Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Comoros on the occasion of your independence.
The United States values our relationship with the Union of Comoros, which has endured for more than forty years and has advanced many shared priorities such as improving education, enhancing maritime security, and addressing climate change. We look forward to many more years of collaboration in promoting a safe and secure Indian Ocean.
As Comoros celebrates its independence, we extend our best wishes for a healthy and prosperous year ahead.
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- Priority Open Recommendations: Nuclear Regulatory CommissionBy Sam NewsApril 28, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Since then, NRC implemented one of these recommendations by issuing a risk management strategy that addresses key elements foundational to effectively managing cybersecurity risks. The remaining six priority recommendations involve the following areas: addressing the security of radiological sources. improving the reliability of cost estimates. improving strategic human capital management. NRC's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. 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 Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Military Personnel: More DOD Actions Needed to Address Servicemembers’ Personal Financial Management IssuesBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) are concerned about the financial conditions of servicemembers and their families, particularly in light of recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Serious financial issues can negatively affect unit readiness. According to DOD, servicemembers with severe financial problems risk losing security clearances, incurring administrative or criminal penalties or, in some cases, face discharge. Despite increases in compensation and DOD programs on personal financial management (PFM), studies show that servicemembers, particularly junior enlisted personnel, continue to report financial difficulties. GAO assessed (1) the extent deployment impacts the financial condition of active duty servicemembers and their families, (2) whether DOD has an oversight framework for evaluating military programs designed to assist deployed and non-deployed servicemembers in managing their finances, and (3) the extent junior enlisted servicemembers receive required PFM training.The financial conditions of deployed and non-deployed servicemembers and their families are similar, but deployed servicemembers and their families may face additional financial problems related to pay. In both a 2003 DOD-wide survey and non-generalizable focus groups that GAO conducted on 13 military installations in the United States and Germany, servicemembers who were deployed reported similar financial conditions as those who were not deployed. Some of GAO's focus group participants also noted that they--like Army Reservists in GAO's 2004 report, Military Pay: Army Reserve Soldiers Mobilized to Active Duty Experienced Significant Pay Problems--had not received their $250 family separation allowance each month during their deployment. Pay record data showed that almost 6,000 deployed servicemembers had received more than the prescribed $250 in January 2005, and 11 of them received a $3,000 catch-up, lump sum payment--the equivalent of 12 months of the allowance. This pay problem was due, in part, to service procedures being confusing and not always followed. Families who do not receive this allowance each month may experience financial strain caused by additional expenses such as extra childcare. DOD lacks an oversight framework--with results-oriented performance measures and reporting requirements--for evaluating the effectiveness of PFM programs across the services. DOD's 2002 human capital strategic plan stated that a standardized evaluation system for PFM programs is a desired goal; however, DOD does not currently have such a system. In 2003, GAO reported that DOD had included evaluative reporting measures in a draft of its PFM instruction to the services. However, the final PFM instruction issued by DOD in 2004 did not address outcome measures or contain a requirement that the services report program results to DOD because the services objected to these additional reporting requirements. Without a policy requiring evaluation and a reporting relationship between DOD and the services, DOD and Congress do not have the visibility or oversight needed to address issues related to the PFM programs. Some junior enlisted servicemembers are not receiving PFM training that is required in service regulations. While each of the services implements PFM training differently, all of the services have policies requiring that PFM training be provided to junior enlisted servicemembers. Moreover, the extent to which the PFM training is not received is unknown because most of the services do not track the completion of PFM training at the service level. Only the Army collected installation-level data and could provide a service-wide estimate of PFM training completed by junior enlisted servicemembers. Senior Army officers said PFM training had not been a priority given the need to prepare for current operations. Top-level DOD officials have repeatedly stated that financial issues directly affect servicemembers' mission readiness and should be addressed. Therefore, units whose servicemembers do not receive required PFM training risk jeopardizing their ability to meet mission requirements.[Read More…]
- Nuclear Safety: DOE and the Safety Board Should Collaborate to Develop a Written Agreement to Enhance OversightBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020The Department of Energy's (DOE) Order 140.1 included provisions inconsistent with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board's (DNFSB) original enabling statute—the statute in place when the order was issued—and with long-standing practices. For example, GAO found that Order 140.1 contained provisions restricting DNFSB's access to information that were not included in the statute. GAO also found Order 140.1 to be inconsistent with long-standing DNFSB practices regarding staff's access to certain National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) meetings at the Pantex Plant in Texas, where nuclear weapons are assembled and disassembled (see fig.). In December 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA) amended DNFSB's statute to clarify and confirm DNFSB's authority and long-standing practices between the agencies. DOE replaced Order 140.1 with Order 140.1A in June 2020. National Nuclear Security Administration's Pantex Plant, Located Near Amarillo, Texas DNFSB, DOE, and NNSA officials that GAO interviewed identified concerns with Order 140.1 that GAO found are not addressed under DOE's Order 140.1A. In particular, DOE's Order 140.1A was not part of a collaborative effort to address DNFSB's remaining concerns related to access to information and other regular interagency interactions. For example, DNFSB officials cited concerns that DOE could interpret a provision of DNFSB's statute authorizing the Secretary of Energy to deny access to information in a way that could limit DNFSB access to information to which it has had access in the past. GAO has previously recommended that agencies develop formal written agreements to enhance collaboration. By collaborating to develop an agreement that, among other things, incorporates a common understanding of this provision, DOE and DNFSB could lessen the risks of DNFSB being denied access to information important for conducting oversight. DOE and NNSA officials, as well as contractor representatives involved in operating the facilities, also raised concerns that insufficient training on Order 140.1 contributed to uncertainties about how to engage with DNFSB staff when implementing the order, a problem that GAO found could persist under Order 140.1A. Providing more robust training on Order 140.1A would help ensure consistent implementation of the revised order at relevant facilities. Established by statute in 1988, DNFSB has broad oversight responsibilities regarding the adequacy of public health and safety protections at DOE defense nuclear facilities. In May 2018, DOE issued Order 140.1, a new order governing DOE's interactions with DNFSB. DNFSB raised concerns that the order could affect its ability to perform its statutory mandate. Congressional committee reports included provisions for GAO to review DOE Order 140.1. This report examines (1) the extent to which the order was consistent with DNFSB's original enabling statute and with long-standing practices, as well as actions DOE has taken in light of changes to the statute outlined in the FY20 NDAA; and (2) outstanding areas of concern that DNFSB and DOE identified, and the potential effects of these concerns on how the two agencies cooperate. GAO reviewed legislation and agency documents; visited DOE sites; and interviewed DNFSB, DOE, and NNSA officials and contractor representatives. GAO is making a recommendation to DOE and DNFSB that they collaborate to develop a written agreement, and an additional two recommendations to DOE, including that it develop more robust training on Order 140.1A. DOE and DNFSB agreed to develop a written agreement. DOE agreed with one of the other two recommendations, but did not agree to provide more robust training. GAO maintains that the recommended action is valid. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]