Office of the Spokesperson
In a concrete sign of the enduring U.S. – Thai alliance and friendship, Ambassador Michael George DeSombre, Consul General Sean K. O’Neill, Thai Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi, and Chiang Mai Governor Charoenrit Sanguansat broke ground today on the new U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The new U.S. Consulate General will provide a secure, modern, and resilient platform for the conduct of U.S. diplomacy in northern Thailand. Ennead Architects of New York, NY is the design architect for the project and B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, AL is the construction contractor. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.
Throughout this project, an estimated $45 million will be invested in the local economy. The project will employ an estimated 600 American, Thai, and third-country nationals. Approximately 70% of the workforce will be recruited from the local labor pool. Many of these workers will gain new skills that will help distinguish them from other construction workers in the local labor market.
Since the start of the U.S. Department of State’s Capital Security Construction Program in 1999, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has completed 162 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 51 projects in design or under construction.
OBO provides safe, secure, functional, and resilient facilities that represent the U.S. government to the host nation and support the Department’s achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives abroad. These facilities represent American values and the best in American architecture, design, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture, and construction execution.
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- Foreign Assistance: USAID Needs to Improve Its Strategic Planning to Address Current and Future Workforce NeedsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) oversees U.S. foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries. In 2003, GAO recommended that USAID develop a comprehensive workforce planning system to better identify its staffing needs and requirements. Key principles for effective strategic workforce planning are important to an agency's ability to carry out its mission. GAO examined (1) changes in USAID's workforce and program funding since 2004, (2) the extent to which it has developed a strategic workforce plan, (3) the efforts it has taken to implement two key human capital initiatives, and (4) the challenges and constraints that affect its workforce planning and management. To conduct the work, GAO analyzed staffing and program funding data; reviewed documentation related to the agency's workforce planning; and interviewed officials in Washington, D.C., and at six overseas missions selected to obtain an appropriate mix of geographic coverage, programs, and workforce size and composition.USAID's workforce declined 2.7 percent from 2004 to 2009. While the decline is primarily due to decreases in the number of U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors, these staff continue to comprise the majority of USAID's workforce. Over the same period USAID's program funding increased 92 percent to $17.9 billion. USAID also faces some workforce gaps and vacancies at the six missions visited by GAO. Mission officials cited recruiting difficulties and the need for staff in priority countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as factors contributing to these vacancies. According to mission officials, it is not uncommon for positions to remain vacant for a lengthy period. During this time staff may assume multiple responsibilities and accept additional workload, which present some challenges in the agency's ability to manage and oversee its activities. For example, workforce gaps and heavy workload may limit mission staff's ability to travel to the field to monitor and evaluate the implementation of projects. USAID's 5-year workforce plan for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 discusses the agency's challenges and the steps it has taken and plans to take to strengthen its workforce. However, the plan lacks several key elements that GAO has identified as critical to strategic workforce planning. For example, the plan generally does not include a major portion of USAID's workforce--U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors. In particular, it is not comprehensive in its analysis of workforce and competency gaps and the staffing levels that the agency requires to meet its program needs and goals. USAID has taken actions to implement two key initiatives specified in its workforce plan--a workforce planning model and expansion of its Foreign Service--but it generally lacks documented plans to help ensure they are implemented successfully. For example, USAID implemented the workforce planning model to project its workforce and budgetary needs, but it has not developed plans for providing all missions comprehensive information about the model and its projections to inform missions of how it will affect their workforce planning. In addition, USAID has not fully met its Foreign Service hiring targets nor developed plans for how it will meet its hiring goals, and it has not planned the required overseas training assignments for all new hires to help ensure that missions have the necessary resources and mentors. USAID faces several challenges in its workforce planning and management. First, USAID lacks a sufficiently reliable and comprehensive system to record the number, location, and occupation of its staff. Second, according to mission officials, operating in an uncertain environment with shifting program priorities and funding can make it difficult to ensure that missions have the staff available with the necessary skills when needed. Third, the processes USAID must use to plan for the placement of its overseas staff require coordination with State; however, USAID has not consistently developed and shared its plans for the numbers and specific locations for these assignments. GAO recommends that USAID take several actions to develop more comprehensive workforce plans and improve its workforce data. USAID concurred with GAO's findings and recommendations.[Read More…]
- Global War on Terrorism: Observations on Funding, Costs, and Future CommitmentsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the President announced a Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), requiring the collective instruments of the entire federal government to counter the threat of terrorism. Ongoing military and diplomatic operations overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, constitute a key part of GWOT. These operations involve a wide variety of activities such as combating insurgents, civil affairs, capacity building, infrastructure reconstruction, and training military forces of other nations. The U.S. has reported substantial costs to date for GWOT related activities and can expect to incur significant costs for an unspecified time in the future, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces increasing long-range fiscal challenges. GAO has issued several reports on current and future financial commitments required to support GWOT military operations, as well as diplomatic efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. This testimony discusses (1) the funding Congress has appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) and other U.S. government agencies for GWOT-related military operations and reconstruction activities since 2001; (2) costs reported for these operations and activities and the reliability of DOD's reported costs, and (3) issues with estimating future U.S. financial commitments associated with continued involvement in GWOT.Since 2001, Congress has appropriated about $430 billion to DOD and other government agencies for military and diplomatic efforts in support of GWOT. This funding has been provided through regular appropriations as well as supplemental appropriations, which are provided outside of the normal budget process. Since September 2001, DOD has received about $386 billion for GWOT military operations. In addition, agencies including the Department of State, DOD, and the Agency for International Development have received since 2001 about $44 billion to fund reconstruction and stabilization programs in Iraq ($34.5 billion) and Afghanistan ($9 billion) and an additional $400 million to be used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001, U.S. government agencies have reported significant costs associated with GWOT, but GAO has concerns with the reliability of DOD's reported cost data. Through April 2006, DOD has reported about $273 billion in incremental costs for GWOT-related operations overseas--costs that would not otherwise have been incurred. DOD's reported GWOT costs and appropriated amounts differ generally because DOD's cost reporting does not capture some items such as intelligence and Army modular force transformation. Also, DOD has not yet used funding made available for multiple years, such as procurement and military construction. GAO's prior work found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation. As a result, neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs. GAO made several recommendations to improve the reliability and reporting of GWOT costs. In addition to reported costs for military operations, U.S. agencies have obligated about $23 billion of $30 billion received for Iraqi reconstruction and stabilization, as of January 2006. U.S commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces increasing fiscal challenges in the years ahead; however, predicting future costs is difficult as they depend on several direct and indirect cost variables. For DOD, these include the extent and duration of military operations, force redeployment plans, and the amount of damaged or destroyed equipment needed to be repaired or replaced. Future cost variables for other U.S. government agencies include efforts to help form governments and build capable and loyal security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and meet the healthcare needs of veterans, including providing future disability payments and medical services.[Read More…]
- Indian Cancer Drug Manufacturer Agrees to Plead Guilty and Pay $50 Million for Concealing and Destroying Records in Advance of FDA InspectionBy Sam NewsFebruary 9, 2021Indian drug manufacturer Fresenius Kabi Oncology Limited (FKOL) has agreed to plead guilty to concealing and destroying records prior to a 2013 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plant inspection and pay $50 million in fines and forfeiture, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
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- Rebuilding Iraq: Status of Funding and Reconstruction EffortsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Rebuilding Iraq is a U.S. national security and foreign policy priority and constitutes the largest U.S. assistance program since World War II. Billions of dollars in grants, loans, assets, and revenues from various sources have been made available or pledged to the reconstruction of Iraq. The United States, along with its coalition partners and various international organizations and donors, has embarked on a significant effort to rebuild Iraq following multiple wars and decades of neglect by the former regime. The U.S. effort to restore Iraq's basic infrastructure and essential services is important to attaining U.S. military and political objectives in Iraq and helping Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. This report provides information on (1) the funding applied to the reconstruction effort and (2) U.S. activities and progress made in the oil, power, water, and health sectors and key challenges that these sectors face.As of March 2005, the United States, Iraq, and international donors had pledged or made available more than $60 billion for security, governance, and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The United States provided about $24 billion (for fiscal years 2003 through 2005) largely for security and reconstruction activities. Of this amount, about $18 billion had been obligated and about $9 billion disbursed. The State department has reported that since July 2004, about $4.7 billion of $18.4 billion in fiscal year 2004 funding has been realigned from large electricity and water projects to security, economic development, and smaller immediate impact projects. From May 2003 through June 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) controlled $23 billion in Iraqi revenues and assets, which was used primarily to fund the operations of the Iraqi government. The CPA allocated a smaller portion of these funds--about $7 billion--for relief and reconstruction projects. Finally, international donors pledged $13.6 billion over 4 years (2004 through 2007) for reconstruction activities, about $10 billion in the form of loans and $3.6 billion in the form of grants. Iraq had accessed $436 million of the available loans as of March 2005. As of the same date, donors had deposited more than $1 billion into funds for multilateral grant assistance, which disbursed about $167 million for the Iraqi elections and other activities, such as education and health projects. The U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq has undertaken many activities in the oil, power, water, and health sectors and has made some progress, although multiple challenges confront each sector. The U.S. has completed projects in Iraq that have helped to restore basic services, such as rehabilitating oil wells and refineries, increasing electrical generation capacity, restoring water treatment plants, and reestablishing Iraqi basic health care services. However, as of May 2005, Iraq's crude oil production and overall power generation were lower than before the 2003 conflict, although power levels have increased recently; some completed water projects were not functioning as intended; and construction at hospital and clinics is under way. Reconstruction efforts continue to face challenges such as rebuilding in an insecure environment, ensuring the sustainability of completed projects, and measuring program results.[Read More…]
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- Health Care Capsule: Racial and Ethnic Health DisparitiesBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2021This capsule draws from a number of GAO reports to describe examples of racial and ethnic health disparities, barriers that may contribute to disparities, and federal efforts to help address them. In this capsule, GAO cites policy considerations and reiterates recommendations to improve gaps in race and ethnicity data. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or HundrupA@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Federalism: Opportunities Exist to Improve Coordination and Consultation with State and Local GovernmentsBy Sam NewsSeptember 8, 2020Federal agencies' intergovernmental affairs activities advance agency objectives that require coordination with state and local governments. Most of the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies GAO surveyed reported undertaking similar information-sharing and coordination activities, such as serving as liaisons, conducting outreach, and hosting and attending events. The agencies GAO surveyed also reported taking varied approaches to structuring their intergovernmental affairs operations to conduct these activities. Of the 20 agencies with agency-wide intergovernmental affairs offices, half focused on intergovernmental affairs as their sole function while the other half included multiple functions, such as congressional or legislative affairs. How Agencies Organized Their Intergovernmental Affairs Operations Most agencies also reported that intergovernmental affairs activities and responsibilities were dispersed across their agencies. Regional and program offices perform intergovernmental affairs functions at some agencies, while others have an agency-wide office for them. Responsibilities for consulting with state and local governments under Executive Order (E.O.) 13132 also varied. The order requires that each federal agency designate an official to implement the order. Fourteen agencies reported having such an official; 10 did not report having one. Representatives from state and local associations GAO interviewed reported interacting with federal agency intergovernmental affairs offices for outreach and information-sharing purposes. They also cited coordination and consultation challenges, such as difficulty identifying intergovernmental affairs contacts, limited federal agency knowledge of state and local government, and inconsistent consultation on proposed regulations. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has primary responsibility for implementing E.O. 13132 and related implementation guidance, including a requirement for the designation of a federalism official. However, OMB could not identify any oversight steps it had taken to ensure federal agencies' designation of a federalism official consistent with its guidance for implementation of the executive order. Taking steps to ensure federal agencies' designation of a federalism official could help ensure that agencies have an accountable process in place for appropriately consulting with state and local governments. Federal programs fulfilling national goals in education, health care, transportation infrastructure, and homeland security, among other issues, are implemented through a complex partnership between federal, state, and local governments. E.O. 13132, Federalism, outlines principles and criteria to guide the formulation and implementation of policies and the appropriate division of responsibilities between levels of government. GAO was asked to review intergovernmental affairs activities at executive branch agencies. This report (1) identifies intergovernmental affairs offices' key responsibilities and activities at selected federal agencies and how these offices are organized, and (2) assesses state and local government officials' interaction with intergovernmental affairs offices, including their reported strengths and challenges. GAO examined relevant policies and executive orders and surveyed officials from the 24 CFO Act agencies. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizable sample of individuals from 10 associations representing state and local government officials. GAO is recommending that OMB ensure that federal agencies implement its guidance on agency adherence to E.O. 13132 requirements, particularly related to designating a federalism official. OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Pennsylvania Biofuel Company and Owners Sentenced on Environmental and Tax Crime Convictions Arising out of Renewable Fuels FraudBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020Two biofuel company owners were sentenced to prison for conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conspiracy to defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim.[Read More…]
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