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Posts tagged ‘Government Accountability Office’

China F-35: Secrets Stolen From US Show Up in Its Stealth Fighter.


China obtained F-35 secrets through an extensive cyber spy operation carried out in 2007 against U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, U.S. officials and defense analysts said, and they have shown up China’s new stealth fighter jet.

Codenamed Operation Byzantine Hades, the multiyear cyber-espionage operation yielded sensitive technology about the United States’ latest fighter jet which in turn was incorporated into the development of China’s new J-20 fighter, the Washington Times reported.

According to Defense officials, a Chinese military unit known as the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau (TRF), located in the nation’s Chengdu province, was behind the cyber-espionage. Once the data had been acquired, the TRF is said to have transferred it to the state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China, which then used that stolen data in building the J-20 fighter jet, the Washington Free Beaconreported.

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Having started 10 years ago, the F-35 development program is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon that has cost $392 billion, making it the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program ever. The program’s original price tag was $233 billion; however it ballooned due to delays brought on by cost overruns.

Referred to as a “fifth-generation” warplane, the F-35 fighter jet will be replacing the popular F-16 and more than a dozen other warplanes that are currently in use by the United States and foreign governments around the world.

As of late 2013, the U.S. partner countries of Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Denmark, Israel, and Japan have already ordered F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.

Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 is said to be the most technically-advanced plane in the United States’ arsenal with 7.5 million lines of computer code controlling its weapons system, which is triple the amount of coding currently used in the top Air Force fighter, the Government Accountability Office told The Wall Street Journal.

“You’ve seen significant improvements in Chinese military capabilities through their willingness to spend, their acquisitions of advanced Russian weapons, and from their cyber-espionage campaign,” James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post. “Ten years ago, I used to call the [People’s Liberation Army] the world’s largest open-air military museum. I can’t say that now.”

In addition to the apparent cyber theft of secrets pertaining to the F-35’s development, China has also reportedly accessed other U.S. weapons systems, including the Patriot missile system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and the Army’s ballistic missile interceptor program.

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Michael Mullins

GAO Report: Social Security Doesn’t Know Who’.


The Social Security Administration doesn’t verify all its death reports, a new government report says, leading to problems when it comes to paying survivors’ benefits.

“SSA’s methods for processing death reports may result in inaccurate, incomplete or untimely information for users of its death data,” says the Government Accountability Office in its report.

“Consequently, this could lead to improper payments if benefit-paying agencies rely on this data.”

The SSA is responsible for cross-matching data on dead people, so that federal agencies can avoid paying out benefits to people who are no longer alive, reports The Washington Times, and so that they can pay accurate benefits for surviving family members.

The agency also maintains a “Death Master File” that is available to the public, but the data may not be entirely accurate, the GAO report indicates.

Auditors said SSA verifies death reports from several places, including state records, families, funeral directors, the post office, banks, and other places it considers accurate.

“Because SSA does not verify death reports from sources it considers most accurate, the agency risks having erroneous information in its death data, such as including living individuals or not including deceased individuals,” the GAO report said.

The SSA is also inconsistent in how it shares its data, the auditors revealed. Some agencies share with the SSA, but it does not always share back.

The GAO recommended that SSA develop better plans for verifying death reports and sharing them with other government agencies.

“Only with more accurate and complete data can these agencies reduce the risk of paying deceased beneficiaries,” auditors said. “However, because SSA has never analyzed the risk posed by errors or processes that could result in errors, it is not fully aware of steps that would be needed to address them.”

The government pays out billions in improper death benefits, according to the Office of Management and Budget. In fiscal year 2012 alone, agencies paid out $108 billion in improper payments, including millions of dollars a year in subsidies to dead farmers after the Agriculture Department did not verify where the money was going, the GAO said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

FCC Cracks Down on Fraud By ‘Obamaphone’ Providers.


The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on companies for abusing the Lifeline program, the government phone giveaway that’s been derided as the “Obamaphone” plan.

The FCC has proposed nearly $33 million in fines this month against three companies, after action in October in which it levied $14.4 million in fines against five Lifeline providers.

The FCC said that “the companies apparently violated the FCC’s rules limiting Lifeline subscriptions to one subscriber per household, and received payments for thousands of consumers that already were obtaining Lifeline services from the same company. This duplicate support is expressly prohibited by federal law.”

The larger issue is why the taxpayer-funded program — so riddled with waste and prone to easy abuse — is allowed to continue.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, the nonprofit government and legal watchdog, called it an archaic program that’s outlived its need.

“It’s from a bygone era, and doesn’t have much relevance anymore,” he said. “It’s gone the way of the dinosaur.”

Scott Amey, general counsel for the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, said, “The FCC’s proposed fines are a step forward in the troubled program.”

“More needs to be done to ensure that the program isn’t subject to waste or fraud, especially when verifying that all Lifeline phone program subscribers are genuine and eligible,” Amey said.

The Lifeline program began in 1985 under President Ronald Reagan. It was intended to provide low-income Americans with low-cost telephone service in their homes for emergency purposes. Ten years later, the landline program expanded to include cellular service.

Funding has expanded as well. The Government Accountability Office reported in October 2010 that program expenses went from $802 million for the years 2005-08 to $1 billion in 2009. The number of program participants similarly exploded, from 6.9 million to 7.1 million between 2005 and 2008 to 8.6 million in 2009, the GAO reported.

“The low-income program has no funding cap,” the GAO said. And because of the expansion to cellular service, and the accompanying giveaway of cellphones plus phone minutes, the GAO predicted costs would continue to rise.

The GAO was correct. By 2012, taxpayers were footing a $2.2 billion free phone service bill.

The FCC, facing pressure from program critics, agreed to investigate and crack down on service providers who abused the system. The agency also tightened regulations, putting in writing a stipulation that companies had to better vet applicants and make sure their homes weren’t already receiving the service.

Then came the “Obamaphone” YouTube video, which went viral. Made in September 2012 at a Cleveland protest against presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it included an interview with an unnamed woman who explained how Obama “gave us a phone,” and if he was re-elected, “he gonna do more.”

How did Obama provide the phones? “You sign up,” she said in the video. “If you on food stamps, you on Social Security, you got low income, you disability,” you get the service.

In March, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote a letter to then FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing concern over the growing fraud in the program.

“We are writing in regards to the growth, waste and abuse that has occurred” in the Lifeline program. “Since the American people ultimately pay for the program through a surcharge on their phone bills, and because many of those footing the bill face their own challenges in this economy, we want to make sure ratepayer funds are being spent wisely,” the congressmen wrote.

In September, media reports contained news of further Lifeline abuse: Dozens claimed their signatures had been forged on applications to the program. A Scripps News investigation found that at least 50 people complained about their names being falsely submitted to Lifeline service providers by workers with Lifeline contract companies.

“Reforms put in place two years ago don’t seem to be doing much,” said Fitton, of Judicial Watch.

The three companies facing fines in the latest enforcement action are Conexion Wireless, i-Wireless, and True Wireless. Federal authorities sent Notices of Apparent Liability to the three companies, giving them a 30-day response deadline.

Specifically, Conexion faces an $18.4 million fine for alleged violations that took place over a span of eight months in Maryland, Arkansas, and West Virginia.

Also, i-Wireless faces $8.8 million in fines for seven months’ worth of reported violations in eight states, including New York and South Carolina.

True Wireless was hit with a $5.5 million proposed fine for eight alleged months of wrongful transactions in four states: Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas.

“The FCC also proposed a penalty of $300,000 against Conexion for its apparent willful and repeated failure to provide timely and complete responses to the FCC’s requests for information, noting that Conexion’s conduct delayed and impeded the investigation,” the federal agency said.

Fines automatically go into effect if the companies do not appeal by Dec. 1.

Earlier, on Oct. 1, the FCC imposed $14 million in fines to five companies. TracFone was the largest, but the others included Assist Wireless, Easy Wireless, Icon Telecom, and uTphone, for similar violations.

Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said private companies such as Comcast cable actually provide lower-income members of their communities with opportunities to obtain reduced-cost communication services.

At the same time, cellphone costs have continued to go down, and most Americans can now afford to keep one with minutes for at least emergency situations – the idea behind Lifeline in the first place, Schatz said.

“We’ve been talking about the Lifeline program for a long time . . . about the waste, fraud, abuse, and also about the fact that it’s expanding well beyond its original parameters,” Schatz said. “Expanding it to cellphones certainly made the program far more prone to abuse and far harder to track.”

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O’Keefe’s Cameras Reveal ‘Obamaphone’ Fraud
‘Obamaphone’ Video Sparks Debate on Lifeline Service

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cheryl K. Chumley

Nearly 3,000 Illegal Immigrant Sex Offenders Released Under Court Order.


Some 2,837 illegal immigrants convicted of sexual offenses were recently cut loose from American jails to comply with a Supreme Court order that says immigrants cannot be held if their home countries refuse to take them back, according to The Washington Times. 

That was just a small percentage of the nearly 59,347 released from jail as of September of last year due to the court order. Since they could not be deported, they were released under some form of supervision, the Times reported.

The release information came from a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that also showed five percent of the sexual offenders released were not registered in local communities.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration detention cannot be punitive, so if illegal immigrants can’t be deported they must be released back into American communities.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said immigration officials are not rigorous about monitoring sexual offenders released from jail.

“I’m surprised that only five percent of them are not properly registered,” Vaughan said.

The GAO report also suggested the court order made it more difficult to keep track of sexual offenders. “The risk that alien sex offenders will reside in U.S. communities without being registered is increased,” the GAO said.

The report also revealed that large numbers of convicted sex offenders that were deported simply turned around and came back to the United States, where they committed other offenses.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Audrey Hudson

Report: Social Security Made $1.3B in Improper Disability Payments.


Social Security made $1.3 billion in potentially improper disability payments to people who had jobs when they were supposed to be unable to work, congressional investigators said in a report Friday.

The Government Accountability Office estimated that 36,000 workers got improper payments from December 2010 to January 2013.

The numbers represent less than 1 percent of beneficiaries and less than 1 percent of disability payments made during the time frame. But GAO said the overpayments reveal weaknesses in Social Security’s procedures for policing the system.

“The report lays out clear, common-sense steps that the agency can and should take in order to avoid improper payments,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“However, if we’re serious about preventing waste and fraud and ensuring that these critical benefits get to the people who need and deserve them, Congress must also do its part and provide needed resources and access to basic anti-fraud data to the Social Security Administration.”

The Social Security Administration said its accuracy rate for disability payments is more than 99 percent. But the agency noted that even small errors translate into big numbers.

“We are planning to do an investigation, and we will recoup any improper payments from beneficiaries,” Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said. “It is too soon to tell what caused these overpayments, but if we determine that fraud is involved, we will refer these cases to our office of the inspector general for investigation.”

More than 8.2 million disabled workers received disability payments in December 2010, a figure that has grown to nearly 9 million. Last year, the agency paid out $137 billion in disability payments.

Before people can receive disability benefits, there is a 5-month waiting period in which they can, in general, earn no more than about $1,000 a month. The waiting period is to ensure that beneficiaries have long-term disabilities.

Using a federal wage database, investigators checked whether a sample of disability beneficiaries had worked and earned significant wages during the waiting period, the report said. They found that most of the improper payments went to people who worked during the five months they waited for payments to begin.

Once people start receiving benefits, they can return to work and still get benefits during a trial work period, in an attempt to re-enter the workforce. Using the same wage database, investigators checked whether another sample of disability beneficiaries earned significant wages after their trial work period had ended, the report said.

Based on their findings, the GAO estimated the amount of improper payments and the number of people receiving them.

Citing a potential weakness, the report said Social Security might not detect a person who worked during the waiting period if the period started in one year and ended in another. For example, if Social Security starts paying benefits in February, the agency might not detect significant wages earned the previous November because they weren’t earned in the same year that benefits were awarded, the report said.

In a written response to the report, the Social Security Administration agency questioned whether GAO overestimated the amount of overpayments. The agency said investigators did not determine whether the work activity qualified as an unsuccessful attempt to return to work, or whether there were any other special circumstances.

The report comes as Social Security’s disability program faces a financial crisis. If Congress doesn’t act, the trust fund that supports the disability program will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security’s trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 80 percent of benefits, triggering an automatic 20 percent cut in benefits.

Congress could redirect money from Social Security’s much bigger retirement program to shore up the disability program, as it did in 1994. But that would worsen the finances of the retirement program, which is facing its own long-term financial problems.

“This report demonstrates just how little importance the Social Security Administration places on policing its disability rolls,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “SSA has known for years that it could prevent millions of dollars in improper disability payments using quarterly wage records, but chose not to.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

US Delays Deadline for Finalizing Obamacare With Insurers.


The Obama administration has delayed a step crucial to the launch of the new healthcare law, the signing of final agreements with insurance plans to be sold on federal health insurance exchanges starting Oct. 1.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified insurance companies on Tuesday that it would not sign final agreements with the plans between Sept. 5 and 9, as originally anticipated, but would wait until mid-September instead, according to insurance industry sources.

Nevertheless, Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the department remains “on track to open” the marketplaces on time on Oct. 1.

Editor’s NoteObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

The reason for the hold-up was unclear. Sources attributed it to technology problems involving the display of insurance products within the federal information technology system.

Peters said only that the government was responding to “feedback” from the companies, “providing additional flexibility and time to handle technical requests.”

Coming at a time when state and federal officials are still working to overcome challenges to the information technology systems necessary to make the exchanges work, some experts say that even a small delay could jeopardize the start of the six-month open enrollment period.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the marketplaces, which are the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law, would begin on time.

But the Oct. 1 deadline has already begun to falter at the state level, with Oregon announcing plans to scale back the launch of its own marketplace and California saying it would consider a similar move.

Tuesday’s notification by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency spearheading marketplace development, affects insurance plans that would be sold in federal exchanges that the administration is setting up in 34 of the 50 U.S. states. The remaining 16 states, including Oregon and California, are setting up their own marketplaces.

“It makes me wonder if open enrollment can start on Oct. 1,” said a former administration official who worked to implement Obama’s healthcare reform.

“But having everything ready on Oct. 1 is not a critical issue. What matters to people is Jan. 1, which is when the coverage is supposed to start. If that were delayed, it would be a substantive setback.”

Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to extend federally subsidized health coverage to an estimated 7 million uninsured Americans in 2014 through the marketplaces.

But insurance plans must be qualified to meet specific standards if they are to be sold on the exchanges. And each insurer must sign a contract with the federal government.

The new timetable for qualified plan agreements is the latest in a series of delays for Obamacare.

The most significant came in early July when the White House and the Treasury Department announced a one-year delay in a major Obamacare provision that would have required employers with at least 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.

Legal and political opposition from Republicans and their conservative allies have already fragmented Obamacare’s original vision.

Only about half the states have opted to expand Medicaid program for the poor to uninsured families living below the poverty level, and Republicans in Congress have denied nearly $1 billion in new implementation funding this year alone.

The Government Accountability Office cautioned in June that the law known as Obamacare could miss the Oct. 1 enrollment deadline because of missed deadlines and delays in several areas including the certification of health plans for sale on the exchanges.

Another U.S. watchdog, the HHS Office of the Inspector General, warned earlier this month that the government was months behind testing data security for the federal data hub that represents the information technology backbone of the new marketplaces.

The state of Oregon has already scaled back the Oct. 1 debut of its own healthcare exchange by preventing state residents from signing up for coverage on their own until mid-October. California said last week that it, too, would consider a soft launch of its exchange if tests show it is not ready to accommodate wide public access.

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Musgrave: Planned Parenthood Probe Could Motivate Whistleblowers.


Former U.S. Rep. and staunch anti-abortion activist Marilyn Musgrave tells Newsmax TV that the recently announced government accounting investigation into Planned Parenthood is likely to inspire more whistleblowers with stories of abuse from the nation’s abortion mills.

“There will be more whistleblowers and … former employees coming forth from these clinics,” Musgrave predicted in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “When you think about the bright lights as being shed on clinics, whether they’re Planned Parenthood clinics or other facilities that provide abortions, the things that we’ve seen in recent months have garnered a great deal of attention, and not just from the so-called pro-life community.

“People that care about women, taxpayers concerned about how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent, are very concerned when we find out what’s going on in these facilities,” the Colorado Republican said. “And of course, Planned Parenthood is a giant in the industry, performing the most abortions in this country, and the case in Texas … will continue to create a lot of scrutiny for Planned Parenthood.”

Story continues below video.

In Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast recently agreed to pay $4.3 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged Planned Parenthood in Houston fraudulently billed Medicaid for claims up to $30 million between 2003 and 2009. The whistleblower was a medical assistant at the agency who sued the nonprofit.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the allegations were baseless and the settlement was not an admission of guilt.

The Government Accountability Office confirmed last week it will investigate how Planned Parenthood is using the millions of taxpayer dollars it receives each year.

Musgrave, who is vice president of government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, said that while taxpayer funds are not permitted to be used for abortions, there is no practical way to prevent organizations like Planned Parenthood from doing so.

“Everybody knows that money is fungible. It frees up more money for Planned Parenthood to perform abortions if they get taxpayer dollars for their other services,” she said.

“Ninety-two percent of pregnant women that go into a Planned Parenthood facility receive an abortion. I mean they’re all about abortion. They’re about making their money from abortion, and if you really care about women, you want them to go to a facility where they can receive healthcare.”

Musgrave said that she wants American women to receive the healthcare they deserve.

“You need to know if a pregnant woman has high blood pressure, if she has heart problems, if she has substance abuse,” Musgrave explained. “I want women to really receive the healthcare that they deserve and again, Planned Parenthood is all about abortion and they want our tax dollars to fill their coffers.”

The announcement of the GAO investigation came after 72 members of Congress petitioned the agency in February seeking an audit of the country’s largest abortion provider and other providers that receive federal funding.

In 2010, the GAO released a report that indicated significant discrepancies in Planned Parenthood’s reported spending and funding. Musgrave would like to put an end to all federal funding for groups like Planned Parenthood.

“They also like to portray themselves as the only place where poor women can get healthcare,” she said. “Are you kidding me? There are over 7,000 facilities that provide healthcare to women across this country where women can get full … healthcare.”

Musgrave believes the total number of abortions performed in the United States would drop if the tax money was cut off.

“I absolutely believe that and I believe that Americans, even those who would consider themselves pro-choice, do not support their tax dollars going for abortion,” she asserted.

Musgrave said the organization has been “masterful in masquerading as a place where poor women receive healthcare,” which is not the case.

“I’ve heard it by bureaucrats who are in the Health Department that they provide mammograms. They have this image that they’ve portrayed and I’ll tell you what, we are cracking away at that façade … and this audit is going to be a huge part of that,” she added. “I believe that people around the country are crying out for accountability in all areas and when Americans overwhelmingly do not support their tax dollars going toward abortion, this audit is very timely and very important.”

She added that the pro-life debate is likely to figure prominently in the 2014 mid-term elections and 2016 presidential race.

“Abortion will be front and center whether you’re talking about 2014 or 2016, but the wonderful thing is this nation is becoming more and more pro-life,” Musgrave said.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Paul Scicchitano and John Bachman

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