January 19, 2022

News

News Network

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Election

10 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United States congratulates the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Prime Minister Gonsalves on the completion of their free and fair elections and looks forward to deepening our partnership. Our two countries are friends and neighbors with a shared commitment to the rule of law, and we will continue to work together to promote security, economic prosperity, and democratic rights for people throughout the Caribbean. We commend the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for upholding the democratic heritage of the hemisphere.

News Network

  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • New York Court Eases Return into Community After Prison
    In U.S Courts
    Federal judges and court staff in Manhattan recently celebrated two dozen individuals’ successful transition back into the community after prison, thanks to a specialized program to help high-risk former offenders maintain crime-free lives.  
    [Read More…]
  • World Intellectual Property Day
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Bureau of Economic and [Read More…]
  • Belgian Security Services Company and Three Former Executives Indicted for Bid Rigging on U.S. Department of Defense Contracts
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Belgium-based Seris Security NV (Seris) and three executives for their roles in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers for defense-related security services, including a multimillion-dollar contract issued in 2020 to provide security services to the U.S. Department of Defense for military bases and installations in Belgium. This is the second charge and first indictment involving an international conspiracy obtained by the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) and follows G4S Secure Solution NV’s (G4S) agreement to plead guilty in the investigation. 
    [Read More…]
  • Air Pollution: Opportunities to Better Sustain and Modernize the National Air Quality Monitoring System
    In U.S GAO News
    The ambient air quality monitoring system is a national asset that provides standardized information for implementing the Clean Air Act and protecting public health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local agencies cooperatively manage the system, with each playing different roles in design, operation, oversight, and funding. For example, EPA establishes minimum requirements for the system, and state and local agencies operate the monitors and report data to EPA. Officials from EPA and selected state and local agencies identified challenges related to sustaining the monitoring system. For example, they said that infrastructure is aging while annual EPA funding for state and local air quality management grants, which cover monitoring, has decreased by about 20 percent since 2004 after adjusting for inflation (see fig.). GAO found inconsistencies in how EPA regions have addressed these challenges. GAO's prior work has identified key characteristics of asset management, such as identifying needed resources and using quality data to manage infrastructure risks, which can help organizations optimize limited resources. By developing an asset management framework that includes such characteristics, EPA could better target limited resources toward the highest priorities for consistently sustaining the system. Annual Inflation-Adjusted EPA Funding for State and Local Air Quality Management Grants Air quality managers, researchers, and the public need additional information so they can better understand and address the health risks from air pollution, according to GAO's review of literature and interviews GAO conducted. These needs include additional information on (1) air toxics to understand health risks in key locations such as near industrial facilities; and (2) how to use low-cost sensors to provide real-time, local-scale air quality information. EPA and state and local agencies face persistent challenges meeting such air quality information needs, including challenges in understanding the performance of low-cost sensors. GAO illustrated this challenge by collecting air quality data from low-cost sensors and finding variability in their performance. EPA has strategies aimed at better meeting the additional air quality information needs of managers, researchers, and the public, but the strategies are outdated and incomplete. For example, they do not clearly define roles for meeting additional information needs. GAO's prior work on asset management suggests that a more strategic approach could help EPA modernize the system to better meet the additional information needs. By developing a modernization plan that aligns with leading practices for strategic planning and risk management, such as establishing modernization goals and roles, EPA could better ensure that the system meets the additional information needs of air quality managers, researchers, and the public and is positioned to protect public health. The national ambient air quality monitoring system shows that the United States has made progress in reducing air pollution but that risks to public health and the environment continue in certain locations. The system consists of sites that measure air pollution levels around fixed locations across the country using specific methods. Since the system began in the 1970s, air quality concerns have changed—such as increased concern about the health effects of air toxics. GAO was asked to evaluate the national air quality monitoring system. This report examines the role of the system and how it is managed, challenges in managing the system and actions to address them, and needs for additional air quality information and actions to address challenges in meeting those needs. GAO reviewed literature, laws, and agency documents; conducted a demonstration of low-cost sensors; and interviewed EPA officials, selected state and local officials, representatives from air quality associations, and stakeholders. GAO is making two recommendations for EPA to (1) establish an asset management framework for the monitoring system that includes key characteristics and (2) develop an air quality monitoring modernization plan that aligns with leading practices. In written comments on the report, EPA generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • American Contractor Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Government Equipment from U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan
    In Crime News
    An American military contractor pleaded guilty today to her role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    [Read More…]
  • Defense Real Property: DOD-Wide Strategy Needed to Address Control Issues and Improve Reliability of Records
    In U.S GAO News
    As required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the Department of Defense (DOD) for fiscal year 2019 underwent a financial statement audit. In the military services' full financial statement audit reports for fiscal year 2019, the independent public accountants reported serious control issues related to events that occur during the life cycle of real property, consisting of adding, disposing, reconciling, valuing, and performing physical inventory counts. These control issues affect not only the reliability of financial statement reporting but also the quality of property record data that DOD officials need to make decisions for budget and mission planning, space management, and buying versus leasing options. Further, with DOD having almost half of the government's buildings, better data could help the federal government identify opportunities to dispose of unneeded buildings and reduce lease costs, thus potentially saving it millions of dollars. DOD has not yet developed a comprehensive, department-wide strategy—an element of leading practices for enterprise-wide real property management—to address the reported real property issues. Instead, each of the military services is independently developing corrective actions to address control issues, without applying common solutions among the services or department-wide. A department-wide strategy for remediating control issues would better position DOD to develop sustainable, routine processes that help ensure accurate real property records and, ultimately, auditable information for financial reporting for the department. Additionally, a DOD-wide strategy could help the military services more effectively and efficiently address reported control issues, particularly for those categorized as DOD-wide issues. The Acting Secretary, noting that the services had not accurately accounted for DOD's buildings and structures, required existence and completeness (E&C) verifications to be performed for all real property for fiscal year 2019. Given the lack of department-wide instructions for how to carry out the requirement, the military services independently developed approaches for performing the E&C verifications. Their approaches differed in both scope (what assets were verified) and methodology (how the assets were verified), including the extent to which instructions were written. Reporting and monitoring of the results by service and department-level management also differed. Without department-wide instructions for performing the fiscal year 2019 E&C verifications, the results were not comparable among the military services. Further, DOD and the military services did not obtain the complete and consistent information needed to create a DOD real property baseline or to help ensure that the department's real property records are reliable. DOD-wide instructions would help DOD obtain complete and comparable E&C verifications results, which would help DOD achieve an auditable real property baseline and, ultimately, its objective of an unmodified (“clean”) audit opinion. DOD manages one of the federal government's largest portfolios of real property. This engagement was initiated in connection with the statutory requirement for GAO to audit the U.S. government's consolidated financial statements. DOD's uncorrected deficiencies, including those affecting real property, prevent DOD from having auditable financial statements, one of the three major impediments preventing GAO from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. This report (1) identifies the real property control issues that independent public accountants reported that may affect the ability of the military services to establish and maintain accurate and complete real property records, (2) examines the extent to which DOD had a strategy to address the control issues, and (3) assesses the extent to which DOD provided guidance for the required E&C verifications during fiscal year 2019 and how each military service implemented the directive. GAO analyzed fiscal year 2019 audit findings, reviewed key DOD documents, and interviewed DOD and military service officials. GAO is recommending that DOD (1) develop and implement an enterprise-wide strategy to remediate real property control issues and (2) issue DOD-wide instructions for the E&C verifications. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or kociolekk@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • American Contractor Sentenced for Theft of Government Equipment on U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan
    In Crime News
    An American military contractor was sentenced today to 51 months in prison for her role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    [Read More…]
  • Man Convicted of Receiving, Soliciting, and Promoting Child Pornography
    In Crime News
    A federal jury convicted a Virginia man today for downloading images and videos depicting children as young as four years old being sexually abused and for utilizing the Darknet to solicit and promote child pornography.
    [Read More…]
  • Military Operations: The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan
    In U.S GAO News
    There are a number of ways that the U.S. government provides assistance to Iraqi or Afghan civilians who are killed, injured, or suffer property damage as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions. For instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development funds projects to assist Iraqi and Afghan civilians and communities directly impacted by actions of U.S. or coalition forces. Also, the Department of State administers a program that makes payments, in accordance with local custom, to Iraqi civilians who are harmed in incidents involving U.S. protective security details. In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) administers a program that provides compensation under the Foreign Claims Act to inhabitants of foreign countries for death, injury, or property damage caused by noncombat activities of U.S. military personnel overseas. Further, DOD provides monetary assistance in the form of solatia and condolence payments to Iraqi and Afghan nationals who are killed, injured, or incur property damage as a result of U.S. or coalition forces' actions during combat. From fiscal years 2003 to 2006, DOD has reported about $1.9 million in solatia payments and more than $29 million in condolence payments to Iraqi and Afghan civilians who are killed, injured, or incur property damage as a result of U.S. or coalition forces' actions during combat. These payments are expressions of sympathy or remorse based on local culture and customs, but not an admission of legal liability or fault. Commanders make condolence payments using funds provided by Congress for the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), whereas solatia payments are funded from unit operations and maintenance accounts. Pub. L. No. 108-106 (2003) requires DOD to provide quarterly reports on the source, allocation, and use of CERP funds. To administer the CERP, DOD has established 19 project categories for the use of funds, including categories for condolence payments and battle damage payments. At Congress's request, we reviewed DOD's solatia and condolence payment programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, we examined the following questions: (1) To what extent has DOD established guidance for making and documenting solatia and condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan? (2) How are commanders making and documenting solatia and condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan and what factors do commanders consider when determining whether to make payments or payment amounts? (3) To what extent does DOD collect and analyze solatia and condolence payment data? We also are providing information on the other aforementioned programs established by the U.S. government to provide assistance to Iraqi and Afghan civilians who have been affected by U.S. or coalition forces' actions. These programs include (1) DOD's Foreign Claims Act, (2) the Department of State's Claims and Condolence Payment Program, and (3) the U.S. Agency for International Development's Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund and the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program.We found that DOD has established guidance for making and documenting solatia and condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that guidance has changed over time primarily in Iraq in terms of condolence payment amounts, approval levels, and payment eligibility. Within parameters established by guidance, commanders exercise broad discretion for determining whether a payment should be made and the appropriate payment amount. While guidance does not require commanders to make payments, commanders may do so if they choose. When determining whether to make payments and payment amounts, commanders told us they consider the severity of injury, type of damage, and property values based on the local economy as well as any other applicable cultural considerations. According to unit officials with whom we spoke, units generally follow a similar process for making solatia and condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials told us that they generally make payments to civilians at Civil Military Operations Centers--ad hoc organizations established by military commanders to assist in the coordination of civilian-related activities--or during personal visits. DOD requires units to collect various types of detailed information related to condolence payments and, based on this information, reports certain summary level data to Congress. However, because its current guidance does not clearly distinguish between the types of payments to be reported under certain CERP categories, reporting entities are interpreting the guidance differently, and therefore inconsistent reporting has occurred. When a condolence payment is made, units record, among other data, information on the unit that made the payment, number of civilians killed or injured or whose property was damaged, location of the incident, and dollar value of the payment. Each payment also is assigned a document reference number for tracking purposes. In reporting to Congress on the use of CERP funds, DOD provides summary data on obligations, commitments, and disbursements for each of the 19 project categories, and by major subordinate command5 in Iraq or task force in Afghanistan. The project categories include (1) condolence payments to individual civilians for death, injury, or property damage and (2) repair of damage that results from U.S., coalition, or supporting military operations that is not compensable under the Foreign Claims Act, known as battle damage payments. Within the condolence payment category, DOD reports total dollar amounts and does not distinguish between payments made for death, injury, or personal property damage. Because DOD guidance does not clearly define when payments for property damage should be recorded as condolence payments or as payments for battle damage, some units are recording property damage as condolence payments while others record property damage as battle damage payments. Additionally, neither DOD nor the Army--which is the executive agent for CERP--can easily determine that property damage is categorized appropriately because guidance does not require units to report certain detailed information, such as document reference numbers, which would facilitate verification.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with South African Foreign Minister Pandor
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles Claim Against Texas IT Company for Using Job Advertisements that Discriminated Against and Deterred U.S. Workers in Favor of Temporary Visa Holders
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it signed a settlement agreement with Ikon Systems, LLC (Ikon), an IT staffing and recruiting company based in Texas.
    [Read More…]
  • Lesotho National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Former Canadian Foreign Minister Garneau
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Visit to Bangladesh
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Imposing Sanctions on Russia for the Poisoning and Imprisonment of Aleksey Navalny
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Opportunity Zones: Census Tract Designations, Investment Activities, and IRS Challenges Ensuring Taxpayer Compliance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The 2017 law commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created a tax incentive that gave governors discretion to nominate generally up to 25 percent of their states' low-income census tracts as special investment areas called Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Department of the Treasury then verified eligibility and designated the nominated tracts. GAO found that on average, the selected tracts had higher poverty and a greater share of non-White populations than eligible, but not selected, tracts. These differences were statistically significant. Most state government officials were aware of at least some Opportunity Zone investments but had differing views of the tax incentive's effect so far. State Respondents' Views on Overall Impact of the Opportunity Zones Tax Incentive Note: GAO surveyed government officials from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and received 56 responses. Based on case studies of Qualified Opportunity Funds—investment vehicles organized for investing in Opportunity Zones—the tax incentive attracted investment in a variety of projects, including multifamily housing, self-storage facilities, and renewable energy businesses. According to survey responses and other sources, most projects are real-estate focused. Through 2019, more than 6,000 Qualified Opportunity Funds had invested about $29 billion, based on partial data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS developed plans to ensure Qualified Opportunity Funds and investors are complying with the tax incentive's requirements; however, IRS faces challenges in implementing these plans. Specifically, the plans depend on data that are not readily available for analysis. In addition, funds have attracted investments from high-wealth individuals, and some funds are organized as partnerships with hundreds of investors. IRS considers both of these groups to be high risk for tax noncompliance generally. However, IRS has not researched potential compliance risks these groups pose for this tax incentive. As a result, IRS may be unable to effectively direct compliance efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Congress created the Opportunity Zones tax incentive to spur investments in distressed communities. Taxpayers who invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds—that then invest in qualified property or businesses—could receive significant tax-related benefits. Funds and their investors generally must invest in Opportunity Zones for a minimum number of years and report information annually to receive tax benefits and avoid penalties. IRS administers and ensures compliance with these rules. GAO was asked to review implementation and use of this tax incentive. This report describes the process for designating census tracts as Opportunity Zones and compares characteristics of designated and non-designated tracts; describes Qualified Opportunity Funds' experiences with and states' views on the tax incentive; analyzes available IRS data; and evaluates IRS's taxpayer compliance plans, among other objectives. GAO analyzed census data on tracts designated and not designated as Opportunity Zones, analyzed data from a non-generalizable sample of 18 Qualified Opportunity Funds, and surveyed state officials. GAO also reviewed IRS documentation, including a compliance plan, and met with Treasury and IRS officials.
    [Read More…]
  • Navy Shipyards: Actions Needed to Address the Main Factors Causing Maintenance Delays for Aircraft Carriers and Submarines
    In U.S GAO News
    The Navy's four shipyards completed 38 of 51 (75 percent) maintenance periods late for aircraft carriers and submarines with planned completion dates in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, for a combined total of 7,424 days of maintenance delay. For each maintenance period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225 days late for submarines. Maintenance Delays at Navy Shipyards for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 Unplanned work and workforce factors—such as shipyard workforce performance and capacity (having enough people to perform the work)—were the main factors GAO identified as causing maintenance delays for aircraft carriers and submarines. The Navy frequently cited both factors as contributing to the same days of maintenance delay. Unplanned work—work identified after finalizing maintenance plans—contributed to more than 4,100 days of maintenance delays. Unplanned work also contributed to the Navy's 36 percent underestimation of the personnel resources necessary to perform maintenance. The workforce factor contributed to more than 4,000 days of maintenance delay on aircraft carriers and submarines during fiscal years 2015 through 2019. The Navy has taken steps but has not fully addressed the unplanned work and workforce factors causing the most maintenance delays. First, the Navy updated planning documents to improve estimates and plans to annually update these data, but knowing whether changes improve results may take several years. Second, the Navy has consistently relied on high levels of overtime to carry out planned work. GAO's analysis found that high overtime among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32 percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent. Furthermore, shipyard officials told us that production shops at all four shipyards are working beyond their capacity. Overtime at such rates has been noted as resulting in diminished productivity. Third, the Navy initiated the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative in the fall of 2018 to address the unplanned work and workforce factors, but it has not yet developed 13 of 25 planned metrics that could improve the Navy's understanding of the causes of maintenance delays. In addition, the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative does not include goals, milestones, and a monitoring process along with fully developed metrics to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses. Without fully developing metrics and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process, the shipyards are not likely to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses and the Navy is likely to continue facing maintenance delays and reduced time for training and operations with its aircraft carriers and submarines. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, the Navy spent $2.8 billion in capital investments to address shipyard performance, among other things. However, the shipyards continue to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder the readiness of aircraft carriers and submarines. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, included a provision for GAO to review Navy shipyards' performance. GAO evaluated the extent to which the Navy (1) completed maintenance at its shipyards on time on aircraft carriers and submarines in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, (2) has identified the main factors leading to maintenance delays, and (3) has addressed the main factors affecting any delays in that maintenance. GAO reviewed data related to Navy shipyard maintenance for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, analyzed factors contributing to delays and plans to address them, visited all four Navy shipyards, and met with Navy and shipyard officials. GAO is making three recommendations to the Navy, including updating workforce planning requirements to avoid the consistent use of overtime; completing the development of shipyard performance metrics; and developing and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and monitoring results. The Navy concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Diana Maurer, (202) 512-9627, MaurerD@gao.gov, or Asif A. Khan, (202) 512-9869, KhanA@gao.gov. 
    [Read More…]
  • Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale Addresses the International Coalition for the Sahel Ministerial
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Seeking Justice for the Kidnapping and Murder of Daniel Pearl
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.