Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
The United States is gravely concerned by reports of gross violations of human rights that Burmese security forces have perpetuated in Chin State, including reports that forces have set fire to and destroyed more than 100 residences as well as Christian churches. We condemn such brutal actions by the Burmese regime against people, their homes, and places of worship, which lays bare the regime’s complete disregard for the lives and welfare of the people of Burma. These abhorrent attacks underscore the urgent need for the international community to hold the Burmese military accountable and take action to prevent gross violations and abuses of human rights, including by preventing the transfer of arms to the military.
We are also deeply concerned over the Burmese security forces’ intensification of military operations in various parts of the country, including in Chin State and the Sagaing Region. We call on the regime to immediately cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Burma’s path to inclusive democracy.
We will continue to promote accountability for the horrific violence that has been and continues to be perpetrated by the regime against the people of Burma. We will continue to support the people of Burma and all those working toward a restoration of Burma’s democratic path and a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
- Voters with Disabilities: State and Local Actions and Federal Resources to Address Accessibility of Early VotingBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021What GAO Found Selected states and localities have taken steps to make voting prior to Election Day accessible for people with disabilities, but election officials and advocacy officials reported that challenges persist. Election officials reported taking steps to make in-person early voting accessible such as addressing barriers to physical access and providing accessible voting equipment (see figure), but election and advocacy officials reported challenges including physical obstacles such as gravel parking lots and voting equipment not being set up properly. Voting by mail may be an accessible option and has been used more frequently by those with disabilities than others. However, election and advocacy officials also noted that some voters with disabilities have difficulty marking paper mail ballots; six of seven states GAO contacted offer them electronic delivery and marking options. Steps Taken by Selected States and Localities to Make Early In-Person Voting Accessible Selected states and localities have taken steps to make voting information available and accessible, but voters with disabilities may encounter challenges with both. States and some localities have provided information about accessible voting options on their websites, but advocacy officials reported challenges, such as one state not providing information about the accessibility features of its voting equipment. States have also taken steps to make websites accessible, such as ensuring compatibility with screen readers used by people with visual disabilities. However, election and advocacy officials reported, among other things, that some website content such as digital materials, lacks accessibility features and some content is not written in plain language. Federal agencies have assisted state and local election officials in their efforts to ensure accessible voting. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has provided guidance and educational resources on voting accessibility, such as a checklist for assessing polling places, which some selected states and localities have found useful. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—a national clearinghouse of information about election administration—has also provided resources on topics such as accessible voting equipment and partnering with disability advocates. However, selected states and localities GAO contacted reported mixed feedback on the usefulness of EAC resources. Although the EAC communicates regularly with election officials, it does not have a mechanism for collecting and using feedback from these officials about the usefulness of its existing accessibility resources or additional resource needs. Implementing such a mechanism would better positon the EAC to meet election officials' needs. Why GAO Did This Study An estimated 38 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the November 2020 election, according to a Rutgers University study. Federal law generally requires that all aspects of voting be accessible to people with disabilities. Recent increases in voting in person and by mail prior to Election Day have focused attention on these voting modes. GAO was asked to examine the accessibility of voting prior to Election Day and voting information. This report addresses steps taken by selected states and localities to (1) make voting prior to Election Day accessible, and the challenges in doing so; and (2) make voting information available and accessible, and the challenges in doing so. It also addresses (3) DOJ and EAC efforts to assist states and localities with voting accessibility. GAO interviewed state election and advocacy officials in seven states, and local officials in six of the states and reviewed associated documentation. These states were selected to provide variation in turnout between voters with and without disabilities, and election policies, among other factors. The results from these states and localities are not generalizable, but provide perspectives on accessibility. GAO also analyzed 2016 and 2020 data from a nationwide survey of voters, reviewed DOJ and EAC guidance and resources, and interviewed federal officials.[Read More…]
- [Request for Reconsideration of Protest of DCSC Solicitation for Hydraulic Motor Race Assemblies]By Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2021A firm requested reconsideration of its denied protest of a Defense Construction Supply Center (DCSC) solicitation for hydraulic motor race assemblies. GAO had held that the protester: (1) had an adequate opportunity to qualify its product, since it knew of the qualification requirements at least 2 years prior to the procurement; and (2) never submitted any items for testing or made any deliveries under its previous contract. In its request for reconsideration, the protester reiterated arguments raised during its original protest and contended that GAO failed to address its assertions that: (1) the two named manufacturers were not properly qualified sources; (2) DCSC failed to revalidate its qualification requirements; and (3) one manufacturer had an organizational conflict of interest. GAO held that the protester: (1) failed to provide any evidence that warranted reversal of the original decision; (2) should have raised the revalidation issue during its original protest; and (3) merely anticipated improper DCSC action regarding the manufacturer's alleged conflict of interest. Accordingly, the request for reconsideration was denied.[Read More…]
- Private Health Insurance: Markets Remained Concentrated through 2018, with Increases in the Individual and Small Group MarketsBy Sam NewsNovember 14, 2020Enrollment in private health insurance plans in the individual (coverage sold directly to individuals), small group (coverage offered by small employers), and large group (coverage offered by large employers) markets has historically been highly concentrated among a small number of issuers. GAO found that this pattern continued in 2017 and 2018. For example: For each market in 2018, at least 43 states (including the District of Columbia) were highly concentrated. Overall individual and small group markets have become more concentrated in recent years. The national median market share of the top three issuers increased by approximately 8 and 5 percentage points, respectively, from 2015 through 2018. With these increases, the median concentration was at least 94 percent in both markets in 2018. Number of States and District of Columbia Where the Three Largest Issuers Had at Least 80 Percent of Enrollment, by Market, 2011-2018 GAO found similar patterns of high concentration across the 39 states in 2018 that used federal infrastructure to operate individual market exchanges— marketplaces where consumers can compare and select among insurance plans sold by participating issuers—established in 2014 by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and known as federally facilitated exchanges. From 2015 through 2018, states that were already highly concentrated became even more concentrated, often because the number of issuers decreased or the existing issuers accrued the entirety of the market share within a state. In 2017 and 2018 all 39 states were highly concentrated. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from the Department of Health and Human Services and incorporated them as appropriate. GAO previously reported that, from 2011 through 2016, enrollment in the individual, small group, and large group health insurance markets was concentrated among a few issuers in most states (GAO-19-306). GAO considered states' markets or exchanges to be highly concentrated if three or fewer issuers held at least 80 percent of the market share. GAO also found similar concentration on the health insurance exchanges established in 2014 by PPACA. A highly concentrated health insurance market may indicate less issuer competition and could affect consumers' choice of issuers and the premiums they pay for coverage. PPACA included a provision for GAO to periodically study market concentration. This report describes changes in the concentration of enrollment among issuers in the overall individual, small group, and large group markets; and individual market federally facilitated exchanges. GAO determined market share in the overall markets using enrollment data from 2017 and 2018 that issuers are required to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). GAO determined market share in the individual market federally facilitated exchanges in 2018 using enrollment data from CMS. For all analyses, GAO used the latest data available. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with French Foreign Minister Le DrianBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2020
- Seven MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Violent Crime and Drug Distribution ConspiracyBy Sam NewsNovember 19, 2020A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, returned a 16-count superseding indictment Wednesday, charging seven MS-13 gang members with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and serious firearm-related offenses, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.[Read More…]
- Designation of Jhon Fredy Zapata Garzon Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation ActBy Sam NewsDecember 1, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
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- U.S. Postal Service: Further Analysis Could Help Identify Opportunities to Reduce Injuries Among Non-Career EmployeesBy Sam NewsSeptember 16, 2021What GAO Found The United States Postal Service (USPS) uses both career employees and non-career employees to accomplish its mission. Career employees are considered permanent and are entitled to a range of benefits and privileges; non-career employees receive lower pay and fewer benefits and are often hired on renewable contracts that offer a pathway to a career position. GAO found that non-career employees' turnover rates were significantly higher than career turnover rates, both before and after GAO controlled for numerous factors such as employee tenure. GAO found that non-career status was the most significant factor associated with turnover. Postal employee groups identified features, including unpredictable hours, of non-career positions that may contribute to turnover, though USPS officials noted some of these features are governed by negotiated agreements. USPS has taken steps, and described other initiatives in its March 2021 strategic plan, to reduce non-career turnover rates. With regard to injuries, non-career employees had higher injury rates in the study period, for both definitions of injury used in GAO's analyses (see figure), but USPS does not analyze injury data by career status. USPS officials attributed higher rates of injuries among non-career employees to differences other than career status such as less tenure among non-career employees. However, GAO analysis controlled for tenure and other factors and found that non-career employees had higher injury rates than career employees by about 16 percent and 22 percent, depending on the definition of injury used. Moreover, average workers' compensation costs were higher for non-career employees than for career employees with limited tenure, driven primarily by differences in injury rates. USPS regularly collects and analyzes workplace accident and injury data across its workforce and has taken steps in recent years to improve safety through training and other actions. However, USPS does not identify key differences between career and non-career employees in its analyses. Without conducting analyses by career status, USPS may be unable to identify some causes of non-career employee injuries and miss opportunities to reduce them. Rates of Reported Injuries and of Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) Injuries by Career Status, Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020 Note: FECA injuries refer to USPS employee incidents associated with workers' compensation claims, regardless of whether the claims have been determined to be eligible. Why GAO Did This Study From fiscal year 2016 through 2018, USPS saved an estimated $6.6 billion by increasing its use of non-career employees; this increase is an important accomplishment given USPS's financial challenges. Compared to career employees, non-career employees are compensated less and USPS has more flexibility in setting their schedules. GAO was asked to review the effects of USPS's increased use of non-career employees. This report examines the rates of non-career employees: (1) turnover and (2) injuries, as well as factors and costs associated with each and USPS's efforts to manage these issues. GAO analyzed USPS data from fiscal years 2016 through 2020 to determine turnover and injury rates, conducted analyses to determine associated factors, and calculated costs, including workers compensation costs using Department of Labor data. GAO also interviewed officials representing USPS, postal unions, postal management associations, and the USPS Office of Inspector General.[Read More…]
- VA Health Care: Budget Formulation and Reporting on Budget Execution Need ImprovementBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates it will serve 5.4 million patients in fiscal year 2006. Medical services for these patients are funded with appropriations, after consideration by Congress of the President's budget request. VA formulates the medical programs portion of that request. VA is also responsible for budget execution--using appropriations and monitoring their use for providing care. For fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the President requested additional funding for VA medical programs, beyond what had been originally requested. GAO was asked to examine for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 (1) how the President's budget requests for VA medical programs were formulated, (2) how VA monitored and reported to Congress on its budget execution, and (3) which key factors in the budget formulation process contributed to requests for additional funding. To do this, GAO analyzed budget documents and interviewed VA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials.The formulation of the President's budget requests for VA medical programs for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 was informed by VA's comparison of its cost estimate of projected demand for medical services to its anticipated resources. VA projected about 86 percent of its costs using an actuarial model that estimated veterans' demand for health care. To project the costs of long-term care (about 10 percent of the funds for VA medical programs in each of these years) and the remaining medical care costs (about 4 percent), separate estimation approaches were used that did not rely upon an actuarial model but used other methods instead. The agency anticipated resources based on prior year appropriations, guidance from OMB, and other factors. For both fiscal years, VA officials told GAO that projected costs--calculated from the actuarial model and other approaches--exceeded anticipated resources and that they addressed the difference in budget requests for those years with cost-saving policy proposals and management efficiencies. Although VA staff closely monitored budget execution and identified problems for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, VA did not report this information to Congress in a sufficiently informative manner. VA closely monitored the fiscal year 2005 budget as early as October 2004, anticipating challenges managing within its resources. However, Congress did not learn of these challenges until April 2005. VA initially planned to manage within its budget for fiscal year 2005 by delaying some spending on equipment and nonrecurring maintenance and drawing on funds it had planned to carry over into 2006. Instead, the President requested additional funds from Congress for both fiscal years 2005 (a $975 million supplemental appropriation in June 2005) and 2006 (a budget amendment of $1.977 billion in July 2005). Congress included in the 2006 appropriations act a requirement for VA to submit quarterly reports regarding the medical programs budget status during this fiscal year. These reports have not included some of the measures that would be useful for congressional oversight, such as patient workload measures to capture costs and the time required for new patients to be scheduled for their first primary care appointment. Unrealistic assumptions, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Unrealistic assumptions about how quickly cost savings could be realized from proposed nursing home policy changes contributed to the additional requests, as did computation errors measuring the estimated effect of one of these changes. Insufficient data in VA's initial budget projections also contributed to the additional funding requests. For example, VA underestimated the cost of serving veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, in part because estimates for fiscal year 2005 were based on data that largely predated the Iraq conflict and because according to VA, the agency had challenges for fiscal year 2006 in obtaining data from the Department of Defense.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Issues Annual Report to Congress on its Work to Combat Elder Fraud and AbuseBy Sam NewsOctober 20, 2020Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued its Annual Report to Congress on Department of Justice Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse. The report summarizes the department’s extensive efforts from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro KulebaBy Sam NewsFebruary 2, 2021
- Barbados Independence DayBy Sam NewsNovember 30, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Virginia Man Sentenced for Producing Images of Child Sex AbuseBy Sam NewsJune 25, 2021A Virginia man was sentenced today in the Eastern District of Virginia to 19 years in prison for the production and distribution of child pornography.[Read More…]
- Five Alleged Members of the Gangster Disciples Indicted on Federal Racketeering ChargesBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A federal grand jury in Oxford, Mississippi, returned a six-count superseding indictment charging five alleged members of the Gangster Disciples gang, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi.[Read More…]
- Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister QureshiBy Sam NewsOctober 8, 2021
- Department of Energy Contracting: NNSA Has Taken Steps to Improve Its Work Authorization Process, but Challenges RemainBy Sam NewsOctober 27, 2021What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has taken steps to improve its process for developing, reviewing, and issuing work authorizations (WA) for its management and operating (M&O) contractors. Such authorizations specify the activities to be conducted in a given fiscal year by the contractors that operate NNSA's sites (see figure). However, NNSA continues to face challenges issuing WAs before the start of the fiscal year, as generally required by NNSA's directive on WAs. As part of its efforts to improve the agency's WA process, NNSA convened an internal working group in 2017 and 2018 to review the process. In October 2018, the working group recommended that NNSA's program offices submit draft WAs for review by August 15 each year. This recommendation was intended to ensure that field-based contracting officers and M&O contractor representatives finalized and issued WAs by the start of each fiscal year. However, NNSA continued to experience delays in issuing WAs by the start of fiscal year 2020, in part because NNSA does not have a schedule with required deadlines for review and revisions of draft WAs. Contractors that begin work without a WA in place by the start of the fiscal year risk incurring unallowable costs. Further, delays in issuing WAs may require duplicative efforts, such as the need to create interim “stopgap” WAs. NNSA Work Authorization Development and Approval Process According to NNSA officials and M&O contractor representatives, WAs are an input for setting contractor performance expectations against which to monitor. However, when GAO reviewed performance evaluation reports for each contractor for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, GAO found that the reports did not clearly reference the performance expectations contained in WAs. NNSA officials confirmed that performance expectations contained in WAs cannot generally be traced to contractor's performance evaluation reports. This lack of traceability occurred in part because NNSA does not have clearly documented procedures specifying how officials should collect and use performance information, including from WAs, for evaluating contractor performance. This issue is similar to one on which GAO previously reported in February 2019 and made a recommendation for NNSA to develop such documented procedures. NNSA concurred with the recommendation but has not fully implemented it. GAO continues to believe that improving the ability to trace performance expectations to performance ratings would enable NNSA to more consistently evaluate contractor performance. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA relies on seven M&O contractors to manage and operate its eight laboratory and production sites. NNSA uses documents called WAs to direct the work of its contractors. NNSA's program offices collectively issued on average 94 WAs per fiscal year from 2018 to 2020. In 1990, GAO designated the Department of Energy's (DOE) contract management as a high-risk area and continues to identify ongoing challenges with NNSA's management of its contractors. As part of an effort to understand the status of NNSA's actions to address contract management challenges, GAO was asked to review NNSA's work authorization process and documentation. This report examines NNSA's (1) efforts to improve its work authorization process, and (2) use of WAs in its contractor performance evaluation process. GAO reviewed relevant laws and DOE and NNSA policy and guidance on WAs; analyzed a nongeneralizable sample of WAs for fiscal years 2019 and 2020; analyzed survey responses from all relevant NNSA program and field offices and contractor sites; reviewed contractor performance documentation; and interviewed agency officials.[Read More…]
- Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021This testimony discusses the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) budget request for fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2009, GAO supported congressional decision making and oversight on a range of critical issues, including the government's efforts to help stabilize financial markets and address the most severe recession since World War II. In addition to providing oversight for the 2008 Economic Stabilization Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), we continued to provide the Congress updates on programs that are at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or are in need of broad reform, and delivered advice and analyses on a broad array of pressing domestic and international issues that demand urgent attention and continuing oversight. These include modernizing the regulatory structure for financial institutions and markets to meet 21st century demands; controlling escalating health care costs and providing more effective oversight of medical products; restructuring the U.S. Postal Service to ensure its financial stability; and improving the Department of Defense's management approaches to issues ranging from weapons system acquisitions to accounting for weapons provided to Afghan security forces. Overall, we responded to requests from every standing committee of the Senate and the House and over 70 percent of their subcommittees.As a knowledge-based organization, our ability to timely assist the Congress as it addresses the nation's challenges depends on our ability to sustain our current staffing levels. We are submitting for consideration a prudent request for $601 million for fiscal year 2011, which will allow us to maintain our capacity to assist the Congress in addressing a range of financial, social, economic, and security challenges going forward. This amount represents a 4.1 percent increase ($22.6 million) to maintain our fiscal year 2010 staffing level for "base operations," cover mandatory pay and uncontrollable costs, and reinvest savings from nonrecurring costs and efficiencies to further enhance our productivity and effectiveness. We have also requested a 3.8 percent increase ($21.6 million) to maintain the current staffing level of 144 FTEs to continue mandated Recovery Act oversight beyond the expiration of the funding we received to help offset the cost of this new responsibility. The total requested increase of 7.9 percent will allow us to continue to be responsive in supporting congressional mandates and requests.[Read More…]
- Special Envoy Rayburn Travel to the United Arab Emirates and JordanBy Sam NewsJanuary 3, 2021Joel D. Rayburn, Special [Read More…]