January 25, 2022

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ISIS Media Figure and Foreign Fighter Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to a Terrorist Organization, Resulting in Death

11 min read
<div>As alleged in a criminal complaint unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen, who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) English Media Section and served as an ISIS fighter, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. Khalifa was captured overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January 2019. He was recently transferred into the custody of the FBI, at which point he was first brought to the Eastern District of Virginia. The defendant’s initial appearance in court is expected to occur early next week.</div>
As alleged in a criminal complaint unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen, who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) English Media Section and served as an ISIS fighter, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. Khalifa was captured overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January 2019. He was recently transferred into the custody of the FBI, at which point he was first brought to the Eastern District of Virginia. The defendant’s initial appearance in court is expected to occur early next week.

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According to inspectors from area offices, they faced challenges related to resources and to communication and guidance, such as a lack of timely guidance from OSHA headquarters. GAO recommends that OSHA assess—as soon as feasible and, as appropriate, periodically thereafter—various challenges related to resources and to communication and guidance that the agency has faced in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and take related actions as warranted. The Department of Labor—which includes OSHA—partially agreed with this recommendation. Advance Child Tax Credit Payments ARPA temporarily expanded eligibility for the child tax credit (CTC) to additional qualified individuals by eliminating a requirement that individuals must earn a minimum amount annually to be eligible. ARPA also temporarily increased the maximum amount of the CTC from $2,000 per qualifying child to $3,000 or $3,600, depending on the child’s age. As required by ARPA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury are responsible for issuing half of the CTC through periodic advance payments, known as advance CTC payments. IRS reported disbursing more than 106 million advance payments totaling over $45.5 billion as of September 25, 2021 (see figure). Dollar Amount and Count of Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, by Month, as of Sept. 25, 2021 IRS is conducting and planning several outreach efforts to increase the public’s awareness of advance CTC payments. However, IRS and Treasury have not developed a comprehensive estimate of individuals who are potentially eligible for advance CTC payments and the agencies have not set a participation goal. Such an estimate would enable Treasury and IRS to measure the tax credit’s participation rate, providing greater clarity regarding populations at risk of not receiving the payments. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, estimate the number of individuals, includingnonfilers, who are eligible for advance CTC payments, measure the 2021 participation rate based on that estimate, and use that estimate to develop targeted outreach and communications efforts for the 2022 filing season; the participation rate could include individuals who opt in and out of the advance payments. Treasury neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Child Nutrition Child nutrition programs administered by the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) supply cash reimbursements to schools or other programs for meals and snacks provided to eligible children nationwide. In fiscal year 2019, before the pandemic, the four largest programs—the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program—along with other child nutrition programs, received $23.1 billion in federal funds. During a typical year, two of these programs—the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program—subsidize meals for nearly 30 million children in approximately 95,000 elementary and secondary schools nationwide. As of July 2021, FNS officials were unable to provide a plan showing how FNS intends to comprehensively analyze lessons learned during the pandemic, such as from operational and financial challenges. Further, according to FNS officials, while the School Meals Operations study—launched in spring 2021—is surveying school districts and state agencies that administer the federal child nutrition programs, the study is not gathering local perspectives directly from child care centers and day care homes or other local program sponsors that are not school districts. As a result, FNS may miss opportunities to identify lessons learned and will lack comprehensive information to aid its future planning. GAO recommends that the Department of Agriculture document its plan to analyze lessons learned from operating child nutrition programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan should include a description of how the department will gather perspectives of key stakeholders, such as Child and Adult Care Food Program institutions and nonschool Summer Food Service Program sponsors. The Department of Agriculture—which includes FNS—agreed with this recommendation. Why GAO Did This Study As of September 23, 2021, the U.S. had about 43 million reported cases of COVID-19 and about 699,000 reported deaths, according to CDC. The country also continues to experience economic repercussions from the pandemic. Six relief laws, including the CARES Act, had been enacted as of August 31, 2021, to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of that same date (the most recent for which government-wide data was available), the federal government had obligated a total of $3.9 trillion and expended $3.4 trillion of the $4.8 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds that had been appropriated by these six laws, as reported by federal agencies. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO reviewed data, documents, and guidance from federal agencies about their activities. GAO also interviewed federal and state officials, stakeholders from organizations for localities, and other stakeholders.
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  • 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Ensure Transparency over Data Quality
    In U.S GAO News
    This 2020 Census was taken under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related executive branch decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. The report GAO is releasing today discusses a number of concerns regarding how late changes to the census design could affect data quality. The Bureau has numerous planned assessments and evaluations of operations which, in conjunction with its post-enumeration survey (PES)—a survey conducted independently of each census to determine how many people were missed or counted more than once—help determine the overall quality of the census and document lessons for future censuses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will continue to monitor the Bureau's response processing operations. GAO was asked to testify on the Census Bureau's progress to deliver apportionment counts for the 2020 Decennial Census. This testimony summarizes information contained in GAO's December 2020 report, entitled 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes and discusses key quality indicators the Bureau can share, as it releases apportionment counts and redistricting data. These key indicators discussed are consistent with those recommended by the American Statistical Association and Census Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bureau. In the accompanying report being issued today, GAO is recommending that the Bureau update and implement its assessments to address data quality concerns identified in this report, as well as any operational benefits. In its comments, the Department of Commerce agreed with GAO's findings and recommendation. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.
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  • Climate Resilience: Options to Enhance the Resilience of Federally Funded Roads and Reduce Fiscal Exposure
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found During the last decade, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) undertook targeted efforts to encourage states to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads, such as by developing agency policy, providing technical assistance, and funding resilience research. GAO identified projects in four states that planned or made resilience enhancements using FHWA's resources. For example, Maryland used FHWA resources to raise a bridge by about 2 feet to account for projected sea level rise. Such efforts show the potential to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads on a wider scale. GAO identified 10 options to further enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads through a comprehensive literature search and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders (see table). Some of these options are similar to recommendations made previously by GAO. Each option has strengths and limitations. For example, adding climate resilience requirements to formula grant programs could compel action but complicate states' efforts to use federal funds. Options to Further Enhance the Climate Resilience of Federally Funded Roads 1. Integrate climate resilience into Federal Highway Administration policy and guidance. 2. Update design standards and building codes to account for climate resilience. 3. Provide authoritative, actionable, forward-looking climate information. 4. Add climate resilience funding eligibility requirements, conditions, or criteria to formula grant programs. 5. Expand the availability of discretionary funding for climate resilience improvements. 6. Alter the Emergency Relief (ER) program by providing incentives for, or conditioning funding on, pre-disaster resilience actions. 7. Expand the availability of ER funding for post-disaster climate resilience improvements. 8. Establish additional climate resilience planning or project requirements. 9. Link climate resilience actions or requirements to incentives or penalties. 10. Condition eligibility, funding, or project approval on compliance with climate resilience policy and guidance. Source: GAO analysis of literature and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders. | GAO-21-436 Implementing multiple options offers the most potential to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads, according to knowledgeable stakeholders and GAO's analysis using the Disaster Resilience Framework , a guide for analyzing federal disaster and climate resilience efforts. This Framework states that integrating strategic resilience goals can help decision makers focus on a wide variety of opportunities to reduce risk. FHWA officials said that they likely would need additional authority from Congress to act on some, or a combination of, options and that the most effective way for Congress to ensure its priorities are implemented for any option is to put it in law. The most recent authorization of federal funding for roads covers fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021, which ends on September 30, 2021. This provides Congress with an opportunity to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads and better ensure they can withstand or more easily recover from changes in the climate. Providing FHWA with additional authority to implement one or more of the options could enhance the climate resilience of more—or all—federally funded roads. Why GAO Did This Study Changes in the climate pose a risk to the safety and reliability of the U.S. transportation system, according to the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment. Congress authorized about $45 billion per year in federal funding for roads through 2021 and appropriated about $900 million per year in disaster assistance for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. In 2013, GAO included Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks on its High-Risk List. Enhancing climate resilience—acting to reduce potential losses by planning for climate hazards such as extreme rainfall—can help manage climate risks. GAO was asked to review climate resilience efforts for federally funded roads. This report examines (1) FHWA's climate resilience efforts and (2) options to further enhance them. GAO reviewed FHWA documents and a non-generalizable sample of projects that used FHWA's climate resilience resources, analyzed the content of 53 reports and pieces of legislation to identify options, interviewed stakeholders and agency officials, and analyzed options and FHWA efforts using GAO's October 2019 Disaster Resilience Framework .
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  • Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office
    In U.S GAO News
    In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO's work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In March 2021, GAO reported on 36 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO's High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO's centennial, GAO's FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO's fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology (S&T) experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving (S&T) issues. Hallmarks of GAO's (S&T) work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO's backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO's mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government's responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO's work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties. For more information, contact Gene L. Dodaro at (202) 512-5555 or dodarog@gao.gov.
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