Office of the Spokesperson
The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP) was launched by Vice President Pence at the 2018 U.S.-ASEAN Summit in Singapore. The Departments of State, Commerce, and Transportation; National Science Foundation; USAID; USTDA; and others have launched 20 projects to improve transportation, water and resource reuse, and health system capacity for cities in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN).
The USASCP is a key component of demonstrating our commitment to ASEAN and its role at the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The USASCP seeks to harness U.S. public and private sector expertise to collaborate with the 26 ASCN participating cities to meet the varied challenges of rapid urbanization and to help improve the quality of life for people in the region.
The three main goals of the USASCP are to: 1) Promote U.S. private sector engagement in smart, sustainable city solutions and advance capacity of urban service delivery in ASEAN; 2) Share best practices and technical collaboration among U.S. cities, universities, and industry leaders with their counterparts in the ASCN; and 3) Strengthen the digital economy and cybersecurity capability in ASCN cities.
Private Sector Engagement: The U.S. private sector and U.S. government shared best practices on smart, sustainable cities at the Third Indo-Pacific Business Forum and the ASEAN Smart Cities Network High-Level Forum in October 2020. In early 2020, U.S. Embassy Jakarta organized an Indonesian delegation visit to San Antonio to meet U.S. industry experts and learn about power distribution systems for smart cities. Additionally, U.S. private sector companies such as Mastercard presented their intelligent mobility solutions and innovative payment systems to over 130 ASEAN stakeholders during recent discussions on sustainable transportation. USASCP is planning further sessions for U.S. businesses and Southeast Asian city authorities, as well as trade events and reverse trade missions for ASEAN cities.
Water Security: City pairings between ASEAN and U.S. cities focus on delivery of essential urban water services, including improved access, stormwater management, treatment, and reuse. These pairings strengthen water security through the exchange of knowledge, goods, and services between utilities and/or management districts. The program, called Water Smart Engagements (WiSE), is implemented in conjunction with the Department of State and the U.S. Water Partnership. In addition to the following city pairs, another two pairs will be announced in the coming year:
- Phuket, Thailand, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and San Francisco, California
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Washington, D.C.
Transportation: City pairs in transportation focus on policy, planning, and technology in smart transportation solutions. The Department of Transportation is hosting a series of regional webinars in 2020 in advance of onsite activities. The USASCP transportation partnership focuses on the following city pairs:
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Boston, Massachusetts
- Jakarta, Indonesia, and Los Angeles, California
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Dallas, Texas
- Phuket, Thailand, and Las Vegas, Nevada
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Portland, Oregon
Innovation Research Grants and University Partnerships: USASCP partners with the National Science Foundation to support a range of technological and socio-economic innovations across sectors, including: renewable energy-generating bike lanes (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); assessing the socio-economic impacts of the digital/informal economy (Jakarta, Indonesia); biophysical and social data collection for decision-making in smart garden alleys (Makassar, Indonesia); and artificial intelligence for crowd and traffic analysis and congestion mitigation (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).
Health in Cities: USASCP is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and our embassies in the region to increase resiliency of local health care infrastructure as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative. An initial grant will go to Cambodia for medical records digitization in three ASCN cities.
Integrated Urban Services: This program will demonstrate the socio-economic value and urban benefits of resource recovery and reuse through integrated systems (e.g. water, waste, food) that promote greater efficiency, improve water and energy security, and mitigate public health concerns. It will be implemented in cooperation with Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Energy Systems Modelling and Cybersecurity: USASCP in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Labs plans to promote renewable energy integration within existing power grids and apply socio-economic modelling to understand demand for urban services. Human and system resources will be strengthened to mitigate cybersecurity risks to the energy grid.
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- Defined Contribution Plans: Federal Guidance Could Help Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks in 401(k) and Other Retirement PlansBy Sam NewsMarch 15, 2021What GAO Found In their role administering private sector employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, plan sponsors and their service providers—record keepers, third party administrators, custodians, and payroll providers—share a variety of personally identifiable information (PII) and plan asset data among them to assist with carrying out their respective functions (see figure). The PII exchanged for DC plans typically include participant name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, username/password; plan asset data typically includes numbers for both retirement and bank accounts. The sharing and storing of this information can lead to significant cybersecurity risks for plan sponsors and their service providers, as well as plan participants. Data Sharing Among Plan Sponsors and Service Providers in Defined Contribution Plans Federal requirements and industry guidance exist that could mitigate cybersecurity risks in DC plans, such as requirements that pertain to entities that directly engage in financial activities involving DC plans. However, not all entities involved in DC plans are considered to have such direct engagement, and other cybersecurity mitigation guidance is voluntary. Federal law nevertheless requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently when administering plans. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has not clarified fiduciary responsibility for mitigating cybersecurity risks, even though 21 of 22 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed the view that cybersecurity is a fiduciary duty. Further, DOL has not established minimum expectations for protecting PII and plan assets. DOL officials told GAO that the agency intends to issue guidance addressing cybersecurity-related issues, but they were unsure when it would be issued. Until DOL clarifies responsibilities for fiduciaries and provides minimum cybersecurity expectations, participants' data and assets will remain at risk. Why GAO Did This Study Cyber attacks against information systems (IT) are perpetuated by individuals or groups with malicious intentions, from stealing identities to appropriating money from accounts. DC plans, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-advantaged retirement savings, increasingly rely on the internet and IT systems for their administration. Accordingly, the need to secure these systems has become paramount. Ineffective data security controls can result in significant risks to plan data and assets. In 2018, DC plans enrolled 106 million participants and held nearly $6.3 trillion in assets, according to DOL. This report examines (1) the data that sponsors and providers exchange during the administration of DC plans and their associated cybersecurity risks, and (2) efforts to assist sponsors and providers to mitigate cybersecurity risks during the administration of DC plans. GAO interviewed key entities involved with DC plans, such as sponsors and record keepers, DOL officials and industry stakeholders; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.[Read More…]
- Unaccompanied Children: Actions Needed to Improve Grant Application Reviews and Oversight of Care FacilitiesBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2020The Office of Refugee Resettlement's (ORR) grant announcements soliciting care providers for unaccompanied children—those without lawful immigration status and without a parent or guardian in the U.S. available to provide care and physical custody for them—lack clarity about what state licensing information is required. Further, ORR does not systematically confirm the information submitted by applicants or document a review of their past performance on ORR grants, when applicable, according to GAO's analysis of ORR documents and interviews with ORR officials. The grant announcements do not specify how applicants without a state license should show license eligibility—a criterion for receiving an ORR grant—or specify what past licensing allegations and concerns they must report. In addition, the extent to which ORR staff verify applicants' licensing information is unclear. In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ORR awarded grants to approximately 14 facilities that were unable to serve children for 12 or more months because they remained unlicensed. In addition, ORR did not provide any documentation that staff conducted a review of past performance for the nearly 70 percent of applicants that previously held ORR grants. Without addressing these issues, ORR risks awarding grants to organizations that cannot obtain a state license or that have a history of poor performance. State licensing agencies regularly monitor ORR-funded facilities, but according to GAO's survey of these agencies, their information sharing with ORR is limited (see figure). State licensing agencies and ORR staff both said that improved information sharing would benefit their monitoring of facilities. Without such improvements, ORR may lack information about ongoing issues at its facilities. Key Survey Responses on Information-Sharing with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) by the 23 State Agencies That Licensed ORR-Funded Facilities in Fall 2019 ORR requires grantees to take corrective action to address noncompliance it identifies through monitoring, but ORR has not met some of its monitoring goals or notified grantees of the need for corrective actions in a timely manner. For example, under ORR regulations, each facility is to be audited for compliance with standards to prevent and respond to sexual abuse and harassment of children by February 22, 2019, but by April 2020, only 67 of 133 facilities had been audited. In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ORR also did not meet its policy goals to visit each facility at least every 2 years, or to submit a report to facilities on any corrective actions identified within 30 days of a visit. Without further action, ORR will continue to not meet its own monitoring goals, which are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children in its care. ORR is responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied children in its custody, which it provides through grants to state-licensed care provider facilities. ORR was appropriated $1.3 billion for this program in fiscal year 2020. GAO was asked to review ORR's grant making process and oversight of its grantees. This report examines (1) how ORR considers state licensing issues and past performance in its review of grant applications; (2) state licensing agencies' oversight of ORR grantees, and how ORR and states share information; and (3) how ORR addresses grantee noncompliance. GAO reviewed ORR grant announcements and applications for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. GAO conducted a survey of 29 state licensing agencies in states with ORR facilities, and reviewed ORR monitoring documentation and corrective action reports. GAO also reviewed ORR guidance and policies, as well as relevant federal laws and regulations, and interviewed ORR officials. GAO is making eight recommendations to ORR on improving clarity in its grant announcements, communication with state licensing agencies, and monitoring of its grantees. ORR agreed with all eight recommendations. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with the C5+1By Sam NewsApril 23, 2021
- Guinea-Bissau Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Eighth Circuit Reverses Tax Court in Case Involving Statute of Limitations and Bona Fide ResidencyBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a published opinion on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, holding for the government in a case involving the statute of limitations on assessment in the context of bona fide residency in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- Study: 2019 Sees Record Loss of Greenland IceBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020After a brief period of [Read More…]
- Peru Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Peru [Read More…]
- Veterans Health Care: Agency Efforts to Provide and Study Prosthetics for Small but Growing Female Veteran PopulationBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides veterans with prosthetic services to assist with their mobility, vision, and hearing needs. The proportion of prosthetics VHA provided to female veterans has been small compared to the share provided to male veterans. However, in fiscal years 2015 to 2019, this proportion grew from 6.8 percent to 7.9 percent and accounted for about $889.1 million of the $15.4 billion total cost of prosthetics. Artificial limbs comprised a relatively small number of the total prosthetics VHA provided to veterans in fiscal years 2015 to 2019; however, veterans who use artificial limbs have complex needs and are significant users of health care services. VHA provided prosthetic services to a small but growing female veteran amputee population (almost 3 percent of veteran amputees in fiscal year 2019), who were generally younger than male veteran amputees. VHA has established an individualized patient care approach in its Amputation System of Care that seeks to address the prosthetic needs of each veteran, including accounting for gender-specific factors. VHA officials said that using a standardized, multidisciplinary approach across VA medical facilities also helps them incorporate the concerns and preferences of female veterans. For example, veterans are provided care by a team that includes a physician, therapist, prosthetist (clinician who helps evaluate prosthetic needs and then designs, fabricates, fits, and adjusts artificial limbs), and other providers as needed. Female veteran amputees GAO spoke with at one VA medical facility said they were satisfied with their VHA care. They also noted a lack of commercially available prosthetic options that VHA providers can use to meet women's needs. Examples of Female Veterans' Artificial Limb Prosthetics Women are generally studied less than their male counterparts in prosthetic and amputee rehabilitation research. VHA designated prosthetics for female veterans a national research priority in 2017, and has funded eight related studies as of May 2020: four pertain to lower limb amputation, three pertain to upper limb amputation, and one pertains to wheelchairs. VHA officials noted the importance of this research priority and the ongoing challenge of recruiting study participants due to the small female veteran population. VHA researchers said they employ various tactics to address this challenge, such as using multi-site studies and recruiting participants from the non-veteran population. Women are the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, with the number of female veterans using VHA health care services increasing 29 percent from 2014 to 2019. Female veterans accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the total veteran population in fiscal year 2019. They are eligible to receive a full range of VHA health care services, including obtaining prosthetics. House Report 115-188 included a provision for GAO to review VHA's prosthetic services for female veterans. This report examines 1) trends in prosthetics provided by VHA to female veterans; 2) characteristics of the female veteran population with limb loss and how VHA provides prosthetic services to these veterans through its Amputation System of Care; and 3) VHA's research efforts and the challenges that exist in studying prosthetics for female veterans with limb loss. GAO analyzed VHA documents, as well as data from fiscal years 2015 to 2019 on prosthetics and veterans with amputations. GAO interviewed agency officials from VHA central office and officials and female veteran amputees at two VA medical facilities selected for expertise in amputation care and prosthetics research activities. In addition, GAO interviewed VHA researchers conducting studies on prosthetics for female veterans. GAO provided a draft of this report to VA. VA provided general and technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- U.S.-Canada High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate AmbitionBy Sam NewsFebruary 24, 2021
- Appeals Court Upholds 27 Month Prison Sentence Of Former Penn National Horse TrainerBy Sam NewsJanuary 15, 2021The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on Jan. 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed both the conviction and 27-month prison sentence of Murray Rojas, age, 54, of Grantville, Pennsylvania. That sentence was imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo on May 6, 2019, after Rojas was convicted by a jury on multiple counts of causing prescription animal drugs to become misbranded in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), as well as conspiracy to commit misbranding.[Read More…]
- The Kyrgyz Republic Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not [Read More…]
- Six Russian GRU Officers Charged in Connection with Worldwide Deployment of Destructive Malware and Other Disruptive Actions in CyberspaceBy Sam NewsOctober 19, 2020Defendants’ Malware [Read More…]
- Whither Arms Control in Outer Space? Space Threats, Space Hypocrisy, and the Hope of Space NormsBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
- Survivors of Childhood Cancer: Factors Affecting Access to Follow-up CareBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020Stakeholders GAO interviewed and studies GAO reviewed identified three factors that affect access to follow-up care for childhood cancer survivors—individuals of any age who were diagnosed with cancer from ages 0 through 19. These factors are care affordability, survivors' and health care providers' knowledge of appropriate care, and proximity to care. Childhood cancer survivors need access to follow-up care over time for serious health effects known as late effects—such as developmental problems, heart conditions, and subsequent cancers—which result from their original cancer and its treatment. Affordability: Survivors of childhood cancer may have difficulty paying for follow-up care, which can affect their access to this care. For example, one study found that survivors were significantly more likely to have difficulty paying medical bills and delay medical care due to affordability concerns when compared to individuals with no history of cancer. Knowledge: Survivors' access to appropriate follow-up care for late effects of childhood cancer can depend on both survivors' and providers' knowledge about such care, which can affect access in various ways, according to stakeholders GAO interviewed and studies GAO reviewed: Some survivors may have been treated for cancer at an early age and may have limited awareness of the need for follow- up care. Some primary or specialty care providers may not be knowledgeable about guidelines for appropriate follow-up care, which can affect whether a survivor receives recommended treatment. Follow-up care may include psychosocial care (e.g., counseling), and palliative care (e.g., pain management). Proximity: Survivors may have difficulty reaching appropriate care settings. Stakeholders GAO interviewed and studies GAO reviewed noted that childhood cancer survivors may have to travel long distances to receive follow-up care from multidisciplinary outpatient clinics—referred to as childhood cancer survivorship clinics. The lack of proximity may make it particularly difficult for survivors with limited financial resources to adhere to recommended follow-up care. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that conduct activities specific to childhood cancer survivors, including research about access to care—have taken steps to implement three provisions in the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act of 2018 (Childhood Cancer STAR Act) relevant to access to care for survivors. For example, CDC has awarded a contract to develop software to improve the collection of information on individuals with childhood cancer, and NCI has funded three research projects focused on interventions aimed at addressing adverse outcomes among childhood cancer survivors. NCI has also funded research to study the health status and use of follow-up services of 2,000 young adult survivors. Stakeholders have raised questions about the ability of childhood cancer survivors to access needed follow-up care. According to the most recent data available, approximately 465,000 childhood cancer survivors—children, adolescents, and adults—were alive in the United States as of January 1, 2017. Although the 5-year survival rate for childhood cancer has increased from about 62 percent in the mid-1970s to about 86 percent in the mid-2010s, childhood cancer survivors may face late effects, which could require follow-up care across multiple stages of their lives. The conference report accompanying Public Law 115-245 included a provision for GAO to report on barriers to obtaining medical care for childhood cancer survivors, including psychosocial services and palliative care. This report identifies factors reported to affect access to follow-up care for this population. GAO spoke with officials from NCI and CDC and interviewed stakeholders such as providers who care for childhood cancer survivors, professional associations, and advocacy groups. Additionally, GAO reviewed peer-reviewed studies related to access to care for survivors, outcomes of treatment they may receive, and factors that may affect their access to follow-up care. To supplement this work, GAO reviewed the status of selected HHS activities to support access to care for childhood cancer survivors, including steps taken to implement selected provisions in the Childhood Cancer STAR Act. GAO provided a draft of this report to HHS for review and comment. HHS provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or FarbJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Second Member Of “Boogaloo Bois” Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to HamasBy Sam NewsMay 4, 2021A Minnesota man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to provide material support and resources, namely property, services and weapons, to what he believed was Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, for use against Israeli and U.S. military personnel overseas.[Read More…]
- Transportation Research: Additional Actions Could Improve DOT’s Internal Collaboration and Reliability of Information on Research ActivitiesBy Sam NewsAugust 10, 2020The Department of Transportation (DOT) uses a multistep, centralized process to prioritize and select research activities it will fund. DOT's modal administrations—which focus on specific modes of transportation like air, rail, and highways—conduct and manage most of DOT's research. The modal administrations GAO spoke to used a variety of methods to prioritize and select research, including soliciting stakeholders' feedback on research needs. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) is responsible for reviewing this proposed research to ensure alignment with DOT's strategic plans and to prevent duplicative research efforts, as required by statute. DOT has multiple efforts to facilitate research collaboration both externally and internally, but in guidance to promote collaboration, OST-R did not incorporate all leading practices. Specifically, OST-R established topical-research working groups on 12 multimodal subject areas in October 2018 and issued accompanying guidance. This guidance incorporated some leading collaboration practices, such as directing working groups to identify leadership roles and relevant participants. However, the guidance did not incorporate two leading practices—defining and monitoring progress toward long-term outcomes and regularly updating and monitoring written agreements. Taking steps to ensure the working groups follow these practices could provide OST-R greater assurance that the groups coordinate their efforts effectively, better plan long-term research, and better position themselves to address future transportation challenges. OST-R has taken some steps to help ensure that its public database on DOT-funded research projects (the Research Hub) contains complete and accurate information, as required by DOT's data management policy; however, data reliability issues remained. For example, as of July 2019—the latest available data at the time of GAO's analysis—36 percent of records in the database were missing research partners' contact information, hindering the research community's ability to obtain current project details. Taking additional steps, such as providing instructions to the modal administrations on how to improve the completeness and accuracy of the information they give OST-R for the Research Hub, would help ensure the database is fulfilling DOT's intended purpose that it serve as a reliable source of information on the department's research portfolio. Examples of Research Activities on Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems and Connected Vehicles Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation DOT's research activities are critical to DOT's mission to make the nation's transportation system safer and more efficient. To meet current research needs and prepare for emerging technologies, DOT partners with public and private entities. In fiscal year 2018, DOT funded about 2,300 partners and had a research budget exceeding $1 billion. GAO was asked to review DOT's research activities. This report addresses: (1) how DOT prioritizes and selects which research activities it will undertake; (2) the extent to which DOT facilitates research collaboration with external stakeholders and across the department; and (3) the extent to which DOT ensures its Research Hub database contains complete and accurate project information. GAO reviewed documents and analyzed data from DOT; observed DOT-funded research; interviewed DOT officials from OST-R and four selected modal administrations; and used GAO's leading collaboration practices to assess the extent of collaboration. GAO also interviewed 17 DOT research partners, including universities and associations. GAO recommends that OST-R (1) take steps to ensure the topical-research working groups follow all leading collaboration practices, and (2) take additional steps to ensure the information in the Research Hub is complete and accurate. DOT concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth Repko at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Civilian-Military Interaction in Conflicts: Best Practices and Perceptions (Brown University)By Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Chief Standing Bear: A Hero of Native American Civil RightsBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsOctober 29, 2020A new Moments in History video, in recognition of Native American Heritage Month, recounts how Chief Standing Bear persuaded a federal judge in 1879 to recognize Native Americans as persons with the right to sue for their freedom, establishing him as one of the nation’s earliest civil rights heroes.[Read More…]
- Saturn’s Moon Titan Drifting Away Faster Than Previously ThoughtBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020The new research by [Read More…]
- Imposing Sanctions Related to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Iranian Shipping EntitiesBy Sam NewsJanuary 15, 2021
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo’s Call with Indian External Affairs Minister S. JaishankarBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Responding to Modern Cyber Threats with Diplomacy and DeterrenceBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
- Statement by Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen on the Pakistani Proceedings Relating to the Abduction and Murder of Daniel PearlBy Sam NewsDecember 29, 2020Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen has released the following statement:[Read More…]