The Justice Department today announced the sentencing of Maurice Diggins, 36, of Biddeford, Maine, in federal court for his role in a series of racially motivated assaults against black men in Maine.
Diggins was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen to 10 years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. On March 10, 2020, following a three-day trial, a jury convicted Diggins of conspiring to commit hate crimes and of actually committing hate crimes.
“The defendant committed a series of unprovoked violent attacks on innocent men because of those men’s race,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s sentence, and the jury’s previous verdict in this case, demonstrate that the legal system will not tolerate such acts of racist violence. The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute race-based violations of our federal civil rights laws.”
“In addition to doing grievous harm to individuals, hate crimes engender fear in communities,” said U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank of the District of Maine. “Violence has no place in Maine, and that is especially true of violence that is motivated by hate. Maine citizens, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation have a right to live their lives free of harassment, much less physical violence. Today’s sentencing should make clear that we have no tolerance for hate crimes. I would like to thank the victims for their courage to confront their assailant, and our law enforcement officers at both the state and federal level who helped prosecute this important case.”
“Mr. Diggins’ actions were cowardly and racially motivated. It is our hope that today’s sentence will help his victims and their families with the healing process while also making it crystal clear that we will not stand for violence, especially borne from hate,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected.”
According to evidence presented at trial, on April 15, 2018, defendant Diggins and his nephew, Dusty Leo (who previously pled guilty in connection with this case), committed two separate racially motivated assaults, one in Portland and one in Biddeford. In the Portland assault, which occurred just before 1:00 a.m., Diggins attacked a black Sudanese male without provocation, breaking the victim’s jaw. During that same incident, Diggins and Leo assaulted another black man who was standing nearby. Witnesses heard Diggins and Leo using racial epithets during the incidents.
In the second incident, which occurred approximately an hour later and approximately 20 miles away in Biddeford, defendant Diggins and Leo drove in Leo’s truck into the parking lot of a convenience store, where Diggins got out of the truck and approached a black man who was walking toward the store’s entrance. Diggins directed a racial slur at the man and distracted him while Leo got out of the truck and sucker-punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. The unprovoked attack broke the victim’s jaw in several places.
The Biddeford Police Department and the FBI investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Sawyer and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Tim Visser.
- North Carolina Return Preparer Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A Rocky Mount, North Carolina, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.[Read More…]
- North Carolina Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding IRS and Co-Conspirator Pleads GuiltyBy Sam NewsMay 7, 2021A North Carolina return preparer was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS and one of her co-conspirators pleaded guilty on Wednesday for her role in the scheme.[Read More…]
- COVID-19: Urgent Actions Needed to Better Ensure an Effective Federal ResponseBy Sam NewsNovember 30, 2020The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in catastrophic loss of life and substantial damage to the global economy, stability, and security. According to federal data, the U.S. had an average of 116,000 new COVID-19 cases per day from November 1 through November 12, 2020. Between January 2020 and October 2020, at least 237,000 more deaths occurred from all causes, including COVID-19, than would normally be expected, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, while the economy has improved since July 2020, many people remain unemployed, including both those temporarily laid off and those who have permanently lost their job (see figure). Also, more households have become seriously delinquent on mortgage payments during the pandemic. In addition, GAO’s review of academic studies suggests the pandemic will likely remain a significant obstacle to more robust economic activity. Number of Unemployed Workers Permanently Losing Jobs and on Temporary Layoff, January 2019 through October 2020 In response to the pandemic and its effects, Congress and the administration have taken a series of actions to protect the health and well-being of Americans. However, as the end of 2020 approaches, urgent actions are needed to help ensure an effective federal response on a range of public health and economic issues. Medical Supplies While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made numerous efforts to mitigate supply shortages and expand the medical supply chain, shortages of certain supplies persist. In September 2020, GAO reported that ongoing constraints with the availability of certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies remain due to a supply chain with limited domestic production and high global demand. In October 2020, GAO surveyed public health and emergency management officials from all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories (hereafter states) and found the following: Testing supplies. Most states reported no shortages of swabs or transport media, but about one-third to one-half reported shortages in other types of testing supplies (see figure). State-Reported Testing Supply Shortages, as of October 2020 GAO surveyed officials in the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and the five U.S. territories and received responses from 47 of the 56 locations, representing 41 states; Washington, D.C.; and all five territories. Not all states responded to every question. PPE. The majority of states that responded were mainly able to fulfill requests for supplies from organizations and entities within their states. However, availability constraints continue with certain PPE, such as nitrile gloves. Supplies for future vaccine needs. About one-third of states that responded stated that they were “greatly” or “completely” concerned about having sufficient vaccine-related supplies to administer COVID-19 vaccines. An additional 21 states indicated that they were moderately concerned. In September 2020, GAO recommended that HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should further develop and communicate to stakeholders plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate supply chain shortages for the remainder of the pandemic; immediately document roles and responsibilities for supply chain management functions transitioning to HHS, including continued support from other federal partners, to ensure sufficient resources exist to sustain and make the necessary progress in stabilizing the supply chain; and devise interim solutions, such as systems and guidance and dissemination of best practices, to help states enhance their ability to track the status of supply requests and plan for supply needs for the remainder of the pandemic response. HHS and the Department of Homeland Security disagreed with these recommendations, noting, among other things, the work that they had done to manage the medical supply chain and increase supply availability. In November 2020, HHS repeated its disagreement with GAO’s recommendations and noted its efforts to meet the needs of states. In light of the surge in COVID-19 cases, along with reported shortages, including GAO’s nationwide survey findings, GAO underscores the critical imperative for HHS and FEMA to implement GAO’s September 2020 recommendations. Vaccines and Therapeutics In a recent GAO report (GAO-21-207), GAO found that there has been significant federal investment to accelerate vaccine and therapeutic development, such as through Operation Warp Speed, a partnership between the Department of Defense and HHS that aims to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. Separately, Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA), which allow for the emergency use of medical products without Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or licensure provided certain statutory criteria are met, have also been used for therapeutics. As of November 9, 2020, FDA had made four therapeutics available to treat COVID-19 through EUAs. In that report, GAO recommended that FDA identify waysto uniformly discloseinformation from its scientific review of safety and effectiveness data when issuing EUAs for therapeutics and vaccines. By doing so, FDA could help improve the transparency of, and ensure public trust in, its EUA decisions. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but said it shared GAO’s goal of transparency. COVID-19 Testing Guidance HHS and its component agencies have taken several key actions to document a federal COVID-19 testing strategy and provide testing-related agency guidance. However, this guidance has not always been transparent, raising the risk of confusion and eroding trust in government. In particular, while it is expected that guidance will change as new information about the novel virus evolves, frequent changes to general CDC testing guidelines have not always been communicated with a scientific explanation. GAO recommends that HHS ensure that CDC clearly discloses the scientific rationale for any change to testing guidelines at the time the changeis made. HHS concurred with this recommendation. Types of COVID-19 Testing Approaches Nursing Home Care In September 2020, the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes (established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in June 2020) made 27 recommendations to CMS on topics such as testing, PPE, and visitation. CMS released a response to the commission that broadly outlined the actions it has taken to date, but it has not fully addressed the commission’s recommendations or provided an implementation plan to track and report progress toward implementing them. While CMS is not obligated to implement all of the commission’s recommendations, the agency has not indicated any areas where it does not plan to take action. GAO recommends that CMS quickly develop a plan that further details how it intends to respond to and implement, as appropriate, the commission’s recommendations. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and said it would refer to and act upon the commission’s recommendations, as appropriate. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partners with state governments to provide nursing home care to more than 20,000 veterans in over 150 state veterans homes. In March 2020, VA instructed its contractor to stop in-person inspections due to concerns about COVID-19. As of September 2020, these inspections had not resumed, leaving veterans at risk of receiving poor quality care. Additionally, VA does not collect timely data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths occurring at each state veterans home, hindering its ability to monitor and take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in these homes. GAO recommends that VA (1) develop a plan to resume inspections of state veterans homes, which may include using in-person, a mix of virtual and in-person, or fully virtual inspections, and (2) collect timely data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in each state veterans home. VA concurred with both recommendations. Economic Impact Payments The CARES Act included economic impact payments (EIP) for eligible individuals to address financial stress due to the pandemic. As of September 30, 2020, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had disbursed over 165.8 million payments to individuals, totaling $274.7 billion. According to IRS data, more than 26 million non-filers—individuals who do not normally file a tax return and may be hard to reach—received a payment (see figure). However, everyone that was supposed to receive a payment was not reached. Starting in September 2020, IRS sent notices to nearly 9 million individuals who had not yet received an EIP. Number of Filers and Non-Filers Issued an Economic Impact Payment, as of September 30, 2020 Treasury and IRS officials did not plan to track and analyze the outcomes of their EIP notice mailing effort until 2021. The lack of timely analysis deprives Treasury and IRS of data they could use to assess the effectiveness of their notice strategy and redirect resources as needed to other outreach and communication efforts. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, should begin tracking and publicly reporting the number of individuals who were mailed an EIP notification letter and filed for and received an EIP, and use that information to inform ongoing outreach and communications efforts. Treasury agreed with this recommendation. Unemployment Insurance The CARES Act created three federally funded temporary programs for unemployment insurance (UI) that expanded benefit eligibility and enhanced benefits. In its weekly news releases, the Department of Labor (DOL) publishes the number of weeks of unemployment benefits claimed by individuals in each state during the period and reports the total count as the number of people claiming benefits nationwide. DOL officials told GAO that they have traditionally used this number as a proxy for the number of individuals claiming benefits because they were closely related. However, the number of claims has not been an accurate estimate of the number of individuals claiming benefits during the pandemic because of backlogs in processing a historic volume of claims, among other data issues. Without an accurate accounting of the number of individuals who are relying on these benefits in as close to real time as possible, policymakers may be challenged to respond to the crisis at hand. GAO recommends that DOL (1) revise its weekly news releases to clarify that in the current unemployment environment, the numbers it reports for weeks of unemployment claimed do not accurately estimate the number of unique individuals claiming benefits, and (2) pursue options to report the actual number of distinct individuals claiming benefits, such as by collecting these already available data from states. DOL agreed with the recommendation to revise its weekly news releases, and partially agreed with the recommendation to pursue options to report the actual number of distinct individuals claiming benefits. Tax Relief for Businesses To provide liquidity to businesses during the pandemic, the CARES Act included tax measures to help businesses receive cash refunds or other reductions to tax obligations. Some taxpayers need to file an amended income tax return to take advantage of these provisions; at the same time, IRS faces an increase in mail and paper processing delays due to the pandemic, which may delay the timely processing of this paperwork and issuance of these refunds. GAO recommends that IRS update its form instructions to include information on its electronic filing capability for tax year 2019. IRS agreed with this recommendation. Program Integrity Although the extent and significance of improper payments associated with COVID-19 relief funds have not yet been determined, the impact of these improper payments, including those that are the result of fraud, could be substantial. For example, numerous individuals are facing federal charges related to attempting to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), UI program, or other federal programs, and many more investigations are underway. To address the risk of improper payments due to fraud and other causes, GAO previously recommended the following: The Small Business Administration (SBA) should develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in the PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with Treasury, should issue timely guidance for auditing new and existing COVID-19-related programs, including Coronavirus Relief Fund payments, as soon as possible. Audits of entities that receive federal funds are critical to the federal government’s ability to help safeguard those funds.Also, Congress should amend the Social Security Act to explicitly allow the Social Security Administration to share its full death data with Treasury for data matching to prevent payments to ineligible individuals. GAO maintains that implementing these recommendations fully is critically important in order to protect federal funds from improper payments resulting from fraud and other risks. In this report, GAO also identifies new concerns about the timely reporting of improper payments for COVID-19 programs. The COVID-19 relief laws appropriated over a trillion dollars that may be spent through newly established programs to fund response and recovery efforts, such as SBA’s PPP. However, unlike the supplemental appropriations acts that provided for disaster relief related to the 2017 hurricanes and California wildfires, the COVID-19 relief laws did not require agencies to deem programs receiving these relief funds that expend more than a threshold amount as "susceptible to significant improper payments." In addition, based on OMB guidance, improper payment estimates associated with new COVID-19 programs established in March 2020 may not be reported until November 2022, in some instances. GAO is making two recommendations: OMB should develop and issueguidance directingagencies to include COVID-19 relief funding with associated key risks, such as changes to existing program eligibility rules, as part of their improper payment estimation methodologies, especially for existing programs that received COVID-19 relief funding. SBA should expeditiously estimate improper payments and report estimates and error rates for PPP due to concerns about the possibility that improper payments, including those resulting from fraudulent activity, could be widespread. GAO is also suggesting that Congress consider, in any future legislation appropriating COVID-19 relief funds, designating all executive agency programs and activities making more than $100 million in payments from COVID-19 relief funds as “susceptible to significant improper payments.” Aviation Assistance and Preparedness GAO identified concerns about efforts to monitor CARES Act financial assistance to the aviation sector. Treasury’s Payroll Support Program (PSP) provides $32 billion in payroll support payments and loans to help the aviation industry retain its employees. While recipients have begun submitting required compliance reports, Treasury has not yet finalized a monitoring system to identify and respond to the risk of noncompliance with PSP agreement terms, potentially hindering its ability to detect program misuse in a timely manner. GAO is recommending that Treasury finish developing and implement acompliance monitoringplan that identifies and responds to risks in the PSP. Treasury neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but committed to reviewing additional measures that may further enhance its compliance monitoring and ensure that PSP funds are used as intended. In June 2020, GAO suggested that Congress take legislative action to require the Secretary of Transportation to work with relevant agencies, such as HHS, the Department of Homeland Security, and other stakeholders, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan to limit the spread of communicable diseasethreats and minimize traveland trade impacts. GAO originally made this recommendation to the Department of Transportation in December 2015. GAO urges Congress to take swift action to require such a plan, without which the U.S. will not be as prepared to minimize and quickly respond to ongoing and future communicable disease events. As of November 12, 2020, the U.S. had over 10.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and about 224,000 reported deaths, according to federal agencies. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions. Four relief laws, including the CARES Act, were enacted as of November 2020 to provide appropriations to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of September 30, 2020, of the $2.6 trillion appropriated by these acts, the federal government had obligated a total of $1.8 trillion and expended $1.6 trillion of the COVID-19 relief funds, as reported by federal agencies. The CARES Act included 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 and interviewed federal and state officials. GAO also sent a survey to public health and emergency management officials in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories regarding medical supplies. GAO is making 11 new recommendations for agencies that are detailed in this Highlights and in the report. GAO is also raising one matter for congressional consideration. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202)512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Military Pay: Army National Guard Personnel Mobilized to Active Duty Experienced Significant Pay ProblemsBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021In light of the recent mobilizations associated with the war on terrorism and homeland security, GAO was asked to determine if controls used to pay mobilized Army Guard personnel provided assurance that such pays were accurate and timely. GAO's audit used a case study approach to focus on controls over three key areas: processes, people (human capital), and systems.The existing processes and controls used to provide pay and allowances to mobilized Army Guard personnel are so cumbersome and complex that neither DOD nor, more importantly, the mobilized Army Guard soldiers could be reasonably assured of timely and accurate payroll payments. Weaknesses in these processes and controls resulted in over- and underpayments and late active duty payments and, in some cases, largely erroneous debt assessments to mobilized Army Guard personnel. The end result of these pay problems is to severely constrain DOD's ability to provide active duty pay to these personnel, many of whom were risking their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, these pay problems have had a profound financial impact on individual soldiers and their families. For example, many soldiers and their families were required to spend considerable time, sometimes while the soldiers were deployed in remote, combat environments overseas, seeking corrections to active duty pays and allowances. The pay process, involving potentially hundreds of DOD, Army, and Army Guard organizations and thousands of personnel, was not well understood or consistently applied with respect to determining (1) the actions required to make timely, accurate pays to mobilized soldiers, and (2) the organization responsible for taking the required actions. With respect to human capital, we found weaknesses including (1) insufficient resources allocated to pay processing, (2) inadequate training related to existing policies and procedures, and (3) poor customer service. Several systems issues were also a significant factor impeding accurate and timely payroll payments to mobilized Army Guard soldiers, including (1) non-integrated systems, (2) limitations in system processing capabilities, and (3) ineffective system edits.[Read More…]
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- NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Can Inform Management of Future Space TelescopesBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2021What GAO Found The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) relies on complex instruments and spacecraft to accomplish its missions—including to better understand the universe and our place in it. NASA's astrophysics projects currently include three major space telescopes (see figure). James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continues to make progress toward its planned launch in December 2021, 90 months later than originally planned. Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (Roman) set cost and schedule baselines in February 2020, but COVID-19 led to cost and schedule growth. Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Re-ionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) set cost and schedule baselines in January 2021. Technical problems pushed the critical design review to January 2022. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Major Space Telescope Projects Three lessons learned from GAO's work, some of which NASA has adopted, provide NASA an opportunity to strengthen management of future space telescopes. Manage cost and schedule performance for large projects to limit portfolio implications for portfolio. Increases associated with NASA's most costly and complex missions have cascading effects on the rest of the portfolio, and JWST's cost and schedule increases over the years have had outsized effects. Minimize risk in program decisions to better position projects for successful execution. GAO has found that major projects often underestimate cost and technical risk, contributing to cost overruns and unstable designs. Consistently update cost and schedule estimates to provide realistic information to decision makers. NASA now requires major projects to develop and update a joint cost and schedule confidence level—an integrated analysis of a project's cost, schedule, risk, and uncertainty. Why GAO Did This Study The projects in NASA's current portfolio of major space telescopes—JWST, Roman, and SPHEREx—have roots in past decadal surveys on Astronomy and Astrophysics from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. NASA is now considering the results of the National Academies' 2020 decadal survey, which may spur new projects in this portfolio. NASA has made improvements in acquisition management in recent years, but it remains a long-standing challenge for the agency. This statement reflects GAO's observations on (1) the current status of NASA's major telescope projects, and (2) lessons learned that can be applied to NASA's management of its future telescope projects as it considers the results of this decadal study. This statement is based on ongoing work on the status of NASA's major projects, which is planned to be published in Spring spring 2022, and past GAO reports on JWST and NASA's acquisitions of major projects.[Read More…]
- Afghanistan: Oversight and Accountability of U.S. AssistanceBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found Since 2003, GAO has identified numerous challenges related to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Among the various challenges that GAO and others have identified, are the following: the dangerous security environment, the prevalence of corruption, and the limited capacity of the Afghan government to deliver services and sustain donor-funded projects. As illustrated in the figure below, between fiscal years 2002 and 2013, U.S. agencies allocated nearly $100 billion toward U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Breakout of U.S. Allocations for Efforts in Afghanistan, Fiscal Years 2002-2013 Note: This figure does not include funding provided for U.S. military or other operations in Afghanistan. Percentages may not add up to 100 as a result of rounding. The United States, along with the international community, has focused its efforts in areas such as building the capacity of Afghan ministries to govern and deliver services, developing Afghanistan's infrastructure and economy, and developing and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces. In multiple reviews of these efforts, GAO has identified numerous shortcomings and has made recommendations to the agencies to take corrective actions related to (1) mitigating the risk of providing direct assistance to the Afghan government, (2) oversight and accountability of U.S. development projects, and (3) estimating the future costs of sustaining Afghanistan's security forces which the United States and international community have pledged to support. In February 2013, GAO reported that while the circumstances, combat operations, and diplomatic efforts in Iraq differ from those in Afghanistan, potential lessons could be learned from the transition from a military- to a civilian-led presence to avoid possible missteps and better utilize resources. As GAO has reported, contingency planning is critical to a successful transition and to ensuring that there is sufficient oversight of the U.S. investment in Afghanistan. This is particularly vital given the uncertainties of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement and the ultimate size of the post-2014 U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government has engaged in multiple efforts in Afghanistan since declaring a global war on terrorism that targeted al Qaeda, its affiliates, and other violent extremists, including certain elements of the Taliban. These efforts have focused on a whole-of-government approach that calls for the use of all elements of U.S. national power to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and prevent their return to Afghanistan. This approach, in addition to security assistance, provided billions toward governance and development, diplomatic operations, and humanitarian assistance. To assist Congress in its oversight, GAO has issued over 70 products since 2003 including key oversight issues related to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. This testimony summarizes the key findings from those products and discusses: (1) the challenges associated with operating in Afghanistan, (2) key oversight and accountability issues regarding U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, and (3) the need for contingency planning as the U.S. transitions to a civilian-led presence in Afghanistan.[Read More…]
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- [Request for Reconsideration of Sustained Protest of Labor Contract Award]By Sam NewsAugust 16, 2021The Department of Labor requested reconsideration of a decision which sustained a protest against a contract award for social services. GAO sustained the protest because of: (1) Labor's agreement with one of two offerers within the competitive range following best and final offers concerning government-furnished property; and (2) a resulting cost analysis which possibly prejudiced the protester. GAO recommended the reopening of negotiations with a clear statement of the requirements and termination of the awardee's contract should the protester's proposal prove more advantageous. Labor requested reconsideration on the grounds that the protester was not prejudiced by the negotiations with the awardee and contended that the recommended corrective action was inappropriate. GAO found that it was not clear that the changes effected by the negotiations were not prejudicial to the protester because a reallocation of savings which followed best and final offers allowed the awardee to reduce its bid. Furthermore, GAO found that Labor presented no convincing evidence that GAO erred in concluding that the protester might have successfully competed had it received the same access to government-owned property which had been developed by the awardee. Therefore, GAO held that the negotiations after best and final offers resulted in a substantial change in contract requirements which possibly prejudiced the protester. Accordingly, GAO affirmed its prior decision; however, since less than 3 months' performance remained on the contract, and Labor had decided not to exercise the contract's option but to issue a new solicitation, GAO had no objection to Labor's not reopening negotiations on the original contract.[Read More…]
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- Service Acquisitions: DOD’s Report to Congress Identifies Steps Taken to Improve Management, But Does Not Address Some Key Planning IssuesBy Sam NewsFebruary 22, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on contractors to provide a wide array of services, including support for management, information technology, and weapon systems. DOD obligated about $190 billion on service acquisitions in fiscal year 2019 (see figure). Department of Defense Obligations for Service Acquisitions by Military Department and Defense Agencies and Field Activities, Fiscal Year 2019 Since 2001, GAO has highlighted service acquisitions as an issue for oversight within the DOD Contract Management area in its High-Risk List. Among other things, the High-Risk List and GAO's prior work have identified that: DOD's service requirements reviews were narrowly focused on individual contracts rather than entire capability portfolios, DOD's efforts to use its inventory of contracted services to inform management decisions were hindered by data collection issues, and DOD's budget exhibits did not clearly identify service acquisitions. In October 2020, DOD issued a report to Congress describing its current mechanisms and plans for managing and overseeing service contracts. GAO found that this report addresses some of the key issues identified in GAO's High-Risk List, but does not address others. Requirement reviews. The DOD report summarizes guidance the department issued in January 2020 that links requirements reviews to budget trade-offs, and clarifies the relationship between service acquisition management and category management activities. Category management is an Office of Management and Budget-led, government-wide initiative to reorganize government spending around fewer, larger contracts and use the government's purchasing power to buy like a single enterprise. These efforts have the potential to improve how requirements reviews support budget trade-off decisions within and across capability portfolios. Inventory of contracted services. The DOD report discusses the department's recent transition to the government-wide system other federal agencies use to collect data for their inventories of contracted services, and explains that this transition is intended to reduce the burden of data collection for defense contractors and improve compliance. However, the report does not discuss how DOD plans to use this data to inform decision-making and workforce planning, the key issues GAO has identified in past work. Future-year spending plans. The DOD report does not discuss our finding in a prior report that DOD could improve its ability to strategically manage service acquisitions by improving visibility on future budgetary requirements. Instead, DOD's report states that DOD plans to address capability gaps in budget planning for service contracts in a separate effort in response to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that might address GAO's recommendations. DOD officials told GAO they are working to better understand that provision before initiating their effort. The Senate report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees on current mechanisms for overseeing defense service contracts, and for GAO to assess this report. DOD issued its report to Congress in the second week of October 2020. This GAO report assesses the extent to which that DOD report addresses service acquisition issues identified in GAO's High-Risk List and other products. GAO reviewed DOD's report to Congress on defense service acquisitions and GAO's past reports on defense service acquisitions, including GAO's 2019 High-Risk List and 11 other products issued between 2011 and 2018. GAO collected and assessed additional documentation from DOD offices and military departments, and interviewed officials from these offices and departments to collect additional information about DOD plans to improve service acquisitions. For more information, contact Timothy DiNapoli at (202) 512-4841 or DiNapoliT@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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