Office of the Spokesperson
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness Friday in Washington, D.C. to commemorate 60 years of diplomatic relations with the United States, as Jamaica marks the 60th anniversary of its independence. On behalf of the people and Government of the United States, the Secretary congratulated Jamaicans everywhere and noted our countries’ longstanding, vibrant relationship. The United States and Jamaica are partners in promoting security and stability, democracy and human rights, and inclusive economic recovery throughout the hemisphere. The Secretary looks forward to working with the Prime Minister on a full range of issues from reversing the tide of climate change to countering transnational crime and irregular migration, expanding trade and investment opportunities, and creating an inclusive and secure digital future.
Secretary Blinken thanked the Prime Minister for Jamaica’s principled stance in condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and his country’s support for the Ukrainian people. Jamaica stands with people around the world in upholding the principles of the United Nations charter in respecting territorial integrity, sovereignty, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The Secretary and Prime Minister also discussed our partnership to improve healthcare outcomes in Jamaica and welcomed Jamaica’s participation in the upcoming Summit of the Americas.
Secretary Blinken and Prime Minister Holness agreed that their governments will carry on these bilateral discussions at a working group on security and development issues followed by the next meeting of the U.S. – Jamaica Strategic Dialogue.
- Cybersecurity: Clarity of Leadership Urgently Needed to Fully Implement the National Strategy
September 22, 2020Federal entities have a variety of roles and responsibilities for supporting efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of the nation. Among other things, 23 federal entities have roles and responsibilities for developing policies, monitoring critical infrastructure protection efforts, sharing information to enhance cybersecurity across the nation, responding to cyber incidents, investigating cyberattacks, and conducting cybersecurity-related research. To fulfill their roles and responsibilities, federal entities identified activities undertaken in support of the nation’s cybersecurity. For example, National Security Council (NSC) staff, on behalf of the President, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed policies, strategies, standards, and plans to guide cybersecurity efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has helped secure the nation’s critical infrastructure through developing security policy and coordinating security initiatives, among other efforts. Other agencies have established initiatives to gather intelligence and share actual or possible cyberattack information. Multiple agencies have mechanisms in place to assist in responding to cyberattacks, and law enforcement components, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are responsible for investigating them. The White House’s September 2018 National Cyber Strategy and the NSC’s accompanying June 2019 Implementation Plan detail the executive branch’s approach to managing the nation’s cybersecurity. When evaluated together, these documents addressed several of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, but lacked certain key elements for addressing others. National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan are Missing Desirable Characteristics of a National Strategy Characteristic Cyber Strategy and Plan Coverage of Issue Purpose, scope, and methodology Addressed Organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination Addressed Integration and implementation Addressed Problem definition and risk assessment Did not fully address Goals, subordinate objectives, activities, and performance measures Did not fully address Resources, investments, and risk management Did not fully address Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 For example, the Implementation Plan details 191 activities that federal entities are to undertake to execute the priority actions outlined in the National Cyber Strategy. These activities are assigned a level, or tier, based on the coordination efforts required to execute the activity and the extent to which NSC staff is expected to be involved. Thirty-five of these activities are designated as the highest level (tier 1), and are coordinated by a functional entity within the NSC . Ten entities are assigned to lead or co-lead these critical activities while also tasked to lead or co-lead lower tier activities. Leadership Roles for Federal Entities Assigned as Leads or Co-Leads for National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan Activities Entity Tier 1 Activities Tier 2 Activities Tier 3 Activities National Security Council 15 7 3 Department of Homeland Security 14 19 15 Office of Management and Budget 7 6 5 Department of Commerce 5 9 35 Department of State 2 5 11 Department of Defense 1 6 17 Department of Justice 1 10 5 Department of Transportation 1 0 5 Executive Office of the President 1 0 0 General Services Administration 1 2 1 Source: GAO analysis of 2018 National Cyber Strategy and 2019 Implementation Plan . | GAO-20-629 Although the Implementation Plan defined the entities responsible for leading each of the activities; it did not include goals and timelines for 46 of the activities or identify the resources needed to execute 160 activities. Additionally, discussion of risk in the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan was not based on an analysis of threats and vulnerabilities. Further, the documents did not specify a process for monitoring agency progress in executing Implementation Plan activities. Instead, NSC staff stated that they performed periodic check-ins with responsible entities, but did not provide an explanation or definition of specific level of NSC staff involvement for each of the three tier designations. Without a consistent approach to engaging with responsible entities and a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to implement all 191 activities, the NSC will face challenges in ensuring that the National Cyber Strategy is efficiently executed. GAO and others have reported on the urgency and necessity of clearly defining a central leadership role in order to coordinate the government’s efforts to overcome the nation’s cyber-related threats and challenges. The White House identified the NSC staff as responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy . However, in light of the elimination of the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in May 2018, it remains unclear which official ultimately maintains responsibility for not only coordinating execution of the Implementation Plan , but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented. NSC staff stated responsibility for duties previously attributed to the White House Cyber Coordinator were passed to the senior director of NSC’s Cyber directorate; however, the staff did not provide a description of what those responsibilities include. NSC staff also stated that federal entities are ultimately responsible for determining the status of the activities that they lead or support and for communicating implementation status to relevant NSC staff. However, without a clear central leader to coordinate activities, as well as a process for monitoring performance of the Implementation Plan activities, the White House cannot ensure that entities are effectively executing their assigned activities intended to support the nation’s cybersecurity strategy and ultimately overcome this urgent challenge. Increasingly sophisticated cyber threats have underscored the need to manage and bolster the cybersecurity of key government systems and the nation’s cybersecurity. The risks to these systems are increasing as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO noted that the need to establish a national cybersecurity strategy with effective oversight was a major challenge facing the federal government. GAO was requested to review efforts to protect the nation’s cyber critical infrastructure. The objectives of this report were to (1) describe roles and responsibilities of federal entities tasked with supporting national cybersecurity, and (2) determine the extent to which the executive branch has developed a national strategy and a plan to manage its implementation. To do so, GAO identified 23 federal entities responsible for enhancing the nation’s cybersecurity. Specifically, GAO selected 13 federal agencies based on their specialized or support functions regarding critical infrastructure security and resilience, and 10 additional entities based on analysis of its prior reviews of national cybersecurity, relevant executive policy, and national strategy documents. GAO also analyzed the National Cyber Strategy and Implementation Plan to determine if they aligned with the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration, that Congress should consider legislation to designate a leadership position in the White House with the commensurate authority to implement and encourage action in support of the nation’s cybersecurity. GAO is also making one recommendation to the National Security Council to work with relevant federal entities to update cybersecurity strategy documents to include goals, performance measures, and resource information, among other things. The National Security Council neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendation. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Vietnamese Minister for Public Security Lam
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- Virginia Business Owner Charged with $1.5 Million Employment Tax Fraud
December 13, 2021A federal grand jury in Roanoke, Virginia, returned an indictment on Thursday charging a Virginia man with employment tax fraud.
- Medtronic to Pay Over $9.2 Million To Settle Allegations of Improper Payments to South Dakota Neurosurgeon
October 29, 2020Minnesota-based medical device maker Medtronic USA Inc. has agreed to pay $8.1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce a South Dakota neurosurgeon to use certain Medtronic products, the Department of Justice announced today. Medtronic also agreed to pay an additional $1.11 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Open Payments Program by failing to accurately report payments it made to the neurosurgeon to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
- Washington Man Charged With COVID-Relief Fraud
October 27, 2020A Washington man was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today for fraudulently seeking over $1.1 million in COVID-19 relief guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- North Carolina Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud Schemes
April 22, 2021A North Carolina man was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for perpetrating three fraud schemes between March and July 2020 connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, through which he defrauded consumers and the federal government’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), created to assist small business owners during the pandemic.
- Owner of a Tanker Company Sentenced to Prison for Lying to OSHA, Violating DOT Safety Standards
November 19, 2021An Idaho man was sentenced to a month in prison, five months’ home confinement, three years’ supervised release, and a $15,000 fine today for lying to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and for making an illegal repair to a cargo tanker in violation of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
- Priority Open Recommendation: Securities and Exchange Commission
May 11, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified two priority recommendations for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, SEC has implemented one of these recommendations, and the other remains open. The open priority recommendation relates to performance management for SEC employees. Specifically, it would help enhance the credibility of SEC’s performance management system among its staff, including the ratings, recognition, or feedback that they receive as a result. SEC’s continued attention to this issue could lead to significant improvements in government operations. We are not adding any additional priority recommendations this year. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.
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- Jury Convicts Chinese Intelligence Officer of Espionage Crimes, Attempting to Steal Trade Secrets
November 5, 2021A federal jury today convicted Yanjun Xu, a Chinese national and Deputy Division Director of the Sixth Bureau of the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, of conspiring to and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. The defendant is the first Chinese intelligence officer to be extradited to the United States to stand trial.
- Two Former Senior Venezuelan Prosecutors Charged for Receiving Over $1 Million in Bribes
March 8, 2022Two former senior Venezuelan prosecutors have been charged with money laundering for their receipt of bribes in exchange for agreeing not to pursue criminal charges against certain individuals in Venezuela.
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Tony Katz of The Morning News on WIBC Indianapolis
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- Justice and Interior Departments Take Next Steps in Implementation of Not Invisible Act
August 4, 2021The Departments of Justice and the Interior today announced next steps in the implementation of the Not Invisible Act, including the publication of a solicitation for nominations of non-federal members to join a Joint Commission on reducing violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives to address the long-standing missing and murdered indigenous persons crisis.
- Organ Transplants: Changes in Allocation Policies for Donated Livers and Lungs
November 4, 2020The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) develops allocation policies in the United States to determine which transplant candidates receive offers for organs, such as livers or lungs, that are donated from deceased donors. In July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees OPTN, directed it to change the liver allocation policy to be more consistent with federal regulations. The liver allocation policy changed in February 2020 from a system that, in general, offered donated livers first to the sickest candidates within the fixed boundaries of a donation service area or region to a system based on a candidate’s level of illness and distance from the donor hospital. The current liver allocation policy offers livers first to the sickest candidates within 500 nautical miles of the donor hospital using a series of distance-based concentric circles, called acuity circles. The processes used to develop the liver and lung allocation policies had various similarities and differences. For example, while the current liver allocation policy, the 2017 liver allocation policy, and the current lung allocation policy each had public comment periods, the length of these comment periods varied—25 days for the current liver allocation policy; two separate 62-day and 64-day periods for the 2017 liver allocation policy; and 61 days (retroactive) for the current lung allocation policy. In addition, the current lung allocation policy resulted in part from a federal district court order directing HHS to initiate emergency review of the policy. However, the 2017 liver allocation policy—that was approved but never implemented—resulted from a 2012 OPTN Board directive to reduce geographic disparities in organ allocation. HHS oversight of OPTN’s processes were similar for all three allocation policies and included reviewing the proposed changes to the policies to ensure compliance with federal regulations, according to HHS officials. Timeline of Selected Events Related to Three Organ Allocation Policies Organ transplantation is the leading form of treatment for patients with severe organ failure. OPTN, a nonprofit entity that was established in 1984 under the National Organ Transplant Act, manages the nation’s organ allocation system. In 2019, 32,322 organs were transplanted from deceased donors in the United States. Nevertheless, as of July 2020, close to 110,000 individuals remained on waiting lists for donor organs. Previously, donated livers and lungs were generally offered first to the sickest candidates in donation service areas. However, livers and lungs are now generally offered first to the sickest candidates based on distance. GAO was asked to review the changes to the liver and lung allocation policies. This report describes (1) changes to the liver allocation policy, and (2) similarities and differences in the processes OPTN used to change the liver and lung allocation policies, and federal oversight of these processes, among other things. GAO reviewed documents, including those related to the current liver and lung allocation policies, and the 2017 liver allocation policy; interviewed HHS officials and OPTN members; reviewed the National Organ Transplant Act and its implementing regulations; and conducted a literature review of studies published from January 2017 through April 2020 in peer-reviewed and other publications. HHS and the United Network for Organ Sharing (the contractor serving as OPTN) provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Former Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Defraud the U.S. Government
January 14, 2022A former Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) pleaded guilty today to federal charges stemming from the theft of proprietary software and sensitive databases from the U.S. government.
- State Partnership Program: Improved Oversight, Guidance, and Training Needed for National Guard’s Efforts with Foreign Partners
August 31, 2021What GAO FoundMany State Partnership Program stakeholders, including State Partnership Program Coordinators, Bilateral Affairs Officers, and combatant command officials, cited benefits to the program, but the program lacks a comprehensive oversight framework that includes clear program goals, objectives, and metrics to measure progress against those goals, which limits the Department of Defenses (DOD) and Congress ability to assess whether the program is an effective and efficient use of resources. The benefits described by all stakeholders focused on the programs contributions to meeting their specific missions, such as building security relationships, providing experience to guardsmen, and supporting combatant commands missions. Goals, objectives, and metrics to measure progress are necessary for management oversight, and National Guard Bureau officials told GAO that they recognize the need to update the programs goals and develop metrics and have initiated efforts in these areas. Officials expect completion of these efforts in summer 2012. Until program goals and metrics are implemented, DOD cannot fully assess or adequately oversee the program.State Partnership Program activity data are incomplete as well as inconsistent and funding data are incomplete for fiscal years 2007 through 2011; therefore GAO cannot provide complete information on the types and frequency of activities or total funding amounts for those years. GAO found that the multiple data systems used to track program activities and funding are not interoperable and users apply varying methods and definitions to guide data inputs. The terminology used to identify activity types is inconsistent across the combatant commands and the National Guard Bureau. Further, funding data from the National Guard Bureau and the combatant commands were incomplete, and while the National Guard Bureau provided its total spending on the program since 2007, it could not provide information on the cost of individual activities. Although the National Guard Bureau has initiated efforts to improve the accuracy of its own State Partnership Program data, without common agreement with the combatant commands on what types of data need to be tracked and how to define activities, the data cannot be easily reconciled across databases.The most prominent challenge cited by State Partnership Program stakeholders involved how to fund activities that include U.S. and foreign partner civilian participants. Activities involving civilians, for example, have included subject-matter expert exchanges on military support to civil authorities and maritime border security. Although DOD guidance does not prohibit civilian involvement in activities, many stakeholders have the impression that the U.S. military is not permitted to engage civilians in State Partnership Program activities and some states may have chosen not to conduct any events with civilians due to the perception that it may violate DOD guidance. DOD and the National Guard Bureau are working on developing additional guidance and training in this area. Until these efforts are completed, confusion may continue to exist and hinder the programs full potential to fulfill National Guard and combatant command missions.Why GAO Did This StudyThe National Guards State Partnership Program is a DOD security cooperation program that matches state National Guards with foreign countries to conduct joint activitiesincluding visits between senior military leaders and knowledge sharing in areas such as disaster managementthat further U.S. national security goals. The program has partnerships between 52 U.S. state and territory National Guards and 69 countries. In fiscal year 2011, program expenditures were at least $13.2 million. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to study the program. GAO determined (1) the extent to which State Partnership Program activities are meeting program goals and objectives; (2) the types and frequency of activities and funding levels of the program; and (3) any challenges DOD faces in the programs implementation. GAO collected written responses to questions from State Partnership Program Coordinators at the state level, Bilateral Affairs Officers at the U.S. embassies in the partner nations, and officials at the combatant commands, reviewed documents, and interviewed DOD officials.
- Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative Inc. to Enforce the Rights of United States Army National Guard Member
January 27, 2022The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement resolving allegations that the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative Inc. (WREC) terminated U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Garrett Woodard when he returned from military service in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
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- Medical Services Contractor Pays $930,000 to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Relating to Medical Services Contracts at State Department and Air Force Facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan
March 8, 2022Comprehensive Health Services LLC (CHS), located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, has agreed to pay $930,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by falsely representing to the State Department and the Air Force that it complied with contract requirements relating to the provision of medical services at State Department and Air Force facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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