Reconsider travel to Tonga due to COVID-19.
Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Tonga due to COVID-19.
Tonga has lifted stay at home orders, and resumed some transportation options and business operations. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Tonga.
Read the Country Information page.
If you decide to travel to Tonga:
Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.
- Former Chattanooga Police Officer Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sexual AssaultBy Sam NewsAugust 19, 2020Desmond Logan, 35, a former officer with the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD), was sentenced by the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.[Read More…]
- Financial Audit: Securities and Exchange Commission’s FY 2021 and 2020 Financial StatementsBy Sam NewsNovember 15, 2021What GAO Found GAO found (1) the United States Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) and its Investor Protection Fund's (IPF) financial statements as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2021, and 2020, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) SEC maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting for SEC and for IPF as of September 30, 2021; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2021 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, SEC stated that it is pleased that GAO found that SEC's financial statements and notes were presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Why GAO Did This Study The Accountability of Tax Dollars Act of 2002 requires that SEC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), requires SEC to annually prepare and submit a complete set of audited financial statements for its IPF to Congress. In accordance with the authority conferred by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended by the Government Management Reform Act of 1994, GAO audited the SEC and IPF financial statements. Section 963 of the Dodd-Frank Act further requires that (1) SEC annually submit a report to Congress describing management's responsibility for internal control over financial reporting and assessing the effectiveness of such internal control during the fiscal year; (2) the SEC Chairman and Chief Financial Officer attest to SEC's report; and (3) GAO assess the effectiveness of SEC's internal control over financial reporting and evaluate, attest to, and report on SEC's assessment. Accordingly, this report also includes GAO's reporting in response to the requirement under the Dodd-Frank Act. For more information, contact M. Hannah Padilla at (202) 512-5683 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Acting Assistant Secretary Reeker’s Travel to Italy, Albania, and North MacedoniaBy Sam NewsJune 18, 2021
- Justice Department Settles Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Alleging Disparate Treatment Against Female Correctional Officers by the Michigan Department of CorrectionsBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement, through a court-supervised settlement agreement, with the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to resolve a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the United States of America.[Read More…]
- Former employee admits to stealing over $400,000By Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 10, 2021The former controlling [Read More…]
- High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System AcquisitionsBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.[Read More…]
- Disaster Recovery: Efforts to Identify and Address Barriers to Receiving Federal Recovery AssistanceBy Sam NewsOctober 27, 2021What GAO Found GAO's past work has shown areas where improvements can be made to federal disaster recovery programs to help disaster survivors and state, local, territorial, and tribal governments. While these programs are not typically targeted toward only to low income or vulnerable populations, GAO's prior work and recommendations identified areas that could help these populations. Specifically, GAO reported in October 2021 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) flood mapping investments for fiscal years 2012 through 2020 were lower for communities with higher levels of social vulnerability and underserved populations than communities with lower levels of social vulnerability and underserved populations, other factors being equal. GAO recommended that FEMA better use flood risk data to prioritize flood mapping for vulnerable communities; in September 2020, GAO found that disaster survivors, including low-income individuals, faced numerous challenges obtaining aid and understanding the Individuals and Households Program, a FEMA program that provides housing assistance and other needs assistance to individuals affected by a major disaster or emergency. GAO recommended, among other things, that FEMA simplify and streamline the disaster assistance process for survivors; in 2019, GAO found that officials from entities that partnered with FEMA reported challenges following the 2017 hurricanes providing assistance to individuals who are older or who have disabilities. GAO recommended that FEMA revise its application process to better serve survivors with disabilities. FEMA is taking actions to address many of these recommendations. GAO conducted a literature review as part of its preliminary work and found limited research to describe recovery outcomes and specific characteristics related to participation in the six recovery programs in its review. However, some studies and stakeholder perspectives provided insight. For example, a study of counties in one state found greater levels of flood mitigation in communities with larger tax revenues and greater budgets for emergency management. In addition, officials representing states said small towns and rural areas may lack resources to contract for disaster recovery services. Similarly, representatives from voluntary organizations said that conditions of socioeconomic vulnerability—such as lower-income households or homelessness—may present barriers to participating in federal recovery programs. GAO's preliminary work found that the six federal recovery programs in GAO's review have taken some actions that could help officials identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes. However, programs lack key information—data and analysis—that would allow them to determine if access barriers and disparate recovery outcomes exist. Moreover, the programs have not taken action to determine (1) the universe of data need to support this kind of analysis and (2) sources and methods to obtain those data when the programs do not already collect them, including overcoming key challenges. GAO will complete its evaluation of the areas above and issue a final report in the coming months. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, disasters affect hundreds of American communities and cause billions of dollars of damage. Disaster recovery is a complex process with many factors that affect individual and community outcomes, including in various socioeconomic and demographic groups. Recently, federal actions have focused on equitable administration of federal recovery assistance. This statement is based on preliminary observations from GAO's forthcoming report on federal actions to identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes, which is currently at FEMA, HUD, and SBA for comment. It also discusses prior GAO work and recommendations issued from 2019 through 2021 related to various federal recovery programs and vulnerable populations. To develop the preliminary observations, GAO conducted a literature review and interviewed officials at the three federal agencies with historically large disaster recovery programs and reviewed relevant documents. GAO also interviewed recovery stakeholders representing state, local, tribal, and nonprofit interests.[Read More…]
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020A Bates City, Missouri, man was charged in federal court after law enforcement officers seized nearly two dozen firearms and illegal drugs from his residence.[Read More…]
- Joint Statement on Libyan Election ProcessBy Sam NewsDecember 24, 2021
- Disaster Housing: Improved Cost Data and Guidance Would Aid FEMA Activation DecisionsBy Sam NewsDecember 15, 2020The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relied primarily on rental assistance payments to assist 2017 and 2018 hurricane survivors but also used direct housing programs to address housing needs, as shown in the table below. GAO found that FEMA provided rental assistance to about 746,000 households and direct housing assistance to about 5,400 households. FEMA did not use the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP)—a pilot grant program managed jointly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—because FEMA viewed its direct housing programs to be more efficient and cost-effective and did not consider DHAP to be a standard post-disaster housing assistance program. Number of Households Affected by the 2017 and 2018 Hurricanes That Received Rental and Direct Temporary Housing Assistance, by State or Territory State or territory Rental assistance Direct housing assistance Florida 422,230 1,241 North Carolina 20,198 656 Puerto Rico 147,620 414 Texas 143,465 2,988 U.S. Virgin Islands 12,147 69 Total number of households 745,660 5,368 Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). | GAO-21-116 Notes: FEMA provided the vast majority of its direct housing assistance through transportable temporary housing units such as manufactured housing. Rental assistance data are as of February 13, 2020, and direct housing assistance data are as of July 15, 2020. FEMA's analyses of the cost-effectiveness of housing assistance programs were limited because program cost data were incomplete or not readily useable. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act requires FEMA to consider factors including cost-effectiveness when determining which types of housing assistance to provide. Although FEMA has stated its direct housing programs were relatively more cost-effective than DHAP, FEMA generally could not support these statements with cost data. Specifically, FEMA does not collect key program data in its system, such as monthly subsidy and administrative costs, in a manner that would allow it to analyze the full costs of providing the assistance. Without such information, the agency's program activation decisions will not be well informed, particularly with regard to cost-effectiveness. FEMA policy guidance also says that FEMA is to compare the projected costs of the direct housing programs it is considering activating, but does not consistently specify what cost information to consider, such as whether to use both programmatic and administrative costs. Without such guidance, FEMA cannot reasonably assure that its assessments and their results incorporate consistent and comparable data. The 2017 and 2018 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael) caused $325 billion in damage. FEMA provided post-disaster assistance, including rental and direct housing assistance. DHAP was a pilot grant program that provided temporary rental assistance and was used to respond to several hurricanes before 2017. GAO was asked to review issues related to major disasters in 2018 and housing assistance provided after the 2017 and 2018 hurricanes. This report (1) describes the assistance FEMA provided in response to those hurricanes, and (2) evaluates the extent to which FEMA considered cost-effectiveness in activating programs. GAO reviewed FEMA and HUD policies, communications, and other documentation; analyzed FEMA data; and interviewed officials at FEMA headquarters and regional offices, HUD, and Texas state and local government offices. GAO makes two recommendations to FEMA for its temporary housing programs: (1) identify and make changes to its data systems to allow for capture and analysis of programs' full costs, and (2) specify the information needed to compare projected program costs in its guidance on activating programs. DHS agreed with both recommendations, and said it planned to implement them in 2021–2022. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Settles Investigation into Language Barriers in the Hazleton Police DepartmentBy Sam NewsMay 28, 2021The Justice Department today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with the Hazleton Police Department (HPD) and the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to help people with limited English proficiency (LEP) communicate with the police.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Supporting Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Efforts to Practice its Faith During COVID-19By Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Washington, D.C., arguing the Constitution and federal law require the District of Columbia to accommodate Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s effort to hold worship services outdoors, at least to the same extent the District of Columbia allows other forms of outdoor First Amendment activity, such as peaceful protests.[Read More…]
- Chinese National Charged with Criminal Conspiracy to Export US Power Amplifiers to ChinaBy Sam NewsJanuary 29, 2021An indictment was unsealed this week charging Cheng Bo, also known as Joe Cheng, a 45-year-old national of the People’s Republic of China, with participating in a criminal conspiracy from 2012-2015 to violate U.S. export laws by shipping U.S. power amplifiers to China. Cheng’s former employer, Avnet Asia Pte. Ltd., a Singapore company and global distributor of electronic components and related software, agreed to pay a financial penalty to the United States of $1,508,000 to settle criminal liability for the conduct of its former employees, including Cheng. As part of a non-prosecution agreement, Avnet Asia admitted responsibility for Cheng’s unlawful conspiracy to ship export-controlled U.S. goods with potential military applications to China, and also for the criminal conduct of another former employee who, from 2007-2009, illegally caused U.S. goods to be shipped to China and Iran without a license. This conduct violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Releases Report on its Efforts to Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy MS-13By Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020Today, the Department of Justice released “Full Scale Response: A Report on the Department’s Efforts to Combat MS-13 from 2016-2020.” This report describes the Department’s work to dismantle La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in the United States and abroad. The data show that since 2016, the Department has prosecuted approximately 749 MS-13 gang members. So far, more than 500 of these MS-13 gang members have been convicted, including 37 who received life sentences. Department prosecutors are using more than 20 federal criminal statutes to prosecute MS-13 members, including, for the first time, filing terrorism charges against MS-13’s leadership. The data also show that for decades MS-13 has exploited weaknesses in border enforcement policies, as approximately 74 percent of the defendants prosecuted were unlawfully present in the United States. The report also describes the Department’s efforts to combat MS-13 internationally through increased partnerships with law enforcement in Mexico and Central America. Through international cooperation, hundreds of MS-13 members have been arrested abroad and more than 50 MS-13 members have been extradited to the United States.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a Joint Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo At the Three Seas Virtual Summit and Web ForumBy Sam NewsOctober 19, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Foreign Aid: USAID Has Increased Funding to Partner-Country Organizations but Could Better Track ProgressBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) reporting on its principal Local Solutions indicator—the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in partner countries—lacks clarity, complicating the assessment of the agency's progress toward its fiscal year 2015 target of 30 percent. The March 2013 USAID Forward progress report states that these obligations increased from about 10 percent of mission program funds in fiscal year 2010 to about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012—a $465 million increase. However, the agency also has reported progress on the principal Local Solutions indicator in three other ways, depending on whether two key types of funding—cash transfers and certain qualifying trust funds—are included (see figure). These reporting differences make it difficult to compare the indicator from year to year and to quantify the progress needed to achieve the 30 percent target by fiscal year 2015. Moreover, USAID's approach to tracking the Local Solutions indicator has evolved since the launch of the initiative. For example, USAID included funds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, missions the agency previously had planned to exclude. If these missions are excluded, the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in fiscal year 2012, including qualifying trust funds and cash transfers, decreases by 10 percentage points. Reported USAID Mission Program Funds Obligated to Partner-Country Local Organizations, by Type of Funding Included, Fiscal Year 2012 USAID's principal Local Solutions indicator does not fully reflect activities the agency has undertaken to implement the initiative, and USAID does not have a means to track relevant mission-led evaluations of programs implemented by partner-country organizations. USAID relied primarily on its principal Local Solutions indicator to demonstrate progress. While this principal indicator reflects, to some degree, the steps missions are required to take before obligating funds to local organizations, it provides no information about the status of activities both prior to and following obligation of funds, such as assessing risk and monitoring programs. Furthermore, although USAID has laid some groundwork for evaluating the Local Solutions initiative, the agency does not currently have the means to determine the extent to which missions are conducting performance evaluations to assess the effectiveness of programs implemented through local organizations. Such evaluations can provide evidence needed to demonstrate progress toward the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2010, USAID has undertaken a series of reforms, collectively called USAID Forward. One key reform, the Local Solutions initiative, aims to shift program implementation from U.S.- based and international organizations to partner-country organizations, including governments and for-profit and nonprofit organizations. The three overarching goals of the initiative are to strengthen the capacity of partner countries, to enhance and promote country ownership, and to increase the sustainability of development efforts. GAO was asked to review the implementation of this initiative. GAO assessed the extent to which USAID (1) has demonstrated progress toward achieving its fiscal year 2015 target for the principal Local Solutions indicator, and (2) is tracking progress in achieving the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed funding data and documents and interviewed USAID officials.[Read More…]
- Maryland Accountant Convicted of Preparing False Tax Returns for D.C. ResidentsBy Sam NewsJuly 1, 2021A federal jury in the District of Columbia convicted a Maryland woman today for preparing three false tax returns for District of Columbia residents that claimed more than $1.1 million in fraudulent refunds.[Read More…]
- Economic Adjustment Assistance: Actions Needed to Better Address Workers’ Needs and Assess Program EffectivenessBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Workers who are eligible for federal economic adjustment assistance (EAA) programs may face challenges using them. There are four EAA programs and one tax credit that focus on assistance to individual workers displaced by policy and economic changes. These include programs administered by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Department of Labor (DOL), which deliver services such as job training and counseling through state and local grantees. Selected grantees in all three states GAO visited described common challenges faced by workers from enrollment in EAA programs through re-entry into the job market. Grantees Described Common Challenges Workers Face in Accessing and Using Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program Services Interviews with selected grantees and GAO's data analysis revealed two key challenges with administering EAA programs and serving workers: Delays in grant decisions. From fiscal years 2015 through 2018, DOL took longer than legally required to process between 9 percent (3 out of 35) and 20 percent (3 out of 15) of National Dislocated Worker Grant applications. Grantees may serve fewer workers and may interrupt services to workers while awaiting decisions. DOL does not collect information on reasons for these delays and is missing opportunities to help ensure that dislocated workers receive timely assistance. Lack of information sharing. ARC and DOL do not share information about their EAA grant programs with grantees or each other, including information about grant projects that serve similar populations in similar geographic areas. As a result, ARC and DOL may fail to maximize program impact and reach across the 13-state Appalachian region. Regional officials said that coordination would enable them to better identify specific services needed by dislocated workers and which program might best be equipped to provide them. DOL has established performance measures to track outcomes for its EAA programs, but has experienced challenges with assessing the impact of job training offered under these programs. GAO reviewed two relevant studies on the impact of DOL's EAA programs containing some evidence that intensive services, such as one-on-one consultations and case management, were effective in improving earnings outcomes for dislocated workers. However, the studies were unable to effectively assess the impact of job training offered to dislocated workers under the programs due to methodological challenges. By collecting more quality evidence, DOL could be better able to determine if its EAA programs are helping workers achieve their employment goals. Federal EAA programs help workers adjust to various economic disruptions, such as policy changes on trade, defense, or energy, and shifts in immigration, globalization, or automation that cause a prolonged cyclical downturn and can dislocate workers. GAO was asked to review these programs. This report examines (1) what challenges eligible workers face in using EAA programs, (2) what challenges grantees face in implementing EAA programs and serving workers, and (3) what is known about the outcomes and impacts of selected EAA programs. GAO analyzed DOL grant processing data from fiscal years 2015 through 2018, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's analysis; reviewed outcome data from program year 2018 and program impact evaluations; interviewed ARC, DOL, and Department of the Treasury officials, as well as state and local officials in three states that experienced different economic disruptions and use different EAA programs; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DOL address grant processing delays, DOL and ARC share information, and DOL prioritize improving the quality of evidence on the impact of job training for dislocated workers. DOL and ARC agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Cindy S. Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- The United States and Ukraine: Strategic PartnersBy Sam NewsMay 5, 2021