The long-anticipated Arizona audit is here. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s just another iteration of the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Two Republican elections officials in Arizona, Bill Gates and Stephen Richer, are calling out the audit for what it is: a fraud, a sham, and a multimillion-dollar grift. News Source: The Republican Accountability Project
- Disaster Recovery: Additional Actions Needed to Identify and Address Potential Recovery Barriers
December 15, 2021What GAO Found Limited research exists on the relationship between disaster outcomes and the six federal recovery programs included in this GAO review: the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs, National Flood Insurance Program, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Loan program; and Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery. The design of the nine available studies did not allow GAO to draw conclusions about causal relationships between federal disaster recovery programs and overall recovery outcomes. Of the studies that were available, GAO grouped the findings into two categories: (1) socioeconomic outcomes and (2) community resilience outcomes. Our review of socioeconomic studies suggested that outcomes of disaster assistance for individual programs may be uneven across communities. This review also suggested that federal programs may enhance community resilience and prevent flood-related fatalities for vulnerable residents. Limited research exists on the relationship between participation in select federal recovery programs and individual, community, and program characteristics. However, GAO found that some studies and stakeholder perspectives provided insight into the relationships between socioeconomic, demographic, community, and programmatic characteristics and participation. For example, a study of counties in one state found greater levels of flood mitigation in communities with larger tax revenues and larger budgets for emergency management. In addition, officials representing states said larger cities can hire a third party to manage disaster recovery, but small towns and rural areas may lack resources to contract for disaster recovery services. Similarly, an official representing tribal nations told GAO that not all tribal nations have sufficient funding to develop emergency management departments, which can be a barrier to accessing federal resources. Further, representatives from voluntary organizations told GAO that conditions of socioeconomic vulnerability—such as lower-income households or homelessness—may present barriers to participating in federal recovery programs. Some of the six federal recovery programs in this report have taken some actions that could help officials identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes. However, programs lack key information—data and analysis—that would allow them to examine patterns and indicators of potential access barriers and disparate recovery outcomes. Moreover, the programs have not taken action to determine (1) the universe of data needed to support this kind of analysis; and (2) sources and methods to obtain those data when the programs do not already collect them, including overcoming key challenges. These programs also lacked routine, interagency processes to address such barriers within or across recovery programs on an ongoing basis. Systematic efforts to collect and analyze data, and routine, interagency processes to address any identified access barriers or disparate outcomes, would help ensure equal opportunity to participate in disaster recovery in a meaningful way. Such actions would be consistent with the National Disaster Recovery Framework and recent governmentwide equity initiatives. Why GAO Did This Study Disasters affect numerous American communities and cause billions of dollars of damage. Many factors affect individual and community recovery. Recently, federal actions have focused on equitable administration of federal recovery assistance. Members of Congress asked GAO to report on the impact of federal disaster recovery programs on various societal groups. This report addresses (1) research findings on recovery outcomes related to select federal programs, (2) research findings and recovery stakeholder perspectives on participation in select federal recovery programs, and (3) the extent to which federal disaster recovery agencies have taken actions to identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes. GAO conducted a literature review to summarize key research findings and interviewed state, tribal, and nonprofit recovery stakeholders to gain their perspectives. GAO analyzed program documentation and interviewed federal program officials from the six federal programs selected because of their historically large obligations for disaster recovery.
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- Four Men Indicted for Hate Crimes and False Statements After Racially Motivated Assault in Lynnwood, Washington
In Crime NewsDecember 18, 2020The Justice Department announced today that four men from across the Pacific Northwest were indicted this week for federal hate crimes and making false statements in connection with a Dec. 8, 2018, racially-motivated assault.
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In Crime NewsDecember 13, 2021The Justice Department announced today that Chester Gordon Whitescarver and his wife, Betsy Whitescarver, who have owned and managed rental properties in and around Russellville, Kentucky, have agreed to pay $230,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
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- VA Disability Exams: Actions Needed to Improve Program Management
May 13, 2021What GAO Found In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has significantly expanded the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) use of contractors to perform disability medical exams instead of relying on Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers. According to VBA officials, VA’s policy is to continue using contractors for most exams. GAO previously identified sound practices agencies can use to plan for significant programmatic changes. However, VBA has not applied several of these practices to its plans for allocating workloads among its contractors and VHA medical centers. For example, VBA has not assessed potential risks to capacity and exam quality in allocating the bulk of exams to contractors. Employing such practices could help VBA identify potential risks stemming from this long-term program change and better plan for addressing future workload needs. Percent of Disability Exams Performed by VBA Contractors and by VHA Medical Centers, Fiscal Years 2017-2021 Over time, VA has also permitted contractors to complete exams for more complex disability claims—such as Gulf War Illness—according to VBA officials, but VBA does not conduct targeted reviews specifically to assess the quality of the exam reports completed for these exams. VBA data show that exam reports for selected complex claims were returned to examiners for correction or clarification at about twice the rate that exam reports were returned overall. Disability medical examiners told GAO that these types of exams can be challenging. Without specifically assessing how well contractors perform on exams for complex claims, VBA is missing an opportunity to identify actions that could help ensure veterans receive high quality exams and that exam reports are completed correctly. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO’s March 2021 report, entitled VA Disability Exams: Better Planning Needed as Use of Contracted Examiners Continues to Grow (GAO-21-444T). This testimony also builds upon prior GAO reporting on VBA’s contract exam program in October 2018 (GAO-19-13).
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- COVID-19: Lessons Learned from Interior and Treasury’s Administration of CARES Act Funds Could Improve Federal Emergency Relief to Tribes
October 29, 2021What GAO Found The Department of the Interior distributed the CARES Act Operation of Indian Programs (OIP) appropriation through existing programs while the Department of the Treasury had to set up a new program to distribute the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Tribal Government Set-Aside. This resulted in tribes taking fewer steps to access and use Interior’s OIP appropriation than Treasury’s program. Interior. The CARES Act required that Interior make at least $400 million of the OIP appropriation available to meet the direct needs of tribes. Interior disbursed these funds through two existing programs based on tribal enrollment. As a result, tribes needed to take few administrative steps to access and use funds. Treasury. The CARES Act created the CRF as a new program. The CRF appropriation included an $8 billion Tribal Set-Aside. Treasury did not have a preexisting allocation methodology or mechanisms for disbursing this funding to tribes, so it had to develop them before it could make payments. Treasury distributed the CRF Tribal Set-Aside in two tranches, using multiple allocation methodologies. Treasury asked tribes to take several administrative steps to access and use CRF payments. For example, tribes had to submit two rounds of data to receive both tranches of CRF payments. Agencies and selected tribes faced various challenges regarding the CARES Act OIP appropriation and CRF Tribal Set-Aside. Treasury faced greater challenges than Interior, and was delayed distributing CRF payments to tribes. For example: Treasury officials said the work needed to develop distribution formulas consistent with the CARES Act contributed to delays in CRF disbursements to tribes. Selected tribes told GAO that Treasury used certain data in one of its allocation methodologies without consulting with tribes about the data and their limitations. Such consultation could have allowed the agency to make changes or address tribes’ concerns prior to making payments using the data. Consequently, certain tribes did not receive emergency relief in a timely manner to address pandemic needs. Selected tribal organizations, academic researchers, and tribes said that adjusting to Treasury’s changing guidance on allowable uses of funds further delayed tribes’ implementation of projects and increased their administrative burden. Treasury has applied some lessons learned to its administration of a subsequent relief program established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. For example, Treasury improved its communication to tribes on allowable use of funds. However, Treasury has not formalized other lessons learned into its tribal consultation policy. Specifically, Treasury’s tribal consultation policy does not call for the agency to consult with tribes on data it is considering using to make policy decisions with tribal implications. Until Treasury updates its policy, it risks using data without a meaningful dialogue with tribes about any limitations of the data. This deprives Treasury of information that tribes could provide about how to address data limitations and may increase the risk that programs might not be as effective at meeting tribes’ needs in a timely manner. Why GAO Did This Study GAO has previously found that COVID-19 disproportionately harmed the public health and economies of tribal nations in the U.S. In March 2020, the CARES Act appropriated over $9 billion for federal programs for tribes and their members—this amount included $8 billion for Treasury’s CRF Tribal Set-Aside and $453 million for Interior’s OIP (CARES Act funds). The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report is part of that body of work. It examines (1) approaches Interior and Treasury took to distribute CARES Act funds to tribes and steps necessary for tribes to access and use these funds, and (2) challenges the agencies and selected tribes faced and lessons learned that could improve future federal emergency relief to tribes. To do this work, GAO reviewed agency documents and interviewed federal agency officials, representatives of three tribal organizations and two academic research centers—selected for their work related to CARES Act funds—and officials from seven selected tribes that accessed CARES Act funds from the agencies.
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- Navy Readiness: Actions Needed to Evaluate and Improve Surface Warfare Officer Career Path
June 18, 2021What GAO Found U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) separate from the SWO community earlier and at higher rates compared with officers in similar U.S. Navy communities, and female SWOs separate at higher rates than male SWOs. Retention Rates for U.S. Navy Officers and Surface Warfare Officers by Gender Note: GAO compared the U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer community separation rates with those of the other unrestricted line officer communities in the U.S. Navy: Naval Aviation, Submarine, and Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Special Warfare. GAO found that after 10 years of service, around the first major career milestone: 33 percent of SWOs remain in their community, compared with 45 percent of officers from similar U.S. Navy officer communities, and 12 percent of female SWOs remain in their community, compared with 39 percent of male SWOs. By using existing information to develop a plan to improve SWO retention, the Navy will be better positioned to retain a diverse and combat-ready community. The career path for U.S. Navy SWOs differs from those in similar positions in selected foreign navies and other U.S. Navy and U.S. maritime communities. Career Path for U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officers Compared with Others The U.S. Navy made incremental career path changes for SWOs following the 2017 collisions, but has not regularly evaluated or fundamentally changed its SWO career path for over a century. GAO found that by a factor of four to one, SWOs believe specialized career paths would better prepare them for their duties than the current generalist career path. Without periodic evaluations of current approaches, including alternative career paths, and the use of those evaluations, the U.S. Navy may miss an opportunity to develop and retain proficient SWOs. Why GAO Did This Study SWOs are U.S. Navy officers whose primary duties focus on the safe operation of surface ships at sea. In 2017, the Navy had two collisions at sea that resulted in the death of 17 sailors and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to Navy ships. Following the collisions, the Navy identified deficiencies in the SWO career path and staffing policies, and took action to improve these areas. The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 contained a provision that GAO assess issues related to the U.S. Navy SWO career path. Among other things, this report (1) assesses trends in separation rates of SWOs with those of similar U.S. Navy officer communities, and trends in SWO separation rates by gender; (2) describes how the career path of U.S. Navy SWOs compares to those of selected foreign navies and other U.S. Navy and U.S. maritime communities; and (3) assesses the extent to which the U.S. Navy has used or evaluated alternative career paths. GAO analyzed U.S. Navy officer personnel data; selected foreign navies and U.S. maritime officer communities for comparison; and surveyed a generalizable sample of Navy SWOs.
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- Overseas Contingency Operations: Comparison of the Department of Defense’s Overseas Contingency Operations Funding Requests for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011
August 25, 2021Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been engaged in domestic and overseas military operations in support of overseas contingency operations (OCO). These operations include Operation Iraqi Freedom, which focuses principally on Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom, which focuses principally on Afghanistan, but also include operations in the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Obtaining an accurate picture of OCO costs is of critical importance given the need to evaluate trade-offs and make more effective use of defense dollars in light of the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. In the past, the GAO has reported on the need for DOD to become more disciplined in its approach to developing plans and budgets, including building more OCO costs into the base defense budget. In February 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in coordination with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), developed new guidance for use when constructing the initial fiscal year 2010 OCO funding request that more narrowly defined what should be considered an OCO funding need. The guidance remained in effect for building the fiscal year 2010 OCO supplemental request and the fiscal year 2011 OCO budget request.Under the Comptroller General’s authority, GAO evaluated: 1. The fiscal year 2011 OCO budget request by comparing it to the fiscal year 2010 OCO appropriation and the fiscal year 2010 OCO supplemental request. 2. The assumptions DOD used to create the fiscal year 2010 OCO supplemental request and the fiscal year 2011 OCO budget request. 3. The extent to which the assumptions used for creating the fiscal year 2010 OCO supplemental request and the fiscal year 2011 OCO budget request are sensitive to operational changes. 4. The extent to which DOD moved certain costs of ongoing contingency operations from its OCO budget request into its base budget request.
- Surface Transportation Security: TSA Has Taken Steps to Improve its Surface Inspector Program, but Lacks Performance Targets
July 30, 2020According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Surface Transportation Security Inspector Operations Plan (TSA’s plan), surface transportation security inspectors—known as surface inspectors—are to enter key details for program activities in the Performance and Results Information System (PARIS)—TSA’s system of record for all surface inspector activities. In December 2017, GAO reported that TSA was unable to fully account for surface inspector time spent assisting with non-surface transportation modes, including aviation, due to data limitations in PARIS, and recommended TSA address these limitations. Since GAO’s report, TSA updated PARIS to better track surface inspector activities in non-surface transportation modes. Transportation Security Administration Surface Inspectors Assess Security of a Bus System TSA’s plan outlines steps to align work plan activities with risk assessment findings. However, TSA cannot comprehensively ensure surface inspectors are targeting program resources to high-risk modes and locations because it does not consistently collect information on entity mode or location in PARIS. According to officials, TSA plans to update PARIS and program guidance to require inspectors to include this information in the system by the end of fiscal year 2020. TSA’s plan outlines performance measures for the surface inspector program, but does not establish quantifiable performance targets for all activities. Targets indicate how well an agency aspires to perform and could include, for example, entity scores on TSA security assessments, among others. By developing targets, TSA would be better positioned to assess the surface inspector program’s progress in achieving its objective of increasing security among surface transportation entities. Surface transportation—freight and passenger rail, mass transit, highway, maritime and pipeline systems—is vulnerable to global terrorism and other threats. TSA is the federal agency primarily responsible for securing surface transportation systems. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires TSA to submit a plan to guide its Surface Transportation Security Inspectors Program. The Act includes a provision for GAO to review TSA’s plan. This report examines the extent to which TSA’s plan and its implementation: (1) address known data limitations related to tracking surface inspector activities among non-surface modes, (2) align surface operations with risk assessments, and how, if at all, TSA ensures inspectors prioritize activities in high-risk modes and locations, and (3) establish performance targets for the surface inspector program. GAO reviewed TSA’s June 2019 plan and analyzed data on inspector activities for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. GAO interviewed officials in headquarters and a non-generalizable sample of 7 field offices selected based on geographical location and the presence of high-risk urban areas. GAO recommends that TSA establish quantifiable performance targets for the surface inspector program’s activity-level performance measures. DHS concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or McNeilT@gao.gov.
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- Border Security Metrics: Progress Made, but DHS Should Take Additional Steps to Improve Information Quality
November 17, 2021What GAO Found In its fiscal year 2019 Border Security Metrics Report , the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported information on 37 of the 43 metrics required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA). As shown below, GAO found that 18 of the 37 metrics in the fiscal year 2019 report generally corresponded with their descriptions in the NDAA, while 19 metrics differed, such as in scope or calculation. How the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Reported on the 43 Metrics Required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA) DHS improved the quality of information in several metrics in the fiscal year 2019 report compared with earlier versions. However, data reliability issues remain—such as DHS not fully disclosing limitations of some metrics—because DHS does not have a process to systematically review the data. Implementing GAO’s prior recommendations to develop and implement a process to systematically review the reliability of data—and communicate limitations identified through this process—would position DHS to maximize the quality of information and provide Congress and the public with contextual information needed to evaluate the metrics. DHS used a statistical model to estimate four metrics, including the estimated number of undetected unlawful entries between ports of entry. In response to one of GAO’s prior recommendations, DHS, in its fiscal year 2019 Border Security Metrics Report , showed how the sensitivity of three assumptions affected the precision of the model’s estimates. For example, the model assumed that DHS apprehends all families unlawfully crossing the border, and the fiscal year 2019 report outlined how this assumption affected the model-based metrics in 2018. This sensitivity analysis will allow Congress and the public to better understand the limitations of DHS’s model and better evaluate the validity of border security metrics derived from it. In response to another GAO recommendation, DHS conveyed statistical uncertainty for one of the unlawful entry metrics in its fiscal year 2019 report. In particular, DHS outlined how this uncertainty might affect the model-based apprehension rate. However, DHS did not report how uncertainty would affect the other three metrics that rely on its statistical model. As GAO previously recommended, including measures of statistical uncertainty for all relevant metrics in future reports would allow Congress, policy makers, and the public to more fully evaluate the extent to which the metrics are valid. Why GAO Did This Study The United States has approximately 6,000 miles of land borders, 95,000 miles of coastline, and more than 300 ports of entry where travelers and cargo are inspected. Securing U.S. border areas is a key part of DHS’s mission, and its ability to measure border security activities is essential to managing its responsibilities effectively and efficiently. The 2017 NDAA requires DHS to report annually on 43 border security metrics. The act also includes a provision for GAO, within 270 days of receipt of the first report and biennially for the following 10 years, to review and report on the data and methodology in DHS’s report. GAO issued its initial report in March 2019. This second report evaluates the report DHS issued in August 2020, which is known as the fiscal year 2019 report and contains data through fiscal year 2018. This report addresses the extent to which DHS (1) reported metrics outlined in the 2017 NDAA using quality information and (2) has taken steps to determine and convey the sensitivity of key assumptions and the statistical uncertainty of its unlawful entry metrics. GAO assessed the methodology and data in DHS’s report, analyzed DHS’s use of statistical modeling, and interviewed officials from DHS offices and components.
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