Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to UN peacekeeping. We join the international community in honoring those who have served in UN peacekeeping operations since 1948, the more than 4,000 peacekeepers who have died in the line of duty, those who have been injured, and those who continue to risk their lives every day upholding peace. We are heartened to see an increase of women peacekeepers every year; they inspire and support women and girls to be leaders in their communities and agents of change.
At its core, peacekeeping is about helping people whose lives have been ravaged by conflict and creating space for durable peace to take root. We are focused on promoting the protection of civilians, sustainable political solutions, human rights, and gender equality as priority aspects of peacekeeping missions – these efforts help build the conditions for enduring peace.
We are also advancing improvements and reforms in several key areas: providing missions with achievable and realistic mandates; building the capacity of troop- and police-contributing countries and providing them the necessary resources to effectively and safely implement those mandates; enhancing peacekeeper performance, accountability, safety, and security; and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and holding perpetrators accountable.
While the United States is the largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, we also contribute key, scarce capabilities to UN peacekeeping and invest heavily in long-term bilateral capacity-building partnerships through the Global Peace Operations Initiative and the International Police Peacekeeping Operations Support program.
UN peacekeeping continues to be one of the most effective mechanisms for promoting international peace and security and protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations. The United States is committed to strengthening and reforming UN peacekeeping to help make it as effective and efficient as possible in delivering on its vital global mission.
- Joint Statement of the U.S.-India Counternarcotics Working GroupBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2020
- Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq: Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy NeededBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021In January 2007, the President announced a new U.S. strategy to stem the violence in Iraq and help the Iraqi government foster conditions for national reconciliation. In The New Way Forward, the Administration articulated near-term goals to achieve over a 12- to 18-month period and reasserted the end state for Iraq: a unified, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror. To support this strategy, the United States increased its military presence and financial commitments for Iraq operations. This testimony discusses (1) progress in meeting key security, legislative, and economic goals of The New Way Forward; and (2) past and current U.S. strategies for Iraq and the need for an updated strategy. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from U.S. agencies, MNF-I, the UN, and the Iraqi government. GAO also had staff stationed in Baghdad. Since 2003, GAO has issued about 140 Iraq-related products, which provided baseline information for this assessment.The United States has made some progress in achieving key goals stated in The New Way Forward. Looking forward, many challenges remain, and an updated strategy is essential. In the security area, violence--as measured by the number of enemy-initiated attacks--decreased about 80 percent from June 2007 to June 2008, trained Iraqi security forces have increased substantially, and many units are leading counterinsurgency operations. However, as of July 2008, 8 of 18 provincial governments do not yet have lead responsibility for security in their provinces, and DOD reported that, in June 2008, less than 10 percent of Iraqi security forces were at the highest readiness level and therefore considered capable of performing operations without coalition support. The security environment remains volatile and dangerous. In the legislative area, Iraq has enacted key legislation to return some Ba'athists to government, grant amnesty to detained Iraqis, and define provincial powers. The unfinished Iraqi legislative agenda includes enacting laws that will provide the legal framework for sharing oil revenues, disarming militias, and holding provincial elections. On economic and infrastructure issues, Iraq spent only 24 percent of the $27 billion it budgeted for its reconstruction efforts between 2005 and 2007. Although crude oil production improved for short periods, the early July 2008 average production capacity of about 2.5 million barrels per day was below the U.S. goal of 3 million barrels per day. In addition, while State reports that U.S. goals for Iraq's water sector are close to being reached, the daily supply of electricity in Iraq met only slightly more than half of demand in early July 2008. Since 2003, the United States has developed and revised multiple strategies to address security and reconstruction needs in Iraq. The New Way Forward responded to failures in prior U.S. plans and the escalating violence that occurred in 2006. However, this strategy and the military surge that was central to it end in July 2008, and many agree that the situation remains fragile. GAO recommends an updated strategy for Iraq for several reasons. First, much has changed in Iraq since The New Way Forward began in January 2007. Violence is down, U.S. surge forces are leaving, and the United States is negotiating a security agreement with Iraq to replace the expiring UN mandate. Second, The New Way Forward only articulates U.S. goals and objectives for the phase that ends in July 2008. Third, the goals and objectives of The New Way Forward are contained in disparate documents rather than a single strategic plan. Furthermore, the classified MNF-I/U.S. Embassy Joint Campaign Plan is not a strategic plan; it is an operational plan with limitations that GAO will discuss during the closed portion of the hearing.[Read More…]
- U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Consultations (the “Quad”) Senior Officials MeetingBy Sam NewsAugust 12, 2021
- West Tennessee Psychiatrist Sentenced for Unlawfully Distributing OpioidsBy Sam NewsOctober 30, 2020A west Tennessee psychiatrist was sentenced today to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for unlawfully distributing opioids.[Read More…]
- [Protest of DPSC Contract Award for Retractor Holder Sets]By Sam NewsAugust 17, 2021A firm protested a Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) contract award for retractor holder sets, contending that: (1) the awardee's item failed to conform to the solicitation requirements; (2) DPSC should have conducted a preaward survey of the awardee; and (3) the award violated patents held by the protester. GAO held that the protest was untimely, since the protester did not diligently pursue its basis for protest or request a post-award debriefing where it could have obtained the same or similar information pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act request. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed.[Read More…]
- Assassination of Lebanese Activist Lokman SlimBy Sam NewsFebruary 4, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
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- Colorado Man Sentenced to Prison for Biodiesel Tax Credit FraudBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020A Colorado resident was sentenced to 15 months in prison yesterday for his role in a biodiesel tax credit fraud scheme, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- 10th Anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human RightsBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Combating Terrorism: Department of State Programs to Combat Terrorism AbroadBy Sam NewsAugust 23, 2021Efforts to combat terrorism have become an increasingly important part of government activities. These efforts have also become important in the United States' relations with other countries and with international organizations, such as the United Nations (U.N.). The Department of State is charged with coordinating these international efforts and protecting Americans abroad. State has helped direct the U.S. efforts to combat terrorism abroad by building the global coalition against terrorism, including providing diplomatic support for military operations in Afghanistan and other countries. State has also supported international law enforcement efforts to identify, arrest, and bring terrorists to justice, as well as performing other activities intended to reduce the number of terrorist attacks. The State Department conducts multifaceted activities in its effort to prevent terrorist attacks on Americans abroad. For Americans traveling and living abroad, State issues public travel warnings and operates warning systems to convey terrorism-related information. For American businesses and universities operating overseas, State uses the Overseas Security Advisory Councils--voluntary partnerships between the State Department and the private sector--to exchange threat information. To disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations abroad, State has numerous programs and activities that rely on military, multilateral, economic, law enforcement, intelligence, and other capabilities. State uses extradition treaties to bring terrorists to trial in the United States and cooperates with foreign intelligence, security, and law enforcement entities to track and capture terrorists in foreign countries. If the United States has no extradition agreements with a country, then State, with the Department of Justice, can work to obtain the arrest of suspected terrorist overseas through renditions. The State Department leads the U.S. response to terrorist incidents abroad. This includes diplomatic measures to protect Americans, minimize damage, terminate terrorist attacks, and bring terrorists to justice. To coordinate the U.S. effort to combat terrorism internationally, State uses a variety of mechanisms to work with the Departments of Defense, Justice, and the Treasury; the intelligence agencies; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and others. These mechanisms include interagency working groups at the headquarters level in Washington, D.C., emergency action committees at U.S. missions overseas, and liaison exchanges with other government agencies.[Read More…]
- Russian Cybercriminal Sentenced to Prison for Role in $100 Million Botnet ConspiracyBy Sam NewsNovember 2, 2020A Russian national was sentenced Oct. 30 to eight years in prison for his role in operating a sophisticated scheme to steal and traffic sensitive personal and financial information in the online criminal underground that resulted in an estimated loss of over $100 million.[Read More…]
- Veterans with Disabilities: VA Could Better Inform Veterans with Disabilities about Their Education Benefit OptionsBy Sam NewsJuly 29, 2021What GAO Found Most school and veteran service organization (VSO) officials GAO interviewed stated that when given the choice between the Post 9/11 GI Bill (GI Bill) and the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, veterans with disabilities will base their choice on which program best suits their unique goals, preferences, and circumstances. For example, certain veterans may prefer the GI Bill's flexibility to independently select courses of study, whereas others may prefer to have the assistance of a counselor to select a course of study as part of an employment plan, as provided under VR&E. However, most officials GAO interviewed said veterans with disabilities often use the GI Bill for education benefits without knowing that the VR&E program exists, or that it can pay for education, provide assistive equipment for their disability, or offer unique benefits of working with a counselor. Selected Comments Regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Veteran Readiness & Employment Programs “Had I known about VR&E I would have [used it.]” -Veteran with disabilities “I often think of VR&E as sort of a hidden program when it comes to education benefits.” -VSO official ”Veterans with disabilities are often not aware of the differences between the two programs.” -School official Source: GAO survey of veterans and GAO interviews with school and VSO officials | GAO-21-450 VA provides information about education benefits to veterans with disabilities through various methods, including in-person communication, online materials, and written communications. However, on the agency website, VA.gov, few webpages devoted to VR&E explicitly mention that it can help pay for a college degree. In addition, the letters that VA sends to veterans when they receive their disability rating do not specifically mention that VR&E can cover education costs for a college degree. VA's online GI Bill Comparison Tool allows veterans to learn more about the tuition amounts each program will cover for certain schools, but it does not inform veterans on the key differences in program features across the programs. Most school and VSO officials GAO interviewed said VA's efforts do not adequately inform veterans with disabilities about their potential education benefit options, as evidenced by the number of veterans with disabilities they encounter who are unaware that VR&E exists or who do not fully understand the benefits VR&E can provide. Including more information about how VR&E can help veterans pay for higher education, and facilitating direct comparison between the features of the GI Bill and VR&E, would help better position veterans with disabilities to choose the program that best meets their needs. Why GAO Did This Study VA offers education benefits to veterans with disabilities through the GI Bill, VA's largest education program, and VR&E, which helps veterans with service-connected disabilities re-enter the workforce. Each offers distinct features that may better serve veterans depending on their individual circumstances. However, veterans with disabilities may not know that VR&E can help pay for education as part of its employment services. GAO was asked to what extent eligible veterans are aware of the comparative features of the programs. This report examines (1) the reported factors that influence whether veterans with disabilities select the Post-9/11 GI Bill or VR&E, and (2) how VA informs veterans with disabilities about the education benefits available to them from each program, and the effectiveness of those efforts. For both programs, GAO reviewed relevant federal laws; analyzed participant data; conducted semi-structured interviews with officials from schools and VSOs selected for their depth of knowledge about veteran affairs, and reviewed relevant VA informational materials.[Read More…]
- Local man guilty in $317 million N95 mask scamBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJuly 29, 2021A 56-year-old Houston [Read More…]
- Defense Ammunition: DOD Meeting Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition Needs, but Additional Actions Are NecessaryBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021Following the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense (DOD) significantly reduced its purchases of small and medium caliber ammunition and reduced the number of government-owned plants that produce small and medium caliber ammunition. Since 2000, however, DOD's requirements for these types of ammunition have increased notably. Because the success of military operations depends in part on DOD having a sufficient national technology and industrial base to meet its ammunition needs, Congress asked GAO to review DOD's ability to assess if its supplier base can meet small and medium caliber ammunition needs. Specifically, we (1) identified changes over the past several years that have increased the requirement for small and medium caliber ammunition, (2) assessed the actions DOD has taken to address the increased requirement, and (3) determined how DOD plans to ensure that it can meet future small and medium caliber ammunition needs.DOD's increased requirements for small and medium caliber ammunition over the past several years are largely the result of increased weapons training requirements needed to support the Army's transformation to a more self-sustaining and lethal force--an effort accelerated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001--and the deployment of forces to conduct recent U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Between fiscal years 2000 and 2005, total requirements for small caliber ammunitions more than doubled, from about 730 million to nearly 1.8 billion rounds, while total requirements for medium caliber ammunitions increased from 11.7 million rounds to almost 22 million rounds. DOD has initiated several steps to meet the increased demand, including funding about $93.3 million for modernization improvements at the three government-owned ammunition plants producing small and medium caliber ammunition. DOD is currently able to meet its medium caliber requirement through modernization efforts at the government-owned ammunition plants and through contracts with commercial producers. The government-owned plant producing small caliber ammunition cannot meet the increased requirements, even with these modernization efforts. Also, commercial producers within the national technology and industrial base have not had the capacity to meet these requirements. As a result, DOD has had to rely at least in part on foreign commercial producers to meet its small caliber ammunition needs. DOD has taken steps to ensure that the national technology and industrial base can meet future small caliber ammunition needs by building flexibility into the acquisition system to address fluctuations. In addition, a planning process has been put in place to ensure that the base can respond to longer-term DOD ammunition needs, including small and medium caliber ammunition. While the process is ongoing, information to effectively implement the plan and timely performance measures to ensure accountability are lacking.[Read More…]
- Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain FutureBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2020In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life. Women Age 70 and Over by Marital Status Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence. This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's July 2020 report, entitled Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future (GAO-20-435). For more information, contact Tranchau Nguyen at (202) 512-2660 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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- Under Secretary Hale’s Participation in the Ministerial Level Meeting on LibyaBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2020
- Local woman convicted of narcotics conspiracyBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsSeptember 1, 2021A 24-year-old Laredo [Read More…]
- Manager of Hospice and Home Health Companies Sentenced to Prison for Role in $150 Million Health Care Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021A Texas man was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy at the Merida Group, a chain of hospice and home health agencies throughout Texas, to falsely convince thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases they had less than six months to live in order to enroll the patients in hospice programs for which they were otherwise unqualified, thereby increasing revenue to the company.[Read More…]
- North Carolina Man Sentenced for Violating Fair Housing Act and Threatening a Family Because of Their RaceBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020The Justice Department announced today that Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34,was sentenced to 28 months in prison, followed by three years supervised release, for using threats of force against an African American family because of the family members’ race and because they were renting a dwelling.[Read More…]