Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Today, I am announcing the designation of First Secretary in the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, and former Deputy Delia Bac, due to their involvement in significant corruption. Mr. Alejos’ and Ms. Bac’s corruption has undermined the rule of law and the Guatemalan public’s faith in their government and their country’s democratic institutions and public processes. While acting in his official capacity as a deputy in the Guatemalan Congress, Mr. Alejos was involved in corrupt acts to enrich himself, while also seriously harming U.S. businesses’ international economic activity. In her official capacity as a deputy from 2008 to 2020, Ms. Bac was involved in corrupt acts including using her political influence for the personal enrichment and advancement of herself and her family.
These designations are made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94). Under Section 7031(c), once the Secretary of State designates officials of foreign governments for their involvement, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.
The law also requires the Secretary of State to either publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members. In addition to Mr. Alejos, the Department is publicly designating his spouse, Maria Ximena Morales de Alejos, and his minor sons.
These designations reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combating corruption in Guatemala. We stand with the Guatemalan people in this fight. The Department will continue to use these legal authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors who operate with impunity in the region and globally.
For more information, please contact INL-PAPD@state.gov.
- Justice Department Announces Two Million Dollar Settlement of Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Baltimore County, MarylandBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement, through a court-supervised settlement agreement, with Baltimore County, Maryland, resolving the United States’ claims that the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) discriminated against African American applicants for employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.[Read More…]
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- Information Technology: Federal Agencies Need to Take Urgent Action to Manage Supply Chain RisksBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020Few of the 23 civilian Chief Financial Officers Act agencies had implemented seven selected foundational practices for managing information and communications technology (ICT) supply chain risks. Supply chain risk management (SCRM) is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks associated with the global and distributed nature of ICT product and service supply chains. Many of the manufacturing inputs for these ICT products and services originate from a variety of sources throughout the world. (See figure 1.) Figure 1: Examples of Locations of Manufacturers or Suppliers of Information and Communications Technology Products and Services None of the 23 agencies fully implemented all of the SCRM practices and 14 of the 23 agencies had not implemented any of the practices. The practice with the highest rate of implementation was implemented by only six agencies. Conversely, none of the other practices were implemented by more than three agencies. Moreover, one practice had not been implemented by any of the agencies. (See figure 2.) Figure 2: Extent to Which the 23 Civilian Chief Financial Officers Act Agencies Implemented Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Practices As a result of these weaknesses, these agencies are at a greater risk that malicious actors could exploit vulnerabilities in the ICT supply chain causing disruption to mission operations, harm to individuals, or theft of intellectual property. For example, without establishing executive oversight of SCRM activities, agencies are limited in their ability to make risk decisions across the organization about how to most effectively secure their ICT product and service supply chains. Moreover, agencies lack the ability to understand and manage risk and reduce the likelihood that adverse events will occur without reasonable visibility and traceability into supply chains. Officials from the 23 agencies cited various factors that limited their implementation of the foundational practices for managing supply chain risks. The most commonly cited factor was the lack of federal SCRM guidance. For example, several agencies reported that they were waiting for federal guidance to be issued from the Federal Acquisition Security Council—a cross-agency group responsible for providing direction and guidance to executive agencies to reduce their supply chain risks—before implementing one or more of the foundational practices. According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials, the council expects to complete this effort by December 2020. While the additional direction and guidance from the council could further assist agencies with the implementation of these practices, federal agencies currently have guidance to assist with managing their ICT supply chain risks. Specifically, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued ICT SCRM-specific guidance in 2015 and OMB has required agencies to implement ICT SCRM since 2016. Until agencies implement all of the foundational ICT SCRM practices, they will be limited in their ability to address supply chain risks across their organizations effectively. Federal agencies rely extensively on ICT products and services (e.g., computing systems, software, and networks) to carry out their operations. However, agencies face numerous ICT supply chain risks, including threats posed by counterfeiters who may exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain and, thus, compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an organization's systems and the information they contain. For example, in September 2019, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reported that federal agencies faced approximately 180 different ICT supply chain-related threats. To address threats such as these, agencies must make risk-based ICT supply chain decisions about how to secure their systems. GAO was asked to conduct a review of federal agencies' ICT SCRM practices. The specific objective was to determine the extent to which federal agencies have implemented foundational ICT SCRM practices. To do so, GAO identified seven practices from NIST guidance that are foundational for an organization-wide approach to ICT SCRM and compared them to policies, procedures, and other documentation from the 23 civilian Chief Financial Officers Act agencies. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in October 2020. Information that agencies deemed sensitive was omitted and GAO substituted numeric identifiers that were randomly assigned for the names of the agencies due to sensitivity concerns. The foundational practices comprising ICT SCRM are: establishing executive oversight of ICT activities, including designating responsibility for leading agency-wide SCRM activities; developing an agency-wide ICT SCRM strategy for providing the organizational context in which risk-based decisions will be made; establishing an approach to identify and document agency ICT supply chain(s); establishing a process to conduct agency-wide assessments of ICT supply chain risks that identify, aggregate, and prioritize ICT supply chain risks that are present across the organization; establishing a process to conduct a SCRM review of a potential supplier that may include reviews of the processes used by suppliers to design, develop, test, implement, verify, deliver, and support ICT products and services; developing organizational ICT SCRM requirements for suppliers to ensure that suppliers are adequately addressing risks associated with ICT products and services; and developing organizational procedures to detect counterfeit and compromised ICT products prior to their deployment. GAO also interviewed relevant agency officials. In the sensitive report, GAO made a total of 145 recommendations to the 23 agencies to fully implement foundational practices in their organization-wide approaches to ICT SCRM. Of the 23 agencies, 17 agreed with all of the recommendations made to them; two agencies agreed with most, but not all of the recommendations; one agency disagreed with all of the recommendations; two agencies neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations, but stated they would address them; and one agency had no comments. GAO continues to believe that all of the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in the sensitive report. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harrisCC@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Man-Made Chemicals and Potential Health Risks: EPA Has Completed Some Regulatory-Related Actions for PFASBy Sam NewsMarch 1, 2021The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed three of six selected regulatory-related actions for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) outlined in EPA's PFAS Action Plan . (See fig.) For two of the three completed actions, the steps EPA took were also in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA): After proposing a supplemental significant new use rule in February 2020, EPA met a June 2020 deadline set in the FY20 NDAA when the EPA Administrator signed the final rule. Among other things, under the final rule, articles containing certain PFAS as a surface coating, and carpet containing certain PFAS, can no longer be imported into the U.S. without EPA review. EPA incorporated 172 PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory in June 2020. The FY20 NDAA directed EPA to take this action, extending EPA's original planned action to explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the inventory. Finally, in March 2020, EPA completed a third regulatory-related action, not required under the FY20 NDAA, when the agency proposed a preliminary drinking water regulatory determination for two PFAS—an initial step toward regulating these chemicals in drinking water. Status of Six Selected Regulatory-Related Actions in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan Planned action Status Propose a supplemental significant new use rule. Complete Explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory. Complete Propose a drinking water regulatory determination. Complete Monitor PFAS in drinking water. Ongoing Explore industrial sources of PFAS that may warrant potential regulation. Ongoing Continue the regulatory process for a hazardous substances designation. Ongoing Source: GAO analysis of EPA's 2019 PFAS Action Plan. | GAO-21-37 Three of the six selected regulatory-related actions are ongoing, and EPA's progress on these actions varies. For example: As of August 2020, EPA was developing a proposed rulemaking for a nationwide drinking water monitoring rule that includes PFAS, which EPA officials said the agency intends to finalize by December 2021. EPA planned to continue the regulatory process for designating two PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, would allow the agency to require responsible parties to conduct or pay for cleanup. On January 14, 2021, EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the hazardous substances designation to get public comment and data to inform the agency's ongoing evaluation of the two PFAS. Beginning in the 1940s, scientists developed a class of heat- and stain-resistant chemicals—PFAS—that are used in a wide range of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and some firefighting foams. PFAS can persist in the environment for decades or longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that most people in the U.S. have been exposed to two of the most widely studied PFAS, likely from consuming contaminated water or food. According to EPA, there is evidence that continued exposure above certain levels to some PFAS may lead to adverse health effects. In February 2019, EPA issued its PFAS Action Plan , which outlined 23 planned actions to better understand PFAS and reduce their risks to the public. GAO was asked to examine the status of regulatory-related actions in EPA's plan. For six regulatory-related actions GAO selected in EPA's PFAS Action Plan , this report examines (1) the number of actions that are complete and the steps EPA took to complete them and (2) the number of actions that are ongoing and EPA's progress toward completing them. GAO first identified those actions in the PFAS Action Plan that may lead to the issuance of federal regulations or could affect compliance with existing regulations. GAO then assessed the status of the actions by reviewing EPA documents and examining EPA's response to related FY20 NDAA requirements. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Opioid Use Disorder: Opportunities to Improve Assessments of State Opioid Response Grant ProgramBy Sam NewsJanuary 10, 2022What GAO Found The State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program provides grants to help address the negative effects of the opioid crisis, including overdose deaths. Through the program, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded nearly $5.2 billion since 2018 to states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories for opioid-use disorder (OUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. Examples of Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Services Grantees Provide Using State Opioid Response Grant Program Funding SAMHSA primarily assesses the SOR grant program through its annual SOR program profile and report to Congress, according to SAMHSA officials. These reports present a high-level national snapshot of SOR program performance, such as nationwide changes in drug abstinence and housing stability among program participants. The report to Congress also describes how grantees are implementing the program, such as describing evidence-based treatments and practices used by grantees. However, neither the program profile nor the report to Congress provide information on potential limitations associated with the assessments. For example, SAMHSA does not make it clear that the data used for the 2020 profile were incomplete for two-thirds of people participating in the program, which could potentially affect conclusions that could be drawn from this information. SAMHSA is working to improve the completeness of these data, but also identifying potential limitations and their effects on conclusions could help ensure that Congress and others can correctly interpret the data and make more fully informed decisions, such as if changes are necessary to the SOR program. In addition, the program profile and report to Congress do not fully leverage information available to provide a more in-depth assessment of the SOR program. SAMHSA has the potential to use its existing data to gain further insights into how well the program is working and why. For example, looking for variation in program performance across states and demographic groups could help identify best practices and areas for improvement. Such insights could help identify opportunities to improve program effectiveness and client outcomes, which may help reduce opioid-related overdose deaths and improve the lives of the clients the program serves. Why GAO Did This Study The misuse of illicit and prescription drugs, including opioids, has been a long-standing and persistent problem in the U.S., representing a serious risk to public health that has become even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic. Provisional data estimate that drug overdose deaths increased 29 percent in the year ending in April 2021—to a record high of 100,306—with opioid-related overdose deaths making up three-quarters of the total. SAMHSA leads federal public health efforts to address the opioid crisis, which include administering the SOR grant program, the agency's largest such program since the grant began in 2018. GAO was asked to review SAMHSA's SOR grant program. This report examines how SAMHSA assesses the grant program, among other things. GAO reviewed documents relevant to SAMHSA's SOR monitoring and program assessment efforts; interviewed SAMHSA officials; and analyzed documentation for 10 SOR grantees, selected to reflect a range of award amounts.[Read More…]
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- [Protest of Contract Award]By Sam NewsSeptember 2, 2021A firm protested the award of a contract by a firm which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hired to operate a computer complex. The protester contended that: (1) it should not have been excluded from the competitive range; (2) the acceptance of the awardee's proposal effected a material change in the solicitation; and (3) neither NASA nor its contractor obtained a Delegation of Procurement Authority from the General Services Administration prior to issuing the request for proposals and contracting with the awardee. The contractor stated that the protester's proposal was unacceptable because it lacked technical information, was deficient, and could not be evaluated. The protester stated that it should have been included in the competitive range because its proposal took no exceptions to the technical requirements. In addition, it contended that it should not have been excluded for informational deficiencies because the solicitation cautioned offerers against submitting elaborate proposals. GAO found that the contractor's decision to exclude the protester from the competitive range was reasonable. Although the solicitation cautioned against overly elaborate proposals, this did not excuse offerers from discussing their proposals in detail. GAO found that Federal regulations required neither NASA nor its contractor to obtain a Delegation of Procurement Authority. Finally, GAO did not find it necessary to resolve the question of the awardee's cost proposal because, even if the allegation were correct, the protester would not have been entitled to an amendment dealing with cost proposals since it was excluded from the competitive range on the basis of its technical proposal. Accordingly, the protest was denied.[Read More…]
- Foreign Aid: USAID Has Increased Funding to Partner-Country Organizations but Could Better Track ProgressBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) reporting on its principal Local Solutions indicator—the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in partner countries—lacks clarity, complicating the assessment of the agency's progress toward its fiscal year 2015 target of 30 percent. The March 2013 USAID Forward progress report states that these obligations increased from about 10 percent of mission program funds in fiscal year 2010 to about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012—a $465 million increase. However, the agency also has reported progress on the principal Local Solutions indicator in three other ways, depending on whether two key types of funding—cash transfers and certain qualifying trust funds—are included (see figure). These reporting differences make it difficult to compare the indicator from year to year and to quantify the progress needed to achieve the 30 percent target by fiscal year 2015. Moreover, USAID's approach to tracking the Local Solutions indicator has evolved since the launch of the initiative. For example, USAID included funds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, missions the agency previously had planned to exclude. If these missions are excluded, the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in fiscal year 2012, including qualifying trust funds and cash transfers, decreases by 10 percentage points. Reported USAID Mission Program Funds Obligated to Partner-Country Local Organizations, by Type of Funding Included, Fiscal Year 2012 USAID's principal Local Solutions indicator does not fully reflect activities the agency has undertaken to implement the initiative, and USAID does not have a means to track relevant mission-led evaluations of programs implemented by partner-country organizations. USAID relied primarily on its principal Local Solutions indicator to demonstrate progress. While this principal indicator reflects, to some degree, the steps missions are required to take before obligating funds to local organizations, it provides no information about the status of activities both prior to and following obligation of funds, such as assessing risk and monitoring programs. Furthermore, although USAID has laid some groundwork for evaluating the Local Solutions initiative, the agency does not currently have the means to determine the extent to which missions are conducting performance evaluations to assess the effectiveness of programs implemented through local organizations. Such evaluations can provide evidence needed to demonstrate progress toward the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2010, USAID has undertaken a series of reforms, collectively called USAID Forward. One key reform, the Local Solutions initiative, aims to shift program implementation from U.S.- based and international organizations to partner-country organizations, including governments and for-profit and nonprofit organizations. The three overarching goals of the initiative are to strengthen the capacity of partner countries, to enhance and promote country ownership, and to increase the sustainability of development efforts. GAO was asked to review the implementation of this initiative. GAO assessed the extent to which USAID (1) has demonstrated progress toward achieving its fiscal year 2015 target for the principal Local Solutions indicator, and (2) is tracking progress in achieving the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed funding data and documents and interviewed USAID officials.[Read More…]
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- Department of State: Foreign Service Midlevel Staffing Gaps Persist Despite Significant Increases in HiringBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundThe Department of State (State) faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, particularly at the midlevels, and these gaps have not diminished since 2008. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent. However, these new hires will not have the experience to reach midlevels until fiscal years 2014 and 2015. GAO found that 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or filled by upstretch candidatesofficers serving in positions above their gradeas of October 2011, a percentage that has not changed since 2008. Midlevel positions represent the largest share of these gaps. According to State officials, the gaps have not diminished because State increased the total number of overseas positions in response to increased needs and emerging priorities. State officials noted the department takes special measures to fill high-priority positions, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.State has taken steps to increase its reliance on Civil Service employees and retirees, as well as expand mentoring, to help address midlevel experience gaps overseas; however, State lacks a strategy to guide these efforts. State is currently implementing a pilot program to expand overseas assignments for Civil Service employees. Efforts to expand the limited number of these assignments must overcome some key challenges, such as addressing new gaps when Civil Service employees leave their headquarters positions and identifying qualified Civil Service applicants to fill overseas vacancies. State also hires retirees on a limited basis for both full-time and short-term positions. For example, State used limited congressional authority to offer dual compensation waivers to hire 57 retirees in 2011. As a step toward mitigating experience gaps overseas, State began a pilot program offering workshops that include mentoring for first-time supervisors. State acknowledges the need to close midlevel Foreign Service gaps, but it has not developed a strategy to help ensure that the department is taking full advantage of available human capital flexibilities and evaluating the success of its efforts to address these gaps.Why GAO Did This StudyIn 2009, GAO reported on challenges that State faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel and noted that persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk. State is currently undertaking a new hiring plan, known as Diplomacy 3.0, to increase the size of the Foreign Service by 25 percent to close staffing gaps and respond to new diplomatic priorities. However, fiscal constraints are likely to delay the plans full implementation well beyond its intended target for completion in 2013. In addition, States first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlighted the need to find ways to close overseas gaps. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which States overseas midlevel experience gaps in the Foreign Service have changed since 2008 and (2) States efforts to address these gaps. GAO analyzed States personnel data; reviewed key planning documents, including the Five Year Workforce Plan; and interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected posts.[Read More…]
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