December 4, 2021

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Morocco Travel Advisory

10 min read

Reconsider travel to Morocco due to COVID-19.  Exercise increased caution in Morocco due to terrorism.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Morocco due to COVID-19.   

Morocco has lifted stay at home orders and resumed some transportation options and business operations.  Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Morocco.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Morocco. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.

Read the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Morocco:

Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.

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    Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the war on terrorism has dominated the global security environment. Ongoing overseas operations and heavy reliance on reservists have raised concerns about how the Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to meet its requirements using an all-volunteer force. The Army, in particular, has faced continuing demand for large numbers of forces, especially for forces with support skills. GAO was mandated to examine the extent of DOD's reliance on personnel with high-demand skills and its efforts to reduce or eliminate reliance on these personnel. Accordingly, GAO assessed (1) the combat support and combat service support skills that are in high demand and the extent to which DOD officials have visibility over personnel who are available for future deployment and (2) the extent to which DOD has conducted a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of alternatives for providing needed skills.Ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have required large numbers of ground forces, creating particularly high demand for certain combat support and combat service support skills, such as military police and civil affairs. After determining which requirements can be met with contractor personnel, DOD then determines how to meet requirements for military personnel. DOD officials charged with identifying forces have not had full visibility over the pool of skilled personnel available for future deployments. For some skills, the combatant commander's operational requirements have exceeded the initial supply of readily available trained military forces. DOD has met demands for these skills through strategies such as reassigning or retraining personnel. However, many of the skilled personnel in high demand are reservists whose involuntary active duty is limited under the current partial mobilization authority and DOD and Army policy. To meet requirements, officials charged with identifying personnel for future rotations developed an inefficient, labor-intensive process to gather information needed for decision making because integrated, comprehensive personnel data were not readily available. DOD is taking steps to develop comprehensive data that identify personnel according to deployment histories and skills; however, until DOD systematically integrates such data into its process for identifying forces, it will continue to make important decisions about personnel for future rotations based upon limited information and lack the analytical bases for requesting changes in or exceptions to deployment policies. Although DOD has developed several strategies to meet the combatant commander's requirements for previous rotations, it has not undertaken comprehensive, data-driven analysis of options that would make more personnel available for future rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A key reason why DOD has not conducted comprehensive analyses of options is that its process for identifying forces focuses on one rotation at a time and does not take a long-term view of potential requirements. Prior GAO work has shown that reliable data about current and future workforce requirements are essential for effective strategic planning, as is the data-driven analysis of the number of personnel and the skill mix needed to support key competencies. With data that link deployment dates and skills, DOD could assess options, including using more personnel with support skills from the Army and other services, transferring more positions to high-demand areas, and changing deployment lengths. Each of these options has both advantages and disadvantages. However, without a comprehensive analysis of the options and their related advantages and disadvantages, DOD will be challenged to plan effectively for future requirements and to meet recruiting goals. Additionally, without linking data and options, the services may have difficulty deploying all reservists once before other reservists are required to deploy for a second time, which is a key DOD goal. Moreover, the Secretary of Defense and Congress will not have complete information with which to make decisions about the size and composition of the force, mobilization policies, and other issues.
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    Ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have required the deployment of large numbers of Army National Guard and Army Reserve personnel. The Department of Defense (DOD) faces the unprecedented challenge of sustaining large-scale, long-duration operations with an all-volunteer military force. In addition, DOD's homeland defense missions have taken on higher priority, and National Guard forces have state responsibilities for homeland security activities as well as their traditional roles in responding to natural disasters. Over the past few years, GAO has examined the effects of ongoing military operations and domestic missions on the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. This statement, which draws on prior GAO work, focuses on (1) challenges in sustaining Army reserve component equipment and personnel readiness while supporting ongoing operations and (2) the extent to which the Army's planned transformation initiatives will alleviate equipment and personnel shortages and enhance readiness.The Army National Guard and Army Reserve have made significant contributions to ongoing military operations, but equipment shortages and personnel challenges have increased and, if left unattended, may hamper the reserves' preparedness for future overseas and domestic missions. To provide deployable units, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve have transferred large quantities of personnel and equipment to deploying units, an approach that has resulted in growing shortages in nondeployed units. Also, reserve units have left significant quantities of equipment overseas and DOD has not yet developed plans to replace it. The Army National Guard reports that its units have less than one-third of their required equipment, and the Army Reserve reports that its units have about half of the modern equipment they need to deploy. These shortages could also adversely affect reserve units' ability to perform homeland defense missions and provide support to civil authorities in the event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The Army also faces shortages of personnel trained in some high-demand skills. These readiness challenges have occurred because the Army reserve components' role has shifted from a strategic reserve force to an operational force that is being used on an ongoing basis. However, DOD has not fully reassessed its equipment, personnel, and training needs and developed a new model for the reserves appropriate to the new strategic environment. GAO has made recommendations that DOD conduct a comprehensive reassessment of equipment, personnel, training, and funding requirements given the reserve components' shift to an operational role, but DOD's progress to date in addressing them has been limited. Without a comprehensive reassessment of equipment and personnel policies, the Army's reserve components may not be well prepared to deal with future events at home or abroad. The Army has begun two transformational initiatives intended to enhance reserve units' ability to conduct 21st century operations and plans to spend over $24 billion for equipment over the next 5 years. These initiatives are significant, but the extent to which they will alleviate equipment and personnel challenges is unclear. The Army faces challenges in managing both initiatives' costs and achieving intended capabilities. First, although the Army is making progress in transforming its forces to more flexible modular units, it has not provided detailed information on the capabilities, costs, and risks of its plans, and reserve units are likely to lack some key equipment items well into the future. Second, the Army is implementing a force generation model through which reserve units' readiness will be increased as units move closer to eligibility for deployment. However, the Army has not fully determined the equipment, personnel, and training that units will require at each stage of the cycle or fully identified the resources to implement its plans. Without detailed implementation plans, decision makers will not have sufficient information with which to assess both DOD's progress and performance in transforming the Army reserve components and whether investment decisions are being targeted to the highest priority areas.
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The CADE 2 delays and IRS's continued use of IMF are troubling given, that IMF (1) is one of the oldest systems in the federal government; (2) has software written in an archaic language that IRS stated is no longer taught in school; and (3) is supported by a workforce with specialized skills that are increasingly harder to find. In June 2021, IRS reported that it planned to replace and fully retire IMF by 2030. Accordingly, IRS will continue to face IMF challenges for several more years. For its agency-wide modernization plan, IRS reported completing most of its activities intended for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 within cost and on or ahead of schedule. The updated plan identified 59 activities for completion in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. IRS reported that, by the end of fiscal year 2020, it had completed 54 of the 59 activities early or on schedule and the remaining five activities 3 to 7 months later than initially planned. Regarding cost, IRS reported that it spent $9 million less than the $300 million planned for fiscal year 2019 and $19.9 million less than the $271 million planned for fiscal year 2020. To respond to the pandemic, IRS took a number of information technology (IT)-related actions to maximize telework capabilities for its employees, including deploying IT equipment, such as laptops, and upgrading its network infrastructure bandwidth. For fiscal year 2020, IRS spent $104 million for these actions from emergency appropriations included in pandemic-related legislation. According to IRS officials, the long-term impact of sustaining an increased level of telework on the budget had not been determined. In contrast, IRS said the actions to maximize telework capabilities delayed plans for IT modernization and operations. For example, IRS reported that staffing resources initially allocated for CADE 2 had been reassigned to support COVID-19 responsibilities, resulting in a 7-month delay in the scheduled completion of key development activities. Why GAO Did This Study IRS relies extensively on IT investments to annually collect more than $3.5 trillion in taxes, distribute more than $450 billion in refunds, and carry out its mission of providing service to America's taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations. For fiscal year 2020, the agency reported spending approximately $2.8 billion for these investments. The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2020 included a provision for GAO to annually review the status of IRS's IT investments. GAO's specific objectives were to (1) summarize IRS's reported performance for selected IT investments, including CADE 2; (2) identify IRS's reported progress in implementing its 2019 IT modernization plan; and (3) identify the IT-related actions IRS has taken to maximize telework and operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, and any impacts of those actions. GAO obtained IRS's reported performance information for a nonprobability sample of five investments, and compared performance to agency targets. GAO also compared modernization activities that IRS reported completing to those identified in the agency's 2019 IT modernization plan. Further, GAO reviewed agency documentation to identify reported IT actions taken to continue to operate during the pandemic and reported associated impacts. GAO also interviewed cognizant IRS officials. For more information, contact David B. Hinchman at (214) 777-5719 or hinchmand@gao.gov.
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    Operation Warp Speed (OWS)—a partnership between the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense (DOD)—aimed to help accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. GAO found that OWS and vaccine companies adopted several strategies to accelerate vaccine development and mitigate risk. For example, OWS selected vaccine candidates that use different mechanisms to stimulate an immune response (i.e., platform technologies; see figure). Vaccine companies also took steps, such as starting large-scale manufacturing during clinical trials and combining clinical trial phases or running them concurrently. Clinical trials gather data on safety and efficacy, with more participants in each successive phase (e.g., phase 3 has more participants than phase 2). Vaccine Platform Technologies Supported by Operation Warp Speed, as of January 2021 As of January 30, 2021, five of the six OWS vaccine candidates have entered phase 3 clinical trials, two of which—Moderna's and Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccines—have received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For vaccines that received EUA, additional data on vaccine effectiveness will be generated from further follow-up of participants in clinical trials already underway before the EUA was issued. Technology readiness. GAO's analysis of the OWS vaccine candidates' technology readiness levels (TRL)—an indicator of technology maturity— showed that COVID-19 vaccine development under OWS generally followed traditional practices, with some adaptations. FDA issued specific guidance that identified ways that vaccine development may be accelerated during the pandemic. Vaccine companies told GAO that the primary difference from a non-pandemic environment was the compressed timelines. To meet OWS timelines, some vaccine companies relied on data from other vaccines using the same platforms, where available, or conducted certain animal studies at the same time as clinical trials. However, as is done in a non-pandemic environment, all vaccine companies gathered initial safety and antibody response data with a small number of participants before proceeding into large-scale human studies (e.g., phase 3 clinical trials). The two EUAs issued in December 2020 were based on analyses of clinical trial participants and showed about 95 percent efficacy for each vaccine. These analyses included assessments of efficacy after individuals were given two doses of vaccine and after they were monitored for about 2 months for adverse events. Manufacturing. As of January 2021, five of the six OWS vaccine companies had started commercial scale manufacturing. OWS officials reported that as of January 31, 2021, companies had released 63.7 million doses—about 32 percent of the 200 million doses that, according to OWS, companies with EUAs have been contracted to provide by March 31, 2021. Vaccine companies face a number of challenges in scaling up manufacturing to produce hundreds of millions of doses under OWS's accelerated timelines. DOD and HHS are working with vaccine companies to help mitigate manufacturing challenges, including: Limited manufacturing capacity: A shortage of facilities with capacity to handle the vaccine manufacturing needs can lead to production bottlenecks. Vaccine companies are working in partnership with OWS to expand production capacity. For example, one vaccine company told GAO that HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority helped them identify an additional manufacturing partner to increase production. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing construction projects to expand capacity at vaccine manufacturing facilities. Disruptions to manufacturing supply chains: Vaccine manufacturing supply chains have been strained by the global demand for certain goods and workforce disruptions caused by the global pandemic. For example, representatives from one facility manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines stated that they experienced challenges obtaining materials, including reagents and certain chemicals. They also said that due to global demand, they waited 4 to 12 weeks for items that before the pandemic were typically available for shipment within one week. Vaccine companies and DOD and HHS officials told GAO they have undertaken several efforts to address possible manufacturing disruptions and mitigate supply chain challenges. These efforts include federal assistance to (1) expedite procurement and delivery of critical manufacturing equipment, (2) develop a list of critical supplies that are common across the six OWS vaccine candidates, and (3) expedite the delivery of necessary equipment and goods coming into the United States. Additionally, DOD and HHS officials said that as of December 2020 they had placed prioritized ratings on 18 supply contracts for vaccine companies under the Defense Production Act, which allows federal agencies with delegated authority to require contractors to prioritize those contracts for supplies needed for vaccine production. Gaps in the available workforce: Hiring and training personnel with the specialized skills needed to run vaccine manufacturing processes can be challenging. OWS officials stated that they have worked with the Department of State to expedite visa approval for key technical personnel, including technicians and engineers to assist with installing, testing, and certifying critical equipment manufactured overseas. OWS officials also stated that they requested that 16 DOD personnel be detailed to serve as quality control staff at two vaccine manufacturing sites until the organizations can hire the required personnel. As of February 5, 2021, the U.S. had over 26 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and about 449,020 reported deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions, with the unemployment rate and number of unemployed in January 2021 at nearly twice their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. In May 2020, OWS was launched and included a goal of producing 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with initial doses available by January 2021. Although FDA has authorized two vaccines for emergency use, OWS has not yet met its production goal. Such vaccines are crucial to mitigate the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic. GAO was asked to review OWS vaccine development efforts. This report examines: (1) the characteristics and status of the OWS vaccines, (2) how developmental processes have been adapted to meet OWS timelines, and (3) the challenges that companies have faced with scaling up manufacturing and the steps they are taking to address those challenges. GAO administered a questionnaire based on HHS's medical countermeasures TRL criteria to the six OWS vaccine companies to evaluate the COVID-19 vaccine development processes. GAO also collected and reviewed supporting documentation on vaccine development and conducted interviews with representatives from each of the companies on vaccine development and manufacturing. For more information, contact Karen L. Howard and Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov or wrightc@gao.gov.
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