January 25, 2022

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Justice Department Settles with Microsoft to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims

13 min read
<div>The Department of Justice today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft Corporation resolving allegations that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status during the early stages of Microsoft’s hiring process by asking them for unnecessary, specific immigration documents to prove they could work for the company without needing its sponsorship for work visas.</div>
The Department of Justice today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft Corporation resolving allegations that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status during the early stages of Microsoft’s hiring process by asking them for unnecessary, specific immigration documents to prove they could work for the company without needing its sponsorship for work visas.

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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified a number of changes needed to improve contract support in overseas contingency operations, but have not completed implementation efforts. As required by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), both agencies determined that their organizational structures were effective, though State created a new regional Contract Management Office to better support contracting efforts in Iraq. In October 2013, State approved a number of actions to improve policies and procedures, including specific initiatives in acquisition planning and risk management, among others, and intends to institutionalize these changes in its Foreign Affairs Manual in 2014. State generally has not, however, developed plans to assess the impact of these initiatives. Federal internal control standards highlight the importance of managers comparing actual performance to expected results. Accordingly, continued management attention is needed to ensure that these efforts achieve their intended objectives. USAID focused its efforts on areas such as improving contractor performance evaluations and risk management. GAO found that some USAID missions and offices that operate in contingency environments have developed procedures and practices, but USAID did not consider whether these should be institutionalized agency-wide because USAID officials interpreted the legislative requirement to include only a review of agency-wide policies. As a result, USAID may have missed opportunities to leverage its institutional knowledge to better support future contingencies. USAID established a new working group in October 2013 to develop lessons learned, toolkits, and training and is expected to complete its efforts in late 2014. This working group could further assess the policies and procedures developed by the missions and offices, thus potentially affording USAID an opportunity to better leverage its institutional knowledge. State and USAID have increased their acquisition workforce by 53 and 15 percent, respectively, from their 2011 levels and are in various stages of assessing their workforce needs for overseas contingency operations. Per Office of Management and Budget guidance, both agencies identified competency and skill gaps for their acquisition workforce in their 2013 acquisition human capital plans. State's 2013 plan noted that in response to growth in contracting activity in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, additional acquisition personnel are needed. In October 2013, State's Under Secretary for Management approved the formation of a multibureau working group that plans to further explore workforce needs for current and future contingency operations. USAID's 2013 plan cited its greatest challenge as providing training for its acquisition workforce, as many personnel have 5 years or less of contracting experience. USAID established a training division in 2013 for its acquisition workforce. State noted in its Section 850 report that it will increase its focus on conducting risk assessments on the reliance, use, and oversight of contractors through the establishment of risk management staff. USAID's Section 850 report did not address reliance on contractors, but in October 2013, USAID drafted a revision to its planning policy that will require a risk assessment and mitigation plan associated with contractor performance of critical functions in overseas contingency operations. Why GAO Did This Study For more than a decade, State and USAID have used contractors extensively to help carry out missions in contingency operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. While State and USAID transition to more traditional diplomatic and assistance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, contract management and oversight challenges remain significant because the agencies are likely to be called upon again to operate in future contingencies. Section 850(a) of the Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA directed State and USAID to assess their organizational structures, policies, and workforces related to contract support for overseas contingency operations. Section 850(c) mandated that GAO report on the progress State and USAID have made in identifying and implementing improvements related to those areas. GAO analyzed the extent to which State and USAID have identified and implemented changes to their (1) organizational structures and policies; and (2) workforces, including their use of contractors. GAO analyzed State and USAID's Section 850 reports to Congress, contract policies and procedures, and 2013 acquisition human capital plans, and interviewed agency officials.
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    What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a five-step process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives, as authorized by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The process includes DHS coordinating with stakeholders early in the directives' development process and validating agencies' actions on the directives. However, in implementing the process, DHS did not coordinate with stakeholders early in the process and did not consistently validate agencies' self-reported actions. In addition to being a required step in the directives process, FISMA requires DHS to coordinate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure that the directives do not conflict with existing NIST guidance for federal agencies. However, NIST officials told GAO that DHS often did not reach out to NIST on directives until 1 to 2 weeks before the directives were to be issued, and then did not always incorporate the NIST technical comments. More recently, DHS and NIST have started regular coordination meetings to discuss directive-related issues earlier in the process. Regarding validation of agency actions, DHS has done so for selected directives, but not for others. DHS is not well-positioned to validate all directives because it lacks a risk-based approach as well as a strategy to check selected agency-reported actions to validate their completion. Directives' implementation often has been effective in strengthening federal cybersecurity. For example, a 2015 directive on critical vulnerability mitigation required agencies to address critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS cyber scans of agencies' internet-accessible systems within 30 days. This was a new requirement for federal agencies. While agencies did not always meet the 30-day requirement, their mitigations were validated by DHS and reached 87 percent compliance by 2017 (see fig. 1). DHS officials attributed the recent decline in percentage completion to a 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018/early 2019. Nevertheless, for the 4-year period shown in the figure below, agencies mitigated within 30 days about 2,500 of the 3,600 vulnerabilities identified. Figure 1: Critical Vulnerabilities Mitigated within 30 days, May 21, 2015 through May 20, 2019 Agencies also made reported improvements in securing or replacing vulnerable network infrastructure devices. Specifically, a 2016 directive on the Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices addressed, among other things, several urgent vulnerabilities in the targeting of firewalls across federal networks and provided technical mitigation solutions. As shown in figure 2, in response to the directive, agencies reported progress in mitigating risks to more than 11,000 devices as of October 2018. Figure 2: Federal Civilian Agency Vulnerable Network Infrastructure Devices That Had Not Been Mitigated, September 2016 through January 2019 Another key DHS directive is Securing High Value Assets, an initiative to protect the government's most critical information and system assets. According to this directive, DHS is to lead in-depth assessments of federal agencies' most essential identified high value assets. However, an important performance metric for addressing vulnerabilities identified by these assessments does not account for agencies submitting remediation plans in cases where weaknesses cannot be fully addressed within 30 days. Further, DHS only completed about half of the required assessments for the most recent 2 years (61 of 142 for fiscal year 2018, and 73 of 142 required assessments for fiscal year 2019 (see fig. 3)). In addition, DHS does not plan to finalize guidance to agencies and third parties, such as contractors or agency independent assessors, for conducting reviews of additional high value assets that are considered significant, but are not included in DHS's current review, until the end of fiscal year 2020. Given these shortcomings, DHS is now reassessing key aspects of the program. However, it does not have a schedule or plan for completing this reassessment, or to address outstanding issues on completing required assessments, identifying needed resources, and finalizing guidance to agencies and third parties. Figure 3: Department of Homeland Security Assessments of Agency High Value Assets, Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 through 2019 Why GAO Did This Study DHS plays a key role in federal cybersecurity. FISMA authorized DHS, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to develop and oversee the implementation of compulsory directives—referred to as binding operational directives—covering executive branch civilian agencies. These directives require agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems from a known or reasonably suspected information security threat, vulnerability, or risk. Since 2015, DHS has issued eight directives that instructed agencies to, among other things, (1) mitigate critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS through its scanning of agencies' internet-accessible systems; (2) address urgent vulnerabilities in network infrastructure devices identified by DHS; and (3) better secure the government's highest value and most critical information and system assets. GAO was requested to evaluate DHS's binding operational directives. This report addresses (1) DHS's process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives and (2) the effectiveness of the directives, including agencies' implementation of the directive requirements. GAO selected for review the five directives that were in effect as of December 2018, and randomly selected for further in-depth review a sample of 12 agencies from the executive branch civilian agencies to which the directives apply. In addition, GAO reviewed DHS policies and processes related to the directives and assessed them against FISMA and Office of Management and Budget requirements; administered a data collection instrument to selected federal agencies; compared the agencies' responses and supporting documentation to the requirements outlined in the five directives; and collected and analyzed DHS's government-wide scanning data on government-wide implementation of the directives. GAO also interviewed DHS and selected agency officials.
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