Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the government of the United States and the American people, I congratulate the people of Dominica on the 43rd anniversary of your independence.
Dominica’s cooperation with the United States on public health, security, and economic prosperity attests to our shared values and close ties. Our donation of a medical field hospital in April strengthened Dominica’s healthcare system and its flexibility to respond in times of crisis. Our entrepreneurship trainings, coding workshops, and educational exchanges helped Dominica’s youth apply creative solutions to global challenges. Through COVID-19 response and recovery assistance, vaccine donations, maritime security upgrades, and the construction of emergency operations centers, the United States worked with Dominica to end the global COVID-19 pandemic and create a safer future.
The relationship between Dominica and the United States of America offers endless opportunities. I wish all Dominicans a happy Independence Day.
- Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams Travels to Middle EastBy Sam NewsNovember 7, 2020
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020Each weekday, the [Read More…]
- Warfighter Support: Army’s and Defense Logistics Agency’s Approach for Awarding Contracts for the Army Combat ShirtBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundDuring the fiscal year 2007-12 timeframe, the Army applied statutory and regulatory requirements related to procurement for supplies to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. The Army applied these requirements, including those in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations, to award the following groups of contracts and to respond to demand for the combat shirt and the supply of manufacturers that could produce it:contracts awarded on a sole-source basis to 8(a) firms owned by an ANC or anIndian tribe in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 to respond to the urgent need for combat shirts because of an increase in warfighters being burned by improvised explosive devices in theater.contracts awarded to NIB and NISH nonprofit agencies representing industries for the blind and severely disabled, respectively, in fiscal years 2009 through 2012 to respond to the increasing demand for the combat shirts and the limited capacity of the 8(a) firms that were manufacturing the combat shirts under the existing sole-source contracts.a contract awarded on a competitive basis to an 8(a), ANC-owned firm in fiscal year 2011 to respond to the need for an additional source of supply to manufacture the combat shirts and to introduce competition as a means of reducing cost of the combat shirt.Since fiscal year 2011, DLA has been responsible for sustainment contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. According to DLA contracting officials, DLA plans to award contracts by March 2013 by applying statutory and regulatory procurement requirements, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations.Why GAO Did This StudyFlame-resistant clothing has been typically used by warfighters to protect them in situations where they face serious exposure to fire or incendiary devices. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel wearing flame-resistant clothing were mainly aviators, fuel handlers, and combat-vehicle crewmembers. However, with the growing prevalence of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, warfighters serving there have been exposed more frequently to the risk of fire-related injuries. To provide warfighters deploying into combat areas (including Iraq and Afghanistan) with a garment that can mitigate the risk of sustaining fire-related injuries, the Army procured the Army Combat Shirt, which is a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking shirt designed specifically to protect warfighters against burns and provide maximum comfort as well. Through the Army Program Executive Office Soldier-- the program manager responsible for the initial procurement of the Army Combat Shirt--the Army began procuring this shirt in fiscal year 2007 and through fiscal year 2012 has awarded over $310 million in contracts for the combat shirt. These contracts have been awarded to 8(a) firms and to the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH nonprofit agencies. Beginning in fiscal year 2011, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) assumed responsibility for sustainment contracting of the Army Combat Shirt and began the process of soliciting proposals and awarding contracts for the combat shirts. Transferring clothing and textile program functions from a military service to DLA is part of DOD's process for managing the life cycle of the procurement of supplies. This report addresses a Congressional request that GAO examine the approach that the Army used to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt and that DLA is using to prepare to award future ones.For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202)512-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister LapidBy Sam NewsJune 15, 2021
- Thirteen Charged in Federal Court Following Riot at the United States CapitolBy Sam NewsJanuary 8, 2021Thirteen individuals have been charged so far in federal court in the District of Columbia related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. In addition to those who have been charged, additional complaints have been submitted and investigations are ongoing.[Read More…]
- Attorney General Merrick Garland Addresses the 115,000 Employees of the Department of Justice on His First DayBy Sam NewsMarch 11, 2021Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson’s Remarks Good morning. It's my honor to welcome Merrick Garland back to the Department of Justice as the 86th Attorney General of the United States. I'd also like to recognize the Attorney General's wife Lynn, his brother-in-law Mitchell and his nieces Laura and Andrea. In many respects, this is a welcome home ceremony for the Attorney General. Before his appointment to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, he served with distinction in a number of positions here at Main Justice and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney in the District of Columbia.[Read More…]
- VA Health Care: Challenges in Budget Formulation and Issues Surrounding the Proposal for Advance AppropriationsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates it will provide health care to 5.8 million patients with appropriations of about $41 billion in fiscal year 2009. It provides a range of services, including primary care, outpatient and inpatient services, long-term care, and prescription drugs. VA formulates its health care budget by developing annual estimates of its likely spending for all its health care programs and services, and includes these estimates in its annual congressional budget justification. GAO was asked to discuss budgeting for VA health care. As agreed, this statement addresses (1) challenges VA faces in formulating its health care budget and (2) issues surrounding the possibility of providing advance appropriations for VA health care. This testimony is based on prior GAO work, including VA Health Care: Budget Formulation and Reporting on Budget Execution Need Improvement (GAO-06-958) (Sept. 2006); VA Health Care: Long-Term Care Strategic Planning and Budgeting Need Improvement (GAO-09-145) (Jan. 2009); and VA Health Care: Challenges in Budget Formulation and Execution (GAO-09-459T) (Mar. 2009); and on GAO reviews of budgets, budget resolutions, and related legislative documents. We discussed the contents of this statement with VA officials.GAO's prior work highlights some of the challenges VA faces in formulating its budget: obtaining sufficient data for useful budget projections, making accurate calculations, and making realistic assumptions. For example, GAO's 2006 report on VA's overall health care budget found that VA underestimated the cost of serving veterans returning from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to VA officials, the agency did not have sufficient data from the Department of Defense, but VA subsequently began receiving the needed data monthly rather than quarterly. In addition, VA made calculation errors when estimating the effect of its proposed fiscal year 2006 nursing home policy, and this contributed to requests for supplemental funding. GAO recommended that VA strengthen its internal controls to better ensure the accuracy of calculations used to prepare budget requests. VA agreed and, for its fiscal year 2009 budget justification, had an independent actuarial firm validate savings estimates from proposals to increase fees for certain types of health care coverage. In January 2009, GAO found that VA's assumptions about the cost of providing long-term care appeared unreliable given that assumed cost increases were lower than VA's recent spending experience and guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget. GAO recommended that VA use assumptions consistent with recent experience or report the rationale for alternative cost assumptions. In a March 23, 2009, letter to GAO, VA stated that it concurred and would implement this recommendation for future budget submissions. The provision of advance appropriations would "use up" discretionary budget authority for the next year and so limit Congress's flexibility to respond to changing priorities and needs. While providing funds for 2 years in a single appropriations act provides certainty about some funds, the longer projection period increases the uncertainty of the data and projections used. If VA is expected to submit its budget proposal for health care for 2 years, the lead time for the second year would be 30 months. This additional lead time increases the uncertainty of the estimates and could worsen the challenges VA already faces when formulating its health care budget. Given the challenges VA faces in formulating its health care budget and the changing nature of health care, proposals to change the availability of the appropriations it receives deserve careful scrutiny. Providing advance appropriations will not mitigate or solve the problems we have reported regarding data, calculations, or assumptions in developing VA's health care budget. Nor will it address any link between cost growth and program design. Congressional oversight will continue to be critical.[Read More…]
- Two Members of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods Gang Plead Guilty to RICO ConspiracyBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2021Yesterday, two Georgia men and members of the Nine Trey Gangster national criminal organization pleaded guilty to Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy.[Read More…]
- Timor-Leste Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- Justice Department Settles with Maine School District to Protect Educational Rights of Students with Disabilities and English LearnersBy Sam NewsMay 27, 2021Today the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with the Lewiston Public Schools to end the district’s systemic and discriminatory practice of excluding students from full-day school because of behavior related to their disabilities. The settlement also will require the district to provide equal educational opportunities to its English learner students. The department conducted its investigation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) after receiving a complaint from Disability Rights Maine.[Read More…]
- Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq: Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy NeededBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021In January 2007, the President announced a new U.S. strategy to stem the violence in Iraq and help the Iraqi government foster conditions for national reconciliation. In The New Way Forward, the Administration articulated near-term goals to achieve over a 12- to 18-month period and reasserted the end state for Iraq: a unified, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror. To support this strategy, the United States increased its military presence and financial commitments for Iraq operations. This testimony discusses (1) progress in meeting key security, legislative, and economic goals of The New Way Forward; and (2) past and current U.S. strategies for Iraq and the need for an updated strategy. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from U.S. agencies, MNF-I, the UN, and the Iraqi government. GAO also had staff stationed in Baghdad. Since 2003, GAO has issued about 140 Iraq-related products, which provided baseline information for this assessment.The United States has made some progress in achieving key goals stated in The New Way Forward. Looking forward, many challenges remain, and an updated strategy is essential. In the security area, violence--as measured by the number of enemy-initiated attacks--decreased about 80 percent from June 2007 to June 2008, trained Iraqi security forces have increased substantially, and many units are leading counterinsurgency operations. However, as of July 2008, 8 of 18 provincial governments do not yet have lead responsibility for security in their provinces, and DOD reported that, in June 2008, less than 10 percent of Iraqi security forces were at the highest readiness level and therefore considered capable of performing operations without coalition support. The security environment remains volatile and dangerous. In the legislative area, Iraq has enacted key legislation to return some Ba'athists to government, grant amnesty to detained Iraqis, and define provincial powers. The unfinished Iraqi legislative agenda includes enacting laws that will provide the legal framework for sharing oil revenues, disarming militias, and holding provincial elections. On economic and infrastructure issues, Iraq spent only 24 percent of the $27 billion it budgeted for its reconstruction efforts between 2005 and 2007. Although crude oil production improved for short periods, the early July 2008 average production capacity of about 2.5 million barrels per day was below the U.S. goal of 3 million barrels per day. In addition, while State reports that U.S. goals for Iraq's water sector are close to being reached, the daily supply of electricity in Iraq met only slightly more than half of demand in early July 2008. Since 2003, the United States has developed and revised multiple strategies to address security and reconstruction needs in Iraq. The New Way Forward responded to failures in prior U.S. plans and the escalating violence that occurred in 2006. However, this strategy and the military surge that was central to it end in July 2008, and many agree that the situation remains fragile. GAO recommends an updated strategy for Iraq for several reasons. First, much has changed in Iraq since The New Way Forward began in January 2007. Violence is down, U.S. surge forces are leaving, and the United States is negotiating a security agreement with Iraq to replace the expiring UN mandate. Second, The New Way Forward only articulates U.S. goals and objectives for the phase that ends in July 2008. Third, the goals and objectives of The New Way Forward are contained in disparate documents rather than a single strategic plan. Furthermore, the classified MNF-I/U.S. Embassy Joint Campaign Plan is not a strategic plan; it is an operational plan with limitations that GAO will discuss during the closed portion of the hearing.[Read More…]
- High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System AcquisitionsBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.[Read More…]
- China Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
- Insurance Broker Sentenced for $3.8 Million Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsMay 27, 2021A licensed insurance broker and the owner of Benefits Consulting Associates LLC was sentenced to 70 months in prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to defraud CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield of more than $3.8 million.[Read More…]
- U.S. GCC Iran Working Group StatementBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2021
- United States Hosts Indo-Pacific Virtual Conference on Strengthening Governance of Transboundary RiversBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020
- VA COVID-19 Procurements: Pandemic Underscores Urgent Need to Modernize Supply ChainBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021What GAO Found Like most medical institutions nationwide, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) faced difficulties obtaining medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for its medical workforce, particularly in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long-standing problems with its antiquated inventory management system exacerbated VA's challenges. GAO found VA obligated over $4 billion for COVID-19-related products, such as ventilators, and services, such as information technology to support VA's telework environment, as of May 2021. GAO also found that some vendors were unable to deliver personal protective equipment, which resulted in VA terminating some contracts, particularly early in the pandemic. VA also took additional steps to screen vendors. VA has several initiatives underway to modernize its supply chain and prepare for future public health emergencies, but each faces delays and is in early stages (see figure). For example: Inventory management. VA intended to replace its system with the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS), with initial implementation in October 2019, and enterprise-wide implementation by 2027. Prior to the pandemic, however, this schedule was at significant risk. VA hopes to accelerate full implementation to 2025, and has received COVID-19 supplemental funds to help, but it is too soon to tell if this will occur. Regional Readiness Centers. VA planned to establish four centers—as central sources of critical medical supplies—by December 2020. As of March 2021, VA has not completed a concept of operations or implementation plan for the project. VA faces an additional year delay in achieving full operational capability, which is now expected in 2023. According to VA officials, the pandemic, among other things, contributed to delays. Warstopper program. VA seeks participation in this Defense Logistics Agency program, which would allow VA emergency access to critical supplies. Legislation recently was introduced to require VA participation. However, as GAO reported in March 2021, several questions remain, such as the range of products the program will cover, the amount of funding needed, and the way the program links to Regional Readiness Centers. Department of Veterans Affairs' Selected Ongoing and New Supply Chain Initiatives, Fiscal Years 2021 through 2028 Why GAO Did This Study In March 2020 and March 2021, Congress appropriated $19.6 billion and $17 billion in supplemental funds, respectively, for VA's COVID-19 response effort. VA also authorized use of emergency flexibilities and automated aspects of its inventory system. In accordance with Congress's direction in the CARES Act to monitor the exercise of authorities and use of funds provided to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the pandemic, relevant committees requested our sustained focus on VA. GAO was asked to assess VA's acquisition management during its COVID-19 pandemic response. This report examines VA's efforts to obtain and track COVID-19-related products and services amid its ongoing struggle to improve its inventory and supply chain management. GAO reviewed federal procurement data, analyzed selected VA contract documents, reviewed selected interagency agreements, assessed VA documents on modernization and other initiatives, and interviewed VA officials and staff.[Read More…]
- Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on the 19th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist AttacksBy Sam NewsSeptember 11, 2020Attorney General William [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with French Foreign Minister Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Maas, and UK Foreign Secretary RaabBy Sam NewsFebruary 5, 2021
- Robstown man gets huge sentence for sexual exploitation of a childBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 2, 2021A 53-year-old local man [Read More…]