Bureau of Diplomatic Security
Eric Weiner, DSS Public Affairs
Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents come from diverse backgrounds and possess unique skills that come in handy when protecting ambassadors and foreign diplomats with specialized hobbies. If a protectee wants to run in a marathon, surf big waves or jump out of an airplane, DSS has a special agent ready to go.
Just such an opportunity came up at the Ilopango Airshow in El Salvador in early February. The airshow attracts tens of thousands of spectators, and the U.S. ambassador is often a guest of honor. This year, Ambassador Ronald Johnson was a guest and a participant. He parachuted in the airshow with Salvadoran civilian and military skydivers—and was accompanied by DSS Special Agent Zachary Bowen.
Ambassador Johnson and Special Agent Bowen are licensed expert skydivers with more than 2,000 jumps. The clear skies above Ilopango and 80-degree temps made it the perfect day to skydive.
The airplane ascended to 10,000 feet, and one-by-one the Salvadoran skydivers disappeared into the blue sky beyond the open door. Special Agent Bowen braced himself on the outside of the airplane to film the ambassador’s exit, and together they jumped.
They enjoyed 45 seconds of freefall, and the ambassador executed a few 360 degree turns and a backflip before pulling the ripcord and deploying his parachute.
Watch the video below.
The ambassador was clearly enjoying himself, but unexpected wind changes or a malfunctioning parachute could have pushed him off course. Had he not made it to the designated landing area where his protective detail was waiting, Special Agent Bowen was prepared to land with him, report their position and protect him if necessary. Fortunately, all went as planned and they nailed the landing.
“It was an honor to accompany the ambassador while he was freefalling over El Salvador,” said Bowen. “DSS agents protect anywhere, anytime—and sometimes we have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.”
- New York City Man Charged with Nearly $4 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme and Money LaunderingBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021A criminal complaint was filed in the District of New Jersey today charging a dual-resident of New York and Florida with fraudulently obtaining and laundering nearly $4 million in funds from the COVID-19 relief Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).[Read More…]
- Defense Transportation: DOD Can Better Leverage Existing Contested Mobility Studies and Improve TrainingBy Sam NewsFebruary 26, 2021From 2016 through 2019, the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted or sponsored at least 11 classified or sensitive studies on contested mobility— the ability of the U.S. military to transport equipment and personnel in a contested operational environment. The studies resulted in more than 50 recommendations, and DOD officials stated they believed that some of the recommendations had been implemented. However, officials did not know the exact disposition of the recommendations, as they are not actively tracking implementation activities. Further, no single DOD oversight entity evaluated the studies' recommendations and tracked implementation across the department. As a result, DOD may be missing an opportunity to leverage existing knowledge on mobility in contested environments across organizations, and strengthen its mobility efforts for major conflicts as envisioned in the National Defense Strategy. DOD has updated aspects of wargame exercises and mobility training to prepare for a contested environment, but has not updated training for the surge sealift fleet—ships owned by DOD and the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) and crewed by contracted mariners. These crews are primarily trained and qualified to operate the ship, but receive limited contested mobility training. While DOD has updated air mobility training and other aspects of mobility training, sealift crew training requirements have not been updated by DOD and MARAD to reflect contested environment concerns because DOD has not conducted an evaluation of such training. Since sealift is the means by which the majority of military equipment would be transported during a major conflict, it is important that crews be trained appropriately for contested mobility to help ensure that ships safely reach their destinations and complete their missions. C-17 Performing Defense Maneuvers DOD has begun to mitigate contested environment challenges through improved technology and related initiatives. The Navy is acquiring improved technologies to deploy on surge sealift ships and replacement ships. The Air Force is equipping current mobility aircraft (see photo above) with additional defensive technologies and planning for the development of future replacement aircraft. According to U.S. Transportation Command, the command is revising its contracts with commercial partners to address cyber threats, and funding research and development projects that address contested mobility concerns. Many of these efforts are nascent and will take years to be put in place. China and Russia are strengthening their militaries to neutralize U.S. strengths, including mobility—the ability of U.S. military airlift and air refueling aircraft and sealift ships to rapidly move equipment and personnel from the United States to locations abroad to support DOD missions. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's ability to operate in a contested mobility environment. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has studied contested mobility and tracked the implementation of study recommendations, assesses the extent to which DOD has revised its training to incorporate contested mobility challenges, and describes the technologies that DOD uses to mitigate contested mobility challenges. GAO identified contested mobility studies conducted or sponsored by DOD; evaluated DOD's processes for monitoring implementation of study recommendations; analyzed training and exercise documents from DOD combatant commands, the Air Force, and the Navy; and reviewed DOD plans for technological improvements to its mobility forces. GAO recommends that DOD designate an oversight entity to track the implementation of study recommendations, and that DOD and MARAD evaluate and update sealift training. DOD and the Department of Transportation concurred or partially concurred with each recommendation. GAO believes each recommendation should be fully implemented, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Framework Agreement for Israel-Lebanon Maritime DiscussionsBy Sam NewsOctober 1, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Regarding the Overrunning of the U.S. Capitol BuildingBy Sam NewsJanuary 6, 2021Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen issued the following statement: "The violence at our Nation’s Capitol Building is an intolerable attack on a fundamental institution of our democracy. From the outset, the Department of Justice has been working in close coordination with the Capitol Police and federal partners from the Interior Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Guard, as well as the Metropolitan Police and other local authorities. Earlier this afternoon, the Department of Justice sent hundreds of federal law enforcement officers and agents from the FBI, ATF, and the U.S. Marshals Service to assist the Capitol Police in addressing this unacceptable situation, and we intend to enforce the laws of our land."[Read More…]
- Countering Violent Extremism: DHS Needs to Improve Grants Management and Data CollectionBy Sam NewsFebruary 19, 2021While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) followed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance for announcing the 2016 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Grant Program and reviewing applications, DHS did not document the basis for its final award decisions. In June 2017, DHS awarded a total of $10 million in CVE grants to 26 grantees for a 2-year performance period (2017 to 2019). Consistent with OMB guidance, DHS included program priorities and eligibility requirements in its grant announcement and described the process for reviewing and selecting grant applications for award. However, after DHS announced its selection of 31 applications for awards, it ran a new process resulting in revised selections, which was based on additional selection criteria not expressly listed in the grant announcement. While DHS officials explained to GAO how these additional criteria aligned with the grant announcement, these explanations do not appear in DHS's award documentation. Without such documentation, DHS cannot clearly demonstrate that its award decisions were based on the process described in the grant announcement. Figure: Location and Number of Deaths Associated with Domestic Extremist Attacks, 2010-2019 DHS did not obtain the necessary data from grantees to evaluate the overall CVE grant program. DHS required grant organizations to develop, collect, and submit their own output and outcome-related information to help enable the department to evaluate individual grantees and the overall grant program. However, a DHS review of four grant projects concluded that the grantees did not collect the type of performance information DHS needed to determine the grants' effectiveness, such as data at various time intervals to assess change in attitudinal behavior. Taking steps to ensure grantees collect and submit appropriate performance data would enable DHS to evaluate the extent that individual grant projects and the overall grant program are achieving results. Such information would help DHS manage the program and make adjustments as warranted. From 2010 through 2019, data collected through the Extremist Crime Database show that 205 deaths resulted from 59 violent extremist attacks in the United States. DHS received funding in 2016 to establish a new CVE Grant Program to support efforts by state and local governments and nongovernmental organizations to reduce risk factors associated with violent extremism. GAO was asked to review management of the CVE Grant Program. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which DHS (1) announced, reviewed, and awarded CVE grants in accordance with OMB guidance and (2) evaluated the performance of CVE grantees and the overall program. GAO reviewed documentation of DHS's actions in announcing, reviewing and awarding CVE grants; and documentation on steps taken to assess the performance of grantees and the overall program; as compared to requirements in key documents, including the CVE grant announcement, elements of internal control, and a DHS 2017 report to Congress. GAO recommends that DHS, for future CVE-related grant programs: (1) develop policy to document the rationale for award decisions, and (2) take steps to ensure that grantees collect and submit data on project performance that enable evaluation of individual grants and the overall grant program toward intended outcomes. DHS concurred with both recommendations. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Panamanian Intermediary in Alleged Bribery Scheme Charged with Money Laundering Extradited to the United States from GuatemalaBy Sam NewsNovember 15, 2021Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares (Luis Martinelli Linares), 39, a citizen of Panama and Italy, was extradited from Guatemala to the United States today to face an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn charging him and his brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (Ricardo Martinelli Linares), 42, a citizen of Panama and Italy, with money laundering offenses in connection with a massive bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance tomorrow before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcia M. Henry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Welcomes Passage of The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020By Sam NewsJanuary 13, 2021On Jan. 13, 2021, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020 (the “Act”), which limits the antitrust exemption available to health insurance companies under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The Act, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 21, 2020 and passed the Senate on Dec. 22, 2020.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Palestinian Authority President AbbasBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Government Performance Management: Key Considerations for Implementing Cross-Agency Priority Goals and Progress Addressing GAO RecommendationsBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2021What GAO Found The enactment of the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) aimed to create an integrated, crosscutting federal performance planning and reporting framework. The act requires the establishment of 4-year outcome-oriented goals known as cross-agency priority (CAP) goals. CAP goals cover a limited number of mission and management areas, such as improving customer experiences with federal services. The next set of CAP goals is due no later than February 2022. GAO identified key considerations to facilitate CAP goal implementation, for example: Establish the goal: Establish a balanced set of outcome-oriented mission and management-focused goals that reflect the government's highest policy priorities. Identify goal leaders and contributors: Identify co-leaders and sub-goal leaders to facilitate leadership, continuity, and agency buy-in. Identify resources to support implementation: Dedicate resources to goal implementation, including funding, staffing, and technology. Use performance information: Focus on improving the quality and use of data to routinely assess goal progress and a shared commitment to continuous improvement. Report results: Develop communications strategies to help share success stories and outcomes of the goals. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and agencies have made notable progress in implementing 82 of 106 GAO GPRAMA-related recommendations made since 2012 (see figure). Status of GAO Recommendations Related to Implementation of the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, from Fiscal Year 2012-2021 as of July 2021 For example, OMB issued guidance to agencies to expand the use of data-driven performance reviews, and agencies took steps to report on the quality of their performance information. However, OMB and agencies have not fully implemented 24 GAO recommendations in areas such as creating an inventory of federal programs and improving the transparency of publicly reported performance information. Implementing remaining recommendations would help OMB and agencies more effectively manage performance. Why GAO Did This Study The nation faces unprecedented challenges that require the federal government to perform better, be more responsive to the American people, and achieve greater results. GPRAMA provides important tools that can help decision makers address crosscutting challenges facing the federal government. GPRAMA includes a provision for GAO to periodically report on the act's implementation. This report (1) identifies key considerations that can facilitate CAP goal implementation; and (2) assesses OMB's and agencies' progress in addressing GAO recommendations related to GPRAMA. To identify key considerations, GAO conducted focus groups with subject matter specialists with expertise in performance management and with White House Leadership Development fellows who had a role in implementing CAP goals. GAO also obtained views from OMB staff and reviewed information on OMB's role in CAP goal implementation. GAO also reviewed prior work on GPRAMA implementation. To identify progress made to address GAO recommendations, GAO reviewed actions OMB and agencies took since 2012.[Read More…]
- U.S. Government and the State of Illinois Reach Agreement with Peoria and the Greater Peoria Sanitary District to Reduce Water Pollution from Sewer SystemBy Sam NewsDecember 23, 2020The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Illinois today announced an agreement with the city of Peoria and the Greater Peoria Sanitary District (GPSD) that will yield significant reductions of sewage discharges from Peoria’s wastewater systems into the Illinois River and Peoria Lake.[Read More…]
- Military Training: Actions Needed to Further Improve the Consistency of Combat Skills Training Provided to Army and Marine Corps Support ForcesBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021In conventional warfare, support forces such as military police, engineers, and medical personnel normally operate behind the front lines of a battlefield. But in Iraq and Afghanistan--both in U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) area of responsibility--there is no clear distinction between front lines and rear areas, and support forces are sometimes exposed to hostile fire without help from combat arms units. The House report to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010 directed GAO to report on combat skills training for support forces. GAO assessed the extent to which (1) Army and Marine Corps support forces are completing required combat skills training; (2) the services and CENTCOM have information to validate completion of required training; and (3) the services have used lessons learned to adjust combat skills training for support forces. To do so, GAO analyzed current training requirements, documentation of training completion, and lessons learned guidance; observed support force training; and interviewed headquarters officials, trainers, and trainees between August 2009 and February 2010.Army and Marine Corps support forces undergo significant combat skills training, but additional actions could help clarify CENTCOM's training requirements, ensure the services fully incorporate those requirements into their training requirements, and improve the consistency of training that is being conducted. CENTCOM has issued a list of training tasks to be completed, in addition to the services' training requirements, before deploying to its area of operations. However, there is confusion over which forces the CENTCOM requirements apply to, the conditions under which the tasks are to be trained, and the standards for successfully completing the training. As a result, interpretations of the requirements vary and some trainees receive detailed, hands-on training for a particular task while others simply observe a demonstration of the task. In addition, while the Army and Marine Corps are training their forces on most of CENTCOM's required tasks, servicemembers are not being trained on some required tasks prior to deploying. While units collect information on the completion of training tasks, additional actions would help higher level decision-makers assess the readiness of deploying units and servicemembers. Currently, both CENTCOM and the services lack complete information on the extent to which Army and Marine Corps support forces are completing required combat skills training. The Army has recently designated the Digital Training Management System as its system of record for tracking the completion of required training, but guidance concerning system implementation is unclear and the system lacks some needed capabilities. As a result, support forces are not fully utilizing the system, and are inconsistently tracking completion of individual and unit training using paper records, stand-alone spreadsheets, and other automated systems. The Marine Corps also uses inconsistent approaches to document training completion. Furthermore, as GAO reported in May 2008, CENTCOM does not have a clearly defined waiver process to provide visibility over the extent to which personnel are deploying to its area of operations without having completed its required training tasks. As a result, CENTCOM and the services have limited visibility over the extent to which servicemembers have or have not completed all required training. While trainers at Army and Marine Corps training sites have applied lessons learned information and made significant changes to the combat skills training they provide support forces, the changes to training have varied across sites. Army and Marine Corps doctrine requires the collection of after action reports, the primary formal vehicle for collecting lessons learned. Lessons are also shared informally, such as through communication between deployed forces and units training to replace them. While the services have these formal and informal means to facilitate the sharing of lessons learned information, trainers at the various training sites are not consistently sharing information about the changes they have made to their training programs. As a result, servicemembers are trained inconsistently and units that are deploying for similar missions sometimes receive different types and amounts of training.[Read More…]
- Veterans Community Care Program: Improvements Needed to Help Ensure Timely Access to CareBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established an appointment scheduling process for the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) that allows up to 19 days to complete several steps from VA providers creating a referral to community care staff reviewing that referral. However, as the figure shows, VA has not specified the maximum amount of time veterans should have to wait to receive care through the program. GAO previously recommended in 2013 the need for an overall wait-time measure for veterans to receive care under a prior VA community care program. Subsequent to VA not implementing this recommendation, GAO again recommended in 2018 that VA establish an achievable wait-time goal as part of its new community care program (the VCCP). Potential Allowable Wait Time to Obtain Care through the Veterans Community Care Program Note: This figure illustrates potential allowable wait times in calendar days for eligible veterans who are referred to the VCCP through routine referrals (non-emergent), and have VA medical center staff—Referral Coordination Team (RCT) and community care staff (CC staff)—schedule the appointments on their behalf. VA has not yet implemented GAO's 2018 recommendation that VA establish an achievable wait-time goal. Under the VA MISSION Act, VA is assigned responsibility for ensuring that veterans' appointments are scheduled in a timely manner—an essential component of quality health care. Given VA's lack of action over the prior 7 years implementing wait-time goals for various community care programs, congressional action is warranted to help achieve timely health care for veterans. Regarding monitoring of the initial steps of the scheduling process, GAO found that VA is using metrics that are remnants from the previous community care program, which are inconsistent with the time frames established in the VCCP scheduling process. This limits VA's ability to determine the effectiveness of the VCCP and to identify areas for improvement. In June 2019, VA implemented its new community care program, the VCCP, as required by the VA MISSION Act of 2018. Under the VCCP, VAMC staff are responsible for community care appointment scheduling; their ability to execute this new responsibility has implications for veterans receiving community care in a timely manner. GAO was asked to review VCCP appointment scheduling. This report examines, among other issues, the VCCP appointment scheduling process VA established and VA's monitoring of that process. GAO reviewed documentation, such as scheduling policies, and referral data related to the VCCP and assessed VA's relevant processes. GAO conducted site visits to five VAMCs in the first region to transition to VA's new provider network, and interviewed VAMC staff and a non-generalizable sample of community providers receiving referrals from those VAMCs. GAO also interviewed VA and contractor officials. GAO recommends that Congress consider requiring VA to establish an overall wait-time measure for the VCCP. GAO is also making three recommendations to VA, including that it align its monitoring metrics with the VCCP appointment scheduling process. VA did not concur with one of GAO's recommendations related to aligning monitoring metrics to VCCP scheduling policy time frames. GAO continues to believe this recommendation is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Health Care Company Indicted for Labor Market CollusionBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Surgical Care Affiliates LLC and its related entity (collectively SCA), which own and operate outpatient medical care centers across the country, for agreeing with competitors not to solicit senior-level employees, the Department of Justice announced today. These are the Antitrust Division’s first charges in this ongoing investigation into employee allocation agreements.[Read More…]
- Military Airlift: DOD Needs to Take Steps to Manage Workload Distributed to the Civil Reserve Air FleetBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundDOD exceeded the flying hours needed to meet military training requirements for fiscal years 2002 through 2010 because of increased operational requirements associated with Afghanistan and Iraq; however it does not know whether it used Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) participants to the maximum extent practicable. DOD guidance requires it to meet training requirements and to use commercial transportation to the "maximum extent practicable." During fiscal years 2002 through 2010, DOD flew its fleet more than needed to train its crews, although its flying has more closely matched its training needs in recent years. DOD has also used CRAF participants extensively to supplement military airlift. Although DOD has taken steps to make more airlift business available to CRAF participants, officials said that overseas operations have provided enough missions to support both training and CRAF business obligations. However, with the drawdown in Afghanistan, DOD officials expect the need for airlift to decline by at least 66 percent--to pre-September 2001 levels--reducing both training hours available for DOD and business opportunities for CRAF. DOD does not use its process for monitoring flying hours to determine when it will exceed required training hours and allocate eligible airlift missions to CRAF participants. Therefore, it cannot determine whether it is using CRAF to the maximum extent practicable. As a result, DOD may be using its military fleet more than necessary--which officials say is less economical--while risking reduced CRAF participation.DOD provided several reasons for restricting commercial carriers from transporting partial plane loads of cargo over channel routes, including the need to promote efficiency, meet its military airlift training requirements, and fulfill peacetime business obligations to CRAF participants. Channel route missions are regularly scheduled airlift missions used to transport cargo and provide aircrew training time. These missions also help DOD provide business to CRAF participants. According to U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) officials, DOD generally requires aircraft conducting channel route missions to be completely full of cargo before takeoff. The policy restricting carriers from flying partial loads over channel routes allows DOD to consolidate cargo previously flown by commercial carriers in less than full plane loads and redirect that cargo into the channel route system, where it will be transported by either commercial or military aircraft as part of a full plane load mission. According to DOD, consolidating cargo into full loads flown over the channel route system has increased both the efficiency of these missions and the availability of missions that DOD uses to train its crews and fulfill its business obligations to CRAF.It is unclear whether the planned size of CRAF will be adequate to meet future airlift requirements. DOD last established its future requirements based on the wartime scenarios in the Mobility Capability Requirements Study 2016, issued in 2010. However, due to changing military strategy and priorities, the 2010 study does not reflect current mission needs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires DOD to conduct a new mobility capabilities and requirements study. DOD has not begun this study or finalized its ongoing reviews of the CRAF program's ability to support future requirements. Once they are finalized, these studies should allow DOD to better understand future requirements for CRAF and whether the CRAF program will meet future airlift requirements.Why GAO Did This StudyTo move passengers and cargo, DOD supplements its military aircraft with cargo and passenger aircraft from volunteer commercial carriers participating in the CRAF program. Participating carriers commit their aircraft to support a range of military operations in exchange for peacetime business. A House Armed Services Committee mandated GAO to report on matters related to the CRAF program. GAO assessed whether DOD (1) met its military airlift training requirements while also using CRAF participants to the maximum extent practicable, (2) provided justification for restricting commercial carriers from transporting partial plane loads of cargo over certain routes, and (3) has established future requirements for CRAF and how the planned size of CRAF compares to those requirements. GAO reviewed guidance and policies pertaining to the program, flying hour data, and DOD-sponsored CRAF study reports. GAO also interviewed DOD and industry officials.[Read More…]
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- Two Former Louisiana Supervisory Correctional Officers Sentenced for Civil Rights Offense Arising Out of the Death of an InmateBy Sam NewsMarch 11, 2021Two Louisiana men, former jail supervisors, were sentenced today to five years in prison and over four years in prison respectively for being deliberately indifferent to an inmate’s serious medical needs.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Malala Yousafzai Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsDecember 6, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
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- New York Businessman Pleads Guilty to Tax EvasionBy Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020A Woodsburgh, New York, businessman pleaded guilty today to tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
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