January 20, 2022

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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Addresses the National Association of Attorneys General

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    This testimony discusses the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) budget request for fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2009, GAO supported congressional decision making and oversight on a range of critical issues, including the government's efforts to help stabilize financial markets and address the most severe recession since World War II. In addition to providing oversight for the 2008 Economic Stabilization Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), we continued to provide the Congress updates on programs that are at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or are in need of broad reform, and delivered advice and analyses on a broad array of pressing domestic and international issues that demand urgent attention and continuing oversight. These include modernizing the regulatory structure for financial institutions and markets to meet 21st century demands; controlling escalating health care costs and providing more effective oversight of medical products; restructuring the U.S. Postal Service to ensure its financial stability; and improving the Department of Defense's management approaches to issues ranging from weapons system acquisitions to accounting for weapons provided to Afghan security forces. Overall, we responded to requests from every standing committee of the Senate and the House and over 70 percent of their subcommittees.As a knowledge-based organization, our ability to timely assist the Congress as it addresses the nation's challenges depends on our ability to sustain our current staffing levels. We are submitting for consideration a prudent request for $601 million for fiscal year 2011, which will allow us to maintain our capacity to assist the Congress in addressing a range of financial, social, economic, and security challenges going forward. This amount represents a 4.1 percent increase ($22.6 million) to maintain our fiscal year 2010 staffing level for "base operations," cover mandatory pay and uncontrollable costs, and reinvest savings from nonrecurring costs and efficiencies to further enhance our productivity and effectiveness. We have also requested a 3.8 percent increase ($21.6 million) to maintain the current staffing level of 144 FTEs to continue mandated Recovery Act oversight beyond the expiration of the funding we received to help offset the cost of this new responsibility. The total requested increase of 7.9 percent will allow us to continue to be responsive in supporting congressional mandates and requests.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Commerce's National Weather Service (NWS) initiated the Evolve Program in 2017 to carry out a series of agency reforms to help achieve its strategic vision of strengthening the nation's readiness for and response to extreme weather events. The program has 20 reform initiatives, in varying stages of completeness, that are intended to free up staff time and improve service to the agency's partners (e.g., state emergency managers), among other things. In September 2021, GAO found that NWS has substantially followed five of the eight leading practices for effective agency reforms that GAO examined. Extent to Which NWS Has Followed Selected Leading Practices for Effective Agency Reforms Practice Extent followed Establishing goals and outcomes ◒ Involving employees and key stakeholders ◒ Using data and evidence ● Addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication ● Leadership focus and attention ◒ Managing and monitoring ● Strategic workforce planning ● Employee performance management ● Legend: ● Substantially followed —NWS took actions that addressed most or all aspects of the selected key questions GAO examined for the practice. ◒ Partially followed —NWS took actions that addressed some, but not most, aspects of the selected key questions GAO examined for the practice. Source: GAO analysis of National Weather Service (NWS) documents and interviews with NWS officials. | GAO-22-105449 However, there are gaps in the extent to which the agency has followed the other three leading practices. For example, in the area of leadership focus and attention, NWS has designated three leadership positions as having primary responsibility for leading the implementation of the reforms under the Evolve Program. However, the agency has not established a dedicated implementation team with the capacity to manage the reform process. Instead, the agency has primarily relied on rotating leaders and part-time staff for the Evolve Program, an approach that has not provided adequate leadership continuity, staff continuity, or staff resources for the program. By revising its approach to staffing the Evolve Program and addressing the other gaps, as GAO recommended in September 2021, NWS would have better assurance its reform efforts will succeed. The agency also faces staffing challenges that could affect its reform efforts. In its 2019 strategic human capital plan, NWS highlighted challenges related to staffing levels, vacancies, and hiring that could affect the agency's resources and capacity to implement its proposed reforms. These are long-standing issues that have been highlighted in previous studies, including a May 2017 GAO report. In September 2021, GAO found that these challenges continue. Continued attention to addressing these staffing challenges could help to reduce the risk that they will impede the agency's reform efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, can devastate communities across the United States. NWS plays a critical role in the nation's efforts to prepare for and respond to such events, including by developing weather forecasts and issuing warnings to help protect life and property. NWS has determined that it needs to reform its operations and workforce to effectively carry out its responsibilities and to improve its provision of services to emergency managers and other partners. This testimony discusses (1) the extent to which NWS has followed selected leading practices for effective agency reforms and (2) staffing challenges NWS faces as it pursues its reform efforts. The testimony is based on a report GAO issued in September 2021, GAO-21-103792, on the agency's reform efforts, as well as previous GAO work on NWS from May 2017 and January 2020.
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  • Federal Tactical Teams: Characteristics, Training, Deployments, and Inventory
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    Within the executive branch, GAO identified 25 federal tactical teams, and the characteristics of these teams varied. The 25 tactical teams were across 18 agencies, such as agencies within the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Energy, and the Interior. The number of reported team members per team ranged from two to 1,099. More than half (16 of 25) of the teams reported that they are composed of team members working for the team on a collateral basis. Most teams (17 of 25) had multiple units across various locations. Photos of Federal Tactical Teams in Action Tactical teams generally followed a similar training process, with initial training, specialty training, and ongoing training requirements. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) reported that new team members complete an initial tactical training course, which ranged from 1 week to 10 months. For example, potential new team members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team complete a 10-month initial training that includes courses on firearms; helicopter operations; and surveillance, among others. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) reported offering specialized training to some team members, such as in sniper operations and breaching. Nearly all teams (24 of 25) also reported having ongoing training requirements, ranging from 40 hours per year to over 400 hours per year. The number and types of deployments varied across the 25 tactical teams for fiscal years 2015 through 2019. The number of reported deployments per tactical team during this time period ranged from 0 to over 5,000. Teams conducted different types of deployments, but some types were common among teams, such as: supporting operations of other law enforcement entities, such as other federal, state, and local law enforcement (16 of 25); providing protection details for high-profile individuals (15 of 25); responding to or providing security at civil disturbances, such as protests (13 of 25); and serving high-risk search and arrest warrants (11 of 25). Four teams reported that they had deployed in response to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and 16 teams reported deployments related to nationwide civil unrest and protests in May and June 2020. Tactical teams reported having various types of firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in their inventories. Team members generally have a standard set of firearms (e.g., a pistol, a backup pistol, and a rifle), but some may also have specialized firearms (e.g., a shotgun designed to breach doors). Tactical teams also have a variety of tactical equipment, such as night vision devices to maintain surveillance of suspects or tactical robots that can go into locations to obtain audio and video information when team members cannot safely enter those locations. Tactical teams may also have tactical vehicles, such as manned aircraft (e.g., helicopters) and armored vehicles to patrol locations. The figure below identifies the number of tactical teams that reported having such items in their inventories. Number of Federal Tactical Teams That Reported Having Firearms, Tactical Equipment, and Tactical Vehicles in Their Inventories, as of January 2020 Appendix I of the report provides details on each of the 25 tactical teams, such as each team's mission; staffing; types and frequency of training; and number and types of deployments from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in August 2020. Information deemed to be sensitive by the agencies in this review, such as the quantities of firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in team inventories, has been omitted from this report. Many federal agencies employ law enforcement officers to carry out the agency's law enforcement mission and maintain the security of federal property, employees, and the public. Some of these agencies have specialized law enforcement teams—referred to as federal tactical teams in this report—whose members are selected, trained, equipped, and assigned to prevent and resolve critical incidents involving a public safety threat that their agency's traditional law enforcement may not otherwise have the capability to resolve. This report provides information on the (1) federal tactical teams and their characteristics; (2) training team members receive; (3) deployments of such teams from fiscal years 2015 through 2019; and (4) firearms, tactical equipment, and tactical vehicles in team inventories, as of January 2020. To identify federal tactical teams, GAO contacted executive branch agencies with at least 50 federal law enforcement officers. GAO administered a standardized questionnaire and data collection instrument to the identified teams to gather information on team missions, staffing, training, deployments, and inventories. GAO reviewed team documents, such as standard operating procedures, and interviewed agency officials. GAO collected descriptive information on reported deployments as of June 2020 in response to COVID-19 and nationwide civil unrest, which were ongoing during the review. GAO incorporated agency technical comments as appropriate. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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