Attorney General William P. Barr has appointed Kevin M. Epstein as the U.S. Trustee for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas (Region 7) effective Jan. 1, 2021, the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees (EOUST) announced today. He will replace Henry G. Hobbs Jr., who is retiring after 28 years of government service.
Mr. Epstein has been a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Trustee Program for 21 years, first in San Jose, California, and since 2003 in San Antonio, Texas. During his tenure, he also has served as an Acting Assistant U.S. Trustee in charge of three different field offices. Mr. Epstein received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Duke University, both with honors.
“We are pleased to have Mr. Epstein join our leadership team,” said EOUST Director Cliff White. “His depth of legal experience and practical approach to management, along with his strong commitment to mission, will serve Region 7 well. I also want to extend my best wishes and deepest appreciation to Mr. Hobbs for his many significant contributions to the U.S. Trustee Program over the years.”
The U.S. Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. The USTP has 21 regions and 90 field office locations. Region 7 has offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas.
- Defense Headquarters: Guidance Needed to Transition U.S. Central Command’s Costs to the Base BudgetBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found GAO analysis of U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) and its service component commands' data shows considerable increases in the number of authorized positions over the past decade. The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning reductions, but the extent of these reductions has not been finalized. The number of authorized military and civilian positions at CENTCOM grew about 70 percent from almost 1,590 in fiscal year 2001 to almost 2,730 in fiscal year 2013, primarily driven by increases in the number of positions within CENTCOM's intelligence directorate and its theater special operations command. However, focusing solely on trends in authorized military and civilian positions provides an incomplete picture of the personnel dedicated to CENTCOM because the command relies heavily on temporary personnel and contractors to augment its headquarters. GAO analysis of CENTCOM's data found that the command headquarters had about 550 temporary personnel, who officials stated are primarily responsible for supporting the command's operations in Afghanistan and do not fill any permanent authorized positions, and 1,100 contractor personnel in fiscal year 2013. Additionally, GAO found that authorized military and civilian positions at CENTCOM's Army and Marine Corps service component commands had also increased. In response to the Secretary of Defense's direction to reduce headquarters spending, DOD is planning to decrease personnel at CENTCOM and its service component command headquarters. For example, CENTCOM is planning to reduce its total authorized positions by 353 positions from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. As DOD's headquarters reduction efforts continue and contingency operations in Afghanistan wind down, the department has recognized that CENTCOM and its service components' have enduring headquarters costs that are expected to continue after ongoing operations end, but the majority of the costs to operate and support CENTCOM, two of its service component commands, and its theater special operations command headquarters are funded with overseas contingency operations appropriations. For example, CENTCOM's Marine Corps service component command funded $34 million out of a total of $42 million in headquarters costs in fiscal year 2013 with overseas contingency operations appropriations. CENTCOM and its components have determined some of these costs are enduring and expected to continue after the end of contingency operations, such as for Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but the military services have not transitioned or developed a time frame to transition these enduring costs to DOD's base budget. DOD's base budget contains the department's priorities for allocating resources. DOD officials stated that the department has not issued guidance that addresses how to fund these costs or established a time frame for when to transition them from DOD's overseas contingency operations budget to its base budget because DOD is waiting on decisions about future military involvement in Afghanistan. Officials also stated that the constrained fiscal environment has contributed to the department's reluctance to transition overseas contingency operations costs to DOD's base budget. However, without guidance that addresses how to pay for enduring headquarters costs funded by overseas contingency operations appropriations and a time frame to transition these costs to DOD's base budget, DOD may not be able to fully resource these activities once the funding decreases or ceases. Why GAO Did This Study CENTCOM is one of six geographic combatant commands that DOD operates to perform its military missions. CENTCOM's geographic region is composed of countries located in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia. CENTCOM and each of its service component commands' headquarters are composed of military and civilian personnel and receive millions of dollars in funding each year to accomplish assigned missions. GAO was mandated to review CENTCOM's resources. This report (1) identifies trends in personnel devoted to CENTCOM and its service component commands since fiscal year 2001 and any steps DOD is planning to take for reducing personnel in the future, and (2) assesses how DOD funds CENTCOM and its service component commands' headquarters costs. GAO analyzed data on authorized positions, temporary personnel, and headquarters costs for CENTCOM and its service component commands from fiscal years 2001 through 2013. GAO also interviewed DOD officials about commands' resources and plans for funding headquarters costs.[Read More…]
- U.S. Announces Humanitarian Assistance for IraqBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021
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- Navy Maintenance: Navy Report Did Not Fully Address Causes of Delays or Results-Oriented ElementsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020The Navy's July 2020 report identified two key causes and several contributing factors regarding maintenance delays for aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines, but did not identify other causes. For public shipyards, the Navy's report identified the key cause of maintenance delays as insufficient capacity relative to growing maintenance requirements. For private shipyards, the Navy's report identified the key cause as the addition of work requirements after a contract is awarded. These causes and other identified factors generally align with factors that GAO has previously identified as originating during the maintenance process. However, the Navy's report did not consider causes and factors originating in the acquisition process or as a result of operational decisions, as shown below. GAO-Identified Factors Contributing to Maintenance Delays That the Navy Identified in Its July 2020 Report The report identified stakeholders needed to implement action plans, but did not fully incorporate other elements of results-oriented management, including achievable goals, metrics to measure progress, and resources and risks. Some examples from the report: Stakeholders: Identified Naval Sea Systems Command as the primary implementer of most initiatives related to maintenance at shipyards. Goals: Included a goal of reducing days of maintenance delay by 80 percent during fiscal year 2020.The Navy did not achieve this goal based on GAO's analysis of Navy data. Metrics: Included some metrics. The Navy is still identifying and developing other key metrics. Resources: Did not identify costs of the actions in the report. Risks: Identified as risks the coronavirus pandemic, unstable funding, and limited material availability. However, the report did not assess additional risks that GAO previously identified. The Navy generally has been unable to complete ship and submarine maintenance on time, resulting in reduced time for training and operations, and additional costs. The Navy's ability to successfully maintain its ships is affected by numerous factors throughout a ship's life cycle, such as decisions made during acquisition, which occurs years before a ship arrives at a shipyard for maintenance. Others manifest during operational use of the ship or during the maintenance process. The conference report accompanying a bill for the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report identifying the underlying causes of maintenance delays for aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines and to include elements of results-oriented management. The conference report also included a provision for GAO to review the Navy's report that was released in July 2020. This report evaluates the extent to which the Navy's report (1) identifies the underlying causes of maintenance delays and (2) incorporates elements of results-oriented management. GAO reviewed the Navy's report and interviewed Navy officials. Since 2015, GAO has made 39 unclassified recommendations related to Navy maintenance delays. The Navy or the Department of Defense concurred or partially concurred with 37 recommendations, and had implemented six of them as of September 2020. For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or MaurerD@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Burundi Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Burundi [Read More…]
- Singaporean National Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison for Acting in the United States As an Illegal Agent of Chinese IntelligenceBy Sam NewsOctober 9, 2020Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, was sentenced today in federal court to 14 months in prison. Yeo pled guilty on July 24, 2020 to acting within the United States as an illegal agent of a foreign power without first notifying the Attorney General, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951. The announcement was made by John G. Demers, Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia; James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of FBI Washington Field Office; Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division; and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations.[Read More…]
- Senior Bureau Official Nancy Izzo Jackson Travels to Amman, JordanBy Sam NewsNovember 26, 2021
- U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan S. Carr On Recent Progress In the Fight Against Anti-SemitismBy Sam NewsNovember 6, 2020Elan S. Carr, Special [Read More…]
- French West Indies Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- Rebuilding Iraq: Reconstruction Progress Hindered by Contracting, Security, and Capacity ChallengesBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has relied extensively on contractors to undertake major reconstruction projects and provide support to its deployed forces, but these efforts have not always achieved desired outcomes. Further, the Iraqi government must be able to reduce violence, sustain reconstruction progress, improve basic services, and make a positive difference in the daily lives of the Iraqi people. This statement discusses (1) factors affecting DOD's ability to promote successful acquisition outcomes on its contracts for reconstruction and for support to deployed forces in Iraq, (2) the deteriorating security situation and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and (3) issues affecting the Iraqi government's ability to support and sustain future reconstruction progress. The testimony is based upon our work on Iraq reconstruction and stabilization efforts, DOD contracting activities, and DOD's use of support contractors spanning several years. This work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.The challenges faced by DOD on its reconstruction and support contracts often reflect systemic and long-standing shortcomings in DOD's capacity to manage contractor efforts. Such shortcomings result from poorly defined or changing requirements, the use of poor business arrangements, the absence of senior leadership and guidance, and an insufficient number of trained contracting, acquisition and other personnel to manage, assess and oversee contractor performance. In turn, these shortcomings manifest themselves in higher costs to taxpayers, schedule delays, unmet objectives, and other undesirable outcomes. For example, because DOD authorized contractors to begin work before reaching agreement on the scope and price of that work, DOD paid millions of dollars in costs that were questioned by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Similarly, DOD lacks visibility on the extent to which they rely on contractors to support their operations. When senior military leaders began to develop a base consolidation plan, officials were unable to determine how many contractors were deployed and therefore ran the risk of over- or under-building the capacity of the consolidated bases. U.S. reconstruction efforts also continue to be hampered by a security situation that continues to deteriorate. Although the number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces increased to about 323,000 in December 2006 and more Iraqi Army units have taken the lead for counterinsurgency operations, attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces and civilians have all increased. Aggregate numbers of trained and equipped Iraqi forces, however, do not provide information on the capabilities and needs of individual units. GAO has made repeated attempts to obtain unit-level Transition Readiness Assessments (TRAs) without success. This information is essential for the Congress to make fully informed decisions in connection with its authorization, appropriations, and oversight responsibilities. As the U.S. attempts to turn over its reconstruction efforts, the capacity of the Iraqi government to continue overall reconstruction progress is undermined by shortfalls in the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, widespread corruption and the inability to fund and execute projects for which funds were previously budgeted. Iraqi government institutions are undeveloped and confront significant challenges in staffing a competent, nonaligned civil service; using modern technology; and managing resources and personnel effectively. For example, according to U.S. officials 20 to 30 percent of the Ministry of Interior staff are "ghost employees" whose salaries are collected by other officials. Further, corruption in Iraq poses a major challenge to building an effective Iraqi government and could jeopardize future flows of needed international assistance. Unclear budgeting and procurement rules have affected Iraq's efforts to spend capital budgets effectively and efficiently, according to U.S. officials. At the Ministry of Oil, for example, less than 1 percent of the $3.5 billion budgeted in 2006 for key enhancements to the country's oil production, distribution, and export facilities, had been spent as of August 2006.[Read More…]
- On the Killing of Rohingya Muslim Advocate Mohib UllahBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2021
- Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter HackBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020Three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.[Read More…]
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- Congressional Award Foundation: Review of the FY 2020 Financial Statement AuditBy Sam NewsJune 29, 2021What GAO Found Based on the limited procedures GAO performed in reviewing the independent public accountant's (IPA) audit of the Congressional Award Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statements, GAO did not identify any significant issues that it believes require attention. Had GAO performed additional procedures, other matters might have come to its attention that it would have reported. The IPA provided an unmodified audit opinion on the Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statements. Specifically, the IPA found that the Foundation's financial statements were presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Further, for fiscal year 2020, the IPA did not identify any (1) deficiencies that it considered to be material weaknesses in the Foundation's internal control over financial reporting or (2) instances of reportable noncompliance or other matters as a result of its tests of the Foundation's compliance with certain provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. The Foundation concurred with the IPA's conclusions. GAO's review of the Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statement audit, as differentiated from an audit of the financial statements, was not intended to enable GAO to express, and it does not express, an opinion on the Foundation's financial statements or conclude on the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting. Furthermore, GAO does not express an opinion on the Foundation's compliance with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements. The IPA is responsible for its reports on the Foundation dated April 6, 2021, and the conclusions expressed therein. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Foundation and the IPA for review and comment. The Foundation's National Director and the IPA's Audit Principal each replied in emails that they had no comments on the draft report. Why GAO Did This Study This report presents the results of GAO's review of the Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statement audit. The Congressional Award Act established the Congressional Award Board to carry out a program to promote excellence among the nation's youth in the areas of public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition or exploration. The Board created the Foundation as a nonprofit corporation to assist in carrying out this program. The Congressional Award Act, as amended by the Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014, requires the Foundation to obtain an annual financial statement audit from an IPA. The act also requires GAO to review the audit and report the results to the Congress annually. GAO's objective was to review the audit of the Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statements. To satisfy this objective, GAO (1) read and considered various documents with respect to the IPA's independence, objectivity, and qualifications; (2) analyzed key IPA audit documentation; (3) read the Foundation's fiscal year 2020 financial statements, the IPA's audit report on the Foundation's financial statements, and the IPA's report on internal control over financial reporting and on compliance or other matters based on its audit; and (4) met with IPA representatives and Foundation management officials. For more information, contact Beryl H. Davis at (202) 512-2623 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of CommerceBy Sam NewsJune 22, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 20 priority recommendations for the Department of Commerce. Since then, Commerce has implemented nine of those recommendations by, among other things, improving the risk management of the decennial census by ensuring identified risks had the required mitigation and contingency plans, and by establishing a process for conducting an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment. Commerce also had one priority recommendation related to the decennial census that we closed as not implemented. Additionally, Commerce had two priority recommendations that will remain open for the 2030 Census, but are no longer a priority in 2021 because action on these recommendations does not need to occur until later in the 10-year decennial cycle. In June 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for Commerce, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas: Managing climate change risks International trade Information technology management and workforce planning Ensuring the cybersecurity of the nation Decennial Census Conflict minerals rule Full implementations of these open recommendations could significantly improve Commerce’s 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 Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsMay 26, 2021
- State Department Terrorist Designation Reviews and AmendmentsBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021
- Justice Department and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Announce Actions to Resolve Lending Discrimination Claims Against Cadence BankBy Sam NewsAugust 30, 2021The Justice Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today announced coordinated actions to address allegations of lending discrimination by Cadence Bank N.A.[Read More…]
- Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale Addresses the International Coalition for the Sahel MinisterialBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021
- Information Technology: DOD Software Development Approaches and Cybersecurity Practices May Impact Cost and ScheduleBy Sam NewsDecember 23, 2020GAO reported in June 2020 that, of the 15 major Department of Defense (DOD) information technology (IT) programs selected for review, 11 had decreased their cost estimates as of December 2019. The decreases in cost estimates ranged from a .03 percent decrease to a 33.8 percent decrease. In contrast, the remaining four programs experienced increases in their life-cycle cost estimates—--two with increases exceeding 20 percent. Program officials reported several reasons for the increases, including testing delays and development challenges. Ten of the 15 programs had schedule delays when compared to their original acquisition program baselines. Schedule delays ranged from a delay of 1 month to a delay of 5 years. Program officials reported a variety of reasons for significant delays (delays of over 1 year) in their planned schedules, including cyber and performance issues. Regarding software development, officials from the 15 selected major IT programs that GAO reviewed reported using software development approaches that may help to limit risks to cost and schedule outcomes. For example, 10 of the 15 programs reported using commercial off-the-shelf software, which is consistent with DOD guidance to use this software to the extent practicable. Such software can help reduce software development time, allow for faster delivery, and lower life-cycle costs. In addition, 14 of the 15 programs reported using an iterative software development approach which, according to leading practices, may help reduce cost growth and deliver better results to the customer. However, programs also reported using an older approach to software development, known as waterfall, which could introduce risk for program cost growth because of its linear and sequential phases of development that may be implemented over a longer period of time. Specifically, two programs reported using a waterfall approach in conjunction with an iterative approach, while one was solely using a waterfall approach. With respect to cybersecurity, programs reported mixed implementation of specific practices, contributing to program risks that might impact cost and schedule outcomes. For example, all 15 programs reported developing cybersecurity strategies, which are intended to help ensure that programs are planning for and documenting cybersecurity risk management efforts. In contrast, only eight of the 15 programs reported conducting cybersecurity vulnerability assessments—systematic examinations of an information system or product intended to, among other things, determine the adequacy of security measures and identify security deficiencies. These eight programs experienced fewer increases in planned program costs and fewer schedule delays relative to the programs that did not report using cybersecurity vulnerability assessments. For fiscal year 2020, DOD requested approximately $36.1 billion for IT investments. Those investments included major IT programs, which are intended to help the department sustain key operations. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision for GAO to assess selected IT programs annually through March 2023. GAO's objectives for this review were to, among other things, (1) describe the extent to which selected major IT programs have changed their planned costs and schedules since the programs' initial baselines; and (2) describe what selected software development and cybersecurity risks or challenges, if any, may impact major IT programs' acquisition outcomes. GAO selected programs based on DOD's list of major IT programs, as of April 10, 2019. From this list, GAO identified 15 major IT programs that had established an initial acquisition program baseline and that were not fully deployed by December 31, 2019. GAO compared the 15 programs' initial cost and schedule baselines to current acquisition program estimates. In addition, GAO aggregated DOD program office responses to a GAO questionnaire about software development approaches and cybersecurity practices used by the 15 programs. GAO compared this information to leading practices to identify risks and challenges affecting cost, schedule, and performance outcomes. This report is a public version of a “for official use only” report issued in June 2020. For more information, contact Kevin Walsh at (202) 512-6151 or email@example.com.[Read More…]