January 22, 2022

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Cuba Travel Advisory

11 min read

Do not travel to Cuba due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to demonstrable and sometimes debilitating injuries to members of our diplomatic community resulting in the drawdown of embassy staff.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Cuba due to COVID-19.   

Travelers to Cuba may experience border closures, airport closures, travel prohibitions, stay at home orders, business closures, and other emergency conditions within Cuba due to COVID-19. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Cuba.

Numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees suffered demonstrable and sometimes debilitating injuries during their service in Havana. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, and difficulty sleeping. We continue to investigate how the health of our diplomats and their family members was severely and permanently damaged.

These symptoms occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences (including a long-term apartment at the Atlantic) and at Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri in Havana.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana is operating with reduced staffing. Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in Cuba.

Read the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Cuba:

Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.

News Network

  • Social Security and Medicare: Improving the Timeliness of Trust Fund Reports
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Treasury took some steps to improve its management of the schedule for developing the Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports but the boards of trustees did not meet the statutory deadline of April 1 for the reports due in 2020 and 2021. In 2019, GAO issued two recommendations to try to improve the timeliness of the reports. Consistent with GAO's first recommendation in 2019, Treasury developed schedules for preparing the annual reports that included the planned and actual dates for meeting intermediate goals and the statutory deadline of April 1. Other than tracking the planned and actual dates of each reporting cycle, however, Treasury has not told GAO about any other steps it took to better manage the schedule, as GAO recommended. Therefore the recommendation has not been fully implemented. GAO also recommended that Treasury inform Congress of reporting delays. Treasury reported that the working group—agency officials involved in the preparation of the reports— established a policy in December 2020 to notify Congress if the trustees anticipate issuing the reports after the April 1 statutory deadline. The policy states that the chairperson will "assess the need to notify Congress of the reports' timing." The policy does not specify how they would make that assessment, nor does it mention including the reasons for the delay. A Treasury official stated that they did not interpret our recommendation to mean that the policy itself had to address communicating the reasons for delayed reports—only that those reasons be included in the information communicated to Congress. This policy does not fully address GAO's recommendation because it implies that notifying Congress should be discretionary and does not call for any explanation of the delays and updated timeframes. The policy should serve as a prompt for subsequent working groups to provide timely updates and address all of the information we recommended communicating to Congress. There are potential actions Treasury, in consultation with the boards of trustees, could take to help address GAO's prior recommendations. For example, Treasury, in its role as chairperson of the boards, could prioritize meeting the statutory deadline, review progress in developing the reports, obtain buy-in on timeliness goals from key officials, learn from past reporting cycles, and strengthen the policy to inform Congress of delays. In addition, the boards of trustees could amend their bylaws to state explicitly the goal of meeting the April 1 statutory deadline, and require that Congress be informed of report issuance delays, the reasons for delays, and the updated issuance date estimates. Finally, if Congress does not believe sufficient progress has been made to address GAO's recommendations, it could codify GAO's 2019 recommendations to Treasury with explicit requirements for reporting and communication. In commenting on a draft of this report, Treasury emphasized the unique circumstance and challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic presented to completing the modeling underlying the Trustees reports. They explained that the working group made a deliberate decision to take additional time to prepare the reports in order to accurately incorporate the effects of the pandemic and that this was necessary in order to ensure a high-quality report. Why GAO Did This Study Boards of trustees manage the trust funds that largely provide funding for benefits paid under the Social Security and Medicare programs. The Social Security Act requires the trustees to report on the trust funds' financial status to Congress each year by April 1. In 2019, GAO reported that the trustees issued the reports after this statutory deadline in 17 of the 25 years from 1995 to 2019, and were more than 2 months late in 6 years from 2010 to 2019. GAO's report recommended two actions to the Secretary of the Treasury, in their capacity as the chairperson of the boards. The first recommendation was that Treasury work with the other trustees, in consultation with the chief actuaries of Social Security and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to improve the management of the report development schedules in order to provide the Trustees reports to Congress by the April 1 statutory deadline. The second recommended that Treasury work with other trustees to establish a policy to inform congressional committees of jurisdiction when the reports are expected to miss this deadline; we recommended that this outreach include the factors contributing to the delay and the updated expected dates. Treasury concurred with these recommendations. GAO was asked about additional actions to better ensure the timely issuance of the Trustees reports, including considering changes to the trustees' bylaws and Congressional action. This report (1) describes Treasury's progress in addressing GAO's 2019 recommendations, and (2) offers potential actions, consistent with GAO's recommendations, that could help ensure timely completion of the Trustees reports. GAO reviewed the 2019 report, relevant documentation from the reporting cycles for the 2020 and 2021 Trustees reports, and information Treasury provided about actions it has taken to implement GAO's recommendations from the 2019 report. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or curdae@gao.gov.
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  • The United States Urges an End to Violent Demonstrations in Honiara, Solomon Islands
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  • Massachusetts Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax and Drug Charges Arising from Multimillion-Dollar Marijuana Enterprise
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  • [Protest of NAVSEA Exercise of Contract Option for Torpedo Defense System Demonstration and Validation]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested the Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) exercise of a contract option for torpedo defense system demonstration and validation, contending that NAVSEA: (1) improperly determined that its bid was technically unacceptable; and (2) failed to disclose vital information concerning the bid requirements. GAO held that: (1) the protester's proposed system failed to meet the solicitation specifications; and (2) NAVSEA had no prior knowledge concerning the acceptability of certain proposed materials. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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  • KuuHuub Inc., Kuu Huub Oy and Recolor Oy to Pay Civil Penalty for Children’s Online Privacy Violations
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), today announced that KuuHuub Inc., a Canadian corporation, and two Finnish corporations, Kuu Huub Oy and Recolor Oy, have agreed to a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) associated with the companies’ “Recolor” mobile app and digital coloring book.
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  • Medicare Durable Medical Equipment: Effect of New Bid Surety Bond Requirement on Small Supplier Participation in the Competitive Bidding Program
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers a competitive bidding program (CBP) to determine which suppliers may furnish certain durable medical equipment (DME) to Medicare beneficiaries in designated geographical areas. Specifically, suppliers submit bids to provide specified categories of DME items; CMS determines winning bids based on several factors, including the bid amount, and whether the estimated capacity of suppliers would meet the projected demand for those DME items in each area. Historically, winning suppliers could reject any contract offer to furnish CBP-covered items without penalty. This allowed them to help set CBP payment amounts without being held accountable for furnishing items at those amounts. However, beginning with round 2021—the most recent round of the CBP—bidding suppliers were required by law to obtain a $50,000 bid surety bond for each CBP area in which they submitted a bid. These bonds require a supplier to accept a contract offer when its bid amount is at or below the median of the winning suppliers' bids used to calculate the CBP payment amount offered for each product category. If it does not, the supplier forfeits the bond. GAO found that small suppliers successfully obtained contracts in CBP round 2021. For example, small suppliers accounted for 58 percent of the suppliers awarded contracts in round 2021. Slightly more than half of the bids small suppliers submitted resulted in contracts. Contract Awards by Supplier Size for the Round 2021 Competitions   Suppliers that bid Suppliers awarded contracts Size of bidders Number Percent Number Percent Small suppliers 383 60 207 58 Large suppliers 231 36 148 42 Unknown suppliers 24 4 0 0 Total 638 100 355 100 Source: GAO analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data. I GAO-21-602 Notes: CMS defines small suppliers bidding as those generating $3.5 million or less in total gross Medicare and non-Medicare revenue annually, large suppliers as those generating more than that amount of revenue, and unknown suppliers as those whose entire bid was disqualified for a missing financial document and, therefore, did not advance to the evaluation process where a supplier's size is determined. CMS data suggest that bid surety bonds did not negatively affect small supplier participation in CBP round 2021. Specifically, the data show that the small supplier participation rate in round 2021 was comparable to that of the five prior CBP rounds. The data also indicated that only about 5 percent of small suppliers' bids were disqualified due to submission of invalid bid surety bonds. Representatives from two national DME industry trade organizations, as well as six of their small supplier members, told GAO that the new bid surety bond requirement did not create a barrier for small suppliers, as bid surety bonds were accessible to small suppliers and reasonably priced. However, some of these representatives reported other factors may affect small suppliers' future participation in CBP rounds, such as concerns related to small suppliers' ability to provide items at rates that are competitive with larger suppliers. Why GAO Did This Study To achieve Medicare savings and address fraud concerns, Congress required that CMS, in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), phase in a CBP for certain DME product categories in designated geographical (or CBP) areas. CBP Round 2021 began on January 1, 2021, and included two product categories (off-the-shelf knee braces and off-the-shelf back braces) in a total of 235 CBP area and product category combinations (known as competitions). CMS estimated that round 2021 will save Medicare more than $600 million over the 3-year contract period. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the effect of the new bid surety bond requirement on small supplier participation in the CBP. CMS defines small suppliers as those generating $3.5 million or less in total gross Medicare and non-Medicare revenue annually. This report describes 1) the extent to which small suppliers participated in CBP round 2021 and 2) what is known about how the bid surety bond requirement and other factors affected or may affect small supplier participation in the CBP. GAO reviewed bidding process and contract award data; interviewed CMS officials; and interviewed representatives from two national DME industry trade organizations, including six of their small DME supplier members, that GAO selected based on their familiarity with the CBP and the new bid surety bond requirement. HHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Seeks Forfeiture of Two Commercial Properties Purchased with Funds Misappropriated from PrivatBank in Ukraine
    In Crime News
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  • Nuclear Waste: Congressional Action Needed to Clarify a Disposal Option at West Valley Site in New York
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy (DOE) has made progress in cleaning up radioactive waste at the site of the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York State. In the 1960s and 1970s, a commercial facility at the site reprocessed spent (used) nuclear fuel into reusable nuclear material—creating various wastes that remained on-site after the facility closed in 1976. Since 2011, DOE has demolished 51 of 55 structures there and disposed of about 1.3 million cubic feet of low-level waste to off-site locations. It has also placed solidified high-level waste into interim on-site storage (see fig.). In addition, DOE has processed for interim on-site storage about 30,000 cubic feet of transuranic waste (which is contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than uranium). As of February 2020, DOE reported spending about $3.1 billion on contracted cleanup activities, but it cannot estimate the cleanup's final cost until it decides how it will address the remaining waste. High-Level Waste from the West Valley Demonstration Project in Interim On-Site Storage, March 2017 DOE has been unable to dispose of the high-level and transuranic wastes stored at West Valley because there are no facilities authorized to accept these wastes. DOE has identified two potential options for disposal of the transuranic waste: the federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico and a commercial facility in Texas. However, the New Mexico facility is authorized to accept only waste from atomic energy defense activities, and DOE does not consider West Valley waste to be from atomic energy defense activities. Regarding the Texas facility, state regulations preclude disposal of the waste there. In 2017, DOE submitted to Congress a report on all disposal options, as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Pursuant to this act, DOE must await action by Congress before making a final decision, and Congress has not yet acted. The West Valley Demonstration Project Act, enacted in 1980, requires DOE to assist with cleanup activities at the site of the nation's only commercial facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The site contained 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level waste, radioactively contaminated structures and soils, and buried radioactive waste. In 2011, DOE began the first phase of its decommissioning plan, which included demolishing above-ground structures and removing contaminated soils. The West Valley Reauthorization Act and the Senate Committee Report No. 116-48 included provisions for GAO to review progress on the cleanup at West Valley. GAO's report examines (1) the status of the cleanup and (2) DOE's options for disposing of the remaining radioactive waste. GAO reviewed DOE's data on cleanup costs and waste volumes and its decommissioning plans, as well as laws, regulations, and policies governing radioactive waste disposal. GAO also interviewed officials from DOE and the state of New York, as well as other stakeholders. Congress should consider taking action to provide a legal option for the disposal of West Valley's transuranic waste. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or BawdenA@gao.gov.
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  • Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Releases Final Report
    In Crime News
    Today, following months of virtual meetings, testimony and study, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr submitted the final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to the White House.  This report represents the first comprehensive study of law enforcement in more than 55 years.
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  • DOD Fraud Risk Management: Actions Needed to Enhance Department-Wide Approach, Focusing on Procurement Fraud Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) faces numerous types of procurement fraud schemes (see figure). For example, in January 2015, the owner of a contracting firm pleaded guilty to bribing DOD officials and defrauding DOD of tens of millions of dollars by overbilling for goods and services. To combat department-wide fraud risks, DOD has taken initial steps that generally align with GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. However, DOD has not finalized and implemented a comprehensive approach. For example: DOD created a Fraud Reduction Task Force—a cross-functional team represented by subject matter experts across the department—to prioritize fraud risks and identify solutions. But its membership is incomplete. A year after formation, 11 of DOD's 59 component organizations, including the Army, had not designated a Task Force representative. Filling vacant Task Force positions would further strengthen DOD's ability to manage its fraud risks. DOD uses its risk management program to assess and report fraud risks. But the policy governing the risk management program does not specifically require fraud risk assessments. As a result, DOD may not be identifying all fraud risks, and its control activities may not be appropriately designed or implemented. DOD officials told GAO that they share fraud risk information with agencies' risk management officials, but documentation of stakeholders' roles and responsibilities remains incomplete. Such documentation can help ensure these stakeholders understand their responsibilities. Examples of Procurement Fraud Schemes DOD Faces DOD has taken steps to ensure components plan for and assess fraud risks. But some selected components did not report procurement fraud risks, as required by DOD. DOD provides guidance, tools, and training to its components to conduct fraud risk assessments and to assess procurement fraud risks. However, GAO found that three of six selected components reported procurement fraud risks in their fiscal-year-2020 risk assessments, and that three—which obligated $180.1 billion in fiscal year 2020—did not. Because DOD consolidates reported procurement risks from the components' fraud risk assessments and uses this information to update the department-wide fraud risk profile, it cannot ensure that its fraud risk profile is complete or accurate. Why GAO Did This Study GAO was asked to review issues related to DOD's fraud risk management. DOD obligated $421.8 billion in fiscal year 2020 on contracts. GAO has long reported that DOD's procurement processes are vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse. In 2018, DOD reported to Congress that from fiscal years 2013-2017, over $6.6 billion had been recovered from defense-contracting fraud cases. In 2020, the DOD Office of Inspector General reported that roughly one-in-five of its ongoing investigations are related to procurement fraud. This report assesses the steps DOD took in fiscal year 2020 (1) to combat department-wide fraud risks and (2) to conduct a fraud risk assessment and ensure that DOD's component organizations reported procurement fraud risks. GAO analyzed applicable DOD policy and documents and compared them with Fraud Risk Framework leading practices, interviewed DOD officials, and reviewed fiscal year 2020 fraud risk assessments from six DOD components. GAO selected the six based primarily on fiscal years 2014-2018 contract obligations.
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  • Medicare: Information on the Transition to Alternative Payment Models by Providers in Rural, Health Professional Shortage, or Underserved Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In recent years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed and implemented new Medicare payment models, including alternative payment models (APM), in an effort to shift from paying providers based on the volume of care provided to the quality of care provided (value-based payments). One type of APM, Advanced APMs, are designed to encourage providers to share in both the financial rewards and risk of caring for Medicare beneficiaries. Providers must meet certain requirements to take part in an Advanced APM, such as using certified electronic health record technology. GAO's analysis of CMS data found that a smaller percentage of providers eligible to participate in Advanced APMs (eligible providers) in rural or health professional shortage areas (shortage areas) participated in them each year from 2017 through 2019 compared to providers not located in these areas. Percentage of Medicare Providers in Rural or Shortage Areas and Providers Not Located in These Areas Who Participated in Advanced APMs, 2017 – 2019 Providers in rural, shortage, or medically underserved areas face financial, technology, and other challenges in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs, according to CMS officials and stakeholders GAO interviewed. These include a lack of capital to finance the upfront costs of transitioning to an APM, including purchasing electronic health record technology; and challenges acquiring or conducting data analysis necessary for participation. CMS has implemented models with certain features that may help providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas transition to APMs, including Advanced APMs. This includes models that offer upfront funding to help with costs associated with participating in the APM, such as hiring additional staff; and technical assistance, such as education about APMs, to support providers. Why GAO Did This Study In 2017, in response to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, CMS implemented the Quality Payment Program—a payment incentive program intended to reward high-quality, efficient care. Advanced APMs, which offer a 5 percent incentive payment for Medicare providers seeing a certain percentage of their Medicare beneficiaries through the Advanced APM, are one part of this program. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 included a provision for GAO to examine transitions to APMs for providers in rural areas, shortage areas, or medically underserved areas. This report describes (1) participation in Advanced APMs by providers in rural or shortage areas; (2) challenges providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas face in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs; and (3) actions CMS has taken to help these providers transition to APMs. GAO analyzed CMS data on participation in Advanced APMs for 2017 through 2019—the most recent years available at the time of GAO's analysis. GAO also interviewed officials from CMS and 18 stakeholder organizations that represent providers of various specialties that participate in APMs or that have conducted research and are knowledgeable of issues related to APMs. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.
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  • Military Personnel: Perspectives on DOD’s and the Military Services’ Use of Borrowed Military Personnel
    In U.S GAO News
    Policies on the use of borrowed military personnel vary among military services. Borrowed military personnel refers to military personnel used for duties outside their assigned positions, such as security protection. DOD policy acknowledges that there may be instances in which military personnel can be used to appropriately satisfy a near-term demand but that DOD must be vigilant in ensuring that military personnel are not inappropriately utilized, particularly in a manner that may degrade readiness. Additionally, the Army and the Marine Corps have their own policies that describes how military personnel may be used on a temporary basis. DOD and the Army, Navy, and Air Force do not centrally track their use of borrowed military personnel, nor do they assess any impacts of that use on the readiness of units and personnel to accomplish their assigned missions. According to DOD and Army officials, the relatively limited use of borrowed military manpower, their limited impacts on readiness, and the existence of other readiness reporting mechanisms serve to obviate the need to collect and analyze this information centrally—especially given the resources that would be required to establish and maintain such a reporting process. The House Armed Services Committee has questioned whether DOD continues to divert servicemembers from their unit assignments to perform nonmilitary functions that could be performed by civilian employees. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to assess the levels and impacts of borrowed military personnel. This report examines DOD's and the military services' policies on the use of borrowed military personnel, the tracking and reporting of their use of borrowed military personnel, and any impacts of that use on readiness. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202)512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.
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  • Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases Rise
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  • Military Air Support: DOD Has Increased Its Use of Contracts to Meet Training Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Department of Defense (DOD) components use air support contracts for certain training activities. Such contracts have supported DOD training at locations in the United States, Europe, and Japan (see figure). DOD Training Locations with Air Support Contracts Since fiscal year 2015, DOD components have increased the availability of air support contract flying hours and expanded the number of training locations to address some training needs (see figure). The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have used air support contracts to replicate adversary air forces to train new fighter pilots and to support training exercises. DOD components have also used the contracts to train air controllers on close air support procedures. DOD Available Flying Hours and Number of Training Locations for Air Support Contracts Note: Figures include data for available flying hours and training locations for the contract award year, and do not reflect the cumulative total of the available flying hours or locations across all contracts in a fiscal year, which would be greater. DOD components have taken steps to gain greater efficiencies in the use of air support contracts. These steps included consolidating contract administration to reduce redundant costs, among others. DOD components have also established processes to monitor the performance of air support contracts to meet established contracted requirements. The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have taken steps to determine the effectiveness of these contracts, including evaluating the role of air support contracts among other future options for their adversary air training programs. In particular, the services are determining the appropriate mix of training capabilities, to include contract aircraft, as well as affordability and timeframes to modernize U.S. military adversary air capabilities. These reviews, to be completed in fiscal year 2022, are expected to affect future investments in air support contracts, according to DOD officials. Why GAO Did This Study DOD components awarded almost $8 billion for air support contracts in fiscal years 2015 through 2020. These contracts provide non-military aircraft and personnel to replicate the role of combat aircraft for various training activities. The components used the contracts to meet training needs, address shortages in available military aircraft, and manage costs. House Report 116-442, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, included a provision for GAO to review the use of air support contracts during military training. This report describes (1) how DOD has used air support contracts for training to replicate adversary air forces and to provide aircraft for close air support since fiscal year 2015, and (2) what steps DOD has taken to gain efficiencies and determine the effectiveness of air support contracts. GAO reviewed documentation on air support contracts for fiscal years 2015 through 2021, including performance work statements, task orders, and invoices; analyzed the increase or decrease in the use of air support contracts, including the number of contracts and operating locations; and interviewed officials to determine factors contributing to any increases or decreases in the use of the contracts. GAO also reviewed documentation on specific initiatives DOD components have taken since 2015 to gain greater efficiencies and to determine the effectiveness of air support contracts in achieving training requirements. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.
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