A federal grand jury has returned an indictment against the man accused of shooting three Houston police officers as well as several unrelated cases involving unlawful possession of firearms with “Glock switches” or other violations, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery along with Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department (HPD), Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and U.S. Marshal Michael O’Conner of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
- VA Health Care: Community Living Centers Were Commonly Cited for Infection Control Deficiencies Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic
February 5, 2021The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for overseeing the quality of nursing home care provided to residents in VA-owned and -operated community living centers (CLC). VA models its oversight process on the methods used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which uses inspections of nursing homes to determine whether the home meets federal quality standards. These standards require, for example, that CLCs establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program. VA uses a contractor to conduct annual inspections of the CLCs, and these contractors cite CLCs with deficiencies if they are not in compliance with quality standards. Infection prevention and control deficiencies cited by the inspectors can include situations where CLC staff did not regularly use proper hand hygiene or failed to correctly use personal protective equipment. Many of these practices can be critical to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. GAO analysis of VA data shows that infection prevention and control deficiencies were the most common type of deficiency cited in inspected CLCs, with 95 percent (128 of the 135 CLCs inspected) having an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in 1 or more years from fiscal year 2015 through 2019. GAO also found that over the time period of its review, a significant number of inspected CLCs—62 percent—had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited in consecutive fiscal years, which may indicate persistent problems. An additional 19 percent had such deficiencies cited in multiple, nonconsecutive years. Why GAO Did This Study COVID-19 is a new and highly contagious respiratory disease causing severe illness and death, particularly among the elderly. Because of this, the health and safety of the nation’s nursing home residents—including veterans receiving nursing home care in CLCs—has been a particular concern. GAO was asked to review the quality of care at CLCs. In this report, GAO describes the prevalence of infection prevention and control deficiencies in CLCs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO reports will examine more broadly the quality of care at CLCs and VA’s response to COVID-19 in the nursing home settings for which VA provides or pays for care. For this report, GAO analyzed VA data on deficiencies cited in CLCs from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. Using these data, GAO determined the most common type of deficiency cited among CLCs, the number of CLCs that had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited, and the number of CLCs with repeated infection prevention and control deficiencies over the period from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. GAO also obtained and reviewed inspection reports and corrective action plans to describe examples of the infection prevention and control deficiencies cited at CLCs and the CLCs’ plans to remedy the noncompliance. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or SilasS@gao.gov.
- Former Owner of Health Care Staffing Company Indicted for Wage Fixing
December 10, 2020A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices by lowering the rates paid to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in north Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictment also charges Jindal with obstruction of the Federal Trade Commission’s separate investigation into this conduct.
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- Government Performance Management: Key Considerations for Implementing Cross-Agency Priority Goals and Progress Addressing GAO Recommendations
September 28, 2021What GAO Found The enactment of the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) aimed to create an integrated, crosscutting federal performance planning and reporting framework. The act requires the establishment of 4-year outcome-oriented goals known as cross-agency priority (CAP) goals. CAP goals cover a limited number of mission and management areas, such as improving customer experiences with federal services. The next set of CAP goals is due no later than February 2022. GAO identified key considerations to facilitate CAP goal implementation, for example: Establish the goal: Establish a balanced set of outcome-oriented mission and management-focused goals that reflect the government’s highest policy priorities. Identify goal leaders and contributors: Identify co-leaders and sub-goal leaders to facilitate leadership, continuity, and agency buy-in. Identify resources to support implementation: Dedicate resources to goal implementation, including funding, staffing, and technology. Use performance information: Focus on improving the quality and use of data to routinely assess goal progress and a shared commitment to continuous improvement. Report results: Develop communications strategies to help share success stories and outcomes of the goals. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and agencies have made notable progress in implementing 82 of 106 GAO GPRAMA-related recommendations made since 2012 (see figure). Status of GAO Recommendations Related to Implementation of the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, from Fiscal Year 2012-2021 as of July 2021 For example, OMB issued guidance to agencies to expand the use of data-driven performance reviews, and agencies took steps to report on the quality of their performance information. However, OMB and agencies have not fully implemented 24 GAO recommendations in areas such as creating an inventory of federal programs and improving the transparency of publicly reported performance information. Implementing remaining recommendations would help OMB and agencies more effectively manage performance. Why GAO Did This Study The nation faces unprecedented challenges that require the federal government to perform better, be more responsive to the American people, and achieve greater results. GPRAMA provides important tools that can help decision makers address crosscutting challenges facing the federal government. GPRAMA includes a provision for GAO to periodically report on the act’s implementation. This report (1) identifies key considerations that can facilitate CAP goal implementation; and (2) assesses OMB’s and agencies’ progress in addressing GAO recommendations related to GPRAMA. To identify key considerations, GAO conducted focus groups with subject matter specialists with expertise in performance management and with White House Leadership Development fellows who had a role in implementing CAP goals. GAO also obtained views from OMB staff and reviewed information on OMB’s role in CAP goal implementation. GAO also reviewed prior work on GPRAMA implementation. To identify progress made to address GAO recommendations, GAO reviewed actions OMB and agencies took since 2012.
- GPS Modernization: DOD Continuing to Develop New Jam-Resistant Capability, But Widespread Use Remains Years Away
January 19, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) is closer to being able to use military code (M-code)—a stronger, more secure signal for the Global Positioning System (GPS) designed to meet military needs. However, due to the complexity of the technology, M-code remains years away from being widely fielded across DOD. M-code-capable receiver equipment includes different components, and the development and manufacture of each is key to the modernization effort. These include: special M-code application-specific integrated circuit chips, special M-code receiver cards, being developed under the Air Force Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) programs, and the next generation of GPS receivers capable of using M-code signals from GPS satellites. DOD will need to integrate all of these components into different types of weapon systems (see figure for notional depiction of integration for one system). Integration across DOD will be a considerable effort involving hundreds of different weapon systems, including some with complex and unique integration needs or configurations. Global Positioning System User Equipment Integration The Air Force is almost finished—approximately one year behind schedule—developing and testing one M-code card for testing on the Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Army Stryker vehicle. However, one card intended for use in aircraft and ships is significantly delayed and missed key program deadlines. The Air Force is revising its schedule for testing this card. The M-code card development delays have had ripple effects on GPS receiver modernization efforts and the weapon systems that intend to use them. For example, an Air Force receiver modernization effort that depends on the new technology will likely breach its schedule and incur additional costs because of the delay. In turn, DOD planned to incorporate that receiver into its F/A-18 fighter aircraft, AV-8B strike aircraft, and the MH-53E helicopter, but it no longer plans to do so because of the delay. DOD has not yet determined the full extent of the development effort to widely integrate and field M-code receivers across the department. The amount of additional development and integration work is expected to vary for each weapon system and could range from a few weeks to several years. DOD is taking steps to enable fielding modernized receivers that use M-code cards by working to identify integration and production challenges. DOD has been developing the capability to use its more jam-resistant military-specific GPS signal for 2 decades. The Air Force launched the first GPS satellite capable of broadcasting the M-code signal in 2005, but is only now completing development of the software and other equipment needed to use it. The GPS modernization effort spans DOD and the military services, but an Air Force program office is developing M-code cards for eventual production and integration into weapon systems. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision that the Air Force provide quarterly reports to GAO on next-generation GPS acquisition programs, and that GAO brief congressional defense committees. Since 2016, GAO has provided briefings and reported on various aspects of GPS. This report discusses DOD’s progress and challenges (1) developing M-code receiver cards, and (2) developing receivers and taking other steps to make M-code-capable receivers available for fielding. GAO reviewed schedules and cost estimates for the Air Force’s MGUE programs; military service and DOD M-code implementation data; and test and integration plans for aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles. GAO also reviewed strategies for continued access to microelectronics and interviewed officials from the MGUE programs, military services, and DOD, and representatives from microelectronics developers. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- COVID-19: VA Should Assess Its Oversight of Infection Prevention and Control in Community Living Centers
July 29, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took steps—such as issuing guidance and trainings—to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Community Living Centers (CLC), which are VA-owned and -operated nursing homes. This guidance focused on, for example, limiting CLC entry and testing residents and staff for COVID-19, while the trainings were intended to prepare staff for, among other things, a surge in cases. However, the agency conducted limited oversight of infection prevention and control in these facilities during the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 through February 2021. In particular, the agency suspended annual in-person inspections of CLCs before resuming them virtually in February 2021. The agency also required that CLCs conduct a one-time self-assessment of their infection prevention and control practices but did not review the results in a timely manner to make more immediate improvements. VA officials acknowledged these shortcomings as the agency responded in real time to the rapidly evolving pandemic. As VA has described this time as a “learning period,” it could benefit from assessing its decisions and actions related to oversight of infection prevention and control during the pandemic to identify any lessons learned. Such an assessment would align with VA’s plans to assess and report on the agency’s overall response to the pandemic as well as its strategic goal to promote continuous quality improvement in CLCs. Results from such an assessment—which could look at both successes and missed opportunities—could help VA better prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks in CLCs. Why GAO Did This Study Close to 8,000 veterans per day received nursing home care provided by VA in CLCs in fiscal year 2020. COVID-19 has posed significant risks to nursing home residents and staff, as residents are often in frail health, and residents and staff have close daily contact with each other. The CARES Act includes a provision that GAO monitor the federal response to the pandemic. This report describes, among other objectives, guidance and training VA has issued to help CLCs respond to the pandemic and examines VA’s oversight of infection prevention and control in CLCs during the pandemic. GAO analyzed documents, including guidance, training-related materials, and CLC self-assessments of their infection prevention and control practices. GAO also interviewed VA officials and CLC staff, the latter from five facilities selected based on factors such as having been cited for infection prevention and control deficiencies prior to the pandemic.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO)
June 2, 2021What GAO Found The Navy has identified several challenges with using its regular maintenance capability (which restores ships to fully operational status) to provide battle damage repairs during a great power conflict. Challenges include—the lack of established doctrine for battle damage repair, unclear command and control roles, and a shortage of repair capacity. The Navy Process for Repairing Ships Damaged in Battle The Navy is in the early stages of determining how it will provide battle damage repair during a great power conflict. Eight organizations are responsible for the Navy’s 15 battle damage repair planning efforts, however the Navy has not designated an organization to lead and oversee these efforts. Without designated leadership, the Navy may be hindered in its efforts to address the many challenges it faces in sustaining its ships during a great power conflict. The Navy develops ship vulnerability models during a ship’s acquisition to estimate damage during a conflict. These models are also used to inform war games that refine operational approaches and train leaders on decision-making. However, the Navy does not update these models over a ship’s decades-long service life to reflect changes to key systems that could affect model accuracy. As a result, it lacks quality data on ship mission-critical failure points to inform its analysis of battle damage repair needs. Without periodically assessing and updating its models to accurately reflect the ship’s mission-critical systems, the Navy has limited its ability to assess and develop battle damage repair capabilities necessary to sustain ships in a conflict with a great power competitor. Why GAO Did This Study The ability to repair and maintain ships plays a critical role in sustaining Navy readiness. After the Cold War, the Navy divested many wartime ship repair capabilities. With the rise of great power competitors capable of producing high-end threats in warfare, the Navy must now be prepared to quickly salvage and repair damage to a modern fleet. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included a provision for GAO to assess the Navy’s efforts to identify and mitigate challenges in repairing battle-damaged ships during a great power conflict. GAO’s report (1) discusses the challenges the Navy has identified in using its regular maintenance capability for battle damage repair, and (2) evaluates the extent to which the Navy has begun developing the battle damage repair capability it requires to prevail in a great power conflict. GAO reviewed relevant guidance and assessed reports on naval war games and other documentation to identify challenges that may impede the planning and repair of battle-damaged ships and efforts to improve the repair capability for a great power conflict.
- Maritime Infrastructure: Public Ports Engage in an Extensive Range of Activities beyond Freight Movement
December 15, 2021What GAO Found Public ports across the U.S. pursue an extensive range of activities unrelated to freight movement. Examples of such non-freight activities include cruise ship and ferry terminals, commercial fishing, recreation, and commercial and residential development. In a GAO survey of ports, 67 of the 80 respondents reported being involved in non-freight activities in the last 10 years, with most respondents having a mix of freight and non-freight activities. Port officials said they pursue non-freight activities to diversify lines of business, find new uses for underused facilities, and address unmet community development needs, among other reasons. Non-freight activities can also have economic impacts including creating jobs, according to port stakeholders and economic impact studies. For example, one study estimated that commercial fishing activity at the Port of Seattle accounted for 11,300 jobs and generated $1.4 billion in total business output in 2017. Ports most commonly reported funding their non-freight activities with port revenues (55 survey respondents) or state funds (53 survey respondents). Waterfront Park Area and Development, Port of San Diego Federal grant programs GAO reviewed have provided some funding to ports for non-freight projects but have largely focused on freight. According to GAO’s analysis of federal grant award data for fiscal years 2010 through 2020, agencies provided at least $141 million to ports for non-freight projects during this time, or about 8 percent of the almost $1.9 billion in total funding these programs awarded to ports, in fiscal year 2020 dollars. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provided the majority of funding to ports for both freight and non-freight projects. DOT-funded non-freight projects include ferry-, cruise-, and fishing-related projects, among others. Stakeholders reported that ports, especially small ports, face challenges with federal grant programs. For example, stakeholders and federal officials said that many grant programs GAO reviewed are consistently oversubscribed and that smaller ports may lack the resources to develop a competitive application. Stakeholders GAO spoke with differed on the need for additional federal funding for non-freight activities. Why GAO Did This Study The nation’s coastal, Great Lakes, and inland ports have long been recognized as critical to the national and local economies. Ports can contribute not only by moving freight but also, for example, through activities related to tourism, transportation, or real estate. Nationwide port studies have typically focused on the impact of freight, and less attention has been paid to these non-freight activities. House Report 116-452 included a provision for GAO to examine ports’ non-freight activities. This GAO report describes (1) what is known about the nature of and funding for non-freight activities at public ports, and (2) the extent to which federal discretionary grant programs have provided funds to public ports for non-freight and freight projects, and stakeholders’ views on this federal assistance. To address the two objectives above, GAO conducted a non-generalizable survey of 80 ports and interviewed officials at 15 ports and 14 port industry stakeholders. GAO selected ports for variety based on their level of non-freight activity, freight traffic, and location, and whether they have applied for DOT funding. GAO also interviewed officials within DOT; the Departments of Commerce (Commerce), Defense, and Homeland Security; and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, GAO (1) reviewed port documentation, such as economic impact studies and (2) analyzed DOT, Commerce, and EPA grant award data from fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2020. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.
- Federal Tactical Teams: Characteristics, Training, Deployments, and Inventory
September 10, 2020Within the executive branch, GAO identified 25 federal tactical teams, and the characteristics of these teams varied. The 25 tactical teams were across 18 agencies, such as agencies within the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Energy, and the Interior. The number of reported team members per team ranged from two to 1,099. More than half (16 of 25) of the teams reported that they are composed of team members working for the team on a collateral basis. Most teams (17 of 25) had multiple units across various locations. Photos of Federal Tactical Teams in Action Tactical teams generally followed a similar training process, with initial training, specialty training, and ongoing training requirements. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) reported that new team members complete an initial tactical training course, which ranged from 1 week to 10 months. For example, potential new team members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hostage Rescue Team complete a 10-month initial training that includes courses on firearms; helicopter operations; and surveillance, among others. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) reported offering specialized training to some team members, such as in sniper operations and breaching. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) also reported having ongoing training requirements, ranging from 40 hours per year to over 400 hours per year. The number and types of deployments varied across the 25 tactical teams for fiscal years 2015 through 2019. The number of reported deployments per tactical team during this time period ranged from 0 to over 5,000. Teams conducted different types of deployments, but some types were common among teams, such as: supporting operations of other law enforcement entities, such as other federal, state, and local law enforcement (16 of 25); providing protection details for high-profile individuals (15 of 25); responding to or providing security at civil disturbances, such as protests (13 of 25); and serving high-risk search and arrest warrants (11 of 25). Four teams reported that they had deployed in response to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and 16 teams reported deployments related to nationwide civil unrest and protests in May and June 2020. Tactical teams reported having various types of firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in their inventories. Team members generally have a standard set of firearms (e.g., a pistol, a backup pistol, and a rifle), but some may also have specialized firearms (e.g., a shotgun designed to breach doors). Tactical teams also have a variety of tactical equipment, such as night vision devices to maintain surveillance of suspects or tactical robots that can go into locations to obtain audio and video information when team members cannot safely enter those locations. Tactical teams may also have tactical vehicles, such as manned aircraft (e.g., helicopters) and armored vehicles to patrol locations. The figure below identifies the number of tactical teams that reported having such items in their inventories. Number of Federal Tactical Teams That Reported Having Firearms, Tactical Equipment, and Tactical Vehicles in Their Inventories, as of January 2020 Appendix I of the report provides details on each of the 25 tactical teams, such as each team’s mission; staffing; types and frequency of training; and number and types of deployments from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in August 2020. Information deemed to be sensitive by the agencies in this review, such as the quantities of firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in team inventories, has been omitted from this report. Many federal agencies employ law enforcement officers to carry out the agency’s law enforcement mission and maintain the security of federal property, employees, and the public. Some of these agencies have specialized law enforcement teams—referred to as federal tactical teams in this report—whose members are selected, trained, equipped, and assigned to prevent and resolve critical incidents involving a public safety threat that their agency’s traditional law enforcement may not otherwise have the capability to resolve. This report provides information on the (1) federal tactical teams and their characteristics; (2) training team members receive; (3) deployments of such teams from fiscal years 2015 through 2019; and (4) firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in team inventories, as of January 2020. To identify federal tactical teams, GAO contacted executive branch agencies with at least 50 federal law enforcement officers. GAO administered a standardized questionnaire and data collection instrument to the identified teams to gather information on team missions, staffing, training, deployments, and inventories. GAO reviewed team documents, such as standard operating procedures, and interviewed agency officials. GAO collected descriptive information on reported deployments as of June 2020 in response to COVID-19 and nationwide civil unrest, which were ongoing during the review. GAO incorporated agency technical comments as appropriate. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spectrum Management: Agencies Should Strengthen Collaborative Mechanisms and Processes to Address Potential Interference
July 20, 2021What GAO Found The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regulate and manage spectrum, and other agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are among federal spectrum users. To address potential interference among proposed uses of spectrum, these agencies employ various coordination mechanisms. For domestic matters, the agencies coordinate through an NTIA-led committee that provides input to FCC’s spectrum proceedings. For U.S. participation in the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC), agencies coordinate via a preparatory committee that provides input used to develop U.S. positions that the Department of State submits to a regional body or directly to the WRC (see figure). Technical Coordination Process for U.S. Participation in WRC These mechanisms reflect some key collaboration practices but do not fully reflect others. For example, while the documents that guide coordination between FCC and NTIA and the preparatory committee emphasize reaching consensus whenever possible, there are no clearly defined and agreed-upon processes for resolving matters when agencies cannot do so. Additionally, neither document has been updated in almost 20 years, though agency officials said conditions regarding spectrum management activities have changed in that time. GAO’s review of U.S. participation in ITU’s 2019 WRC shows that these issues affected collaboration. For example, disputes among the agencies and the inability to reach agreement on U.S. technical contributions challenged the U.S.’s ability to present an agreed-upon basis for decisions or a unified position. NOAA and NASA conduct and FCC and NTIA review technical interference studies on a case-by-case basis. When originating from ITU activities, the agencies conduct or review technical interference studies through participation in international technical meetings and the preparatory committee process. However, the lack of consensus on study design and, within the U.S. process, specific procedures to guide the design of these types of studies, hampered U.S. efforts to prepare for the 2019 WRC. For example, the U.S. did not submit its studies on certain key issues to the final technical meeting, resulting in some stakeholders questioning whether the corresponding U.S. positions were technically rooted. Agreed-upon procedures could help guide U.S. efforts to design these studies and consider tradeoffs between what is desirable versus practical, to mitigate the possibility of protracted disagreements in the future. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO’s June 2021 report, entitled Spectrum Management: Agencies Should Strengthen Collaborative Mechanisms and Processes to Address Potential Interference (GAO-21-474). For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com, or Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Major International Automotive-Parts Suppliers Restructure Deal to Resolve Antitrust Concerns
July 1, 2021Auto parts supplier Tupy agreed to restructure its acquisition of Teksid after the Department of Justice raised concerns that the merger would result in higher prices and reduced quality and timeliness of production for crucial components used in heavy-duty engines. As initially proposed, the deal would have combined the two most significant suppliers of engine blocks and cylinder heads for heavy-duty engines to customers in North America. These components are key inputs for engines used in large trucks, construction and agricultural equipment, as well as numerous other vehicles.