Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking and Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Yemen Cathy Westley visited Aden, Yemen today. During the trip, they met with Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed, Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak, Aden Governor Lamlas, other senior government officials, and representatives of Yemeni civil society.
The visit comes at a time when Yemenis are suffering from extreme economic instability as well as security threats. Special Envoy Lenderking emphasized that now is the time for all Yemenis to come together to end this war and enact bold reforms to revive the economy, counter corruption, and alleviate suffering.
Chargé Westley underscored that the United States welcomes the commitment of the Prime Minister and endorses the government’s presence in Yemen but the government must do more to enact reforms that will help ease the suffering caused by the war.
The U.S. delegation urged the Yemeni Government to continue to strengthen internal coordination, including with the Southern Transitional Council and other groups, as division weakens all parties and only exacerbates suffering. During their conversations, the U.S. delegation and the Republic of Yemen Government discussed how the Houthis’ offensive on Marib is exacerbating the humanitarian situation and obstructing peace.
The U.S. Government calls on regional and other countries to increase economic support for Yemen, noting that improving basic services and economic opportunity is an important step to building a stronger foundation for peace.
This visit demonstrates that the United States remains committed to helping Yemenis shape a brighter future for their country.
- COVID-19: Selected Agencies Overcame Technology Challenges to Support Telework but Need to Fully Assess Security ControlsBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2021What GAO Found Each of the 12 agencies GAO selected for review had information technology (IT) in place to support remote access for telework during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the agencies initially experienced IT challenges in supporting remote access for maximum telework, they generally overcame them. For example, seven agencies were challenged in providing sufficient bandwidth to provide remote access for teleworkers, but they increased bandwidth as needed to ensure networks could handle additional remote connections. In addition, while the increased number of remote connections brings additional cybersecurity risks, all of the selected agencies reported that they continued activities intended to help ensure the security of their information and systems. While the selected agencies had documented elements of a telework security policy, such as permitted telework devices and forms of remote access, not all agencies had fully addressed other relevant federal guidance for securing their systems that support remote access for telework (see figure). Specifically, two agencies had not fully documented relevant IT security controls to protect those systems. In addition, assessments for systems that five agencies relied upon for remote access did not address all relevant controls to ensure the controls were operating effectively. Further, four selected agencies had not fully documented remedial actions to mitigate weaknesses they had previously identified. Extent to Which 12 Selected Agencies Followed Federal Information Security Guidance in Implementing Their IT Systems That Support Remote Access for Telework Although one of the selected agencies subsequently resolved its shortcomings, others had not. For the agencies that did not fully follow federal information security guidance, agency IT security officials stated that these conditions existed for various reasons, such as out-of-date documentation, among others. If agencies do not sufficiently document relevant security controls, assess the controls, and fully document remedial actions for weaknesses identified in security controls, they are at increased risk that vulnerabilities in their systems that provide remote access could be exploited. Why GAO Did This Study In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 the Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to maximize their use of telework to enable the workforce to remain safe while ensuring that government operations continue. Telework is essential to continuity of operations but also brings added cybersecurity risks. The CARES Act contains a provision for GAO to monitor the federal response to the pandemic. GAO was also asked to examine federal agencies' preparedness to support expanded telework. GAO's objectives were to determine (1) selected agencies' initial experiences in providing the IT needed to support remote access for maximum telework and (2) the extent to which selected agencies followed federal information security guidance for their IT systems that provide remote access. GAO selected 12 agencies for review that varied in their percentages of reported employee telework use and sent a questionnaire to solicit these agencies' perspectives on the use of IT in transitioning to maximum telework. GAO also reviewed the selected agencies' information security documentation and interviewed relevant officials.[Read More…]
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- Military Housing: Actions Needed to Improve the Process for Setting Allowances for Servicemembers and Calculating Payments for Privatized Housing ProjectsBy Sam NewsJanuary 25, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) has established a process to determine basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates, which help cover the cost of suitable housing in the private sector for servicemembers. However, DOD has not always collected rental data on the minimum number of rental units needed to estimate the total housing cost for certain locations and housing types. GAO analysis found that 44 percent (788 of 1,806) of locations and housing types had fewer than the minimum sample-size target. Until DOD develops ways to increase its sample size, it will risk providing housing cost compensation that does not accurately represent the cost of suitable housing for servicemembers. DOD followed congressional requirements for calculating BAH reductions and payments to privatized housing projects. However, while the 2019 congressionally mandated payments lessened the financial effects of BAH reductions, as intended, they did not do so commensurate with the amount of the BAH reduction. GAO found that privatized housing projects received payments that were either over or under the amount of revenue lost from reductions made to BAH, in some cases by $1 million or more. (see figure) Number of Privatized Housing Projects and Amounts That Congressionally Mandated Payments Were Above or Below the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Reduction Estimate (in 2019) These distortions occurred because the legal requirements for calculating the BAH reduction and the congressionally mandated payments differ. Specifically, the law requires that the BAH reduction be a set dollar amount, regardless of location, while payments to privatized housing projects are required to differ by location. This required method of calculating the BAH reduction amounts is consistent with how prior reductions were calculated. According to DOD, BAH rates were reduced so that servicemembers share a portion of housing costs, and that reduction amount was the same for servicemembers with the same pay grade and dependency status, regardless of location. Until Congress takes steps to ensure congressionally mandated payment calculations are consistent with how BAH reductions are calculated, some privatized housing projects will continue to receive more or less than was intended. DOD spent about $20 billion in fiscal year 2019 on BAH—often one of the largest components of military pay. BAH is designed to cover a portion of servicemembers' housing rental and utility costs in the private sector. Starting in 2015, DOD reduced BAH rates so that servicemembers share a portion of housing costs. The majority of servicemembers rely on the civilian housing market, while others rely on government housing or privatized housing projects. These projects rely on BAH as a key revenue source. In 2018-2020, Congress required DOD to make payments to these projects to help offset the BAH reduction. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's BAH process. This report evaluates, among other things, the extent to which (1) DOD established a process to determine BAH and (2) DOD's congressionally mandated payments to projects lessened the effects of BAH reductions. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed relevant guidance and other documents, analyzed key data, and interviewed cognizant DOD officials. GAO is making a matter for congressional consideration to revise statutory language to ensure payments to privatized housing projects are consistent with BAH reductions. GAO is also making three recommendations, including that DOD review its sampling methodology to increase sample size. DOD concurred with two recommendations. DOD also partially concurred with one recommendation, which GAO continues to believe is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Data Center Optimization: Agencies Report Progress and Billions Saved, but OMB Needs to Improve Its Utilization GuidanceBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) continue to report progress toward meeting OMB's goals for closing data centers and achieving the related cost savings. According to data submitted by the 24 agencies, almost all of them met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As of August 2020, the agencies reported that they expected to achieve 230 data center closures, resulting in $1.1 billion in savings, over the 2-year period. Agencies expected to realize a cumulative total of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidances from fiscal years 2012 through 2020. However, agencies have excluded approximately 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 due to a change in the definition of a data center. Specifically, in June 2019, OMB narrowed the definition of a data center to exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks. GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyber attacks. Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained. However, OMB has not taken action to address the recommendation. Overall, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to help agencies meet their DCOI goals, but agencies have not implemented 53. The 24 agencies reported varied progress against OMB's data center optimization targets for fiscal year 2020 (see figure). Agency-Reported Progress towards Meeting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Data Center Optimization Targets, as of August 2020 Notes: Virtualization measures the number of servers and mainframes serving as a virtual host. Advanced energy metering counts data centers with metering to measure energy efficiency. A metric is not applicable if an agency does not have any agency-owned data centers or if its remaining centers are exempted from optimization by OMB. In June 2019, OMB revised the server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, and then count their underutilized servers. As a result, agencies adopted widely varying definitions and were no longer required to report actual utilization, a key measure of server efficiency. In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation known as FITARA, which included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance. FITARA included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. This report addresses (1) agencies' progress on data center closures and the related savings that have been achieved, and agencies' plans for future closures and savings; (2) agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; and (3) the effectiveness of OMB's metric for server utilization and how the agencies are implementing it. To do so, GAO reviewed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2020, their reported cost savings documentation and data center optimization strategic plans, and OMB's revised utilization metric. GAO reiterates that agencies need to address the 53 recommendations previously made to them that have not yet been implemented. GAO is making one new recommendation to OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency. OMB had no comments on the report and the recommendation directed to the agency. Of the 24 DCOI agencies, five agreed with the information in the report, six did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, and 13 had no comments. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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- FBI Report on Crime Shows Decline in Violent Crime Rate for Third Consecutive YearBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its 2019 edition of Crime in the United States, which showed that violent crime decreased nationwide for the third consecutive year. After decreases in both 2017 and 2018, the violent crime rate dropped an additional one percent this past year and the property crime rate decreased 4.5 percent.[Read More…]
- Another extradition lands third ELN member on U.S. soil for international cocaine distributionBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsSeptember 21, 2021Another alleged [Read More…]
- Immigration Detention: ICE Efforts to Address COVID-19 in Detention FacilitiesBy Sam NewsJuly 1, 2021What GAO Found To guide immigration detention facilities' response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) developed the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements. These protocols address facility intake processing, screening and testing, and social distancing, among other requirements. According to officials from six selected facilities, these requirements were routinely implemented. However, some reported that quarantine of detainees was difficult at times due to infrastructure limitations, and detainee compliance with mask wearing was an ongoing challenge. As of March 2021, individual facilities were generally responsible for working directly with state and local health authorities to administer COVID-19 vaccines to detainees. Number of Reported COVID-19 Cases among Detainees in ICE Detention Facilities To oversee detention facilities' management of COVID-19, ICE administers a recurring survey to assess their implementation of the Pandemic Response Requirements. According to ICE, field officials review the survey responses and follow up with facilities on areas requiring attention. Officials told GAO the survey helped identify areas of potential noncompliance, but also noted some challenges, such as a lack of on-site facility monitoring to validate responses. In December 2020, ICE revised the survey to obtain more information on facilities' adherence to requirements and implemented an on-site compliance check. As of March 2021, officials reported three monthly surveys were completed, plans for corrective actions were initiated at 11 facilities, and they plan to review survey data more systematically for trends. ICE identifies and tracks COVID-19 cases among detainees in its custody as well as those detainees determined to be at high-risk for severe illness due to COVID-19. In calendar year 2020, ICE tested 80,200 detainees for COVID-19, identified 8,622 positive cases (10.8 percent), and recorded eight deaths. ICE further identified 14,729 high-risk detainees in its custody nationwide among whom 528 (3.6 percent) tested positive for COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Detention facilities can present a challenging environment to manage the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. ICE, within the Department of Homeland Security, is the lead federal agency responsible for providing safe, secure, and humane confinement for detained individuals of foreign nationality while they wait for resolution of their immigration cases, or removal from the United States. As of March 2021, ICE confirmed over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 among detainees within its detention facilities nationwide and recorded eight deaths. This report examines: (1) ICE's policies and procedures for responding to COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities and how they were implemented at select facilities; (2) ICE's mechanisms for conducting oversight of COVID-19 related health and safety measures; and (3) ICE's data on COVID-19 cases and identified high-risk health factors among detainees. GAO interviewed officials in ICE headquarters and from a non-generalizable sample of six ICE detention facilities selected on the basis of geographic location, facility type, and average population. GAO reviewed ICE's Pandemic Response Requirements for detention facilities and oversight mechanisms, and analyzed ICE data on COVID-19 cases and high-risk detainees in its custody between January 2020 and March 2021. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Welcomes Passage of The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020By Sam NewsJanuary 13, 2021On Jan. 13, 2021, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020 (the “Act”), which limits the antitrust exemption available to health insurance companies under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The Act, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 21, 2020 and passed the Senate on Dec. 22, 2020.[Read More…]
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- Victims of Identity Theft, 2018By Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021(Publication)
This report describes the number of persons age 16 or older who experienced identity theft in 2018.
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- New Embassy Compounds: State Faces Challenges in Sizing Facilities and Providing for Operations and Maintenance RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021In response to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, the Department of State (State) embarked on a multiyear, multibillion dollar program to replace insecure and dilapidated diplomatic facilities. Since 2001, State has constructed 52 new embassy compounds (NECs) under this program, and moved over 21,000 U.S. government personnel into more secure and safe facilities. GAO was asked to examine (1) the extent to which new facilities match the space and functionality needs of overseas missions and State's actions to address space and functionality challenges; and (2) operations and maintenance challenges at these new facilities and State's steps to address them. GAO analyzed staffing data and other documentation for 44 NECs built from 2001 to 2009 and interviewed State headquarters and embassy officials at 22 of these 44 NECs to obtain information on their functionality and operations and maintenance issues.State has located nearly one-quarter of overseas staff in NECs, which posts said are an improvement over older facilities. However, NECs do not fully meet the space and functionality needs of overseas missions. Current staffing levels exceed the originally-built desk--or office--space at over half of the 44 NECs GAO analyzed. Post management has dealt with space limitations by converting spaces, like conference rooms, into offices, but 4 posts have had to retain space outside the compound for staff that could not fit in the NECs. Also, officials at almost all of the 22 NECs that GAO reviewed in depth reported some spaces, like consular affairs spaces, did not fully meet their functional needs. According to State officials, it is difficult to predict changing foreign policy priorities that can affect staffing levels, and the process for planning NECs has been unable to fully account for these changes. Budget constraints also affected decisions about the size of NECs and types of features provided. State has taken some actions to improve NEC sizing, but does not have sufficient flexibility in its staffing projection and design processes to better address sizing challenges. To address problems with functionality, State implemented a lessons learned program to analyze issues in completed NECs and modify design criteria for future NECs, but State has not completed, in a timely manner, planned evaluations that are designed to identify such issues. While NECs are state-of-the-art buildings, they have presented operations and maintenance challenges, and the larger size and greater complexity of NECs, compared to facilities they replaced, have resulted in increased operations and maintenance costs. In 2010, State developed its first long-range maintenance plan that identifies $3.7 billion in maintenance requirements over 6 years for all overseas facilities, but it does not include time frames for implementing identified maintenance projects or address increased operating costs. Problems with testing, or "commissioning," new building systems have contributed to problems with building systems that do not function as they should, causing higher maintenance costs. State strengthened its commissioning process, though this change only applies to future NECs and does not address problems at existing NECs. Further, State does not currently recommission--or retest--NECs to ensure they are operating as intended. In addition, more than half of the 22 NECs that GAO reviewed in detail experienced problems with some building systems, resulting in the need for premature repair and replacement. Through its lessons learned program, State has changed some design criteria for future NECs to avoid problems with building systems. Finally, State has had problems hiring and training personnel who have the technical skills necessary to manage the complex NEC systems. State has taken initial steps to improve its staff hiring and training, but does not have an overall plan to establish its NEC human resource needs and the associated costs.[Read More…]
- COVID-19: HHS Should Clarify Agency Roles for Emergency Return of U.S. Citizens during a PandemicBy Sam NewsApril 19, 2021What GAO Found At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. returned, or repatriated, about 1,100 U.S. citizens from abroad and quarantined them domestically to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) experienced coordination and safety issues that put repatriates, HHS personnel, and nearby communities at risk. This occurred because HHS component agencies—the Administration for Children and Families, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—did not follow plans or guidance delineating their roles and responsibilities for repatriating individuals during a pandemic—an event these agencies had never experienced. While they had general repatriation plans, there was disagreement as to whether the effort was in fact a repatriation. This led to fundamental problems for HHS agencies and their federal partners, including at the March Air Reserve Base quarantine facility in California where the first repatriated individuals were quarantined prior to widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the U.S. These problems included the following: Lack of clarity as to which agency was in charge when the first repatriation flight from Wuhan, China, arrived at the quarantine facility, which caused confusion among the HHS component agencies. Coordination issues among HHS component agencies resulted in component agencies operating independently of each other, and led to frustration and complications. HHS's delay in issuing its federal quarantine order, during which time a repatriate tried to leave the quarantine facility. HHS personnel's inconsistent use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and HHS officials' disagreement on which agency was responsible for managing infection prevention and control. An HHS official also directed personnel to remove their PPE as it created “bad optics,” according to an HHS report that examined the repatriation effort. The National Response Framework, a guide to how the U.S. responds to disasters and emergencies, instructs agencies to understand their respective roles and responsibilities, know what plans apply, and develop appropriate guidance for emergency responses. Until HHS revises or develops new plans that clarify agency roles and responsibilities during a repatriation in response to a pandemic, it will be unable to prevent the coordination and health and safety issues it experienced during the COVID-19 repatriation response in future pandemic emergencies. HHS also did not include repatriation in its pandemic planning exercises. As a result, agencies lacked experience deploying together to test repatriation plans during a pandemic, which contributed to serious coordination issues. GAO has previously reported that exercises play an important role in preparing for an incident by providing opportunities to test response plans and assess the clarity of roles and responsibilities. Until HHS conducts such exercises, it will be unable to test its repatriation plans during a pandemic and identify areas for improvement. Why GAO Did This Study HHS provides temporary assistance to U.S. citizens repatriated by the Department of State (State) from a foreign country because of destitution, illness, threat of war, or similar crises through the U.S. Repatriation Program. In January and February 2020, HHS assisted State in repatriating individuals from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, to the U.S. HHS quarantined repatriates at five Department of Defense (DOD) installations to ensure they did not infect others with COVID-19. GAO was asked to examine HHS's COVID-19 repatriation efforts to ensure the health and safety of those involved in the response. This report examines HHS's coordination and management of its COVID-19 repatriation response. GAO reviewed relevant documentation from HHS, State, and DOD related to repatriation planning, including documentation on pandemic planning exercises. GAO also interviewed officials from HHS, State, and DOD.[Read More…]
- Defendant Was Convicted of Multiple Counts of Sex and Drug Trafficking, Several Firearm Offenses and Other Offenses, Including Witness TamperingBy Sam NewsFebruary 24, 2021Prince Bixler, 41, of Lexington, Kentucky, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Wier to 36 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $333,100 in restitution to three sex trafficking victims.[Read More…]
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- Unmanned Aircraft Systems: DOD Needs to More Effectively Promote Interoperability and Improve Performance AssessmentsBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) consist of an unmanned aircraft; sensor, communications, or weapons, carried on board the aircraft, collectively referred to as payloads; and ground controls. UAS have been used successfully in recent operations, and are in increasingly high demand by U.S. forces. To meet the demand, the Department of Defense (DOD) is increasing its investment in and reliance on UAS, and often deploying them while still in development. GAO has previously found that DOD's approach to developing and fielding UAS risked interoperability problems which could undermine joint operations. GAO was asked to review (1) UAS performance in recent joint operations and (2) the soundness of DOD's approach to evaluating joint UAS operational performance.DOD has achieved certain operational successes using UAS, including identifying time-critical targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, and striking enemy positions to defeat opposing forces. Some missions effectively supported joint operations, and in other cases, the missions were service-specific. DOD has encountered challenges which have hampered joint operations at times. First, some UAS cannot easily transmit and receive data with other communication systems because they are not interoperable. Although DOD guidance requires interoperability, detailed standards for interoperability have not been developed; DOD has relied on existing, more general standards; and the services developed differing systems. For now, U.S. forces have developed technical patches permitting transmission but slowing data flow, potentially hampering time-critical targeting. Second, some sensor payloads cannot be interchangeably used on different UAS because DOD has not adopted a payload commonality standard. Some UAS missions may have to be delayed if compatible unmanned aircraft and payloads are not available. Based on its experience with UAS in Persian Gulf operations, U.S. Central Command believes communications interoperability and payload commonality problems occur because the services' UAS development programs have been service-specific and insufficiently attentive to joint needs. Lastly, the electromagnetic spectrum needed to control the flight of certain unmanned aircraft and to transmit data is constrained and no standard requiring the capability to change frequencies had been adopted because the problem was not foreseen. Thus, some systems cannot change to avoid congestion and consequently some missions have been delayed, potentially undermining time-critical targeting. In addition to the joint operational challenges, inclement weather can also hamper UAS operations. Unmanned aircraft are more likely to be grounded in inclement weather than manned aircraft and DOD had not decided whether to require all-weather capability. While DOD has acknowledged the need to improve UAS interoperability and address bandwidth and weather constraints, little progress has been made. Until DOD adopts and enforces interoperability and other standards, these challenges will likely remain and become more widespread as new UAS are developed and fielded. DOD's approach to evaluating UAS joint operational performance has been unsound because it was not systematic or routine. DOD has deployed UAS before developing a joint operations performance measurement system, even though results-oriented performance measures can be used to monitor progress toward agency goals. DOD has generally relied on after-action and maintenance reports which have useful but not necessarily joint performance information. DOD has also relied on short-duration study teams for some performance information but had not established ongoing or routine reporting systems. Thus, while continuing to invest in UAS, DOD has incomplete performance information on joint operations on which to base acquisition or modification decisions. In May 2005, U.S. Strategic Command began developing joint performance measures.[Read More…]