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CRS — Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number of defense acquisition programs. Compared to the standard or default approach of annual contracting, MYP and BBC have the potential for reducing weapon procurement costs by several percent.

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FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act

April 21, 2014 Comments off

FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

Why We Did This Review
We conducted this fiscal year (FY) 2013 review to determine whether VA complied with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA). VA reported $1.1 billion in improper payments in its FY 2013 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The OIG’s assessment of VA’s compliance with IPERA for FY 2013 is based on FY 2012 data as reported by VA.

Report Highlights:
FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act Why We Did This Review We conducted this fiscal year (FY) 2013 review to determine whether VA complied with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA). VA reported $1.1 billion in improper payments in its FY 2013 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The OIG’s assessment of VA’s compliance with IPERA for FY 2013 is based on FY 2012 data as reported by VA. What We Found VA met five IPERA requirements for FY 2013 by publishing a PAR, performing risk assessments, publishing improper payment estimates, providing information on corrective action plan s, and reporting on its payment recapture efforts. VA also implemented a new risk assessment process in FY 2013 across all of its programs.

VA did not comply with two of seven IPERA requirements for FY 2013. The Veterans Health Admi nistration reported a gross improper payment ra te of greater than 10 percent for one program and did not meet reduction targets for two programs. This represents an improvement over FY 2012 when VA did not comply with four of the seven IPERA requirements.

Nonetheless, we identified areas for improvement in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) IPERA reporting. VBA underreported improper payments for its Compensation program. Test procedures for the Compensation program and one Education program also did not include steps needed to identify all types of improper payments.

What We Recommended
We recommended the Under Secretary for Health implement the corrective action plan included in the PAR to reduce improper payments for the State Home Per Diem program, and develop achievable reduction targets for that and Beneficiary Travel programs. We also recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits ensure thorough procedures for testing sample items used to estimate improper payments for the Compensation and Post 9/11 G.I. Bill programs.

Agency Comments
The Under Secretary for Health concurred with Recommendations 1 and 2. We closed Recommendation 2 based on the actions already completed.

The Under Secretary for Benefits partially concurred with Recommendation 3, citing completed actions to enhance Compensation program testing. The Under Secretary did not agree with a need to change the current Education test plan, but proposed an acceptable alternative analysis to determine risk in Education payments. We will follow up on implementation of this action during our next annual IPERA review.

Employment Services and Supports Available to Veterans with Disabilities Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Other Federal Agencies

April 19, 2014 Comments off

Employment Services and Supports Available to Veterans with Disabilities Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Other Federal Agencies (PDF)
Source: Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy

The number of military personnel incurring disability in current military conflicts is the highest in over three decades. Since 2001, over 1.6 million service members, Reservists, and National Guard have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern nations. As noted by Lew et al. (2007), advances in medical innovations and body armor have enabled 90 percent of soldiers to survive injuries that would have likely been fatal in previous wars, but many service personnel survive with serious physical and psychological injuries.

The Federal government has recently responded to the growing number of service members with disabilities in several ways. President Obama has signed executive orders to improve federal government hiring of veterans and to require federal agencies to contract with veteran owned agencies. The 2011 American Jobs Act added tax credits to employers hiring veterans with service co nnected disabilities. That same year, the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act was passed and signed into law . The VOW Act provides additional tax credit and training funds for unemployed veterans to prepare them for employment.

Many federal agencies will be involved in the implementation of these initiatives. Employment services and supports for veterans with disabilities is primarily provided by the VA, but the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Labor (DoL) also operate program s specifically targeting veterans with disabilities. Veterans also access other employment service programs that target all individuals with disabilities or persons in need specialized support to obtain employment.

T his report provides an overview of Federally – funded employment services and supports that can be accessed by veterans with disabilities, including those designed to meet the needs of the disabled veteran population specifically, the veteran population in general, and the disability population in general. The purpose is to present a comprehensive cataloging and review of all employment resources of which veterans with disabilities could access in pursuit of wage and self – employment.

New From the GAO

April 18, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Nuclear Weapons: Technology Development Efforts for the Uranium Processing Facility. GAO-14-295, April 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-295
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662665.pdf

2. Maritime Infrastructure: Key Issues Related to Commercial Activity in the U.S. Arctic over the Next Decade. GAO-14-299, March 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-299
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661762.pdf

3. Medicare Imaging Accreditation: Effect on Access to Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Is Unclear amid Other Policy Changes. GAO-14-378, April 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-378
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662659.pdf

4. Large Partnerships: Characteristics of Population and IRS Audits. GAO-14-379R, March 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-379R

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment
Source: International Journal of Advances in Psychology

This paper addresses the importance of understanding veterans’ individual beliefs and the effects of stigma on pharmacological and psychological treatment among active military personnel and veterans. The discussion can assist treating clinicians in reducing barriers to treatment and increasing compliance with effective psychological and pharmacological interventions for this population. The author has conducted more than 3000 interviews with veterans from World War II (WWII), the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who applied for service connected Veterans Administration compensation due to mental health conditions. A summary of the responses from veterans regarding their reaction to psychiatric treatment is given and compared to the findings of other provided preliminary studies regarding the effect of individual beliefs and stigma on treatment compliance.

DoD OIG — Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective
Our objectives were to (1) address the central database and DoD IG oversight provisions of Public Law 110-181, “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” Section 847, “Requirements for Senior Department of Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors,” January 28, 2008; (hereinafter referred to as “section 847”) (2) address subsequent direction from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC); and (3) accordingly determine:

  • Whether written legal opinions required by section 847 were “being provided and retained in accordance with the requirements of this section.” (Public Law 110-181, section 847 [b][2]).
  • “The Department of Defense’s record of compliance with section 847 of Public Law 110-181.” (HASC Report on the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2013).
  • Quantitative data specified by the HASC, as follows:
    • “the total number of opinions issued,
    • the total number of opinions retained in accordance with section 847,
    • any instances in which a request for a written opinion pursuant to section 847 lacked a corresponding written opinion, or
    • in which the written opinion was not provided to the requesting official or former official of the Department of Defense by the appropriate ethics counselor within 30 days after the request for a written opinion.”

DoD did not retain all required section 847 records in its designated central repository, the After Government Employment Advice Repository (AGEAR).

This occurred because the Department did not:

  • implement the 2010 DoD Inspector General (IG) report recommendation to transfer historical records into AGEAR when the database became operational,
  • centrally supervise section 847 activities by its decentralized Components, and
  • comply with Deputy Secretary guidance making AGEAR use mandatory as of January 1, 2012.

As a result:

  • The AGEAR database was incomplete with limited or no use by specific DoD organizations with significant contracting activity.
  • Individual section 847 records were located in multiple or decentralized locations, and in a number of cases were inaccurate, incomplete, and not readily accessible for examination.

New From the GAO

April 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Army Modular Force Structure: Annual Report Generally Met Requirements, but Challenges in Estimating Costs and Assessing Capability Remain. GAO-14-294, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-294
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662577.pdf

2. Foreign Aid: USAID Has Increased Funding to Partner-Country Organizations but Could Better Track Progress. GAO-14-355, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-355
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662597.pdf

3. Defense Contracting: DOD’s Use of Class Justifications for Sole-Source Contracts. GAO-14-427R, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-427R

Commander’s Legal Handbook 2013

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Commander’s Legal Handbook 2013 (PDF)
Source: Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, United States Army

This Handbook is designed to assist you in taking proper immediate action when faced with a variety of legal issues that might arise during your command. The purpose of your actions should be to preserve the legal situation until you can consult with your servicing Judge Advocate. However, like most aspects of your command responsibilities, you can fail if you just wait for things to come to you. You need to be proactive in preventing problems before they occur.

In the legal arena, this means establishing and enforcing high standards, ensuring your Soldiers are fully aware of those standards and properly trained to comply with them. You must also properly train your Soldiers on all Army policies and higher level command standards so that they also understand and comply with them. Soldiers must also be well-versed in the Army Values and be able to apply those values to real-world situations, which will usually keep them well within legal bounds.

All Soldiers have seen issues in the news that can occur when we are not proactive about discipline and standards: Abuse of prisoners, desecration of corpses, hazing, and sexual assault to name recent examples. All of these circumstances present serious legal issues. But, fundamentally, they also represent a breakdown in unit standards, training, and discipline. Your objective as a Commander should be to develop solid systems and a command climate that prevents legal issues, rather than just reacting to them. In sum, it is every bit as important to train your Soldiers to maintain a high level of discipline and compliance with law, policy, and military standards, as it is to train them to perform your Mission Essential Task List (METL). In legal circles, we call this effort to prevent legal problems before they arise by properly training Soldiers, “preventive law.” The responsibility to practice preventive law belongs to the Commander.

See also: 2013 Fiscal Law Deskbook (PDF)
See also: Military Citation Guide (PDF)

Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Doctors, lawyers and criminal justice agencies need methods to assess vulnerability to violent radicalization. In synergy, public health interventions aim to prevent the emergence of risk behaviours as well as prevent and treat new illness events. This paper describes a new method of assessing vulnerability to violent radicalization, and then investigates the role of previously reported causes, including poor self-reported health, anxiety and depression, adverse life events, poverty, and migration and socio-political factors. The aim is to identify foci for preventive intervention.

Methods
A cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample of men and women aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage and recruited by quota sampling by age, gender, working status, in two English cities. The main outcomes include self-reported health, symptoms of anxiety and depression (common mental disorders), and vulnerability to violent radicalization assessed by sympathies for violent protest and terrorist acts.

Results
2.4% of people showed some sympathy for violent protest and terrorist acts. Sympathy was more likely to be articulated by the under 20s, those in full time education rather than employment, those born in the UK, those speaking English at home, and high earners (>£75,000 a year). People with poor self-reported health were less likely to show sympathies for violent protest and terrorism. Anxiety and depressive symptoms, adverse life events and socio-political attitudes showed no associations.

Conclusions
Sympathies for violent protest and terrorism were uncommon among men and women, aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage living in two English cities. Youth, wealth, and being in education rather than employment were risk factors.

CRS — Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Department of Defense (DOD) development work on high-energy military lasers, which has been underway for decades, has reached the point where lasers capable of countering certain surface and air targets at ranges of about a mile could be made ready for installation on Navy surface ships over the next few years. More powerful shipboard lasers, which could become ready for installation in subsequent years, could provide Navy surface ships with an ability to counter a wider range of surface and air targets at ranges of up to about 10 miles.

Community Tools to Improve Transportation Options for Veterans, Military Service Members, and Their Families

April 13, 2014 Comments off

Community Tools to Improve Transportation Options for Veterans, Military Service Members, and Their Families
Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 164: Community Tools to Improve Transportation Options for Veterans, Military Service Members, and Their Families explores ways to enhance transportation options for veterans, military service members, and their families by building on the concepts of transportation coordination and mobility management.

The report provides guidance and tools to assess transportation needs of veterans, service members, and their families and ways to potentially improve public transit, specialized transportation, volunteer services, and other local transportation options needed to meet those needs.

The report includes foundational information on community transportation services and initiatives currently available for veterans, service members, and their families. The report is designed to guide users through an organized process to help improve transportation options, building on the framework of coordination.

New From the GAO

April 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Ballistic Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Address Implementation Issues and Estimate Long-Term Costs for European Capabilities. GAO-14-314, April 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-314
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662493.pdf

AON 2014 Political Risk Map

April 11, 2014 Comments off

AON 2014 Political Risk Map
Source: AON

Political strains and focus on geopolitical issues have exacerbated an already weak operating environment for business and exchange transfer risks have increased following the risk of new capital controls. Russia’s economy continues to be dominated by the government, so economic policy deadlock has brought growth to a standstill and with it an increase in the risk of political violence.”

UK — Policy Paper: International classified information

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Policy Paper: International classified information
Source: Cabinet Office

This document sets out:

  • how the UK protects international classified information provided to government
  • how the government can exchange UK classified information with international partners
  • the various roles and responsibilities of UK government departments, agencies and contractors

New From the GAO

April 10, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. KC-46 Tanker Aircraft: Program Generally on Track, but Upcoming Schedule Remains Challenging. GAO-14-190, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-190
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662449.pdf

2. Air Force: Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Unmanned Aerial System Pilots. GAO-14-316, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-316
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662468.pdf

3. Presidential Helicopter Acquisition: Update on Program’s Progress toward Development Start. GAO-14-358R, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-358R

4. Status of Efforts to Initiate an Amphibious Combat Vehicle Program. GAO-14-359R, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-359R

Testimony

1. Inspectors General: Oversight of Small Federal Agencies and the Role of the Inspectors General, by Beryl H. Davis, director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-503T, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-503T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662442.pdf

New From the GAO

April 9, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Defense Infrastructure: In-Kind Projects Initiated during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. GAO-14-280R, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-280R

2. Mine Safety: Basis for Proposed Exposure Limit on Respirable Coal Mine Dust and Possible Approaches for Lowering Dust Levels. GAO-14-345, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-345
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662411.pdf

Testimonies

1. Health Care Workforce: Federal Investments in Training and the Availability of Data for Workforce Projections, by Linda T. Kohn, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. GAO-14-510T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-510T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662392.pdf

2. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access Problems That May Delay Needed Medical Care for Veterans, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-509T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-509T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662396.pdf

3. Social Security Disability Programs: SSA Could Take Steps to Improve Its Assessment of Continued Eligibility, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-492T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-492T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662399.pdf

Identifying Personality Disorders that are Security Risks: Field Test Results

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Identifying Personality Disorders that are Security Risks: Field Test Results (PDF)
Source: Defense Personnel Security Research Center

Accurate identification and assessment of employees with risky personality disorders is imperative for programs that involve access to nuclear materials, weapons, and biological select agents which depend on personnel maintaining mental health and reliable behavior. Certain risky personality disorders, however, are especially difficult to diagnose with routine assessment tools that rely on the subject’s self-report. To combat this issue, PERSEREC, in collaboration with Department of Energy, initiated a field test that examined whether an improved screening tool has utility for clinicians who routinely evaluate personnel in a high-risk program. Five clinicians used the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure (SWAP), along with its Dispositional Indicators of Risk Exposure (DIRE) subscale developed earlier, for a period of 4 months to evaluate 26 new candidates and current employees of concern. Debriefing interviews indicated that SWAP/DIRE was more effective than clinicians’ existing tools for establishing a positive rapport with the subject, assessing personality disorders, and making legally-defensible recommendations. Findings also include recommendations for using SWAP/DIRE methodology for identifying risky personnel.

Inspector Report: DOE/IG-0904 Review of Controls Over the Department’s Classification of National Security Information

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Inspector Report: DOE/IG-0904 Review of Controls Over the Department’s Classification of National Security Information
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

The Department of Energy handles and manages a broad spectrum of classified information, including National Security Information (NSI). The Office of Health, Safety and Security’s Office of Classification, manages the Department-wide classification program and establishes policies to conform with Federal classification requirements. Implementation of classification requirements is shared among various organizations within the Department. In addition, the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is required to follow NSI policies and procedures instituted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Similarly, the Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) separately develops and implements policies and procedures, in coordination with the Office of Classification, for the protection and security of classified information at NNSA sites.

Our inspection revealed that the Department had established and implemented critical elements of its classified NSI program. However, our review revealed that certain aspects of the NSI program could be improved. For instance, our inspection determined that a classification marking tool embedded in the classified email system at an NNSA site automatically marked emails as Secret//Restricted Data, regardless of content. The classification related issues we observed occurred, in part, because of ineffective oversight of classification activities and inadequate training and guidance.

In general, we found management’s comments and planned corrective actions to be generally responsive to our report findings and recommendations.

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement
Source: Brookings Institution

After a dozen-year standoff between Iran and the international community over the Iranian nuclear program, negotiations are underway between representatives of Iran, on the one hand, and the P5+1 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) and the European Union, on the other, on a comprehensive agreement aimed at ensuring that an Iranian nuclear program declared to be devoted to peaceful purposes will not be turned into a program for producing nuclear weapons.

However, key differences exist on the requirements of an acceptable deal, not just among negotiators at the table but also among key players outside the negotiations. Israeli officials and a number of members of Congress are demanding the elimination of key elements of Iran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration and its supporters counter that several of those demands are neither achievable nor necessary for a sound agreement.

U.S. Army — Uniform Policy: Leaders Training

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Uniform Policy: Leaders Training (PDF of PPT slides)
Source: U.S. Army
Army’s new grooming/appearance regulations

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