January 25, 2022

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DRL FY21 IRF NEA Combatting Antisemitism Online

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Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

United States Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL)
Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO):
DRL FY21 IRF NEA Combatting Antisemitism Online

This is the announcement of funding opportunity number SFOP0008377

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number:  19.345

Type of Solicitation:  Open Competition

Application Deadline:  11:59 PM EST on 22, November, 2021

Funding Floor:  $1,000,000

Funding Ceiling:  $1,000,000

Anticipated Number of Awards:  One

Type of Award: Grant or Cooperative Agreement

Period of Performance:  24-48 months

Anticipated Time to Award, Pending Availability of Funds:  8 months

A. Project Description

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that support Religious Freedom and combat antisemitism.

“Religious freedom” refers to the right set out in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the freedom to adopt a religion or beliefs, change your beliefs, practice and teach your beliefs (which may include through publications, public and private speech, and the display of religious attire or symbols), gather in community with others to worship and observe your beliefs, and teach your beliefs to your children.  It also states that no one shall be subject to coercion that would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his/her choice.  Proposed programming must be responsive to restrictions on religious freedom and must be in line with the U.S. government’s religious freedom, democracy, governance, and human rights goals.

Helpful resources for applicants include the annual country-specific International Religious Freedom Reports https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/ and annual country-specific Human Rights Reports https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/.

Applicants will be responsible for ensuring program activities and products are implemented in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

DRL’s goal for this project is to combat antisemitism, discrimination, and intolerance on the basis of religion or belief in the Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) region with a specific focus on combatting antisemitism online.  In addition to combatting antisemitism and other forms of religious discrimination online, efforts should also include producing quality media stories that promote strong, credible counter narratives that debunk stereotypes and misinformation, promoting greater societal inclusion and increasing public awareness of ways to combat hateful and discriminatory expression targeting Jews and members of other religious minorities.

In the proposal, applicants should select 2-3 countries* of focus in the NEA region (as defined by the Department of State) with a rationale for why those countries were proposed for program activities.  *NEA countries excluded from this solicitation are Yemen, Libya, and Syria.

Competitive applicants will propose countries with significant incidents of antisemitism online.

Expected project outcomes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Media messaging counters disinformation, including discrimination, stereotypes and the distortion of historical narratives of Jews and members of other religious minorities;
  • Media information counters hate speech and incitement to violence targeting Jews and members of other religious minorities;
  • Media consumers are more resilient and literate against messages of disinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence;
  • Media outlets and platforms adopt or revise policies and approaches to prevent violence based on data, research and ethical standard;
  • Communities are more aware, respectful, and inclusive of members all religions, beliefs, or non-believers.

Project activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Engage a range of media platforms to counter antisemitism and discrimination and intolerance targeting religious minority communities broadly, including but not limited to Jewish, Muslim (including Ahmadiyya Muslim), Christian, Baha’i, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist/nonbeliever communities;
  • Advocate for media platforms, posters, and journalists to be held accountable for posts or articles that violate ethics, journalist principles and standards, or incite violence;
  • Empower civil society to identify and effectively counter discrimination, intolerance, and hate speech targeting religious minority communities while preserving the right to free speech;
  • Keep relevant government agencies, NGOs, and regional or international government organizations informed of findings and trends of hate speech and related incidents, to inform official statements, actions, and policies;
  • Promote positive public opinion by countering intolerance, discrimination and hate speech with positive counter narratives and messages, correcting false or misleading information, and developing content that promotes mutual respect and societal inclusion for all.

To be aligned with the Department of State evaluation policy, DRL awards should commission an evaluation (either internal or external) for awards over $1,000,000 or extend over 2 years.  Details on the evaluation should be included in the submitted Budget, Budget Narrative, and Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative.

All programs should aim to have impact that leads to reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources.  DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  Programs should seek to include groups that can bring perspectives based on their religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.  Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible.  DRL requires all programs to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for integration of individuals/organizations regardless of religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.

Competitive proposals may also include a summary budget and budget narrative for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance, indicated above.  This information should indicate what objective(s) and/or activities could be accomplished with additional time and/or funds beyond the proposed period of performance.

Where appropriate, competitive proposals may include:

  • Opportunities for beneficiaries to apply their new knowledge and skills in practical efforts;
  • Solicitation of feedback and suggestions from beneficiaries when developing activities in order to strengthen the sustainability of programs and participant ownership of project outcomes;
  • Input from participants on sustainability plans and systematic review of the plans throughout the life of the project, with adjustments made as necessary;
  • Inclusion of vulnerable populations;
  • Joint identification and definition of key concepts with relevant stakeholders and stakeholder input into project activities;
  • Systematic follow up with beneficiaries at specific intervals after the completion of activities to track how beneficiaries are retaining new knowledge as well as applying their new skills.

Activities that are not typically allowed include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision of humanitarian assistance;
  • English language instruction;
  • Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
  • Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
  • External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
  • Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary per security concerns;
  • Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society;
  • Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
  • Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.

This notice is subject to availability of funding.

B. Federal Award Information

Primary organizations can submit one application in response to the NOFO.

The U.S. government may:  (a) reject any or all applications, (b) accept other than the lowest cost application, (c) accept more than one application, and (d) waive irregularities in applications received.

The U.S. government may make award(s) on the basis of initial applications received, without discussions or negotiations.  Therefore, each initial application should contain the applicant’s best terms from a cost and technical standpoint.  The U.S. government reserves the right (though it is under no obligation to do so), however, to enter into discussions with one or more applicants in order to obtain clarifications, additional detail, or to suggest refinements in the project description, budget, or other aspects of an application.

DRL anticipates awarding either a grant or cooperative agreement depending on the needs and risk factors of the program.  The final determination on award mechanism will be made by the Grants Officer.  The distinction between grants and cooperative agreements revolves around the existence of “substantial involvement.”  Cooperative agreements require greater Federal government participation in the project.  If a cooperative agreement is awarded, DRL will undertake reasonable and programmatically necessary substantial involvement.  Examples of substantial involvement can include, but are not limited to:

  • Active participation or collaboration with the recipient in the implementation of the award;
  • Review and approval of one stage of work before another can begin;
  • Review and approval of substantive provisions of proposed sub-awards or contracts beyond existing Federal policy;
  • Approval of the recipient’s budget or plan of work prior to the award.

The authority for this funding opportunity is found in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA).

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result from this NOFO, DRL retains the right to execute non-competitive continuation amendment(s).  The total duration of any award, including potential non-competitive continuation amendments, shall not exceed 54 months, or four and a half years.  Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and pending availability of funds.  A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed, and the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not to exercise this option.

C. Eligibility Information

For application information, please see the proposal submission instructions (PSI), updated March 2021 on our website.

C.1 Eligible Applicants

DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernment organizations (NGO) and public international organizations; private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and for-profit organizations or businesses.  DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be some occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.

Applications submitted by for-profit entities may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process.  Additionally, the Department of State prohibits profit to for-profit or commercial organizations under its assistance awards.  Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs.  The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.

Please see 2 CFR 200.307 for regulations regarding program income.

C.2 Cost Sharing or Matching

Providing cost sharing, matching, or cost participation is not an eligibility factor or requirement for this NOFO and providing cost share will not result in a more favorable competitive ranking.

C.3 Other

Applicants should have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs, and have demonstrable experience in administering successful and preferably similar projects.  DRL encourages applications from foreign-based NGOs headquartered in the geographic regions/countries relevant to this NOFO.  Applicants may form consortia in order to bring together organizations with varied expertise to propose a comprehensive program in one proposal.  However, one organization should be designated in the proposal as the lead applicant, with the other members designated as sub-award partners.  DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on applicants that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards, and these applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its projects and activities.  DRL welcomes applications irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.

Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) (www.sam.gov) and/or has a current debt to the U.S. government is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR,1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR,1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”  Additionally, no entity or person listed on the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov can participate in any activities under an award.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov to ensure that no ineligible entity or person is included in their application.

D. Application and Submission Information

D.1 Address to Request Application Package

Applicants can find application forms, kits, or other materials needed to apply on www.grants.gov and SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com) under the announcement title “DRL FY21 IRF NEA Combatting Antisemitism Online,” funding opportunity number “SFOP0008377.”  Please contact the DRL point of contact listed in Section G if requesting reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities or for security reasons.  Please note that reasonable accommodations do not include deadline extensions.

D.2 Content and Form of Application Submission

For all application documents, please ensure:

  • All documents are in English and all costs are in U.S. Dollars. If an original document within the application is in another language, an English translation must be provided (please note the Department of State, as indicated in 2 CFR 200.111, requires that English is the official language of all award documents).  If any document is provided in both English and a foreign language, the English language version is the controlling version;
  • All pages are numbered, including budgets and attachments;
  • All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
  • All documents are single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. Captions and footnotes may be 10-point Times New Roman font.  Font sizes in charts and tables, including the budget, can be reformatted to fit within 1 page width.

D.2.1 Application Requirements

Complete applications must include the following:

  1. Completed and signed SF-424, SF-424A, and SF-424B Please see SF-424 instructions in Section 2B of the PSI.
  2. Organizations that engage in lobbying the U.S. government, including Congress, or pay for another entity to lobby on their behalf, are also required to complete the SF-LLL “Disclosure of Lobbying Activities” form (only if applicable). Please see SF-LLL guidance in Section 2B of the PSI.
  3. Cover Page (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) that includes a table with the organization name, project title, target country/countries, project synopsis, and name and contact information for the application’s main point of contact. Please see Cover Page Section 2C of the PSI for a template and more details.
  4. Executive Summary (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) that outlines project goals, objectives, activities, etc.
    • The Executive Summary should include a brief section that explicitly states (1) the problem statement addressed by the project, (2) research-based evidence justifying the unique project approach, and (3) quantifiable project outcomes and impacts.
  5. Table of Contents (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) listing all documents and attachments with page numbers.
  6. Proposal Narrative (not to exceed ten (10) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please note the ten-page limit does not include the Cover Page, Executive Summary, Table of Contents, Attachments, Detailed Budget, Budget Narrative, Audit, or NICRA.  Applicants are encouraged to combine multiple documents into a single Word Document or PDF (i.e. Cover Page, Table of Contents, Executive Summary, and Proposal Narrative in one file).  Please see Proposal Narrative Guidelines in Section 2F of the PSI for more details.
    • The Proposal Narrative should demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to ensuring the participation of all people as a strategy for implementation.  Please integrate inclusion strategies in all sections of the Proposal Narrative to enhance programmatic impact.
  7. Budget (preferably as an Excel workbook) that includes three (3) columns containing the request to DRL, any cost sharing contribution, and the total budget.  A summary budget should also be included using the OMB-approved budget categories (see SF-424A as a sample) in a separate tab.  Costs must be in U.S. Dollars.  Detailed line-item budgets for sub-grantees should be included as additional tabs within the Excel workbook (if available at the time of submission).  Please see Budget Guidelines Section 2G of the PSI for more information.
    • The programming approach should be dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Please include costs associated with this commitment in the Budget and Budget Narrative.
    • Competitive proposals may include a summary budget for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance.
  8. Budget Narrative (preferably as a Word Document) that includes substantive explanations and justifications for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet, as well as the source and a description of all cost-share offered.  Please see Budget Guidelines Section 2G of the PSI for more information.
    • Competitive proposals may include a summary budget narrative for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance.
  9. The organization’s most recent audit, if applicable.  This should be a single audit, program-specific audit, or other audit in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS).  Please see Audit Section 2H of the PSI for more information.
  10. Logic Model (preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Logic Model Section 2I of the PSI for more information.
  11. Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative (not to exceed four (4) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative Section 2J of the PSI for more information.
    • As stated within the DRL Guide to Program Monitoring and Evaluation (p. 6): DRL strongly encourages applicants to consider whether their monitoring and evaluation systems are utilizing human rights-based approaches, applying a gender and equity lens, or include the participation of sub-grantees and project participants.  Within the Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative, applicants should demonstrate their commitment to inclusive strategies and consider whether evaluation design, data collection, analysis, reporting and learning are conducted in an ethical and responsible way with all project participants (e.g. direct beneficiaries, sub-grantees).  Applicants should still make adequate provisions to protect the privacy of human subjects when collecting data from individuals. For instance, when collecting data from project participants, consider whether your organization will have the necessary informed consent forms, confidentiality agreements, and data security protocols.
  12. Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (preferably as a Word Document or Excel Sheet).  Please see Monitoring and Evaluation Plan Section 2J of the PSI for more information.
  13. Risk Analysis (preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Risk Analysis Section 2K of the PSI for more information on this requirement, including Do No Harm principles and Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) policies/plans.
  14. Key Personnel (not to exceed two (2) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please include short bios that highlight relevant professional experience.  Given the limited space, CVs are not recommended for submission.
  15. Timeline (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document or Excel Sheet).  The timeline of the overall proposal should include activities, evaluation efforts, and program closeout.
  16. Gender Analysis (not to exceed three (3) pages, preferably as a Word Document) that provides a concise analysis of relevant gender norms, power relations, and conflict dynamics in target countries.  Potential domains of analysis include institutional practices and barriers, cultural norms, gender roles, access to and control over assets and resources, and patterns of decision-making.  Applicants should briefly explain how they have integrated findings from their analysis into project design and/or other proposal documents, including a plan for regularly reviewing and updating the gender analysis with local partners/beneficiaries, and making any necessary adjustments to program implementation.  A set of guiding questions can be found in Section 2L of the PSI.
  17. Security Plan addressing any issues involving in-person events and recruitment for said events, and safety for any online programs or communications, including independent IT security audits (to include a vulnerability assessment) of any proposed web application or platform. Organization’s security plan should demonstrate consideration of the risks identified in the submitted risk assessment.  Costs may also be identified within the budget and budget narrative.  Applicants are also encouraged to include contingency plans for in-person or online activities.
  18. Contingency Plan for proposed activities should the originally planned activities not be able to be implemented or needs to be shifted from in person to virtual settings due to COVID.  The contingency plan should be submitted as an additional annex.  Applicants should demonstrate consideration of the risks identified in the submitted risk assessment and include specific alternative activities or locations as part of the contingency plan.  Any proposed “plan” must comply with 2CFR200.433 – Contingency provisions.  Plans must not include unallocable or unallowable expenses, and must not result in a larger Total Award Value than the identified as the “competition ceiling.”  DRL requires prior approval by the Grants Officer of the “plan” before any activities can take place, or costs can be incurred against the “plan.”

Applications that do not include the elements listed above will be deemed technically ineligible. 

D.2.2 Additional Application Documents

Strong applications will also contain the following:

  • Individual Letters of Support and/or Memorandum of Understanding. Letters of support and MOUs must be specific to the project implementation (e.g. from proposed partners or sub-award recipients) and will not count towards the page limit.

Please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), updated March 2021, on DRL’s website for detailed guidance on the documents above:  https://www.state.gov/bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/programs-and-grants/.  For an application checklist and sample templates please see the Resources page on DRL’s website:  https://www.state.gov/resources-for-programs-and-grants/The sample templates provided on the DRL website are suggested, but not mandatory.

DRL reserves the right to request additional documents not included in this NOFO.  Additionally, to ensure that all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL review panel will review from the first page of each section up to the page limit and no further.

Note:  If ultimately provided with a notification of non-binding intent to make a Federal award, applicants typically have two to three weeks to provide additional information and documents requested in the notification of intent.  The deadlines may vary in each notification of intent and applicants must adhere to the stated deadline in the notification of intent.

D.2.3 Additional Information Requested For Those Receiving Notification of Intent

Successful applicants must submit, after notification of intent to make a Federal award, but prior to issuance of a Federal award:

  • Written responses and revised application documents addressing conditions and recommendations from the DRL review panel;
  • A copy of the applicant’s latest NICRA as a PDF file, if the applicant has a NICRA and includes NICRA charges in the budget;
  • A completed copy of the Department’s Financial Management Survey, if receiving DRL funding for the first time;
  • Submission of required documents to register in the Payment Management System managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, if receiving DRL funding for the first time (unless an exemption is provided);
  • Other requested information or documents included in the notification of intent to make a Federal award or subsequent communications prior to issuance of a Federal award;
  • Applicants who submit their applications through Grants.gov will be required to create a SAMS Domestic account in order to accept the final award. Accounts must be logged into to every 60 days in order to maintain an active account.

D.3 Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

All prime organizations, whether based in the United States or in another country, must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), formerly referred to as DUNS, and an active registration with the SAM.gov before submitting an application.  DRL may not review applications from or make awards to applicants that have not completed all applicable UEI and SAM.gov requirements.  A UEI is one of the data elements mandated by Public Law 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), for all Federal awards.

The 2 CFR 200 requires that sub-grantees obtain a UEI number.  Please note the UEI for sub-grantees is not required at the time of application but will be required before the award is processed and/or directed to a sub-grantee.

Note:  The process of obtaining a SAM.gov registration may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.  Please begin your registration as early as possible.

  • Organizations based in the United States or that pay employees within the United States will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code, and a UEI number prior to registering in SAM.gov.
  • Organizations based outside of the United States and that do not pay employees within the United States do not need an EIN from the IRS, but do need a NATO CAGE (NCAGE) code and UEI number prior to registering in SAM.gov.

All prime organizations must also continue to maintain active SAM.gov registration with current information at all times during which they have an active Federal award or application under consideration by a Federal award agency.  SAM.gov requires all entities to renew their registration once a year in order to maintain an active registration status in SAM.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure it has an active registration in SAM.gov and to maintain that active registration.  If an applicant has not fully complied with the requirements at the time of application, the applicant may be deemed technically ineligible to receive an award and use that determination as a basis for making an award to another applicant.

For further guidance on the registration process, please see the SAM.gov Registration Guide on DRL’s website:  https://www.state.gov/resources-for-programs-and-grants/.  Please refer to 2 CFR 25.200 for additional information.  Also, please refer to Section D.5 – Funding Restriction of the NOFO.

Note:  SAM.gov is not the same as SAMS Domestic.  It is free to register in both systems, but the registration processes are different.

Information is included on the SAM.gov website to help international registrations, including “Quick Start Guide for International Registrations” and “Helpful Hints.”  Navigate to www.SAM.gov, click “HELP” in the top navigation bar, then click “International Registrants” in the left navigation panel.  Please note, guidance on SAM.gov and the guidance on GSA’s website about requirement for registering in SAM.gov is subject to change.  Applicants should review the website for the most up-to-date guidance.

D.3.1 Exemptions

An exemption from these requirements may be permitted on a case-by-case basis if:

  • An applicant’s identity must be protected due to potential endangerment of their mission, their organization’s status, their employees, or individuals being served by the applicant.

Organizations requesting exemption from UEI or SAM.gov requirements must email the point of contact listed in the NOFO at least two weeks prior to the deadline in the NOFO providing a justification of their request.  Approval for a SAM.gov exemption must come from the warranted Grants Officer before the application can be deemed eligible for review.

Note:  Foreign organizations will be required to register with the NATO Support Agency (NSPA) to receive a NCAGE code in order to register in SAM.gov.  NSPA will forward your registration request to the applicable National Codification Bureau (NCB) if your organization is located in a NATO or Tier 2 Sponsored Non-NATO Nation.  As of September 2021, NATO nations included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.  As of September 2021, Tier 2 nations included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Serbia, Singapore, Sweden, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates. 

NSPA and/or the appropriate NCB forwards all NCAGE code information to all Allied Committee 135 (AC/135) nations, which as of September 2021 also included Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Thailand.  All organizations are strongly advised to take this into consideration when assessing whether registration may result in possible endangerment.

D.4 Submission Dates and Times

Applications are due no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), on 22, November, 2021 on https://www.grants.gov/ or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com) under the announcement title “DRL FY21 IRF NEA Combatting Antisemitism Online,” funding opportunity number “SFOP0008377.”

Grants.gov and SAMS Domestic automatically log the date and time an application submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether an application has been submitted on time.  Late applications are neither reviewed nor considered.  Known system errors caused by Grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.service-now.com) that are outside of the applicant’s control will be reviewed on a case by case basis.  Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their application.

D.5 Funding Restrictions

DRL will not consider applications that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization. Please refer the link for Foreign Terrorist Organizations:  https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/

Project activities whose direct beneficiaries are foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

In accordance with Department of State policy for terrorism, applicants are advised that successful passing of vetting to evaluate the risk that funds may benefit terrorists or their supporters is a condition of award.  If chosen for an award, applicants will be asked to submit information required by DS Form 4184, Risk Analysis Information (attached to this solicitation) about their company and its principal personnel.  Vetting information is also required for all sub-award performance on assistance awards identified by the Department of State as presenting a risk of terrorist financing.  Vetting information may also be requested for project beneficiaries and participants.  Failure to submit information when requested, or failure to pass vetting, may be grounds for rejecting your proposal prior to award.

The Leahy Law prohibits Department foreign assistance funds from supporting foreign security force units if the Secretary of State has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  Per 22 USC §2378d(a) (2017), “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”  Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement.  Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance provided through this funding opportunity may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, project beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.  If a proposed grant or cooperative agreement will provide assistance to foreign security forces or personnel, compliance with the Leahy Law is required.

U.S. foreign assistance for Burma or Burmese beneficiaries is subject to restrictions.  This includes restrictions, pursuant to section 7043(a)(3) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94)(SFOAA), on funds appropriated under title III of the act for assistance for Burma.  Section 7043(a)(3) provides that such funds “may not be made available to any organization or entity controlled by the armed forces of Burma, or to any individual or organization that advocates violence against ethnic or religious groups or individuals in Burma, as determined by the Secretary of State.” In addition, funds cannot be made available to any individual or organization that has committed serious human rights abuse.

Organizations should be cognizant of these restrictions when developing project proposals as these restrictions will require appropriate due diligence of program beneficiaries and collaboration with DRL to ensure compliance with these restrictions.  Program beneficiaries subject to due diligence vetting will include any individuals or entities that are beneficiaries of foreign assistance funding or support.  Due diligence vetting will include a review of open-source materials.

Federal awards generally will not allow reimbursement of pre-award costs; however, the Grants Officer may approve pre-award costs on a case-by-case basis.  Generally, construction costs are not allowed under DRL awards.  For additional information, please see the DRL Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Applications:  https://www.state.gov/bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/programs-and-grants/.

D.6 Application Submission

All application submissions must be made electronically via www.grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com).  Both systems require registration by the applying organization.  Please note that the Grants.gov registration process can take ten (10) business days or longer, even if all registration steps are completed in a timely manner.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that it has an active registration in SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov.  Applicants are required to document that the application has been received by SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov in its entirety.  DRL bears no responsibility for disqualification that result from applicants not being registered before the due date, for system errors in either SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov, or other errors in the application process.  Additionally, applicants must save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.

Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted.  Reasonable accommodations may, in appropriate circumstances, be provided to applicants with disabilities or for security reasons.  Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in the applicable NOFO and these instructions.

DRL encourages organizations to submit applications during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 9:00AM-5:00PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)).  If an applicant experiences technical difficulties and has contacted the appropriate helpdesk but is not receiving timely assistance (e.g. if you have not received a response within 48 hours of contacting the helpdesk), you may contact the DRL point of contact listed in the NOFO in Section G.  The point of contact may assist in contacting the appropriate helpdesk.

Note:  The Grants Officer will determine technical eligibility of all applications.

SAMS Domestic Applications:

Applicants using SAMS Domestic for the first time should complete their “New Organization Registration.”  To register with SAMS Domestic, click “Login to https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com” and follow the “create an account” link.

Organizations must remember to save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.

SAMS Domestic Help Desk: 
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at +1 (888) 313-4567 (toll charges apply for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from https://afsitsm.service-now.com/ilms/home.  Customer support is available 24/7.

Grants.gov Applications:
Applicants who do not submit applications via SAMS Domestic may submit via www.grants.gov.

Please be advised that completing all the necessary registration steps for obtaining a username and password from Grants.gov can take ten (10) business days or longer.

Please refer to the Grants.gov website for definitions of various “application statuses” and the difference between a submission receipt and a submission validation.  Applicants will receive a validation e-mail from Grants.gov upon the successful submission of an application.  Validation of an electronic submission via Grants.gov can take up to two business days.  Additionally, organizations must remember to save a screenshot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.

Grants.gov Helpdesk:

For assistance with Grants.gov, please call the Contact Center at +1 (800) 518-4726 or email support@grants.gov.  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/  for a list of federal holidays.

E. Application Review Information

E.1 Proposal Review Criteria

The DRL review panel will evaluate each application individually against the following criteria, listed below in order of importance, and not against competing applications.  Please use the below criteria as a reference, but do not structure your application according to the sub-sections.

Quality of Project Idea

Applications should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the NOFO, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy.  Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term, sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated.  Proposals that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged.  DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.

Project Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives

A strong application will include a clear articulation of how the proposed project activities contribute to the overall project objectives, and each activity will be clearly developed and detailed.  A comprehensive monthly work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and the logistical capacity of the organization.  Objectives should be ambitious yet measurable, results-focused and achievable in a reasonable timeframe.  A complete application must include a Logic Model to demonstrate how the project activities will have an impact on its proposed objectives.  The Logic Model should match the objectives, outcomes, key activities, and outputs described in the narrative.  Applications should address how the project will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate.

If local partners have been identified, DRL strongly encourages applicants to submit letters of support from proposed in-country partners.  Additionally, applicants should describe the division of labor among the direct applicant and any local partners.  If applicable, applications should identify target geographic areas for activities, target participant groups or selection criteria for participants, and the specific roles of sub-awardees, among other pertinent details.

DRL recognizes that all programs have some level of risk due to internal/external variables that have the potential to adversely affect a program.  Risk management should address how the program design incorporates the identification, assessment, and management of key risk factors.  DRL will review the Risk Analysis based on the organization’s ability to identify risks that could have an impact on the overall program as well as how the organization will manage these risks.

Institution’s Record and Capacity

DRL will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.  Applications should demonstrate an institutional record of successful democracy and human rights programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past grants.  Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.  Projects should have potential for continued funding beyond DRL resources.

Addressing Barriers to Equal Participation

DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons.  As the U.S. government’s lead bureau dedicated to promoting democratic governance, DRL requests a programming approach dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Violence targeting any members of society undermines collective security and threatens democracy.  DRL prioritizes inclusive and integrated program models that assess and address the barriers to access for individuals and groups based on their race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability,.  The proposal should also demonstrate how the program will further engagement in underserved communities and with individuals from underserved communities.  Applicants should describe how programming will impact all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities facing discrimination, and which may be under threat of violence.  This approach should be an integral part of both the concept and explicit design, and implementation of all proposed project activities, objectives, and monitoring.  Strong proposals will provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets as appropriate.  Stakeholders shall identify the difference between opportunities and barriers to access, and design programs accordingly to not perpetuate these inequalities, but rather enhance programmatic impact by including all people in society.  The goal of this approach is to bring communities and those in power together in support of more stable and secure societies.

Cost Effectiveness

DRL strongly encourages applicants to clearly demonstrate project cost-effectiveness in their application, including examples of leveraging institutional and other resources.  However, cost-sharing or other examples of leveraging other resources are not required.  Inclusion of cost-sharing in the budget does not result in additional points awarded during the review process.  Budgets should have low and/or reasonable overhead and administration costs, and applicants should provide clear explanations and justifications for these costs in relation to the work involved.  All budget items should be clearly explained and justified to demonstrate necessity, appropriateness, and connection to the project objectives.

Please note:  If cost share is included in the budget, the recipient must maintain written records to support all allowable costs that are claimed as its contribution to cost share, as well as costs to be paid by the Federal government.  Such records are subject to audit.  In the event the recipient does not meet the minimum amount of cost-sharing as stipulated in the recipient’s budget, DRL’s contribution may be reduced in proportion to the recipient’s contribution.

Multiplier Effect/Sustainability

Applications should clearly delineate how elements of the project will have a multiplier effect and be sustainable beyond the life of the grant.  A good multiplier effect will have an impact beyond the direct beneficiaries of the grant (e.g. participants trained under a grant go on to train other people; workshop participants use skills from a workshop to enhance a national level election that affects the entire populace).  A strong sustainability plan may include demonstrating continuing impact beyond the life of a project or garnering other donor support after DRL funding ceases.

Project Monitoring and Evaluation

Complete applications will include a detailed M&E Narrative and M&E Plan, which detail how the project’s progress will be monitored and evaluated.  Incorporating well-designed monitoring and evaluation processes into a project is an efficient method for documenting the change (intended and unintended) that a project seeks.  Applications should demonstrate the capacity to provide objectives with measurable outputs and outcomes.

The quality of the M&E sections will be judged on the narrative explaining how both monitoring and evaluation will be carried out and who will be responsible for those related activities.  The M&E Narrative should explain how an external evaluation will be incorporated into the project implementation plan or how the project will be systematically assessed in the absence of one.  Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Plan in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the narrative.

The output and outcome-based performance indicators should not only be separated by project objectives but also should match the objectives, outcomes, and outputs detailed in the Logic Model and Proposal Narrative.  Performance indicators should be clearly defined (i.e., explained how the indicators will be measured and reported) either within the table or with a separate Performance Indicator Reference Sheet (PIRS).  For each performance indicator, the table should also include baselines and quarterly and cumulative targets, data collection tools, data sources, types of data disaggregation, and frequency of monitoring and evaluation.  There should also be metrics to capture how project activities target those who face discrimination due to their religion, gender, disabilities, ethnicity or sexual orientation and gender identity, where applicable.  Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Plan in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the plan.

E.2 Review and Selection Process

DRL strives to ensure that each application receives a balanced evaluation by a DRL review panel.  The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all applications.  All technically eligible applications for a given NOFO are reviewed against the same seven criteria, which include quality of project idea, project planning/ability to achieve objectives, institutional record and capacity, inclusive programming, cost effectiveness, multiplier effect/sustainability, and project monitoring and evaluation.

Additionally, the DRL review panel will evaluate how the application addresses the NOFO request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and the priority needs of DRL overall.  DRL may also take into consideration the balance of the current portfolio of active projects, including geographic or thematic diversity, if needed.

In most cases, the DRL review panel includes representatives from DRL, the appropriate Department of State regional bureau (to include feedback from U.S. embassies), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (to include feedback from USAID missions).  In some cases, additional panelists may participate, including from other Department of State bureaus or offices; U.S. government departments, agencies, or boards; representatives from partner governments; or representatives from entities that are in a public-private partnership with DRL.  At the end of the panel’s discussion about an application, the review panel votes on whether to recommend the application for approval by the DRL Assistant Secretary or the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom for IRF funded programs.  If more applications are recommended for approval than DRL can ultimately fund, the review panel will rank the recommended applications in priority order for consideration by the DRL Assistant Secretary or the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom for IRF funded programs.  The Grants Officer Representative (GOR) for the eventual award does not vote on the panel.  All panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflicts of interest agreements.

DRL review panels may provide conditions and recommendations on applications to enhance the proposed project, which must be addressed by the applicant before further consideration of the award.  To ensure effective use of DRL funds, conditions or recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and project activities.

F. Federal Award Administration Information

F.1 Federal Award Notices

DRL will provide a separate notification to applicants on the result of their applications.  Successful applicants will receive a letter electronically via email requesting that the applicant respond to review panel conditions and recommendations.  This notification is not an authorization to begin activities and does not constitute formal approval or a funding commitment.

Final approval is contingent on the applicant successfully responding to the review panel’s conditions and recommendations; being registered in required systems, including the U.S. government’s Payment Management System (PMS), unless an exemption is provided; and completing and providing any additional documentation requested by DRL or AQM.  Final approval is also contingent on Congressional Notification requirements being met and final review and approval by the Department’s warranted Grants Officer.

The notice of Federal award signed by the Department’s warranted Grants Officers is the sole authorizing document.  If awarded, the notice of Federal award will be provided to the applicant’s designated Authorizing Official via SAMS Domestic to be electronically counter-signed in the system.

F.2 Administrative and National Policy and Legal Requirements

DRL requires all recipients of foreign assistance funding to comply with all applicable Department and Federal laws and regulations, including but not limited to the following:

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities.  Sub-Chapters A through E shall apply to all foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all U.S. and foreign for-profit entities. The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award.  The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed at https://www.state.gov/about-us-office-of-the-procurement-executive/.

Additionally, DRL supports implementation of the Women Peace and Security Act of 2017, which highlights the U.S. commitment to the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution.  For additional information, please refer to the following link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1141.

Due to the determination made under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) for FY 2021, assistance that benefits the governments of the following countries may be subject to a restriction under the TVPA.  The Department of State determines on a case-by-case basis what constitutes assistance to a government; the general principles listed below apply.

Assistance to the government includes:

  • All branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) at all levels (national, regional, local);
  • Public schools, universities, hospitals, and state-owned enterprises, as well as government employees;
  • Cash, training, equipment, services, or other assistance provided directly to the government, assistance provided to an NGO or other implementer for the benefit of the government, and assistance to government employees.

Subject to TVPA for funds obligated during FY 2022:

NEA:  Algeria, Iran

Additional requirements may be included depending on the content of the program.

F.3 Reporting

Applicants should be aware that DRL awards will require that all reports (financial and progress) are uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic on a quarterly basis.  The Federal Financial Report (FFR or SF-425) is the required form for the financial reports and must be submitted in PMS, as well as a copy from PMS then uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic.  The progress reports uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic must include a narrative as described below and Project Indicators (or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer) for the F Framework indicators. The F Framework indicators will be reviewed and negotiated during the final stages of issuing an award.

Narrative progress reports should reflect the focus on measuring the project’s impact on the overarching objectives and should be compiled according to the objectives, outcomes, and outputs as outlined in the award’s Scope of Work (SOW) and in the Monitoring & Evaluation Narrative.  An assessment of the overall project’s impact should be included in each progress report.  Where relevant, progress reports should include the following sections:

  • Relevant contextual information (limited);
  • Explanation and evaluation of significant activities of the reporting period and how the activities reflect progress toward achieving objectives, including meeting benchmarks/targets as set in the M&E Plan. In addition, attach the M&E Plan, comparing the target and actual numbers for the indicators;
  • Any tangible impact or success stories from the project, when possible;
  • Copy of mid-term and/or final evaluation report(s) conducted by an external evaluator; if applicable;
  • Relevant supporting documentation or products related to the project activities (such as articles, meeting lists and agendas, participant surveys, photos, manuals, etc.) as separate attachments;
  • Description of how the recipient is pursuing sustainability, including looking for sources of follow-on funding;
  • Any problems/challenges in implementing the project and a corrective action plan with an updated timeline of activities;
  • Reasons why established goals were not met;
  • Data for the required F Framework indicator(s) for the quarter as well as aggregate data by fiscal year;
  • Program Indicators or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer;
  • Proposed activities for the next quarter; and,
  • Additional pertinent information, including analysis and explanation of cost overruns or high unit costs, if applicable.

Foreign Assistance Data Review:  As required by Congress, the Department of State must make progress in its efforts to improve tracking and reporting of foreign assistance data through the Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR).  The FADR requires tracking of foreign assistance activity data from budgeting, planning, and allocation through obligation and disbursement.  Successful applicants will be required to report and draw down federal funding based on the appropriate FADR Data Elements, indicated within their award documentation.  In cases of more than one FADR Data Element, typically program or sector and/or regions or country, the successful applicant will be required to maintain separate accounting records.

A final narrative and financial report must also be submitted within 90 days after the expiration of the award.

Please note:  Delays in reporting may result in delays of payment approvals and failure to provide required reports may jeopardize the recipient’s’ ability to receive future U.S. government funds.  DRL reserves the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial project information during the award period.

G. Contact Information

For technical submission questions related to this NOFO, please contact DRLIRFGrants@state.gov.

For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at +1 (888) 313-4567 (toll charges apply for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from https://afsitsm.service-now.com/ilms/home.  Customer support is available 24/7.

Please note that establishing an account in SAMS Domestic may require the use of smartphone for multi-factor authentication (MFA).  If an applicant does not have accessibility to a smartphone during the time of creating an account, please contact the helpdesk and request instructions on MFA for Windows PC.

For assistance with Grants.gov accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at +1 (800) 518-4726 or email support@grants.gov.  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

For a list of federal holidays visit:

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/

Except for technical submission questions, during the NOFO period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.

H. Other Information

Applicants should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in applications may be considered sensitive or proprietary and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information.  However, applicants are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.

The information in this NOFO and “Proposal Submission Instructions for Applications” is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative.  Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding.  Issuance of the NOFO and negotiation of applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government.  DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets.

This NOFO will appear on www.grants.gov, SAMS Domestic, and DRL’s website https://www.state.gov/bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/programs-and-grants/.

Background Information on DRL and General DRL Funding

DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally.  DRL supports projects that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world.  DRL typically focuses its work in countries with egregious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.

Additional background information on DRL and its efforts can be found on https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-civilian-security-democracy-and-human-rights/bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/.

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  • Human Capital: Status of Actions Needed to Improve the Timely and Accurate Delivery of Compensation and Medical Benefits to Deployed Civilians
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) and other executive agencies increasingly deploy civilians in support of contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior GAO reports show that the use of deployed civilians has raised questions about the potential for differences in policies on compensation and medical benefits. When these civilians are deployed and serve side by side, differences in compensation or medical benefits may become more apparent and could adversely impact morale. This statement is based on GAO's 2009 congressionally requested report, which compared agency policies and identified any issues in policy or implementation regarding (1) compensation, (2) medical benefits, and (3) identification and tracking of deployed civilians. GAO reviewed laws, policies, and guidance; interviewed responsible officials at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM); and conducted a survey of civilians deployed from the six agencies between January 1, 2006 and April 30, 2008. GAO made ten recommendations for agencies to take actions such as reviewing compensation laws and policies, establishing medical screening requirements, and creating mechanisms to assist and track deployed civilians. Seven of the agencies--including DOD-- generally agreed with these recommendations; U.S. Agency for International Development did not. This testimony also updates the actions the agencies have taken to address GAO's recommendations.While policies concerning compensation for deployed civilians are generally comparable, GAO found some issues that can lead to differences in the amount of compensation and the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of this compensation. For example, two comparable supervisors who deploy under different pay systems may receive different rates of overtime pay because this rate is set by the employee's pay system and grade/band. While a congressional subcommittee asked OPM to develop a benefits package for civilians deployed to war zones and recommend enabling legislation, at the time of GAO's 2009 review, OPM had not yet done so. Also, implementation of some policies may not always be accurate or timely. For example, GAO estimates that about 40 percent of the deployed civilians in its survey reported experiencing problems with compensation, including danger pay. In June 2009, GAO recommended, among other things, that OPM oversee an executive agency working group on compensation to address differences and, if necessary, make legislative recommendations. OPM generally concurred with this recommendation and recently informed GAO that an interagency group is in the process of developing proposals for needed legislation. Although agency policies on medical benefits are similar, GAO found some issues with medical care following deployment and post deployment medical screenings. Specifically, while DOD allows its treatment facilities to care for non-DOD civilians after deployment in some cases, the circumstances are not clearly defined and some agencies were unaware of DOD's policy. Further, while DOD requires medical screening of civilians before and following deployment, State requires screenings only before deployment. Prior GAO work found that documenting the medical condition of deployed personnel before and following deployment was critical to identifying conditions that may have resulted from deployment. GAO recommended, among other things, that State establish post-deployment screening requirements and that DOD establish procedures to ensure its post-deployment screening requirements are completed. While DOD and State agreed, DOD has developed guidance establishing procedures for post-deployment screenings; but, as of April 2010, State had not provided documentation that it established such requirements. Each agency provided GAO with a list of deployed civilians, but none had fully implemented policies to identify and track these civilians. DOD had procedures to identify and track civilians but concluded that its guidance was not consistently implemented. Some agencies had to manually search their systems. Thus, agencies may lack critical information on the location and movement of personnel, which may hamper their ability to intervene promptly to address emerging health issues. GAO recommended that DOD enforce its tracking requirements and the other five agencies establish tracking procedures. While DOD and four agencies concurred with the recommendations and are now in various stages of implementation, U.S. Agency for International Development disagreed stating that its current system is adequate. GAO continues to disagree with this agency's position.
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  • Rural Hospital Closures: Affected Residents Had Reduced Access to Health Care Services
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that when rural hospitals closed, residents living in the closed hospitals' service areas would have to travel substantially farther to access certain health care services. Specifically, for residents living in these service areas, GAO's analysis shows that the median distance to access some of the more common health care services increased about 20 miles from 2012 to 2018. For example, the median distance to access general inpatient services was 3.4 miles in 2012, compared to 23.9 miles in 2018—an increase of 20.5 miles. For some of the less common services that were offered by a few of the hospitals that closed, this median distance increased much more. For example, among residents in the service areas of the 11 closed hospitals that offered treatment services for alcohol or drug abuse, the median distance was 5.5 miles in 2012, compared to 44.6 miles in 2018—an increase of 39.1 miles to access these services (see figure). Median Distance in Miles from Service Areas with Rural Hospital Closures to the Nearest Open Hospital that Offered Certain Health Care Services, 2012 and 2018 Notes: GAO focused its analysis on the health care services offered in 2012 by the 64 rural hospitals that closed during the years 2013 through 2017 and for which data were available. For example, in 2012, 64 closed hospitals offered general inpatient services, 62 offered emergency department services, 11 offered treatment services for alcohol or drug abuse, and 11 offered services in a coronary care unit. To examine distance, GAO calculated “crow-fly miles” (the distance measured in a straight line) from the geographic center of each closed rural hospital's service area to the geographic center of the ZIP Code with the nearest open rural or urban hospital that offered a given service. GAO also found that the availability of health care providers in counties with rural hospital closures generally was lower and declined more over time, compared to those without closures. Specifically, counties with closures generally had fewer health care professionals per 100,000 residents in 2012 than did counties without closures. The disparities in the availability of health care professionals in these counties grew from 2012 to 2017. For example, over this time period, the availability of physicians declined more among counties with closures—dropping from a median of 71.2 to 59.7 per 100,000 residents—compared to counties without closures—which dropped from 87.5 to 86.3 per 100,000 residents. Rural hospitals face many challenges in providing essential access to health care services to rural communities. From January 2013 through February 2020, 101 rural hospitals closed. GAO was asked to examine the effects of rural hospital closures on residents living in the areas of the hospitals that closed. This report examines, among other objectives, how closures affected the distance for residents to access health care services, as well as changes in the availability of health care providers in counties with and without closures. GAO analyzed data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program (NC RHRP) for rural hospitals (1) that closed and those that were open during the years 2013 through 2017, and (2) for which complete data generally were available at the time of GAO's review. GAO also interviewed HHS and NC RHRP officials and reviewed relevant literature. GAO defined hospitals as rural according to data from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. GAO defined hospital closure as a cessation of inpatient services, the same definition used by NC RHRP. GAO defined service areas with closures as the collection of ZIP Codes that were served by closed rural hospitals and service areas without closures as the collection of ZIP Codes served only by rural hospitals that were open. GAO provided a draft of this report to HHS for comment. The Department provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
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  • IT Modernization: HUD Needs to Improve Its Estimation and Oversight Practices for Single-Family Housing
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found For the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Catalyst program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) substantially implemented leading practices for managing information technology (IT) requirements and risk management. The Catalyst program is intended to modernize the single-family housing loan life cycle and associated IT systems. Specifically, the department fully implemented two of four requirements management leading practices, and partially implemented the other two. For example, HUD established requirements and performed testing on all FHA Catalyst modules. However, the department did not document agreements among the project managers responsible for managing requirements or subject FHA Catalyst to an independent review to ensure modules were performing as expected. As a result, the FHA Catalyst program is at risk of not performing as intended or of not meeting requirements. In addition, HUD established a risk management plan, and identified and analyzed risks to FHA Catalyst. However, HUD did not develop contingency plans for the identified risks. Without established contingency plans, the department could be unprepared to handle a critical risk, should one occur. HUD developed cost and schedule estimates for the FHA Catalyst program that exhibited significant weaknesses in addressing leading practices for cost and schedule estimation and, therefore, were unreliable. According to GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide, the characteristics of a high-quality, reliable cost estimate are that it is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible. The FHA Catalyst cost estimate was unreliable because it partially addressed the “comprehensive” characteristic, minimally addressed the “well-documented” and “accurate” characteristics, and did not address the “credible” characteristic. For example, although the estimate included life-cycle costs, it did not include the cost of full-time government employees and infrastructure. Without a reliable cost estimate, the department faces an increased risk that the program will cost more than the planned $91.9 million. GAO's Schedule Assessment Guide states that a sound schedule estimate is comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled. The FHA Catalyst schedule was unreliable because it partially addressed the comprehensive, credible, and controlled characteristics, and did not address the well-constructed characteristic found in the guide. The absence of a reliable schedule estimate raises increased doubt that HUD will be able to complete the modernization by December 2023 as planned. Although HUD took early action to establish FHA Catalyst oversight and partially implemented four related categories of leading practices, gaps exist in the established processes to oversee the program. These gaps include a lack of fully defined roles and responsibilities, and the absence of measures to assess performance. Accordingly, HUD lacks assurance that oversight will be performed and that decision makers have the information needed to monitor the program. Why GAO Did This Study For many years, HUD has insured a portfolio of single-family mortgages worth over $1 trillion, relying on an outdated IT infrastructure and manual processes. HUD has made several unsuccessful attempts to modernize IT in the past, leaving it dependent on legacy systems. In April 2019, FHA and HUD's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), initiated FHA Catalyst. GAO was requested to review HUD's single-family housing modernization program. This report examines (1) the extent to which HUD has implemented leading practices for managing requirements and identifying and mitigating risks for FHA Catalyst, (2) the reliability of the program's estimated costs and schedule, and (3) the extent to which HUD has established effective oversight for the program. GAO compared FHA Catalyst documentation on requirements, risk, cost, schedule, and oversight to leading practices identified in the Capability Maturity Model Integration, and GAO's guides on cost, schedule, and investment management. GAO also interviewed FHA and OCIO officials.
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  • Rebuilding Iraq: Preliminary Observations on Challenges in Transferring Security Responsibilities to Iraqi Military and Police
    In U.S GAO News
    Since the fall of the former Iraq regime in April 2003, the multinational force has been working to develop Iraqi military and police forces capable of maintaining security. To support this effort, the United States provided about $5.8 billion in 2003-04 to develop Iraq's security capability. In February 2005, the president requested a supplemental appropriation with an additional $5.7 billion to accelerate the development of Iraqi military and police forces. GAO provides preliminary observations on (1) the strategy for transferring security responsibilities to Iraqi military and police forces; (2) the data on the status of forces, and (3) challenges that the Multi-National Force in Iraq faces in transferring security missions to these forces. To prepare this statement, GAO used unclassified reports, status updates, security plans, and other documents from the Departments of Defense and State. GAO also used testimonies and other statements for the record from officials such as the Secretary of Defense. In addition, GAO visited the Iraqi police training facility in Jordan.The Multinational Force in Iraq has developed and begun to implement a strategy to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police forces. This strategy would allow a gradual drawdown of its forces based on the multinational force neutralizing the insurgency and developing Iraqi military and police services that can independently maintain security. U.S. government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped. As of March 2005, the State Department reported that about 82,000 police forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and about 62,000 military forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Defense have been trained and equipped. However, the reported number of Iraqi police is unreliable because the Ministry of Interior does not receive consistent and accurate reporting from the police forces around the country. The data does not exclude police absent from duty. Further, the departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and body armor. The insurgency in Iraq has intensified since June 2003, making it difficult to transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. From that time through January 2005, insurgent attacks grew in number, complexity, and intensity. At the same time, the multinational force has faced four key challenges in increasing the capability of Iraqi forces: (1) training, equipping, and sustaining a changing force structure; (2) developing a system for measuring the readiness and capability of Iraqi forces; (3) building loyalty and leadership throughout the Iraqi chain of command; and (4) developing a police force that upholds the rule of law in a hostile environment. The multinational force is taking steps to address these challenges, such as developing a system to assess unit readiness and embedding US forces within Iraqi units. However, without reliable reporting data, a more capable Iraqi force, and stronger Iraqi leadership, the Department of Defense faces difficulties in implementing its strategy to draw down U.S. forces from Iraq.
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  • Defense Health Care: DOD Needs to Fully Assess Its Non-clinical Suicide Prevention Efforts and Address Any Impediments to Effectiveness
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has a variety of suicide prevention efforts that are implemented by the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps). These include clinical prevention efforts that are generally focused on individual patient treatment and interventions, as well as non-clinical efforts that are intended to reduce the risk of suicide in the military population. This includes, for example, training servicemembers to recognize warning signs for suicide and encouraging the safe storage of items such as firearms and medications. Officials with DOD's Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) told GAO that most ongoing non-clinical efforts are evidence based. Officials added that a suicide prevention effort is considered to be evidence based if it has been assessed for effectiveness in addressing the risk of suicide in the military population, which has unique risk factors such as a higher likelihood of experiencing or seeing trauma. These officials stated that newer efforts are generally considered to be “evidence informed,” which means that they have demonstrated effectiveness in the civilian population, but are still being assessed in the military population. DSPO officials further explained that assessments of individual prevention efforts can be challenging because suicide is a complex outcome resulting from many interacting factors. In 2020, DSPO published a framework for assessing the collective effect of the department's suicide prevention efforts by measuring outcomes linked to specific prevention strategies, such as creating protective environments. However, this framework does not provide DOD with information on the effectiveness of individual non-clinical prevention efforts. Having a process to assess individual efforts would help DOD and the military services ensure that their non-clinical prevention efforts effectively reduce the risk of suicide and suicide-related behaviors. GAO also identified impediments that hamper the effectiveness of DOD's suicide prevention efforts, including those related to the reporting of suicide data. Definitions. The military services use different definitions for key suicide-related terms, such as suicide attempt, which may result in inconsistent classification and reporting of data. These data are used to develop the department's annual suicide event report. DOD officials stated that this could negatively affect the reliability and validity of the reported data, which may impede the department's understanding of the effectiveness of its suicide prevention efforts and limit its ability to identify and address any shortcomings. Annual suicide reports. DOD publishes two yearly suicide reports through two different offices that are based on some of the same data and provide some of the same information, resulting in the inefficient use of staff. While these reports serve different purposes, improved collaboration between the two offices could help minimize duplication of effort and improve efficiency, potentially freeing resources for other suicide prevention activities. Why GAO Did This Study Suicide is a public health problem facing all populations, including the military. From 2014 to 2019, the rate of suicide increased from 20.4 to 25.9 per 100,000 active component servicemembers. Over the past decade, DOD has taken steps to address the growing rate of suicide in the military through efforts aimed at prevention. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's suicide prevention programs. This report examines DOD's suicide prevention efforts, including, among other objectives, (1) the extent to which non-clinical efforts are assessed for being evidence based and effective and (2) any impediments that hamper the effectiveness of these efforts. GAO examined suicide prevention policies, reports, and assessments and interviewed officials from DOD, the military services, and the Reserve components. GAO also interviewed officials at four installations and a National Guard site selected for variety in military service, location, and size.
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