September 25, 2021

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  • Commemorating World Refugee Day 2021 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before Virtual Meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Obtains $50,000 Settlement Against Dallas Towing Company for Illegally Selling Five Cars Owned by U.S. Servicemembers
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Dallas towing company United Tows LLC has agreed to enter into a consent order to resolve allegations that it illegally sold five servicemember-owned vehicles, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  
    [Read More…]
  • Building a Stronger Democracy in Ethiopia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • The United States Impedes Hizballah Financing by Sanctioning Seven Individuals
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Five Peruvians Extradited For Overseeing Call Centers That Threatened And Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Consumers
    In Crime News
    Five residents of Lima, Peru, were extradited to the United States and made their initial appearances in Miami federal court, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Court Orders California Company and Owner to Stop Distribution of Unapproved, Misbranded and Adulterated ‘Poly-MVA’ Products
    In Crime News
    A federal court ordered a California company and its owner to stop distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs and adulterated animal drugs.
    [Read More…]
  • Military Readiness: Impact of Current Operations and Actions Needed to Rebuild Readiness of U.S. Ground Forces
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S. military forces, and ground forces in particular, have operated at a high pace since the attacks of September 11, 2001, including to support ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between 2001 and July 2007, approximately 931,000 U.S. Army and Marine Corps servicemembers deployed for overseas military operations, including about 312,000 National Guard or Reserve members. To support ongoing military operations and related activities, Congress has appropriated billions of dollars since 2001, and through September 2007, the Department of Defense (DOD) has reported obligating about $492.2 billion to cover these expenses, of which a large portion are related to readiness. In addition, DOD's annual appropriation, now totaling about $480 billion for fiscal year 2008, includes funds to cover readiness needs. GAO was asked to testify on (1) the readiness implications of DOD's efforts to support ongoing operations; and (2) GAO's prior recommendations related to these issues, including specific actions that GAO believes would enhance DOD's ability to manage and improve readiness. This statement is based on reports and testimonies published from fiscal years 2003 through 2008. GAO's work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.While DOD has overcome difficult challenges in maintaining a high pace of operations over the past 6 years and U.S. forces have gained considerable combat experience, our work has shown that extended operations in Iraq and elsewhere have had significant consequences for military readiness, particularly with regard to the Army and Marine Corps. To meet mission requirements specific to Iraq and Afghanistan, the department has taken steps to increase the availability of personnel and equipment for deploying units, and to refocus their training on assigned missions. For example, to maintain force levels in theater, DOD has increased the length of deployments and frequency of mobilizations, but it is unclear whether these adjustments will affect recruiting and retention. The Army and Marine Corps have also transferred equipment from nondeploying units and prepositioned stocks to support deploying units, affecting the availability of items for nondeployed units to meet other demands. In addition, they have refocused training such that units train extensively for counterinsurgency missions, with little time available to train for a fuller range of missions. Finally, DOD has adopted strategies, such as relying more on Navy and Air Force personnel and contractors to perform some tasks formerly handled by Army or Marine Corps personnel. If current operations continue at the present level of intensity, DOD could face difficulty in balancing these commitments with the need to rebuild and maintain readiness. Over the past several years, GAO has reported on a range of issues related to military readiness and made numerous recommendations to enhance DOD's ability to manage and improve readiness. Given the change in the security environment since September 11, 2001, and demands on U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilding readiness will be a long-term and complex effort. However, GAO believes DOD can take measures that will advance progress in both the short and long terms. A common theme is the need for DOD to take a more strategic decision-making approach to ensure programs and investments are based on plans with measurable goals, validated requirements, prioritized resource needs, and performance measures to gauge progress. Overall, GAO recommended that DOD develop a near-term plan for improving the readiness of ground forces that, among other things, establishes specific goals for improving unit readiness, prioritizes actions needed to achieve those goals, and outlines an investment strategy to clearly link resource needs and funding requests. GAO also made recommendations in several specific readiness-related areas, including that DOD develop equipping strategies to target shortages of items required to equip units preparing for deployment, and DOD adjust its training strategies to include a plan to support full-spectrum training. DOD agreed with some recommendations, but has yet to fully implement them. For others, particularly when GAO recommended that DOD develop more robust plans linked to resources, DOD believed its current efforts were sufficient. GAO continues to believe such plans are needed.
    [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Return Preparer Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Rocky Mount, North Carolina, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhimi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Hardrock Mining Management: Selected Countries, U.S. States, and Tribes Have Different Governance Structures but Primarily Use Leasing
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Australia, Canada, and Chile—three top mineral-producing countries as of 2018—generally own the minerals on private and government lands and manage hardrock mining at the national or regional (state, provincial, or territorial) government levels. Australia and Canada use national and regional governments to manage mining, whereas Chile uses national governance structures. All three countries primarily use leasing to manage mining. However, some Canadian provinces allow mineral exploration using a location system that provides open access to land to stake a mining claim. Australia, Canada, and Chile collect royalties and corporate income taxes on mineral extraction; however, the types and rates vary. For example, Canada and Chile's royalties are based on operators' net proceeds, while some Australian regional governments' royalties are also based on net market value. Primary Stages of Hardrock Mining In 11 western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming—responsibility for managing mining on state-owned lands, including trust lands, is decentralized among multiple governance structures. These states primarily use leasing, although Alaska also allows operators to stake mine claims on certain lands, according to state officials. All states collect royalties, or taxes that are similar to royalties, on mining. The types and rates vary, but states typically base their rates on quantity or weight, gross revenue, net smelter returns (based on the value of minerals extracted, with deductions for processing), or net proceeds. Hardrock mining on trust and restricted fee lands (tribal lands) is managed by governance structures at the tribal and federal government levels, in accordance with the approaches established in tribal and federal law. Tribes decide whether to allow hardrock mining on their lands. If so, multiple governance structures at the tribal level may be involved in managing the mining, depending on the requirements of tribal law, which may vary by tribe. In addition, governance structures at the federal level are involved in managing mining. Two federal laws—the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982 and the Indian Mineral Leasing Act—require the use of minerals agreements, as defined in regulation, or leases, respectively. However, few tribes allow hardrock mining on their lands, according to the Department of the Interior. Why GAO Did This Study Hardrock minerals such as gold, silver, and copper play a significant role in U.S. and global economies—in 2018, hardrock minerals extracted worldwide were valued at about $981 billion. However, extracting these minerals creates the potential for public health, safety, and environmental hazards. Different approaches exist to manage these hazards and hardrock mining. GAO recently reported on the number and characteristics of mining operations on federal lands in GAO-20-461R and was also asked to review the methods different governments use to manage mining. This report describes the governance structures and approaches used to manage mining on (1) selected mineral-producing countries' land, (2) state-owned land in selected U.S. states, and (3) tribal lands subject to federal laws and regulations. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, government documents, legal guides, and nongovernmental and industry reports. GAO also interviewed nongovernmental and mining association representatives and officials from selected states and countries. GAO selected countries that were top mineral producers, perceived by researchers to have good mining governance, and were attractive to mining investors. GAO selected states in the western region of the U.S. that produced the highest value of hardrock minerals compared with other U.S. regions. GAO examined federal laws and regulations that generally govern mining on tribal land and interviewed one tribe on mining approaches used. For more information, contact Mark E. Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or gaffiganm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Electrical Engineer Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Prison for Conspiring to Illegally Export to China Semiconductor Chips with Military Uses
    In Crime News
    A California man was sentenced today to 63 months, or more than five years, in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally export integrated circuits with military applications to China the required filing of electronic export information. As part of his sentence, the Judge ordered Shih to pay $362,698 in restitution to the IRS and fined him $300,000.
    [Read More…]
  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at Joint DOJ-EPA Event with EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan: Promoting Justice for Victims of Environmental Crime
    In Crime News
    Good afternoon and thank you so much for those kind words, Kris.
    [Read More…]
  • Chinese Businessman Charged With Conspiring To Steal Trade Secrets
    In Crime News
    Chi Lung Winsman Ng, aka Winsman Ng, 64, a Chinese businessman residing in Hong Kong, was indicted yesterday for conspiring to steal General Electric’s (GE) trade secrets involving the company’s silicon carbide MOSFET technology and worth millions of dollars.
    [Read More…]
  • Kenya Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Gang members sentenced for assaulting federal officers
    In Justice News
    The final Houston area [Read More…]
  • Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction: Opportunities for DHS to Better Address Longstanding Program Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2016, GAO evaluated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to consolidate chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security programs into the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) office. GAO recommended DHS use, where appropriate, the key mergers and organizational transformation practices identified in prior work, such as conducting adequate stakeholder outreach. DHS agreed with and addressed the recommendation by soliciting employee feedback on the transformation and formed a leadership team for the consolidation, among other practices. However, GAO observed that significant challenges remained at the CWMD office—such as low employee morale and questions about program efficacy. GAO has ongoing work evaluating these issues and plans to issue a report in early 2022. Over the past decade, GAO has also conducted extensive work evaluating legacy and ongoing programs managed by the CWMD office and has identified program management challenges and opportunities for improvement in the following program areas: Biosurveillance programs: Since 2009, GAO has reported on progress and challenges with two of DHS's biosurveillance efforts—the National Biosurveillance Integration Center and the pursuit of replacements for the BioWatch program (aimed at detecting aerosolized biological attacks). For example, DHS faced challenges defining these programs' missions and acquiring suitable technologies. In December 2009 and September 2012, GAO highlighted the importance of following departmental policies and employing leading management practices to help ensure that the mission of each program is clearly and purposefully defined and that investments effectively respond to those missions. DHS agreed with and addressed these recommendations. Most recently, DHS agreed to a May 2021 GAO recommendation that it should follow best practices for conducting technology readiness assessments for a biodetection effort and described planned efforts to conduct one before the next key decision event. Nuclear/radiological detection: In May 2019, GAO found that the CWMD office lacked a clear basis for proposed changes to the strategies of the Securing the Cities program, which is designed to enhance the nuclear detection capabilities of federal and nonfederal agencies in select cities. GAO found the strategies were not based on threats or needs of the participating cities. DHS agreed with our recommendations aimed at improving communication and coordination with participating cities, but has not fully implemented them. Chemical defense: In August 2018, GAO found that DHS had not fully integrated and coordinated its chemical defense programs and activities, which could lead to a risk that DHS may miss an opportunity to leverage resources and share information. Improved program integration and coordination could lead to greater effectiveness addressing chemical threats. DHS agreed to develop a strategy and implementation plan to aid integration of programs, which it expects to finalize in September 2021. Why GAO Did This Study In December 2018, statute established the CWMD office, reorganizing several legacy offices, including the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Office of Health Affairs into one. The office manages programs intended to enhance the United States' ability to detect, deter, and defend against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. However, programs operated and managed by the CWMD office have faced longstanding challenges, some which predate the reorganization. This statement describes our 2016 work related to the CWMD office formation and findings from our past reports on CWMD programs from 2009 through May 2021, including challenges and opportunities for the effective operations and implementation of key programs related to biodefense, nuclear security, and chemical security. To conduct our prior work, GAO reviewed relevant presidential directives, laws, regulations, policies, strategic plans, and other reports and interviewed federal, state, and industry officials, among others.
    [Read More…]
  • Biofuel Fraudster Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Scamming Multiple Federal Agencies and Customers
    In Crime News
    The owner of a biofuel company was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by a three-year term of supervised release and ordered to pay $10,207,000 in restitution for defrauding multiple federal agencies and customers.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Advisory Committees: Actions Needed to Enhance Decision-Making Transparency and Cost Data Accuracy
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO reviewed 11 selected committees covered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that serve the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury. GAO found that these committees met many, but not all, selected transparency requirements established by FACA, General Services Administration (GSA) FACA regulations, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). FACA committees GAO reviewed published timely notices for 70 of 76 meetings and solicited public comments for all open meetings held by the committees. However, four of the 11 committees did not follow one or more selected requirements to renew charters, decide on proposed recommendations during open meetings, or compile minutes. Five FACA committees GAO reviewed did not always follow requirements in OMB Circular A-130 for federal agencies to make public documents accessible online. GSA encourages agencies to post committee documents online consistent with OMB requirements. However, according to GSA's Office of the General Counsel, GSA's authority under FACA is not broad enough to require agencies to fulfill the OMB requirements. Eight of the nine selected FACA committees in our original sample that make recommendations to agencies attempt to track the agencies' responses to and implementation status of recommendations. However, many committees do not make this information fully available to the public online. Improved public reporting could enhance congressional and public visibility into the status of agencies' responses to committee recommendations. Selected Requirements for Advisory Committees Covered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) The selected agencies and FACA committees reported that they implemented a range of practices to help ensure agency officials do not exert inappropriate influence on committees' decisions. These practices include limiting committee members' interactions with agency officials outside committee meetings. GAO also found that about 29 percent of the 11 selected committees' cost data elements in GSA's FACA database for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 were inconsistent with corresponding cost data from selected agency and committee records and systems. In the absence of reliable cost data, Congress is unable to fully rely on these data to inform decisions about funding FACA committees. FACA requires federal agencies to ensure that federal advisory committees make decisions that are independent and transparent. In fiscal year 2019, nearly 960 committees under FACA played a key role in informing public policy and government regulations. GAO was asked to review the transparency and independence of FACA committees and data collected in GSA's FACA database. This report examines (1) selected agencies' and committees' adherence to transparency requirements; (2) their practices to help ensure that agency officials do not exert inappropriate influence on committee decision-making; and (3) the extent to which GSA's FACA database contained accurate, complete, and useful cost information for these committees. GAO selected a non-generalizable sample of 11 FACA committees serving three agencies, based in part on costs incurred and numbers of recommendations made. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed agency officials and committee members. GAO also reviewed FACA database cost data for the 11 committees. Congress should consider requiring online posting of FACA committees' documents. GAO is also making nine recommendations to agencies to improve FACA committee transparency and data accuracy. Agencies agreed with six recommendations, and GSA described steps to address recommendations to it. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or SagerM@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed To Improve Use of Private Security Providers
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States is spending billions of dollars to reconstruct Iraq while combating an insurgency that has targeted military and contractor personnel and the Iraqi people. This environment created a need for those rebuilding Iraq to obtain security services. GAO evaluated the extent to which (1) U.S. agencies and contractors acquired security services from private providers, (2) the U.S. military and private security providers developed a working relationship, and (3) U.S. agencies assessed the costs of using private security providers on reconstruction contracts.The civilian U.S. government agencies and reconstruction contractors in Iraq that GAO evaluated have obtained security services, such as personal and convoy security, from private security providers because providing security to them is not the U.S. military's stated mission. U.S. military forces provide security for those Department of Defense (DOD) civilians and contractors who directly support the combat mission. In Iraq, the Department of State and other federal agencies contract with several private security providers to protect their employees. Under their contracts, contractors rebuilding Iraq are responsible for providing their own security and have done so by awarding subcontracts to private security providers. As of December 2004, the agencies and contractors we reviewed had obligated more than $766 million for private security providers. The contractors' efforts to obtain suitable security providers met with mixed results, as they often found that their security provider could not meet their needs. Overall, GAO found that contractors replaced their initial security providers on more than half the 2003 contracts it reviewed. Contractor officials attributed this turnover to various factors, including the absence of useful agency guidance. While the U.S. military and private security providers have developed a cooperative working relationship, actions should be taken to improve its effectiveness. The relationship between the military and private security providers is one of coordination, not control. Prior to October 2004 coordination was informal, based on personal contacts, and was inconsistent. In October 2004 a Reconstruction Operations Center was opened to share intelligence and coordinate military-contractor interactions. While military and security providers agreed that coordination has improved, two problems remain. First, private security providers continue to report incidents between themselves and the military when approaching military convoys and checkpoints. Second, military units deploying to Iraq are not fully aware of the parties operating on the complex battle space in Iraq and what responsibility they have to those parties. Despite the significant role played by private security providers in enabling reconstruction efforts, neither the Department of State, nor DOD nor the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have complete data on the costs of using private security providers. Even at the contract level, the agencies generally had only limited information readily available, even though agency and contractor officials acknowledged that these costs had diverted a considerable amount of reconstruction resources and led to canceling or reducing the scope of some projects. For example, in March 2005, two task orders for reconstruction worth nearly $15 million were cancelled to help pay for security at a power plant. GAO found that the cost to obtain private security providers and security-related equipment accounted for more than 15 percent of contract costs on 8 of the 15 reconstruction contracts it reviewed.
    [Read More…]
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