December 6, 2021

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Valley drug trafficking organizer gets life in prison

4 min read
A 40-year-old resident of Brownsville has been ordered to federal prison following his role in trafficking more than 1000 kilograms of cocaine involving $26 million in drug proceeds

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov April 29, 2021

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  • COVID-19: Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund Cash Management and Defense Logistics Agency Pandemic Response
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Three Department of Defense (DOD) agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), use the Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund (DWWCF) to fund their operations and then deposit the proceeds from sales of goods and services to their customers back into the fund. DOD received $500 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for the DWWCF in order to position the agency to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. GAO found: DOD Actions Helped Maintain DWWCF Balances within Targeted Ranges. Several transactions increased the DWWCF cash balances. In particular, the DWWCF received nearly $600 million in allotments from appropriations from January 2020 through January 2021, including $500 million from the CARES Act. DLA, which uses the DWWCF to fund operations, such as providing consumable items and fuel to its military customers and other federal agencies, also received $2 billion in advance billings from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from April 2020 through September 2020. DOD officials said they also took actions that had the effect of mitigating the extent to which DWWCF cash balances exceeded the targeted upper cash requirement. DOD transferred $241 million to military services' working capital funds and reduced fuel prices by 20 percent, among other things. DLA officials said that they expect the $3.6 billion cash balance to decline as advance-billed orders are filled and fuel prices recover. DLA Responded to a Surge in Medical Materials Demand during the Pandemic. From March 2020 through May 2021, DLA executed about 31,000 contract actions marked as COVID-19–related, resulting in $3.67 billion in contract obligations. DLA officials said FEMA and HHS became DLA's largest customers for COVID-19–related items during the pandemic. COVID-related procurements included test kits, gloves, N95 respirators, hand sanitizers, surgical masks, ventilators, and protective gowns, among other things. DLA Did Not Plan for Pandemic Support, but It Tracked Performance and Identified Lessons Learned. DLA officials told GAO they were not tasked with planning to support civilian agencies in a pandemic, and they had not developed plans for supporting other federal agencies during a pandemic prior to the current pandemic. However, DLA continued to monitor and measure its medical supply chain performance during the pandemic using previously established measures, which showed that its performance decreased during the pandemic. Officials from DLA and from its customer agencies attributed this decrease to difficulties experienced by vendors in responding to medical material demand during the global pandemic. DLA Increased Medical Contracting and Reduced Contracting in Some Other Areas. GAO's analysis found that DLA obligated $40.1 billion on contracts from March 2020 through February 2021, a decrease of more than $2.0 billion (4.8 percent) as compared with the same 12-month period prior to the pandemic. DLA obligations increased in 64 of 134 product service groups, with the largest increases occurring in the medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies; firefighting, rescue, and safety equipment and environmental protection equipment and materials; and instruments and laboratory equipment groups. DLA obligations decreased in 69 of 134 product service groups, with the largest decreases occurring in the fuels, lubricants, oils and waxes and the aerospace craft components and accessories product service groups.  Of the 11,832 DLA vendors used during this period, GAO found that DLA obligations related to 6,208 (52.5 percent) decreased, 4,960 (41.9 percent) increased, and 664 (5.6 percent) had no change. DLA obligations related to vendors providing medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies had the largest increases, and obligations related to those providing fuels, lubricants, oils, and waxes and those providing aerospace components had the largest decreases. The decreases did not significantly alter the proportion of DLA contracting obligations going to vendors in three primary socioeconomic groups (small disadvantaged, women–owned, and minority–owned). Why GAO Did This Study This report responds to a request from the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that GAO review DOD's management of the DWWCF cash balance and DLA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is part of GAO's body of work in response to the CARES Act. This report provides information on: (1) actions DOD took from October 2018 through March 2021 to maintain the DWWCF cash balance between its targeted upper and lower cash requirements; (2) the effects of the pandemic on DLA's supply chain management activity, including medical supplies, starting in March 2020; (3) DLA's planning to support a pandemic event and tracking of its performance in meeting customer needs from March 2020 through June 2021; and (4) changes in DLA's contracting activity, by type of product and individual vendor, from March 2019– February 2020 and March 2020–February 2021. GAO reviewed DWWCF cash balances and budget estimates; DLA readiness reports and performance measures; and federal contracting data; and interviewed officials of DLA and its customers. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Climate Resilience: Actions Needed to Ensure DOD Considers Climate Risks to Contractors as Part of Acquisition, Supply, and Risk Assessment
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has not routinely assessed climate-related risks faced by its contractors as part of its acquisition and supply processes, through which DOD obtains contracted goods and services. DOD's acquisition process includes long-term planning activities such as life-cycle sustainment planning. Its supply chain process includes steps to identify and assess potential disruptions, such as severe storms affecting transportation or energy systems, in order to mitigate risk. However, these processes in general do not systematically identify and consider climate-related risks to materiel acquisition and supply or the acquisition of weapon systems, according to Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and military department officials. DOD's climate change adaptation directive indicates that OSD and the military departments should include climate considerations in acquisition and supply and integrate those considerations into relevant policy and guidance. However, GAO's review of DOD and military department guidance on acquisition and supply found that the guidance did not implement DOD's climate change directive by including consideration of climate change or extreme weather. Until DOD and the military departments include these considerations in their guidance on acquisition and supply chain processes, they risk continuing to develop acquisition strategies and managing supply chains without building climate resilience into these processes and potentially jeopardizing their missions. DOD guidance requires consideration of climate-related risks as part of the mission assurance process, when appropriate. However, GAO found that the department has not assessed risks—including those associated with climate change or extreme weather—to commercially owned facilities, which can support DOD installations as well as weapon systems, as part of this process. Assessing risks to commercial facilities has been a longstanding challenge for DOD, with the department noting in 2012 that it had paid inadequate attention to challenges outside of DOD-owned facilities and citing a limited understanding of supply chain risks as a pervasive problem. DOD's mission assurance guidance includes minimum requirements for assessments of certain non-DOD-owned facilities, such as completion of an all-hazards threat assessment. However, DOD officials stated that they had not conducted such assessments. The officials noted that DOD is limited in its ability to conduct such assessments, as it does not have the same access to commercial facilities as it does to its own facilities. While DOD officials stated that they are exploring alternative ways of assessing risks to commercial facilities, they noted that these efforts are in the early stages. Without determining what approaches may be feasible for assessing risks to commercial facilities as part of the mission assurance process and issuing or updating guidance accordingly, DOD may not fully evaluate the risks to critical commercial facilities as part of the mission assurance process, leaving gaps in its knowledge of potential risks—to include climate and weather-related risks—to its ability to fulfill key missions dependent on such facilities. Since 2010, DOD has identified climate change as a threat to its operations and installations. The department relies on contracted goods and services for its mission and installations. Climate change is projected to have broad effects that could affect DOD's supply chains, and any associated risks to contractors can have an impact on DOD. One way DOD assesses risk to its missions is through mission assurance, which is a process to protect or ensure the function of capabilities and assets critical to its missions. GAO was asked to review potential threats to national security from the effects of climate change on defense contractors. GAO examined the extent to which DOD assesses the potential effects on its operations from climate change and extreme weather risks faced by its contractors through the department's (1) acquisition and supply processes, and (2) mission assurance process. GAO reviewed DOD acquisition, supply, and mission assurance documents and interviewed relevant DOD officials and contractor representatives. GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD incorporate climate adaptation into its acquisition and supply guidance and issue or update guidance on mission assurance-related assessments for commercial facilities. DOD concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with three. GAO continues to believe that DOD should fully implement its recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Co-Owner of Puerto Rican Online Aquarium Business Pleads Guilty to Two Lacey Act Felonies and Export Smuggling for Illicit Trafficking of Protected Reef Creatures
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  • U.S. Postal Service: Volume, Performance, and Financial Changes since the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In 2020, the majority of which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) experienced a 9 percent drop in total mail volume when compared to 2019. The overall drop was primarily due to a 4 percent dip in First-Class Mail and a 14 percent decline in Marketing Mail (such as advertisements). Despite a drop in total volume, 2020 package volume rose by 32 percent. A surge of election-related mail caused a temporary spike in total mail volume in September and October 2020, before falling again by year end. Overall, USPS's nationwide on-time performance fell in 2020. Average monthly on-time performance for First-Class Mail decreased from 92 percent in 2019 to 87 percent in 2020. However, decreases were more significant in certain USPS districts at different times, and nationally in December 2020. On-time performance was 48 percent in New York in April and 61 percent in Baltimore in September—both of which were nearly 90 percent prior to the pandemic (see figure). Further, national on-time performance dipped to 69 percent in December. In February 2021, the Postmaster General stated that on-time performance was affected by employees' decreased availability in COVID-19 hot spots and a surge in holiday package volume. 2020 Average Monthly On-Time Performance for First-Class Mail in Baltimore, Detroit, and New York Postal Districts USPS's revenue increased in 2020 but not enough to avoid a net loss of $8.1 billion. Rapid growth and price increases for packages, resulted in a net revenue increase of $4.3 billion. However, USPS's expenses grew by $4.4 billion, including COVID-19 related expenses, such as personal protective equipment. USPS took some cost-reduction actions in 2020 and released a new strategic plan in March 2021 that also has cost-reduction actions. In May 2020, GAO concluded that absent congressional action to transform USPS, USPS's financial problems would worsen, putting its mission and financial solvency in greater peril. The further deterioration of USPS's financial position since the start of the pandemic makes the need for congressional action even more urgent. Why GAO Did This Study USPS plays a critical role in the nation's communications and commerce. However, USPS's financial viability is not on a sustainable path and has been on GAO's High Risk List since 2009. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of USPS in the nation's economy as well as USPS's financial difficulties. Responding to these concerns, the CARES Act, as amended in late 2020, provided USPS up to $10 billion in additional funding. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines changes in USPS's (1) mail volume, (2) on-time performance, and (3) revenue and expenses from January through December 2020. GAO analyzed USPS mail volume, on-time performance, revenue, and expense data by month for 2020, and compared these data to similar data for 2019. GAO also reviewed its prior work, including its May 2020 report. That report had three matters for congressional consideration on: (1) determining the level of postal services, (2) the extent to which those services should be financially self-sustaining, and (3) the appropriate institutional structure of USPS. GAO also reviewed reports by USPS and the USPS Inspector General. Finally, GAO interviewed USPS officials, two package delivery companies that compete with USPS, and representatives from four mailing associations whose members send the types of mail with the highest volumes in 2020. For more information, contact Jill Naamane at (202) 512-2834 or naamanej@gao.gov.
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  • Global Food Security: Improved Monitoring Framework Needed to Assess and Report on Feed the Future’s Performance
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    What GAO Found Feed the Future (FTF), a U.S. government–wide global food security initiative coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), collects data to monitor how FTF projects promote agriculture, resilience, and nutrition (see photos). However, USAID and its FTF partner agencies are limited in their ability to use performance data to assess the initiative's progress because they have not set FTF-wide performance goals and few FTF indicators fully meet two key attributes of successful performance indicators. Specifically, only three of 40 performance indicators both (1) were clearly linked to the initiative's overarching goal and (2) had measurable targets. FTF has targets for its overarching goal of reducing poverty and child stunting; however, the FTF agencies cannot determine how the results of FTF's projects contribute to this overarching goal. USAID officials said it is difficult to set FTF-wide performance goals and targets because of the initiative's breadth. However, prior GAO work provides strategies to help the agencies conduct meaningful FTF-wide performance monitoring. Examples of Feed the Future's Agriculture, Resilience, and Nutrition Projects USAID'S 2017–2020 public reports on FTF include some information on FTF's projects, but contain unclear and unsupported statements on its progress. USAID followed two of four leading practices on performance reporting by including baseline or trend data and discussing data limitations in the FTF reports. However, the reports did not describe how the performance data align with and can be used to assess progress toward FTF's objectives—another leading practice. Further, the reports did not outline performance targets so readers could compare the performance data against these targets, also a leading practice. Lastly, although the reports stated that FTF has led to estimated decreases in poverty and stunting, FTF data do not support these statements on FTF's impact. As a result, FTF's public reports do not communicate a clear picture of the initiative's progress toward achieving its objectives. As required by law, USAID developed a process to assess countries' potential to graduate from being an FTF target country, but USAID has not fully followed this process. USAID developed annual scorecards to assess the countries; however, due to a bureau restructuring and the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID has not shared the 2019 or 2020 scorecards with its missions or the FTF partner agencies. USAID also has not worked with these entities to complete required annual reviews of the graduation assessment process itself. As a result, USAID has limited the partners' engagement in, and the usefulness of, this process. Why GAO Did This Study The United Nations reported that nearly 690 million people in the world were undernourished as of 2019, and estimated that food insecurity could worsen due to COVID-19. In response to the Global Food Security Act of 2016, FTF agencies monitor and report the progress of their global food security assistance and developed a process to graduate FTF target countries from the initiative. GAO was asked to review U.S. global food security assistance. This report evaluates, among other things, USAID's monitoring and public reporting of FTF's progress and assessment of countries' potential to graduate from FTF. GAO reviewed FTF documents and data, and interviewed representatives of USAID, FTF partner agencies, and other stakeholders, including implementing partners from four sample countries selected based on factors such as geographic diversity and amount of food security funding.
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