Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the Government and people of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Greece as you celebrate the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Hellenic Republic.
Today, we celebrate the history and democratic values that unite our countries and peoples. The United States views Greece as a key partner and NATO Ally as we advance our shared goals for peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Balkans, Black Sea region, and beyond, strengthened by our updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Our relationship has never been more important than at this critical moment in history after the Russian government launched its unprovoked war in Ukraine, including against the Greek diaspora in Mariupol, a bastion of Hellenic identity. On behalf of the United States, I thank Greece for its unyielding and steadfast support for Ukraine’s people, sovereignty, and democracy.
The founders of the United States drew inspiration from ancient Greece’s example, as they framed the U.S. Constitution and formed the world’s first modern democracy. Inspired by these democratic ideals, American Philhellenes proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Greece as they, too, fought for their independence. Building on the shared values that have guided our friendship for more than two centuries, our relationship is stronger now than ever, fostering security and prosperity for both our countries and the broader transatlantic alliance.
The United States continues to stand with Greece as we deepen our strong and historic relationship and take it to even greater heights, guided by democratic values that were born in Greece. And so, I wish the people of Greece a year of peace, prosperity, and good health, as we celebrate another year of Greece’s independence. Xronia Polla!
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August 25, 2021The Army has embarked on a major transformation of its force. Central to this transformation is the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a $108 billion effort to provide warfighters with the vehicles, weapons, and communications needed to identify and respond to threats with speed, precision, and lethality. Establishing reliable, robust communications and networking capabilities is key to FCS’s success. Each of the systems integral to the FCS communications network–the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and the System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE)–rely on significant advances in current technologies and must be fully integrated to realize FCS. Given the complexity and costs of this undertaking, GAO was asked to review each of these key development efforts to identify any risks that may jeopardize the successful fielding of FCS.Each of the programs for developing FCS’s communications network is struggling to meet ambitious sets of user requirements and steep technical challenges within highly compressed schedules. As currently structured, the programs are at risk of not delivering intended capabilities for the first spiral of FCS, slated to start in fiscal year 2008. The JTRS Cluster 1 program–a program to develop radios for ground vehicles and helicopters–began development with an aggressive schedule, immature technologies, and a lack of clearly defined and stable requirements. As currently designed, the radio will only have a transmission range of only 3 kilometers–well short of the required 10 kilometers–and will not meet security requirements for operating in an open networked environment. The program’s struggle to mature and integrate key technologies has contributed to significant cost and schedule growth. A recent review of the program concluded that the current program structure is not executable, and in April 2005, DOD directed the Army to stop work and notify the contractor that it was considering terminating the contract. Meeting requirements for JTRS Cluster 5 radios–miniaturized radios, including those that soldiers carry–is even more technically challenging given their smaller size, weight, and power needs. The smallest of these radios weighs only about 1 pound, compared with 84 pounds for Cluster 1 radios. Several programmatic changes and a contract award bid protest have further slowed program progress. The Army is considering options for restructuring the program to meet the needs of FCS and address the technical issues encountered in the Cluster 1 program. The Army does not expect to fully mature the technologies for WIN-T–communications equipment that supports an expanded area of battlefield operations and interfaces with JTRS radios–when production begins in March 2006. Moreover, the compressed schedule assumes nearly flawless execution and does not allow sufficient time for correcting problems. Significant interdependencies among the critical technologies further increase overall program risk. The program was directed to deliver networking and communications capabilities sooner to meet near-term warfighting needs and synchronize with the restructured FCS program. A plan for how to develop and field WIN-T capabilities sooner to address FCS needs remains undetermined. According to Army network system integration officials, SOSCOE–the operating software to integrate the communications network–may not reach the necessary technical maturity level required to meet program milestones. In addition, top-level FCS requirements are still evolving and have not been translated into more detailed specifications necessary for writing SOSCOE software.
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May 6, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received $19.6 billion in supplemental funding—additional funding above the annual appropriation—in March 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO’s analysis of VA data shows that through March 2021, VA had obligated $9.9 billion and expended $8.1 billion of the supplemental funding. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Reported Obligations and Expenditures of CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act Funding through March 2021 Note: An obligation is a definite commitment that creates a legal liability to pay, and an expenditure is the actual spending of money. The majority of the obligated supplemental funding ($8.3 billion) was obligated by VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for care provided to veterans by non-VA providers, the additional costs of salaries (such as for overtime) and related expenses of VHA staff, supplies and materials, and support for homeless veterans, due to COVID-19 response. The remaining obligations included costs of VA’s transition to telehealth and telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily through the Office of Information Technology (OIT). According to spend plan documents and department officials, VA plans to obligate its remaining $9.7 billion in funding on activities including COVID-19 testing, purchasing supplies and equipment, and distributing COVID-19 vaccines. VA mainly relies on its standard financial management processes to oversee the use of supplemental funds, including establishing new versions of standard financial codes to account for and report on use of funds through VA’s financial system. VA also collected details about the use of supplemental funding, such as descriptions of the activities for which funds were obligated, that were not available in its financial system. In addition, the VA components that received the majority of the supplemental funding—VHA and OIT—set up additional processes and issued guidance specific to the use of supplemental funding, such as establishing councils to review funding requests. Why GAO Did This Study As of April 14, 2021, VA reported 224,538 cumulative veteran cases of COVID-19, and 11,366 deaths. The CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act included supplemental funding for COVID-19 relief, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, permitted VA additional flexibility to transfer these funds across the department. The CARES Act also included a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines 1) VA’s obligations and expenditures of COVID-19 supplemental funding, as well as its plans to obligate remaining funds, and 2) how VA oversees the use of COVID-19 supplemental funds. GAO reviewed VA data on obligations, expenditures, and spend plans for COVID-19 supplemental funding, as well as contracting documentation and documentation on the processes and guidance VA developed to oversee the use of funds. GAO interviewed VA officials responsible for oversight of the supplemental funding, including officials from five regional networks, selected based on funding levels and geography, to gather information about their roles in overseeing the use of and accounting for supplemental funding. VA reviewed a draft of this report and provided a technical comment, which was incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.
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August 25, 2021The United States, along with coalition partners and various international organizations, has undertaken a challenging and costly effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq following multiple wars and decades of neglect by the former regime. This enormous effort is taking place in an unstable security environment, concurrent with Iraqi efforts to transition to its first permanent government. In November 2005, the President issued the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. According to the strategy, victory will be achieved when Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terror. In this testimony, GAO discusses the key challenges that the United States, international community, and Iraq face in rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq. This statement is based on four reports GAO has issued to the Congress since July 2005 and recent trips to Iraq. Since July 2005, GAO issued reports on (1) the status of funding and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the progress achieved, and challenges faced in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure; (2) U.S. efforts in the water and sanitation sector; and (3) U.S. assistance for the January 2005 Iraqi elections, and (4) U.S. efforts to stabilize the security situation in Iraq (a classified report).The war in Iraq will not be won by the military alone. Iraq’s future requires strong Iraqi leadership, sustained U.S. commitment, and a reengaged international community. The United States, Iraq, and its partners have made some progress in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. Iraqis have voted in increasing numbers, with over 12 million casting votes in the December 2005 election. Over the past year, the number of security forces that the coalition has trained and equipped has increased from about 142,000 to about 242,000. Finally, the United States has completed or has underway about 500 water, oil, and electricity reconstruction projects. However, this progress is tempered by the overwhelming challenges the coalition faces. First, sectarian divisions delayed the formation of a permanent government and created a political vacuum. Recent events provide some hope that a new government will be formed in the near future. Once formed, the new government will confront the enormous tasks of strengthening government institutions, disbanding the militias, resolving disputes over internal boundaries and oil revenues, addressing corruption, and delivering results to the Iraqi people. Of particular importance is providing the Iraqis with the training and technical assistance needed to run their national and provincial governments. A transparent and accountable government can reduce corruption and deliver results to the Iraqi people. Second, the security environment continues to be a concern as insurgents demonstrate the ability to recruit, supply, and attack coalition and Iraqi security forces. From 2004 to 2005, attacks against the coalition, Iraqis, and infrastructure increased 23 percent. Since the bombing of a Samarra mosque in February 2006, Iraqis have become increasingly concerned that civil war may break out. The poor security situation in much of Iraq has impeded the development of an inclusive Iraqi government and effective Iraqi security forces. Third, higher than expected security costs, funding reallocations, and inadequate maintenance have impeded U.S. reconstruction efforts. As of March 2006, oil and electricity production were below pre-war levels and reconstruction goals for oil, electricity, and water had not been met. Iraq produced 2.6 million barrels of oil per day before the war; in 2005, production averaged 2.1 million barrels per day. Production levels alone do not measure the impact of reconstruction efforts. While U.S. efforts have helped Iraq produce more clean water, 60 percent is lost due to leakage and contamination. Continued focus on developing outcome measures is critical to ensure that reconstruction efforts are making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people.