Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On January 20, on his first day in office, President Biden signed the instrument to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement. Per the terms of the Agreement, the United States officially becomes a Party again today.
The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action. We know because we helped design it and make it a reality. Its purpose is both simple and expansive: to help us all avoid catastrophic planetary warming and to build resilience around the world to the impacts from climate change we already see.
Now, as momentous as our joining the Agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important.
You have seen and will continue to see us weaving climate change into our most important bilateral and multilateral conversations at all levels. In these conversations, we’re asking other leaders: how can we do more together?
Climate change and science diplomacy can never again be “add-ons” in our foreign policy discussions. Addressing the real threats from climate change and listening to our scientists is at the center of our domestic and foreign policy priorities. It is vital in our discussions of national security, migration, international health efforts, and in our economic diplomacy and trade talks.
We are reengaging the world on all fronts, including at the President’s April 22nd Leaders’ Climate Summit. And further out, we very much looking forward to working with the United Kingdom and other nations around the world to make COP26 a success.
- Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained DetaineeBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law.[Read More…]
- Stabilization and Reconstruction: Actions Are Needed to Develop a Planning and Coordination Framework and Establish the Civilian Reserve CorpsBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021In 2004, the Department of State created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to coordinate U.S. planning and implementation of stabilization and reconstruction operations. In December 2005, President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD-44), charging State with improving coordination, planning, and implementation of such operations and ensuring that the United States can respond quickly and effectively to overseas crises. GAO was asked to report on State's efforts to improve (1) interagency planning and coordination for stabilization and reconstruction operations, and (2) deployment of civilians to these operations. To address these objectives, we conducted interviews with officials and reviewed documents from U.S. agencies and government and private research centers.The office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is developing a framework for planning and coordinating U.S. reconstruction and stabilization operations. The National Security Council (NSC) has adopted two of three primary elements of the framework--the Interagency Management System and procedures for initiating the framework's use. However, the third element--a guide for planning stabilization and reconstruction operations--is still in progress. We cannot determine how effective the framework will be because it has not been fully applied to any stabilization and reconstruction operation. In addition, guidance on agencies' roles and responsibilities is unclear and inconsistent, and the lack of an agreed-upon definition for stabilization and reconstruction operations poses an obstacle to interagency collaboration. Moreover, some interagency partners stated that senior officials have shown limited support for the framework and S/CRS. Some partners described the new planning process, as presented in early versions of the planning guide, as cumbersome and too time consuming for the results it has produced. S/CRS has taken steps to strengthen the framework by addressing some interagency concerns and providing training to interagency partners. However, differences in the planning capacities and procedures of civilian agencies and the military pose obstacles to effective coordination. State has begun developing three civilian corps that can deploy rapidly to international crises, but key details for establishing and maintaining these units remain unresolved. First, State created the Active Response Corps (ARC) and the Standby Response Corps (SRC) comprised of U.S. government employees to act as first responders to international crises and has worked with several agencies to create similar units. However, these efforts are limited due to State's difficulty in achieving planned staffing levels for ARC, a lack of training available to SRC volunteers, other agencies' inability to secure resources for operations unrelated to their core domestic missions, and the possibility that deploying employees to such operations can leave units without sufficient staff. Second, in 2004, State began developing the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC). CRC would be comprised of U.S. civilians who have skills and experiences useful for stabilization and reconstruction operations, such as police officers, civil engineers, public administrators, and judges that are not readily available within the U.S. government. If deployed, volunteers would become federal workers. S/CRS developed a plan to recruit the first 500 volunteers, and NSC has approved a plan to increase the roster to 2,000 volunteers in 2009. In May 2007, State received the authority to reallocate up to $50 million to support and maintain CRC, but it does not yet have the authority to obligate these funds. In addition, issues related to volunteers' compensation and benefits that could affect CRC recruitment and management would require congressional action. Furthermore, State has not clearly defined the types of missions for which CRC would be deployed. State has estimated the costs to establish and sustain CRC at home, but these costs do not include costs for deploying and sustaining volunteers overseas.[Read More…]
- Public Health: Federal Programs Provide Screening and Treatment for Breast and Cervical CancerBy Sam NewsNovember 30, 2020The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (the Early Detection Program) to provide cancer screening and diagnostic services to people who are low-income and uninsured or underinsured. For those screened under the program who require treatment, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000 (the Treatment Act) allows states to extend Medicaid eligibility to individuals not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. GAO analysis of CDC data show that the Early Detection Program screened 296,225 people in 2018, a decrease from 550,390 in 2011 (about 46 percent). The largest decrease occurred from 2013 to 2014 (see figure). According to a CDC-funded study, the number of people eligible for the Early Detection Program decreased from 2011 through 2017, by about 48 percent for breast cancer and about 49 percent for cervical cancer. CDC officials attributed these declines in screening and eligibility, in part, to improved access to screening under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). For example, PPACA required health plans to cover certain women's preventive health care with no cost sharing. Number of People Screened by CDC's Early Detection Program, 2011-2018 GAO analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) data found that, in 2019, 43,549 people were enrolled in Medicaid under the Treatment Act to receive treatment for breast or cervical cancer, a decrease from 50,219 in 2016 (13.3 percent). Thirty-seven states experienced a decrease in Medicaid enrollment under the Treatment Act during this time period, 13 states experienced an increase, and one state had no change. CMS officials noted that Medicaid expansion to adults with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level under PPACA (the new adult group) is a key factor that contributed to these enrollment trends. CMS officials said that, in Medicaid expansion states, there were some people who previously would have enrolled in Medicaid based on eligibility under the Treatment Act who instead became eligible for Medicaid in the new adult group. The CMS data show that total enrollment under the Treatment Act in Medicaid expansion states decreased by 25.6 percent from 2016 to 2019. In contrast, total enrollment under the Treatment Act in non-expansion states increased by about 1 percent during this time period. According to the CDC, tens of thousands of people die each year from breast or cervical cancer. Early screening and detection, followed by prompt treatment, can improve outcomes and, ultimately, save lives. Federal programs, like CDC's Early Detection Program, are intended to improve access to these services. GAO was asked to examine the implementation of the Early Detection Program and the states' use of Medicaid under the Treatment Act. This report provides information on the number of people who were 1) screened through the Early Detection Program and 2) enrolled in Medicaid under the Treatment Act. GAO analyzed CDC data on the number of people screened by the Early Detection Program from calendar years 2011 through 2018—the most recent available. GAO also analyzed CMS Medicaid enrollment data from 2016 through 2019—the most recent available. Additionally, GAO reviewed a 2020 study funded by CDC that examines the number of people eligible for the Early Detection Program from 2011 through 2017. Finally, GAO interviewed CDC and CMS officials and reviewed relevant CDC and CMS documents. For more information, contact John E. Dicken, (202) 512-7114, email@example.com.[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Election of Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as Prime Minister of SamoaBy Sam NewsJuly 28, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
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- Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021This testimony discusses the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) budget request for fiscal year 2011. This has put us in a better position to assist the Congress in confronting the many difficult challenges facing the nation. In fiscal year 2009, GAO supported Congressional decision making and oversight on a range of critical issues, including the government's efforts to help stabilize financial markets and address the most severe recession since World War II. In addition to providing oversight for the 2008 Economic Stabilization Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), we continued to provide the Congress updates on programs that are at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or are in need of broad reform, and delivered advice and analyses on a broad array of pressing domestic and international issues that demand urgent attention and continuing oversight. These include modernizing the regulatory structure for financial institutions and markets to meet 21st century demands; controlling escalating health care costs and providing more effective oversight of medical products; restructuring of the U.S. Postal Service to ensure its financial stability; and improving the Department of Defense's management approaches to issues ranging from weapons system acquisitions to accounting for weapons provided to Afghan security forces. Overall, we responded to requests from every standing committee of the House and the Senate and over 70 percent of their subcommittees. As a knowledge-based organization, our ability to timely assist the Congress as it addresses the nation's challenges depends on our ability to sustain our current staffing levels. We are submitting for your consideration a prudent request for $601 million for fiscal year 2011, which will allow us to maintain our capacity to assist the Congress in addressing a range of financial, social, economic, and security challenges going forward. This amount represents a 4.1 percent increase ($22.6 million) to maintain our fiscal year 2010 operating level, and a 3.8 percent increase ($21.6 million) to continue mandated Recovery Act oversight beyond the expiration of the funding we received to help offset the cost of this new responsibility. The total requested increase of 7.9 percent will allow us to continue the Recovery Act work, maintain our fiscal year 2010 staffing level, cover mandatory pay and uncontrollable cost increases, and reinvest savings from nonrecurring costs and efficiencies to further enhance our productivity and effectiveness.With the strong support of the Congress and this subcommittee, in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 GAO increased our staff capacity. Our fiscal year 2011 budget request is prudent and essential to ensure that we can maintain this capacity and continue to provide timely, high-quality assistance to the Congress in confronting the critical economic, financial and security challenges facing the nation. We have a proven track record of helping the Congress evaluate critical issues of national importance and improving the transparency and accountability of government for the American people. For example, our work in the banking sector provided a framework that can be used to help reform the financial regulatory system and to evaluate proposals to ensure that any new regulatory system is sufficiently comprehensive, addresses risks, and adequately protects consumers. In the last 2 years our work yielded significant results across the government, including an average in each of the last 2 years of expert testimony at about 250 congressional hearings, almost 1,300 recommendations for improvements in government operations and changes to law, and $50 billion in financial benefits, resulting in a return on investment in fiscal year 2009 of $80 for every dollar the Congress invested in us.[Read More…]
- Former Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Role in Bribery and Drug Smuggling ConspiracyBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021A North Carolina man pleaded guilty today to smuggling drugs and other contraband into Caledonia Correctional Institution in exchange for bribe payments.[Read More…]
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- Tax Preparer Charged with COVID-19 Loan FraudBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021A South Florida tax preparer was charged Tuesday by criminal information with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to obtain over 100 COVID-19-relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).[Read More…]
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- DOD Acquisition Outcomes: A Case for ChangeBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) is shepherding a portfolio of major weapon systems valued at about $1.3 trillion. How DOD is managing this investment has been a matter of concern for some time. Since 1990, GAO has designated DOD's weapon system acquisitions as a high-risk area for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. DOD has experienced cost overruns, missed deadlines, performance shortfalls, and persistent management problems. In light of the serious budget pressures facing the nation, such problems are especially troubling. GAO has issued hundreds of reports addressing broad-based issues, such as best practices, as well as reports focusing on individual acquisitions. These reports have included many recommendations. Congress asked GAO to testify on possible problems with and improvements to defense acquisition policy. In doing so, we highlight the risks of conducting business as usual and identify some of the solutions we have found in successful acquisition programs and organizations.DOD is facing a cascading number of problems in managing its acquisitions. Cost increases incurred while developing new weapon systems mean DOD cannot produce as many of those weapons as intended nor can it be relied on to deliver to the warfighter when promised. Military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are consuming a large share of DOD resources and causing the department to invest more money sooner than expected to replace or fix existing weapons. Meanwhile, DOD is intent on transforming military operations and has its eye on multiple megasystems that are expected to be the most expensive and complex ever. These costly conditions are running head-on into the nation's unsustainable fiscal path. DOD knows what to do to achieve more successful outcomes but finds it difficult to apply the necessary discipline and controls or assign much-needed accountability. DOD has written into policy an approach that emphasizes attaining a certain level of knowledge at critical junctures before managers agree to invest more money in the next phase of weapon system development. This knowledge-based approach results in evolutionary--that is, incremental, manageable, predictable--development and inserts several controls to help managers gauge progress in meeting cost, schedule, and performance goals. But DOD is not employing the knowledge-based approach, discipline is lacking, and business cases are weak. Persistent practices show a decided lack of restraint. DOD's requirements process generates more demand for new programs than fiscal resources can support. DOD compounds the problem by approving so many highly complex and interdependent programs. Once too many programs are approved to start, the budgeting process exacerbates problems. Because programs are funded annually and departmentwide, cross-portfolio priorities have not been established, competition for funding continues over time, forcing programs to view success as the ability to secure the next funding increment rather than delivering capabilities when and as promised. Improving this condition requires discipline in the requirements and budgetary processes. Determining who should be held accountable for deviations and what penalties are needed is crucial. If DOD cannot discipline itself now to execute programs within fiscal realities, then draconian, budget-driven decisions may have to be made later.[Read More…]
- Stabilizing Iraq: An Assessment of the Security SituationBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021From fiscal years 2003 through 2006, U.S. government agencies have reported significant costs for U.S. stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. In addition, the United States currently has committed about 138,000 military personnel to the U.S.-led Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I). Over the past 3 years, worsening security conditions have made it difficult for the United States to achieve its goals in Iraq. In this statement, we discuss (1) the trends in the security environment in Iraq, and (2) progress in developing Iraqi security forces, as reported by the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State. We also present key questions for congressional oversight, including what political, economic, and security conditions must be achieved before the United States can draw down and withdraw? Why have security conditions continued to deteriorate even as Iraq has met political milestones, increased the number of trained and equipped forces, and increasingly assumed the lead for security? If existing U.S. political, economic, and security measures are not reducing violence in Iraq, what additional measures, if any, will the administration propose for stemming the violence?Since June 2003, the overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated and grown more complex, as evidenced by increased numbers of attacks and Sunni/Shi'a sectarian strife, which has grown since the February 2006 bombing in Samarra. As shown in the figure below, attacks against the coalition and its Iraqi partners reached an all time high during July 2006. The deteriorating conditions threaten the progress of U.S. and international efforts to assist Iraq in the political and economic areas. In July 2006, the State Department reported that the recent upturn in violence has hindered efforts to engage with Iraqi partners and noted that a certain level of security was a prerequisite to accomplishing the political and economic conditions necessary for U.S. withdrawal. Moreover, the Sunni insurgency and Shi'a militias have contributed to growing sectarian strife that has resulted in increased numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths and displaced individuals. DOD uses three factors to measure progress in developing capable Iraqi security forces and transferring security responsibilities to the Iraqi government: (1) the number of trained and equipped forces, (2) the number of Iraqi army units and provincial governments that have assumed responsibility for security in specific geographic areas, and (3) the capabilities of operational units, as reported in unit-level and aggregate Transition Readiness Assessments (TRA). Although the State Department reported that the number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces has increased, these numbers do not address their capabilities. As of August 2006, 115 Iraqi army units had assumed the lead for counterinsurgency operations in specific areas, and one province had assumed control for security. Unit-level TRA reports provide insight into the Iraqi army units' training, equipment, and logistical capabilities. GAO is working with DOD to obtain the unit-level TRA reports. Such information would inform the Congress on the capabilities and needs of Iraq's security forces.[Read More…]
- Global War on Terrorism: Reported Obligations for the Department of DefenseBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Since 2001, Congress has provided the Department of Defense (DOD) with hundreds of billions of dollars in supplemental and annual appropriations for military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). DOD's reported annual obligations for GWOT have shown a steady increase from about $0.2 billion in fiscal year 2001 to about $139.8 billion in fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2007, Congress provided DOD with about $161.8 billion in annual and supplemental appropriations3 for GWOT. To continue its GWOT operations, DOD has requested $189. billion in appropriations for fiscal year 2008. As of December 2007, Congress has provided DOD with about $86.8 billion for GWOT in fiscal year 2008, including $16.8 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. DOD has reported obligations of about $23.8 billion for GWOT for fiscal year 2008 through November 2007. The United States' commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces an increasing long-range fiscal challenge. The magnitude of future costs will depend on several direct and indirect cost variables and, in some cases, decisions that have not yet been made. DOD's future costs will likely be affected by the pace and duration of operations, the types of facilities needed to support troops overseas, redeployment plans, and the amount of equipment to be repaired or replaced. DOD compiles and reports monthly and cumulative incremental obligations incurred to support GWOT in a monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Report. DOD leadership uses this report, along with other information, to advise Congress on the costs of the war and to formulate future GWOT budget requests. DOD reports these obligations by appropriation, contingency operation, and military service or defense agency. The monthly cost reports are typically compiled in the 45 days after the end of the reporting month in which the obligations are incurred. DOD has prepared monthly reports on the obligations incurred for its involvement in GWOT since fiscal year 2001. Section 1221 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 requires us to submit quarterly updates to Congress on the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom based on DOD's monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Reports. This report, which responds to this requirement, contains our analysis of DOD's reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT through September 2007. Specifically, we assessed (1) DOD's appropriations and reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT through fiscal year 2007 and (2) DOD's fiscal year 2007 reported obligations for GWOT by military service and appropriation account.From fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2007, Congress has provided DOD with about $542.9 billion for its efforts in support of GWOT. DOD has reported obligations of about $492.2 billion for military operations in support of the war from fiscal years 2001 through 2007. The $50.7 billion difference between DOD's GWOT appropriations and reported obligations can generally be attributed to multiyear funding for procurement; military construction; and research, development, test, and evaluation from previous GWOT-related appropriations that have yet to be obligated, and obligations for classified activities, which are not included in DOD's reported obligations. DOD's total reported obligations related to GWOT have demonstrated a steady annual increase each fiscal year through 2007. DOD's reported obligations of about $139.8 billion in fiscal year 2007 were approximately 1.4 times higher than reported GWOT obligations of about $98.4 billion for fiscal year 2006. The higher reported obligations in fiscal year 2007 are largely due to costs associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom, in part due to the surge strategy announced in January 2007, which provided for the deployment of additional troops. DOD's reported obligations through fiscal year 2007 include about $378.1 billion for operations in and around Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and about $86.2 billion for operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It also includes about $27.9 billion for operations in defense of the homeland as part of Operation Noble Eagle. Reported obligations associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to be far higher than those for other GWOT operations in fiscal year 2007. From fiscal years 2003 through 2007, DOD's reported obligations for Operation Iraqi Freedom consistently increased each fiscal year. In contrast, DOD's reported obligations for Operation Noble Eagle have consistently decreased since fiscal year 2003, while those for Operation Enduring Freedom have remained within a range of $10.3 billion to $20.1 billion each fiscal year. DOD's reported obligations for fiscal year 2007 totaled $139.8 billion. The Army accounts for the largest proportion of reported obligations for fiscal year 2007--about $98.0 billion, nearly eight times higher than the almost $12.9 billion in obligations reported for the Air Force, the military service with the next greatest reported amount. Among appropriation accounts, operation and maintenance, which include items such as support for housing, food, and services; the repair of equipment; and transportation to move people, supplies, and equipment, accounts for the largest reported obligations--about $74.9 billion. Reported obligations for procurement account for about a quarter of total reported obligations or about $35.8 billion. Of the $43.6 billion provided to DOD for procurement in fiscal year 2007, approximately 34 percent or $14.3 billion, remained available for use in fiscal year 2008.[Read More…]
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