Office of the Spokesperson
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met today with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat. Deputy Secretary Sherman and Foreign Minister Bourita discussed ways to further enhance the long-standing bilateral relationship between the United States and Morocco, including shared interests in regional peace, security and prosperity. The Deputy Secretary and Foreign Minister also discussed international developments, including Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine. The Deputy Secretary and the Foreign Minister expressed strong support for the United Nations Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura, who is seeking to reinvigorate the UN-led political process for Western Sahara. The Deputy Secretary noted that we continue to view Morocco’s autonomy plan as serious, credible, and realistic, and a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara. The Deputy Secretary and Foreign Minister also discussed the importance of protecting human rights, including freedom of expression, building on the productive September 2021 U.S.-Morocco dialogue on human rights.
- Las Vegas Couple Indicted for Tax Evasion Scheme
August 3, 2021A federal grand jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, returned an indictment today charging a Las Vegas husband and wife with conspiring to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, filing a false tax return, assisting in the filing of false tax returns, and failing to file tax returns and pay federal income taxes.
- NASA Mission Will Study the Cosmos With a Stratospheric Balloon
September 26, 2020Carried by a balloon the [Read More…]
- Transportation Security: Federal Action Needed to Help Address Security Challenges
August 24, 2021The economic well being of the U.S. is dependent on the expeditious flow of people and goods through the transportation system. The attacks on September 11, 2001, illustrate the threats and vulnerabilities of the transportation system. Prior to September 11, the Department of Transportation (DOT) had primary responsibility for the security of the transportation system. In the wake of September 11, Congress created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within DOT and gave it primary responsibility for the security of all modes of transportation. TSA was recently transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). GAO was asked to examine the challenges in securing the transportation system and the federal role and actions in transportation security.Securing the nation’s transportation system is fraught with challenges. The transportation system crisscrosses the nation and extends beyond our borders to move millions of passengers and tons of freight each day. The extensiveness of the system as well as the sheer volume of passengers and freight moved makes it both an attractive target and difficult to secure. Addressing the security concerns of the transportation system is further complicated by the number of transportation stakeholders that are involved in security decisions, including government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, and thousands of private sector companies. Further exacerbating these challenges are the financial pressures confronting transportation stakeholders. For example, the sluggish economy has weakened the transportation industry’s financial condition by decreasing ridership and revenues. The federal government has provided additional funding for transportation security since September 11, but demand has far outstripped the additional amounts made available. It will take a collective effort of all transportation stakeholders to meet existing and future transportation challenges. Since September 11, transportation stakeholders have acted to enhance security. At the federal level, TSA primarily focused on meeting aviation security deadlines during its first year of existence and DOT launched a variety of security initiatives to enhance the other modes of transportation. For example, the Federal Transit Administration provided grants for emergency drills and conducted security assessments at the largest transit agencies, among other things. TSA has recently focused more on the security of the maritime and land transportation modes and is planning to issue security standards for all modes of transportation starting this summer. DOT is also continuing their security efforts. However, the roles and responsibilities of TSA and DOT in securing the transportation system have not been clearly defined, which creates the potential for overlap, duplication, and confusion as both entities move forward with their security efforts.
- Religious Freedom Concerns in Russia
February 25, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- North Carolina Risk Consultant Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud and Illegally Possessing a Firearm
August 21, 2020A Chapel Hill, N.C., businessman pleaded guilty today to filing a false tax return and being a felon in possession of a firearm, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin for the Middle District of North Carolina.
- Update on Recent Legislative Developments in Poland
August 18, 2021
- Federal Spending Transparency: Opportunities Exist to Further Improve the Information Available on USAspending.gov
November 8, 2021What GAO Found The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) requires federal agencies to submit spending data for presentation on USAspending.gov. This public-facing website promotes federal spending transparency. Information displayed on USAspending.gov is sourced from agency financial systems and external government-wide reporting systems. GAO found that Treasury took additional steps to disclose known data limitations on USAspending.gov. GAO also identified some opportunities to further enhance the quality of the data displayed on the website and the business application controls that process the data. Timeliness. Most agencies submitted their data files by the deadlines established by Treasury. For the period ending March 31, 2021, 83 of 101 agencies submitted their data files on time. Completeness. Of the 101 agencies that submitted data for the period ending March 31, 2021, 19 did not include data in the required file that links budget and award information needed to effectively track federal spending. Accuracy. Data displayed on selected USAspending.gov web pages were largely consistent with agency-certified data, the USAspending.gov database, data displayed on other USAspending.gov web pages and data available for download. However, Treasury should help ensure that users of the data are able to distinguish whether information on award description describes the purpose of the base award or the purpose of a transaction or modification. Business process controls. Treasury could strengthen its business process controls to prevent or detect incomplete or inaccurate data displayed on USAspending.gov. For example, Treasury did not have a process to periodically inform agencies of unlinked data to help them reconcile and resolve data linkage differences, and the unique award key did not always result in a complete and accurate display of financial assistance award information. Implementation and use of data standards. Some data elements displayed on USAspending.gov were inconsistent with the established data standards. For example, agencies were required to report program activity information included in the program and financing schedules of the annual budget of the federal government. However, for the reporting period ending March 31, 2021, GAO found that hundreds of billions of dollars in obligations were reported with a program activity of “Unknown/Other.” Disclosure of known data limitations. Treasury disclosed known data limitations by adding an Agency Submission Statistics web page in response to user feedback requesting greater transparency into the completeness of agency data available on the website. However, Treasury does not disclose the effects of changes to reporting standards over time. In addition, disclosures on the linkage of financial and award information are unclear. Data governance. Agencies have made progress completing the data governance milestones outlined in the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently issued the 2021 Action Plan and is considering future efforts to monitor agency progress. USAspending.gov integrates data from many sources, including data that agencies submit and certify, and data from government-wide reporting systems (see figure). Agencies are required to submit seven data files, sourced from agency financial management systems and government-wide reporting systems, either monthly or quarterly. As seen below, agencies submit these files to Treasury’s DATA Act Broker (broker)—the system that collects and validates agency data—and attest to or certify the accuracy of the seven data files. The broker also obtains award and subaward data and information from government-wide reporting systems each evening to update USAspending.gov. This nightly update process also integrates new agency-certified data files after each monthly or quarterly submission due date. Additional data from other external sources is periodically updated in the broker and reflected on USAspending.gov. Process Overview and Sources of Data Displayed on USAspending.gov Why GAO Did This Study The DATA Act requires disclosure of federal agency expenditures and linking of agency spending information to federal program activities so that both policymakers and the public can more effectively track federal spending. The act also requires OMB and Treasury to establish data standards to provide consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data. The DATA Act contains a provision for GAO to report on the quality of the data. This is the third in a series of three reports on data quality. This report examines (1) the timeliness, completeness, and accuracy of the data displayed on USAspending.gov; (2) business process controls over the data; (3) the implementation and use of data standards; (4) the disclosure of known data quality limitations; and (5) the status of agency efforts to develop a data governance structure over DATA Act reporting. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed data from USAspending.gov, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed agency officials.
- Honeywell and Others to Fund Restoration of Natural Resources and Conserve Natural Habitat Along the Buffalo River in Buffalo, New York
November 15, 2021Under a proposed settlement to resolve liability for natural resource damages, Honeywell International Inc. and others have agreed to a settlement with a value of approximately $6.25 million to restore natural resources and their services, and to preserve, in perpetuity, over more than 70 acres of natural undeveloped habitat along the Buffalo River in Buffalo, New York.
- Missile Defense: Addressing Cost Estimating and Reporting Shortfalls Could Improve Insight into Full Costs of Programs and Flight Tests
February 2, 2022What GAO Found The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is continuing efforts to deliver systems to the warfighter that will protect against enemy missiles. However, shortfalls persist with MDA’s program and flight test cost estimates and reporting. Program cost estimates. MDA continues to omit the military services’ operations and sustainment costs from the program life-cycle cost estimates, as depicted below. By omitting these costs, MDA limits decision-makers’ insight into the full financial commitments needed for affordability and funding determinations. In the report, GAO outlines actions MDA can take to account for these costs consistent with a 2013 recommendation with which DOD partially concurred. Flight test cost estimates. Accuracy issues linger with MDA’s flight test cost estimates that could skew the agency’s annual $1.3 billion funding request, such as not being regularly updated with actual costs. However, MDA is taking steps to improve these cost estimates by using a new cost model, among other things. Some MDA Program and Flight Test Costs Are Unreported Program cost reporting. MDA continues to adjust program baselines without clear traceability over time. MDA also forgoes recurrent comparisons to the original baseline. Such adjustments and omissions impede decision-makers’ awareness of each program’s cost performance and total system cost. In the report, GAO notes actions MDA can take to address the traceability of program baselines consistent with a 2013 recommendation with which DOD concurred. Flight test cost reporting. Congress required MDA to report on flight test costs, but we found the information lacking due to the agency’s reporting methodology. MDA only accounted for about $1.3 billion of at least $3.5 billion in funding the agency requested for flight testing between March 2017 and September 2020. Moreover, the reporting requirement ended in December 2021. Without further reporting on complete flight test costs, Congress does not have information needed to facilitate holding the agency accountable for its spending. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2002, MDA received over $174 billion to develop a system-of-systems known as the Missile Defense System to detect, track, and defeat enemy missiles. GAO has long reported on MDA’s progress in working to improve the system’s costs, schedules, and performance. Congress included provisions in legislation for GAO to assess MDA’s progress toward meeting its acquisition goals. This report assesses the extent to which MDA’s program and flight test cost (1) estimates align with GAO’s leading practices for cost estimating and (2) information is transparent and traceable when reported to Congress. GAO reviewed MDA’s cost estimates and baseline reporting for the seven most recently established programs, seven flight test cost estimates prepared under the newly established cost model, and flight test information in mandated reports to Congress. GAO also interviewed officials within DOD, MDA, and the military services.
- Runaway Star Might Explain Black Hole’s Disappearing Act
September 26, 2020The telltale sign that [Read More…]
- Determination of the Secretary of State on Atrocities in Xinjiang
January 19, 2021Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Imposing Sanctions on Two Burmese State-Owned Enterprises
April 21, 2021
- VA Disability: Vietnam Veterans’ Claims for Type 1 Diabetes
February 8, 2022What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers Type 2 diabetes—which most often develops in adults due to several factors, including genetics, physical inactivity, and environmental factors—to be associated with exposure to herbicides used in the Vietnam War. VA does not assume the same association exists with Type 1 diabetes, for which the exact causes are unknown but most often develops in children and teens. VA does not have comprehensive data on claims involving Type 1 diabetes. Specifically, data for Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) claims decisions are not available prior to 2003. Further, available VBA data do not distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes because VBA tracks both conditions using the same medical diagnostic code. Thus, GAO cannot reliably report the number of claims that VBA has granted or denied to Vietnam veterans for Type 1 diabetes. VBA officials stated they do not systematically track claims for Type 1 diabetes, but they can identify Type 1 diabetes claims by performing customized text searches. Accordingly, VBA identified around 1,900 claims decisions as potentially involving Type 1 diabetes from fiscal year 2003 through July 2021, which represented less than 1 percent of all decisions for diabetes during that time. Additionally, officials from VA and representatives from veterans service organizations said they did not expect there would be many claims for Type 1 diabetes, in part, because Type 1 diabetes most often develops at a young age and prior to military service. VA evaluates veterans’ claims for Type 1 diabetes either using evidence of a direct connection to service or by presuming a connection if the condition developed within a year following service. As with claims for any other condition, VBA claims processors may grant benefits if veterans provide evidence that their Type 1 diabetes was caused or aggravated by their military service. Such evidence could include development of Type 1 diabetes symptoms during service (e.g., elevated blood sugar), according to VBA officials. Additionally, claims processors may presume a connection to service if veterans’ Type 1 diabetes developed to a certain degree within a year following their service. Among 30 VBA claims decisions that GAO reviewed potentially involving Type 1 diabetes, claims processors granted or denied benefits for various reasons, and generally explained whether the claim contained evidence to support a connection with the veteran’s service. For example, in two of 11 decisions to grant benefits, VBA claims processors identified evidence of veterans being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during or within a year of completing service, and a disability medical examiner stated that the veteran’s condition was “at least as likely as not” due to military service. In contrast, claims processors noted in eight of 19 decisions to deny benefits that the veteran’s treatment records did not include complaints, treatments, or a diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes during service. Why GAO Did This Study About six million veterans living today served during the Vietnam War, and in fiscal year 2020 more than 1.4 million of these veterans received a total of $28 billion in disability compensation. Diabetes mellitus is one of the most prevalent conditions for which VA pays compensation to Vietnam War era veterans. In 2020, diabetes represented roughly 6.5 percent of all service-related conditions for which Vietnam War era veterans received compensation. The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 includes a provision for GAO to examine how VA processes disability compensation claims submitted by Vietnam War veterans who have Type 1 diabetes and were exposed to an herbicide agent during their service. This report examines (1) what is known about the number of Vietnam veterans granted or denied disability compensation benefits for Type 1 diabetes, and (2) how VA evaluates disability compensation claims for veterans with Type 1 diabetes who served in the Vietnam War and were exposed to an herbicide agent. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations, VBA’s procedures and guidance, and VBA data on claims decisions from fiscal year 2003 through July 2021 in which claims processors referred to Type 1 diabetes. GAO also reviewed a non-generalizable sample of 30 claims decisions involving Type 1 diabetes—including decisions both to grant and to deny benefits—from fiscal years 2017 through 2021 to better understand the evidence that claims processors consider when determining whether to grant benefits. GAO also interviewed VA officials familiar with Type 1 diabetes claims, as well as representatives from selected servicemember and veterans service organizations, and an expert from the National Academy of Sciences. For more information, contact Elizabeth H. Curda at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Special Operations Forces: DOD’s Report to Congress Generally Addressed the Statutory Requirements but Lacks Detail
August 24, 2021What GAO Found GAO found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) report to Congress on special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) addressed or partially addressed each of the eight mandated reporting elements, but did not include additional details on the analysis that underpins the department’s conclusions on several reporting elements. Specifically: Reporting Element 1: The organizational structure of SOCOM and each subordinate component. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the organizational structure of SOCOM is adequate to meet current assigned roles and responsibilities. The report does not provide analysis to justify how the department reached that conclusion. Reporting Element 2: The policy and civilian oversight structures for SOF within DOD. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the oversight and statutory structures and responsibilities meets statutory and assigned oversight responsibilities. The report does not discuss the alignment of resources, including human capital, as it pertains to the offices with oversight responsibilities. Reporting Element 3: The roles and responsibilities of SOCOM and SOF under Title 10 of the U.S. Code. The report addressed this by concluding that SOCOM and SOF have sufficient statutory authorities to accomplish their roles and responsibilities under section 167 of title 10, United States Code. Reporting Element 4: The current and future special operations-peculiar requirements of the geographic combatant commands and the Theater Special Operations Commands.The report partially addressed this by concluding that current and future special-operations peculiar requirements can be met with current and planned resources. The report does not specify the GAO found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) report to Congress on special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) addressed or partially addressed each of the eight mandated reporting elements, but did not include additional details on the analysis that underpins the department’s conclusions on several reporting elements. Reporting Element 5: The command relationships between SOCOM, its subordinate component commands, and the geographic combatant commands. The report partially addressed this by concluding that command relationships are adequate. The report includes information on the relationships between SOCOM, the geographic combatant commands, and the Theater Special Operations Commands, but does not discuss command relationships between SOCOM and its service component commands Reporting Element 6: The funding authorities, uses, acquisition processes, and civilian oversight mechanisms of Major Force Program-11. The report addressed this by concluding that these elements of Major Force Program-11 funding, which is used to organize, train, and equip forces to conduct special operations missions and acquire or modify service common systems for special operations when there is no broad conventional force need, are adequate and by including information on the budget development process and uses of Major Force Program-11 funding. The report also addressed the resolution of resourcing disputes between SOCOM and the services; DOD’s assessment of funding authorities and overseas contingency operations requirements; and civilian oversight mechanisms for Major Force Program-11 funding. Reporting Element 7: Changes to areas such as structure, authorities, and oversight mechanisms assumed in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the structure, authorities, Major Force Program-11 funding, roles, and responsibilities are adequate. However, the report does not provide justification on how the department reached that conclusion. Reporting Element 8: Any other matters the Secretary of Defense determined appropriate to ensure a comprehensive review and assessment. The report addressed this by including information on suicide prevention, health, and family readiness programs, and on initiatives to enhance the professionalization of SOF. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2001, DOD has deployed SOF to conduct a range of military operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. To meet an increase in operational demands for SOF, DOD has increased SOCOM’s funding and SOF force levels. DOD strategic guidance indicates that SOF will continue to play a prominent role in support of the defense strategy. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (the Act), Section 1086, required the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees a report on SOF organization, capabilities, structure, and oversight. The Act further mandated GAO to submit to the congressional defense committees an evaluation of the DOD report no later than 60 days after the issuance of the DOD report. GAO examined the extent to which DOD’s report addressed the mandated reporting elements. To address this objective, GAO analyzed the Act to identify the reporting elements, assessed DOD’s report to determine whether each of the eight mandated reporting elements were addressed, and interviewed DOD officials.
- Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Meeting with the ASEAN Committee Washington
December 7, 2021
- National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown Results in Charges Against 345 Defendants Responsible for More than $6 Billion in Alleged Fraud Losses
September 30, 2020Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced a historic nationwide enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, including more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Launch of the U.S.-Germany Dialogue on Holocaust Issues with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
June 24, 2021
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg
May 27, 2021
- Two Charged as Co-Conspirators for Nearly $1 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme and Money Laundering
June 11, 2021A New York man and an Oklahoma woman were arrested Wednesday in Buffalo, New York and Altus, Oklahoma, respectively, on a criminal complaint filed in the Western District of New York charging them for their roles in fraudulently obtaining and laundering nearly $1 million in funds from the COVID-19 relief Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
- Joint Statement on the Release of the OHCHR-EHRC Joint Investigation
November 6, 2021