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1.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Testimony. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...American Samoa is the only populated U.S. insular area that does not have a federal court. Congress has granted the local High Court federal jurisdiction for certain federal matters, such as specific areas of maritime law. GAO was asked to conduct a study of American Samoa's system for addressing matters of federal law. This testimony discusses: (1) the current system for adjudicating matters of federal law in American Samoa and how it compares to those in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI); (2) the reasons offered for or against changing the current system for adjudicating matters of federal law in American Samoa; (3) potential scenarios and issues associated with establishing a federal court in American Samoa or expanding the federal jurisdiction of the local court; and (4) the potential cost elements and funding sources associated with implementing those different scenarios. This testimony is based on GAO work performed from April 2007 to June 2008. More Information
2.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Testimony. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) disability claims process has long been a subject of concern because of long waits for decisions and large backlogs of claims pending decisions. To address these issues, VA has hired almost 3,000 new claims processors since January 2007. However, adequate training and performance management are essential to developing highly competent disability claims processors and ensuring that experienced staff maintain the skills needed to issue timely, accurate, and consistent decisions. The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, House Veterans' Affairs Committee asked GAO to present its views on 1) VA's training for its claims processors and 2) VA's performance management of this staff. This statement is based on a May 2008 report on VA's training and performance management (GAO-08-561) and has been updated as appropriate. More Information
3.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Other Written Product. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Rural Development offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture both work in rural areas to foster economic development by promoting entrepreneurship and community development. This report discusses (1) the complementary nature of some SBA and Rural Development programs and the extent to which it provides a rationale for the agencies to collaborate, (2) past and current efforts by SBA and Rural Development to work together and with other agencies, and (3) opportunities for the agencies to improve their collaborative efforts. In completing its work, GAO analyzed agency documentation and prior reports on collaboration, conducted site visits at locations where SBA and Rural Development were working together, and interviewed agency and selected economic development officials. More Information
4.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Other Written Product. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...Voluntary organizations have traditionally played a major role in the nation's response to disasters, but the response to Hurricane Katrina raised concerns about their ability to handle large-scale disasters. This report examines (1) the roles of five voluntary organizations in providing mass care and other services, (2) the steps they have taken to improve service delivery, (3) their current capabilities for responding to mass care needs, and (4) the challenges they face in preparing for large-scale disasters. To address these questions, GAO reviewed the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Convention, Catholic Charities USA, and United Way of America; interviewed officials from these organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); reviewed data and laws; and visited four high-risk metro areas--Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C. More Information
5.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Testimony. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) contains EPA's scientific position on the potential human health effects of exposure to more than 540 chemicals. Toxicity assessments in the IRIS database constitute the first two critical steps of the risk assessment process, which in turn, provides the foundation for risk management decisions. Thus, IRIS is a critical component of EPA's capacity to support scientifically sound environmental decisions, policies, and regulations. This testimony discusses (1) highlights of GAO's March 2008 report, Chemical Assessments: Low Productivity and New Interagency Review Process Limit the Usefulness and Credibility of EPA's Integrated Risk Information System; (2) key aspects of EPA's revised IRIS assessment process, released on April 10, 2008; and (3) progress EPA has made in completing assessments in fiscal year 2008. For the March 2008 report, GAO reviewed and analyzed EPA data and interviewed officials at relevant agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). For this testimony, GAO supplemented the prior audit work with a review of EPA's revised IRIS assessment process announced on April 10, 2008. We also updated our information on EPA's assessment productivity through September 12, 2008. More Information
6.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Correspondence. Thursday, September 18, 2008.
...In July 2006, the former Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) announced plans to relocate certain functions from Cheyenne Mountain to create an integrated command center in Building 2 at Peterson Air Force Base (AFB), Colorado. In May 2007, we reported that NORAD and USNORTHCOM had not analyzed the anticipated operational effects--both positive and negative--of the relocation, and that the Department of Defense (DOD) could not discern the full costs or security implications of the move until ongoing security assessments had been completed and a protection level designated for the integrated command center. We suggested that Congress should consider restricting DOD's authority to fund the relocation until all security analyses were complete, the full costs for the move were determined, and DOD provided Congress with an analysis of the operational effects of the proposed realignments. As a result, in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a report by March 1, 2008, assessing the relocation of the NORAD Command Center and related functions from Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson AFB. The Act required the report to contain (1) an analysis comparing the total costs associated with the relocation, including costs determined as part of ongoing security-related studies of the relocation, to anticipated operational benefits from the relocation; (2) a detailed explanation of the backup functions that will remain located at Cheyenne Mountain, and how those functions will maintain operational connectivity with their related commands; (3) the final plans for the relocation of the NORAD Command Center and related functions; and (4) the findings and recommendations resulting from the independent security and vulnerability assessment of Peterson AFB, including the Secretary of Defense's plans for mitigating any security and vulnerability risks identif ied and estimates for associated costs and scheduling. The Act mandated that we review DOD's report and the final plans for the relocation, and that we report to Congress within 120 days. On March 3, 2008, DOD submitted its report to Congress. DOD's report included a cost-benefit analysis comparing the following three alternatives: Status quo--retain separate command centers at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson AFB. Establish a combined and integrated command center at Peterson AFB with reach-back capability to the computer systems at Cheyenne Mountain. Establish a combined command center at Peterson AFB that duplicates the systems at Cheyenne Mountain. More Information
7.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Correspondence. Wednesday, September 17, 2008.
...Media coverage of airline service problems, combined with congressional hearings on these problems, has put flight delays and cancellations in the spotlight. Department of Transportation (DOT) data show that flight delays and cancellations have generally increased over the last decade. Since 1998, the number of flight delays and cancellations has increased 62 percent nationwide, while the number of scheduled flight operations has increased about 38 percent. Also, a May 2008 report by the Joint Economic Committee found that, collectively, passengers were delayed 320 million hours in 2007. The report also estimated that domestic flight delays last year cost the U.S. economy as much as $41 billion and raised airlines' operating costs by $19 billion. In 2007, airlines reported to DOT that 73 percent of flights were on time, while 24 percent were delayed and 2 percent were canceled. Of those flights that were delayed, airlines reported the majority of flight delays were caused by 3 categories of delays: a previous aircraft arriving late; the national aviation system--a category of delays that encompasses a broad set of circumstances, such as congestion or bad weather; and air carrier--a category of 42 potential causes of delay that includes, but is not limited to, problems associated with how the airline schedules its flight crews. With demand pushing more flights into an already congested airspace, one delayed or canceled flight can create ripples in the system, causing other flights to be delayed or canceled. In such an environment, the effective scheduling of available flight crews is key to better ensuring the on-time performance of flights. Congress asked that we assess commercial airline policies and practices for crew scheduling. Accordingly, this report addresses the following questions: (1) How do airlines schedule flight crews? (2) To what extent, if any, does crew scheduling contribute to flight delays and cancellations? (3) What steps do stakeholders report might reduce delays and cancellations due to crew scheduling? More Information
8.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Testimony. Wednesday, September 17, 2008.
...Since it was created in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has obligated billions of dollars annually to meet its expansive homeland security mission. The department's acquisitions support complex and critical trade, transportation, border security, and information technology investments. In fiscal year 2007, DHS spent over $12 billion on procurements to meet this mission including spending for complex services and major investments. Prior GAO work has found that while DHS has made some initial progress in developing its acquisition function since 2003, acquisition planning and oversight for procurement and major acquisitions need improvement. This testimony discusses GAO's findings in these areas and is based on GAO's body of work on acquisition management issues. More Information
9.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Testimony. Wednesday, September 17, 2008.
...U.S. transportation systems and the estimated 4,000 transportation facilities move over 30 million tons of freight and provide an estimated 1.1 billion passenger trips each day. Since 2001 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has protected these systems and facilities from terrorist attack. One program TSA utilizes is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, through which a common credential is being developed for transportation workers with access to secure areas. Ultimately planned for all transportation sectors, TSA, in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, is initially focusing the TWIC program on the maritime sector. This testimony discusses (1) the progress made in implementing the TWIC program and (2) some of the remaining program challenges. This testimony is based on GAO's September 2006 TWIC report, as well as selected updates and ongoing work. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed program requirements and guidance, documentation on the status of the TWIC program, and interviewed program officials from TSA and the Coast Guard. More Information
10.
Government Accountability Office Reports and Comptroller General Decisions. Other Written Product. Wednesday, September 17, 2008.
...Although advances in information technology (IT) can improve the quality and other aspects of health care, the electronic storage and exchange of personal health information introduces risks to the privacy of that information. In January 2007, GAO reported on the status of efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure the privacy of personal health information exchanged within a nationwide health information network. GAO recommended that HHS define and implement an overall privacy approach for protecting that information. For this report, GAO was asked to provide an update on HHS's efforts to address the January 2007 recommendation. To do so, GAO analyzed relevant HHS documents that described the department's privacy-related health IT activities. More Information

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