Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
We strongly condemn this week’s multiple Houthi terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia, including today’s that struck an Aramco facility in Jeddah, which is clearly civilian infrastructure.
At a time when the parties should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behavior and reckless terrorist attacks striking civilian infrastructure.
We will continue to work with our Saudi partners to strengthen their defenses while also seeking to advance a durable end to the conflict, improve lives, and create the space for Yemenis to determine their own future collectively.
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- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu
December 1, 2021
- Software Development: DOD Faces Risks and Challenges in Implementing Modern Approaches and Addressing Cybersecurity Practices
June 24, 2021What GAO Found According to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request, DOD spent $2.8 billion on the 29 selected major business information technology (IT) programs in FY 2019. The department also reported that it planned to invest over $9.7 billion on these programs between FY 2020 and FY 2022. In addition, 20 of the 29 programs reported experiencing cost or schedule changes since January 2019. Program officials attributed cost and schedule changes to a variety of reasons, including modernization changes and requirements changes or delays. Seventeen of the 29 programs also reported experiencing challenges associated with the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the slowdown of contractors’ software development efforts. DOD and GAO’s assessments of program risk identified a range of program risk levels and indicated that some programs could be underreporting risks. Specifically, of the 22 programs that were actively using a register to manage program risks, DOD rated nine programs as low risk, 12 as medium risk, and one as high risk. In contrast, GAO rated seven as low risk, 12 as medium risk, and three as high risk. In total, GAO found 10 programs for which its numerical assessments of program risk reflected greater risk than reported by DOD, while DOD had three programs with greater reported risk than GAO. DOD officials noted that differences in risk levels might be associated with a variety of factors, including different risk assessment approaches. However, the differences in risk level GAO identified highlight the need for DOD to ensure that it is accurately reporting program risks. Until the department does so, oversight of some programs could be limited by overly optimistic risk perspectives. As of December 2020, program officials for the 22 major DOD business IT programs that were actively developing software reported using approaches that may help to limit cost and schedule risks. (See table.) Selected Software Development and Cybersecurity Approaches That May Limit Risks and Number of Major DOD Business IT Programs That Reported Using the Approach Software development and cybersecurity approaches that may limit risk Number of programs that reported using the approach Using off-the-shelf software 19 of 22 Implementing continuous iterative software development 18 of 22 Delivering software at least every 6 monthsa 16 of 22 Developing or planning to develop a cybersecurity strategy 21 of 22 Conducting developmental cybersecurity testing 16 of 22 Conducting operational cybersecurity testing 15 of 22 Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense questionnaire responses. | GAO-21-351aThe Defense Innovation Board encourages more frequent delivery of working software to users for Agile and DevOps practices. Program officials also reported facing a variety of software development challenges while implementing these approaches. These included difficulties finding and hiring staff, transitioning from waterfall to Agile software development, and managing technical environments. DOD’s continued efforts to address these challenges will be critical to the department’s implementation of modern software development approaches. DOD has also made organizational and policy changes intended to improve the management of its IT acquisitions, such as taking steps to implement Agile software development and improve data transparency. In addition, to address statutory requirements, DOD has taken steps to remove the department’s chief management officer (CMO) position. However, the department had not yet sufficiently implemented these changes. Officials from many of the 18 programs GAO assessed that reported using Agile development reported that DOD had implemented activities associated with Agile transition best practices to only some or little to no extent, indicating that the department had not sufficiently implemented best practices. For example, 12 of the 18 programs reported that DOD’s life-cycle activities only supported Agile methods to some or little to no extent. Program officials also reported challenges associated with implementing Agile software development. The department has a variety of efforts underway to help with its implementation of Agile software development. DOD officials stated that the department’s transition to Agile will take years and will require sustained engagement throughout DOD. In addition, DOD has taken steps aimed at improving the sharing and transparency of data it uses to monitor its acquisitions. According to a November 2020 proposal from the Office of the Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, DOD officials are to develop data strategies and metrics to assess performance for the department’s acquisition pathways. However, as of February 2021, DOD did not have data strategies and had not finalized metrics for the two pathways associated with the programs discussed in this report. Officials said they were working with DOD programs and components to finalize initial pathway metrics. They stated that they plan to implement them in fiscal year 2021 and continue to refine and adjust them over the coming years. Without important data from acquistion pathways and systems, DOD risks not having timely quantitative insight into program performance, including its acquisition reform efforts. Finally, DOD’s CMO position was eliminated by a statute enacted in January 2021. This position was responsible for key efforts associated with the department’s business systems modernization, which has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 1995. DOD plans to take steps to address the uncertainty associated with the recent elimination of the position. Why GAO Did This Study For fiscal year 2021, DOD requested approximately $37.7 billion for IT investments. These investments included major business IT programs, which are intended to help the department carry out key business functions, such as financial management and health care. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to assess selected IT programs annually through March 2023. GAO’s objectives for this review were to (1) summarize DOD’s reported performance of its portfolio of IT acquisition programs and the reasons for this performance; (2) evaluate DOD’s assessments of program risks; (3) summarize DOD’s approaches to software development and cybersecurity and identify associated challenges; and (4) evaluate how selected organizational and policy changes could affect IT acquisitions. To address these objectives, GAO selected 29 major business IT programs that DOD reported to the federal IT Dashboard (a public website that includes information on the performance of major IT investments) as of September 2020. GAO reviewed planned expenditures for these programs, from fiscal years 2019 through 2022, as reported in the department’s FY 2021 budget request. It also aggregated program office responses to a GAO questionnaire that requested information about cost and schedule changes that occurred since January 2019 and the early impacts of COVID-19. GAO also analyzed the risks of the 22 programs that were actively using central repositories known as risk registers to manage program risks. GAO used these registers to create program risk ratings, and then compared its ratings to those of the DOD chief information officer (CIO). In addition, GAO aggregated DOD program office responses to the questionnaire that requested information about the software and cybersecurity practices used by 22 of the 29 IT programs that were actively developing software. GAO compared the responses to relevant guidance and leading practices. GAO reviewed selected IT-related organizational and policy changes and reviewed reports and documentation related to the effects of these changes on IT acquisitions. GAO also aggregated program office responses to the questionnaire that requested information about DOD’s implementation of these changes. This included information on DOD’s implementation of best practices as part of its efforts to implement Agile software development. GAO met with relevant DOD officials to discuss each of the topics addressed in this report.
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- Leader of ‘Atomwaffen’ Conspiracy Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Threatening Journalists and Advocates
August 24, 2021Cameron Shea, 25, a leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to three years in prison for federal conspiracy and hate crime charges for threatening journalists and advocates who worked to expose anti-Semitism, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said, “This conduct cannot be tolerated. This kind of conduct has consequences…It is so serious that it requires a serious sentence.”
- Justice Department Sues Uber for Overcharging People with Disabilities
November 10, 2021The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) for charging “wait time” fees to passengers who, because of disability, need more time to enter a car. Uber’s policies and practices of charging wait time fees based on disability have harmed many passengers and potential passengers with disabilities throughout the country. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Uber violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination by private transportation companies like Uber.
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with UK Foreign Secretary Truss
December 23, 2021
- University Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
May 14, 2021An Ohio man and rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China was sentenced to XX months in prison for making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme.
- Nicaragua’s Breaking of Diplomatic Relations with Taiwan
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April 22, 2021
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- Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Toledo Public Schools to Resolve Complaints of Race and Disability Discrimination in Student Discipline
July 31, 2020The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio today announced a settlement agreement with the Toledo Public Schools to address and prevent discriminatory discipline of students based on race or disability and to require appropriate language services for limited English proficient (LEP) parents on matters essential to their children’s education.
- Foreign national found guilty of smuggling over $1M in meth
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- Department of Justice Files Lawsuit Against Prince George County, Virginia, to Enforce Servicemember’s Employment Rights
September 30, 2021The Justice Department announced today that it filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Prince George County, Virginia, and the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) to enforce employment rights guaranteed to a member of the Virginia Army National Guard, Major Mark Gunn, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
- Science & Tech Spotlight: Extended Reality Technologies
January 26, 2022Why This Matters Extended reality (XR) technologies combine elements of the real world and the digital world to create new kinds of interactivity and perception. XR provides new ways to access and use information to train, educate, entertain, and collaborate. But XR could also make more data vulnerable to cyberattacks and privacy threats, as well as create new avenues for online harassment. The Technology What is it? Extended reality (XR) is the overarching term for a spectrum of technologies that link or integrate the digital world and the real world. These include augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) technologies, all of which provide different degrees of sensory immersion and interaction between the real world and digital content. AR overlays digital content onto representations of the real environment, using smartphones, tablets, or AR glasses. In MR, a dedicated headset recognizes its environment and enables the interaction between digital content and the real world in multiple dimensions. VR completely obscures the real world, immersing users in digital environments using head-mounted displays (see fig. 1). XR technologies can be used for workplace collaboration, training, education, therapeutic treatments, and data exploration and analysis. XR also enables the creation of online universes, or “metaverses,” where users can interact with each other. Figure 1. The continuum of extended reality. How does it work? XR devices send digital information, which can be accessed and contained locally, or shared and transferred over a network, to the human senses. They can also use sensors to gather information and accept commands. These devices create customized experiences by enabling real-time responses to virtual stimuli. Each requires supporting technologies, which vary by type of experience and real-world application. For example, appliance technicians might wear a holographic display headset configured with video cameras and distance and positioning sensors. The XR-enabled headset could then help guide them through an inspection or repair. In medicine, XR is emerging as a tool to help train surgeons by enabling interaction with three-dimensional images of anatomical structures (see fig. 2). In addition, specialists may be able to virtually examine organs or body systems in three dimensions using XR, rather than the more limited evaluations allowed by flat screens. Realistic XR renderings could help providers better understand the complexity of each patient, making medical procedures safer and more effective. Figure 2. Surgeons wear MR headsets to examine a personalized 3D model of a patient’s anatomy. Sensors track hand gestures and eye motion, and listen for verbal commands to control the model and the digital environment. Another promising health care application is VR-based psychotherapy for addiction disorders, in which therapists work with patients in a digital world. For example, therapists could monitor patients’ heart rates and other responses to simulated situations, without exposing patients to an actual event in an uncontrolled environment. This could provide information to therapists and patients to tailor treatment. In workplace collaboration and training, XR may help workers become more efficient and skilled at lower cost and with less risk. For example, XR systems are currently used to train workers virtually before they actually operate complex systems, such as nuclear power plants. In the construction industry, architects, engineers, and project managers can collaborate in a virtual environment to plan and oversee projects. XR systems could also be used to help K-12 administrators improve security procedures and better protect the physical and operational security of their schools and students. How mature is it? Widespread use of XR has been limited, although it has been around for decades. As of January 2022, multiple XR hardware systems and software development platforms are available in the market, and the market is expanding rapidly. For instance, one global market research advisor estimates that yearly AR/VR headset shipments will increase from 9.7 million in 2021 to 32.8 million by 2025. Reasons for the anticipated growth include ongoing development of more sophisticated devices (e.g., smartphones), growing needs for a more skilled and productive workforce, and recent disruptions to workplace dynamics caused by social distancing associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, implementation of XR in business and government remains limited. Many of the applications described above are pilot programs, rather than mature uses of XR. Full deployment of these applications would require tailoring for broader use in different environments, and the widespread availability of key enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G. Artificial intelligence could provide users with customized and highly interactive XR experiences by interpreting large amounts of data. 5G network expansion may provide more reliable high-bandwidth communications to facilitate more diverse and complex XR technologies. Opportunities Access. XR could provide better access to jobs, medical care, and other opportunities for remote communities or people with few or no transportation options. Collaboration. XR could provide data sharing and digital workspaces that support collaborative design, planning, and decision-making. Data analysis. Analyzing data in XR environments might allow new kinds of knowledge generation or decision-making. Therapeutic treatments. Immersive environments can be used in therapy to treat addiction, anxiety, autism, and other conditions. Training and education. Expensive or dangerous procedures might be taught more cheaply and safely in XR environments. Challenges Cybersecurity and privacy. XR will require more diverse and complex data, offering new targets for cyberattack and exploitation. Enabling technologies. Certain technologies necessary for XR to achieve its full potential are not yet mature, including artificial intelligence and 5G. Further, these technologies may not be affordable or accessible to all users. Effects on users. XR environments can create new space for negative social interactions that are already common online. For example, some users have reported sexual harassment and bullying within those environments. In addition, some users experience motion sickness and disorientation while navigating immersive XR, and the effects of long-term XR immersion on cognitive functions are unknown. Policy Context and Questions What incentives or barriers exist to the XR industry coalescing around common standards for software and content development that address ethics and vulnerabilities, among other issues? What barriers and challenges, such as 5G maturity and improving user experience, exist to the appropriate expanded adoption of XR in the private and public sectors, including health care, education, and the military? What new cybersecurity, privacy, harassment, and other threats are XR technologies vulnerable to, or could be inappropriately used for, and what new or enhanced safeguards might be needed as a result? What steps could be taken to improve the affordability and accessibility of XR and its enabling technologies, particularly 5G networks? For more information, contact Brian Bothwell at (202) 512-6888 or BothwellB@gao.gov.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Virtual Roundtable on Reform and Anticorruption
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- Ohio Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud the United States in Medical Kickback Scheme
September 29, 2021A former Insys Therapeutics sales representative, whose trial had commenced, pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Ohio to conspiracy to defraud the United States for her involvement in a scheme to pay kickbacks to a doctor to induce him to prescribe Subsys, a dangerous sublingual fentanyl spray.
- On the 41st Anniversary of the U.S. Embassy Takeover in Tehran
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- U.S. Ports of Entry: Update on CBP Public-Private Partnership Programs
January 29, 2021Since GAO’s January 2020 report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security, continued to expand its public-private partnership programs—the Reimbursable Services Program (RSP) and the Donations Acceptance Program (DAP). The RSP allows partners, such as port authorities or local municipalities that own or manage ports, to reimburse CBP for providing services that exceed CBP’s normal operations, such as paying overtime for CBP personnel that provide services at ports of entry (POE) outside regular business hours. The DAP enables partners to donate property or provide funding for POE infrastructure improvements. Regarding RSP, in 2020, CBP selected an additional 25 RSP applications for partnerships, bringing the total of RSP selections to 236 since 2013. There are many factors that CBP considers when reviewing applications for RSP including operational feasibility, and CBP may choose to not select certain applications. According to officials, CBP denied three RSP applications since GAO’s January 2020 report. For example, CBP denied one application because the proposed agreement site was located too far away from the nearest CBP facility to make CBP officer travel time practicable. As of October 2020, CBP and its partners executed 157 memoranda of understanding (MOU) from RSP partnerships that they entered into from fiscal years 2013 through 2020. These MOUs outline how agreements are to be implemented at one or more POE. Of those 157 MOUs, 11 cover agreements at land POEs, 49 cover agreements at sea POEs, and 99 cover agreements at air POEs. The majority of MOUs executed since 2013 were at air POEs and focused on freight, cargo, and traveler processing. Although the number of RSP partnerships has increased, the growth in the total number of reimbursable CBP officer assignments, officer overtime hours, and the amount of reimbursed funds provided to CBP declined significantly in 2020. CBP officials explained that the decline in trade and travel at U.S. POEs contributed to the decline in requests for RSP services. Regarding DAP, in fiscal year 2020, CBP entered into one new donation acceptance partnership, bringing the total number of agreements to 39 since fiscal year 2015. Partners span a variety of sectors such as government agencies, private companies, and airline companies. Correspondingly, program donations served a variety of purposes such as expanding inspection facility infrastructure, providing biometric detection services, and providing luggage for canine training. As of October 2020, 27 out of 39 these projects, or 69 percent, were at land POEs. CBP officials estimated that the total value of all donations entered into between September 2015 and October 2020 was $218.2 million. On a daily basis in fiscal year 2020, over 650,000 passengers and pedestrians and nearly 78,000 truck, rail, and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $6.6 billion entered the United States through 328 U.S. land, sea, and air POEs, according to CBP. To help meet demand for CBP inspection services, since 2013, CBP has entered into public-private partnerships under RSP and DAP. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 included a provision for GAO to annually review the agreements along with the funds and donations that CBP has received under RSP and DAP. GAO has issued three annual reports on the programs—in January 2020, March 2019, and March 2018. This fourth annual report updates key information from GAO’s January 2020 report by examining the status of CBP public-private partnership program agreements, including the purposes for which CBP used the funds and donations from these agreements in fiscal year 2020. GAO collected and analyzed all RSP agreements, DAP agreements, and MOUs for both programs for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, excluding those analyzed in GAO’s January 2020 report. GAO also analyzed data on use of the programs and interviewed CBP officials to identify any significant changes to how the programs are administered. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.