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U.S.-The Bahamas Air Transport Agreement of January 27, 2020

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AIR TRANSPORT AGREEMENT
BETWEEN
THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AND
THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS

The Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (hereinafter, “the Parties”);

Desiring to promote an international aviation system based on competition among airlines in the marketplace with minimum government interference and regulation;

Desiring to make it possible for airlines to offer the traveling and shipping public a variety of service options, and wishing to encourage individual airlines to develop and implement innovative and competitive prices;

Desiring to facilitate the expansion of international air transport opportunities;

Desiring to ensure the highest degree of safety and security in international air transport and reaffirming their grave concern about acts or threats against the security of aircraft, which jeopardize the safety of persons or property, adversely affect the operation of air transportation, and undermine public confidence in the safety of civil aviation; and

Being Parties to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, done at Chicago on December 7, 1944;

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1

Definitions

For the purposes of this Agreement, unless otherwise stated, the term:

  1. “Aeronautical authorities” means, in the case of the United States, the Department of Transportation and in the case of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority, and any person or agency authorized to perform functions exercised by the said Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority;
  2. “Agreement” means this Agreement, its Annexes, and any amendments thereto;
  3. “Air transportation” means the public carriage by aircraft of passengers, baggage, cargo, and mail, separately or in combination, scheduled or charter, for remuneration or hire;
  4. “Convention” means the Convention on International Civil Aviation, done at Chicago on December 7, 1944, and includes:
    a. any amendment that has entered into force under Article 94(a) of the Convention and has been ratified by both Parties, and
    b. any Annex or any amendment thereto adopted under Article 90 of the Convention, insofar as such Annex or amendment is at any given time effective for both Parties;
  5. “Designated airline” means an airline designated and authorized in accordance with Article 3 of this Agreement;
  6. “Full cost” means the cost of providing service plus a reasonable charge for administrative overhead;
  7. “International air transportation” means air transportation that passes through the airspace over the territory of more than one State;
  8. “Price” means any fare, rate or charge for the carriage of passengers, baggage or cargo (excluding mail) in air transportation, including surface transportation in connection with international air transportation, charged by airlines, including their agents, and the conditions governing the availability of such fare, rate or charge;
  9. “Stop for non-traffic purposes” means a landing for any purpose other than taking on or discharging passengers, baggage, cargo and/or mail in air transportation;
  10. “Territory” means the land areas, internal waters, and territorial sea under the sovereignty of a Party; and
  11. “User charge” means a charge imposed on airlines for the provision of airport, airport environmental, air navigation, or aviation security facilities or services including related services and facilities.

Article 2

Grant of Rights

  1. Each Party grants to the other Party the following rights for the conduct of international air transportation by the airlines of the other Party:
    a. the right to fly across its territory without landing;
    b. the right to make stops in its territory for non-traffic purposes; and
    c. the rights otherwise specified in this Agreement.
  2. Nothing in this Article shall be deemed to confer on the airline or airlines of one Party the rights to take on board, in the territory of the other Party, passengers, their baggage, cargo, or mail carried for compensation and destined for another point in the territory of that other Party.

Article 3 

Designation and Authorization

  1. Each Party shall have the right to designate as many airlines as it wishes to conduct international air transportation in accordance with this Agreement and to withdraw or alter such designations.  Such designations shall be transmitted to the other Party in writing through diplomatic channels, and shall identify whether the airline is authorized to conduct the type of air transportation specified in Annex I or in Annex II or both.
  2. On receipt of such a designation, and of applications from the designated airline, in the form and manner prescribed for operating authorizations and technical permissions, the other Party shall grant appropriate authorizations and permissions with minimum procedural delay, provided:
    a. substantial ownership and effective control of that airline are vested in the Party designating the airline, nationals of that Party, or both;
    b. the designated airline is qualified to meet the conditions prescribed under the laws and regulations normally applied to the operation of international air transportation by the Party considering the application or applications; and
    c. the Party designating the airline is maintaining and administering the provisions set forth in Article 6 (Safety) and Article 7 (Aviation Security).

Article 4 

Revocation of Authorization

  1. Either Party may revoke, suspend, limit, or impose conditions on the operating authorizations or technical permissions of an airline designated by the other Party where:
    a. substantial ownership and effective control of that airline are not vested in the other Party, the other Party’s nationals, or both;
    b. that airline has failed to comply with the laws and regulations referred to in Article 5 (Application of Laws) of this Agreement; or
    c. the other Party is not maintaining and administering the standards as set forth in Article 6 (Safety).
  2. Unless immediate action is essential to prevent further noncompliance with subparagraphs 1b or 1c of this Article, the rights established by this Article shall be exercised only after consultation with the other Party.
  3. This Article does not limit the rights of either Party to withhold, revoke, suspend, limit or impose conditions on the operating authorization or technical permission of an airline or airlines of the other Party in accordance with the provisions of Article 6 (Safety) or Article 7 (Aviation Security).

Article 5

Application of Laws

  1.  The laws and regulations of a Party relating to the admission to or departure from its territory of aircraft engaged in international air navigation, or to the operation and navigation of such aircraft while within its territory, shall be complied with by such aircraft upon entering, when departing from, or while within the territory of that Party.
  2. While entering, within, or leaving the territory of one Party, its laws and regulations relating to the admission to or departure from its territory of passengers, crew or cargo on aircraft (including regulations relating to entry, clearance, aviation security, immigration, passports, customs and quarantine or, in the case of mail, postal regulations) shall be complied with by, or on behalf of, such passengers, crew or cargo of the other Party’s airlines.

Article 6

Safety

  1. Each Party shall recognize as valid, for the purpose of operating the air transportation provided for in this Agreement, certificates of airworthiness, certificates of competency, and licenses issued or validated by the other Party and still in force, provided that the requirements for such certificates or licenses at least equal the minimum standards that may be established pursuant to the Convention.  Each Party may, however, refuse to recognize as valid for the purpose of flight above its own territory, certificates of competency and licenses granted to or validated for its own nationals by the other Party.
  2. Either Party may request consultations concerning the safety standards maintained by the other Party relating to aeronautical facilities, aircrews, aircraft, and operation of the designated airlines.  If, following such consultations, one Party finds that the other Party does not effectively maintain and administer safety standards and requirements in these areas that at least equal the minimum standards that may be established pursuant to the Convention, the other Party shall be notified of such findings and the steps considered necessary to conform with these minimum standards, and the other Party shall take appropriate corrective action.  Each Party reserves the right to withhold, revoke, suspend, limit, or impose conditions on the operating authorization or technical permission of an airline or airlines designated by the other Party in the event the other Party does not take such appropriate corrective action within a reasonable time and to take immediate action, prior to consultations, as to such airline or airlines if the other Party is not maintaining and administering the aforementioned standards and immediate action is essential to prevent further noncompliance.

Article 7

Aviation Security

  1. The Parties affirm that their obligation to each other to protect the security of civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference forms an integral part of this Agreement.  Without limiting the generality of their rights and obligations under international law, the Parties shall in particular act in conformity with the provisions of the Convention on Offenses and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, done at Tokyo September 14, 1963, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, done at The Hague December 16, 1970, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, done at Montreal September 23, 1971, and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, Supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, done at Montreal February 24, 1988.
  2. The Parties shall provide upon request all necessary assistance to each other to prevent acts of unlawful seizure of civil aircraft and other unlawful acts against the safety of such aircraft, of their passengers and crew, and of airports and air navigation facilities, and to address any other threat to the security of civil air navigation.
  3. The Parties shall, in their mutual relations, act in conformity with the aviation security standards and appropriate recommended practices established by the International Civil Aviation Organization and designated as Annexes to the Convention; they shall require that operators of aircraft of their registry, operators of aircraft that have their principal place of business or permanent residence in their territory, and the operators of airports in their territory act in conformity with such aviation security provisions.
  4. Each Party agrees to observe the security provisions required by the other Party for entry into, for departure from, and while within the territory of that other Party and to take adequate measures to protect aircraft and to inspect passengers, crew, and their baggage and carry-on items, as well as cargo and aircraft stores, prior to and during boarding or loading.  Each Party shall also give positive consideration to any request from the other Party for special security measures to meet a particular threat.
  5. When an incident or threat of an incident of unlawful seizure of aircraft or other unlawful acts against the safety of passengers, crew, aircraft, airports or air navigation facilities occurs, the Parties shall assist each other by facilitating communications and other appropriate measures intended to terminate rapidly and safely such incident or threat.
  6. When a Party has reasonable grounds to believe that the other Party has departed from the aviation security provisions of this Article, the aeronautical authorities of that Party may request immediate consultations with the aeronautical authorities of the other Party.  Failure to reach a satisfactory agreement within 15 days from the date of such request shall constitute grounds to withhold, revoke, suspend, limit, or impose conditions on the operating authorization and technical permissions of an airline or airlines of that Party.  When required by an emergency, a Party may take interim action prior to the expiry of 15 days.

Article 8

Commercial Opportunities

  1. The airlines of each Party shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other Party for the promotion and sale of air transportation.
  2. The designated airlines of each Party shall be entitled, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the other Party relating to entry, residence, and employment, to bring in and maintain in the territory of the other Party managerial, sales, technical, operational, and other specialist staff required for the provision of air transportation.
  3. Each designated airline shall have the right to perform its own ground-handling in the territory of the other Party (“self-handling”) or, at the airline’s option, select among competing agents for such services in whole or in part.  The rights shall be subject only to physical constraints resulting from considerations of airport safety.  Where such considerations preclude self-handling, ground services shall be available on an equal basis to all airlines; charges shall be based on the costs of services provided; and such services shall be comparable to the kind and quality of services as if self-handling were possible.
  4. Any airline of each Party may engage in the sale of air transportation in the territory of the other Party directly and, at the airline’s discretion, through its agents, except as may be specifically provided by the charter regulations of the country in which the charter originates that relate to the protection of passenger funds, and passenger cancellation and refund rights.  Each airline shall have the right to sell such transportation, and any person shall be free to purchase such transportation, in the currency of that territory or in freely convertible currencies.
  5. Each airline shall have the right to convert and remit to its country and, except where inconsistent with generally applicable law or regulation, any other country or countries of its choice, on demand, local revenues in excess of sums locally disbursed.  Conversion and remittance shall be permitted promptly without restrictions or taxation in respect thereof at the rate of exchange applicable to current transactions and remittance on the date the airline makes the initial application for remittance.
  6. The airlines of each Party shall be permitted to pay for local expenses, including purchases of fuel, in the territory of the other Party in local currency.  At their discretion, the airlines of each Party may pay for such expenses in the territory of the other Party in freely convertible currencies according to local currency regulation.
  7. In operating or holding out the authorized services on the agreed routes, any designated airline of one Party may enter into cooperative marketing arrangements such as blocked-space, code-sharing or leasing arrangements, with
    a. an airline or airlines of either Party;
    b. an airline or airlines of a third country; and
    c. a surface transportation provider of any country;
    provided that all participants in such arrangements (i) hold the appropriate authority and (ii) meet the requirements normally applied to such arrangements.
  8. Airlines and indirect providers of cargo transportation of both Parties shall be permitted, without restriction, to employ in connection with international air transportation any surface transportation for cargo to or from any points in the territories of the Parties or in third countries, including to and from all airports with customs facilities, and to transport cargo in bond under applicable laws and regulations.  Such cargo, whether moving by surface or by air, shall have access to airport customs processing and facilities.  Airlines may elect to perform their own surface transportation or to provide it through arrangements with other surface carriers, including surface transportation operated by other airlines and indirect providers of cargo air transportation.  Such intermodal cargo services may be offered at a single, through price for the air and surface transportation combined, provided that shippers are not misled as to the facts concerning such transportation.

Article 9

Customs Duties and Charges

  1. On arriving in the territory of one Party, aircraft operated in international air transportation by the designated airlines of the other Party, their regular equipment, ground equipment, fuel, lubricants, consumable technical supplies, spare parts (including engines), aircraft stores (including but not limited to such items of food, beverages and liquor, tobacco and other products destined for sale to or use by passengers in limited quantities during flight), and other items intended for or used solely in connection with the operation or servicing of aircraft engaged in international air transportation shall be exempt, on the basis of reciprocity, from all import restrictions, property taxes and capital levies, customs duties, excise taxes, and similar fees and charges that are (a) imposed by the national authorities, and (b) not based on the cost of services provided, provided that such equipment and supplies remain on board the aircraft.
  2. There shall also be exempt, on the basis of reciprocity, from the taxes, levies, duties, fees, and charges referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, with the exception of charges based on the cost of the service provided:
    a. aircraft stores introduced into or supplied in the territory of a Party and taken on board, within reasonable limits, for use on outbound aircraft of an airline of the other Party engaged in international air transportation, even when these stores are to be used on a part of the journey performed over the territory of the Party in which they are taken on board;
    b. ground equipment and spare parts (including engines) introduced into the territory of a Party for the servicing, maintenance, or repair of aircraft of an airline of the other Party used in international air transportation;
    c. fuel, lubricants, and consumable technical supplies introduced into or supplied in the territory of a Party for use in an aircraft of an airline of the other Party engaged in international air transportation, even when these supplies are to be used on a part of the journey performed over the territory of the Party in which they are taken on board; and
    d. promotional and advertising materials introduced into or supplied in the territory of one Party and taken on board, within reasonable limits, for use on outbound aircraft of an airline of the other Party engaged in international air transportation, even when these materials are to be used on a part of the journey performed over the territory of the Party in which they are taken on board.
  3. Equipment and supplies referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article may be required to be kept under the supervision or control of the appropriate authorities.
  4. The exemptions provided by this Article shall also be available where the designated airlines of one Party have contracted with another airline, which similarly enjoys such exemptions from the other Party, for the loan or transfer in the territory of the other Party of the items specified in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article.

Article 10

User Charges

  1. User charges that may be imposed by the competent charging authorities or bodies of each Party on the airlines of the other Party shall be just, reasonable, not unjustly discriminatory, and equitably apportioned among categories of users.  In any event, any such user charges shall be assessed on the airlines of the other Party on terms not less favorable than the most favorable terms available to any other airline at the time the charges are assessed.
  2. User charges imposed on the airlines of the other Party may reflect, but shall not exceed, the full cost to the competent charging authorities or bodies of providing the appropriate airport, airport environmental, air navigation, and aviation security facilities and services at the airport or within the airport system.  Such charges may include a reasonable return on assets after depreciation.  Facilities and services for which charges are made shall be provided on an efficient and economic basis.
  3. Each Party shall encourage consultations between the competent charging authorities or bodies in its territory and the airlines using the services and facilities, and shall encourage the competent charging authorities or bodies and the airlines to exchange such information as may be necessary to permit an accurate review of the reasonableness of the charges in accordance with the principles of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article.  Each Party shall encourage the competent charging authorities to provide users with reasonable notice of any proposal for changes in user charges to enable users to express their views before changes are made.
  4. Neither Party shall be held, in dispute resolution procedures pursuant to Article 14, to be in breach of a provision of this Article, unless (a) it fails to undertake a review of the charge or practice that is the subject of complaint by the other Party within a reasonable amount of time; or (b) following such a review it fails to take all steps within its power to remedy any charge or practice that is inconsistent with this Article.

Article 11 

Fair Competition

  1. Each Party shall allow a fair and equal opportunity for the designated airlines of both Parties to compete in providing the international air transportation governed by this Agreement.
  2. Each Party shall allow each designated airline to determine the frequency and capacity of the international air transportation it offers based upon commercial considerations in the marketplace.  Consistent with this right, neither Party shall unilaterally limit the volume of traffic, frequency or regularity of service, or the aircraft type or types operated by the designated airlines of the other Party, except as may be required for customs, technical, operational, or environmental reasons under uniform conditions consistent with Article 15 of the Convention.
  3. Neither Party shall impose on the other Party’s designated airlines a first-refusal requirement, uplift ratio, no-objection fee, or any other requirement with respect to capacity, frequency or traffic that would be inconsistent with the purposes of this Agreement.
  4. Neither Party shall require the filing of schedules, programs for charter flights, or operational plans by airlines of the other Party for approval, except as may be required on a non-discriminatory basis to enforce the uniform conditions foreseen by paragraph 2 of this Article or as may be specifically authorized in this Agreement.  If a Party requires filings for information purposes, it shall minimize the administrative burdens of filing requirements and procedures on air transportation intermediaries and on designated airlines of the other Party.

Article 12

Pricing

  1. Each Party shall allow prices for air transportation to be established by airlines of both Parties based upon commercial considerations in the marketplace.
  2. Prices for international air transportation between the territories of the Parties shall not be required to be filed.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the airlines of the Parties shall provide immediate access, on request, to information on historical, existing, and proposed prices to the aeronautical authorities of the Parties in a manner and format acceptable to those aeronautical authorities.

Article 13

Consultations

Either Party may, at any time, request consultations relating to this Agreement.  Such consultations shall begin at the earliest possible date, but not later than 60 days from the date the other Party receives the request unless otherwise agreed.

Article 14 

Settlement of Disputes

Any dispute arising under this Agreement, except those that may arise under Article 12 (Pricing), that is not resolved within 120 (one hundred and twenty) days of the date established for consultations pursuant to a request for consultations under Article 13 may be referred, at the request of either Party, for decision to some person or body in accordance with rules and procedures to be agreed by the Parties.  Each Party shall, to the degree consistent with its national law, give full effect to any decision rendered by such person or body.

Article 15

Termination

Either Party may, at any time, give notice in writing to the other Party of its decision to terminate this Agreement.  Such notice shall be sent simultaneously to the International Civil Aviation Organization.  This Agreement shall terminate at midnight (at the place of receipt of the notice to the other Party) at the end of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) traffic season in effect one year following the date of written notification of termination, unless the notice is withdrawn by agreement of the Parties before the end of this period.

Article 16 

Registration with ICAO

This Agreement and all amendments thereto shall be registered with the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Article 17

Entry into Force

This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of signature.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorized by their respective Governments, have signed this Agreement.

DONE at Nassau, The Bahamas this 27th day of January 2020, in two originals, in the English language.

FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

Assistant Secretary Manisha Singh
U.S. Department of State

FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF
THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS:

Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar
Ministry of Tourism and Aviation

ANNEX I 

Scheduled Air Transportation

Section 1

Routes

Airlines of each Party designated under this Annex shall, in accordance with the terms of their designation, be entitled to perform scheduled international air transportation between points on the following routes:

A. Routes for the airline or airlines designated by the Government of the United States:

1. From points behind the United States via the United States and intermediate points to a point or points in The Bahamas and beyond.

2. For all-cargo service or services, between The Bahamas and any point or points.

B. Routes for the airline or airlines designated by the Government of The Bahamas:

1. From points behind The Bahamas via The Bahamas and intermediate points to a point or points in the United States and beyond.

2. For all-cargo service or services, between the United States and any point or points.

Section 2

Operational Flexibility

Each designated airline may, on any or all flights and at its option:

  1. operate flights in either or both directions;
  2. combine different flight numbers within one aircraft operation;
  3. serve behind, intermediate, and beyond points and points in the territories of the Parties on the routes in any combination and in any order;
  4. omit stops at any point or points;
  5. transfer traffic from any of its aircraft to any of its other aircraft at any point on the routes; and
  6. serve points behind any point in its territory with or without change of aircraft or flight number and may hold out and advertise such services to the public as through services;

without directional or geographic limitation and without loss of any right to carry traffic otherwise permissible under this Agreement; provided that, with the exception of all-cargo services, the service serves a point in the territory of the Party designating the airline.

Section 3

Change of Gauge

On any segment or segments of the routes above, any designated airline may perform international air transportation without any limitation as to change, at any point on the route, in type or number of aircraft operated; provided that, with the exception of all-cargo services, in the outbound direction, the transportation beyond such point is a continuation of the transportation from the territory of the Party that has designated the airline and, in the inbound direction, the transportation to the territory of the Party that has designated the airline is a continuation of the transportation from beyond such point.

ANNEX II

Charter Air Transportation

Section 1

A. Airlines of each Party designated under this Annex shall, in accordance with the terms of their designation, have the right to carry international charter traffic of passengers (and their accompanying baggage) and/or cargo (including, but not limited to, freight forwarder, split, and combination (passenger/cargo) charters):

1. Between any point or points in the territory of the Party that has designated the airline and any point or points in the territory of the other Party; and

2. Between any point or points in the territory of the other Party and any point or points in a third country or countries, provided that, except with respect to cargo charters, such service constitutes part of a continuous operation, with or without a change of aircraft, that includes service to the homeland for the purpose of carrying local traffic between the homeland and the territory of the other Party.

B. In the performance of services covered by this Annex, airlines of each Party designated under this Annex shall also have the right: (1) to make stopovers at any points whether within or outside of the territory of either Party; (2) to carry transit traffic through the other Party’s territory; (3) to combine on the same aircraft traffic originating in one Party’s territory, traffic originating in the other Party’s territory, and traffic originating in third countries; and (4) to perform international air transportation without any limitation as to change, at any point on the route, in type or number of aircraft operated; provided that, except with respect to cargo charters, in the outbound direction, the transportation beyond such point is a continuation of the transportation from the territory of the Party that has designated the airline and in the inbound direction, the transportation to the territory of the Party that has designated the airline is a continuation of the transportation from beyond such point.

C. Each Party shall extend favorable consideration to applications by airlines of the other Party to carry traffic not covered by this Annex on the basis of comity and reciprocity.

Section 2

A. Any airline designated by either Party performing international charter air transportation originating in the territory of either Party, whether on a one-way or round-trip basis, shall have the option of complying with the charter laws, regulations, and rules either of its homeland or of the other Party. If a Party applies different rules, regulations, terms, conditions, or limitations to one or more of its airlines, or to airlines of different countries, each designated airline shall be subject to the least restrictive of such criteria.

B. However, nothing contained in the above paragraph shall limit the rights of either Party to require airlines designated under this Annex by either Party to adhere to requirements relating to the protection of passenger funds and passenger cancellation and refund rights.

Section 3

Except with respect to the consumer protection rules referred to in the preceding paragraph, neither Party shall require an airline designated under this Annex by the other Party, in respect of the carriage of traffic from the territory of that other Party or of a third country on a one-way or round-trip basis, to submit more than a declaration of conformity with the applicable laws, regulations and rules referred to under section 2 of this Annex or of a waiver of these laws, regulations, or rules granted by the applicable aeronautical authorities.

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GAO has previously reported that applicants who appeal a benefits denial can potentially wait years to receive a final decision, during which time an applicant's health or financial situation could deteriorate. Given the heightened risk of worsening medical and financial conditions for disability applicants, GAO was asked to examine the incidence of such events while applicants await a final decision on their disability claim. This report examines the status of disability applicants while they awaited a final benefits decision including 1) their total wait times across all levels of disability appeals within SSA, 2) their incidence of bankruptcy, and 3) their incidence of death. For wait times, bankruptcies, and deaths, GAO also examined variations across certain demographic characteristics of applicants. GAO obtained administrative data from SSA for all adult disability applicants from fiscal years 2008 through 2019 who filed an appeal to their initial disability determination. GAO used these data to calculate wait times across appeals levels, rates of approvals and denials, and appeals caseloads, and examined changes in these three areas over time. To describe the incidence of bankruptcy among individuals awaiting a disability appeals decision, GAO matched SSA disability data to AOUSC bankruptcy data for fiscal years 2014 through 2019. To describe the incidence of death among individuals awaiting a disability appeals decision, GAO matched the disability data to SSA's Death Master File. For all of these analyses, GAO also examined variations across demographic characteristics of applicants, including age, sex, and reported education level. GAO also reviewed relevant policies, federal laws and regulations, and agency publications, and interviewed agency officials. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or CurdaE@gao.gov.
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    The six Intelligence Community (IC)-element Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) that GAO reviewed collectively received 5,794 complaints from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, and opened 960 investigations based on those complaints. Of the 960 investigations, IC-element OIGs had closed 873 (about 91 percent) as of August 2019, with an average case time ranging from 113 to 410 days to complete. Eighty-seven cases remained open as of August 2019, with the average open case time being 589 days. The number of investigations at each IC-element OIG varied widely based on factors such as the number of complaints received and each OIG's determination on when to convert a complaint into an investigation. An OIG may decide not to convert a complaint into an investigation if the complaint lacks credibility or sufficient detail, or may refer the complainant to IC-element management or to another OIG if the complaint involves matters that are outside the OIG's authority to investigate. Four of the IC-element OIGs—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) OIG, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) OIG, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) OIG, and the National Security Agency (NSA) OIG—have a 180-days or fewer timeliness objective for their investigations. The procedures for the remaining two OIGs—the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) OIG—state that investigations should be conducted and reported in a timely manner. Other than those prescribed by statute, the ICIG and NGA OIG have not established timeliness objectives for their investigations. Establishing timeliness objectives could improve the OIGs' ability to efficiently manage investigation time frames and to inform potential whistleblowers of these time frames. All of the selected IC-element OIG investigations units have implemented some quality assurance standards and processes, such as including codes of conduct and ethical and professional standards in their guidance. However, the extent to which they have implemented processes to maintain guidance, conduct routine quality assurance reviews, and plan investigations varies (see table). Implementation of Quality Assurance Standards and Practices by Selected IC-element OIG Investigations Units   ICIG CIA OIG DIA OIG NGA OIG NRO OIG NSA OIG Regular updates of investigation guidance or procedures — — — ✓ — ✓ Internal quality assurance review routinely conducted — — ✓ — — — External quality assurance review routinely conducted — ✓ — — — — Required use of documented investigative plans ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ — ✓ Legend: ✓ = standard or practice implemented; — = standard or practice not implemented. Source: GAO analysis of IC-element OIG investigative policies and procedures. | GAO-20-699 The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency's (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Investigations states that organizations should facilitate due professional care by establishing written investigative policies and procedures via handbooks, manuals, or similar mechanisms that are revised regularly according to evolving laws, regulations, and executive orders. By establishing processes to regularly update their procedures, the ICIG, CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NRO OIG could better ensure that their policies and procedures will remain consistent with evolving laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and CIGIE standards. Additionally, CIGIE's Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General requires OIGs to establish and maintain a quality assurance program. The standards further state that internal and external quality assurance reviews are the two components of an OIG's quality assurance program, which is an evaluative effort conducted by reviewers independent of the unit being reviewed to ensure that the overall work of the OIG meets appropriate standards. Developing quality assurance programs that incorporate both types of reviews, as appropriate, could help ensure that the IC-element OIGs adhere to OIG procedures and prescribed standards, regulations, and legislation, as well as identify any areas in need of improvement. Further, CIGIE Quality Standards for Investigations states that case-specific priorities must be established and objectives developed to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. CIGIE's standards state that this may best be achieved, in part, by preparing case-specific plans and strategies. Establishing a requirement that investigators use documented investigative plans for all investigations could facilitate NRO OIG management's oversight of investigations and help ensure that investigative steps are prioritized and performed efficiently and effectively. CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NGA OIG have training plans or approaches that are consistent with CIGIE's quality standards for investigator training. However, while ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG have basic training requirements and tools to manage training, those OIGs have not established training requirements for their investigators that are linked to the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities, appropriate to their career progression, and part of a documented training plan. Doing so would help the ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG ensure that their investigators collectively possess a consistent set of professional proficiencies aligned with CIGIE's quality standards throughout their entire career progression. Most of the IC-element OIGs GAO reviewed consistently met congressional reporting requirements for the investigations and semiannual reports GAO reviewed. The ICIG did not fully meet one reporting requirement in seven of the eight semiannual reports that GAO reviewed. However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, farrellb@gao.gov or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, mazanecb@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The services preposition combat and support assets ashore and afloat worldwide, including in the Indo-Pacific region. Prepositioned assets include combat vehicles, equipment sets for engineering and construction, and protective gear for chemical or biological attacks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Defense (DOD) used prepositioned medical assets for personnel in Guam, South Korea, and Germany. All of the services have reported some shortfalls in their prepositioned assets from 2015 through 2019—including mortars, combat vehicles, and medical equipment. In the Indo-Pacific region, for example, the Army reported shortfalls in equipment to construct bridges over difficult terrain. All services also cited challenges, such as insufficient storage space, storage facilities located far away from intended points of use, and the perishability of some assets. In some cases, the services are taking actions to address these shortfalls and challenges. In others, the services are accepting risk because, according to officials, not all shortfalls and challenges can be fully addressed. Sailors and Marines Offload Assets from a Prepositioning Ship during the COVID-19 Response in Guam DOD has taken steps to implement a joint oversight framework but does not have a complete view of the services' prepositioning programs. DOD revised two guidance documents—an instruction in 2019 and a strategic implementation plan in 2020—to establish a joint oversight framework. However, DOD has focused much of its joint efforts to date on preparing a required annual report to Congress on the status of the services' prepositioning programs. While the report provides some useful information, GAO found inaccurate and inconsistent information in multiple annual reports, which hinder their utility. DOD does not have a reporting mechanism or information-collection tool to develop a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. The current annual reporting requirement expires in 2021, which provides DOD with an opportunity to create a new reporting mechanism, or modify existing mechanisms or tools, to enable a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. By doing so, DOD could better identify gaps or redundancies in the services' programs, make more informed decisions to mitigate asset shortfalls and challenges, reduce potential duplication and fragmentation, and improve its joint oversight. The U.S. military services preposition critical assets at strategic locations around the world for access during the initial phases of an operation. DOD uses these prepositioned assets for combat, support to allies, and disaster and humanitarian assistance. For many years, GAO has identified weaknesses in DOD's efforts to establish a joint oversight framework to guide its ability to assess the services' prepositioning programs. This has led to fragmentation and the potential for duplication. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the services' prepositioning programs and associated challenges. This report (1) describes the types of assets the services preposition worldwide, as well as asset shortfalls and challenges the services have identified, and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing a joint oversight framework for the services' programs. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed DOD prepositioning documents and interviewed DOD and State Department officials from over 20 offices. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in December 2020. Information that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO recommends that DOD develop a reporting mechanism or tool to gather complete information about the military services' prepositioning programs for joint oversight and to reduce duplication and fragmentation. DOD concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.
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