Today, the Department of Justice announced that it has settled the 40 civil cases arising out of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
- Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects
December 20, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Energy’s (DOE) investment of $1.1 billion in carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects resulted in varying levels of success. Largely due to external factors that affected their economic viability, coal CCS projects were generally less successful than CCS projects at industrial facilities, such as chemical plants. Coal projects. DOE provided nearly $684 million to eight coal projects, resulting in one operational facility. Three projects were withdrawn—two prior to receiving funding—and one was built and entered operations, but halted operations in 2020 due to changing economic conditions. DOE terminated funding agreements with the other four projects prior to construction. Project documentation indicated and DOE officials and project representatives told GAO that economic factors—including decreased natural gas prices and uncertainty regarding carbon markets—negatively affected the economic viability of coal power plants and thus these projects. Industrial projects. DOE provided approximately $438 million to three projects designed to capture and store carbon from industrial facilities, two of which were constructed and entered operations. The third project was withdrawn when the facility onto which the project was to be incorporated was canceled. GAO identified significant risks to DOE’s management of coal CCS demonstration projects. These risks include the following: High-risk selection and negotiation processes. DOE’s process for selecting coal projects and negotiating funding agreements increased the risks that DOE would fund projects unlikely to succeed. Specifically, DOE fully committed to coal projects at their initial selection as opposed to allowing time for further review, as it did for selected industrial CCS projects. Additionally, according to DOE officials, the department used expedited time frames for coal project negotiations—less than 3 months as opposed to up to a year—based on DOE’s desire to begin spending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds quickly. These actions reduced DOE’s ability to identify and mitigate technical and financial risks, a principle cited in DOE guidance. Bypassing of cost controls. DOE, at the direction of senior leadership, did not adhere to cost controls designed to limit its financial exposure on funding agreements for coal projects that DOE ultimately terminated. As a result, the agency spent nearly $472 million on the definition and design of four unbuilt facilities—almost $300 million more than planned for those project phases. According to DOE documentation and officials, senior leadership directed actions to support projects even though they were not meeting required key milestones. DOE documentation also indicates that had Congress authorized an extension on the use of the funds, DOE might have continued funding some of these projects. By managing future CCS projects against established scopes, schedules, and budgets, DOE would be better positioned to mitigate its financial exposure if projects struggle. Additionally, absent a congressional mechanism to provide greater oversight and accountability—such as requiring regular DOE reporting on project status and funding—DOE may risk expending significant taxpayer funds on CCS demonstrations that have little likelihood of success. Why GAO Did This Study Key scientific assessments have underscored the urgency of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most significant greenhouse gas, to help mitigate the negative effects of climate change. CCS technologies have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from sources such as coal plants and industrial facilities. Since 2009, DOE has sought to establish the viability of CCS technologies through various demonstration projects. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized and appropriated billions of dollars in new investments in CCS demonstration projects. Congress included a provision in the Energy Act of 2020 for GAO to review DOE’s practices, successes, failures, and any improvements in executing CCS demonstration projects. This report examines (1) the outcomes of DOE-funded CCS demonstration projects and the factors that affected them and (2) DOE management of those projects. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, guidance, funding agreements, and other project documentation, and interviewed DOE officials and project representatives.
- Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks to the Maryland State Bar Association Access to Justice Commission
March 15, 2022Thank you to the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, and Executive Director Reena Shah, for this invitation to join your second Spark Series event. And thanks to the commission, Attorney General Frosh, and the Maryland State Bar for leading the charge on access to justice.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Before Their Meeting
January 19, 2022Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Production of Child Pornography
April 28, 2021A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Monday to production of child pornography.
- South Florida Residents Sentenced for Illegally Exporting Controlled Items to Libya
January 13, 2022Two Florida residents were sentenced yesterday for conspiring to and illegally attempting to export controlled items to Libya.
- Justice Department Awards Over $54 Million to Support Wellness and Safety of Law Enforcement Officers
October 16, 2020The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs today announced it has awarded funding totaling over $54 million to provide services that protect officers and improve overall public safety. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded grants to law enforcement departments, local jurisdictions, and training and technical assistance organizations throughout the United States.
- Professional Standards Update No. 83
January 31, 2022To alert the audit community to changes in professional standards, we periodically issue Professional Standards Updates (PSU). These updates highlight the effective dates and issuance of recent standards and guidance related to engagements conducted in accordance with Government Auditing Standards. PSUs contain summary information only, and those affected by a change should refer to the respective standard or guidance for details. This PSU has two sections.
- Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy: Agency Has Practices for Avoiding Duplication and Involving Stakeholders in the Development of Research Programs
February 3, 2022What GAO Found The potential to transform the energy sector through transformative research and development, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) supporting efforts, are critical to enhancing the United States’ economic and energy security. ARPA-E is tasked with carrying out transformative energy-related research that does not duplicate work being done by other agencies. GAO found ARPA-E has practices in place to help manage overlap and duplication during its program development cycle. ARPA-E coordinates with other stakeholders in the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as those at other agencies, by inviting officials from those offices to participate early in the program development process. These opportunities occur primarily in the initial stages of the program development cycle (see figure), which ARPA-E calls the “envision,” “engage,” and “evaluate” stages. This participation has occurred on an ongoing basis and has helped manage overlapping research efforts while identifying potential duplication. ARPA-E’s Five-Stage Cycle for the Development of New Research Programs, including Project Selection ARPA-E officials participate in DOE working groups, coordinate on announcements for open funding opportunities, and participate in other strategic coordination efforts to inform DOE stakeholders of the agency’s energy-related research and development efforts. In addition, ARPA-E’s Strategic Vision was developed in 2013, as required by the America COMPETES Act, to guide future investments. The act was amended in 2020 to require an updated Strategic Vision by October 1, 2021. According to officials from DOE’s applied science offices, an up-to-date Strategic Vision could provide them a better understanding of the issue areas on which ARPA-E is focused, allowing DOE stakeholders to ensure that they are appropriately coordinating with ARPA-E on relevant research efforts. ARPA-E officials are working with DOE to issue a new Strategic Vision by February 2022. Why GAO Did This Study Congress established ARPA-E in 2007 as an agency dedicated to developing energy technology that may otherwise be too high-risk for private industry to undertake. GAO was asked to review ARPA-E’s efforts to coordinate its research with other DOE offices. This report examines (1) the practices ARPA-E uses to manage overlap and duplication of its energy research with DOE’s other research efforts, and (2) the actions ARPA-E takes to coordinate with DOE stakeholders in conducting its energy research and development activities. GAO reviewed DOE policies and other agency documents; interviewed DOE officials; and collected and analyzed data on selected ARPA-E projects since ARPA-E’s first appropriation in 2009. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or RuscoF@gao.gov.
- Two Foreign Nationals Arrested for Trafficking Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn as Part of International Operation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo
November 8, 2021Herdade Lokua, 23, and Jospin Mujangi, 31, of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were arrested on Nov. 3 outside of Seattle, Washington, and were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling and Lacey Act violations for trafficking elephant ivory and white rhinoceros horn from DRC to Seattle.
- Justice Department Applauds Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
March 16, 2022Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta today applauded the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA was reauthorized as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which President Joe Biden signed into law this week.
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Kamilov
November 30, 2020Office of the [Read More…]
- 2020 Census: Lessons Learned from Planning and Implementing the 2020 Census Offer Insights to Support 2030 Preparations
February 11, 2022What GAO Found To inform planning for the 2030 Census, the Census Bureau can leverage lessons learned from the 2020 Census related to: budgetary uncertainty; IT development and privacy controls; program management; and local-level data. Budgetary uncertainty. The 2020 Census cycle demonstrated that budgetary uncertainty can disrupt key research and testing without adequate planning. The Bureau canceled or delayed many of its planned tests and justified the decisions citing budgetary issues, such as sequestration in 2013 and continuing resolutions in fiscal year 2017. The Bureau can likely expect continuing resolutions to continue to influence the budgetary environment. Bureau officials told us that smaller, more agile tests for the 2030 Census will help with 2030 planning. The figure below provides a provisional timeline of 2030 planning phases. A plan that specifies key research and testing can reduce overall risk to the 2030 Census. 2030 Census Planning Is Underway, with Key Milestones Expected in the Next 3 Years IT development, privacy, and cybersecurity. The 2020 Census demonstrated that delayed IT-related decisions can impact schedules and costs. Given the Bureau’s challenges in planning and developing enterprise-wide IT capabilities for the 2020 Census, it will be important for the Bureau to prioritize IT decisions early in this decade. In addition, continued attention to privacy and cybersecurity controls can mitigate risk. The 2020 Census introduced large-scale technological changes that increased the likelihood of efficiency and effectiveness gains, but also introduced many privacy and cybersecurity challenges that increased risk. The Bureau should continue to pay attention to privacy and cybersecurity controls to mitigate these challenges as it plans for the 2030 Census. Program management. The Bureau generally made progress late in the decade in addressing weaknesses in the areas of cost estimation, schedule management, and risk management. Sustaining improvements in these areas will better position the Bureau for a high-quality, cost-effective census. Local-level data. Prior GAO reporting shows that local data and perspectives can aid census planning and implementation. Why GAO Did This Study The 2020 Census, from the planning stages through the COVID-19-affected implementation, produced a unique set of experiences for the Bureau to draw on when planning future work. As GAO reported in June 2021, the census continues to be a costly undertaking, with the 2020 Census on track to cost roughly $96 per household, up slightly from $92 per household in 2010 (in constant 2020 dollars). Key features of the design for the 2030 Census are set to take shape during the next 3 years. This report examines what lessons learned from preparing for and conducting the 2020 Census the Bureau can apply to its 2030 planning efforts. GAO reviewed planning documents for the 2020 and 2030 Censuses, prior GAO report findings related to selected program-management areas and IT systems development. GAO interviewed Bureau officials to obtain their perspectives on the 2020 Census and how they plan to incorporate lessons learned in 2030 Census planning efforts.
- Central African Republic National Day
December 1, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Bahraini Foreign Minister Al Zayani at the U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue
December 1, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Justice Department Settles Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Alleging Disparate Treatment Against Female Correctional Officers by the Michigan Department of Corrections
February 18, 2021The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement, through a court-supervised settlement agreement, with the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to resolve a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the United States of America.
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Afghan President Ghani
August 3, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Former Managers at Major Property Management Firm Plead Guilty to Defrauding U.S. Air Force
June 9, 2021An Arizona man and a Texas woman have pleaded guilty to major fraud against the United States, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, respectively, for their roles in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Air Force in connection with privatized military housing contracts between approximately 2013 and 2016.
- COVID-19: DOD Has Focused on Strategy and Oversight to Protect Military Servicemember Health
June 4, 2021What GAO Found Since January 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD) has developed a strategy to protect the health of military servicemembers from COVID-19, with a goal of minimizing risks while continuing operations. The strategy tailors protection measures to local conditions and risks to health and force readiness. GAO found that DOD’s strategy applies several key considerations. DOD Application of Key Considerations to Protect Servicemembers from COVID-19 DOD officials oversee the implementation of the department’s COVID-19 health protection strategy for servicemembers through: Sustained leadership attention. In January 2020, the Secretary of Defense initiated COVID-19 planning and established a senior task force to oversee the response. Combatant command and installation officials continuously evaluate regional and local implementation and perform compliance checks. Notwithstanding these efforts, DOD officials stated that they expect some limited incidents of personnel not following protocols. Data monitoring. Senior leaders and local commanders assess data on cases, community spread, and testing, among other metrics, to inform strategy implementation and assess its effectiveness. Lessons learned analyses. While these analyses are ongoing as the pandemic continues, DOD has implemented mitigations to address some challenges identified, such as a new system to collect more timely and specific COVID-19 case data. DOD has research and development projects underway to advance COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics and improve detection methods. DOD’s investments include many projects that have specific applications for servicemembers, such as pre- and postexposure prophylactic treatments to prevent the onset of the disease. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic poses risks to the health of U.S. servicemembers. Protecting forces from COVID-19 is therefore essential to DOD’s ability to defend the United States, maintain warfighting readiness, and support the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. To help facilitate the COVID-19 pandemic response, Congress appropriated about $10.5 billion to DOD through the CARES Act. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight related to the pandemic. GAO was also asked to examine the military health system response to COVID-19. This report examines, in regard to COVID-19, DOD’s (1) strategy for protecting military servicemember health, (2) oversight of its strategy, and (3) research and development projects for vaccines, therapeutics, and testing. GAO reviewed guidance and plans for health protection and pandemic response that comprise DOD’s strategy, and evaluated alignment of the strategy with key considerations from prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness. To identify oversight efforts, GAO reviewed DOD briefings on the progress of health protection measures, and analyzed 2020 DOD data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and testing. GAO also interviewed DOD leaders, officials from the military department medical organizations, combatant commands, and four military medical treatment facilities selected on the basis of military department and location. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or email@example.com.
- Texas Vape Shop Owner Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Importation of Counterfeit Vaping Products
November 24, 2021A Texas vape shop owner pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge relating to the importation of counterfeit vaping products, the Department of Justice announced.
- Federal Contractor Agrees to Pay $18.98 Million for Alleged False Claims Act Caused by Overcharges and Unqualified Labor
November 20, 2020Cognosante LLC has agreed to pay the United States $18,987,789 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by using unqualified labor and overcharging the United States for services provided to government agencies under two General Services Administration (GSA) contracts, the Justice Department announced today. Cognosante, which is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, provides health care and IT services and solutions to federal agencies.