Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the United States of America, I send best wishes and congratulations to the people of the Republic of Korea as you celebrate your National Day on August 15.
The U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance has stood as the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond for nearly seven decades, and we are proud to stand with you as we work together to tackle the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century.
The friendship and the alliance between our two countries is ironclad, and we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government and the people of the Republic of Korea as we strive to achieve a more prosperous and secure future.
- Gang member and convicted felon sentenced to over 11 years in prisonBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021A 37-year-old local [Read More…]
- Stabilizing Iraq: Factors Impeding the Development of Capable Iraqi Security ForcesBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq articulates the desired end-state for U.S. operations in Iraq: a peaceful, united, stable, and secure Iraq, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism. Developing capable Iraqi security forces is a critical component in U.S. efforts to achieve this important goal. Since 2003, the United States has provided $15.4 billion to develop Iraqi military and police forces. DOD has also asked for an additional $5.8 billion in its fiscal year 2007 supplemental request and fiscal year 2008 Global War on Terror budget request to continue U.S. efforts to develop Iraq forces and transition security responsibilities to them. This testimony discusses the (1) results of U.S. efforts to develop Iraqi security forces, and (2) factors that affect the development of effective Iraqi security forces. This testimony is based on GAO's issued reports and ongoing work on U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. Although we reviewed both classified and unclassified documents, the information in this statement is based only on unclassified documents.As of February 2007, DOD reported that it had trained and equipped 327,000 Iraqi security forces--a substantial increase from the 142,000 reported in March 2005. The Iraqi security force level is double that of the 153,000-strong U.S.-led coalition currently in Iraq. While the Iraqi security forces are increasingly leading counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, they and the coalition have been unable to reduce the levels of violence throughout Iraq. Enemy-initiated attacks per day have increased from about 70 in January 2006 to about 160 in December 2006. Several factors affect the development of effective Iraqi security forces and help explain why the reported growth in Iraqi security forces has not decreased violence. First, the Iraqi security forces are not a single unified force with a primary mission of countering the insurgency in Iraq. About 40 percent of the Iraqi security forces have a primary mission of counterinsurgency--specifically, the Iraqi army. The other major component--the Iraqi police--has civilian law enforcement as its primary mission. Second, high rates of absenteeism and poor ministry reporting result in an overstatement of the number of Iraqi security forces present for duty. The Ministry of the Interior does not maintain standardized reports on personnel strength. As a result, DOD does not know how many coalition-trained police the ministry still employs or what percentage of the 180,000 police thought to be on the payroll are coalition trained and equipped. Third, sectarian and militia influences have divided the loyalties of Iraqi security forces. In November 2006, for example, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency stated that the Ministry of Interior and the police were heavily infiltrated by militia members of the Badr Organization and Mahdi Army. According to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, sectarian divisions have eroded the dependability of many Iraqi army units. Fourth, as we previously reported, Iraqi units remain dependent upon the coalition for their logistical, command and control, and intelligence capabilities. As of December 2006, the coalition was providing significant levels of support to the Iraqi military, including fuel and ammunition. The extent of these problems cannot be fully assessed without detailed information on the readiness of each Iraqi unit. While DOD captures this information in its Transition Readiness Assessments (TRAs), it does not provide this critical information to Congress. These data provide information on capabilities and gaps in Iraqi units' manpower, equipment, and training levels, and as of late 2006, assess each unit's operational effectiveness. Congress needs this information to make informed appropriations decisions and engage in meaningful oversight. Despite repeated attempts over many months, we have yet to be provided the TRA information we are seeking.[Read More…]
- North Carolina Risk Consultant Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud and Illegally Possessing a FirearmBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021A North Carolina businessman was sentenced today to three years in prison for tax fraud and illegal possession of a firearm.[Read More…]
- Taxpayer Advocate Service: Opportunities Exist to Improve Reports to CongressBy Sam NewsJune 17, 2021What GAO Found The budget for the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) declined by about 14 percent from fiscal years 2011 to 2020, when adjusted for inflation. For fiscal year 2020, TAS used most of its resources to assist individual taxpayers, known as case advocacy. TAS allocated about 76 percent of its $222 million budget and 86 percent of its almost 1,700 full-time equivalents to this purpose. The percentage of resources for case advocacy has decreased during the past decade—in fiscal year 2011 about 85 percent of the budget was devoted to it. For the same period, resources to address broader issues affecting groups of taxpayers, known as systemic advocacy, increased from 9 percent to 14 percent of the total budget. This shift is due in part to the reallocation of staff to better integrate systemic advocacy work and TAS's overall attrition rate more than doubling to 15.9 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2019. Since 2011, TAS has received more than 2 million taxpayer cases, of which almost half were referrals from other IRS offices. TAS closed more cases than it received each year from 2012 to 2017, but its inventory has grown since fiscal year 2018, due in part to attrition in case advocacy staff and an increase in taxpayers seeking assistance (see figure below). Number of Taxpayer Cases Received and Closed, Fiscal Years 2011 to 2020 TAS has recently modified its two mandated reports to Congress by reducing their length and separately compiling legislative recommendations. It shortened its annual reports in part because the Taxpayer First Act reduced the required number of most serious taxpayer problems from “at least 20” to “the 10” most serious problems. GAO identified the following additional actions that could further improve TAS reporting. Report outcome-oriented objectives and progress. The objectives for the upcoming fiscal year that TAS included in its most recent report are not always clearly identified and do not link to the various planned activities that are described. Further, the objectives TAS does identify do not include measurable outcomes. In addition, TAS's reports do not include the actual results achieved against objectives so it is not possible to assess related performance and progress. Improved performance reporting could help both TAS and Congress better understand which activities are contributing toward achieving TAS's objectives and where actions may be needed to address any unmet goals. Consult with Congress and other stakeholders. TAS briefs congressional committees each year after publishing its annual report and solicits perspectives from stakeholders. TAS officials said they incorporate the perspectives into its objectives. However, TAS does not follow leading practices to consult congressional committees about its goals and objectives prior to publication at least once every 2 years. Thus, it misses opportunities to obtain congressional input on its objectives and performance reporting. Consultations would provide TAS opportunities to confirm if its goals incorporate congressional and other stakeholder perspectives and whether its reports meet their information needs. Publish updates on recommendation implementation status. By law, TAS's annual report must include an inventory of actions IRS has fully, partially, and not yet taken on TAS's recommendations to address the most serious problems facing taxpayers. If those recommendations take multiple years to implement, which some have as shown in the table below, updating the inventory would be required. In its objectives reports, TAS provides only a one-time inventory of IRS responses to TAS's recommendations made during the preceding year, including plans and preliminary actions taken for those IRS accepts for implementation. TAS does not publicly update the inventory in subsequent annual reports to reflect actions IRS takes or does not take to address TAS's recommendations. This reporting approach does not provide complete information on the status of actions IRS has taken to address serious problems facing taxpayers and also does not provide the information in the annual report, as required. Publishing such updated status information would support congressional oversight. Taxpayer Advocate Service's (TAS) Recommendation Reporting and Status as of the Fourth Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020 GAO also identified options for TAS to consider to improve its reporting. These options include explaining changes to the list of the most serious taxpayer problems from year to year and streamlining report sections congressional staff use less frequently. Why GAO Did This Study TAS, an independent office within IRS, helps taxpayers resolve problems with IRS and addresses broader, systemic issues that affect groups of taxpayers by recommending administrative and legislative changes to mitigate such problems. Congress mandated that TAS issue two reports every year—one known as the annual report which includes sections on, among other things, the 10 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers, and the other known as the objectives report that discusses organizational objectives. GAO was asked to review how TAS carries out its mission, focusing on resources and reporting. This report (1) describes TAS's resources and workload, and (2) assesses TAS's reporting to Congress and identifies opportunities for improvement. GAO reviewed documents from TAS, IRS, and other sources, including TAS's annual and objectives reports and internal guidance; analyzed TAS's budget, staffing, and workload data for fiscal years 2011 through 2020; and interviewed knowledgeable TAS and IRS officials. GAO assessed TAS's reporting of its objectives and performance against statutory requirements, relevant internal control standards, and selected key practices for performance reporting developed by GAO. In addition, GAO reviewed relevant TAS web pages, analyzed the length and composition of TAS's reports, and interviewed key congressional committee staff to identify additional options to improve TAS's reporting.[Read More…]
- Montenegro Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Senior State Department Officials Briefing to Traveling PressBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020Istanbul, Turkey [Read More…]
- Financial Services Industry: Factors Affecting Careers for Women with STEM DegreesBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021What GAO Found Several factors affect women's participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degree programs and subsequent careers in the financial services industry, according to research and stakeholders GAO interviewed. These factors include young girls' early exposure to STEM topics, access to resources such as computers and high-speed internet, and a sense of whether they belong in STEM degree programs. Women's interest in a financial services career also may be affected by the presence of role models and awareness of job opportunities. In recent years, women have represented roughly 30 percent of financial services industry workers with STEM degrees (see figure). Financial Services Industry Workers with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) by Gender, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 To encourage elementary and high school girls to learn about STEM, selected financial services firms provide funding and other support to nonprofit organizations that focus on increasing girls' participation in STEM. With this support, nonprofit organizations introduce girls to coding, basic programming, and other activities that may inspire interest in STEM education. Similarly, to encourage college women to pursue STEM degrees, selected firms sponsor conferences for women in STEM, offer scholarships to women studying STEM, and work with nonprofit organizations to help increase students' awareness of careers in the financial services industry. Selected financial services firms recruit women with STEM degrees by collaborating with organizations that work with women STEM majors and sponsoring conferences for women in technology, among other efforts. Some firms have employee retention practices that are tailored to women with STEM expertise. For example, selected firms offer leadership training or employee resource groups for women in technology. Why GAO Did This Study The financial services industry is highly dependent on technology and more than one-fifth of industry employees have STEM degrees. Women continue to be underrepresented in management positions in the financial services industry and in STEM degree programs. As a result, some financial services firms have made efforts to promote interest among women in both STEM and financial services. GAO was asked to review factors affecting financial services careers for women with STEM degrees. This report examines (1) factors that affect the participation of women in STEM degree programs and subsequent participation in financial services careers, (2) how selected financial services firms encourage girls and women to participate in STEM education programs, and (3) how selected financial services firms recruit and retain women with STEM backgrounds. GAO analyzed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Education data from 2014 through 2018 and Census Bureau data from 2014 through 2019. At the time of analysis, these were the most recent data available. GAO also reviewed studies on financial services and STEM education. GAO interviewed representatives of financial services firms, industry associations, and nonprofit organizations. GAO selected organizations and representatives based on their participation in previous work and a literature review. EEOC and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System provided technical comments on a draft that GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or CackleyA@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Briefing with Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador Michael G. Kozak On Human Rights Concerns in CubaBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020Michael G. Kozak, Acting [Read More…]
- Joint Statement on the Occasion of a Trilateral Discussion among Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the United StatesBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Attorney General Merrick Garland Recognizes Individuals and Organizations for Service to Crime VictimsBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021More from: April 23, 2021 [Read More…]
- Supplement Retailers Plead Guilty in Cases Involving Distribution of Designer Steroids as Dietary SupplementsBy Sam NewsMay 19, 2021Two men and a California business each pleaded guilty this week to conspiring to distribute consumer products that contained designer anabolic steroids.[Read More…]
- Multiple U.S. Agencies Provided Billions of Dollars to Train and Equip Foreign Police ForcesBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Over the past few years, the United States has increased its emphasis on training and equipping foreign police as a means of supporting a wide range of U.S. foreign-policy goals, including countering terrorists overseas and stopping the flow of narcotics to the United States. Funding for these activities has increased significantly since we last reported on these issues in 1992. In response to congressional request, this report provides estimates of the funding the U.S. government provided for activities to train and equip foreign police, hereafter referred to as "police assistance," during fiscal year 2009. We defined "police" as all law-enforcement units or personnel with arrest, investigative, or interdiction authorities.During fiscal year 2009, seven federal agencies and 24 components within them funded or implemented police-assistance activities to support their counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and anticrime missions. Five of these agencies provided an estimated $3.5 billion for police assistance to 107 countries in fiscal year 2009. This amount compares to about $180 million in inflationadjusted dollars provided for these efforts in 1990, when we last compiled a similar inventory. DOD and State provided an estimated 97 percent of all U.S. government funds ($3.4 billion) for police assistance; DOD provided about 55 percent of the total and State about 42 percent. DOE, USAID, and DOJ provided the remaining 3 percent of U.S. funds for activities such as procuring nucleardetection devices and training law-enforcement officers on their use, establishing community-based police training programs, and developing terrorist crime-scene investigation capabilities. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, and the Palestinian Territories each received an estimated $100 million or more in police assistance. Both DOD and State provided funds for police assistance in 39 of the 107 recipient countries. In a subsequent review, we plan to assess how the two agencies coordinate efforts in these 39 countries to avoid duplication and overlap.[Read More…]
- Northern Alabama Doctor and Practice Manager Convicted for Conspiring to Unlawfully Distribute OpioidsBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020A Northern Alabama doctor and her husband, who also served as her practice manager, pleaded guilty today for their roles in unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances while the doctor was absent from the clinic.[Read More…]
- Liechtenstein National DayBy Sam NewsAugust 15, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with People’s Republic of China State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang YiBy Sam NewsAugust 16, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Genetic Services: Information on Genetic Counselor and Medical Geneticist WorkforcesBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020Genetic counselors and medical geneticists are two groups who typically work together to provide genetic services, such as genetic testing and counseling. Genetic counselors have at least a master's degree in genetic counseling and assess individuals or families with or at risk for genetic conditions, and provide counseling and education on test results. Medical geneticists are typically physicians who specialize in medical genetics and genomics, and provide comprehensive genetic services, ranging from diagnosis and interpretation of test results to the management and treatment of genetic conditions. GAO's analysis of data from the professional organizations representing this workforce shows the number of genetic counselors certified to provide genetic counseling services has nearly doubled since 2009, and is projected to continue growing. The data show there were approximately 4,700 certified genetics counselors in the United States in 2019. The data also show the number of new medical geneticists has increased modestly since 2009, and the total number certified in the United States was approximately 1,240 as of April 2020. There is no widely accepted measure for how many genetic counselors and medical geneticists should be available; however, representatives from professional organizations GAO interviewed stated that demand for genetic services is rising. Data from the professional organizations representing the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces, as well as data from the Census Bureau, also show the number of genetic counselors and medical geneticists varied across states. States averaged seven genetic counselors per 500,000 people in 2019 and two medical geneticists per 500,000 people in 2020. Genetic counselors and medical geneticists primarily practice in hospital settings. Distribution of Genetic Counselors by State, 2019 Advances in genetic technology and research have increased the amount of information available to individuals and providers, and may have increased the demand for genetic services. The medical genetics workforce—which includes genetic counselors and medical geneticists—plays an essential role in providing access to genetic services. Some studies have identified concerns with the size of the medical genetics workforce and its ability to meet the current and future demand for genetic services. A House Committee on Appropriations report included a provision for GAO to conduct an analysis of the medical genetics workforce. This report describes, among other objectives, what is known about changes in the size of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; and what is known about the geographic distribution of these workforces. GAO reviewed relevant studies of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; interviewed agency officials and professional organizations representing each workforce; and analyzed the most recent available data on the size and distribution of each workforce in the United States, as well as population data from the Census Bureau. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or CosgroveJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Former NGO Procurement Official Sentenced to Prison for BriberyBy Sam NewsMay 24, 2021A former non-governmental organization (NGO) official was sentenced today to 40 months in prison for paying bribes to NGO officers in exchange for sensitive procurement information related to NGO contracts funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).[Read More…]
- JPL Mission Breaks Record for Smallest Satellite to Detect an ExoplanetBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020About the size of a [Read More…]
- Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated AliensBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020Today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released the Alien Incarceration Report for Fiscal Year 2019. The data shows that 94 percent of confirmed aliens incarcerated in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) facilities were unlawfully present in the United States. Additionally, the report found that nearly 70 percent of known or suspected aliens in BOP custody had been convicted of a non-immigration-related offense, and 39 percent of known or suspected aliens in USMS custody had committed a non-immigration-related offense.[Read More…]
- Grenada Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Exercise increased [Read More…]