Office of the Spokesperson
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Israeli Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy earlier today in Washington. They discussed global security challenges, including Iran and President Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. Deputy Secretary Sherman reiterated the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship and offered condolences on the murder of two Israeli border police officers in a terrorist attack on March 27. Deputy Secretary Sherman and Speaker Levy discussed the Knesset’s work to create stronger societal cohesion and ease intercommunal relations. Deputy Secretary Sherman also emphasized the importance of Israelis and Palestinians enjoying equal measures of security, freedom, and prosperity. She encouraged steps to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people, and restraint from steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.
- Justice Department Settles with Texas-Based Staffing Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination
January 14, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with National Systems America, LP (National Systems), a Dallas, Texas-based staffing agency.
- Former Owner of Florida Produce Business Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion
October 14, 2021A Florida man was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison for tax evasion, at a proceeding in federal district court in Miami.
- [Protest of Air Force Contract Award for Countermeasures Dispenser System]
August 17, 2021A firm protested an Air Force contract award for Lots IV through VII of the AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser System (CMDS), contending that the evaluation of proposals was unreasonable because it was based on a flawed quantity estimate. GAO held that the Air Force decision not to amend the solicitation resulted in an unreasonable and a flawed selection decision, since the change in quantity was material. Accordingly, the protest was sustained, and GAO recommended that the Air Force: (1) reopen the competition and issue a solicitation amendment to reflect its current best estimate of the quantity; (2) if, after reevaluation of bids, another bid represents the best value to the government, terminate the contract award and make a new award; and (3) reimburse the protester for its bid protest costs.
- Central African Republic National Day
December 1, 2021
- Man Convicted of Multiple Obscenity Crimes Involving Children
January 21, 2021A Texas man was convicted by a federal jury today for operating a website dedicated to publishing writings that detailed the sexual abuse of children.
- Join NASA for the Launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover
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- United States Files Suit Against California Skilled Nursing Chain and its Owner for Allegedly Paying Illegal Kickbacks to Physicians
June 15, 2021The United States filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California yesterday under the False Claims Act against Paksn Inc.; Prema Thekkek, one of its owners; and seven skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) owned by Thekkek and/or operated by Paksn. Those seven SNFs are Bay Point Healthcare Center, Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center, Hayward Convalescent Hospital, Hilltop Care & Rehabilitation Center, Martinez Convalescent Hospital, Park Central Care & Rehabilitation Hospital, and Yuba Skilled Nursing Center.
- Federal Real Property Asset Management: Additional Direction in Government-Wide Guidance Could Enhance Natural Disaster Resilience
September 14, 2021What GAO Found Selected agencies have taken some actions to incorporate resilience to natural disasters into their assets through processes used to make portfolio-wide decisions—known as “asset management”. GAO has previously identified characteristics for effective asset management, such as using quality data on assets. GAO found that selected agencies varied in how they incorporated resilience when applying these characteristics. For example, some agencies collected natural disaster risk data across their portfolios by conducting vulnerability assessments, whereas, others have not. In addition, officials from all four selected agencies said they primarily incorporate resilience information when constructing or repairing individual projects by using current design standards or assessing specific natural disaster risks. For example, according to officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a building at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge in Texas was able to sustain multiple hurricanes because it was rebuilt to exceed design standards. Project at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge that Elevated Concrete Piers and Improved the Roof Design to Address Hurricane Risks GAO found that federal government-wide guidance and requirements on asset management direct agencies to address risks such as climate change but do not explicitly direct them to incorporate natural disaster resilience into asset management decisions. In particular, a January 2021 executive order requires agencies to develop a climate action plan describing their vulnerabilities. However, neither this order nor Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) guidance require agencies to use the information collected to make investment decisions. Accordingly, agencies with high exposure to future natural disasters may not proactively incorporate resilience into decisions when prioritizing investments across their portfolios. According to the International Organization for Standardization’s standard on climate change and GAO’s Disaster Resilience Framework, organizations should assess how they might be affected by climate change, including natural disasters, and apply that information to decision-making. Using information gathered from tools, such as vulnerability assessments, can help agencies determine if an investment in assets to enhance resilience could provide the most value to the agencies in meeting their missions when compared to other potential investments. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government spends billions of dollars each year to manage real property assets, such as buildings, levees, and roads. The rising frequency and severity of natural disasters expose these assets to damage and the government to fiscal liabilities. In 2020, the United States experienced 22 separate billion-dollar natural disasters. As the owner of real property assets, federal agencies can enhance the natural disaster resilience of real property through asset management. This can include actions to prepare for disasters. GAO was asked to determine how agencies prevent or reduce damage to real property caused by natural disasters. This report addresses (1) how selected agencies have incorporated natural disaster resilience into their assets and (2) the extent to which government-wide guidance directs agencies to incorporate natural disaster resilience into asset management. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed key characteristics and principles for asset management and natural disaster resilience from GAO’s prior work; reviewed agency documents; interviewed officials from four selected agencies that owned a large number of assets (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, General Services Administration, National Park Service, and FWS); and reviewed OMB guidance.
- Department of State: Comprehensive Plan Needed to Address Persistent Foreign Language Shortfalls
August 24, 2021Proficiency in foreign languages is a key skill for U.S. diplomats to advance U.S. interests overseas. GAO has issued several reports highlighting the Department of State’s (State) persistent foreign language shortages. In 2006, GAO recommended that State evaluate the effectiveness of its efforts to improve the language proficiency of its staff. State responded by providing examples of activities it believed addressed our recommendation. In this report, which updates the 2006 report, GAO (1) examined the extent to which State is meeting its foreign language requirements and the potential impact of any shortfall, (2) assessed State’s efforts to meet its foreign language requirements and described the challenges it faces in doing so, and (3) assessed the extent to which State has a comprehensive strategy to determine and meet these requirements. GAO analyzed data on State’s overseas language-designated positions; reviewed strategic planning and budgetary documents; interviewed State officials; and conducted fieldwork in China, Egypt, India, Tunisia, and Turkey.As of October 31, 2008, 31 percent of Foreign Service officers in overseas language-designated positions (LDP) did not meet both the foreign languages speaking and reading proficiency requirements for their positions. State continues to face foreign language shortfalls in regions of strategic interest–such as the Near East and South and Central Asia, where about 40 percent of officers in LDPs did not meet requirements. Despite efforts to recruit individuals with proficiency in critical languages, shortfalls in supercritical languages, such as Arabic and Chinese, remain at 39 percent. Past reports by GAO, State’s Office of the Inspector General, and others have concluded that foreign language shortfalls could be negatively affecting U.S. activities overseas. Overseas fieldwork for this report reaffirmed this conclusion. State’s approach to meeting its foreign language requirements includes an annual review of all LDPs, language training, recruitment of language-proficient staff, and pay incentives for language skills. For example, State trains staff in about 70 languages in Washington and overseas, and has reported a training success rate of 86 percent. Moreover, State offers bonus points for language-proficient applicants who have passed the Foreign Service exam and has hired 445 officers under this program since 2004. However, various challenges limit the effectiveness of these efforts. According to State, a primary challenge is overall staffing shortages, which limit the number of staff available for language training, as well as the recent increase in LDPs. State’s efforts to meet its foreign language requirements have yielded some results but have not closed persistent gaps and reflect, in part, a lack of a comprehensive, strategic approach. State officials have said that the department’s plan for meeting its foreign language requirements is spread throughout a number of documents that address these needs; however these documents are not linked to each other and do not contain measurable goals, objectives, or milestones for reducing the foreign language gaps. Because these gaps have persisted over several years despite staffing increases, we believe that a more comprehensive, strategic approach would help State to more effectively guide its efforts and assess its progress in meeting its foreign language requirements.
- Four Charged in $32 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
March 2, 2021A medical director, operator and two unlicensed practitioners at a Texas medical clinic are now in custody on charges related to their alleged participation in a $32 million health care fraud scheme.
- Opening Remarks by Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
September 14, 2021
- Warfighter Support: DOD Should Have a More Comprehensive Approach for Addressing Urgent Warfighter Needs
August 25, 2021This testimony discusses the challenges that the Department of Defense (DOD) faces in fulfilling urgent operational needs identified by our warfighters. Over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces have encountered changing adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures, which challenged DOD to quickly develop and provide new equipment and new capabilities to address evolving threats. Further, U.S. troops faced shortages of critical items, including body armor, tires, and batteries. DOD’s goal is to provide solutions as quickly as possible to meet urgent warfighter needs to prevent mission failure or loss of life. To meet its urgent needs, DOD had to look beyond traditional acquisition procedures, expand the use of existing processes, and develop new processes and entities designed to be as responsive as possible to urgent warfighter requests. In addition to requests for equipment from DOD’s existing stocks, warfighters have requested new capabilities, such as: technology to counter improvised explosive devices (IED); technology related to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to provide increased situational awareness; and equipment related to command and control to enhance operations on the battlefield. In meeting urgent needs, it is important for DOD to efficiently use the department’s financial resources. DOD has spent billions of dollars over the past several years to address urgent warfighter needs. Our past work on weapons acquisition has shown that the department has often pursued more programs than its resources can support. Additionally, our past work also has shown that DOD has had difficulty translating needs into programs, which often has led to cost growth and delayed delivery of needed capabilities to the warfighter. Today, we are publicly releasing a report that addresses (1) what entities exist within DOD for responding to urgent operational needs, and the extent to which there is fragmentation, overlap, or duplication; (2) the extent to which DOD has a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs activities; and (3) the extent to which DOD has evaluated the potential for consolidations of its various activities and entities. This statement will first briefly discuss challenges we reported in April 2010 that affected the overall responsiveness of DOD’s urgent needs processes and then highlight the key findings and recommendations of today’s report. Today’s report contributed to our findings in another report being released today that addresses opportunities to reduce potential duplication in government programs.We reported in April 2010 on several challenges that affected DOD’s responsiveness to urgent needs: (1) Training: We found challenges in training personnel that process urgent needs requests. For example, we found that while the Army required selected officers to attend training on how to address requirements and identify resources for Army forces, officers at the brigade level responsible for drafting and submitting Army and joint urgent needs requests–and those at the division level responsible for reviewing the requests prior to submission for headquarters approval–were not likely to receive such training.(2) Funding: We found that funding was not always available when needed to acquire and field solutions to joint urgent needs. This result occurred in part because the Office of the Secretary of Defense had not given any one organization primary responsibility for determining when to implement the department’s statutory rapid acquisition authority or to execute timely funding decisions. (3) Technical maturity and complexity: We found that attempts to meet urgent needs with immature technologies or with solutions that are technologically complex could lead to longer time frames for fielding solutions to urgent needs. Also, we found that DOD guidance was unclear about who is responsible for determining whether technologically complex solutions fall within the scope of DOD’s urgent needs processes. In our report being released today, we identified cases of fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication of efforts of DOD’s urgent needs processes and entities. However, the department is hindered in its ability to identify key improvements to its urgent needs processes because it does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its efforts. Many of these entities were created, in part, because the department had not anticipated the accelerated pace of change in enemy tactics and techniques that ultimately heightened the need for a rapid response to the large number of urgent needs requests submitted by the combatant commands and military services. While many entities started as ad hoc organizations, several have been permanently established. DOD has taken some steps to improve its fulfillment of urgent needs. These steps include developing policy to guide joint urgent need efforts, establishing a Rapid Fielding Directorate to rapidly transition innovative concepts into critical capabilities, and working to establish a senior oversight council to help synchronize DOD’s efforts. Despite these actions, the department does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its activities to address capability gaps identified by warfighters in-theater. In addition to not having a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs efforts, DOD has not conducted a comprehensive evaluation of its urgent needs processes and entities to identify opportunities for consolidation. Given the overlap and potential for duplication we identified, coupled with similar concerns raised by other studies, there may be opportunities for DOD to further improve its urgent needs processes through consolidation. In the report we publicly release today, we make several recommendations to promote a more comprehensive approach to planning, management, and oversight of DOD’s fulfillment of urgent needs. In summary, we are recommending that: (1) DOD develop and promulgate DOD-wide guidance across all urgent needs processes that establishes baseline policy for the fulfillment of urgent needs, clearly defines common terms, roles, responsibilities, and authorities, designates a focal point to lead DOD’s urgent needs efforts, and directs the DOD components to establish minimum urgent needs processes and requirements; and (2) DOD’s Chief Management Officer evaluate potential options for consolidation to reduce overlap, duplication, and fragmentation, and take appropriate action.
- Commemorating World Refugee Day 2021
June 20, 2021
- Two Georgia Correctional Officers Indicted for Civil Rights and Related Offenses for Assaulting Inmates
December 11, 2020A federal grand jury in Macon, Georgia, returned a 4-count indictment against former supervisory correctional officer Sergeant Patrick Sharpe, 29, and former correctional officer Jamal Scott, 33, of the Valdosta State Prison (VSP) for their roles in using excessive force against inmates incarcerated at the facility.
- American Contractor Sentenced to Prison for Theft of Government Equipment on U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan
November 19, 2020An American military contractor was sentenced today to more than three years in prison for his role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Before Their Meeting
May 28, 2021
- Military Base Realignments and Closures: DOD Is Taking Steps to Mitigate Challenges but Is Not Fully Reporting Some Additional Costs
August 25, 2021The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round is the fifth such round undertaken by DOD since 1988 and is the biggest, most complex, and costliest BRAC round ever. With this BRAC round, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to execute hundreds of BRAC actions affecting over 800 defense locations, relocate over 123,000 personnel, and spend over $35 billion–an unprecedented amount, given that DOD has spent nearly $26 billion to implement the four previous BRAC rounds combined when all relevant BRAC actions have been completed. As with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is required to implement the BRAC Commission’s 2005 recommendations within 6 years of their approval by the President and transmittal to Congress. Unlike with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is implementing the BRAC 2005 round during a time of conflict and significant increases to the defense budget to support ongoing contingency operations. Compounding this challenge, DOD is also implementing other extensive worldwide transformation initiatives such as the permanent relocation of about 70,000 military personnel to the United States from overseas; transformation of the Army’s force structure from an organization based on divisions to more rapidly deployable, combat brigade-based units; an increase in the active-duty end strength of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 members; and the drawdown of combat forces from Iraq while simultaneously increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. All of these initiatives are exerting an unusually high demand on DOD’s domestic facility infrastructure to accommodate new forces and existing forces being deployed or redeployed. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) at the outset of BRAC 2005 indicated its intent to reshape DOD’s installations and realign DOD forces to meet defense needs for the next 20 years. Moreover, both DOD and the BRAC Commission reported that their primary consideration in making recommendations for the BRAC 2005 round was military value. As such, as opposed to simply closing bases, many of the BRAC 2005 recommendations involve complex realignments, such as designating where military forces returning to the United States from overseas bases would be located; establishing joint military medical centers; creating joint bases; and reconfiguring the defense supply, storage, and distribution network. The BRAC statute requires DOD to complete all BRAC 2005 closures and realignments by September 15, 2011. As we reported in January 2009, DOD expects almost half of the 800 defense locations implementing BRAC recommendations to complete their actions in 2011, with 230 of these 400 locations anticipating completion within the last 2 weeks before the statutory deadline. At the time of this report, DOD had only 14 months remaining until the The House Armed Services Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed the Comptroller General to monitor the implementation of recommendations for the 2005 round of closures and realignments of military installations made pursuant to section 2914 of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. We prepared this report, our fourth, in response to the mandate, to assess (1) the challenges, if any, DOD faces in implementing BRAC recommendations and (2) DOD’s efforts to mitigate any challenges and the extent to which any costs related to those mitigation efforts are being reported as BRAC implementation costs.DOD is implementing 182 BRAC recommendations for this BRAC round, but several logistical, human capital, and other implementation challenges remain. First, many locations are scheduled to complete the construction, relocation, personnel, and other actions needed to implement the recommendations within months of–and, in some cases, on–the deadline leaving little or no margin for slippage to finish constructing buildings and to move or hire the needed personnel. As of March 2010, DOD had 57 construction projects scheduled to be completed within 3 months of the statutory deadline, representing about 30 recommendations. Second, some DOD locations that involve the most costly and complex recommendations have encountered delays in awarding some construction contracts as well as experienced additional delays in the expected completion of construction. Third, DOD must synchronize the relocation of approximately 123,000 personnel with the availability of about $25 billion in new construction or renovation of facilities. Fourth, delays in interdependent recommendations are likely to have a cascading effect on the timely completion of related recommendations. These challenges have continued since our last report on BRAC implementation challenges, especially contracting and construction delays, which have further squeezed an already tight time line. The potential loss of intellectual capital is complicated by various community effects of BRAC implementation growth, such as transportation, housing, schooling, and availability of medical care. DOD is mitigating some BRAC implementation challenges, which is adding to implementation costs; however, DOD is not reporting all of these additional costs. To enhance its role in managing logistical challenges that could affect DOD’s ability to achieve BRAC implementation by the statutory deadline, the military services are working with their leadership to develop solutions. Further, the military services and defense agencies are providing periodic briefings for BRAC recommendations exceeding $100 million in implementation costs, or that have significant concerns such as cost overruns or construction delays to the OSD Basing Directorate. For other BRAC recommendations, DOD is still weighing options, such as moving temporarily into different buildings while construction and renovations are completed, referred to as swing space, or accelerating the pace of construction to complete permanent facilities by the deadline, potentially incurring additional expenses. The DOD Financial Management Regulation requires the services and defense agencies to accurately capture BRAC-related costs in the annual BRAC budget justification materials submitted to Congress. Since DOD’s recent fiscal year 2011 BRAC budget request–which was the final annual request for funds for the BRAC account before the statutory deadline for completion of closures and realignments–has already been submitted to Congress, such additional costs in our view may have to be funded from outside the BRAC account. However, we found that DOD’s reported costs funded outside the BRAC account are not complete because the Army has not reported to Congress some of these costs as BRAC costs. Thus, OSD officials do not have full visibility over the extent of these costs funded from outside the BRAC account, given that the services prepare their own BRAC budget justification material. Until the Secretary of Defense ensures that all BRAC-related costs are captured and reported to Congress, neither congressional decision makers nor those within OSD who are charged with overseeing BRAC implementation will have a complete picture of the cost of implementing the 2005 BRAC round.
- Tanzania Travel Advisory
March 24, 2022Do not travel to [Read More…]
- VA Community Living Centers: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Oversight of Quality of Care
December 30, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides care to around 9,000 veterans each day in its 134 VA-operated nursing homes, called community living centers (CLC). VA has based its CLC oversight and quality improvement efforts on data from three sources: results of unannounced inspections, scores on clinical quality measures (such as residents with recent falls), and nurse staffing levels. GAO analyzed these data and found that, nationally, CLC performance generally improved on inspections and clinical quality measures, and staffing levels increased from fiscal years 2015 through 2019, the most recent complete data available. Results varied among individual CLCs (see figure). Community Living Center (CLC) Performance on Unannounced Inspections, Fiscal Years (FY) 2015 – 2019 GAO found opportunities to strengthen VA’s oversight related to VA’s policies and the availability of other key data. For example: VA’s CLC policies do not identify applicable quality standards. According to VA officials, during unannounced inspections, CLCs are evaluated against the same quality standards as community nursing homes, except when superseded by VA policy. However, as of September 2021, VA’s CLC-related policies and training documentation did not identify the instances when VA policies apply instead. VA officials stated the agency is currently revising its CLC-related policies, but the revision will not address these gaps.VA could help ensure CLC providers and staff adhere to the appropriate standards by addressing these gaps. VA has not surveyed current residents about their CLC experience. Patient experience surveys are key tools for measuring quality and would help VA meet its strategic goal of providing residents with a voice in their care. Current CLC residents are not included in VA’s existing patient experience surveys. Although VA officials reported plans to develop such a survey specifically for CLC residents, it is not currently a priority. A survey for CLC residents would help VA identify quality of care issues across CLCs. Why GAO Did This Study VA is responsible for overseeing the quality of care provided in its CLCs, such as through unannounced inspections that identify deficiencies when CLCs do not meet quality standards. However, recent reports have raised questions about substandard treatment and conditions at certain CLCs, as well as about the transparency of VA data on CLC quality. GAO was asked to examine VA data on CLC quality and how the data are used to oversee CLCs. In this report, GAO describes what VA data reveal about quality at the CLCs and assesses VA’s oversight of CLCs and how, if at all, it could be strengthened, among other issues. To perform this work, GAO reviewed VA policies, analyzed the most recent 5 years of complete data on CLC quality at the time of its review, and interviewed VA officials. GAO also selected six VA CLCs based on factors such as CLC performance on VA’s quality ratings website and location. For each, GAO interviewed CLC officials and officials from corresponding VA regional offices.
- Benin Travel Advisory
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