January 22, 2022

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Lao People’s Democratic Republic National Day

11 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States and the American people, I extend best wishes on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

This is a notable year as our two nations also celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations, and as we prepare to commemorate the 5th anniversary of our Comprehensive Partnership. Our relationship is built on mutual respect, ASEAN centrality, and a shared commitment to Lao sovereignty. Our bilateral cooperation is built on a solid foundation of people-to-people ties, and our Comprehensive Partnership reflects broad engagement between our two governments on health, development, law enforcement, and trade.

We join the people of Laos in marking the importance of this anniversary and in honoring 65 years of increased understanding and cooperation between our countries. We look forward to our work together to deepen our ties and to build a peaceful and prosperous future.

 

More from: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) delayed the completion of key testing until problems with the F-35 aircraft simulator are resolved, which GAO also reported last year, and will again delay its full-rate production decision. In August 2020, the program office determined the aircraft simulator—to be used to replicate complex test scenarios that could not be accomplished in real-world environment testing—did not fully represent F-35 capabilities and could not be used for further testing until fixed. Since then, program officials have been developing a new plan to ensure the simulator works as intended. Until they finalize the plan and fix the simulator, the next production milestone date—which would formally authorize DOD's transition from development to full production—remains undetermined (see figure). F-35 Operational Test Schedule and Key Events through 2021, as of November 2020 DOD is now in its third year of its modernization effort, known as Block 4, to upgrade the hardware and software of the aircraft. While DOD added another year to the schedule, GAO found the remaining development time frame is not achievable. The program routinely underestimated the amount of work needed to develop Block 4 capabilities, which has resulted in delays, and has not reflected historical performance into its remaining work schedule. Unless the F-35 program accounts for historical performance in the schedule estimates, the Block 4 schedule will continue to exceed estimated time frames and stakeholders will lack reliable information on when capabilities will be delivered. GAO found the F-35 program office collects data on many Block 4 software development metrics, a key practice from GAO's Agile Assessment Guide, but has not met two other key practices for monitoring software development progress. Specifically, the F-35 program office has not implemented tools to enable automated data collection on software development performance, a key practice. The program's primary reliance on the contractor's monthly reports, often based on older data, has hindered program officials' timely decision-making. The program office has also not set software quality performance targets, inconsistent with another key practice. Without these targets, the program office is less able to assess whether the contractor has met acceptable quality performance levels. Why GAO Did This Study The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains DOD's most expensive weapon system program. DOD is 3 years into a development effort that is loosely based on Agile software development processes to modernize the F-35 aircraft's capabilities. With this approach, DOD intends to incrementally develop, test, and deliver small groups of new capabilities every 6 months. Congress included provisions in two statutes for GAO to review the F-35 program. This report addresses the F-35 operational testing status, DOD's Block 4 modernization development schedule, and how the F-35 program office implements key practices for evaluating Agile software development progress. To assess cost and schedule concerns identified in prior years, GAO selected three key practices that focus on evaluating Agile software development progress. GAO reviewed DOD and contractor documentation and interviewed DOD officials and contractor representatives.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Energy (DOE) is one of the largest civilian contracting agencies in the federal government, with about 80 percent of its annual obligations for contracts. Staff in most federal positions in DOE are involved in the acquisition process, according to officials from offices included in GAO's review—the Office of Science, the Office of Environmental Management (EM), and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Some of these staff, such as contracting officers, hold federal or DOE acquisition certifications. DOE generally requires acquisition-related training only for certified staff—which represent about 15 percent of DOE's workforce (see figure)—and maintains training requirements for only these staff through the agency's Acquisition Career Management Program. Numbers of DOE Staff with Acquisition Certifications, as of March 2021 DOE generally does not require acquisition-related training for noncertified staff, many of whom may play a critical role in DOE's acquisition process. Office of Federal Procurement Policy guidance states that agencies should consider the functions performed by staff members, such as requirements development by a technical expert, and include any significant acquisition-related positions in their acquisition training programs. By reviewing the criteria for inclusion in its Acquisition Career Management Program and developing training requirements for noncertified staff that meet these criteria, DOE can better ensure it has the capacity to oversee its contracts. The three DOE offices included in GAO's review have each implemented two of the five leading practices for effective strategic planning for their acquisition workforces, and have partially implemented the remaining three practices. For example, these offices have taken some steps to identify workforce need, but have not fully identified skill and competency gaps—including types and numbers of positions required to close gaps—for their acquisition workforces, as recommended by leading practices. Further, senior DOE and NNSA officials have raised concerns that they do not have enough staff or staff with the right skills in the acquisition workforce to properly oversee contracts. However, NNSA has conducted limited evaluations of gaps in skills and competencies for some positions in its acquisition workforce, and the other offices in GAO's review have not conducted such analyses. With a more complete and thorough understanding of skill and competency gaps for its acquisition workforce, DOE can improve the information it has available to develop its budget and other strategies to build a workforce with the right skills and of the right size to address the agency's long-standing issues with contract management. Why GAO Did This Study DOE's federal acquisition workforce is responsible for managing risks throughout the contracting, or acquisition, process. GAO designated DOE contract and project management as a high-risk area because of DOE's record of inadequate contract management. Senate Report No. 116-48 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review issues affecting DOE's acquisition workforce. This report examines (1) the positions included in DOE's acquisition workforce and the extent to which this workforce receives acquisition-related training and (2) the extent to which DOE has implemented leading practices for effective strategic planning for its acquisition workforce. GAO's review included the Office of Science, EM, and NNSA, which represented over 75 percent of DOE obligations for contracts in fiscal year 2019. GAO reviewed regulations, policies, and workforce planning documents; interviewed officials; and compared information to leading practices on workforce planning.
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    In U.S GAO News
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  • Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Updated Program Oversight Approach Needed
    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
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Our survey also identified 45 different organizations that DOD is funding to undertake these 1,340 identified initiatives. Some of these organizations receive JIEDDO funding while others receive other DOD funding. We documented $4.8 billion of DOD funds expended in fiscal year 2011 in support of C-IED initiatives, but this amount is understated because we did not receive survey data confirming DOD funding for all initiatives. As an example, at least 94 of the 711 responses did not include funding amounts for associated C-IED initiatives. Further, the DOD agency with the greatest number of C-IED initiatives identified—JIEDDO—did not return surveys for 81 percent of its initiatives.Our survey results showed that multiple C-IED initiatives were concentrated within some areas of development, resulting in overlap within DOD for these efforts—i.e., programs engaged in similar activities to achieve similar goals or target similar beneficiaries. For example, our survey data identified 19 organizations with 107 initiatives being developed to combat cell phone-triggered IEDs. While the concentration of initiatives in itself does not constitute duplication, this concentration taken together with the high number of different DOD organizations that are undertaking these initiatives and JIEDDO’s inability to identify and compare C-IED initiatives, demonstrates overlap and the potential for duplication of effort. According to JIEDDO officials, the organization has a robust coordinating process in place that precludes unintended overlap. However, through our survey and follow-up with relevant agency officials, we found examples of overlap in the following areas: (1) IED-related intelligence analysis: two organizations were producing and disseminating similar IED-related intelligence products to the warfighter, (2) C-IED hardware development: two organizations were developing similar robotics for detecting IEDs from a safe distance, and (3) IED detection: two organizations had developed C-IED initiatives using chemical sensors that were similar in their technologies and capabilities.Our survey results showed that a majority of respondents said they communicated with JIEDDO regarding their C-IED initiatives; however, JIEDDO does not consistently record and track this data. Based on our prior work, JIEDDO does not have a mechanism for recording data communicated on C-IED efforts. Therefore, these data are not available for analysis by JIEDDO or others in DOD to reduce the risk of duplicating efforts and avoid repeating mistakes.Why GAO Did This StudyImprovised explosive devices (IEDs) are the enemy's weapon of choice (e.g., 16,500 IEDs were detonated or discovered being used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2011) and, according to the Department of Defense (DOD) will probably be a mainstay in any present and future conflict given their low cost to develop coupled with their potential for strategic impact. Multiple DOD components, including the military services, have been pursuing counter-IED (C-IED) efforts leading up to June 2005 when DOD established the Joint IED Defeat Task Force followed in 2006 with the establishment of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to lead and coordinate all DOD actions to defeat IEDs. From fiscal years 2006 through 2011, JIEDDO has received over $18 billion in funding, however, DOD has funded other C-IED efforts outside of JIEDDO, including $40 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.We reported in February 2012 that DOD does not have full visibility over all of its C-IED efforts. DOD relies on various sources and systems for managing its C-IED efforts, but has not developed a process that provides DOD with a comprehensive listing of its C-IED initiatives and activities. In response to our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense direct JIEDDO to develop an implementation plan for the establishment of DOD’s C-IED database including a detailed timeline with milestones to help achieve this goal, DOD officials said that a revision of DOD's Directive 2000.19E will contain a new task requiring combatant commands, the military services, and DOD agencies to report C-IED initiatives to JIEDDO. This would include programming and funding pursued by a military service, combatant command, or other DOD component, in addition to activities funded by JIEDDO. In January 2012, DOD estimated it would complete draft revisions to DOD Directive 2000.19E in early 2012, but as of July 2012, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) officials stated that the revised draft was under review at the OSD level, and therefore, not issued. In addition, according to JIEDDO officials, DOD is conducting an ongoing review of C-IED capabilities across the Department that may affect JIEDDO and the contents of the draft directive.This report responds to congressional request asking us to examine the potential for overlap and duplication in DOD's C-IED efforts. Because DOD lacks a comprehensive database of C-IED initiatives, we conducted a department-wide survey to determine (1) the number of different C-IED initiatives and the organizations developing them from fiscal year 2008 through the closing date of our survey, January 6, 2012, and the extent to which DOD is funding these initiatives, and (2) the extent and nature of any overlap that could lead to duplication of C-IED efforts. In July 2012, we briefed committee staff on the results of our survey and analysis.For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431, or russellc@gao.gov.
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