January 27, 2022

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International Religious Freedom Day

8 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Twenty-two years ago today, the United States enacted the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, reaffirming our commitment to promote and defend the fundamental right to religious freedom for all people everywhere.  Born of the vision of America’s founders, our government understood that an individual, irrespective of their religion or beliefs, should be free to organize their lives in accordance with their consciences.  Religious freedom and other themes of human dignity are – and will always remain – a core U.S. foreign policy priority.  And the world has taken notice.

Yet today, three of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers – the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea – have tightened their coercive measures to silence their own people.  Worse, the PRC has sought to eradicate all forms of faith and belief that don’t align with Chinese Communist Party doctrine.

Conversely, since the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) launched in February 2020, 31 nations have pledged their commitment to this like-minded network dedicated to addressing challenges around the world.  Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have released individuals, wrongfully imprisoned on account of their beliefs, allowing them to reunite with their families, and we urge others to follow suit.

A global movement on religious freedom is now a reality – one rich in regional, cultural, and political diversity – testifying to a universal, unequivocal truth: every person, everywhere, has the right to believe or not believe, change one’s beliefs, speak one’s beliefs, gather and teach.  On this International Religious Freedom Day, the United States is proud to promote and protect religious freedom.

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    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
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According to the Army, 44 tenants had been secured under the ASPI program through the end of July 2009 (27 at Rock Island, 16 at Watervliet, and 1 at Pine Bluff), and each tenant addressed at least 1 of the 11 ASPI purposes. However, the Army has determined that, of the 44 tenants, only 4 are engaged in activities that have helped to strengthen the arsenals' core manufacturing capabilities or related workforce skills. ASPI site managers are generating operating revenue in the form of rent paid by ASPI tenants and have been more successful in securing commercial tenants needing administrative office space, which tends to be more profitable than leasing manufacturing space. 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Similarly, while the Army has developed some metrics to assess the program, existing metrics measure only the number of ASPI contracts secured and cost savings or cost avoidance to the Army, rather than the extent to which the program is making progress toward achieving the broad goals represented by the purposes established in the ASPI authority. Without clearly defined priorities, performance goals, and measures, the Army may be unable to respond to congressional direction or ensure that its own interests are being addressed. Further, the arsenals could be at risk of diminished core manufacturing capabilities that are considered vital to the national defense, and thus these skills and capabilities may not be readily available when needed. 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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the Department of State. Since then, State has implemented 3 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to improve embassy construction planning and agency reform efforts. In May 2021, GAO identified 2 additional priority recommendations for State, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas: improving the security assistance vetting process; improving data quality; improving workforce management; improving embassy construction planning; improving cybersecurity;  complying with congressional reporting requirements. State’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in its operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas Melito at (202) 512-9601 or melitot@gao.gov.
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