Saturday, May 27, 2017

Atlantic Hurricane Season May Bring More Storms Than Normal

By Brian K. Sullivan (Bloomberg) — The Atlantic hurricane season will likely churn out an above-average 11 to 17 named storms, in part due to fading odds than an El Nino will form in the Pacific. Of storms that emerge during the six-month season that begins June 1, five to nine will reach hurricane strength […]

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U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Admits to Not “Aggressively Enforcing” Firefighting Rules

A top U.S. Coast Guard official admitted at a recent congressional oversight hearing that the U.S. Coast Guard "has not been aggressively enforcing the compliance" of vessel response plans filed under federal Salvage and Marine Firefighting (SMFF) regulations. The rules, derived from the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, are meant to prevent a worst-case discharge […]

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Memorial Day Weekend Boating Safety PSA – How to Dock Like a Boss

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Stay safe out there. And remember, drowning doesn't look like drowning.

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GAO-17-433, Iraq: DOD Needs to Improve Visibility and Accountability Over Equipment Provided to Iraq's Security Forces, May 25, 2017

What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains limited visibility and accountability over equipment funded by the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF). Specifically, DOD is not ensuring that the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) is consistently capturing key transportation dates of ITEF-funded equipment. DOD guidance states that DOD components should use SCIP to identify the status and track the transportation of all building partner capacity materiel, such as ITEF. DOD also issued an order in October 2016 requiring DOD components to ensure that equipment transfer dates are recorded in SCIP. The process for providing the equipment to Iraq's security forces generally falls into three phases: (1) acquisition and shipment, (2) staging in Kuwait and Iraq, and (3) transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, for the 566 ITEF-funded requisitions marked as complete in SCIP's management reporting system as of February 2017, GAO found that the system captured one of two key transportation dates for 256 of the requisitions in phase 1, and none of the transportation dates for these requisitions in phase 2 or phase 3 (see figure). Key Transportation Dates for Completed Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF)–Funded Equipment Requisitions Captured in the Security Cooperation Information Portal's Management Reporting System, by Equipping Phase DOD officials attributed the lack of key transportation dates in SCIP's management reporting system to potential interoperability and data reporting issues in all three equipping phases. Interoperability issues. DOD officials said that SCIP's management reporting system may not be importing transportation data correctly from other DOD data systems or from another shipment tracking system feature in SCIP. Data reporting issues. DOD officials said they are not reporting the arrival dates of equipment to Kuwait or Iraq because they rely on other DOD data systems and are not required to do so. DOD officials said they have had difficulty ensuring that SCIP has captured equipment transfer dates. In addition, DOD cannot fully account for ITEF-funded equipment transfers because of missing or incomplete transfer documentation. Without timely and accurate transit information, DOD cannot ensure that the equipment has reached its intended destination, nor can program managers conduct effective oversight of ITEF-funded equipment. Why GAO Did This Study In 2014, Congress authorized the creation of ITEF to provide equipment and other assistance to Iraq's security forces, including the Kurdistan Regional Government forces, to counter the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As of December 2016, DOD had disbursed about $2 billion of the $2.3 billion Congress appropriated for ITEF in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to purchase, for example, personal protective equipment, weapons, and vehicles for these forces. DOD's web-based SCIP provides U.S. government personnel and others transportation information on DOD equipment imported from other DOD data systems or reported by SCIP users. GAO was asked to review DOD's accountability of ITEF-funded equipment. This report assesses the extent to which DOD maintains visibility and accountability of ITEF-funded equipment from acquisition through transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. GAO analyzed DOD guidance, procedures, SCIP data, and transfer documentation and interviewed officials from DOD agencies with a role in the ITEF equipping process in the United States, Kuwait, and Iraq. What GAO Recommends GAO is making four recommendations that include identifying the root causes for addressing why DOD is not capturing ITEF-funded equipment transportation dates in SCIP and developing an action plan to address these issues. DOD generally concurred with GAO's recommendations and stated that it would develop a plan. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or farbj@gao.gov.


Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-433?source=ra



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GAO-17-344, Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Efforts Intended to Improve Procedures for Requesting Additional Information for Licensing Actions Are Under Way, April 25, 2017

What GAO Found At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), individual offices that issue requests for additional information (RAI) each have their own guidance that is generally the same across the offices. NRC offices have some efforts underway to update their guidance. These efforts are intended to improve oversight of RAIs and include an increased focus on oversight of RAIs and on staff compliance through managerial review. For example, one of the offices that issues RAIs calls for management to discuss the need to send a licensee additional questions on the same topic before doing so. Summary of Process Used by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Offices to Develop and Issue Requests for Additional Information NRC offices that issue RAIs do not specifically track the number of RAIs that they have issued and do not have a comprehensive accounting for the last 5 years, although one office has a system capable of tracking the number of RAIs. Information from NRC officials and licensees GAO interviewed suggests that certain activities and circumstances often elicit RAIs. There is no legal requirement for the agency to track the number of RAIs; however, offices are updating their internal tracking systems in order to improve information on their licensing activities. Receiving RAIs is not unusual, particularly for certain activities such as complex licensing actions and activities for which regulations are unclear, according to officials. In such cases, increased coordination between NRC and the licensee may be required to resolve certain issues. Licensees GAO interviewed were generally satisfied with the RAI process, identifying strengths and two common weaknesses, and NRC has made recent efforts intended to address these weaknesses. Some licensees noted that they see RAIs as a natural part of interacting with a regulator and identified NRC's openness to communication and engagement as a strength of the RAI process. Two common weaknesses that licensees cited are a gap between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding of what to include in their applications, and staff departure from guidance. NRC offices have made recent efforts to address these issues. For example, to address inconsistencies between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding, NRC offices are emphasizing greater communication between review staff and licensees. Why GAO Did This Study NRC issues RAIs to obtain information in licensing requests to ensure that officials can make a fully informed, technically correct, and legally defensible regulatory decision. RAIs are necessary when the information was not included in an applicant's initial submission, is not contained in any other docketed correspondence, or cannot reasonably be inferred from the information available to agency staff. NRC's use of RAIs has come under scrutiny in the past. For example, NRC's Inspector General, in a 2015 report, cited concerns about RAIs, including the amount of time it took to complete the RAI process and the resources required to do so. GAO was asked to review how NRC uses RAIs. This report examines (1) NRC's guidance for developing and issuing RAIs and how it differs across offices; (2) how many RAIs NRC has issued over the past 5 years and the kinds of activities that elicit RAIs; and (3) strengths and weaknesses of NRC's processes to develop RAIs identified by NRC and licensees and the actions NRC is taking to address concerns. GAO examined agency guidance documents and selected licensing actions containing RAIs. GAO interviewed NRC officials and selected licensees. GAO randomly selected licensing actions and licensees from a sample of recent licensing actions that included cases from each of NRC's RAI-issuing offices. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations. NRC generally agreed with GAO's findings. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.


Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-344?source=ra



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GAO-17-340, Commercial Nuclear Waste: Resuming Licensing of the Yucca Mountain Repository Would Require Rebuilding Capacity at DOE and NRC, Among Other Key Steps, April 26, 2017

What GAO Found After the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted its March 2010 motion to withdraw its license application to construct a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) largely dismantled their capabilities to carry out the rest of NRC's licensing process. This process includes a technical review by NRC staff and adjudication. DOE's and NRC's dismantlement steps included, among other things, eliminating organizations and funding used to carry out the licensing process; canceling the NRC staff's technical review; and vacating NRC's customized hearing facility, which NRC had leased and equipped specifically for the Yucca Mountain adjudication. At the same time, DOE and NRC took steps to preserve relevant data, including millions of documents. DOE and NRC had mostly completed the dismantlement steps before NRC formally suspended the adjudication and the licensing process in September 2011. After an appeals court ruled in 2013 that NRC had acted against federal law by halting its review, from 2014 through 2016, NRC resumed some aspects of the licensing process, such as completing its technical review and report on DOE's Yucca Mountain application, but not the adjudication. As of late 2016 and early 2017, DOE and NRC said they have no formal plans to resume the adjudication, which, according to an NRC estimate from 2014, could take up to 5 years to resume and complete. More recently, the administration announced plans to request funding to resume the licensing. Based on analysis of documents and interviews, GAO identified four key steps that would likely be needed to resume and complete the licensing process. The steps include actions by, among others, NRC's five-member Commission and the adjudication's parties: DOE, NRC staff, and 17 non-federal parties likely to be affected by the proceeding. The likely key steps GAO identified are: 1. The Commission and parties receiving direction to resume the licensing process, and the Commission deciding on the timing and other details, so NRC and parties can identify their funding needs for the adjudicatio 2. Rebuilding organizational capacity, including, as needed, recruiting personnel to recreate DOE's, NRC's, and nonfederal parties' project offices; obtaining legal, scientific, or other experts for the adjudication; and rebuilding physical infrastructure. Also at this step, DOE and NRC may need to update key documents used for the licensing process. 3. Reconvening the parties and completing the remaining phases of the adjudication, including witness depositions and evidentiary hearings. 4. Carrying out the process's remaining steps, including the Commission's final decision on whether to authorize construction of the repository. A number of factors could affect the time needed to resume and complete the licensing process. For example, DOE's ability to bring back its expert witnesses to defend its license application during the adjudication could affect this time frame. Because of the volume and complexity of information, former DOE witnesses contacted by GAO generally estimated that it could take a new expert at least a year to prepare to serve as a DOE witness—about twice as long as the former witnesses said they would need themselves. Why GAO Did This Study Spent nuclear fuel from commercial power reactors can pose risks to humans and the environment, if not properly contained, and is a source of billions of dollars of liabilities. In 2008, DOE applied to NRC for approval to build a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada for permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. As part of NRC's licensing process to review DOE's application and potentially approve construction, NRC initiated a public hearing—or adjudication—with DOE, NRC staff, and nonfederal parties. However, in March 2010, after announcing plans to terminate its proposal for Yucca Mountain, DOE submitted a motion to NRC to withdraw its application. In September 2011, NRC formally suspended the adjudication. GAO was asked to examine the likely steps needed to resume the Yucca Mountain licensing process. This report examines (1) the actions that took place after DOE submitted its motion to withdraw its application and any plans by DOE or NRC to resume the licensing process, and (2) the likely key steps needed to resume and complete the process and the factors that may influence these steps' success. GAO reviewed federal laws and documents; interviewed DOE and NRC officials and contractors; and interviewed or received written remarks from 15 of the 17 nonfederal parties. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any recommendations. NRC generally agreed with GAO's findings. DOE provided comments but did not indicate whether it agreed with the findings. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.


Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-340?source=ra



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‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Review

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Review

Sure, why not

Pirates of the Caribbean

BY:   

As I sat through the closing credits for a movie I had just watched but barely understood, hoping to see a stinger promising a sequel to a picture I more or less hated, I realized that I hate myself.

What else would explain why—after two-plus hours of randomly agglomerated computer generated nonsense tied loosely together by the mincings of an actor who long ago stopped putting any real thought into the character he is trotting out now for the fifth time—I remained in my seat, waiting to see if Captain Jack Sparrow would grace us with his presence once more? Assuming, that is, Dead Men Tell No Talesdoes as well as its predecessors at the global box office.

That's a shockingly high hurdle to clear, by the way. The last three Pirates of the Caribbean movies have all either earned a billion dollarsat the worldwide box office or gotten this close. It's the film series with the greatest commercial success that I've seen the least of: The only Pirates I've seen in full is the original, 2003's Curse of the Black Pearl. So, uh, I was a bit nervous about heading into the theater for Dead Men Tell No Tales. Would it make sense to me, the near-novice? Would I be able to follow the action?

Well, no. Not really. It remains unclear to me whether or not this is the fault of my ignorance or simply the seemingly haphazard way in which the story is stitched together.

The film opens with a young man going underwater to find his cursed father, Legolas Turner (Orlando Bloom). Forever trapped on a ship that resides underwater for some reason, young Son-of-Legolas decides he must find the Trident of Poseidon in order to break the curse. And to find the Trident, he must find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). But that takes him about ten years or so, since the next time we see him Son-of-Legolas, a/k/a Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is on the high seas, serving aboard a British vessel that gets destroyed by a ghost ship helmed by Captain Thalathar (Javier Bardem).

Thalathar is also interested in Jack Sparrow—or possibly Jeff Barrow, or Jath Parro, maybe; it's hard to say what, exactly, Mr. Bardem is getting at half the time—and spares Turner's life because he leaves one survivor from each wreck to pass along the story since DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. That's the name of the movie, remember. DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Just in case you didn't remember that, we hear the line again later. At least once. Maybe twice? If you take nothing else away from Dead Men Tell No Tales, it'll be that DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. I can assure you of that much.

Anyway, Thalathar and Son-of-Legolas and also the feared pirate king Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are looking for Jack and the Trident. Meanwhile, Carina Smith (Kaya Scodelario)—the film's token attractive, corset-wearing, super-independent-and-totes-brainy-you-guys lady—wants the Trident too. Though, why, exactly, she desires the trinket was never quite clear to me. Something about finishing her father's work? In addition to a magical trident, as well as a magical ruby hiding a magical map to the aforementioned magical trident, there's also a compass that points to whatever one's heart desires. Don't make me try to explain the compass. It don't matter. None of this matters.

So what does matter in the world of Dead Men Tell No Tales? Fathers and sons, sons and daughters—it's all about family, man. It's like a piratical Fast and Furious, in that regard. Equally stupid, too.

The Evolution of Memorial Day MAY 25, 2017 | BY RALPH CANEVALI

 

Every Memorial Day, Americans across the country recall deceased family members who served in the military by placing flowers on their graves.  The origins of the May holiday go back some 150 years.  By most accounts, the practice of honoring the war dead first arose in the South in the last days of the Civil War.  Because of the availability of flowers, ceremonies honoring the dead were held in spring but were not restricted to any particular date.  The establishment of an official day of commemoration of the war dead was the handiwork of the  Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an influential organization of Union veterans which at its height had nearly half a million members.   The main force behind the Memorial Day campaign was John Alexander Logan (1826-1886), a former Union general and commander-in-chief of the GAR.   General Logan’s official proclamation read as follows:

The 30th day of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the last rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city village and hamlet churchyard in the land.  

With the help of the GAR’s extensive network of state and local affiliates, Decoration Day, as it was first called, quickly entered the constellation of national holidays, along with the 4th of July and Washington’s birthday.

Because newspapers regularly covered Decoration Day activities, they represent a key source of information on the holiday as it evolved.   A valuable aid to researchers interested in this and other historical topics is Chronicling America, an online resource consisting of more than 2,100 American newspapers, dating from 1789 to 1924.  Supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and maintained by the Library of Congress, Chronicling America is freely available to the public.  Searching the phrases “Decoration Day” or “Memorial Day” yields thousands of hits--testifying to the wide popularity of the holiday in the aftermath of the Civil War.   To narrow your focus, you can also search Chronicling America by newspaper title and date, as well as by city, county, or state, thus revealing how the holiday was celebrated over time and in different parts of the country.  What’s more, the Library of Congress has assembled a resource page containing links to a number of newspaper accounts of Memorial/Decoration Day, along with helpful tips for searching the database.

A good place to begin the search is the long article on the history of Decoration/Memorial Day that appeared in the May 30, 1909 edition of the Omaha Sunday BeeThis account and others underscore the key role of the GAR in staging Decoration Day events.  In the early years, Decoration Day ceremonies focused exclusively on the sacrifices of Northern soldiers and sailors and underscored the righteousness of the Union’s cause.  Activities were sometimes spread over several days and often included addresses by military veterans to school children, public orations, church services, and musical performances.  They culminated on May 30 with a formal procession of Union veterans, dignitaries, and members of the public to the local cemetery, where participants reverently placed flowers on the graves of the war dead.  The impressive scale of many of these celebrations is evident in a 1873 report from the  New York Tribune, which describes the massive procession of veterans and civic groups through New York City.  The combination of stirring patriotic rhetoric and poignant memories of losses of loved ones that were still fresh enhanced the holiday’s popularity and encouraged its spread.   Even in smaller towns, Decoration Day became an occasion for demonstrations of civic unity and engagement.  A rare note of discord was sounded on May 30, 1870, when according to the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, a group of African American marchers unceremoniously dropped out of the Decoration Day procession in that West Virginia community after being ordered to take a position “at the rear of a string of carriages, buggies, and horsemen.”

Given its association with the triumph of the Union, it is no surprise that most people in the South ignored the new holiday, holding their own memorials for the Confederate war dead at different times of the year. However, there were signs of change.  A national survey of Decoration Day events that appeared in a North Dakota newspaper in 1884 noted that in Wheeling, West Virginia, both Union and Confederate veterans took part in the commemoration that year (although each group held its own separate ceremony).  The same article noted that in nearby Maryland, another border state, former adversaries actually came together on May 30 for a joint celebration.  

With the inevitable passing of the Civil War generation, other aspects of the holiday began to change.  In 1909, the Omaha Sunday Bee reported, for example, that many of that city’s Decoration Day ceremonies had been moved indoors, “because of the advanced years of the old veterans who cannot stand the fatigue of the parade or the prolonged exercises at the parks.”  Moreover, the general cessation of business activities on May 30 caused Decoration Day to take on the features of a general holiday. Newspaper reports from the 1890s, for instance, underscore the popularity of recreational activities on that day, such as bicycle races in Pittsburgh and public dances in Akron.  Furthermore, with the onset of spring citizens used the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities.  The Wheeling Daily Intelligencercommented in 1899 that Decoration Day had become an occasion for “picnics, outings, and other amusements,” despite the best efforts of what it called the “Grand Army boys” to uphold its original purpose.

As memories of the Civil War began to fade, so too did the sharp regional divisions that helped to inspire the formation of the holiday.  The great outpouring of patriotic sentiment following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 did much to overcome sectional animosities.  In 1902, a small Louisiana newspaper published a report of Decoration Day activities held across the United States.  That year, President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the festivities in Gettysburg, paying homage to the men from the North and South alike who fought and died in the great battle 41 years earlier.  The same newspaper reported that citizens in Chicago honored their former adversaries by decorating the graves of Confederates who died in a prisoner-of-war camp.   

With the mass mobilization accompanying America’s entry into the World War I, Decoration Day shed once and for all its distinct association with the Civil War.  Now celebrated in every part of the country, the holiday honors the contributions of all veterans, past and present.   Of course, the venerable custom of “decorating” graves persists to this day, although the name of the holiday has been changed.  The term “Memorial Day” had been in use as early as the 1880s and became increasingly popular after the Second World War. In 1967, an act of Congress made the new name official.   A final break with the old tradition of Decoration Day followed a few years later, when Memorial Day was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Now The U.S. Coast Guard Wants Cruise Missiles On Its Icebreakers Too

War Zone – As Russia is building literally a new armada of new icebreakers, ice-capable supply ships, a massive arctic "research" submarine and icebreaker surface combatants armed with cruise missiles, the Pentagon is now looking at arming its relatively tiny fleet of future icebreakers with similar weapons as well.



Original Page: https://nosi.org/2017/05/23/now-the-u-s-coast-guard-wants-cruise-missiles-on-its-icebreakers-too/



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No New Ships: Trump Cuts Navy Shipbuilding, Aircraft Procurement

Breaking Defense – Despite his campaign pledge of a 350-ship fleet, President Trump's first budget cuts Navy shipbuilding and aircraft procurement below what was enacted in 2017, documents released today reveal. Despite Trump's criticism of President Obama's defense plans, this budget sticks with Obama's shipbuilding plan for 2018: eight ships.



Original Page: https://nosi.org/2017/05/23/no-new-ships-trump-cuts-navy-shipbuilding-aircraft-procurement/



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South China Sea: US warship sails within 12 miles of China-claimed reef

The Guardian – A US navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials have said, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since Donald Trump became president.



Original Page: https://nosi.org/2017/05/25/south-china-sea-us-warship-sails-within-12-miles-of-china-claimed-reef/



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GAO-17-344, Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Efforts Intended to Improve Procedures for Requesting Additional Information for Licensing Actions Are Under Way, April 25, 2017

What GAO Found

At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), individual offices that issue requests for additional information (RAI) each have their own guidance that is generally the same across the offices. NRC offices have some efforts underway to update their guidance. These efforts are intended to improve oversight of RAIs and include an increased focus on oversight of RAIs and on staff compliance through managerial review. For example, one of the offices that issues RAIs calls for management to discuss the need to send a licensee additional questions on the same topic before doing so.

Summary of Process Used by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Offices to Develop and Issue Requests for Additional Information

Summary of Process Used by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Offices to Develop and Issue Requests for Additional Information

NRC offices that issue RAIs do not specifically track the number of RAIs that they have issued and do not have a comprehensive accounting for the last 5 years, although one office has a system capable of tracking the number of RAIs. Information from NRC officials and licensees GAO interviewed suggests that certain activities and circumstances often elicit RAIs. There is no legal requirement for the agency to track the number of RAIs; however, offices are updating their internal tracking systems in order to improve information on their licensing activities. Receiving RAIs is not unusual, particularly for certain activities such as complex licensing actions and activities for which regulations are unclear, according to officials. In such cases, increased coordination between NRC and the licensee may be required to resolve certain issues.

Licensees GAO interviewed were generally satisfied with the RAI process, identifying strengths and two common weaknesses, and NRC has made recent efforts intended to address these weaknesses. Some licensees noted that they see RAIs as a natural part of interacting with a regulator and identified NRC's openness to communication and engagement as a strength of the RAI process. Two common weaknesses that licensees cited are a gap between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding of what to include in their applications, and staff departure from guidance. NRC offices have made recent efforts to address these issues. For example, to address inconsistencies between NRC's expectations and licensees' understanding, NRC offices are emphasizing greater communication between review staff and licensees.

Why GAO Did This Study

NRC issues RAIs to obtain information in licensing requests to ensure that officials can make a fully informed, technically correct, and legally defensible regulatory decision. RAIs are necessary when the information was not included in an applicant's initial submission, is not contained in any other docketed correspondence, or cannot reasonably be inferred from the information available to agency staff. NRC's use of RAIs has come under scrutiny in the past. For example, NRC's Inspector General, in a 2015 report, cited concerns about RAIs, including the amount of time it took to complete the RAI process and the resources required to do so.

GAO was asked to review how NRC uses RAIs. This report examines (1) NRC's guidance for developing and issuing RAIs and how it differs across offices; (2) how many RAIs NRC has issued over the past 5 years and the kinds of activities that elicit RAIs; and (3) strengths and weaknesses of NRC's processes to develop RAIs identified by NRC and licensees and the actions NRC is taking to address concerns. GAO examined agency guidance documents and selected licensing actions containing RAIs. GAO interviewed NRC officials and selected licensees. GAO randomly selected licensing actions and licensees from a sample of recent licensing actions that included cases from each of NRC's RAI-issuing offices.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations. NRC generally agreed with GAO's findings.

For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.



Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-344?source=ra



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GAO-17-433, Iraq: DOD Needs to Improve Visibility and Accountability Over Equipment Provided to Iraq's Security Forces, May 25, 2017

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains limited visibility and accountability over equipment funded by the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF). Specifically, DOD is not ensuring that the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) is consistently capturing key transportation dates of ITEF-funded equipment. DOD guidance states that DOD components should use SCIP to identify the status and track the transportation of all building partner capacity materiel, such as ITEF. DOD also issued an order in October 2016 requiring DOD components to ensure that equipment transfer dates are recorded in SCIP. The process for providing the equipment to Iraq's security forces generally falls into three phases: (1) acquisition and shipment, (2) staging in Kuwait and Iraq, and (3) transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, for the 566 ITEF-funded requisitions marked as complete in SCIP's management reporting system as of February 2017, GAO found that the system captured one of two key transportation dates for 256 of the requisitions in phase 1, and none of the transportation dates for these requisitions in phase 2 or phase 3 (see figure).

Key Transportation Dates for Completed Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF)–Funded Equipment Requisitions Captured in the Security Cooperation Information Portal's Management Reporting System, by Equipping Phase

Key Transportation Dates for Completed Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF)–Funded Equipment Requisitions Captured in the Security Cooperation Information Portal's Management Reporting System, by Equipping Phase

DOD officials attributed the lack of key transportation dates in SCIP's management reporting system to potential interoperability and data reporting issues in all three equipping phases.

  • Interoperability issues. DOD officials said that SCIP's management reporting system may not be importing transportation data correctly from other DOD data systems or from another shipment tracking system feature in SCIP.
  • Data reporting issues. DOD officials said they are not reporting the arrival dates of equipment to Kuwait or Iraq because they rely on other DOD data systems and are not required to do so. DOD officials said they have had difficulty ensuring that SCIP has captured equipment transfer dates.

In addition, DOD cannot fully account for ITEF-funded equipment transfers because of missing or incomplete transfer documentation. Without timely and accurate transit information, DOD cannot ensure that the equipment has reached its intended destination, nor can program managers conduct effective oversight of ITEF-funded equipment.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2014, Congress authorized the creation of ITEF to provide equipment and other assistance to Iraq's security forces, including the Kurdistan Regional Government forces, to counter the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As of December 2016, DOD had disbursed about $2 billion of the $2.3 billion Congress appropriated for ITEF in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to purchase, for example, personal protective equipment, weapons, and vehicles for these forces. DOD's web-based SCIP provides U.S. government personnel and others transportation information on DOD equipment imported from other DOD data systems or reported by SCIP users.

GAO was asked to review DOD's accountability of ITEF-funded equipment. This report assesses the extent to which DOD maintains visibility and accountability of ITEF-funded equipment from acquisition through transfer to the government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government. GAO analyzed DOD guidance, procedures, SCIP data, and transfer documentation and interviewed officials from DOD agencies with a role in the ITEF equipping process in the United States, Kuwait, and Iraq.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making four recommendations that include identifying the root causes for addressing why DOD is not capturing ITEF-funded equipment transportation dates in SCIP and developing an action plan to address these issues. DOD generally concurred with GAO's recommendations and stated that it would develop a plan.

For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or farbj@gao.gov.



Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-433?source=ra



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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lessons Learned From the Falklands War

The Landings at San Carlos, The Falklands, 1982. Credit: Royal Navy

The Landings at San Carlos, The Falklands, 1982. Credit: Royal Navy

The Falklands War was the last major amphibious operation between near-peer adversaries under modern conditions of global logistics, communications networks, and precision-guided munitions. While future amphibious operations will be executed differently, select lessons from the Falklands War are enduring. In some cases, lessons from the Falklands War are confirmation of how well the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps would have been prepared for a similar event. The most important lessons learned focus around logistics and sustainability, defense in depth, and amphibious warfare.

The Falklands War began on 2 April 1982, when Argentine forces invaded the undefended Falklands Islands and captured the capital of Stanley. The British task force set sail three days later to retake the islands. On 21 May, amphibious landings at San Carlos beach began. Finally, on the 14 June, Argentine forces surrendered Stanley back into British hands, ending the war in ten weeks and after less than a month of fierce fighting.

The British faced many logistical challenges that tested the sustainability of operations. The Falklands Islands are located 8,000 miles from Great Britain. The closest useable land base for the British was Ascension Islands, 4,000 miles away from the Falklands. This limited Britain’s ability to develop a sustainable supply change for prolonged operations.[1]

Logistically, the British military did not have enough vessels to carry the resources the task force required for operations. To meet demand, 50 merchant vessels were requisitioned and retrofitted. To carry essential supplies to support British military operations, most of the ships were fitted with at-sea refueling capability. This was all done over the course of three days, with work continually done as the task force moved to Ascension Island en-route to the Falklands. The ships were loaded with supplies so fast that there were no inventories taken; all that was known was that a certain quantity of supplies were given to the task force.[2]

During the amphibious landings at San Carlos, the British found their commercial merchant vessels were not adequately suited for amphibious operations. Despite being able to load and retrofit them, there were major problems off-loading supplies due to the unavailability of dock facilities. The ships were unable to load supplies onto the landing craft that were capable of landing the supplies on shore.[3] The British were able to air drop supplies to ground forces, but only with difficulty. The larger aircraft that could drop supplies could only take off from a ground runway, the nearest being 4,000 miles back at Ascension Island. These aircraft had to be refueled multiple times there and back to deliver much needed supplies.[4] Air-lifting supplies via heavy-lift helicopters was possible, but the Argentine air force controlled the air space and shot down all but one of the helicopters capable of lifting heavy loads of supplies.[5]

The logistic and sustainability issues faced by the British in the Falklands are issues the U.S. Navy will face under similar circumstances. The U.S. Navy has maritime prepositioning force ships strategically positioned to supply the U.S. Marine Corps at sea. These ships, laden with vehicles, ammunition, food, water, cargo, and other equipment are prepared for rapid ashore delivery when needed, and can supply a marine expeditionary brigade and Navy personnel for up to 30 days.[6]

Credit: Royal Navy

Credit: Royal Navy

The British ultimately lacked defense in depth. Their outer air defenses were limited to four British Sea Harriers, each laden with only two air-to-air missiles. The aircraft’s only air radar was a short-range radar. The range of their radar required a greater range of patrol, limiting station time to 20 minutes. Large numbers of Argentine air attack forces could easily penetrate these defenses, and reached the British ships with ease. While many British warships had surface-to-air missile systems that provided some form of defense, the merchant-type ships had few defenses. The British warships had great necessity for electronic threat warning systems and decoy systems. The expenditure of chaff, to confuse radars on missiles and aircraft, was heavy.[8]

The importance of antiair capabilities and antiship missile defense cannot be understated. The British lost two destroyers, two frigates, a landing ship, and a merchant ship to air attack. Nine other ships would have been lost had the bombs that hit them detonated (this is because Argentine forces used old munitions).[9] Most of the aircraft from the Argentine mainland bases would not have reached the British ships had there been a well-rounded, full-sized carrier air wing in the opposing force. The composition of the British air wing in the Falklands War was limited only to Sea Harriers and a small assortment of helicopters.[10] Had the British had aerial surveillance aircraft, interceptors, antisubmarine aircraft, early air warning aircraft, and a fighter aircraft that could maintain, sustained, long-range air patrol they would have had greater defense in depth, and ultimately greater antiair capabilities.

Current air wings are comprised of a well-rounded composition of aircraft. Within the wings are fighter squadrons, a carrier early warning squadron, a tactical electronic squadron, and an antisubmarine complement. This composition allows for better control and vision of the skies, allowing for better defense in depth.[11]

The British forces needed better antiship missile defense systems. The number and capabilities of British missile and ECM systems were limited, and had no close in weapon systems (CIWS) to provide terminal defense against incoming missiles.[12] These systems would have defending against missile attacks. Most U.S. Navy ships today have been CIWS and chaff systems, and most have radars capable of reaching beyond what the British had. These systems should continue to be an essential for Navy vessels as a “last ditch” effort. However, the reliance of CIWS needs to be assessed. CIWS systems are notorious for needing repair or systems maintenance. Most ships that only have one CIWS do not have any redundancy for this system, something that should be assessed.

The Falklands landings demonstrated the continued viability of amphibious operation. The British managed to land on the islands, provided supplies to ground forces as they made their way across the island to the capital, and ensured the success of the operation. The British succeeded in an armed conflict against a near peer adversary located 8000 miles away from the British homeland. However, this victory was not without loss, and not without lessons learned. Of the lessons learned from the Falklands War, key ones shine through.

Early warning of air attacks, airborne and shipboard antiair defense, and effective self-defense weapons in the amphibious ships would have substantially reduced losses for the British. While the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps do have these capabilities, the redundancy, reliability, and supply these systems needs to be constantly reassessed. The CIWS is an effective system but shows a trend of needing maintenance. Chaff launchers are effective, but as the British observed, they quickly used their supplies. U.S. carrier air wings are well rounded, but some platforms are no longer modern and cannot effectively fulfill their mission set.

The importance of heavy-lift aircraft in the amphibious environment cannot be understated. The British were limited in the amphibious landing by the lack of heavy-lift helicopters. The use of the CH-53E’s and V-22’s are very important in the flow of supplies and manpower. However, the Sea Dragons are nearing 40 years old, there is no plan to replace them, and no more are being produced. This type of helicopter needs to be reassessed and the program should be revitalized. Ospreys are capable aircraft with a wide mission set, yet are prone to being grounded with mechanical issues.

Maintaining a large number of amphibious capable ships is important. The British ran into issues offloading their supplies from their requisitioned merchant vessels, ultimately leading to breakdowns in the supply chain and loss of life. Specialized amphibious ships are essential for amphibious assault because of their rapid offload capability, survivability, and ability to lift specialized military equipment. In an analysis of the Navy’s amphibious warfare ships for deploying Marines overseas, the Congressional Budget Office found that our current inventory, and projection of ships in inventory, is far behind what the Navy and Marine Corps say they need to meet mission demand. If an armed conflict the scale of the Falklands emerges we would need even more amphibious vessels.[13]

While the Falklands War may have occurred 34 years ago, it still offers insight into what challenges are to come as we enter an era of uncertainty and tension between near-peer powers. Lessons from the past should not be ignored, and should instead serve as a reminder for future conflicts.

In-flight refueling equipment, fitted to carrier-capable C-2 Greyhounds, make refueling and long-range logistic support possible for U.S. carrier battle groups. This also enables air dropping equipment and supplies to ground forces, which the British required and found difficulty in doing to. This is especially important as land runways are not always available in situations requiring cargo-capable aircraft.[7]

One capability that the U.S. Navy has is the availability of heavy-lift helicopters. The CH-53 Sea Dragon, while old, provides a key capability that constrained the British The importance of these heavy-lift helicopters cannot be undervalued. The British only had four of such aircraft, which was a constant limit on their capabilities. The carrier air wings used for amphibious operations should use these to their upmost ability.

The vast quantities of munitions used in the Falklands reinforces the need to have constant supply lines and logistical support. The experiences from the Falklands call for an evaluation of policy regarding the disposal of older weapons, as they are still useable and when supplies are constrained they might be needed.

During the Falklands War, the British faced Argentine aircraft repeatedly penetrating British defenses in daylight. These attacks hampered resupply of land forces, ship movement, and ultimately brought great harm to British forces. The success of the Argentine forces was largely caused by Britain’s lack of antiair capabilities, antiship missile defense, and airborne early warning.



South China Sea: US warship sails within 12 miles of China-claimed reef

A US navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials have said, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since Donald Trump became president.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Dewey had travelled close to Mischief reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The so-called "freedom of navigation operation" by the destroyer, which is equipped with guided missiles, is sure to anger China. It comes as Trump is seeking Beijing's cooperation to rein in ally North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Territorial waters are generally defined by UN convention as extending at most 12 nautical miles from a state's coastline.

One US official said it was the first operation near a land feature which was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague. The court invalidated China's claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the maritime area, but Beijing rejected its findings.

The US patrol, the first of its kind since October, marked the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

The United States has criticised China's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.

US allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the new administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.

Last month, top US commander in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Harry Harris, said the United States would likely carry out freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea soon, without offering details.

Still, the US military has a long-standing position that these operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations. The White House did not immediately comment on the latest action.

The Pentagon said in a statement it was continuing regular freedom of navigation operations and would do more in the future but gave no details of the latest mission.

"We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. We operate in accordance with international law," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in the statement.

Under the previous administration, the US navy conducted several such voyages through the South China Sea. The last operation was approved by then-president Barack Obama.

China's claims to the South China Sea, which sees about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade pass every year, are challenged by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.

The latest patrol is likely to exacerbate US-China tensions that had eased since Trump hosted Chinese president Xi Jinping for a summit in Florida in April.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the operation was also the first conducted by the United States close to an artificial feature built by China not entitled to a territorial sea under international law.

Previous freedom of navigation operations have gone within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Fiery Cross reefs, two other features in the Spratlys built up by China, but both of those features are entitled to a territorial sea.

Mischief reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China and was not close enough to another feature entitled to such a territorial sea, said Poling.

He said the key question was whether the USS Dewey had engaged in a real challenge to the Chinese claims by turning on radar or launching a helicopter or boat – actions not permitted in a territorial sea under international law.

Otherwise, critics say, the operation would have resembled what is known as "innocent passage" and could have reinforced rather than challenged China's claim to a territorial limit around the reef.



Original Page: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/25/south-china-sea-us-warship-sails-within-12-miles-of-china-claimed-reef



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EPIC Tells Congress: Limit Use of Social Security Numbers

policy Social Security Numbers

EPIC Tells Congress: Limit Use of Social Security Numbers

EPIC has sent a statement to the House Ways & Means Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in advance of a hearing on "Protecting Americans' Identities: Examining Efforts to Limit the Use of Social Security Numbers." EPIC warned about the danger of SSN-related identity theft. "Given the growing risk of identity theft coupled to the SSN and the ease of alternative systems, there is simply no excuse for the use of SSNs in either the public or private sector," said EPIC. EPIC has long urged Congress and state legislators to limit use of the SSN.



Original Page: http://epic.org/2017/05/epic-tells-congress-limit-use-.html



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GAO-17-633T, Veterans Affairs: Improper Payment Estimates and Ongoing Efforts for Reduction, May 24, 2017

What GAO Found

Improper payments, which generally include payments that should not have been made, were made in the incorrect amount, or were not supported by sufficient documentation, remain a significant and pervasive government-wide issue. Since fiscal year 2003—when certain agencies began reporting improper payments as required by the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002—cumulative improper payment estimates have totaled over $1.2 trillion. For fiscal year 2016, agencies reported improper payment estimates totaling $144.3 billion, an increase of about $7.6 billion from the prior year's estimate of $136.7 billion.

For fiscal year 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) reported improper payment estimate totaled $5.5 billion. VA's Community Care and Purchased Long-Term Services and Support programs accounted for reported improper payment estimates of $3.6 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, or about 87 percent of VA's reported improper payment estimate for fiscal year 2016. VA's reported improper payment estimates increased significantly from $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2014 to $5.0 billion for fiscal year 2015. According to the VA Office of Inspector General, this increase was primarily due to a change in VA's evaluation procedures, which resulted in more improper payments being identified.

Department of Veterans Affairs' Reported Improper Payment Estimates for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2016

U:\Work in Process\Teams\FY17 Reports\FMA\102065_633T\Graphics\Fig_HL_5_102065.tif

In accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidance, to reduce improper payments, VA can use detailed root cause analysis to identify why improper payments are occurring and to develop corrective actions. For example, according to VA, the root cause for over 75 percent of VA's reported improper payments for fiscal year 2016 was program design or structural issues. Most of these errors occurred in VA's health care area. To reduce these improper payments, VA stated that it will make its procurement practices compliant with Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions. GAO has also recommended steps that VA can take to reduce the risk of improper payments related to disability benefits. For example, in November 2014, GAO reported that VA had shortcomings in quality review practices that could reduce its ability to ensure accurate and consistent processing of disability compensation claim decisions, and GAO made eight related recommendations to improve the program. To date, VA has implemented six of the report's eight recommendations and expects to implement the other two recommendations related to the effectiveness of quality assurance activities later this summer.

Why GAO Did This Study

For several years, GAO has reported in its audit reports on the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government that the federal government is unable to determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that actions are taken to reduce them.

Strong financial management practices, including effective internal control, are important for federal agencies to better detect and prevent improper payments. VA faces significant financial management challenges. In 2015, GAO designated VA health care as a high-risk area because of concern about VA's ability to ensure that its resources are being used cost effectively and efficiently to improve veterans' timely access to health care and to ensure the quality and safety of that care. Further, improving and modernizing federal disability programs has been on GAO's high-risk list since 2003, in part because of challenges that VA has faced in providing accurate, timely, and consistent disability decisions related to disability compensation. In addition, in VA's fiscal year 2016 agency financial report, the independent auditor cited material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting.

This statement discusses improper payments on both the government-wide level and at VA. The statement also discusses certain actions that VA has taken and other actions that VA can take to reduce improper payments. This statement is based on GAO's recent work on improper payments and its analysis of agency financial reports and VA's Office of Inspector General reports.

For more information, contact Beryl H. Davis at (202) 512-2623 or davisbh@gao.gov.



Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-633T?source=ra



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GAO-17-468, DOD Training: DOD Has Taken Steps to Assess Common Military Training, May 23, 2017

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services have made recent efforts to review and validate common military training requirements. DOD established the Common Military Training Working Group in February 2015 to, among other things, review and validate common military training requirements. In December 2016 the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness signed the Common Military Training Working Group Charter, which states that the working group will review common military training requirements for validity. According to an Office of the Deputy for Force Training official, the working group held its first meeting in January 2017 and a second meeting in February 2017. According to that official, the Office of the Deputy for Force Training is in the process of developing future working group meeting agendas to discuss topics such as validating training requirements. In addition, some of the military services have taken steps to review and validate common military training. For example, according to officials, the Navy and Marine Corps annually review and validate mandatory training requirements, while the Army reviews and validates mandatory training requirements biennially or as directed. According to Air Force officials, the Air Force reviewed and validated existing mandatory training requirements during its October 2016 training review.

DOD has directed the Common Military Training Working Group to evaluate the effectiveness of common military training requirements. DOD Instruction 1322.31 calls for the working group to periodically review common military training and evaluate it for effectiveness, among other things, and the working group's charter states that it will review common military training requirements for effectiveness. In addition, some DOD proponents responsible for managing a specific common military training core curriculum, as well as the military service boards, have made independent efforts to assess the effectiveness of their respective mandatory military training courses, including common military training. For example, in 2015 the Army Mandatory Training Task Force evaluated the accessibility and effectiveness of current training materials.

The military services offer varying degrees of flexibility for providing course delivery methods that allow individuals to complete mandatory training requirements, including common military training. For example, training guidance provided by the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force indicates that the services may rely on a variety of delivery methods for training, including distance learning systems, formal courses, and one-on-one instruction. According to estimates provided by service officials, it would take an individual less than 20 hours to complete all common military training requirements. Nevertheless, the military services are taking steps to reduce training time for some mandatory training requirements by updating their guidance, combining similar training topics, and eliminating redundancies. For example, the Air Force has reviewed all of its training topics to determine which ones to streamline or consolidate. GAO interviewed servicemembers from across the services who informally presented a range of perspectives regarding various aspects of training.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD requires all servicemembers to complete training that provides common knowledge and skills. Common military training across the military services includes topics such as Suicide Prevention, Cybersecurity, and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. DOD has identified a need to reduce training requirements because of concerns from the services about the amount of time it takes to complete training, and in 2012 asked the RAND Corporation to examine the services' mandatory training—which includes common military training—requirements and options for standardization. RAND recommended, among other things, that DOD consider adopting standardized, computer-based training and issue a single DOD directive that lists all requirements.

House Report 114-537 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to examine the military services' actions to assess mandatory military training requirements. This report describes (1) efforts that DOD and the services have made to review and validate common military training requirements; (2) steps that DOD and the services have taken to evaluate the effectiveness of these requirements; and (3) flexibilities the services offer regarding course delivery methods, steps they are taking to consolidate and reduce training time, and their perspectives on various aspects of training. GAO reviewed DOD and military service training guidance and interviewed officials at DOD headquarters and military service offices.

For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.



Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-468?source=ra



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