Office of the Spokesperson
“Another enduring principle is that we need countries to cooperate, now more than ever.”
– Secretary Antony J. Blinken, March 3, 2021
Secretary Blinken will attend the G7 Foreign and Development Minister’s Meeting in London, the United Kingdom, from May 3-5, 2021. The members of the G7 are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the European Union present as an observer. As host, the United Kingdom has invited additional countries to join as guests at the meeting, including Australia, India, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, and Brunei in its capacity as Chair of ASEAN.
- Secretary Blinken is attending the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting to lay the foundation for the G7 Leaders’ Summit to be held in June. President Biden has announced plans to travel to the United Kingdom in June for the summit, his first overseas travel.
- The Secretary will also meet his UK and G7 counterparts to discuss areas of mutual concern such as COVID-19, economic recovery and growth, the climate crisis, human rights, food security, gender equality, and more.
- This is an opportunity to demonstrate the G7’s leadership based on shared goals and values, a commitment to “building back better” on health and climate, economic recovery, and on international security challenges.
- Secretary Blinken is looking forward to discussing the democratic values that we share with our partners and allies within the G7 and how we can work with other countries to address the key geopolitical issues we are facing together.
- The participation of the United States at this meeting of the G7 reinforces our commitment to multilateralism as the ideal vehicle to address our shared challenges.
- Justice Department Files Complaint to Stop Distribution of Unapproved, Misbranded, and Adulterated “Poly-MVA” ProductsBy Sam NewsDecember 4, 2020The United States filed a civil complaint to stop a California company from distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs and adulterated animal drugs, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
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- Department of Defense: Use of Neurocognitive Assessment Tools in Post-Deployment Identification of Mild Traumatic Brain InjuryBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has emerged as a serious concern among U.S. forces serving in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The widespread use of improvised explosive devices in these conflicts increases the likelihood that servicemembers will sustain a TBI, which the Department of Defense (DOD) defines as a traumatically induced structural injury and/or physiological disruption of brain function as a result of an external force. TBI cases within DOD are generally classified as mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating. From 2000 to March 2011 there were a total of 212,742 TBI cases reported by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center within DOD. A majority of these cases, 163,181, were classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI)--commonly referred to as concussions. Early detection of injury is critical in TBI patient management. Diagnosis of moderate and severe TBI usually occurs in a timely manner due to the obvious and visible nature of the head injury. Identification of mTBI presents a challenge due to its less obvious nature. With mTBI, there may be no observable head injury. In addition, in the combat theater, an mTBI may not be identified if it occurs at the same time as other combat injuries that are more visible or life-threatening, such as orthopedic injuries or open wounds. Furthermore, some of the symptoms of mTBI--such as irritability and insomnia--are similar to those associated with other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Although the majority of patients with mTBI recover quickly with minimal intervention, a subset of patients develops lingering symptoms that interfere with social and occupational functioning. Accurate and timely identification of mTBI is important as treatment can mitigate the physical, emotional, and cognitive effects of the injury. Neurocognitive deficits associated with mTBI can be identified by neurocognitive assessment tools. These tools generally consist of a series of tests that measure cognitive performance areas that may be impaired by an mTBI such as attention, judgment, and memory. Identification of mTBI in servicemembers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq has been the subject of recent media attention, with particular attention focused on the proper use of neurocognitive assessment tools to screen all servicemembers postdeployment for deficits or symptoms related to mTBI. In this context and in response to congressional request, this report describes (1) DOD's post-deployment policy on the use of neurocognitive assessment tools as a stand-alone initial screen to identify servicemembers who may have sustained an mTBI during deployment; (2) what informed DOD's decisions to establish this post-deployment policy; and (3) mTBI experts' views on the science related to DOD's policy decision.DOD does not require that all servicemembers be screened post-deployment using a neurocognitive assessment tool but does require that all servicemembers be screened using a set of TBI screening questions. According to DOD officials, this policy was informed by findings and recommendations from several task forces and expert panel reports, and scientific studies. Additionally, mTBI experts told us that the scientific evidence supports DOD's policy. For example, these experts told us that neurocognitive assessment tools cannot determine whether low cognitive function is caused by an mTBI. These experts told us, however, that neurocognitive assessment tools can be useful as part of a full clinical evaluation for a person who has already screened positive for a possible mTBI.[Read More…]
- Former Security Services Executives Plead Guilty to Rigging Bids for Department of Defense Security ContractsBy Sam NewsOctober 18, 2021Two former employees of G4S Secure Solutions NV (G4S NV), pleaded guilty today to criminal antitrust charges stemming from their involvement in a conspiracy to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate customers for defense-related security services contracts. Both defendants are Belgian nationals residing in Belgium.[Read More…]
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- Management Report: Continued Improvements Needed in the Processes Used to Prepare the U.S. Consolidated Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsAugust 13, 2021What GAO Found GAO's audit of the fiscal year 2020 consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government (CFS) found continuing control deficiencies in the Department of the Treasury's (Treasury) and the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) processes used to prepare the CFS. These control deficiencies contributed to material weaknesses in internal control that involve the federal government's inability to adequately account for intragovernmental activity and balances between federal entities; reasonably assure that the consolidated financial statements are (1) consistent with the underlying audited entities' financial statements, (2) properly balanced, and (3) in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; and reasonably assure that the information in the (1) Reconciliations of Net Operating Cost and Budget Deficit and (2) Statements of Changes in Cash Balance from Budget and Other Activities is complete, properly supported, and consistent with the underlying information in the audited entities' financial statements and other financial data. As of the completion of GAO's fiscal year 2019 CFS audit, 15 recommendations were open from GAO's prior reports related to control deficiencies in the processes used to prepare the CFS. Treasury, in coordination with OMB, implemented corrective actions that resolved control deficiencies related to three of the 15 recommendations. As a result, GAO closed these three recommendations. These corrective actions included establishing effective processes and procedures to reasonably assure that appropriate information regarding legal contingency losses is reported in the CFS; implementing additional reviews and improved procedures to reasonably assure that restatements, reclassifications, and adjustments to beginning net position are properly supported and accurately reported; and improving corrective action plans for certain areas by including sufficient steps to effectively address related control deficiencies. While progress was made, 12 of the 15 recommendations remained open as of March 17, 2021, the date of GAO's report on its audit of the fiscal year 2020 CFS. GAO will continue to monitor the status of corrective actions taken to address the 12 open recommendations from prior years as part of its fiscal year 2021 CFS audit. Why GAO Did This Study The Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of OMB, prepares the Financial Report of the United States Government, which contains the CFS. Since GAO's first audit of the CFS, for fiscal year 1997, certain material weaknesses and other limitations have prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements. As part of the fiscal year 2020 CFS audit, GAO identified continuing material weaknesses and other control deficiencies in the processes used to prepare the CFS. The objective of this report is to provide the status of corrective actions that Treasury and OMB have taken to address GAO's prior recommendations related to the processes used to prepare the CFS that remained open as of the completion of GAO's fiscal year 2019 audit.[Read More…]
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- DOD Acquisition Reform: Increased Focus on Knowledge Needed to Achieve Intended Performance and Innovation OutcomesBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found As the Department of Defense (DOD) drives to deliver innovative capabilities faster to keep pace with evolving threats and emerging adversaries, knowledge—about programs' cost, schedule, and technology—increases the likelihood that these capabilities will be achieved. GAO annually assesses selected DOD weapon programs and their likely outcomes by analyzing: (1) the soundness of a program's business case—which provides evidence that the warfighter's needs are valid and the concept can be produced within existing resources—at program start, and (2) the knowledge a program attains at other key points in the acquisition process. For example, the Navy's Ford-class aircraft carrier program began with a weak business case, including an unrealistic cost estimate based on unproven technologies, resulting in over $2 billion in cost growth and years of delays to date for the lead ship. DOD's new acquisition framework uses six different acquisition pathways and offers programs a chance to tailor acquisition approaches, providing options to speed up the process. However, preliminary findings from GAO's 2021 annual assessment show that programs using the new middle-tier pathway face increasing risk that they will fall short of expected performance goals as a result of starting without sound business cases. While these programs are intended to be streamlined, business case information is critical for decision makers to know if a program is likely to meet its goals (see figure below). Completion of Key Business Case Documents by Selected Middle-tier Acquisition Programs The framework also introduces new considerations for program oversight and reporting. DOD has made some progress in developing its approach to oversight for programs using the new pathways, but questions remain about what metrics DOD will use for internal oversight and report to Congress for external oversight. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars annually to acquire new major weapon systems, such as aircraft, ships, and satellites, and deliver them to the warfighter. GAO has reviewed individual weapon programs for many years and conducted its annual assessment of selected major DOD weapon programs for 19 years. GAO added DOD's weapon system acquisition process to its High-Risk List in 1990. This statement discusses: (1) the performance of selected DOD weapon programs and the role of a sound business case in that performance, (2) DOD's progress implementing recent acquisition reforms, (3) the status of DOD's actions to support innovation, and (4) DOD's efforts to improve data for acquisition oversight. This statement is drawn primarily from GAO's extensive body of work on DOD's acquisition of weapon systems, science and technology, and acquisition reforms conducted from 2004–2021, and observations from an ongoing annual review of selected DOD weapon programs. To perform this work, GAO reviewed DOD documentation, program information, and relevant legislation. GAO also interviewed DOD officials.[Read More…]
- Veterans Health Care: Addressing High Risk Concerns for Oversight and Accountability Are Key to Ensuring Quality of Care and Patient SafetyBy Sam NewsOctober 27, 2021What GAO Found GAO's work has identified a range of concerns with the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) oversight and accountability of its health care system, including those related to quality of care and patient safety. Since GAO added VA health care to its High-Risk List in 2015, GAO has made 131 recommendations related to VA's oversight and accountability, almost half of all GAO's recommendations for VA health care. Recent examples of quality of care and patient safety recommendations include the following: VA has faced challenges in ensuring that its providers deliver safe and effective care to veterans. In February 2021, GAO identified 227providers that had been removed from VA employment but were potentially providing care in a community care network. GAO recommended that VA take actions to assess and address the situation.VA implemented this recommendation by reviewing and excluding 155providers from participating in VA's community care networks. In recent years, there have been reports of veterans dying by suicide on VA campuses—in locations such as inpatient settings, parking lots, and on the grounds of VA cemeteries. In September 2020, GAO found that VA lacks accurate information on the number of suicides and comprehensive analyses of the underlying causes. While VA agreed with two of GAO's recommendations to address these issues, VA still needs to provide documentation of key actions taken by the committee it established to improve its understanding of on-campus suicides. In June 2019, GAO found that VA's oversight of its regional health care networks was limited. GAO recommended that VA develop a process for assessing the overall performance of its networks to be able to better determine if a network's performance is positive, if it is functioning poorly, or if it requires remediation. While VA concurred with GAO's recommendation, VA still needs to provide documentation of the process developed to assess the overall performance of these networks in managing medical centers. Since the last high-risk update in March 2021, VA has taken steps to address some of the oversight and accountability concerns identified by GAO. In May 2021, VA published a revised high-risk action plan for addressing VA health care concerns. However, VA is still in the beginning stages of developing its plan to address root causes such as a fragmented oversight and accountability infrastructure and will need clearly defined metrics to ensure it is effective. Fully addressing oversight and accountability concerns also requires sustained leadership attention as well as leadership stability. However, the Under Secretary for Health position responsible for managing VA health care has not had permanent leadership since January 2017. While VA takes steps to address its needed transformation, it should continue to implement recommendations GAO has made in the oversight and accountability area, given the number of these similar types of recommendations and the need to ensure quality of care and patient safety. Why GAO Did This Study VA operates one of the nation's largest health care systems. GAO's work, along with that of VA's Office of Inspector General and others, has cited longstanding issues with VA's oversight of its health care system. In 2015, GAO added VA health care to its High-Risk List, in which one broad area of concern was inadequate oversight and accountability. In its latest high-risk update in March 2021, GAO noted continued concern over VA's ability to ensure the safety and protection of patients and staff, as well as to oversee its programs. This statement describes the oversight and accountability issues GAO's work has identified related to quality care and patient safety, and the status of VA's efforts to address its high-risk designation. This statement is based on GAO's body of work in this area. GAO’s Fiscal Year 2021 Rating for the Inadequate Oversight and Accountability Area For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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