent Crime and Drug Distribution Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, returned a 16-count superseding indictment Wednesday, charging seven MS-13 gang members with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and serious firearm-related offenses, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.
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  • Military Health Care: Defense Health Agency Processes for Responding to Provider Quality and Safety Concerns
    In U.S GAO News
    The Defense Health Agency (DHA) within the Department of Defense (DOD) has established processes for preventing and responding to quality and safety concerns about individual providers delivering health care in military treatment facilities (MTF). Specifically, DHA's August 2019 policy standardized processes for managing health care quality in the Military Health System, which superseded the policies of each of the military services (Air Force, Army, and Navy). These processes include 1) initial and ongoing monitoring of providers; 2) taking action to deny, limit, or remove individual providers' ability to practice, known as adverse privileging action; and 3) reviewing the care delivered by individual providers involved in certain patient safety events, known as potentially compensable event reviews. For example, DHA policy establishes requirements for taking adverse privileging actions against a provider that either limit the care a provider is allowed to deliver at a facility or prevent the provider from delivering care altogether, when warranted. In particular, DHA policy specifies that the provider's privileges should be placed in summary suspension—a temporary removal of all or a portion of the provider's privileges—while a peer conducts an investigation of the concerns. DHA policy also specifies that summary suspensions lasting greater than 30 days, as well as any final adverse privileging actions, must be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB is an electronic repository that collects and releases information on certain adverse actions and medical malpractice payments related to providers. According to DOD officials, 27 DOD providers were reported to the NPDB for a summary suspension lasting greater than 30 days between February 1, 2020—when this requirement was implemented—and September 30, 2020. DHA supports the delivery of health care to servicemembers and their families throughout the Military Health System. As in all health care delivery settings, concerns may arise about the quality and safety of care delivered by individual health care providers at MTFs. For example, patient safety events—incidents that could have resulted or did result in harm to a patient—may occur during the course of providing health care services and may raise questions about the quality and safety of care delivered. DHA is responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of health care delivered by military and civilian health care providers, including contractors, through its clinical quality management program. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review aspects of DOD's clinical quality management program, including its processes for reviewing the quality and safety of providers' care. This report describes DHA's processes for preventing and responding to quality and safety concerns about individual health care providers at MTFs. In future work, GAO will examine the implementation of these processes at MTFs. GAO reviewed documentation that contains policy and guidance for these processes, including DHA's August 2019 procedure manual for managing clinical quality management in the Military Health System. GAO also interviewed officials from DHA and each of the military services. We provided a draft of this report to DOD for review and comment. DOD concurred with our report and provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at(202)512-7114 or Silass@gao.gov.
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