December 4, 2021

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Three Shreveport Police Officers Indicted on Federal Civil Rights Charges for Assaulting Two Arrestees

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<div>Three police officers with the Shreveport Police Department were indicted today on federal civil rights charges.</div>
Three police officers with the Shreveport Police Department were indicted today on federal civil rights charges.

More from: October 29, 2021

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  • Veterans Health Administration: Steps Taken to Improve Physician Staffing, Recruitment, and Retention, but Challenges Remain
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continues to face challenges related to physician staffing, recruitment, and retention, though it has begun work to implement recommendations made in GAO's October 2017 report. Specifically, GAO's report found the following: VHA's data on the number of physicians that provided care at VA medical centers (VAMC) were incomplete. GAO found that data were incomplete because they did not include data on the number of contract physicians and contained only limited data on the number of physician trainees—two types of physicians that augment the care provided by physicians employed by VHA. Thus, VHA data underestimated the total number of physicians providing care in its medical centers leaving it unable to ensure that its workforce planning processes sufficiently addressed gaps in staffing. GAO recommended that VHA implement a process to accurately count all its physicians. VHA did not concur with this recommendation, stating that it used other tools for workforce planning. VHA has since implemented a new human resources (HR) database—HR Smart—that has the capability to track each position at its VAMCs. However, VHA officials told us they do not plan to include information on physician contractors in this database. VHA provided VAMCs with guidance on how to determine the number of physicians and support staff needed for some physician occupations, although it lacked sufficient guidance for its medical and surgical specialties. GAO recommended that VHA issue guidance to VAMCs on determining appropriate staffing levels for all physicians. VHA concurred and reported it would develop staffing guidance for its medical and surgical specialties. VHA officials told GAO VHA signed a specialty care workgroup charter November 27, 2017; the primary goal of the workgroup was to develop a specialty care staffing model that would include staffing information for all specialty care. VHA anticipates completing its work and issuing staffing guidance by December 2018. VHA used various strategies to recruit and retain its physician workforce, but had not comprehensively evaluated them to assess effectiveness. Without such an evaluation, VHA did not have complete information on the underlying causes of the difficulties VAMCs face, or whether its recruitment and retention strategies were meeting physician workforce needs. GAO recommended VHA (1) establish a system-wide method to share information about physician trainees to help fill vacancies across VAMCs and (2) conduct a comprehensive, system-wide evaluation of VAMCs' physician recruitment and retention efforts and establish an ongoing monitoring program. VHA concurred and reported it has since taken steps to address the recommendations. For example, VHA's Office of Workforce Management and Consulting has partnered with its Partnered Evidence-based Policy Resource Center to evaluate and recommend a systematic approach for allocating workforce management resources. In addition, VHA has added the capability to track physician trainees to its HR Smart database. VHA expects to complete its efforts by September 2018 and September 2019, respectively. Why GAO Did This Study As the demand for VHA's services grows—due, in part, to increasing demand from servicemembers returning from the United States' military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the growing needs of an aging veteran population—attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent is critical to VHA's mission to provide high quality and timely care for the nation's veterans. Physicians—who provide and supervise a broad range of care including primary and specialty care—serve an integral role in VHA's mission. Certain physician types are consistently among the most difficult to recruit and retain, and are thus considered mission-critical by VHA. Over the past two decades, GAO and others have expressed concern about VHA's ability to ensure that it has the appropriate clinical workforce, including physicians, to meet the current and future needs of veterans. This statement is based on GAO's October 2017 report and examines (1) VHA information on how many mission critical physicians provided care at VAMCs, (2) VHA guidance for determining its physician staffing needs, and (3) the strategies VHA used to support the recruitment and retention of physicians at VAMCs, and the extent to which it has evaluated these strategies to determine their effectiveness. For this statement, GAO updated the information from its October 2017 report and obtained information from VHA officials in June 2018 about steps they have taken to implement the 2017 recommendations. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper, 202-512-7114 or draperd@gao.gov.
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  • Defendants Charged in Connection with Multi-State Racketeering Conspiracy Involving the Forced Labor of Mexican Agricultural H-2A Workers
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida has returned a six-count indictment against three defendants for their alleged roles in a federal racketeering conspiracy that victimized Mexican H-2A workers who, between 2015 and 2017, had worked in the United States harvesting fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products.
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Education
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified six priority recommendations for the Department of Education. Since then, Education has implemented three of those recommendations by taking action to: (1) raise awareness of the threat of lead in school drinking water and collaborate with EPA to encourage testing; (2) help borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program better understand eligibility requirements; and (3) improve its cyber risk management framework to better protect the agency's systems and data. In May 2021, GAO identified four additional priority recommendations for Education, bringing the total number to seven. These recommendations involve the following areas: protecting the investment in higher education and ensuring the well-being and education of the nation's school-age children. Education's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Jackie Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • North Carolina Return Preparer Indicted for Tax Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury sitting in Greenville, North Carolina, returned an indictment charging a North Carolina tax preparer with conspiracy to defraud the United States and with preparing false returns for clients, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
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  • Six Charged in Connection with a $3 Million Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    Six individuals were charged in an indictment with fraudulently obtaining approximately $1.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans on behalf of five businesses based in Georgia and South Carolina.
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  • Electrical Engineer Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Prison for Conspiring to Illegally Export to China Semiconductor Chips with Military Uses
    In Crime News
    A California man was sentenced today to 63 months, or more than five years, in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally export integrated circuits with military applications to China the required filing of electronic export information. As part of his sentence, the Judge ordered Shih to pay $362,698 in restitution to the IRS and fined him $300,000.
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  • Florida Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Obstructing the IRS
    In Crime News
    A Florida man was sentenced to 36 months in prison today for corruptly obstructing the due administration of the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.
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  • Department of Justice’s COPS Office Invests More Than $536.7 Million in Grants to Improve Public Safety, Reduce Crime and Advance Community Policing
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) awarded more than $536.7 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to increase law enforcement hiring and to improve school safety, combat opioids and methamphetamine, advance community policing efforts, provide training to the law enforcement field, and protect the health of our nation’s officers and deputies.
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  • Former Mississippi Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Excessive Force Charge
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that a former officer with the Meridian, Mississippi Police Department pleaded guilty to using excessive force against a man during a vehicle stop and arrest. 
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  • Department of Energy: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Strategic Planning for the Acquisition Workforce
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Energy (DOE) is one of the largest civilian contracting agencies in the federal government, with about 80 percent of its annual obligations for contracts. Staff in most federal positions in DOE are involved in the acquisition process, according to officials from offices included in GAO's review—the Office of Science, the Office of Environmental Management (EM), and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Some of these staff, such as contracting officers, hold federal or DOE acquisition certifications. DOE generally requires acquisition-related training only for certified staff—which represent about 15 percent of DOE's workforce (see figure)—and maintains training requirements for only these staff through the agency's Acquisition Career Management Program. Numbers of DOE Staff with Acquisition Certifications, as of March 2021 DOE generally does not require acquisition-related training for noncertified staff, many of whom may play a critical role in DOE's acquisition process. Office of Federal Procurement Policy guidance states that agencies should consider the functions performed by staff members, such as requirements development by a technical expert, and include any significant acquisition-related positions in their acquisition training programs. By reviewing the criteria for inclusion in its Acquisition Career Management Program and developing training requirements for noncertified staff that meet these criteria, DOE can better ensure it has the capacity to oversee its contracts. The three DOE offices included in GAO's review have each implemented two of the five leading practices for effective strategic planning for their acquisition workforces, and have partially implemented the remaining three practices. For example, these offices have taken some steps to identify workforce need, but have not fully identified skill and competency gaps—including types and numbers of positions required to close gaps—for their acquisition workforces, as recommended by leading practices. Further, senior DOE and NNSA officials have raised concerns that they do not have enough staff or staff with the right skills in the acquisition workforce to properly oversee contracts. However, NNSA has conducted limited evaluations of gaps in skills and competencies for some positions in its acquisition workforce, and the other offices in GAO's review have not conducted such analyses. With a more complete and thorough understanding of skill and competency gaps for its acquisition workforce, DOE can improve the information it has available to develop its budget and other strategies to build a workforce with the right skills and of the right size to address the agency's long-standing issues with contract management. Why GAO Did This Study DOE's federal acquisition workforce is responsible for managing risks throughout the contracting, or acquisition, process. GAO designated DOE contract and project management as a high-risk area because of DOE's record of inadequate contract management. Senate Report No. 116-48 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review issues affecting DOE's acquisition workforce. This report examines (1) the positions included in DOE's acquisition workforce and the extent to which this workforce receives acquisition-related training and (2) the extent to which DOE has implemented leading practices for effective strategic planning for its acquisition workforce. GAO's review included the Office of Science, EM, and NNSA, which represented over 75 percent of DOE obligations for contracts in fiscal year 2019. GAO reviewed regulations, policies, and workforce planning documents; interviewed officials; and compared information to leading practices on workforce planning.
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  • Embassy Construction: State Has Made Progress Constructing New Embassies, but Better Planning Is Needed for Operations and Maintenance Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    In response to 2 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, the Department of State embarked on a $21 billion program to replace 201 insecure and dilapidated diplomatic facilities. In November 2004, GAO reported that State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), which manages the construction program, had implemented reforms to its planning, design, construction, and funding processes designed to expedite the construction process and prevent cost overruns that were common to previous State diplomatic construction programs. This report updates GAO's earlier report, by discussing OBO's completion rates and costs for embassy construction projects and the impact the reforms and other factors have on completion rates. It also discusses the changes in the costs for operating and maintaining these new facilities.State has made significant progress constructing new embassy compounds (NEC). The average time to design and construct the 18 embassies and consulates completed from 1999 to 2005 is nearly 3 years faster than for embassies built during the 1980s and 1990s, despite these new facilities being significantly larger and more complex. Although only half of the 18 projects were completed according to planned schedules, 15 of the 18 NECs were opened ahead of, on, or within 1 month after their scheduled move-in dates, and approximately 8,700 U.S. government employees were relocated to these secure and modern facilities. Construction costs for 14 of the 18 completed projects were significantly lower than budget estimates OBO provided to Congress. Strategic and procedural reforms implemented by State, including elevating the former Foreign Buildings Office to bureau status, switching to the design-build contract delivery method, and developing a standard embassy design have had a cumulative positive effect on project cycle times; however, it is still difficult to quantify the effects of any single reform. GAO found that factors specific to individual projects affected OBO's ability to complete work on time and on budget, including the experience levels of OBO and contractors' projects teams, unforeseen conditions at construction sites, and weather conditions, among others. Due to increased size and complexity, annual operations and maintenance costs for NECs are significantly greater than the costs for previous locations; once all 201 NECs are completed, annual operations and maintenance costs could increase by at least $111 million, and possibly several times more. These costs include increases in utility usage; the need to hire highly qualified technical staff; new maintenance needs; and costly equipment, supplies, and spare parts. State does not clearly identify the projected operations and maintenance costs for NECs it builds. Thus, there is currently no mechanism that allows decision makers to determine whether NEC operations and maintenance needs are being adequately planned for and funded. A lack of a comprehensive long-term plan that clearly identifies the significant increases in resources that are likely to be needed as more NECs come online could increase the risk of earlier-than-expected deterioration of NECs.
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  • Spare Parts Contracts: Collecting Additional Information Could Help DOD Address Delays in Obtaining Cost or Pricing Data
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found When the Department of Defense (DOD) awards contracts without competition, contracting officers may rely on cost or pricing data that contractors certify as accurate, current, and complete to determine if the prices are reasonable. DOD uses data other than certified cost or pricing data when certified cost or pricing data are not required. GAO found that, during fiscal years 2015 to 2019, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) obtained data other than certified data for 77 of the 136 sole-source spare parts contracts it awarded. As the 77 contracts were for commercial items, statute prohibits contracting officers from requiring certified cost or pricing data. DLA also waived the requirement to obtain certified cost or pricing data in two cases, citing the exceptional need for the spare parts. DLA obtained certified cost or pricing data for the remaining sole-source contracts. In March 2019, DOD issued a memorandum requiring defense agencies to report when contractors outright refuse to provide cost or pricing data, but it is not collecting data on the extent that delays in obtaining data affect the time that it takes to award contracts. DLA, Air Force, and Navy contracting officers said that while they were able to determine if prices were reasonable, delays in obtaining contractors' cost or pricing data contributed to the length of time needed to award seven of the 10 sole-source spare parts contracts GAO reviewed (see figure). Length of Time to Award 10 Sole-Source Contracts in Fiscal Year 2019 That GAO Reviewed DOD's March 2019 memorandum highlighted the need to understand, DOD-wide, the extent that contractors do not comply with contracting officer requests for data other than certified cost or pricing data. However, the focus was on outright refusals and not delays. Without a means to monitor or identify the nature and extent of delays, DOD is missing opportunities to develop approaches to effectively address these issues and potentially award contracts faster. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars each year on spare parts for planes, ships, and other equipment. While DLA buys the bulk of the spare parts, the military departments also acquire them to support specific weapon systems. DOD seeks to negotiate a reasonable price for these spare parts to award contracts in a timely manner. DOD uses data other than certified cost or pricing data if it determines certified cost or pricing data are not required to determine prices are reasonable. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's efforts to obtain contractor cost or pricing data. This report 1) describes how often DLA obtained cost or pricing data on sole-source contracts for spare parts; and 2) assesses the extent to which DOD tracks delays in obtaining these data and the reasons for those delays. GAO reviewed federal and DOD acquisition regulations and analyzed data for 136 DLA spare parts contracts awarded between fiscal years 2015 to 2019. For fiscal year 2019, GAO also selected 10 sole-source contracts awarded by DLA, Air Force, and the Navy, based on dollar value and other factors, to identify challenges in obtaining cost or pricing data. GAO also interviewed DOD and contractor officials.
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  • Washington Tech Executive Sentenced for Covid-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Washington state tech executive was sentenced today in the Western District of Washington to two years in prison for perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 disaster relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Department of State: Foreign Service Midlevel Staffing Gaps Persist Despite Significant Increases in Hiring
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundThe Department of State (State) faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, particularly at the midlevels, and these gaps have not diminished since 2008. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent. However, these new hires will not have the experience to reach midlevels until fiscal years 2014 and 2015. GAO found that 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or filled by upstretch candidates—officers serving in positions above their grade—as of October 2011, a percentage that has not changed since 2008. Midlevel positions represent the largest share of these gaps. According to State officials, the gaps have not diminished because State increased the total number of overseas positions in response to increased needs and emerging priorities. State officials noted the department takes special measures to fill high-priority positions, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.State has taken steps to increase its reliance on Civil Service employees and retirees, as well as expand mentoring, to help address midlevel experience gaps overseas; however, State lacks a strategy to guide these efforts. State is currently implementing a pilot program to expand overseas assignments for Civil Service employees. Efforts to expand the limited number of these assignments must overcome some key challenges, such as addressing new gaps when Civil Service employees leave their headquarters positions and identifying qualified Civil Service applicants to fill overseas vacancies. State also hires retirees on a limited basis for both full-time and short-term positions. For example, State used limited congressional authority to offer dual compensation waivers to hire 57 retirees in 2011. As a step toward mitigating experience gaps overseas, State began a pilot program offering workshops that include mentoring for first-time supervisors. State acknowledges the need to close midlevel Foreign Service gaps, but it has not developed a strategy to help ensure that the department is taking full advantage of available human capital flexibilities and evaluating the success of its efforts to address these gaps.Why GAO Did This StudyIn 2009, GAO reported on challenges that State faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel and noted that persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk. State is currently undertaking a new hiring plan, known as “Diplomacy 3.0,” to increase the size of the Foreign Service by 25 percent to close staffing gaps and respond to new diplomatic priorities. However, fiscal constraints are likely to delay the plan’s full implementation well beyond its intended target for completion in 2013. In addition, State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlighted the need to find ways to close overseas gaps. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which State’s overseas midlevel experience gaps in the Foreign Service have changed since 2008 and (2) State’s efforts to address these gaps. GAO analyzed State’s personnel data; reviewed key planning documents, including the Five Year Workforce Plan; and interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected posts.
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  • United States and Japan Hold Bilateral Security Discussions
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Professional Standards Update No. 81
    In U.S GAO News
    To alert the audit community to changes in professional standards, we periodically issue Professional Standards Updates (PSU). These updates highlight the effective dates and issuance of recent standards and guidance related to engagements conducted in accordance with Government Auditing Standards. PSUs contain summary information only, and those affected by a change should refer to the respective standard or guidance for details. This PSU has three sections.
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  • COVID-19 Contracting: Indian Health Service Used Flexibilities to Meet Increased Medical Supply Needs
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters The Indian Health Service (IHS) serves over 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. These groups have been disproportionately vulnerable to negative outcomes from COVID-19. During emergencies, federal contracting staff face pressure to work quickly to meet increased needs. We examined some of IHS's COVID-related contracts to see how the agency's efforts fared. Key Takeaways Despite facing challenges, including unprecedented demand for medical supplies, IHS was able to acquire needed products from a variety of vendors. IHS contract obligations for products, excluding prescription drugs, increased substantially during COVID-19 to address emergent needs for additional personal protective equipment, lab supplies, and more. Using emergency contracting flexibilities available under federal regulation, IHS bought personal protective equipment and other medical products in bulk awarded contracts noncompetitively used streamlined procedures for higher dollar contracts to obtain medical supplies faster However, we found that IHS contracting officers did not notice that some COVID-related supplies were delivered late. Officials attributed this oversight to the spike in volume as well as the urgency of procurements during a pandemic. Contracting officers are responsible for ensuring the terms of a contract are met—under normal circumstances and in emergency acquisitions. IHS officials told us that they began taking intermediate steps to improve tracking of products during 2020; the agency is currently obtaining new software to improve contractor oversight. IHS Contract Obligations Increased Substantially Due to COVID-19 How GAO Did This Study We analyzed relevant federal procurement data through June 30, 2021. We also reviewed four contracts—covering about 1/4 of obligations in IHS's largest product category (medical and surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies). We also interviewed IHS contracting officials. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or makm@gao.gov.
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  • Commemoration of the Massacre of Mahshahr and Designation of Iranian Officials Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights
    In Crime Control and Security News
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