Office of the Spokesperson
The United States, Brazil, and Poland convened the Warsaw Process Humanitarian Issues and Refugees Working Group in Brasilia, Brazil February 4-6. The working group focused on education and protection for children who are disproportionately affected by conflict in humanitarian crises in the Middle East. Participants included more than 33 countries as well as several international and non-governmental organizations. They discussed innovative solutions to current challenges, recognizing the need to better provide psychological support to children during displacement. The United States thanks Brazil for its leadership in hosting the Refugee Working Group.
The United States and Poland launched the Warsaw Process in February 2019, following the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. The initiative, which consists of seven expert-level working groups, is promoting stability in the Middle East through meaningful multilateralism that fosters deeper regional and global collaboration.
Click here for the text of the working group statement released following the conclusion of the meeting. The Humanitarian Issues and Refugees Working Group will continue to facilitate cooperation on humanitarian and refugee issues with regional actors in advance of a second Warsaw Process ministerial in 2020.
- Genetic Services: Information on Genetic Counselor and Medical Geneticist WorkforcesBy Sam NewsJuly 31, 2020Genetic counselors and medical geneticists are two groups who typically work together to provide genetic services, such as genetic testing and counseling. Genetic counselors have at least a master's degree in genetic counseling and assess individuals or families with or at risk for genetic conditions, and provide counseling and education on test results. Medical geneticists are typically physicians who specialize in medical genetics and genomics, and provide comprehensive genetic services, ranging from diagnosis and interpretation of test results to the management and treatment of genetic conditions. GAO's analysis of data from the professional organizations representing this workforce shows the number of genetic counselors certified to provide genetic counseling services has nearly doubled since 2009, and is projected to continue growing. The data show there were approximately 4,700 certified genetics counselors in the United States in 2019. The data also show the number of new medical geneticists has increased modestly since 2009, and the total number certified in the United States was approximately 1,240 as of April 2020. There is no widely accepted measure for how many genetic counselors and medical geneticists should be available; however, representatives from professional organizations GAO interviewed stated that demand for genetic services is rising. Data from the professional organizations representing the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces, as well as data from the Census Bureau, also show the number of genetic counselors and medical geneticists varied across states. States averaged seven genetic counselors per 500,000 people in 2019 and two medical geneticists per 500,000 people in 2020. Genetic counselors and medical geneticists primarily practice in hospital settings. Distribution of Genetic Counselors by State, 2019 Advances in genetic technology and research have increased the amount of information available to individuals and providers, and may have increased the demand for genetic services. The medical genetics workforce—which includes genetic counselors and medical geneticists—plays an essential role in providing access to genetic services. Some studies have identified concerns with the size of the medical genetics workforce and its ability to meet the current and future demand for genetic services. A House Committee on Appropriations report included a provision for GAO to conduct an analysis of the medical genetics workforce. This report describes, among other objectives, what is known about changes in the size of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; and what is known about the geographic distribution of these workforces. GAO reviewed relevant studies of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; interviewed agency officials and professional organizations representing each workforce; and analyzed the most recent available data on the size and distribution of each workforce in the United States, as well as population data from the Census Bureau. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or CosgroveJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- The Election of Todd Buchwald to the UN Committee Against TortureBy Sam NewsOctober 11, 2021
- Second Member Of “Boogaloo Bois” Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to HamasBy Sam NewsMay 4, 2021A Minnesota man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to provide material support and resources, namely property, services and weapons, to what he believed was Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, for use against Israeli and U.S. military personnel overseas.[Read More…]
- Critical Infrastructure Protection: Treasury Needs to Improve Tracking of Financial Sector Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation EffortsBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020The federal government has long identified the financial services sector as a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. The sector includes commercial banks, securities brokers and dealers, and providers of the key financial systems and services that support these functions. Altogether, the sector holds about $108 trillion in assets and faces a variety of cybersecurity-related risks. Key risks include (1) an increase in access to financial data through information technology service providers and supply chain partners; (2) a growth in sophistication of malware—software meant to do harm—and (3) an increase in interconnectivity via networks, the cloud, and mobile applications. Cyberattacks that exploit risks can occur against either public or private components of the sector. For example, in February 2016, hackers were able to install malware on the Bangladesh Central Bank's system through a service provider, which then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money to accounts in other Asian countries. This attack resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million. Several industry groups and firms are taking steps to enhance the security and resilience of the U.S. financial services sector through a broad range of cyber risk mitigation efforts. These efforts include coordinating within the sector through groups such as the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and the Financial Systemic Analysis and Resilience Center, conducting industrywide incident response exercises, sharing threat and vulnerability information, developing and providing guidance in conducting risk assessments, and offering cybersecurity-related training. The Departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury and federal financial regulators are also taking multiple steps to support cybersecurity and resilience through risk mitigation efforts. Among other things, federal agencies provide cybersecurity expertise and conduct simulation exercises related to cyber incident response and recovery. Treasury, as the designated lead agency for the financial sector, plays a key role in supporting many of the efforts to enhance the sector's cybersecurity and resiliency. For example, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions serves as the chair of the committee of government agencies with sector responsibilities, and Treasury coordinates federal agency efforts to improve the sector's cybersecurity and related communications. However, Treasury does not track efforts or prioritize them according to goals established by the sector for enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency. Treasury also has not fully implemented GAO's previous recommendation to establish metrics related to the value and results of the sector's risk mitigation efforts. Further, the 2016 sector-specific plan, which is intended to direct sector activities, does not identify ways to measure sector progress and is out of date. Among other things, the sector-specific plan lacks information on sector-related requirements laid out in the 2019 National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan . Unless more widespread and detailed tracking and prioritization of efforts occurs according to the goals laid out in the sector-specific plan, the sector could be insufficiently prepared to deal with cyber-related risks, such as those caused by increased access to data by third parties. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to protect the nation's critical infrastructures. The financial services sector's reliance on information technology makes it a leading target for cyber-based attacks. Recent high-profile breaches at commercial entities have heightened concerns that data are not being adequately protected. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to (1) describe the key cyber-related risks facing the financial sector; (2) describe steps the financial services industry is taking to share information on and address risks to its sector; and (3) assess steps federal agencies are taking to enhance the security and resilience of the sector. GAO analyzed relevant reports and information to determine risks and mitigation efforts and compared agency efforts against federal policies and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials at 16 private sector entities, two self-regulatory organizations, and eight federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. GAO is making recommendations to Treasury to track and prioritize the sector's cyber risk mitigation efforts, and to update the sector's plan with metrics for measuring progress and information on how sector efforts will meet sector goals and requirements, including those contained within the National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan. Treasury generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or email@example.com or Michael Clements at (202) 512-7763 or ClementsM@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Visit of Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Feltman to Ethiopia and KenyaBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2021
- Justice Department Awards $34 Million to Support Community Crisis ResponseBy Sam NewsDecember 23, 2021The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced grant awards totaling $34 million to help communities address crises involving homelessness, mental health and substance use disorders, and other public health and public safety emergencies. The grants, made by OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ), will support partnerships between justice system officials, health and mental health professionals and community providers designed to reduce arrests, divert individuals from the justice system and deliver the appropriate treatment and other support services to those in need.[Read More…]
- CEO of Financial Firm Pleads Guilty to Running Multi-Million Dollar Securities and Tax Fraud Scheme, and Operating an Unlicensed Money Services BusinessBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2020A California-based man pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others to defraud shareholders of publicly traded companies, transmitting millions of dollars through the operation of an unlicensed money-services business in California, and falsifying multiple years of federal tax returns.[Read More…]
- John Kerry Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate Day One Closing RemarksBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- Antitrust Division Observes National Whistleblower Appreciation DayBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2021The Antitrust Division today commemorates National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, which celebrates individuals who act with courage to speak out and report crimes, including antitrust violations like price-fixing, bid rigging and market allocation conspiracies.[Read More…]
- Future Years Defense Program: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency of DOD’s Projected Resource NeedsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Congress needs the best available data about DOD's resource tradeoffs between the dual priorities of transformation and fighting the global war on terrorism. To help shape its priorities, in 2001 DOD developed a capabilities-based approach focused on how future adversaries might fight, and a risk management framework to ensure that current defense needs are balanced against future requirements. Because the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) is DOD's centralized report providing DOD and Congress data on current and planned resource allocations, GAO assessed the extent to which the FYDP provides Congress visibility over (1) projected defense spending and (2) implementation of DOD's capabilities-based defense strategy and risk management framework.The FYDP provides Congress with mixed visibility over DOD's projected spending for the current budget year and at least four succeeding years. On the one hand, it provides visibility over many programs that can be aggregated so decision makers can see DOD's broad funding priorities by showing shifts in appropriation categories. On the other hand, in some areas DOD likely understates the future costs of programs in the FYDP because it has historically employed overly optimistic planning assumptions in its budget formulations. As such, DOD has too many programs for the available dollars, which often leads to program instability, costly program stretchouts, and delayed program termination decisions. Also, the FYDP does not reflect costs of ongoing operations funded through supplemental appropriations. Since September 2001, DOD has received $158 billion in supplemental appropriations to support the global war on terrorism, and DOD expects to request another supplemental in January 2005 to cover operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While DOD officials stated they are uncertain of the amount of the request, some requirements they intend to fund with the supplemental appropriation have already been identified, such as temporarily increasing the Army's force structure. Defining costs during ongoing operations is challenging and supplemental appropriations are sometimes necessary; however, not considering the known or likely costs of ongoing operations expected to continue into the new fiscal year as part of larger budget deliberations will preclude DOD and congressional decision makers from fully examining the budget implications of the global war on terrorism. The FYDP provides Congress limited visibility over important DOD initiatives. While DOD is considering how to link resources to defense capabilities and the risk management framework, it does not have specific plans to make these linkages in the FYDP, in part because the initiatives have not been fully defined or implemented. Because the FYDP lacks these linkages, decision makers cannot use it to determine how a proposed increase in capability would affect the risk management framework, which balances dimensions of risk, such as near term operational risk versus risks associated with mid- to long-term military challenges.[Read More…]
- Woodlands pain doctor pays half million dollars for fraudulent PPP and billing allegationsBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsNovember 15, 2021A 49-year-old local [Read More…]
- Former Owner of Health Care Staffing Company Indicted for Wage FixingBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices by lowering the rates paid to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in north Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictment also charges Jindal with obstruction of the Federal Trade Commission’s separate investigation into this conduct.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Peruvian Foreign Minister WagnerBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021
- Rare Diseases: Although Limited, Available Evidence Suggests Medical and Other Costs Can Be SubstantialBy Sam NewsOctober 18, 2021What GAO Found According to the literature GAO reviewed, diagnosis of any disease can be complicated, and diagnosis of rare diseases can be particularly difficult because of a variety of factors. (See figure.) Although some rare diseases may be detected quickly, in other cases years may pass between the first appearance of symptoms and a correct diagnosis of a rare disease, and misdiagnoses—and treatments based on them—occur with documented frequency. According to the literature GAO reviewed and GAO's interviews, those with undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or untreated rare diseases may face various negative outcomes. For example, a person's health can suffer when appropriate, timely interventions are not provided or when interventions based on misdiagnoses cause harm. In addition, multiple diagnostic tests, medical appointments, and ultimately unwarranted interventions can add to the costs of the disease. Examples of Factors That May Interfere with Accurate Diagnosis Research on the costs of rare diseases is limited, in part because of the difficulty of diagnosing them. Nonetheless, the costs can be substantial, as indicated by available research from the U.S. and elsewhere and the experts, researchers, and organization officials GAO interviewed. These costs—to those with rare diseases, health care payers, the U.S. government, or a combination—can include direct medical costs (e.g., costs of outpatient visits or drugs), direct nonmedical costs (e.g., costs to modify one's home to accommodate a wheelchair), or indirect costs (e.g., loss of income or diminished quality of life). Peer-reviewed studies of specific rare diseases estimated costs for people with rare diseases that are multiple times higher than costs for people without those diseases. One recent study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, estimated $966 billion as the total cost (including medical and other nonmedical and indirect costs) in the United States for an estimated 15.5 million people with 379 rare diseases in 2019. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study By definition, few people have any specific rare disease. But there are many different rare diseases—about 7,000—and as a result, an estimated 30 million people in the United States have one or more of them. About half of those with a rare disease are children. Often genetic, many rare diseases are chronic, progressive (they worsen over time), and life-threatening. Relatively little is known about the costs of rare diseases, either individually or collectively. The Joint Explanatory Statement for the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, includes a provision for GAO to study the costs of rare diseases within the U.S. GAO examined, among other things, the challenges to diagnosing rare diseases and what is known about their costs. GAO reviewed documents from two agencies in HHS—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and published literature, including studies on the costs of rare diseases in the United States and elsewhere published from 2000 through 2021. GAO also interviewed NIH and FDA officials; selected researchers and experts on rare diseases, health care, and health economics; and officials of organizations representing those with rare diseases. The organizations included two devoted to rare diseases in general and six representing those with a specific rare diseases or sets of related rare diseases. For more information, contact at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Defense Health Care: Implementation of Value-Based Initiatives in TRICAREBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020The Defense Health Agency (DHA)—the agency within the Department of Defense (DOD) that administers DOD's health care program, TRICARE—has identified a number of value-based initiatives for potential implementation with civilian providers and hospitals under the TRICARE program. These initiatives aim to help DHA build a value-based health care delivery system, in which providers are rewarded for value of services provided instead of volume of services provided. For these initiatives, value is generally measured in terms of improved health outcomes, enhanced experience of care for the patient, and reduced health care costs over time. GAO found that DHA has identified 20 value-based initiatives, including a program that makes incentive payments for hospitals that meet certain quality metrics for maternity services and a program that promotes adherence to medication regimens by waiving co-payments, among others. According to DHA officials, the 20 initiatives include five that have been implemented (two complete, three underway); three that will be implemented in the future—two with anticipated 2020 start dates are currently on hold due to the department's need to focus on the response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic and one that is expected to be implemented in January 2021; eight that are still under review, but no decisions have been made about whether and when they might be implemented; and four that were considered but will not be implemented. In fiscal year 2019, DOD offered health care services to approximately 9.6 million eligible beneficiaries worldwide through TRICARE, its regionally structured health care program. Beneficiaries may obtain health care services through DOD's direct care system of military hospitals and clinics or from its purchased care system of civilian providers. DOD contracts with private sector companies—referred to as managed care support contractors—to develop and maintain networks of civilian providers and perform other customer service functions for its purchased care system. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA 2017) required DOD to develop and implement value-based incentive initiatives in its TRICARE contracts. The NDAA 2017 also included a provision that required GAO to review these initiatives. This correspondence describes the initiatives DHA has developed and the status of each, as of June 2020. To do this work, GAO interviewed knowledgeable DHA officials and analyzed available documentation on each initiative, including decision papers, congressional reports, and Federal Register notices. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Probation Official Charged with Child Pornography OffensesBy Sam NewsFebruary 12, 2021A Pennsylvania man made his initial appearance today after being charged in an indictment with multiple child pornography offenses.[Read More…]
- Public Schedule – July 15, 2021By Sam NewsJuly 16, 2021
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsNovember 8, 2021
- Attorney General Garland Memorandum on Justice Department Communications with the White HouseBy Sam NewsJuly 21, 2021The U.S. Department of Justice today formally updated its guidelines governing communications between the Justice Department and the White House. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the guidelines, effective immediately, in a memorandum to all Department personnel.[Read More…]
- On Lunar New YearBy Sam NewsFebruary 11, 2021