Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
We strongly condemn President Putin’s decision to recognize the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as “independent.” As we said when the Duma first made its request: this decision represents a complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
States have an obligation not to recognize a new “state” created through the threat or use of force, as well as an obligation not to disrupt another state’s borders. Russia’s decision is yet another example of President Putin’s flagrant disrespect for international law and norms.
President Biden will sign an Executive Order that will prohibit all new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” regions of Ukraine. We will continue to coordinate with Ukraine and our Allies and partners to take appropriate steps in response to this unprovoked and unacceptable action by Russia. The E.O. is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law. It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activity to continue in these regions.
Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as for the government and people of Ukraine is unwavering. We stand with our Ukrainian partners in strongly condemning President Putin’s announcement.
- Federal Courthouse Construction: Judiciary Should Refine Its Methods for Determining Which Projects Are Most Urgent
January 5, 2022What GAO Found The judiciary created its Asset Management Planning (AMP) process to prioritize construction projects. As part of that process, the judiciary assesses courthouse conditions. The 2020 assessment results showed that security was the largest concern, with 44 percent of courthouses receiving a poor score. Courthouses’ adherence to space standards, such as the size or accessibility of courtrooms, had more balanced scores. The physical condition of the judicial spaces performed the best with more than three-fourths of all courthouses receiving ideal to good ratings (see figure). Judiciary’s 2020 Courthouse Assessment Category Scores and Percentages for 385 Federal Courthouses By following the AMP process and coordinating with other federal agencies, the judiciary ensured that courthouse assessment scores were accurate at the time they were completed. However, the judiciary did not always update assessment scores, when appropriate, to reflect major changes in courthouses’ operating status. For example, one courthouse was destroyed by a hurricane in 2018, and another had a mold problem. Both were required to close. We found that the judiciary did not update these courthouses’ assessment scores, an update that would have had an important effect on the urgency ratings—a later part of the AMP process. By updating courthouse assessment scores to reflect major changes in operating status, the judiciary can provide more accurate and reliable information to decision makers. The judiciary’s scoring methodology could amplify or diminish the scores of courthouses and cities in ways that were not always aligned with AMP’s goals. For example, the methodology made it more likely that smaller courthouses would receive the worst scores compared to larger, multifaceted courthouses. Also, the judiciary capped certain values within the scoring process in ways that were not always repeatable or consistent due to a lack of documented guidelines for using the caps. This approach could lead to nontransparent and inconsistent results that could affect how projects are prioritized for funding. Absent an analysis of the methodology’s effects on the AMP goals, the judiciary cannot have full confidence that the rankings were objective and consistent. This lack of transparency and objectivity could lead the judiciary to inadvertently recommend projects for further study and funding that may not represent the cities with the most urgent space and condition needs. Why GAO Did This Study Major federal courthouse construction, expansion, and renovation projects usually cost hundreds of millions of dollars and can be controversial as federal judicial districts and circuits vie for limited funding. By 2020, the judiciary’s AMP process had assessed and scored 385 federal courthouses to generate urgency ratings and rankings that allow the judiciary to prioritize courthouse projects and funding. GAO was asked to review the AMP process. This report assesses: (1) what the judiciary’s assessment scores show about the conditions of federal courthouses; (2) the extent to which the AMP process ensures the accuracy of its courthouse assessment scores it produces; and (3) the extent to which the AMP’s scoring methodology is meeting AMP goals. GAO reviewed policies and analyzed the judiciary’s 2020 facility assessment and urgency data; selected a non-generalizable sample of 10 courthouses based on courthouse assessment scores and urgency ratings; and interviewed officials about the AMP process.
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- Personnel Vetting: Actions Needed to Implement Reforms, Address Challenges, and Improve Planning
December 9, 2021What GAO Found The Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Principals—comprising the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security—have made progress in implementing Trusted Workforce 2.0, which is a reform of personnel vetting processes. The PAC Principals reduced a backlog of investigations, have begun to develop a policy framework for a new approach to personnel vetting, and have begun to develop needed information technology (IT) systems. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has formalized requirements to enroll the eligible national security population in continuous evaluation (CE), but has not assessed program performance. CE entails enrolling employees in IT systems that conduct automated record checks on a frequent basis. As of March 2021, about three-quarters of the eligible national security population in executive branch agencies were enrolled in a CE system, according to ODNI officials. In 2017 GAO recommended that ODNI develop performance measures to evaluate CE and a plan to address its impact on agency resources. ODNI concurred with GAO’s recommendation but has delayed taking actions in response and will not do so until CE is fully implemented, according to ODNI officials. This lack of progress may warrant congressional consideration, as it could limit ODNI’s and congressional decision-makers’ ability to assess the effectiveness and impact of continuous evaluation. The Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a reliable schedule to help manage the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. DOD has been developing NBIS since 2016, and DOD plans to replace the IT systems it currently uses to manage the background investigation process with NBIS. GAO assessed the NBIS schedule using GAO best practices and found it did not meet the characteristics of a reliable schedule (see table). By aligning the NBIS schedule with the characteristics of a reliable schedule, DOD could improve the likelihood of completing NBIS on schedule and improve decision-making during the program’s development. Table: Extent to Which NBIS Schedule Meets Best Practices Characteristics of a reliable schedule GAO assessment of the characteristic Comprehensive Partially met Controlled Partially met Well-constructed Minimally met Credible Minimally met Source: GAO analysis of information for the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. | GAO-22-104093 Further, DOD has taken limited strategic workforce planning steps for its entire personnel vetting workforce because it has not established a milestone for doing so. By establishing a milestone, DOD would create an accountability mechanism to complete its planning, which would help it determine the right mix of skills and competencies needed to effectively accomplish the personnel vetting mission. Why GAO Did This Study Personnel vetting helps protect the nation’s interests by aiming to establish and maintain trust in the federal workforce. High-quality vetting processes can reduce the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. In 2018 GAO placed the government-wide personnel security clearance process on its High-Risk List due to a lack of performance measures and issues with IT systems. This report evaluates, among other things, the extent to which the PAC Principals have implemented Trusted Workforce 2.0; ODNI has formalized continuous evaluation and assessed program performance; and DOD has planned for the IT and workforce needed to support its personnel vetting mission. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed relevant documentation, interviewed officials from the agencies represented by the four PAC Principals, and collected and reviewed data on continuous evaluation. GAO also assessed information collected against GAO leading practices on performance measures and project schedules, and evaluated DOD’s actions against a DOD instruction on workforce planning.
- Cybersecurity: Clarity of Leadership Urgently Needed to Fully Implement the National Strategy
September 22, 2020Federal entities have a variety of roles and responsibilities for supporting efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of the nation. Among other things, 23 federal entities have roles and responsibilities for developing policies, monitoring critical infrastructure protection efforts, sharing information to enhance cybersecurity across the nation, responding to cyber incidents, investigating cyberattacks, and conducting cybersecurity-related research. To fulfill their roles and responsibilities, federal entities identified activities undertaken in support of the nation’s cybersecurity. For example, National Security Council (NSC) staff, on behalf of the President, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed policies, strategies, standards, and plans to guide cybersecurity efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has helped secure the nation’s critical infrastructure through developing security policy and coordinating security initiatives, among other efforts. Other agencies have established initiatives to gather intelligence and share actual or possible cyberattack information. Multiple agencies have mechanisms in place to assist in responding to cyberattacks, and law enforcement components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are responsible for investigating them. The White House’s September 2018 National Cyber Strategy and the NSC’s accompanying June 2019 Implementation Plan detail the executive branch’s approach to managing the nation’s cybersecurity. When evaluated together, these documents addressed several of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, but lacked certain key elements for addressing others. National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan are Missing Desirable Characteristics of a National Strategy Characteristic Cyber Strategy and Plan Coverage of Issue Purpose, scope, and methodology Addressed Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination Addressed Integration and implementation Addressed Problem definition and risk assessment Did not fully address Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and performance measures Did not fully address Resources, investments, and risk management Did not fully address Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 For example, the Implementation Plan details 191 activities that federal entities are to undertake to execute the priority actions outlined in the National Cyber Strategy. These activities are assigned a level, or tier, based on the coordination efforts required to execute the activity and the extent to which NSC staff is expected to be involved. Thirty-five of these activities are designated as the highest level (tier 1), and are coordinated by a functional entity within the NSC . Ten entities are assigned to lead or co-lead these critical activities while also tasked to lead or co-lead lower tier activities. Leadership Roles for Federal Entities Assigned as Leads or Co-Leads for National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan Activities Entity Tier 1 Activities Tier 2 Activities Tier 3 Activities National Security Council 15 7 3 Department of Homeland Security 14 19 15 Office of Management and Budget 7 6 5 Department of Commerce 5 9 35 Department of State 2 5 11 Department of Defense 1 6 17 Department of Justice 1 10 5 Department of Transportation 1 0 5 Executive Office of the President 1 0 0 General Services Administration 1 2 1 Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 Although the Implementation Plan defined the entities responsible for leading each of the activities; it did not include goals and timelines for 46 of the activities or identify the resources needed to execute 160 activities. Additionally, discussion of risk in the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan was not based on an analysis of threats and vulnerabilities. Further, the documents did not specify a process for monitoring agency progress in executing Implementation Plan activities. Instead, NSC staff stated that they performed periodic check-ins with responsible entities, but did not provide an explanation or definition of specific level of NSC staff involvement for each of the three tier designations. Without a consistent approach to engaging with responsible entities and a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to implement all 191 activities, the NSC will face challenges in ensuring that the National Cyber Strategy is efficiently executed. GAO and others have reported on the urgency and necessity of clearly defining a central leadership role in order to coordinate the government’s efforts to overcome the nation’s cyber-related threats and challenges. The White House identified the NSC staff as responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy . However, in light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan , but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented. NSC staff stated responsibility for duties previously attributed to the White House Cyber Coordinator were passed to the senior director of NSC’s Cyber directorate; however, the staff did not provide a description of what those responsibilities include. NSC staff also stated that federal entities are ultimately responsible for determining the status of the activities that they lead or support and for communicating implementation status to relevant NSC staff. However, without a clear central leader to coordinate activities, as well as a process for monitoring performance of the Implementation Plan activities, the White House cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation’s cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge. Increasingly sophisticated cyber threats have underscored the need to manage and bolster the cybersecurity of key government systems and the nation’s cybersecurity. The risks to these systems are increasing as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO noted that the need to establish a national cybersecurity strategy with effective oversight was a major challenge facing the federal government. GAO was requested to review efforts to protect the nation’s cyber critical infrastructure. The objectives of this report were to (1) describe roles and responsibilities of federal entities tasked with supporting national cybersecurity, and (2) determine the extent to which the executive branch has developed a national strategy and a plan to manage its implementation. To do so, GAO identified 23 federal entities responsible for enhancing the nation’s cybersecurity. Specifically, GAO selected 13 federal agencies based on their specialized or support functions regarding critical infrastructure security and resilience, and 10 additional entities based on analysis of its prior reviews of national cybersecurity, relevant executive policy, and national strategy documents. GAO also analyzed the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan to determine if they aligned with the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration, that Congress should consider legislation to designate a leadership position in the White House with the commensurate authority to implement and encourage action in support of the nation’s cybersecurity. GAO is also making one recommendation to the National Security Council to work with relevant federal entities to update cybersecurity strategy documents to include goals, performance measures, and resource information, among other things. The National Security Council neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendation. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or email@example.com.
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- Justice Department Launches Investigation of the Mount Vernon Police Department
In Crime NewsDecember 3, 2021Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced today that the Justice Department has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department (MVPD).