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    Subject Term: "International affairs"

    27 publications with a total of 55 open recommendations including 12 priority recommendations
    Director: Michael Courts
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen State's ability to address persistent gaps in foreign language proficiency at overseas posts and make informed future resource investments, the Secretary of State should evaluate the effectiveness of efforts implemented under the "Strategic Plan for Foreign-Language Capabilities."

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In his May 25, 2017 letter to the relevant congressional committees leadership, the Department of State reiterated its concurrence with this recommendation and stated that the department will develop a process to evaluate implementation of the 2011 Strategic Plan and future plans, and will report on results of the evaluation by the end of fiscal year 2018.
    Director: Jessica Farb
    Phone: (202) 512-6991

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. agencies' performance monitoring of counter-firearms trafficking activities, the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should establish and document performance targets for the bureau's key counter-firearms trafficking activities in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
    Status: Open

    Comments: ATF concurred with this recommendation and stated that it plans to implement it. According to ATF officials, ATF has engaged in an overview of performance measures in Mexico and, when applicable, in Guatemala and Belize, and planned to implement a more structured annual system of performance targeting and evaluation for operations in these jurisdictions in fiscal year 2017. As of October 2017, we are continuing to follow up with ATF on its efforts to implement the new performance evaluation system.
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. agencies' performance monitoring of counter-firearms trafficking activities, the Secretary of State should work with other U.S. agencies and implementers to help ensure that quarterly progress reports identify key challenges and plans to address them.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State concurred with this recommendation and stated that it planned to work with other agencies to implement it. State officials noted that the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau's quarterly reporting template for interagency partners currently contains a segment entitled "Problems or Challenges and Corrective Action Plan/Risk Identification Mitigation" in which the interagency partner is expected to detail any problems or challenges in implementing any of the program components and activities. State officials stated they will continue to remind interagency partners of this requirement and assist with correct completion of the reporting templates.
    Director: Jessica Farb
    Phone: (202) 512-6991

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure effective implementation of the strategic objective of the Weapons Chapter of the Strategy, the ONDCP Director should establish a more comprehensive indicator, or set of indicators, that more accurately reflects progress made by ATF and ICE in meeting the strategic objective.

    Agency: Office of National Drug Control Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: As part of ONDCP's comments on our draft report, the agency concurred with our recommendation to establish a more comprehensive set of indicators for the Weapons Chapter of the National Southwest Border Counternarcotic Strategy. ONDCP indicated that it would work with ICE and ATF to develop additional indicators to evaluate their progress. ONDCP agreed that the indicators developed through this collaborative process would be used in future iterations of the Strategy. However, in its July 26, 2017 letter to the relevant congressional committees leadership ONDCP explained that a decision has not been made on whether a new iteration of Strategy will be released, or if the current Administration will take different approach to address this issue. We will need to wait until an update of the Strategy is available for us to review to determine if our recommendation has been implemented.
    Director: Kimberly M. Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further improve OPIC's monitoring processes, the President and CEO of OPIC should assess the current monitoring processes to ensure that the risk associated with the use of client-reported data and limited site visits for monitoring is acceptable for meeting OPIC's program goals.

    Agency: Overseas Private Investment Corporation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on the draft report, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) concurred with the recommendation. In February 2017, OPIC executed two contracts with an external group to assist it in assessing the Office of Information Policy's current monitoring processes to ensure that the risks associated with the use of client-reported data and limited site visits for monitoring are acceptable and meet OPIC's program goals. The work is currently underway.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen USAID's ability to monitor Title II conditional food aid and evaluate food-for-assets activities' impact on reducing food insecurity, the USAID Administrator should establish a mechanism to readily identify all Title II projects that include conditional food aid activities and systematically collect information about the type of conditional activity included in each project.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on our draft report, USAID concurred with the recommendation and stated its intention to establish a mechanism to readily identify all Title II projects that include conditional food aid activities and to collect information about the type of conditional activity in each project through the Food for Peace Management Information System. USAID also noted that it is already collecting such information for the Emergency Food Security Program, another food assistance program. As of November 2017, GAO continues to monitor USAID's efforts to fully address the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen USAID's ability to monitor Title II conditional food aid and evaluate food-for-assets activities' impact on reducing food insecurity, the USAID Administrator should systematically assess the effectiveness of food-for-assets activities in development projects in achieving project goals and objectives.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on our draft report, USAID concurred with the recommendation. In September 2016, USAID stated that it had undertaken relevant reviews of the effectiveness and sustainability of Title II development projects and that it is considering expanding evaluations of completed projects to assess sustainability of results over time. As of November 2017, GAO continues to monitor USAID's efforts to fully address the recommendation.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: While recognizing that cargo preference serves policy goals established by Congress with respect to the U.S. merchant marine, including maintenance of a fleet capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency, Congress should consider clarifying cargo preference legislation regarding the definition of "geographic area" to ensure that agencies can fully utilize the flexibility Congress granted to them when it lowered the CPFA requirement.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: We did not receive comments on the Matter for Congressional Consideration. As of October 2017, no legislation had been introduced to clarify the definition of 'geographic area' with regard to cargo preference laws.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of MARAD to study the potential availability of all qualified mariners needed to meet a full and prolonged activation of the reserve sealift fleet. In the study, MARAD should identify potential solutions to address the mariner shortfall if one is still identified.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its written comments, DOT concurred with our recommendation to study the potential availability of all qualified mariners needed to meet a full and prolonged activation of the reserve sealift fleet. DOT stated that MARAD has been reviewing the adequacy of existing plans to recruit mariner volunteers to crew the full reserve fleet. Furthermore, DOT noted that 13,000 mariners are required to crew all the vessels in the fleet for sustained operations. On June 15, 2016, GAO contacted MARAD officials to clarify the current status of the National Maritime Strategy, which DOT officials had stated would contain the results of their review. The officials said that the Strategy is still in the interagency process for approval and is not likely to be published until the end of 2016. DOT told GAO in December 2016 that it had conducted an exercise in September 2016 to test mariner availability for an initial activation of the full fleet. However, this exercise did not fully address GAO's recommendation, as it did not test for a full and prolonged activation of the fleet. Furthermore, DOT officials told GAO in April 2017 that the National Maritime Strategy has not been released and is awaiting review from the current Administration. As of May 2017, MARAD officials reported that they had established a working group to identify the total number of U.S. citizen mariners in the United States who, among other things, are available to crew the U.S. flag fleet and the surge sealift fleet in times of a national emergency and planned to report to Congress in December 2017.
    Director: Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.,
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given that countering violent extremism is a priority for the U.S. government in general and State's Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT Bureau), the Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that CVE program efforts abroad are evaluated.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2017, the CT Bureau indicated that a third-party evaluation of the CVE program has been completed. The evaluation focused on process and programming, including all CVE projects funded between fiscal years 2012 and 2016 and resulted in two related but disparate sets of recommendations and findings. The CT Bureau indicated that it has begun incorporating the recommendations made in the evaluation into its overall CVE efforts.
    Recommendation: To improve State's CT Bureau's program management efforts, the Secretary of State should take steps to ensure the Bureau of Counterterrorism establishes specific time frames for addressing recommendations from program evaluations.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2017, the CT Bureau indicated it is in the process of reviewing recommendations from the CVE evaluation, and will soon be assigning timelines to those recommendations that the bureau deems relevant and achievable. For other evaluations, the CT Bureau indicated that it has already acknowledged the need to assign specific timelines to evaluation recommendations and has adjusted accordingly.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement TVPRA training for OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Field Operations (OFO) within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, conducted a "Train-the-Trainer" conference in August 2015 that focused on juvenile and unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The conference, among other things, addressed screening requirements for UAC consistent with Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). CBP officers who received this additional training were then responsible for training other officers who process UAC at the ports of entry. According to CBP, while the conference was comprehensive, it did not fully encompass CBP's needs. In June 2016, CBP reported that OFO, Office of Chief Counsel, and a headquarters-level working group on UAC issues are finalizing a revised Form CBP-93 and with that are developing a detailed, relevant Train-the-Trainer course for officers responsible for TVPRA at all CBP ports of entry. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that OFO, in coordination with CBP's Office of Training and Development, was concluding the design and embarking on the development phase of a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." This course will be an annual requirement for all OFO officers. In April 2017, CBP reported that OFO was no longer pursuing a separate Train-the-Trainer course for CBP officers at air ports of entry. However, CBP continues to develop a new UAC training course. The new course is a collaborative effort between OFO and USBP, in consultation with CBP's Office of Chief Counsel, and in partnership with CBP's Office of Training and Development (OTD) to develop, deconflict, and revise training consistent with requirements under TVPRA, specifically outlining rules to identify and screen UAC, among other things. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP needs to ensure that OFO officers at airports who have substantive contact with UAC complete this training.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that agents and officers should ask UAC to better assess (1) a child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States and (2) credible evidence of the child's risk of being trafficked if returned to his or her country of nationality or last habitual residence.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, CBP officials stated that CBP formed a working group in headquarters with representatives from the department's Office of Policy and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to examine the screening process for UAC. In addition, CBP officials noted that CBP is in the process of convening a similar group in the field. According to CBP officials, the working group meets weekly and is coordinating with nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among others. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) have finalized and routed the Form CBP-93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of June 2017, the revised CBP Form 93 is still under review and CBP officials estimate that the review process will be completed by December 31, 2017. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should revise the Form 93 to include indicators or questions that CBP officers and Border Patrol agents should ask UAC relative to their ability to make an independent decision and regarding the potential risk of the UAC being trafficked if returned to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide guidance to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers that clarifies how they are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Mexican UAC who have fear of returning to Mexico owing to a credible fear of persecution.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group had been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development, as well as the Office of Chief Counsel, to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement guidance on how Border Patrol agents and OFO officers are to implement the TVPRA requirement to transfer to HHS all Canadian and Mexican UAC who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of our report, DHS indicated that CBP's U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) would issue further guidance to agents and officers emphasizing TVPRA transfer procedures for UAC who are nationals or habitual residents of Canada or Mexico and who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. In September 2015, CBP reported that USBP and OFO estimated implementing this additional guidance by the end of calendar year 2015. In January 2016, CBP reported to GAO that, since June 2015, a headquarters level working group has been reviewing CBP's screening process for UAC. According to CBP officials, the activities of this working group will influence the guidance that will be deployed to Border Patrol agents and OFO officers and that USBP and OFO will be working together to develop additional guidance to the field by September 2016. In December 2016, CBP notified GAO that Border Patrol and OFO have partnered with CBP's Office of Training and Development as well as the Office of Chief Counsel to develop a distance learning course, tentatively entitled "Processing, Holding, and Transfer of Unaccompanied Alien Children by CBP." According to CBP, this course will be an annual requirement for all CBP agents and officers. As of September 2017, CBP estimates that they will finalize the training module by June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that this distance learning training module on how to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) criteria is developed and implemented, as required by CBP policy, to all Border Patrol agents and OFO officers.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2015, CBP officials reported that an internal working group charged with assessing UAC screening procedures was considering issues related to independent decision-making and appropriate documentation as it develops a revised screening tool. As of June 30, 2016, CBP reported that CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) had finalized and routed a revised CBP Form 93 to the OFO Executive Assistant Commissioner and United States Border Patrol Chief for final approval. As of August 31, 2016, the revised CBP Form 93 was still under review and CBP officials estimated that the review process would be completed by December 31, 2016. In January 2017, CBP notified GAO that the expected completion date for the revised form is April 2017, and that direction to Border Patrol agents on the new form would be delivered by June 2017. In June 2017, CBP told GAO that Border Patrol and other CBP partners were continuing to determine which changes are necessary to the CBP Form 93 and estimated that these efforts would not be completed until December 31, 2017. As of September 2017, CBP reported that these efforts would not be completed until June 2018. To fully address this recommendation, CBP should ensure that Border Patrol agents document the basis for their decisions when assessing screening criteria related to (1) an unaccompanied alien child's ability to make an independent decision to withdraw his or her application for admission to the United States, and (2) whether UAC are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DHS complies with TVPRA requirements for training, screening, and transferring UAC to HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine which agents and officers who have substantive contact with UAC, complete the annual UAC training, and ensure that they do so, as required.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: On July 1, 2015, the Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations (OFO) disseminated a memorandum to all OFO Field Office Directors regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. The Assistant Commissioner directed all Field Offices to ensure that officers completed the required training by December 31, 2015 (the memo also specified which officers are required to complete the training). On July 31, 2015, the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol disseminated a memorandum to all Chief Patrol Agents and Directorate Chiefs for dissemination to all uniformed personnel, including supervisors, regarding the mandatory annual UAC training requirement. CBP documentation indicates that CBP implemented a new learning management system mandated by DHS on July 13, 2015, through which online training courses are offered to all CBP employees. Further, in 2016 DHS added a feature to this system that provided the capability to produce reports on courses completed by CBP employees. In April 2017, CBP provided 2016 data on the OFO officers and Border Patrol agents that had completed the required UAC training course. According to the data, 23 percent of OFO officers and 7 percent of Border Patrol agents required to complete the training had not done so. CBP officials stated that they plan to take steps to increase the percent of agents and officers who complete the required training in 2017 and will provide new data to GAO in early 2018. To fully address this recommendation, Border Patrol and OFO should ensure that all required personnel have completed the annual training, as required.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that DHS has complete and reliable data needed to ensure compliance with the UAC time-in-custody requirement under TVPRA and for required reports on UAC time in custody under the Flores Agreement, the Secretary of Homeland Security should require ICE officers to record accurate and reliable data in their automated system when UAC leave ICE custody in order to track the length of time UAC are in ICE custody.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a July 23, 2015 memo, ICE's Assistant Director for Custody Management, with concurrence from the Acting Assistant Director for Field Operations, provided instructions to all ICE Field Office Directors, Deputy Field Office Directors, and Field Office Juvenile Coordinators (FOJCs) with instructions for processing juveniles, including unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The memo stated that FOJCs or assigned officers must immediately book UAC into ICE's automated system upon the UAC's transfer into ICE's custody (including ICE transportation contractors). The instructions state that no more than 4 hours may elapse without recording the UAC's time in ICE custody. Further, the instructions stated that when ICE transfers UAC to a new location, that FOJCs, or other assigned officers, must also ensure that ICE's automated system is updated to reflect the exact location of the transfer. According to ICE, these instructions are to be included in a juvenile processing handbook that will provide detailed instructions for officers in processing and managing juvenile cases. ICE expects to complete this handbook by June 30, 2016. As of October 2016, the handbook was still being cleared within ICE. To fully implement our recommendation, ICE should require that officers record accurate and reliable data (date and time) in their automated system when UAC leave ICE custody.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of February 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and improve the accuracy of the interagency UAC referral and placement process, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services should jointly develop and implement a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2015, DHS stated that the department was collaborating with HHS on finalizing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding UAC procedures. According to DHS, the MOA is meant to provide a framework for interagency coordination on the responsibilities of the parties in coordinating and establishing procedures, shared goals, and interagency cooperation with respect to UAC. In February 2016, DHS and HHS finalized the MOA. The MOA states that DHS and HHS agree to establish a Joint Concept of Operations (JCO) that should be completed no later than one year following the signing of the MOA. According to the MOA, the JCO should include, among other things, standard protocols for consistent interagency cooperation on the care, processing, and transport of UAC during both steady state operations, as well as in the event the number of UAC exceeds the standard capabilities of the departments to process, transport, and/or shelter with existing resources. As of August 2017, HHS told GAO that HHS and DHS are still in the process of drafting the JCO. To fully address the recommendation, DHS and HHS will need to ensure that the JCO, once finalized and implemented, includes a documented interagency process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures to disseminate placement decisions, for all agencies involved in the referral and placement of UAC in HHS shelters.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reconsider State's INKSNA process to ensure that it (1) complies with INKSNA's 6-month reporting cycle, and (2) minimizes delays in its ability to opt to impose sanctions.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its written comments on the draft report, the Department of State concurred with our recommendation while expressing concerns about what it referred to as the inherent difficulties of producing 2006 Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) reports every six months as required by law. In a July 2016 letter, State noted that it had worked to minimize delays in its ability to impose sanctions pursuant to INKSNA reports and that it aims to eventually comply with INKSNA's six-month reporting cycle as it clears the existing backlog of INKSNA cases. Moreover, it noted that State had transmitted three INKSNA reports covering three years of activity (the latest covering calendar year 2013) within the last 18 months as evidence that it was making progress towards meeting the GAO recommendation. In 2017, State informed us that it was regularly reviewing lessons learned from previous reports and incorporating best practices into follow-on iterations of INKSNA reports. For example, it informed us, it had now streamlined the decision-making process to reduce the workload in making sanctions determinations by modifying the INKSNA decision and background memo to consolidate certain cases on which the interagency has achieved consensus recommendations, thereby simplifying the review and approval process. State reiterated its intention to eventually comply with INKSNA?s six-month reporting cycle as it clears the existing backlog. GAO will continue monitoring State's efforts to fully implement the recommendation.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve USAID's ability to measure progress in achieving a quantitative reading goal in any future education strategy, the Acting USAID Administrator should ensure that the future strategy includes targets that will allow USAID to monitor interim progress toward its goal in comparison with planned performance.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on the report, USAID agreed to implement GAO's recommendation. USAID told GAO in August 2015 that a new Education Strategy will continue to focus on primary grade reading through 2020. The current strategy was scheduled to end in December 2015. USAID noted that as it expands its body of knowledge surrounding achievements of current reading projects, it will be better able to set achievable project and country level targets and report interim progress toward the new strategy's aggregate primary grade reading goal. USAID announced on August 28, 2017 that it has extended the 2011-2015 Education Strategy until December 2017, to allow adequate time for development of a new strategy with "the full backing and ownership of the new Administration." This recommendation will be applicable once USAID establishes a new strategy with new targets. According to a USAID official, as of September 14, 2017, the current strategy remains extended through December 2017. We will continue to monitor this recommendation.
    Director: Wise, David J
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that OBO fully documents and keeps readily available the basis for its planning decisions according to State's policy for new embassy compounds and major renovation projects, such as decisions to construct a building on-site or lease space off-site.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: Beginning in 2016, major programmatic decisions related to choosing new embassy construction projects for award each fiscal year will be documented using a risk-based decision-making model. This model incorporates concepts of multi-attribute decision analysis and risk analytics to suggest an ideal project sequencing. Model inputs and outputs are stored on the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OB0) SharePoint directory. State expects to develop a similar method for the major rehabilitation program that may be implemented as early as 2017. Major project level decisions are documented through a variety of methods. OBO and other offices at State develop new embassy compound alternative analyses to document decisions about whether to pursue new construction, renovate and stay-in-place, or relocate to new leased space. Warehouse business cases document decisions to build on, or lease off compound. Those are kept, readily available, in OBO's SharePoint Directory. As projects proceed further through design and construction phases, any major decisions required are generally documented in decision memoranda and saved in OBO Link.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen its management of cash-based food assistance projects and help ensure improved oversight of these projects, the USAID Administrator should develop policy and comprehensive guidance for USAID staff and implementing partners for financial oversight of cash-based food assistance projects.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: USAID concurred with this recommendation in its comments to the March 2015 GAO report. In June 2016, USAID reported that it would work with the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) on the development and dissemination of policy and guidance related to financial oversight of cash-based food assistance projects. In April 2017, USAID stated that it is continuing to work with CaLP and provide training for FFP staff and implementing partners for the oversight and management of cash-based food assistance programs, including courses related to the financial oversight. However, as of April 2017, USAID had not completed any guidance for USAID staff and implementing partners for financial oversight of cash-based food assistance projects.
    Recommendation: To strengthen its management of cash-based food assistance projects and help ensure improved oversight of these projects, the USAID Administrator should require USAID staff to conduct systematic financial oversight of USAID's cash-based food assistance projects in the field.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: USAID concurred with this recommendation in its comments to the March 2015 GAO report. In January 2017, USAID stated that it was continuing to pursue training opportunities for staff in response to this recommendation. However, USAID, as of April 2017, had not completed efforts to address the recommendation. GAO will continue to monitor USAID's efforts to require staff to conduct systematic financial oversight and determine the extent to which the training and third monitoring will address this issue.
    Director: Michael Courts
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsors provide complete and consistent lists of fees that participants must pay.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsor provide complete and consistent lists of fees that exchange visitors on the Summer Work Travel program must pay, State acknowledged it collected such fee information in 2016. As of August 3, 2017, we are awaiting State's review and analysis of this information to ensure the price lists are consistent and comprehensive.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to establish a mechanism to ensure that information about these participant fees is made publicly available.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that information about Summer Work Travel participant fees is made publically available, State noted that it had published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require would require each sponsor to include in its recruiting material, and post on its main Web site (e.g., with a visible link to such a page on the sponsor?s homepage), examples of the typical monthly budgets of exchange visitors placed in various regions of the United States to illustrate wages (based on the required weekly minimum of 32-hours of work at a typical host placement) balanced against itemized fees and estimated costs. Until State finalizes this rule, they cannot enforce this requirement. As of July 27, 2017, this information was not available to the public on the six sponsor websites we checked.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish detailed criteria that will allow State to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to SWT participants.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish detailed criteria that will allow it to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to Summer Work Travel participants, State published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require sponsors and their host entities to create cultural opportunities at least once per month. The proposed rule also notes that State will issue guidance outlining best practices for cross-cultural programming. As of July 27, 2017 this is not finalized.
    Director: Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve implementation and oversight of the MODA program, the Secretary of Defense should consider providing additional performance information to Congress on the extent to which DOD is achieving its advisor assignments and program expansion relative to its goals.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2016, DOD said that the MoDA program drafted a performance management framework which will establish program goals, objectives, and performance indicators to assess progress and measure results. However, as of October 2017, DOD had not provided evidence that the framework had been implemented.
    Director: Johnson Jr, Charles M
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the definition of the GSCF program and assist stakeholders in assessing whether GSCF is meeting its goals, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should provide a range of time to clarify the time frames associated with near- to mid-term GSCF projects.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) partially agreed that the departments should clearly define what time frames constitute "near- to mid-term" for GSCF projects. As of September 2015, DOD has not published a definition for what time frame constitutes "near to mid-term" for GSCF projects.
    Recommendation: To enhance the definition of the GSCF program and assist stakeholders in assessing whether GSCF is meeting its goals, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should provide a range of time to clarify the time frames associated with near- to mid-term GSCF projects.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State did not agree that the departments should define what time frames constitute "near- to mid-term" for GSCF projects. As of September 2015, State has not published a definition for what time frame constitutes "near to mid-term" for GSCF projects.
    Recommendation: To enhance the definition of the GSCF program and assist stakeholders in assessing whether GSCF is meeting its goals, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should track GSCF projects against established time frames.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense agreed that the departments should track GSCF projects against established time frames and said in its response that the departments plan to track the projects against the congressional notification timelines and plan to continue holding biweekly calls with project implementers to identify and address implementation considerations. As of September 2015, DOD has not tracked GSCF projects against time frames.
    Recommendation: To enhance the definition of the GSCF program and assist stakeholders in assessing whether GSCF is meeting its goals, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should track GSCF projects against established time frames.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State agreed that the departments should track GSCF projects against established time frames. As of September 2015, State is not tracking GSCF projects against time frames.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure agencies can more fully implement their monitoring policy and guidance related to recruitment of foreign workers, the Secretaries of Defense and State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should each develop, as part of their agency policy and guidance, a more precise definition of recruitment fees, including permissible components and amounts.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments on a draft of the report, the Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with this recommendation and indicated that it would define recruitment fees as part of the next review of DOD policy on combating trafficking in persons. In January 2015, DOD and other agencies issued a final rule in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) that prohibits charging employees any recruitment fees; however, this rule did not provide a precise definition of such fees. In May 2016, DOD and others proposed a new FAR rule defining "recruitment fees." The public comment period for this proposed rule ended in July 2016, and, as of August 2017, the proposed rule was in process. In addition, DOD has updated its policy and guidance on combating trafficking in persons, most recently in June 2015. GAO is monitoring these efforts and will provide an update once the proposed FAR rule is finalized.
    Recommendation: To help ensure agencies can more fully implement their monitoring policy and guidance related to recruitment of foreign workers, the Secretaries of Defense and State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should each develop, as part of their agency policy and guidance, a more precise definition of recruitment fees, including permissible components and amounts.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) noted that a proposed amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on combating Trafficking in Persons (TIP) contained language that would prohibit charging contractor employees any recruitment fees. In January 2015, the final FAR rule was issued, prohibiting employers from charging employees any recruitment fees on government contracts; however, this rule did not provide a precise definition of such fees. In May 2016, a new FAR rule defining "recruitment fees," which would apply to USAID, among others, was proposed. The public comment period for this proposed rule ended in July 2016, and, as of August 2017, the proposed rule in process, GAO is monitoring the status of these actions and will provide an update on USAID's activities to define components of recruitment fees once the proposed FAR rule is finalized.
    Recommendation: To help improve agencies' abilities to detect potential TIP abuses and implement the U.S. government's zero tolerance policy, the Secretaries of Defense and State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should each take actions to better ensure that contracting officials specifically include TIP in monitoring plans and processes, especially in areas where the risk of trafficking is high. Such actions could include developing a process for auditing efforts to combat TIP or ensuring that officials responsible for contract monitoring are aware of all relevant acquisition policy and guidance on combating TIP.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments on a draft of the report, the Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with this recommendation and indicated that it would update the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) accordingly once the final Federal Acquisition Regulation on Ending Trafficking in Persons had been published. In January 2015, DOD updated the DFARS to include a sample checklist for auditing compliance with Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) policy. This checklist reiterates the U.S. government's zero tolerance policy regarding trafficking in persons and includes, among other items, questions regarding contractors' treatment of employee passports and other identification documents. In addition, in September 2017, DOD reported that it had developed and mandated acquisition training for DOD military and civilian contracting employees. U.S. Central Command has also created a CTIP Program Manager position in Afghanistan, which ensures that CTIP training is provided to contracting officials in that country. GAO is monitoring these efforts and will provide an update on DOD's progress as more information becomes available.
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL concurred with GAO recommendation and stated that it regularly coordinates monitoring and enforcement activities related to assessing and ensuring the consistency of FTA partner countries' labor laws, regulations, and practices with FTA labor provisions with USTR and State. In March 2017, the Monitoring and Enforcement of Trade Agreements Division (META) in DOLs Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) finalized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for monitoring FTA labor provisions and engaging with partner country governments and stakeholders. These SOPs involve a renewed emphasis on monitoring trips to FTA partner countries to meet with government officials and in-country stakeholders to gather information on potential FTA violations and make key contacts with stakeholders to encourage direct communication going forward. The SOPs also include provisions regarding coordination with USTR and State in the monitoring and enforcement of FTA labor provisions. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by DOL and USTR.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns. USTR stated that it is constantly exploring strategies to monitor and analyze information on labor issue more effectively and take action to implement those strategies. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR is increasing the level and frequency of interagency monitoring through the Trade Policy Staff Committee, Subcommittee on Labor Monitor and Enforcement. Additionally, with DOL, USTR is exploring ways to improve engagement with U.S. Embassies in trade partner countries to monitor labor conditions. For example, DOL is funding the placement of labor officers in certain priority U.S. Embassies to collect and assess facts and to support the implementation of USTR and DOL's efforts. To date, according to USTR, DOL has placed labor officers in Colombia, Honduras, and Bangladesh. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR and DOL.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions. USTR stated that its annual report already provides country-specific information on labor issues and that USTR regularly engages with Congress to provide detailed information on labor issues via meetings and phone conferences. Nonetheless, USTR recognizes that meaningful engagement with Congress is an indispensable part of monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR agreed to continue to identify more effective ways of communicating with Congress, including USTR's committees of jurisdiction, with respect to the Administration's FTA monitoring and enforcement efforts. Furthermore, USTR stated that it will solicit congressional advice and input to inform its efforts. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR.
    Director: Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: For elements identified in the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012 that were not fully addressed in the strategy, the Secretary of State should provide the relevant congressional committees with information that would fully address these elements. In the absence of such information, State should explain to the congressional committees why it was not included in the strategy.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a letter dated December 23, 2014, the Department of State (State) noted that the elements identified in the GAO report as not being adequately addressed by State were matters where the consensus of the intelligence community was that there was not an identifiable threat to counter. GAO's report assessed that State did not address four specific elements identified in the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012. State's December 2014 letter provided explanations for these four elements, including the availability of information on existing agency websites, briefings provided to Congress, and State's lack of finding that foreign governments showed clear threats. We continue to maintain that the strategy did not include all of the elements that the law stated should be included, and State did not demonstrate that it provided relevant congressional committees with information that would fully address these elements. In December 2015, State noted that it remains in close contact with the relevant congressional committees across a range of security, economic and political with regard to the Western Hemisphere on a regular and continuing basis. State further noted that it provided an oral briefing along with its original submission of the report to Congress and answered questions posed by Congress. State officials said that they stand ready to provide further information in the appropriate setting should it be requested. However, State did not provide GAO with information about whether it had provided information to Congress specifically for the elements identified in the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012 that were not fully addressed in the strategy, nor provide additional information about whether State explained to the congressional committees why any absence of such information was not included in the strategy. Furthermore, GAO learned from the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff that State and the Office of the Director for National Intelligence provided a briefing to the committee regarding Iranian activities in Latin America on February 25, 2016. As of August 2016, GAO did not receive any documents related to the briefings because, according to State, the talking points document was considered deliberative and therefore could not be shared. According to State officials, they continue to monitor the issue and brief Congress as appropriate. As of December 2017, State noted that its position regarding this recommendation and the deliberative nature of the talking points document remains unchanged.
    Director: Courts, Michael J
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen the applicability and effectiveness of the Department of State's physical security standards, the Secretary of State should work through DS or, in his capacity as chair, through the OSPB to clarify existing flexibilities in the FAH to ensure that security and life-safety updates to the OSPB standards and Physical Security Handbook are updated through an expedited review process.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of September 2017, State had drafted a revision to the Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) Working Group Guidelines in the Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH) to clarify existing flexibilities for and to formalize an expedited process for making security and life-safety updates to the OSPB standards and Physical Security Handbook, and according to State, the revisions are under review.
    Recommendation: To strengthen the effectiveness of the Department of State's risk management policies, the Secretary of State should develop a risk management policy and procedures for ensuring the physical security of diplomatic facilities, including roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and a routine feedback process that continually incorporates new information.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In December 2016, we learned that State had convened a working group to develop a comprehensive risk management policy. According to State, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is coordinating this working group. As of September 2017, State expects to publish the new risk management policy by December 31, 2018.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the agency's tracking and reporting on progress of its Local Solutions initiative, the USAID Administrator should identify additional indicators to better capture Local Solutions progress toward the initiative's goals.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As part of a three-tier approach to integrate more strategic monitoring efforts, USAID is conducting an internal review of the department's best practices, processes, and procedures for promoting the goals of the Local Solutions initiative, which are to strengthen capacity, promote ownership, and increase sustainability. Through this review, the agency expects to identify ways of monitoring the Local Solutions initiative that will more accurately capture the underlying models of change and help identify indicators that will help capture progress toward the initiative's goals. In October 2016, USAID officials said that the agency is in the process of developing a menu of potential indicators and will request missions to provide feedback on these indicators. Agency-wide indicators for local ownership are expected no sooner than spring of 2017. In April 2017, officials stated that the agency is working on finalizing draft indicators for local ownership. The expected date of completion is now late summer 2017.
    Director: Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-7331

    4 open recommendations
    including 4 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen State's ability to ensure that U.S. civilian personnel are in compliance with the FACT training requirement, the Secretary of State should identify a mechanism to readily determine the universe of assigned U.S. civilian personnel under chief-of-mission authority who are required to complete FACT training.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State concurred with this recommendation, but has not yet identified a mechanism to readily determine the universe of assigned U.S. civilian personnel under chief-of-mission authority who are required to complete FACT training. As of March 2017, GAO continues to monitor State's efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen State's ability to ensure that U.S. civilian personnel are in compliance with the FACT training requirement, the Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that management personnel responsible for assigning personnel to designated high-threat countries consistently verify that all assigned U.S. civilian personnel under chief-of-mission authority who are required to complete FACT training have completed it before arrival in the designated high-threat countries.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State agreed with the recommendation, and on July 7, 2014--subsequent to our report issuance and addressing this finding--State issued a memo to all agencies that states that it is the responsibility of each agency to ensure its employees are in compliance with FACT training requirements prior to travel to the relevant posts. The memo also requires employees to provide a FACT completion certificate to posts upon request. In October 2016, State officials reported that State had rolled out a ClassNet SharePoint site, and that they expected that the site would include Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs posts by January 1, 2017. The SharePoint site allows designated users in Washington, D.C. and at posts to access the Foreign Service Institute's training records database. As of March 2017, GAO continues to monitor State's efforts to fully address the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen State's ability to ensure that U.S. civilian personnel are in compliance with the FACT training requirement, the Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that management personnel responsible for granting country clearance consistently verify that all short-term TDY U.S. civilian personnel under chief-of-mission authority who are required to complete FACT training have completed it before arrival in the designated high-threat countries.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, as of March 2017, State had taken several steps to ensure that the electronic Country Clearance (eCC) is easier for personnel to use, but these steps do not ensure that the personnel responsible for verifying FACT training before deployment are doing so. For instance, State updated the current eCC to require personnel traveling to High Threat, High Risk Posts to certify FACT training, with radio buttons for the following: (1) whether the stay is greater than 45 days; (2) whether the traveler has spent more than 45 total days at a High Threat, High Risk Post within the last 365-days; and (3) whether the traveler has completed FACT. If the eCC user responds that the traveler has not taken FACT, he or she must provide a justification. In addition, the eCC system requires personnel traveling to High Threat, High Risk Posts to certify whether they have completed FACT and to provide the completion date. When the eCC user enters this information, he or she is prompted with a box that instructs him or her to "provide documentation of FACT Training (e.g. Certificate) upon arrival at Post" and to click OK to continue. Since May 2016, the agency had been developing a new eCC application that will include automated checks of training records. Agency officials expect to produce this new application in the summer of 2017. GAO continues to monitor State's efforts to fully address the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen State's ability to ensure that U.S. civilian personnel are in compliance with the FACT training requirement, the Secretary of State should monitor or evaluate overall levels of compliance with the FACT training requirement among U.S. civilian personnel under chief-of-mission authority who are subject to the requirement.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of May 2015, State officials said that they are developing a plan to utilize various electronic systems to monitor overall levels of compliance for assigned and short-term TDY personnel. The plan is being developed iteratively and is subject to change based on findings and lessons learned from each stage as well as constraints based on cyber security compliance. As of March 2017, State did not report further progress on this recommendation.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve policymakers' and the public's understanding of progress through bilateral dialogues in increasing access to China's markets, the U.S. Trade Representative, in conjunction with the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Treasury, should work to provide clearer and more comprehensive reporting on the status of China's implementation of its JCCT and S&ED trade and investment commitments. This reporting should include more complete information on the status of implementation of these commitments, as well as a more clearly identified source for consolidated information, which could be an existing report.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: USTR has taken steps to implement this recommendation, but additional information on the status of specific commitments would further improve understanding of progress in these bilateral dialogues. USTR made changes to the Chinese trade barriers reporting in its 2014 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE report) to align more closely with other Congressional reports prepared by USTR on related issues. USTR also provided updated information in that NTE report on China's compliance with a commitment that had not been reported on in earlier reports. Further, USTR identified the Report to Congress on China's WTO Compliance as the one report among the various annual reports prepared by USTR that provides comprehensive information on the status of the trade and investment commitments that China has made through the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). As of July 2017, GAO is continuing to track agency progress in reporting on these commitments.
    Director: Melito, Thomas
    Phone: (202)512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. efforts to promote international religious freedom, the Secretary of State and the Chair of USCIRF should jointly define how State and USCIRF should interact in their efforts to promote international religious freedom, paying particular attention to defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as a nonvoting USCIRF member.

    Agency: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2015, officials from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor (DRL) said that the DRL Front Office and senior management have yet to approve a joint letter between State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that addresses GAO's recommendation. According to the officials, the DRL front office wanted to revisit the letter given the recent appointment of a new Ambassador-at-Large. According to the Ambassador, he met with USCIRF and wanted to provide input to the joint letter, but as of March 2015, the letter had not been approved by State. We followed up again in both August 2015 and August 2016 and were told that no progress on the letter or a joint understanding had been made. In July 2017, the President announced his nominee to be the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. As of November 3, 2017, the nomination is pending. State and USCIRF have not reached agreement on a letter responding to our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. efforts to promote international religious freedom, the Secretary of State and the Chair of USCIRF should jointly define how State and USCIRF should interact in their efforts to promote international religious freedom, paying particular attention to defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as a nonvoting USCIRF member.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: After the report was issued, in a letter dated May 28, 2013, the State Department said it has met with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to discuss a plan for better systematizing the interactions between the entities, including by more clearly defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large. In October 2013 and again in March 2014, State said it continued to discuss this plan with USCIRF. In October 2014, State said it had drafted a joint letter with USCIRF in response to our recommendation, but that it was awaiting a Front Office signature. In March 2015, officials from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor (DRL) said that the DRL Front Office and senior management have yet to approve a joint letter between State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that addresses GAO's recommendation. According to the officials, the DRL front office wanted to revisit the letter given the recent appointment of a new Ambassador-at-Large. According to the Ambassador, he met with USCIRF and wanted to provide input to the joint letter, but as of March 2015, the letter had not been approved by State. We followed up again in both August 2015 and August 2016 and were told that no progress on the letter or a joint understanding had been made. In July 2017, the President announced his nominee to be the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. As of November 3, 2017, the nomination has been referred to the full Senate for confirmation. State and USCIRF have not reached agreement on a letter responding to our recommendation.
    Director: Melito, Thomas
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To more effectively manage NDF's resources, increase program accountability, and ensure that NDF has the information necessary to improve program performance, the Secretary of State should direct ISN and NDF to periodically and systematically conduct and document program evaluations of NDF.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State concurred with the recommendation. We contacted State in September 2016 to ascertain what it has done to address this recommendation. State responded on February 17, 2017. The Department responded by saying that to date, it has not conducted a formal evaluation of the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund as called for under the Department's evaluation policy.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202)512-4101

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that the performance measures used to evaluate the TAA for Firms program demonstrate program results and to help ensure that EDA can comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of the program, the Secretary of Commerce should broaden the program's evaluation approach, for instance, by developing additional quantifiable outcome-oriented performance goals and measures for key program areas and conducting further analysis of the data to isolate the impact of the TAA for Firms program from other influences, such as economic trends.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Commerce concurred with our findings and recommendations. In April 2017, EDA provided additional information on its progress in implementing our recommendation. In 2012, EDA commissioned a study to inform the development of performance metrics and evaluation methods for the TAA for Firms program. Issued in October 2014, the study provided recommendations to EDA on potential performance metrics, tested the metrics by conducting a statistical analysis of TAA for Firms clients against a control group as well as a survey, and suggested data sources for conducting future evaluations of the TAA for Firms program. According to EDA officials, the study will help provide a foundation for more robust longitudinal performance measurement and enhanced policy analysis, thereby enabling EDA to more comprehensively evaluate the program. These officials noted that, as of April 2017, EDA is continuing to collaborate with the authors of the study to help develop, validate, and implement recommended performance metrics. According to EDA officials, the authors of the study have finalized an operational toolkit containing recommended metrics and protocols for data collection and impact evaluation methods. EDA plans to review and pilot test these recommended metrics and evaluation methods to improve program evaluation. We will continue to monitor Commerce's efforts to implement our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the data available to manage and evaluate the TAA for Firms program, the Secretary of Commerce should develop a data system to consistently collect, maintain, and analyze sufficiently reliable and up-to-date data on program operations and participant firms.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Commerce concurred with our findings and recommendations. In April 2017, EDA provided additional information on its progress in implementing our recommendation. Commerce's Office of the Chief Information Officer has undertaken a variety of activities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Commerce's data systems, including those of EDA. According to EDA officials, as of April 2017, EDA is evaluating its agency-wide data system and alternative systems for collecting data on program operations with which to measure program performance. According to these officials, EDA expects that the transition to the new data system for the TAA for Firms program will be completed pending the outcome of the evaluation. We will continue to monitor Commerce's efforts to implement our recommendation.
    Director: Gootnick, David B
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Disparities in tax rates on smoking tobacco products have negative revenue implications because they create incentives for manufacturers and consumers to substitute higher-taxed products with lower-taxed products. In light of that fact, as Congress continues its oversight of CHIPRA and Tobacco Control Act implementation, it may wish to consider modifying tobacco tax rates to eliminate significant tax differentials between similar products. Specifically, Congress may wish to consider equalizing tax rates on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and, in consultation with Treasury, also consider options for reducing tax avoidance due to tax differentials between small and large cigars.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, Congress had not passed legislation to equalize taxes on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and small and large cigars. In the 114th Congress, two bills were introduced to equalize taxes on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco, as GAO suggested in its April 2012 report. Additionally, in January 2017, House Bill 729, which would create tax parity for these products, was introduced in the 115th Congress. However, these bills have not been enacted. GAO's April 2012 report noted that prior federal and state legislation has aimed to discourage tobacco use and raise revenues by increasing excise taxes on tobacco products. Modifying tax rates to eliminate the tax differentials between similar tobacco products could address potential future revenue losses stemming from the substitution of higher-taxed products with lower-taxed products.
    Director: Courts, Michael J
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to contain costs and reduce duplication of administrative support services overseas, Congress may wish to consider requiring agencies to participate in ICASS services unless they provide a business case to show that they can obtain these services outside of ICASS without increasing overall costs to the U.S. government or that their mission cannot be achieved within ICASS.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2018, no legislative action has yet been taken. Congress has not required agencies to participate in ICASS absent a business case that shows that they can obtain services outside ICASS without additional cost to the U.S. government, as GAO suggested in January 2012. In July 2013, legislation was introduced in the Senate directing the Secretary of State to develop a process that any agency participating in the ICASS program shall use to provide a cost analysis and justification for the agency's decision to opt out, in whole or in part, of ICASS services. Congress did not pass this legislation, passing in its stead the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, which contained no language related to ICASS. In January 2014, the joint explanatory statement regarding the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, included a direction that the Secretary of State develop, in coordination with the ICASS Service Center and participating agencies, an efficient process by which an agency participating in the ICASS program provides a cost analysis and justification for the agency's decision to opt out of any ICASS services. However, this direction does not speak to a requirement that agencies participate in ICASS absent such a justification. Action on this matter is important because continued duplication of administrative services limits ICASS's ability to achieve economies of scale and deliver services more efficiently.