Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
With the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 28, the way is clear for victims of the 1998 East African Embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on USS Cole, and the 2008 murder of USAID employee John Granville, to receive long-awaited compensation for their immeasurable losses. The $335 million previously provided by Sudan and to be released to the United States from escrow is in addition to the compensation Sudan has already paid to some victims of the Cole attack as part of a private settlement.
Achieving compensation for these victims of terrorism has been a top priority of the Department. We are pleased to have been able to work with Congress on this legislation while also preserving the ability of 9/11 victims with pending claims against Sudan to continue to pursue those claims.
The enactment of this legislation represents a fundamental change in Sudan’s relationship with not only the United States but also the entire international community. It removes a major impediment to Sudan’s full reintegration into the global economy by reducing the risk of attachment of Sudan’s assets, opening the possibility for substantially increased trade and investment.
This historic step is possible because of the courageous actions of the Sudanese people, who have placed their country on a path towards democracy and economic prosperity. The leadership of the civilian-led Transitional Government in delivering on the demands of the people of Sudan is integral to the success of this transition. We commend the Sudanese people for their continued insistence on freedom, peace, and justice, and we congratulate Prime Minister Hamdok and the civilian-led Transitional Government for their courage in advancing both the aspirations of the people they serve and the cause of regional peace under the Abraham Accords.
- Contingency Contracting: Contractor Personnel Tracking System Needs Better Plans and GuidanceBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has assessed resources that it needs to sustain its contract data system, the Global Acquisition and Assistance System (GLAAS), but the Department of Defense (DOD) has not assessed all resources that it will need to sustain the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker–Enterprise Suite (SPOT-ES). DOD, the Department of State (State) and USAID use SPOT-ES as a repository of information on contracts and contractor personnel in contingency operations; USAID also uses GLAAS to record information about contracts. DOD uses the budget process to identify resources it projects it will need in the next budget year to modernize and operate its systems, but DOD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate or fully defined and assessed its plans to determine all resources needed to sustain SPOT-ES. For example, DOD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate since 2010, despite changes to costs due to schedule delays, because officials said the system has proven stable. Also, DOD has not defined some of its plans that involve cost elements that need to be included in the estimate because it accepted the system's previous program management estimates as reported. GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide states that cost estimates should be current and comprehensive. Without regularly updating life-cycle costs and defining and assessing plans to provide a full accounting for the systems' costs, management will have difficulty planning program resource requirements and making decisions. DOD has business rules for the entry of contract and contractor personnel data in SPOT—the database component of SPOT-ES—but lacks reasonable assurance that SPOT provides personnel data that are consistently timely and reliable because the department does not use its available mechanisms for assessing contractor performance to track whether contractors enter data in accordance with the business rules. The business rules, DOD guidance, and an applicable Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement clause describe how contractors and contracting officers are to enter data in SPOT. Using existing mechanisms for tracking contractor performance could provide DOD reasonable assurance that contractors have abided by business rules to enter and provide timely and reliable data. DOD has completed SPOT-ES interoperability testing, but has not fully registered or approved the system's data. DOD Instruction 8320.02 directs heads of DOD components to register authoritative data sources and metadata in DOD's Data Services Environment (DSE), its primary online repository for technical descriptions related to information technology and systems for all authorized users, and provides policy that data will be visible and trusted. GAO found that registration for SPOT-ES data was not completed, although program officials thought they had completed all the steps needed to register the system. Full registration and approval in the DSE would help ensure that data are visible and trusted. Why GAO Did This Study SPOT-ES contains data on almost 1 million contractor personnel who have supported DOD, State, and USAID in contingency operations. Also, USAID's GLAAS provides data, such as award value, for reports to Congress on contract support. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 mandated that GAO review the data systems of DOD, State, and USAID related to certain contract support. This report evaluates the extent to which, among other things, (1) DOD and USAID have assessed resources needed to sustain the systems used to track contracts and contractor personnel; (2) DOD has developed business rules and processes to help ensure the timeliness and reliability of SPOT-ES data; and (3) DOD has completed interoperability testing and registered and approved data for SPOT-ES. GAO reviewed DOD and USAID documents, such as cost schedules, business rules, and user manuals, and interviewed cognizant officials.[Read More…]
- Appointment of Ambassador Philip Reeker as Chargé d’Affaires at Embassy LondonBy Sam NewsJuly 15, 2021
- DHS and DOJ Announce Dedicated Docket Process for More Efficient Immigration HearingsBy Sam NewsMay 28, 2021Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a new Dedicated Docket process to more expeditiously and fairly make decisions in immigration cases of families who arrive between ports of entry at the Southwest Border. This new process should significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for migrants to have their cases adjudicated while still providing fair hearings for families seeking asylum at the border.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Vietnamese Minister for Public Security LamBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020
- Waste Management: DOD Needs to Fully Assess the Health Risks of Burn PitsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found GAO reported in September 2016 that the effects from exposing individuals to burn pit emissions were not well understood, and the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully assessed the health risks associated with the use of burn pits. Burn pits—shallow excavations or surface features with berms used to conduct open-air burning—were often chosen as a method of waste disposal during recent contingency operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which extends from the Middle East to Central Asia and includes Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOD Instruction 6055.01, DOD Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program , DOD should apply risk-management strategies to eliminate occupational injury or illness and loss of mission capability or resources. The instruction also requires all DOD components to establish procedures to ensure that risk-acceptance decisions were documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), requires that hazards be identified and risk evaluated as early as possible, including the consideration of exposure patterns, duration, and rates. While DOD has guidance that applies to burn pit emissions among other health hazards, DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials. According to DOD officials, DOD's ability to assess these risks was limited by a lack of adequate information on (1) the levels of exposure to burn pit emissions and (2) the health impacts these exposures had on individuals. With respect to information on exposure levels, DOD had not collected data from emissions or monitored exposures from burn pits as required by its own guidance. Given the potential use of burn pits near installations and during future contingency operations, establishing processes to monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures would better position DOD and combatant commanders to collect data that could help assess exposure to risks. GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense (1) take steps to ensure CENTCOM and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures; and (2) in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second. In a May 2018 status update regarding these recommendations, DOD outlined a series of steps it had implemented as well as steps that it intends to implement. The department believes these efforts will further enhance its ability to better monitor burn-pit emissions and examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health related issues. GAO believes the steps DOD is taking are appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study Burn pits help base commanders manage waste generated by U.S. forces overseas, but they also produce harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in chronic health effects for those exposed. This statement provides information on the extent to which DOD has assessed any health risks of burn pit use. This statement is based on a GAO report issued in September 2016 (GAO-16-781). The report was conducted in response to section 313 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Specifically, GAO assessed the methodology DOD used in conducting a review of the compliance of the military departments and combatant commands with DOD instructions governing the use of burn pits in contingency operations and the adequacy of a DOD report for the defense committees. GAO also obtained updates from DOD on actions taken to assess health risks from burn pits since September 2016.[Read More…]
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- Behavioral Health: Patient Access, Provider Claims Payment, and the Effects of the COVID-19 PandemicBy Sam NewsApril 30, 2021What GAO Found GAO found that there have been longstanding concerns about the availability of behavioral health treatment, particularly for low-income individuals. According to a review of federal data, one potential barrier to accessing treatment has been shortages of qualified behavioral health professionals, particularly in rural areas. Stakeholders that GAO interviewed—officials from the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) and from hospital associations and insurance regulators in four states—cited additional contributing factors such as provider reimbursement rates and health system capacity. Additionally, recent reports from Pennsylvania and Oregon further documented longstanding problems with meeting the need for behavioral health services in their states. Evidence collected during the pandemic suggests the prevalence of behavioral health conditions has increased, while access to in-person behavioral health services has decreased: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey data collected from April 2020 through February 2021 found that the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression averaged 38 percent. In comparison, using similar questions, CDC found that about 11 percent of U.S. adults reported experiencing these symptoms from January to June 2019. An analysis of CDC data found that the share of emergency department visits for drug overdoses and suicide attempts were 36 and 26 percent higher, respectively, for the period of mid-March through mid-October 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. In a February 2021 survey of its members, NCBH found that in the 3 months preceding the survey, about two-thirds of the member organizations surveyed reported demand for their services increasing and having to cancel or reschedule patient appointments or turn patients away. The survey also found that during the pandemic, 27 percent of member organizations reported laying off employees, 45 percent reported closing some programs, and 35 percent decreased the hours for staff. Officials GAO interviewed from provider organizations offered anecdotal examples of problems with payments for behavioral health services, including examples suggesting that denials and delays were more common for these services than they were for medical/surgical services. However, most officials were not aware of published data that could confirm their concerns, and data from reports from two states on claims denials either did not support their concerns or were inconclusive. In addition, a report in one state that examined mental health parity—requirements that behavioral health benefits are not more restrictive than medical/surgical benefits—found that the rate of complaints associated with behavioral health services was notably lower than those for medical/surgical services. The lack of available data confirming stakeholder concerns could be related to potential challenges consumers and providers face in identifying and reporting mental health parity violations, as previously reported by GAO. Specifically, in 2019, GAO found that complaints were not a reliable indicator of such violations, because consumers may not know about parity requirements or may have privacy concerns related to submitting a complaint. GAO recommended that the federal agencies involved in the oversight of mental health parity requirements evaluate the effectiveness of their oversight efforts. As of March 2021, the agencies had not yet implemented this recommendation. Why GAO Did This Study Behavioral health conditions, which include mental health and substance use disorders, affect a substantial number of adults in the United States. For example, in 2019, an estimated 52 million adults in the United States were reported to have a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and 20 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder. Experts have expressed concerns that the incidence of behavioral health conditions would increase as a result of stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, longstanding questions have been raised about whether coverage or claims for behavioral health services are denied or delayed at higher rates than those for other health services. GAO was asked to examine several issues about the demand for behavioral health services, as well as coverage and payment for these services. GAO examined (1) what is known about the need for and availability of behavioral health services, and how these have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic; and (2) what issues selected stakeholders identified regarding the payment of claims for behavioral health services. GAO reviewed survey data and other relevant analyses focused on the need for and availability of behavioral health services prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO also reviewed reports from two states that compared claims for behavioral health services with those of other health services; interviewed officials from NCBH; and interviewed officials from hospital associations and insurance regulators in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. For more information, contact John E. Dicken at 202-512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister MomenBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2021
- Defense Infrastructure: DOD Can Improve Its Response to Environmental Exposures on Military InstallationsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundDOD relies on four types of policies to identify and respond to many but not all aspects of environmental exposures: (1) environmental restoration policies address hazardous releases at military Installations; (2) occupational and environmental health policies address workplace exposures; (3) deployment health policies address the collection of occupational and environmental health data for deployed individuals; and (4) public health emergency management policies. Nonetheless, there are some limitations in the policies coverage. For example, DODs environmental restoration policies do not specify when to conduct public health assessments at its sites beyond the initial assessment of certain priority sites required by the Superfund law. In addition, DOD has not fully documented its responses to recommendations that result from the assessments. DOD officials responsible for oversight reported that they did not know what actions, if any, installations had taken on about 80 percent of the recommendations. Without a comprehensive tracking system, DOD has no assurance that it is addressing recommendations appropriately and could be missing opportunities to identify and resolve concerns about some health threats. Further, DOD has no policy guiding services and their installations on appropriate actions to address health risks from past exposures, which DOD attributes to the Superfund law not specifically requiring responsible parties to address such risks.Although several programs potentially provide either health care or compensation to various types of individuals suffering from environmental exposures, the ability of some individuals to actually obtain benefitsparticularly compensationis often complicated by documentary, scientific, and legal factors. First, it is often difficult to document an environmental exposure because they are often not always identified at the time they occurred. Second, it is often difficult to establish causation between an environmental exposure and a health condition, because scientific research has not always established a clear link. Third, although under certain circumstances some individuals have legal standing under the Federal Tort Claims Act to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for damages due to an environmental exposure, damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act are not available to other types of individuals, and for certain types of claims due to legal precedent or statutes.In several cases, Congress has established alternative programs to provide compensation to specific populations exposed to specific environmental hazards, such as for individuals involved in the production of nuclear weapons and those who worked in coal mines. Agency officials in charge of managing these alternative programs told us that certain features of these programs have proven to be beneficial to both claimants and administrators and should be considered for inclusion if any future programs are established to compensate individuals for environmental exposures on military installations. For example, Department of Labor and Department of Justice officials told GAO a compensation program that resolves claims in a nonadversarial manner and provides outreach to potential claimants is more beneficial to both claimants and administrators. In contrast, a more adversarial with limited claimant assistance usually leads to delays and increased cost for both claimants and the agency adjudicating claims.Why GAO Did This StudyThere have been various reported incidents of individuals being potentially exposed to environmental hazards while on military installations. Indeed, some incidents, such as contaminated air due to burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, have received considerable attention, and in the case of Camp Lejeune have resulted in claims seeking billions of dollars from the government.Public Law 111-383, §314(2011) directed GAO to assess Department of Defense (DOD) policies regarding environmental exposures. GAOs objectives were to determine (1) the extent to which DOD has policies that identify and respond to environmental exposures, (2) what programs exist to provide health care or compensation to individuals for environmental exposures, and (3) which features of other federal programs may provide options in designing future compensation programs. GAO briefed the Armed Services Committees in December 2011, to satisfy the mandate. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant documentation, visited installations, and interviewed relevant officials.[Read More…]
- Justice Department, EPA and the State of Michigan Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Arbor Hills Energy LLCBy Sam NewsSeptember 9, 2021Arbor Hills Energy LLC (AHE) has agreed to significantly reduce, if not virtually eliminate, AHE’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at its landfill gas-to-energy facility (Facility) in Northville, Michigan, to resolve alleged Clean Air Act and State law violations.[Read More…]
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- Newport News Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False ReturnBy Sam NewsAugust 7, 2020A Newport News, Virginia, tax preparer pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia.[Read More…]
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- Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges ReportBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021What GAO FoundIn our view, DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the annual statutory reporting requirements that DOD describe its progress in implementing its sustainable ranges plan and any additional actions taken or to be taken in addressing training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace. DOD's 2012 report also provides updates to several elements of the plan that the act required DOD to include in its original submission in 2004. These elements include (1) proposals to enhance training range capabilities and address any shortfalls in resources, (2) goals and milestones for tracking planned actions and measuring progress, and (3) projected funding requirements for implementing planned actions, among others. Taken together, these elements of DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report describe the department's progress in implementing its comprehensive plan and addressing training constraints at its ranges, thus meeting the annual reporting requirements of the act.DOD has taken action in response to all 13 prior GAO recommendations that focused on meeting the requirements of the act and improving the report submissions and has completed implementation of all but two of those recommendations. In response to three recommendations in our 2011 report, DOD included additional information in its goals, actions, and milestones and funding requirements sections in the 2012 sustainable ranges report. In our earlier reviews of DOD's annual sustainable ranges report, we identified a total of 10 recommendations. DOD has since completed implementation of all but two of the prior recommendations, which related to readiness reporting. DOD has been addressing these two recommendations by developing and testing a range assessment module for the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS), and expects to complete its review by the end of fiscal year 2012. Through the changes DOD has implemented in its annual reporting over the past several years, many based on GAO recommendations, DOD has continued to improve its reporting on its sustainable ranges. We are making no new recommendations in this report.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Department of Defense (DOD) relies on access to military land, airspace, sea space, and frequency spectrum to provide its forces a realistic training environment that will ready them to face combat or complex missions around the globe. Over the decades, however, several factors collectively known as encroachment have increasingly challenged the military's access to these resources. Additionally, increased operational tempo and overseas deployments, specifically in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have strained the ability of some existing range resources and infrastructures to continue supporting training at the levels required by DOD and the military services. To respond to these challenges and increase the long-term sustainability of its military range resources, DOD has launched a number of efforts aimed both at preserving its training ranges and addressing the effects of its training activities on the environment and on local communities.Section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (as amended) required DOD to submit a comprehensive plan for using existing authorities available to the department to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace in the United States and overseas to Congress at the same time as the President submitted his budget for fiscal year 2004. Further, Section 366 required DOD to submit an annual progress report to Congress along with the President's budget for fiscal years 2005 through 2013. To address these requirements, DOD has submitted an annual sustainable ranges report since 2004. In addition, the act directed us to submit annual evaluations of DOD's reports to Congress within 90 days of receiving these reports from DOD. Our review of DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report is our ninth annual report in response to the act. In this review, we discuss (1) the extent to which DOD's 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the statutory requirements and (2) the extent to which DOD has acted on GAO recommendations to improve its report submissions and what opportunities, if any, exist for DOD to improve future reporting.For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]