Office of the Spokesperson
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman traveled to Khartoum from September 28 to October 1 to highlight the United States’ firm commitment to Sudan’s ongoing political transition, which represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for democracy.
In his meetings with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the members of the Cabinet, Sovereign Council Chairman Abdelfattah al-Burhan and members of the Sovereign Council, and other political stakeholders, Special Envoy Feltman expressed the United States’ dedication to continued political and economic support as Sudan’s transition proceeds. He also underscored that such support depends on Sudan’s adherence to the agreed transitional order as established in the 2019 Constitutional Declaration and the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement. Deviation from this path and failure to meet key benchmarks will place at risk Sudan’s bilateral relationship with the United States, including significant U.S. assistance, as well as the prospect of security cooperation to modernize the Sudanese armed forces and U.S. support in the International Financial Institutions and for debt relief.
Special Envoy Feltman encouraged the Cabinet, the Sovereign Council, the Forces of Freedom and Change, and other stakeholders to uphold their responsibilities at this historic moment and reassure the Sudanese people that the aspirations of the revolution will be achieved, to avoid brinkmanship and mutual recrimination, and to make swift progress on key benchmarks in the Constitutional Declaration that would stabilize the transition. These include reaching consensus on the date of the transfer of the chair of the Sovereign Council to a civilian; beginning an inclusive process to develop a new vision for Sudan’s national security to guide the security sector reform agenda under civilian authority while recognizing the integral role that the armed forces will have in a democratic Sudan; establishing the Transitional Legislative Council; creating the legal and institutional framework for free and fair elections; and reconstituting the Constitutional Court and establishing mechanisms for transitional justice. It will be critical in this regard for the Sovereign Council to function as a collective body in discharging the duties assigned to it in the Constitutional Declaration. The United States will continue to closely monitor developments, in coordination with the Troika and our other partners in Europe, the United Nations, and the African Union.
Finally, Special Envoy Feltman thanked Prime Minister Hamdok, in his role as chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), for his commitment to promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ethiopia, and they agreed on the urgency of a negotiated ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access to all those who are suffering.
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- Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Advance Coordination and Increased Visibility Needed to Optimize CapabilitiesBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Combatant commanders carrying out ongoing operations rank the need for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities as high on their priority lists. The Department of Defense (DOD) is investing in many ISR systems, including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to meet the growing demand for ISR assets to support the warfighter. GAO was asked to evaluate DOD's efforts to integrate UAS into ongoing operations while optimizing the use of all DOD ISR assets. Specifically, this report addresses the extent that (1) DOD has taken steps to facilitate the integration of UAS into combat operations, and (2) DOD's approach to allocating and tasking its ISR assets considers all available ISR capabilities, including those provided by UAS. GAO also reviewed the extent that DOD evaluates the performance of its ISR assets, including UAS, in meeting warfighters' needs. To perform this work, GAO analyzed data and guidance on the use of ISR assets, and interviewed DOD officials, including those supporting ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.DOD components have developed guidance to facilitate the integration of UAS into combat operations; however, further steps are needed to coordinate the deployment of these assets. For example, DOD developed guidance for the tactical employment of UAS and a Joint UAS Concept of Operations. This guidance is an important first step but does not address coordinating UAS and other ISR assets prior to deploying them to ongoing operations, which U.S. Central Command recognized is a critical factor in integrating UAS into combat operations. Until DOD addresses the need for DOD-wide advance coordination, it may continue to face challenges in successfully integrating UAS and other ISR assets into combat operations and may exacerbate integration challenges such as limited bandwidth. DOD's approach to allocating and tasking its ISR assets, including UAS, hinders its ability to optimize the use of these assets because it does not consider the capabilities of all available ISR assets. The command charged with recommending how theater-level DOD ISR assets should be allocated to support operational requirements does not have awareness of all available ISR assets because DOD does not have a mechanism for obtaining this information. Similarly, the commander responsible for coordinating ongoing joint air operations does not have information on how assets controlled by tactical units are being used or what missions they've been tasked to support. Nor do tactical units have information on how theater-level assets and ISR assets embedded in other units are being tasked, which results in problems such as duplicative taskings. This lack of visibility occurs because DOD does not have a mechanism for tracking the missions both theater- and tactical-level ISR assets are supporting or how they are being used. Without an approach to allocation and tasking that includes a mechanism for considering all ISR capabilities, DOD may be unable to fully leverage all available ISR assets and optimize their use. DOD is unable to fully evaluate the performance of its ISR assets because it lacks a complete set of metrics and does not consistently receive feedback to ensure the warfighter's needs were met. Although the Joint Functional Component Command for ISR has been tasked with developing ISR metrics, DOD currently assesses its ISR missions with limited quantitative metrics such as the number of targets planned versus captured. While these metrics are a good start, DOD officials acknowledge that the current metrics do not capture all of the qualitative considerations associated with measuring ISR asset effectiveness such as the cumulative knowledge provided by numerous ISR missions. There is an ongoing effort within DOD to develop additional quantitative as well as qualitative ISR metrics, but no DOD-wide milestones have been established. Furthermore, DOD guidance calls for an evaluation of the results of joint operations; however, DOD officials acknowledge that this feedback is not consistently occurring due to the fast pace of operations in theater. Without metrics and feedback, DOD may not be able to validate how well the warfighters' needs are being met, whether it is optimizing the use of existing assets, or which new systems would best support warfighting needs.[Read More…]
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- DHS Annual Assessment: Most Acquisition Programs Are Meeting Goals but Data Provided to Congress Lacks Context Needed For Effective OversightBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021As of September 2020, 19 of the 24 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programs GAO assessed that had DHS approved acquisition program baselines were meeting their currently established goals. However, of the 24 programs, ten had been in breach of their cost or schedule goals, or both, at some point during fiscal year 2020. A few programs experienced breaches related to external factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, while others breached their baseline goals because of acquisition management issues. Five of these programs rebaselined to increase costs or delay schedules, but the remaining five were still in breach status as of September 2020 (see table). Further, GAO found that some of the 19 programs that were meeting their currently established goals—including the U.S. Coast Guard's Offshore Patrol Cutter program—are at risk of future cost growth or schedule slips. DHS Major Acquisition Programs In Breach of Approved Cost or Schedule Goals (or Both) As of September 2020. Program (estimated life-cycle cost) Breach Type National Cybersecurity Protection System ($5,908 million) Schedule Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology ($3,923 million) Cost and Schedule Grants Management Modernization ($289 million) Cost and Schedule National Bio Agro-Defense Facility ($1,298 million) Schedule Medium Range Surveillance Aircraft ($15,187 million) Schedule Source: GAO analysis of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data. | GAO-21-175 Note: The life-cycle cost information is the current acquisition program baseline cost goal as of September 2020. Programs may revise cost goals, if necessary, when the new baseline is approved. GAO found that supplemental guidance for the development of acquisition documents generally aligned with requirements in DHS's acquisition management policy. However, guidance for developing acquisition documentation in DHS's Systems Engineering Life Cycle Instruction and accompanying Guidebook does not reflect current requirements in DHS's acquisition management policy. DHS officials stated that the information related to development of acquisition documents—including the systems engineering life cycle tailoring plan—should be consistent across all of DHS's policies, instructions, and guidebooks. Inconsistent agency-wide guidance can lead to a lack of clarity on when programs should submit their program documentation. The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying a bill to the DHS Appropriations Act, 2019, directed DHS to provide quarterly briefings on summary ratings for all major acquisition programs. While DHS is meeting this direction with summary ratings, the ratings do not include contextual information, such as programs' cost, schedule, or performance risks. This type of information would help Congress understand how the ratings relate to potential program outcomes. Determining what additional risk information is needed for DHS's major acquisition programs along with the reporting timeframes and the appropriate mechanism to provide the information, would help ensure that decision makers have needed context. DHS plans to spend more than $7 billion on its portfolio of major acquisition programs—with life-cycle costs over $300 million— in fiscal year 2021 to help execute its many critical missions. The Explanatory Statement accompanying the DHS Appropriations Act, 2015, included a provision for GAO to review DHS's major acquisitions on an ongoing basis. This report, GAO's sixth review, assesses the extent to which (1) DHS's major acquisition programs are meeting baseline goals, (2) DHS's guidance for developing acquisition documentation is consistent with DHS acquisition policy, and (3) DHS is reporting relevant information to Congress on its portfolio of major acquisition programs. GAO assessed 24 acquisition programs, including DHS's largest programs that were in the process of obtaining new capabilities as of April 2018, and programs GAO or DHS identified as at risk of poor outcomes. GAO assessed cost and schedule progress against baselines; assessed DHS's congressional reporting requirements; and interviewed DHS officials and congressional appropriations committee staff. GAO is making one recommendation for DHS to align acquisition guidance with policy, and one matter for Congress to consider determining what additional information it needs to perform oversight. DHS concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Capital One CEO to Pay Civil Penalty for Violating Antitrust Pre-Transaction Notification RequirementsBy Sam NewsSeptember 2, 2021The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, at the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, against Richard D. Fairbank, the CEO of Capital One Financial Corporation, for violating the pre-transaction notification and waiting period requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 (HSR Act) when he acquired voting securities of Capital One in 2018. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement, subject to approval by the court, under which Fairbank has agreed to pay a $637,950 civil penalty to resolve the lawsuit.[Read More…]
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- GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance ConferencesBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020GAO began 37 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of GAO's 37 requested entrance conferences for those audits, DOD scheduled 33 within 14 days and held 34 within 30 days of GAO's notification. Entrance conferences are initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff that allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. The four entrance conferences that were scheduled more than 14 days after notification were scheduled late due to either difficulties in identifying a primary action officer or aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. The three entrance conferences that were held more than 30 days after notification were scheduled late due to difficulties in aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of their receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the final of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first three quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that it sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received GAO's notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the GAO team conducting each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Afghanistan Reconstruction: Progress Made in Constructing Roads, but Assessments for Determining Impact and a Sustainable Maintenance Program Are NeededBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2021The Afghan government, the United States, and other donors consider road reconstruction a top development priority for Afghanistan. Almost 20 percent of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) $5.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan has been for roads. The Department of Defense (Defense) has committed about $560 million for roads, of which Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds account for over half. GAO examined (1) the status of road reconstruction and challenges affecting project implementation, (2) U.S. agencies' efforts to evaluate the impact of road projects, and (3) efforts to develop a sustainable road maintenance program. GAO reviewed U.S. and Afghan governments' planning, evaluation, and funding documents and interviewed relevant stakeholders in Afghanistan.The United States and other donors have completed construction of several regional and national highways since 2002, but the status of other roads is uncertain and various challenges have delayed construction. The Afghan government and international donors planned to complete the high-priority regional highways by the end of 2008, and as of February 2008, about 60 percent of these roads were built. USAID has completed its portion, but completion of other portions is not expected until late 2009. Donors have committed to construct over 30 percent of national highways, which connect provincial capitals to the regional highways, and only USAID has completed portions of these highways. Detailed information on the status of provincial and rural roads is lacking. Although Defense reported committing CERP funds for 1,600 kilometers of roads, data on the roads were incomplete and Defense has not reported information on these roads to USAID, as required. Poor security, project implementer limitations, and starting construction with limited planning have contributed to project delays and cost increases. U.S. agencies have not conducted sound impact evaluations to determine the degree to which projects achieved the objective of economic development. Limitations of USAID's funding, data collection, and frameworks to assess results have impeded its ability to evaluate project impact. Defense has not conducted any impact evaluations and lacks clear guidance on project evaluation. However, agency officials have noted some anecdotal examples of road construction impact, such as reduced travel times and increased commerce. Moreover, no other donor has performed impact evaluations. A sustainable road maintenance program has not been established, although it is a goal of the Afghan government and international donors. The Afghan government's support of this goal has been limited due to factors such as a lack of resources and a fragmented institutional organization. As a result, international donors have agreed to temporarily fund road maintenance to protect their investments. While USAID plans to maintain about 1,500 kilometers of roads it built, it did not meet its 2007 target to maintain 100 kilometers of reconstructed roads.[Read More…]
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- Disaster Housing: Improved Cost Data and Guidance Would Aid FEMA Activation DecisionsBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relied primarily on rental assistance payments to assist 2017 and 2018 hurricane survivors but also used direct housing programs to address housing needs, as shown in the table below. GAO found that FEMA provided rental assistance to about 746,000 households and direct housing assistance to about 5,400 households. FEMA did not use the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP)—a pilot grant program managed jointly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—because FEMA viewed its direct housing programs to be more efficient and cost-effective and did not consider DHAP to be a standard post-disaster housing assistance program. Number of Households Affected by the 2017 and 2018 Hurricanes That Received Rental and Direct Temporary Housing Assistance, by State or Territory State or territory Rental assistance Direct housing assistance Florida 422,230 1,241 North Carolina 20,198 656 Puerto Rico 147,620 414 Texas 143,465 2,988 U.S. Virgin Islands 12,147 69 Total number of households 745,660 5,368 Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). | GAO-21-116 Notes: FEMA provided the vast majority of its direct housing assistance through transportable temporary housing units such as manufactured housing. Rental assistance data are as of February 13, 2020, and direct housing assistance data are as of July 15, 2020. FEMA's analyses of the cost-effectiveness of housing assistance programs were limited because program cost data were incomplete or not readily useable. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act requires FEMA to consider factors including cost-effectiveness when determining which types of housing assistance to provide. Although FEMA has stated its direct housing programs were relatively more cost-effective than DHAP, FEMA generally could not support these statements with cost data. Specifically, FEMA does not collect key program data in its system, such as monthly subsidy and administrative costs, in a manner that would allow it to analyze the full costs of providing the assistance. Without such information, the agency's program activation decisions will not be well informed, particularly with regard to cost-effectiveness. FEMA policy guidance also says that FEMA is to compare the projected costs of the direct housing programs it is considering activating, but does not consistently specify what cost information to consider, such as whether to use both programmatic and administrative costs. Without such guidance, FEMA cannot reasonably assure that its assessments and their results incorporate consistent and comparable data. The 2017 and 2018 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael) caused $325 billion in damage. FEMA provided post-disaster assistance, including rental and direct housing assistance. DHAP was a pilot grant program that provided temporary rental assistance and was used to respond to several hurricanes before 2017. GAO was asked to review issues related to major disasters in 2018 and housing assistance provided after the 2017 and 2018 hurricanes. This report (1) describes the assistance FEMA provided in response to those hurricanes, and (2) evaluates the extent to which FEMA considered cost-effectiveness in activating programs. GAO reviewed FEMA and HUD policies, communications, and other documentation; analyzed FEMA data; and interviewed officials at FEMA headquarters and regional offices, HUD, and Texas state and local government offices. GAO makes two recommendations to FEMA for its temporary housing programs: (1) identify and make changes to its data systems to allow for capture and analysis of programs' full costs, and (2) specify the information needed to compare projected program costs in its guidance on activating programs. DHS agreed with both recommendations, and said it planned to implement them in 2021–2022. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- Foreign Assistance: State Department Should Better Assess Results of Efforts to Improve Financial and Some Program DataBy Sam NewsMay 10, 2021What GAO Found The Department of State has implemented most of the Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR) plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. According to State officials, they began developing the FADR plan in 2014 and focused on modifying State's existing agency-wide data systems to improve financial and related programmatic data for foreign assistance. As of December 2020, State had completed most of the activities detailed in the FADR plan, except for some FADR-related training initiatives that will continue in 2021. For example, State created the FADR Data Dictionary, which standardizes foreign assistance budget terminology and definitions across the agency, and added two data fields—benefitting country and program area—to its data systems. Other activities included updating system design; conducting integration testing between source systems and financial systems; and developing training materials. State's FADR plan generally or partially addressed key elements of sound planning. GAO evaluated the FADR plan against nine key elements of sound planning it identified as relevant to implementation plans. GAO found that the plan generally addressed four elements and partially addressed five (see figure). Evaluation of the Department of State's Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR) Plan by Key Elements of Sound Planning Identified by GAO Element Did the FADR plan address the element? Purpose and scope ● Desired results ● Hierarchy of goals and subordinate objectives ● Activities to achieve results ● Roles and responsibilities ◓ Intra-agency coordination mechanisms ◓ Resources to implement the plan ◓ Milestones and performance indicators ◓ Monitoring and evaluation ◓ Legend: ● Generally addressed ◓Partially addressed ○ Did not address Source: GAO analysis of Department of State documentation. | GAO-21-373 Since State has nearly completed implementation of its FADR plan, the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component is the most critical remaining element of the partially addressed elements. GAO found that the M&E component of the plan was not well developed. The plan identifies some performance indicators and monitoring activities, but it does not clearly link those indicators to the desired results. The M&E component also does not identify how State plans to evaluate and use the monitoring data, such as better identification of benefiting country. Nor does it provide information on timeframes associated with the performance targets for the identified indicators. Identifying how the performance indicators link to desired results and the timeframes associated with performance targets, and periodically evaluating its monitoring data would help State assess the plan's effectiveness. Why GAO Did This Study Members of Congress, the State Inspector General, and GAO have raised concerns about State's ability to adequately track and report its foreign assistance data. These concerns include State's ability to retrieve timely and accurate data necessary to provide central oversight, meet statutory and regulatory reporting requirements, manage resources strategically, and assess program performance. In response, State began an initiative in 2014 to improve the quality and availability of foreign assistance data. GAO was asked to review State's plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. This report assesses (1) the status of State's plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data and (2) the extent to which State's plan adheres to sound planning practices. GAO reviewed State documents on the plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. GAO reviewed implementation of the State plan against specific milestones in the plan. GAO also evaluated if the plan included key elements for sound management and strategic planning. In addition, GAO interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C.[Read More…]