Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the people and Government of the United States, I congratulate Colombia on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accord. Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord ended five decades of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and represents the path to lasting peace. The United States has a long history of supporting the Peace Accord, and we value its continuing implementation and achievements thus far.
Specifically, the demobilization and reintegration of 13,000 former combatants into communities across Colombia created opportunities for peaceful participation in Colombia’s political process. The work to transform Colombia’s conflict-affected areas opened the door to a more economically vibrant, equal, and stable region. Colombia’s commitment to include 16 seats for conflict victims on the March 2022 congressional election ballot will fulfill another Peace Accord priority, giving victims a voice in Colombia’s democracy. I commend the Special Jurisdiction for Peace for its efforts to bring justice and reparations to conflict victims as well as the Truth Commission for convening dialogue and reconciliation opportunities to overcome patterns and practices that drove the conflict.
Comprehensive implementation of the Peace Accord remains a generational opportunity to strengthen access to security, democratic institutions, and economic opportunities for all Colombians. We commend Colombia’s efforts in implementing the Peace Accord and look forward to continuing our close cooperation to support lasting peace.
- Military Operations: DOD’s Fiscal Year 2003 Funding and Reported Obligations in Support of the Global War on TerrorismBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Global War on Terrorism--principally involving operations in Afghanistan and Iraq--was funded in fiscal year 2003 by Congress's appropriation of almost $69 billion. To assist Congress in its oversight of spending, GAO is undertaking a series of reviews relating to contingency operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In September 2003, GAO issued a report that discussed fiscal year 2003 obligations and funding for the war through June 2003. This report continues the review of fiscal year 2003 by analyzing obligations reported in support of the Global War on Terrorism and reviews whether the amount of funding received by the military services was adequate to cover DOD's obligations for the war from October 1, 2002, through September 30, 2003. GAO will also review the war's reported obligations and funding for fiscal year 2004.In fiscal year 2003, DOD reported obligations of over $61 billion in support of the Global War on Terrorism. GAO's analysis of the obligation data showed that 64 percent of fiscal year 2003 obligations reported for the war on terrorism went for Operation Iraqi Freedom; among the DOD components, the Army had the most obligations (46 percent); and among appropriation accounts the operation and maintenance account had the highest level of reported obligations (71 percent). The adequacy of funding available for the Global War on Terrorism for fiscal year 2003 military personnel and operation and maintenance accounts varied by service. For military personnel, the Army, Navy, and Air Force ended the fiscal year with more reported obligations for the war than funding and had to cover the shortfalls with money appropriated for their budgeted peacetime personnel costs. For operation and maintenance accounts, the Army, Navy, and Air Force appeared to have more funding than reported obligations for the war. However, the Navy and Air Force have stated that the seeming excess funding ($299 million and $176.6 million respectively) were in support of the war on terrorism, but had not been recorded as such. Therefore, Navy and Air Force obligations exactly match funding. The Marine Corps used funds appropriated for its budgeted peacetime operation and maintenance activities to cover shortfalls in funding for the war.[Read More…]
- Next Generation Combat Vehicles: As Army Prioritizes Rapid Development, More Attention Needed to Provide Insight on Cost Estimates and Systems Engineering RisksBy Sam NewsAugust 6, 2020The four efforts within the Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV) portfolio all prioritize rapid development, while using different acquisition approaches and contracting strategies. Some of the efforts use the new middle-tier acquisition approach, which enables rapid development by exempting programs from many existing DOD acquisition processes and policies. Similarly, the efforts use contracting strategies that include both traditional contract types as well as more flexible approaches to enable rapid development of technology and designs. Vehicles of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Portfolio The two programs within the portfolio that recently initiated acquisitions—Mobile Protected Firepower and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle—have taken some steps to mitigate risks in cost and technology consistent with GAO's leading practices. The Army's use of the middle-tier approach for these efforts may facilitate rapid development, but the programs could benefit from additional application of GAO's leading practices. For example, the programs identified some risks in their cost estimates, but because each presented a single estimate of the total cost—referred to as a point estimate—these estimates do not fully reflect how uncertainty could affect costs. Similarly, the programs took some steps to mitigate technical risk by limiting development to 6 years or less and incrementally introducing new technologies, steps consistent with GAO's leading practices. However, by delaying key systems engineering reviews, the programs took some steps not consistent with leading practices, which could increase technical risk. While trade-offs may be necessary to facilitate rapid development, more consistent application of GAO's leading practices for providing cost estimates that reflect uncertainty and conducting timely systems engineering reviews could improve Army's ability to provide insight to decision makers and deliver capability to the warfighter on time and at or near expected costs. The Army has taken actions to enhance communication, both within the Army and with Department of Defense stakeholders, to mitigate risks. Within the Army, these actions included implementing a cross-functional team structure to collaboratively develop program requirements with input from acquisition, contracting, and technology development staff. Program officials also coordinated with other Army and Department of Defense stakeholders responsible for cost and test assessment, even where not required by policy, to mitigate risk. The Army views the NGCV portfolio as one of its most critical and urgent modernization priorities, as many current Army ground combat vehicles were developed in the 1980s or earlier. Past efforts to replace some of these systems failed at a cost of roughly $23 billion. In November 2017, the Army began new efforts to modernize this portfolio. GAO was asked to review the Army's plans for modernizing its fleet of ground combat vehicles. This report examines (1) the acquisition approaches and contracting strategies the Army is considering for the NGCV portfolio, (2) the extent to which the Army's efforts to balance schedule, cost, and technology are reducing acquisition risks for that portfolio, and (3) how the Army is communicating internally and externally to reduce acquisition risks. GAO reviewed the acquisition and contracting plans for each of the vehicles in the portfolio to determine their approaches; assessed schedule, cost, and technology information—where available—against GAO's leading practice guides on these issues as well as other leading practices for acquisition; and interviewed Army and DOD officials. GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Army follow leading practices on cost estimation and systems engineering to mitigate program risk. In its response, the Army concurred with these recommendations and plans to take action to address them. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Jordanian King Abdullah II Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsJuly 20, 2021
- Readout of Attorney General William P. Barr’s Visits to Chicago and PhoenixBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020This week, Attorney General William P. Barr traveled to Chicago, Illinois, and Phoenix, Arizona, to announce updates on Operation Legend and the results of Operation Crystal Shield, respectively.[Read More…]
- Caltech Alum Robert Behnken Aboard Historic Demo-2 LaunchBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020The SpaceX Crew Dragon [Read More…]
- As Pandemic Lingers, Courts Lean Into Virtual TechnologyBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsFebruary 18, 2021As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has dragged on, a small number of courts have begun conducting virtual bench trials and even virtual civil jury trials in which jurors work from home. Here is a review of ways courts are using electronic communications to deliver justice during the pandemic.[Read More…]
- Elder Justice: HHS Could Do More to Encourage State Reporting on the Costs of Financial ExploitationBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021Most state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies have been providing data on reports of abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including data on financial exploitation, although some faced challenges collecting and submitting these data. Since states began providing data to HHS's National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) in 2017, they have been voluntarily submitting more detailed data on financial exploitation and perpetrators each year (see figure). However, some APS officials GAO interviewed in selected states said collecting data is difficult, in part, because victims are reluctant to implicate others, especially family members or other caregivers. APS officials also said submitting data to NAMRS was challenging initially because their data systems often did not align with NAMRS, and caseworkers may not have entered data in the system correctly. HHS has provided technical assistance and grant funding to help states address some of these challenges and help provide a better picture of the prevalence of the various types of financial exploitation and its perpetrators nationwide. Number of States That Provide Data on Financial Exploitation and Perpetrators to NAMRS Studies estimate some of the costs of financial exploitation to be in the billions, but comprehensive data on total costs do not exist and NAMRS does not currently collect cost data from APS agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found actual losses and attempts at elder financial exploitation reported by financial institutions nationwide were $1.7 billion in 2017. Also, studies published from 2016 to 2020 from three states—New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—estimated the costs of financial exploitation could be more than $1 billion in each state alone. HHS does not currently ask states to submit cost data from APS casefiles to NAMRS, though officials said they have begun to reevaluate NAMRS with state APS agencies and other interested parties, including researchers, and may consider asking states to submit cost data moving forward. Adding cost data to NAMRS could make a valuable contribution to the national picture of the cost of financial exploitation. Recognizing the importance of these data, some APS officials GAO interviewed said their states have developed new data fields or other tools to help caseworkers collect and track cost data more systematically. HHS officials said they plan to share this information with other states to make them aware of practices that could help them collect cost data, but they have not established a timeframe for doing so. Elder financial exploitation—the fraudulent or illegal use of an older adult's funds or property—has far-reaching effects on victims and society. Understanding the scope of the problem has thus far been hindered by a lack of nationwide data. In 2013, HHS worked with states to create NAMRS, a voluntary system for collecting APS data on elder abuse, including financial exploitation. GAO was asked to study the extent to which NAMRS provides information on elder financial exploitation. This report examines (1) the status of HHS's efforts to compile nationwide data through NAMRS on the extent of financial exploitation and the challenges involved, and (2) what is known about the costs of financial exploitation to victims and others. GAO analyzed NAMRS data from fiscal year 2016 through 2019 (the most recent available); reviewed relevant federal laws; and interviewed officials from HHS, other federal agencies, elder abuse prevention organizations, and researchers. GAO also reviewed APS documents and spoke with officials in eight states, selected based on their efforts to study, collect, and report cost data; and reviewed studies on financial exploitation. GAO recommends that HHS (1) work with state APS agencies to collect and submit cost data to NAMRS, and (2) develop a timeframe to share states' tools to help collect cost data. HHS did not agree with the first recommendation, but GAO maintains that it is warranted, as discussed in the report. HHS agreed with the second recommendation. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Joint Statement on Extended “Troika” on Peaceful Settlement in AfghanistanBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021
- Former Managing Director and Two Former Loan Officers Plead Guilty for Roles in Widespread Bank-Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsMay 20, 2021The former managing director of residential lending and two former loan officers of a financial institution headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, pleaded guilty to participating in a years-long scheme to originate fraudulent residential-mortgage loans through the bank’s low-documentation Advantage Loan Program.[Read More…]
- Small Business Contracting: Better Documentation and Reporting Needed on Procurement Center RepresentativesBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Small Business Administration (SBA) does not maintain complete documentation to support data on the activities of procurement center representatives (PCR), which is information used to oversee PCRs and assess their performance. PCRs are responsible for helping small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities—for example, by making set-aside recommendations to federal agency contracting officers. SBA area offices generate a monthly report that summarizes data on PCRs' activities and accomplishments, and SBA procedures require PCRs to maintain these reports and the supporting documentation. GAO found that they do not consistently do either. According to SBA officials, in some cases the supporting documentation, which PCRs store on their individual computers or in their offices, either was destroyed or was not maintained after PCRs left their positions. Officials told GAO that SBA recently implemented a new database and established a policy requiring the monthly reports to be maintained in the database. However, SBA has not established a centralized means of maintaining the supporting documentation. A central repository for PCRs to store their supporting documentation would provide greater assurance that the documentation is maintained as required and help SBA verify the accuracy of the data PCRs report on their activities. SBA assigns PCRs to buying activities, divisions in federal agencies that purchase goods and services based on geographic coverage and other factors. Specifically, PCRs are assigned within one of six regional areas to ensure geographic coverage, at specific federal agencies, and at buying activities that have significant opportunities for small business contracting. However, SBA has not submitted required reports to Congress on its rationale for assigning PCRs to cover buying activities. The Small Business Act, as amended, requires that SBA submit a report (1) identifying each area for which SBA has assigned a PCR, (2) explaining why SBA selected the areas for assignment, and (3) describing the activities performed by PCRs. SBA was required to submit the first report to Congress by December 26, 2010, and subsequent reports every 3 years thereafter. SBA officials told GAO they were not aware of the reporting requirement. As a result, Congress lacks the information these reports were intended to provide, information that could be useful for its oversight of PCRs. The Small Business Act establishes tools to enhance procurement opportunities for small businesses, such as set-asides and requirements that large contractors set goals for using small business subcontractors. SBA's PCRs advocate for the inclusion of small businesses during the procurement process. GAO was asked to examine how PCRs help small businesses gain access to federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities. This report addresses, among other objectives, (1) documentation SBA maintains on the activities of PCRs and (2) how SBA assigns PCRs to cover buying activities and its requirement to report to Congress on these assignments. GAO reviewed SBA policies and procedures, data on PCR assignments, and selected data reported by PCRs and related documentation. GAO also interviewed agency officials. GAO recommends that SBA (1) develop a central repository for PCRs to store the supporting documentation for the data they report on their activities and (2) ensure that it submits required reports to Congress on PCRs' assignments and activities. SBA concurred with both recommendations. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Virtual COVID-19 MinisterialBy Sam NewsNovember 10, 2021
- Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month By Sam NewsOctober 1, 2021
- Department of Justice Awards More than $92 Million to Support Offenders Returning to CommunitiesBy Sam NewsSeptember 29, 2020The Department of [Read More…]
- Florida Resident Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Falsify Clinical Trial DataBy Sam NewsNovember 2, 2020A Florida resident pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsify clinical trial data regarding an asthma medication, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Owner of a Tanker Truck Repair Company Pleads Guilty to Lying to OSHA During Explosion InvestigationBy Sam NewsMay 20, 2021An Idaho man pleaded guilty today to lying to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and to making an illegal repair to a cargo tanker in violation of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.[Read More…]
- Special Representative Khalilzad Travels to Qatar, Pakistan, and UzbekistanBy Sam NewsJuly 10, 2021
- National Freedom Day: Deepening Our Resolve to Fight Human TraffickingBy Sam NewsFebruary 1, 2021
- Cameroon man sentenced for wire fraud conspiracyBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 19, 2021The leader and manager [Read More…]
- Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Chemical Restraint Use at Two Nevada Juvenile FacilitiesBy Sam NewsJanuary 7, 2021The Justice Department announced today that it has opened an investigation into the use of pepper spray at two juvenile correctional facilities run by the Nevada Juvenile Justice Services Agency: the Nevada Youth Training Center and the Summit View Youth Center. The investigation will examine whether staff at the two facilities use pepper spray in a manner that violates youth’s rights under the Constitution.[Read More…]
- Telemedicine Company Owner Charged in Superseding Indictment for $784 Million Health Care Fraud, Illegal Kickback and Tax Evasion SchemeBy Sam NewsAugust 10, 2021A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned a superseding indictment today charging a Florida owner of multiple telemedicine companies with orchestrating a health care fraud and illegal kickback scheme that involved the submission of over $784 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. This is one of the largest Medicare fraud schemes ever charged by the Justice Department. The superseding indictment also charges the defendant with concealing and disguising the proceeds of the scheme in order to avoid paying income taxes.[Read More…]