The Justice Department announced today that Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime for attacking an Asian family he believed was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic because he believed them to be Chinese.
- Southwest Border Security: Actions Are Needed to Address the Cost and Readiness Implications of Continued DOD Support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection
February 23, 2021Since April 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted 33 requests for assistance (RFA) to the Department of Defense (DOD) for support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) mission at the southwest border. DOD established six criteria for evaluating RFAs, which it documents in decision packages. When reviewing four selected decision packages, GAO found that DOD fully evaluated four of these six criteria. GAO found that DOD developed rough cost estimates that were not reliable. In addition, DOD did not fully evaluate the effect on military readiness of providing support at the time the Secretary of Defense considered DHS’s requests. Without reliable cost estimates and a timely readiness analysis, DOD is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect of supporting DHS on its budget and readiness rebuilding efforts. DOD’s Detection and Monitoring Support Mission DOD has not provided Congress with timely information on the full costs it has incurred since 2018 in supporting DHS. Specifically, during this review, DOD did not submit its statutory report to Congress for fiscal year 2019, which was due March 31, 2020. Additionally, GAO found that DOD’s internal tracking of obligations excludes potentially significant costs of border support activities, such as installation support costs and the cost of benefits retroactively provided to members of the National Guard. By providing more timely and complete information to Congress, DOD would enhance Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and make funding decisions for DOD and DHS. DOD and DHS employed several key interagency collaboration practices for DOD’s support on the southwest border, but they have not agreed on a common outcome for DOD’s support in fiscal year 2021 and beyond. DHS anticipates needing at least the current amount of DOD support for the next 3 to 5 years, possibly more, and officials stated that the desired outcome is for DOD to provide the capabilities requested in the RFAs. This differs from DOD’s desired outcome, which is to provide temporary assistance until DHS can independently execute its border security mission. Defining and articulating a common outcome for DOD’s support could enable DOD to more effectively plan for the resources it will need to support DHS and enable DHS to plan to manage its border security mission more effectively with its own assets. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in February 2021. Information on force protection that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. For decades, the U.S. southwest border has been vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity such as illegal entries, smuggling of drugs and contraband, and terrorist activities. Since 2002, DOD has supported DHS’s mission to secure the nation’s borders and episodically supported its efforts to manage surges in foreign nationals without valid travel documents who are seeking entry—most recently since April 2018, when the President directed the Secretary of Defense to support DHS in securing the southwest border. GAO was asked to examine this support. This report assesses the extent to which (1) DOD has evaluated DHS’s RFAs, (2) DOD has reported to Congress the full costs of its support, and (3) DOD and DHS have collaborated on border security operations. GAO reviewed RFAs that DHS submitted to DOD between April 2018 and March 2020 and a non-generalizable sample of decision packages that DOD prepared in response, and conducted four site visits to border locations where military personnel were stationed. GAO makes seven recommendations, five to DOD to improve its analysis and reporting of cost and unit-level readiness impacts of supporting southwest border operations and one each to DOD and DHS to define a common outcome for DOD’s future support. DOD agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with five. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted as discussed in the report. DHS agreed with the recommendation to it. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Compounding Pharmacy Mogul Sentenced for Multimillion-Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme
January 15, 2021A Mississippi businessman was sentenced today for his role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE, the health care benefit program serving U.S. military, veterans, and their respective family members, as well as private health care benefit programs.
- Trafficking and Money Laundering: Strategies Used by Criminal Groups and Terrorists and Federal Efforts to Combat Them
December 23, 2021What GAO Found Federal agencies and others have reported that money laundering strategies used by transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups include sophisticated techniques such as phony trade transactions or purchase and resale of real estate or art. Such techniques can involve the services of professional money laundering networks or service providers in legitimate professions, such as complicit lawyers or accountants. For example, lawyers or accountants can create shell companies (entities with no business operations) to help criminals launder illicit proceeds. Transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups also continue to smuggle cash in bulk or transmit money electronically across borders. Federal efforts to combat trafficking and money laundering incorporate multiple collaborative and information-sharing mechanisms and include the private sector. Law enforcement agencies collaborate through task forces in which they share information and analytical resources to aid in the investigation and prosecution of drug and other trafficking-related crimes. Federal agencies share intelligence with foreign counterparts. For example, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, shares information with more than 160 international financial intelligence agencies. FinCEN collaborates with law enforcement agencies to share information with financial institutions on “red flags” for trafficking, which institutions can use to identify and report suspicious transactions (see box below). FinCEN also coordinates a voluntary program that allows financial institutions to share information with one another to better identify and report suspicious activities that may be related to money laundering or other illicit financing. Examples of Human Trafficking “Red Flag” Indicators Provided to Financial Institutions Involvement of a third party who speaks for the customer, insists on being present for transactions, or acts aggressively toward the customer. Frequent customer transactions from different U.S. geographical regions. Transactions that are inconsistent with a customer’s expected activity. Customer accounts that share a telephone number or other identifiers with escort agency websites or commercial sex advertisements. Frequent sending or receipt of funds via cryptocurrency to or from internet addresses associated with illicit activity. Source: GAO analysis of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network information. | GAO-22-104807 These mechanisms help address some of the challenges involved in combatting trafficking and money laundering, which include the increasingly sophisticated strategies of criminal and terrorist groups and the fragmentation of responsibility for anti-trafficking efforts among many federal agencies. Why GAO Did This Study FinCEN identified trafficking activity of transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups as among the most significant illicit finance threats facing the United States in its 2021 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism National Priorities. Congress included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 for GAO to review trafficking and related money laundering and federal efforts to combat them. Among its objectives, this report describes what is known about the money laundering strategies of transnational criminal organizations and terrorists and information-sharing efforts among federal agencies to combat trafficking. GAO reviewed documentation from Treasury and other federal agencies, international and nonprofit organizations focused on trafficking or money laundering, scholarly journals, and prior GAO work. GAO examined federal guidance to financial institutions and interviewed federal agency officials; experts in trafficking, money laundering, and use of data technology; and representatives of trade groups for lawyers and accountants. GAO also interviewed five groups of financial institution representatives about identifying trafficking-related suspicious activities. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.
- Justice Department Requires Divestitures in Lactalis’s Acquisition of Kraft Heinz’s Natural Cheese Business in the United States
November 10, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it will require B.S.A. S.A. (Lactalis) and The Kraft Heinz Company (Kraft Heinz) to divest Kraft Heinz’s Athenos and Polly-O businesses in order to proceed with Lactalis’s proposed acquisition of Kraft Heinz’s natural cheese business in the United States.
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Hugh Hewitt of The Hugh Hewitt Show
January 12, 2021Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Appointment of Ambassador Daniel Smith as Chargé d’Affaires at Embassy New Delhi
May 2, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIS
January 25, 2021In San Antonio today, 22-year-old Cost resident Jaylyn Christopher Molina, aka Abdur Rahim, admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Gregg N. Sofer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division Christopher Combs.
- Notice of Intent to Publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity Announcement for NGO Programs Benefiting Displaced Iraqis and Syrian Refugees
September 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities for Improvement and Considerations for Restructuring
August 24, 2021What GAO FoundOn February 17th, Chairman Lieberman and Senator Warner introduced S. 2129, entitled Reforming and Consolidating Government Act of 2012, a bill renewing the Presidential authority to propose government organizational changes and obtain congressional approval through an expedited process. From 1932 to 1984, Congress provided the President with some form of reorganization authority. S. 2129 renews most of the statutory framework as it existed before the authority lapsed in 1984. However, S. 2129 proposes noteworthy changes, both in terms of eliminating restrictions on the scope of a Presidents plan and placing additional requirements on such plans.Unlike the 1984 version of the law, under S. 2129, the President would be permitted to propose the creation of a new department (or renaming of an existing department), the abolishment or transfer of an executive department, or the consolidation of two or more departments. There are currently fifteen departments, including the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, the President would be permitted to propose the creation of a new agency, a restriction which was included by the 1984 amendment of this authority.The reorganization authority proposed under this bill would permit the President, as in the 1984 version of the law, to prepare and submit to Congress reorganization plans that call for the (1) transfer of an agency or some of its functions to another agency, (2) abolishment of all or some functions of an agency, (3) consolidation of an agency or its functions or parts of an agency or some of its functions with another agency or part of another agency, (4) consolidation of part of an agency or some of its functions with another part of the same agency, or (5) authorization of an officer to delegate his or her functions.In our 2012 annual report, we identified a total of 51 areas, including 32 areas of potential duplication, overlap, or fragmentation, as well as 19 opportunities for agencies or Congress to consider taking action that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury. These areas involve a wide range of government missions including agriculture, defense, economic development, education, energy, general government, health, homeland security, international affairs, science and the environment, and social services. Within and across these missions, the 2012 annual report touches on virtually all major federal departments and agencies.In our 2011 annual report, we suggested a wide range of actions for Congress and the executive branch to consider such as developing strategies to better coordinate fragmented efforts, implementing executive initiatives to improve oversight and evaluation of overlapping programs, considering enactment of legislation to facilitate revenue collection and examining opportunities to eliminate potential duplication through streamlining, collocating, or consolidating efforts or administrative services. For our 2011 follow-up report, we assessed the extent to which Congress and the executive branch addressed the 81 areasincluding a total of 176 actionsto reduce or eliminate unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation or achieve other potential financial benefits.Our assessment of progress made as of February 10, 2012, found that 4 (or 5 percent) of the 81 areas GAO identified were addressed; 60 (or 74 percent) were partially addressed; and 17 (or 21 percent) were not addressed.Why GAO Did This StudyThis testimony discusses the need to reexamine the structures and operations of the federal government. Congress also asked that we address the Reforming and Consolidating Government Act of 2012 (S. 2129), first proposed by the President and introduced in the Senate by Chairman Lieberman and Senator Warner. The federal government faces an array of challenges and opportunities to enhance performance, ensure accountability, and position the nation for the future. A number of overarching trends, such as fiscal sustainability and debt challenges, demographic and societal changes, developments in science and technology, diffuse security threats, global interdependence, and the rapid expansion of collaborative networks, underscore the need for a fundamental reconsideration of the role, operations, and structure of the federal government for the 21st century. This testimony is based on our work on government reorganization, transformation, and management issues as well as our recently issued reports that identify additional opportunities and progress made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. Specifically, it addresses:issues related to reexamining the structure of the federal government and its operations, including the Presidents request that Congress grant authority to reorganize the executive branch agencies;federal programs or functional areas where unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation exists as well as opportunities for potential cost savings or enhanced revenues identified in our 2012 annual report; andthe status of actions taken by Congress and the executive branch to address the issues we identified in 2011.For further information on this testimony, please contact Janet St. Laurent, Managing Director, Defense Capabilities and Management, who may be reached at (202) 512-4300, or StLaurentJ@gao.gov; and Zina Merritt, Director, Defense Capabilities and Management, who may be reached at (202) 512-4300, or MerrittZ@gao.gov.
- Justice Department Settles with Florida Towing Company it Alleges Illegally Sold or Scrapped Servicemembers’ Vehicles
September 10, 2020The Justice Department today reached an agreement with ASAP Towing & Storage Company (“ASAP”) in Jacksonville, Florida, to resolve allegations that ASAP violated a federal law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”), by auctioning off or otherwise disposing of cars owned by protected servicemembers without first obtaining court orders.
- Justice Department Settles with Microsoft to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
December 7, 2021The Department of Justice today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft Corporation resolving allegations that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status during the early stages of Microsoft’s hiring process by asking them for unnecessary, specific immigration documents to prove they could work for the company without needing its sponsorship for work visas.
- Florida Doctor Charged in Massive $681 Million Substance Abuse Treatment Fraud Scheme
July 31, 2020A Palm Beach County, Florida doctor was arrested and charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud for his alleged participation in a massive years-long health care fraud scheme throughout Palm Beach County, billing for fraudulent tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.
- Remarks at the “America Is All In” Launch Event
February 20, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- Former Taliban Commander Charged with Killing American Troops in 2008
October 7, 2021A federal grand jury in New York unsealed a superseding indictment today charging an Afghanistan national with federal terrorism-related offenses spanning approximately 2007 to 2009 and stemming from his role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan.
- VA Construction: VA Should Enhance the Lessons-Learned Process for Its Real-Property Donation Pilot Program
December 11, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received one real property donation through a partnership pilot program authorized by the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016 (CHIP-IN Act) and is planning for a second. This Act authorized VA to accept donated real property—such as buildings or facility construction or improvements—and to contribute certain appropriated funds to donors that are entering into donation agreements with VA. Under VA’s interpretation, its ability to contribute to such funds is limited to major construction projects (over $20 million). The first CHIP-IN project—an ambulatory care center in Omaha, Nebraska—opened in August 2020. Pending requested appropriations for a second CHIP-IN project, VA intends to partner with another donor group to construct an inpatient medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (See figure.) Other potential donors have approached VA about opportunities that could potentially fit the CHIP-IN pilot, but these project ideas have not proceeded for various reasons, including the large donations required. VA officials told us they have developed a draft legislative proposal that seeks to address a challenge in finding CHIP-IN partnerships. For example, officials anticipate that a modification allowing VA to make funding contributions to smaller projects of $20 million and under would attract additional donors. Completed Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Ambulatory Care Center in Omaha, NE, and Rendering of Proposed Inpatient Facility in Tulsa, OK VA has discussed and documented some lessons learned from the Omaha project. For example, VA officials and the Omaha donor group identified and documented the benefits of a design review software that helped shorten timeframes and reduce costs compared to VA’s typical review process. However, VA has not consistently followed a lessons-learned process, and as a result, other lessons, such as the decision-making that went into developing the Omaha project’s donation agreement, have not been documented. Failure to document and disseminate lessons learned puts VA at risk of losing valuable insights from the CHIP-IN pilot that could inform future CHIP-IN projects or other VA construction efforts. VA has pressing infrastructure demands and a backlog of real property projects. VA can accept up to five real property donations through the CHIP-IN pilot program, which is authorized through 2021. GAO previously reported on the CHIP-IN pilot program in 2018. The CHIP-IN Act includes a provision for GAO to report on donation agreements entered into under the pilot program. This report examines: (1) the status of VA’s efforts to execute CHIP-IN partnerships and identify additional potential partners and (2) the extent to which VA has collected lessons learned from the pilot, among other objectives. GAO reviewed VA documents, including project plans and budget information, and interviewed VA officials, donor groups for projects in Omaha and Tulsa, and selected non-profits with experience in fundraising. GAO compared VA’s efforts to collect lessons learned with key practices for an overall lessons-learned process. GAO is making two recommendations to VA to implement a lessons-learned process. Recommendations include documenting and disseminating lessons learned from CHIP-IN pilot projects. VA concurred with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Department of Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Accounting of Intradepartmental Transactions
January 14, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has a long-standing material weakness related to intradepartmental transactions. Intradepartmental transactions occur when trading partners within the same department engage in business activities—such as the Department of the Army as a seller and the Department of the Navy as a buyer within DOD. As part of the standard process of preparing department-wide financial statements, intradepartmental transaction amounts are eliminated to avoid overstating accounts for DOD. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019, DOD eliminated approximately $451 billion of net intradepartmental activity. Auditors continue to report a material weakness related to DOD’s processes for recording and reconciling intradepartmental transaction amounts that are necessary to eliminate the transactions and prepare reliable consolidated financial statements. DOD has identified implementation of the Government Invoicing (G-Invoicing) system as its long-term solution to account for and support its intradepartmental activities. In fiscal year 2020, DOD issued a policy requiring all DOD components to use G-Invoicing’s General Terms and Conditions (GT&C) functionality for initiating and approving GT&C agreements—a necessary step for using subsequent G-Invoicing functionalities (see figure). GAO found the use of this functionality varied among selected DOD components because of issues such as inconsistency in DOD policies and numerous changes to G-Invoicing system specifications. If DOD components do not implement the GT&C functionality, there is an increased risk of delay in full implementation of G-Invoicing to help remediate the intradepartmental eliminations material weakness. General Terms and Conditions Agreement Process in Government Invoicing Although DOD has identified G-Invoicing as its long-term solution, GAO found that DOD has not implemented an overall department-wide strategy to address its intradepartmental eliminations material weakness in the short term. Further, GAO found that while DOD issued a department-wide policy in May 2019 with new requirements for reconciling intradepartmental transactions, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and selected DOD components have not updated their policies or implemented several of the new requirements. Without a short-term strategy that includes identifying the causes of issues and consistently implementing department-wide policies across DOD, DOD’s efforts to resolve differences in intradepartmental transaction amounts—including its efforts in the long term—will likely be inefficient and ineffective. Since 1995, GAO has designated DOD financial management as high risk because of pervasive weaknesses in its financial management systems, controls, and reporting. DOD’s long-standing intradepartmental eliminations material weakness reflects DOD’s inability to adequately record and reconcile its intradepartmental transactions, and has affected DOD’s ability to prepare auditable financial statements. GAO was asked to evaluate DOD’s process for performing intradepartmental eliminations. This report examines the extent to which DOD has (1) identified and taken steps to address issues related to intradepartmental eliminations and (2) established and implemented policies and procedures related to intradepartmental eliminations. GAO interviewed DOD officials about intradepartmental eliminations processes and reviewed DOD policies and procedures to identify the extent to which procedures have been implemented to record and reconcile intradepartmental transactions. GAO is making five recommendations to DOD, including that DOD should (1) take actions to ensure that its components follow its policy for using G-Invoicing’s GT&C functionality and (2) develop short-term solutions that address causes for trading partner differences before G-Invoicing is fully implemented. DOD agreed with all five recommendations and cited actions to address them. For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or email@example.com.
- Chief Justice Names Conference Committee Chairs
In U.S CourtsOctober 30, 2020Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has named eight new chairs of Judicial Conference committees and extended the term of a current chair by one year.
- U.S. Department of State Debars Seven Persons for Violating or Conspiring to Violate the Arms Export Control Act
June 4, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Firearm Injuries: Health Care Service Needs and Costs
July 15, 2021What GAO Found There is no complete information on the health care costs of firearm injuries. National data allow for estimates of the costs of initial hospital treatment and some first-year costs, but less is known about costs the more time passes from the injury. Examining available data and information, GAO found the following: Initial hospital costs: Using hospital data from 2016 and 2017—the most recent that were available—GAO estimated that the initial hospital costs of firearm injuries were just over $1 billion annually. However, physician costs not captured in the data could add around 20 percent to that total. GAO also found that each year there were about 30,000 inpatient stays and about 50,000 emergency department visits to initially treat firearm injuries, and that patients with Medicaid and other public coverage accounted for over 60 percent of the costs of this care. First-year costs: Findings from studies on health care costs within the first year of hospital discharge after a firearm injury suggest that those costs can be significant. For example, studies estimating first-year hospital readmissions costs found that up to 16 percent of firearm injury survivors with an initial inpatient stay were readmitted at least once for their injury, with average costs of $8,000 to $11,000 per patient. Long-term costs: Less is known about the costs of health care for firearm injuries beyond the first year after hospital discharge. GAO identified studies that estimated lifetime costs of these injuries, but the estimates relied on data from over 20 years ago, making them no longer a reliable indicator of costs. Clinical experts GAO met with described a wide range in both physical and behavioral health care needs for firearm injury survivors after hospital discharge, with some survivors needing lifelong care. These experts also told GAO that survivors often face barriers to receiving needed care, such as being denied care when it is not covered by their insurance. While not receiving needed services may minimize costs initially, the consequences of unmet health needs for firearm injury survivors may ultimately result in greater costs. Range of Physical Health Care Needs for Firearm Injuries after Hospital Discharge Why GAO Did This Study In 2019, close to 40,000 people died from a firearm injury in the U.S., and around twice that number sustained non-fatal injuries. Over 100 organizations representing health care providers consider the number of firearm injuries that occur each day to be a public health epidemic. Health care costs associated with firearm injuries—both those for services provided during initial hospital treatment and those for services provided long-term—are paid for, at least in part, by public payers, such as Medicaid and Medicare. GAO was asked to review the health care costs of firearm injuries. This report describes the initial hospital costs of firearm injuries in the U.S. and what is known about the costs of subsequent care, as well as the post-discharge services that may be needed to treat these injuries. GAO analyzed hospital data for 2016 and 2017 collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality related to the initial costs of treating firearm injuries, and conducted a literature review on the health care costs of these injuries following discharge. In addition, GAO moderated meetings with 12 experts, representing clinicians, economists, and others—selected with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—to discuss the post-discharge health care service needs and costs of firearm injuries. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Businessman Charged in Scheme to Hoard Personal Protective Equipment and Price Gouge Health Care Providers
January 27, 2021A Mississippi businessman was charged with defrauding the United States and other health care providers in a $1.8 million scheme related to acquiring and hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and price gouging health care providers, including numerous U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in critical need of PPE.