The mission of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health’s Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is to promote research integrity, prevent research misconduct, and protect science, public health, and Public Health Service (PHS) funds. ORI works to prevent research misconduct in and promote the integrity of PHS-funded research through: (i) oversight review of research misconduct investigations conducted at PHS-funded research institutions, and (ii) outreach activities that support these institutions in their efforts to foster research integrity and the responsible conduct of research. ORI also works with grantee institutions to help train Research Integrity Officers to handle allegations of research misconduct and provides educational resources on the responsible conduct of research. This role is critical to promoting research integrity and thus the mission of HHS.
This work is done year after year with impressive results that have been reported since ORI’s first Annual Report in CY1993. Now ORI is unveiling FY2020’s results. The report highlights ORI’s activities from the past fiscal year in the following areas:
- Research misconduct investigations
- Communications with stakeholders
- ORI’s grant program and ORI-funded research projects
- Research projects conducted by/in collaboration with ORI
- ORI’s compliance programs
In FY2020, ORI received 204 new allegations related to research misconduct or integrity and closed 45 cases and 27 allegations (for a total of 72 closures). As estimated by a preliminary analysis within ORI, over $75 million in PHS funding was tied to published papers citing grants in which research misconduct had occurred. Of the cases closed in FY2020, 11 cases resulted in findings of research misconduct, 8 cases did not result in findings of research misconduct, and 26 cases were closed when ORI declined to pursue findings (due to insufficient evidence to establish culpability, sufficient action being taken by the institution, or lack of significance to the scientific community). When ORI makes findings of research misconduct, the administrative actions rendered can include federal-wide debarment, supervision of PHS-funded research, prohibition from PHS advisory service, and/or a requirement that the respondent request the correction/retraction of published papers. Also, it is important to note that although ORI may decline to pursue findings in a particular case, an institution may still draw its own conclusions about research misconduct for that case and implement administrative actions at the institutional level.
ORI conducted a research project on retractions and corrections of published papers cited in its findings of research misconduct. ORI found that a group of 164 papers, all of which contain instances of fabrication, falsification, and/or plagiarism, had been cited by 7,318 research papers, and those 7,318 papers in turn had been cited in an additional 301,716 papers. By stopping misinformation early, ORI helps to keep faulty science out of the literature to ensure that future research is built on genuine data and research results.
ORI also conducted 361 technical assistance sessions to provide stakeholders at grantee institutions responding to allegations of research misconduct with guidance and information about forensic image analysis, statistical analyses of data, sequestration of research records, and review of institutional research misconduct proceedings.
While ORI’s work is often unseen, it protects the integrity of research conducted at HHS and by PHS-funded grantees. ORI remains committed to handling allegations of possible research misconduct in PHS-funded research, supporting the training and education of researchers on the responsible conduct of research, and supporting PHS-funded institutions as they work to foster research integrity and the responsible conduct of research. To learn more about the world of research integrity, visit ori.hhs.gov. The full FY2020 annual report is available in digital (PDF) format and can be viewed and downloaded here.
Disclaimer for ORISE Fellow:
This project was supported in part by an appointment to the Research Participation Program at the Department of Health and Human Services administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Federal Telework: Key Practices That Can Help Ensure the Success of Telework ProgramsBy Sam NewsNovember 18, 2020The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the act) defines telework as a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of their position and other authorized activities from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work. GAO previously identified key practices in telework-related literature and guidelines that federal agencies should implement in ensuring successful telework programs. These key practices may be grouped under seven categories. Program planning. Consistent with a key practice GAO identified, agencies are required to have a telework managing officer. Other key practices related to planning for a telework program include establishing measurable telework program goals, and providing funding to meet the needs of the telework program. Telework policies. Agencies can help ensure their workforces are telework ready by establishing telework policies and guidance. To ensure that teleworkers are approved on an equitable basis, agencies should establish eligibility criteria, such as suitability of tasks and employee performance. Agencies should also have telework agreements for use between teleworkers and their managers. Performance management. Agencies should ensure that the same performance standards are used to evaluate both teleworkers and nonteleworkers. Agencies should also establish guidelines to minimize adverse impacts that telework can have on nonteleworkers. Managerial support. For telework programs to be successful agencies need support from top management. They also need to address managerial resistance to telework. Training and publicizing. Telework training helps agencies ensure a common understanding of the program. The act requires agencies to provide telework training to employees eligible to telework and to managers of teleworkers. Keeping the workforce informed about the program also helps. Technology. Agencies need to make sure teleworkers have the right technology to successfully perform their duties. To that end, agencies should assess teleworker and organization technology needs, provide technical support to teleworkers, and address access and security issues. Program evaluation. Agencies should develop program evaluation tools and use such tools from the very inception of the program to identify problems or issues. Agencies can then use this information to make any needed adjustments to their programs. GAO has previously reported instances where selected agencies faced challenges implementing telework programs that aligned with key practices. For example, three of four selected agencies did not require review or document their review of ongoing telework agreements. These reviews are important to provide assurance that the agreements reflect and support their current business needs. GAO also previously reported that managers at three of four selected agencies were not required to complete telework training before approving staff's telework agreements. The training is important to ensure managers fully understood agency telework policy and goals before approving or denying requests to telework. Telework offers benefits to federal agencies as well as to the federal workforce. These include improving recruitment and retention of employees, reducing the need for costly office space, and an opportunity to better balance work and family demands. In addition, telework is a tool that agencies can use to help accomplish their missions during periods of disruption, including during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Congress has encouraged federal agencies to expand staff participation in telework, most recently by passing the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the act). The act established requirements for executive agencies' telework policies and programs, among other things. This statement provides key practices to help ensure the success of telework programs. The statement is based on GAO's body of work on federal telework issued from July 2003 through February 2017. GAO has recently initiated two reviews related to federal telework. One is examining the extent to which agencies have used telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the successes and challenges agencies experienced. The second is reviewing agencies' telework information technology infrastructure. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-6806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Eastern Kentucky Doctor and Assistant Plead Guilty to Unlawfully Distributing OpioidsBy Sam NewsAugust 10, 2020A Kentucky doctor and his former office assistant pleaded guilty on Aug. 7 for their roles in unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances during a time when the defendants did not have a legitimate medical practice.[Read More…]
- Readout of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta’s Meeting with State Chief JusticesBy Sam NewsAugust 11, 2021Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta met with over 35 Chief Justices of state supreme courts to discuss the housing and eviction crisis confronting the country.[Read More…]
- The 53rd Anniversary of the Founding of the Association of Southeast Asian NationsBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Justice Department Reaches Settlement with the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, to Resolve Allegations of Discrimination Against Homeowner with DisabilityBy Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020The Justice Department announced today that the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, has agreed to pay $25,000 to a homeowner with a disability as part of a settlement agreement resolving the government’s Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit.[Read More…]
- COVID-19 Housing Protections: Mortgage Forbearance and Other Federal Efforts Have Reduced Default and Foreclosure RisksBy Sam NewsJuly 13, 2021What GAO Found Many single-family mortgage borrowers who missed payments during the pandemic used the expanded mortgage forbearance provision in the CARES Act. This provision allowed borrowers with loans insured, guaranteed, made directly, purchased, or securitized by federal entities (about 75 percent of all mortgages) to temporarily suspend their monthly mortgage payments. Use of the forbearance provision peaked in May 2020 at about 7 percent of all single-family mortgages (about 3.4 million) and gradually declined to about 5 percent by February 2021, according to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database. As of February 2021, about half of all borrowers who used forbearance during the pandemic remained in forbearance. In addition, Black and Hispanic borrowers, who were more likely to have been economically affected by the pandemic, used forbearance at about twice the rate of White borrowers. Forbearance was also more common among borrowers at a greater risk of mortgage default—specifically, first-time, minority, and low- and moderate-income homebuyers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration and rural homebuyers with loans guaranteed by the Rural Housing Service (see fig. 1). Figure 1: Estimated Percentage of Single-Family Mortgage Loans in Forbearance, by Loan Type (January 2020–February 2021) A small percentage of borrowers who missed payments during the pandemic have not used forbearance—less than 1 percent of those covered by the CARES Act. Yet, borrowers who have not used forbearance may be at a greater risk of default and foreclosure, according to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database. For example, these borrowers tended to have lower subprime credit scores, indicating an elevated risk of default, compared to borrowers who were current or in forbearance, who tended to have higher prime or near prime credit scores. Federal agencies and the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the enterprises) have taken steps to make these borrowers aware of forbearance options, such as through direct phone calls and letters. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) amended mortgage servicing rules in June 2021 to require servicers to discuss forbearance options with borrowers shortly after any delinquency. Foreclosures declined significantly during the pandemic because of federal moratoriums that prohibited foreclosures. The number of mortgages entering foreclosure decreased by about 85 percent on a year-over-year basis from June 2019 to June 2020 and remained as low through February 2021, according to mortgage data provider Black Knight (see fig. 2). Figure 2: Number of Single-Family Mortgage Loans Entering Foreclosure, by Month (June 2019–February 2021) Note: Foreclosure data were only available through February 2021 at the time of our review. The number of new foreclosures includes vacant and abandoned properties and non-federally backed loans, which the CARES Act did not cover. Federal entities have taken additional steps to limit pandemic-related mortgage defaults and foreclosures. Federal housing agencies and the enterprises have expanded forbearance options to provide borrowers with additional time to enter and remain in forbearance. In addition, they streamlined and introduced new loss mitigation options to help borrowers reinstate their loans after forbearance, including options to defer missed payments until the end of a mortgage. Borrowers in extended forbearances generally have large expected repayments—an average of $8,300 as of February 2021, according to the National Mortgage Database. As a result, delinquent borrowers exiting forbearance have most commonly deferred repayment, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Further, CFPB's amended mortgage servicing rules allow servicers to streamline processing of loss mitigation actions and establish procedural safeguards to help limit avoidable foreclosures until January 1, 2022. The risk of a spike in defaults and foreclosures is further mitigated by the relatively strong equity position of borrowers due to rapid home price appreciation. Home equity—or the difference between a home's current value and any outstanding loan balances—can help borrowers with ongoing hardships avoid foreclosure by allowing them to refinance their mortgage or sell their home to pay off the remaining balance. According to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database, few borrowers (about 2 percent) who were in forbearance or delinquent in February 2021 did not have home equity after accounting for home price appreciation. By comparison, during the peak of foreclosures in 2011 after the 2007–2009 financial crisis, about 17 percent of all borrowers and 44 percent of delinquent borrowers had no home equity (see fig. 3). Figure 3: Estimated Percentage of Single-Family Mortgage Borrowers without Home Equity as of 2020 and 2011, by Loan Type and Status Why GAO Did This Study Millions of mortgage borrowers continue to experience financial challenges and potential housing instability during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these concerns, Congress, federal agencies, and the enterprises provided borrowers with options to temporarily suspend their mortgage payments and placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Both provisions begin to expire in the coming months. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor federal efforts related to COVID-19. This report examines (1) the extent to which mortgage forbearance may have contributed to housing stability during the pandemic, (2) federal efforts to promote awareness of forbearance among delinquent borrowers, and (3) federal efforts to limit mortgage default and foreclosure risks after federal mortgage forbearance and foreclosure protections expire. GAO analyzed data on mortgage performance and the characteristics of borrowers who used forbearance from January 2020 to February 2021 using the National Mortgage Database (a federally managed, generalizable sample of single-family mortgages). GAO also reviewed data from Black Knight and the Mortgage Bankers Association on foreclosures and forbearance repayment. In addition, GAO interviewed representatives of federal entities about efforts to communicate with borrowers and limit default and foreclosure risks. To highlight potential risks, GAO also analyzed current trends in home equity among delinquent borrowers relative to the 2007–2009 financial crisis. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or PendletonJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- COVID-19: Brief Update on Initial Federal Response to the PandemicBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2020As of August 20, 2020, the U.S. had over 5.5 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19, and 158,000 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 between March and July 2020 to provide appropriations for the response to COVID-19. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report bimonthly on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to COVID-19. This second report examines federal spending on the COVID-19 response; indicators for monitoring public health and the economy; and the status of matters for congressional consideration and recommendations from GAO’s June 2020 report (GAO-20-625). GAO reviewed data through June 30, 2020 (the latest available) from USAspending.gov, a government website with data from government agencies. GAO also obtained, directly from the agencies, spending data, as of July 31, 2020, for the six largest spending areas, to the extent available. To develop the public health indicators, GAO reviewed research and federal guidance. To understand economic developments, GAO reviewed data from federal statistical agencies, the Federal Reserve, and Bloomberg Terminal, as well as economic research. To update the status of matters for congressional consideration and recommendations, GAO reviewed agency and congressional actions. In response to the national public health and economic threats caused by COVID-19, four relief laws making appropriations of about $2.6 trillion had been enacted as of July 31, 2020. Overall, federal obligations and expenditures government-wide of these COVID-19 relief funds totaled $1.5 trillion and $1.3 trillion, respectively, as of June 30, 2020. GAO also obtained preliminary data for six major spending areas as of July 31, 2020 (see table). COVID-19 Relief Appropriations, Obligations, and Expenditures for Six Major Spending Areas, as of July 2020 Spending area Appropriationsa ($ billions) Preliminary obligationsb ($ billions) Preliminary expendituresb ($ billions) Business Loan Programs 687.3 538.1 522.2c Economic Stabilization and Assistance to Distressed Sectors 500.0 30.4 19.2c Unemployment Insurance 376.4 301.1 296.8 Economic Impact Payments 282.0 273.5 273.5 Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund 231.7 129.6 95.9 Coronavirus Relief Fund 150.0 149.5 149.5 Total for six spending areas 2,227.4 1,422.2 1,357.0 Source: GAO analysis of data from the Department of the Treasury, USAspending.gov, and applicable agencies. | GAO-20-708 aCOVID-19 relief appropriations reflect amounts appropriated under the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, Pub. L. No. 116-123, 134 Stat. 146; Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Pub. L. No. 116-127, 134 Stat. 178 (2020); CARES Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020); and Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, Pub. L. No. 116-139, 134 Stat. 620 (2020). These data are based on appropriations warrant information provided by the Department of the Treasury as of July 31, 2020. These amounts could increase in the future for programs with indefinite appropriations, which are appropriations that, at the time of enactment, are for an unspecified amount. In addition, this table does not represent transfers of funds that federal agencies may make between appropriation accounts or transfers of funds they may make to other agencies. bObligations and expenditures data for July 2020 are based on preliminary data reported by applicable agencies. cThese expenditures relate to the loan subsidy costs (the loan’s estimated long-term costs to the United States government). The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to assess the impact of the federal response on public health and the economy. The following are examples of health care and economic indicators that GAO is monitoring. Health care. GAO’s indicators are intended to assess the nation’s immediate response to COVID-19 as it first took hold, gauge its recovery from the effects of the pandemic over the longer term, and determine the nation’s level of preparedness for future pandemics, involving subsequent waves of either COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. For example, to assess the sufficiency of testing—a potential indicator of the system’s response and recovery—GAO suggests monitoring the proportion of tests in a given population that are positive for infection. A higher positivity rate can indicate that testing is not sufficiently widespread to find all cases. That is higher positivity rates can indicate that testing has focused on those most likely to be infected and seeking testing because they have symptoms, and may not be detecting COVID-19 cases among individuals with no symptoms. Although there is no agreed-upon threshold for the test positivity rate, governments should target low positivity rates. The World Health Organization recommends a test positivity rate threshold of less than 5 percent over a 14-day period. As of August 12, 2020, 12 states and the District of Columbia had met this threshold (38 states had not). Resolve to Save Lives, another organization, recommends a threshold of less than 3 percent over a 7-day period, and 11 states and the District of Columbia had met this threshold (39 states had not) as of August 12, 2020. GAO also suggests monitoring mortality from all causes compared to historical norms as an indicator of the pandemic’s broad effect on health care outcomes. Mortality rates have tended to be consistent from year to year. This allows an estimation of how much mortality rose with the onset of the pandemic, and provides a baseline by which to judge a return to pre-COVID levels. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, about 125,000 more people died from all causes January 1–June 13 than would normally be expected (see figure). CDC Data on Higher-Than-Expected Weekly Mortality, January 1 through June 13, 2020 Note: The figure shows the number of deaths from all causes in a given week that exceeded the upper bound threshold of expected deaths calculated by CDC on the basis of variation in mortality experienced in prior years. Changes in the observed numbers of deaths in recent weeks should be interpreted cautiously as this figure relies on provisional data that are generally less complete in recent weeks. Data were accessed on July 16, 2020. Economy. GAO updated information on a number of indicators to facilitate ongoing and consistent monitoring of areas of the economy supported by the federal pandemic response, in particular the COVID-19 relief laws. These indicators suggest that economic conditions—including for workers, small businesses, and corporations—have improved modestly in recent months but remain much weaker than prior to the pandemic. In June and July initial regular unemployment insurance (UI) claims filed weekly averaged roughly 1.4 million (see figure), which was six and a half times higher than average weekly claims in 2019, but claims have decreased substantially since mid-March, falling to 971,000 in the week ending August 8, 2020. Increasing infections in some states and orders to once again close or limit certain businesses are likely to pose additional challenges for potentially fragile economic improvements, especially in affected sectors, such as the leisure and hospitality sector. National Weekly Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims, January 2019–July 2020 Note: See figure 5 in the report. As GAO reported in June, consistent with the urgency of responding to serious and widespread health issues and economic disruptions, federal agencies gave priority to moving swiftly where possible to distribute funds and implement new programs designed to help small businesses and the newly unemployed, for example. However, such urgency required certain tradeoffs in achieving transparency and accountability goals. To make mid-course corrections, GAO made three recommendations to federal agencies: To reduce the potential for duplicate payments from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)—a program that provides guaranteed loans through lenders to small businesses—and unemployment insurance, GAO recommended that the Department of Labor (DOL), in consultation with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), immediately provide information to state unemployment agencies that specifically addresses PPP loans, and the risk of improper unemployment insurance payments. DOL issued guidance on August 12, 2020, that, among other things, clarified that individuals working full-time and being paid through PPP are not eligible for UI. To recoup economic impact payments totaling more than $1.6 billion sent to decedents, GAO recommended that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) consider cost-effective options for notifying ineligible recipients of economic impact payments how to return payments. IRS has taken steps to address this recommendation. According to a Treasury official, nearly 70 percent of the payments sent to decedents have been recovered. However, GAO was unable to verify that amount before finalizing work on this report. GAO is working with Treasury to determine the number of payments sent to decedents that have been recovered. Treasury was considering sending letters to request the return of remaining outstanding payments but has not moved forward with this effort because, according to Treasury, Congress is considering legislation that would clarify or change payment eligibility requirements. To reduce the potential for fraud and ensure program integrity, GAO recommended that SBA develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. SBA has begun developing oversight plans for PPP but has not yet finalized or implemented them. In addition, to improve the government’s response efforts, GAO suggested three matters for congressional consideration: GAO urged Congress to take legislative action to require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to work with relevant agencies and stakeholders, such as HHS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and international organizations, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan to ensure safeguards are in place to limit the spread of communicable disease threats from abroad, while also minimizing any unnecessary interference with travel and trade. In early July 2020, DOT collaborated with HHS and DHS to issue guidance to airports and airlines for implementing measures to mitigate the public health risks associated with COVID-19, but it has not developed a preparedness plan for future communicable disease threats. DOT has maintained that HHS and DHS should lead such planning efforts as they are responsible for communicable disease response and preparedness planning, respectively. In June 2020, HHS stated that it is not in a position to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan as it does not have primary jurisdiction over the entire aviation sector or the relevant transportation expertise. In May 2020, DHS stated that it had reviewed its existing plans for pandemic preparedness and response activities and determined it is not best situated to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan. Without such a plan, the U.S. will not be as prepared to minimize and quickly respond to future communicable disease events. GAO also urged Congress to amend the Social Security Act to explicitly allow the Social Security Administration (SSA) to share its full death data with Treasury for data matching to help prevent payments to ineligible individuals. In June 2020, the Senate passed S.4104, referred to as the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. If enacted, the bill would allow SSA to share these data with Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service to avoid paying deceased individuals. Finally, GAO urged Congress to use GAO's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) formula for any future changes to the FMAP—the statutory formula according to which the federal government matches states' spending for Medicaid services—during the current or any future economic downturn. Congress has taken no action thus far on this issue. GAO incorporated technical comments received the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and the Treasury; the Federal Reserve; Office of Management and Budget; and Internal Revenue Service. The Small Business Administration commented that GAO did not include information on actions taken and controls related to its loan forgiveness program or its plans for loan reviews. GAO plans to provide more information on these topics in its next CARES Act report. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- U.S.-EU-Canada: Joint Statement on VenezuelaBy Sam NewsJune 25, 2021
- Readout of the Political Directors Small Group Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISISBy Sam NewsSeptember 9, 2021
- Violence in JerusalemBy Sam NewsMay 9, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Houston gang member charged for trafficking young teen for sexBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 2, 2021A local gang member has [Read More…]
- Gratitude to Bahrain for Facilitating the Transit of U.S. Citizens and Embassy Personnel from AfghanistanBy Sam NewsAugust 22, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Joint Statement of the United States and Germany on Support for Ukraine, European Energy Security, and our Climate GoalsBy Sam NewsJuly 21, 2021
- Department of State Participation in Taiwan-hosted Event on Open Government and Anti-CorruptionBy Sam NewsMay 20, 2021
- Former Union President Sentenced for Violent ExtortionBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020The former president of Iron Workers Local 395 was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for his role in organizing a brutal assault on a group of non-union ironworkers in Dyer, Indiana.[Read More…]
- Data Center Optimization: Agencies Report Progress and Billions Saved, but OMB Needs to Improve Its Utilization GuidanceBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) continue to report progress toward meeting OMB's goals for closing data centers and achieving the related cost savings. According to data submitted by the 24 agencies, almost all of them met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As of August 2020, the agencies reported that they expected to achieve 230 data center closures, resulting in $1.1 billion in savings, over the 2-year period. Agencies expected to realize a cumulative total of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidances from fiscal years 2012 through 2020. However, agencies have excluded approximately 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 due to a change in the definition of a data center. Specifically, in June 2019, OMB narrowed the definition of a data center to exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks. GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyber attacks. Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained. However, OMB has not taken action to address the recommendation. Overall, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to help agencies meet their DCOI goals, but agencies have not implemented 53. The 24 agencies reported varied progress against OMB's data center optimization targets for fiscal year 2020 (see figure). Agency-Reported Progress towards Meeting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Data Center Optimization Targets, as of August 2020 Notes: Virtualization measures the number of servers and mainframes serving as a virtual host. Advanced energy metering counts data centers with metering to measure energy efficiency. A metric is not applicable if an agency does not have any agency-owned data centers or if its remaining centers are exempted from optimization by OMB. In June 2019, OMB revised the server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, and then count their underutilized servers. As a result, agencies adopted widely varying definitions and were no longer required to report actual utilization, a key measure of server efficiency. In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation known as FITARA, which included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance. FITARA included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. This report addresses (1) agencies' progress on data center closures and the related savings that have been achieved, and agencies' plans for future closures and savings; (2) agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; and (3) the effectiveness of OMB's metric for server utilization and how the agencies are implementing it. To do so, GAO reviewed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2020, their reported cost savings documentation and data center optimization strategic plans, and OMB's revised utilization metric. GAO reiterates that agencies need to address the 53 recommendations previously made to them that have not yet been implemented. GAO is making one new recommendation to OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency. OMB had no comments on the report and the recommendation directed to the agency. Of the 24 DCOI agencies, five agreed with the information in the report, six did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, and 13 had no comments. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Opening Remarks by Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before the House Committee on Foreign AffairsBy Sam NewsSeptember 13, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [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…]
- Depot Maintenance: Improved Strategic Planning Needed to Ensure That Army and Marine Corps Depots Can Meet Future Maintenance RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Army and Marine Corps maintenance depots provide critical support to ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and are heavily involved in efforts to reset the force. The Department of Defense (DOD) has an interest in ensuring that the depots remain operationally effective, efficient, and capable of meeting future maintenance requirements. In 2008, in response to direction by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Army and the Marine Corps each submitted a depot maintenance strategic plan. Our objective was to evaluate the extent to which these plans provide comprehensive strategies for meeting future depot maintenance requirements. GAO determined whether the plans were consistent with the criteria for developing a results-oriented management framework and fully addressed OSD's criteria.The depot maintenance strategic plans developed by the Army and Marine Corps identify key issues affecting the depots, but do not provide assurance that the depots will be postured and resourced to meet future maintenance requirements because they do not fully address all of the elements required for a comprehensive, results-oriented management framework. Nor are they fully responsive to OSD's direction for developing the plans. While the services' strategic plans contain mission statements, along with long-term goals and objectives, they do not fully address all the elements needed for sound strategic planning, such as external factors that may affect how goals and objectives will be accomplished, performance indicators or metrics that measure outcomes and gauge progress, and resources required to meet the goals and objectives. Also, the plans partially address four issues that OSD directed the services, at a minimum, to include in their plans, such as logistics transformation, core logistics capability assurance, workforce revitalization, and capital investment. Army and Marine Corps officials involved with the development of the service strategic plans acknowledged that their plans do not fully address the OSD criteria, but they stated that the plans nevertheless address issues they believe are critical to maintaining effective, long-term depot maintenance capabilities. The Army's and Marine Corps' plans also are not comprehensive because they do not provide strategies for mitigating and reducing uncertainties in future workloads that affect the depots' ability to plan for meeting future maintenance requirements. Such uncertainties stem primarily from a lack of information on (1) workload that will replace current work on existing systems, which is expected to decline, and (2) workload associated with new systems that are in the acquisition pipeline. According to depot officials, to effectively plan for future maintenance requirements, the depots need timely and reliable information from their major commands on both the amounts and types of workloads they should expect to receive in future years. Depot officials told us that the information they receive from their major commands on their future workloads are uncertain beyond the current fiscal year. Officials cited various factors that contribute to these uncertainties, such as volatility in workload requirements, changing wartime environment, budget instability, and unanticipated changes in customer orders. In addition, depot officials said that they are not involved in the sustainment portion of the life cycle management planning process for new and modified systems. No clear process exists that would enable them to have input into weapon system program managers' decisions on how and where new and modified systems will be supported and maintained in the future. Unless they are integrated in this planning process, these officials said, the depots will continue to have uncertainties about what capabilities they will need to plan for future workloads and what other resources they will need to support new and modified weapon systems.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Austrian Foreign Minister SchallenbergBy Sam NewsNovember 11, 2020