December 5, 2021

News

News Network

Opening Remarks at the Indo-Pacific Conference on Strengthening Transboundary River Governance

18 min read

Ambassador Atul Keshap, Principal Deputy Assistant SecretaryBureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Video Conference

Hosted by East-West Center Washington

Opening Remarks

Thank you, Satu and the East-West Center, and good evening or good morning to all who are joining us from around the world. Thank you as well to Representative Lieu, Ambassador Ngoc, Ambassador Chum, and Ambassador Manasvi for joining us here today.

It is good to see so many who joined us last October. I welcome you and the new participants here today for the launch of the conference report.

This report is excellent and summarizes our work examining the challenges facing the Mekong River basin and its ties to the economies, livelihoods, and culture of nearly 70 million people.

We remain concerned—just as we were in October during the conference—that record droughts and the upstream dams in China that exacerbate them are hurting the communities and ecosystems that have relied for countless generations on the Mekong River’s natural flood pulse. There are dramatic consequences for food security, economic development, and the environment.

It’s clear that upstream dams are withholding water with limited coordination or notification, unnecessarily exacerbating the water security challenges that Mekong communities are facing.

Just last week, the Mekong River Commission (MRC)  again issued calls for China to share timely and essential water data. This was in response to what the MRC called recent “worrying” drops in Mekong River water levels.

The MRC statement  cited Beijing’s agreement in 2020 to share year-round water level and rainfall data and to notify the MRC of any abnormal rise or fall in water levels. It’s clear that the PRC has not lived up to this commitment.

This is an urgent issue and this report helps focus our attention on the next steps.

The Conference Report

The conference report will serve as an important resource guiding our efforts to improve transparency and strengthening the communities and institutions responsible for protecting the Mekong River.

The nearly 70 million people that depend on the River have much to gain from transparent governance. Expanding economic growth and addressing climate change also require coordination and information sharing. The United States and our partners developed the Mekong Dam Monitor  to better provide information on water usage. Upstream dam operators need to be more transparent and consultative with downstream neighbors.

Stronger governance, institutions, and mechanisms are needed to support regional cooperation in the Mekong. The United States has supported the Mekong River Commission for decades and remains committed to sharing our expertise and working with you to preserve the autonomy of the Mekong region.

Perhaps most significantly, this report emphasizes the importance of including all stakeholders in river management. This requires moving beyond just government bodies and the MRC to include civil society in the decision-making process.

The Role of the United States

The United States is committed to following through on the ideas discussed at the conference and in this report. We support the people of the Mekong and the future of the Mekong River.

Since 2009, the United States has invested over $3.5 billion of assistance in the countries of the Mekong, including:

  • $1.2 billion for health programs;
  • $734 million for economic growth;
  • $616 million for peace and security;
  • $527 million for human rights and governance
  • $175 million for education and social services; and
  • $165 million for humanitarian assistance.

Last year, we launched the Mekong-U.S. Partnership  to broaden, deepen, and better resource our collaboration.

Through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership, the United States is partnering with Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam on solutions to emerging challenges, including transboundary resource management, regional economic connectivity and human resources development, and non-traditional security issues like health security, and narcotics, weapons, wildlife and human trafficking.

We are strengthening our long-standing support for the MRC, guided by principles of transparency, inclusivity, good governance, and respect for autonomy and international law.

We are continuing our work under the Mekong Water Data Initiative to improve water data sharing, including support for the Mekong Dam Monitor. I encourage you all to explore the Mekong Dam Monitor online; it’s an amazing resource.

We are empowering the skill and talent of the people of the Mekong through programs like the new Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam and our Young Scientists Program.

We are supporting regional organizations like ACMECS and the efforts of partners like Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and countries in the European Union to support sustainable development and share global best practices.

These efforts are collaborative and inclusive and follow the helpful efforts of countries like Vietnam to raise the profile of Mekong issues within ASEAN. We encourage ASEAN to regard the Mekong River basin as being as important to unity and prosperity as the issues in the maritime domain.

Finally, our work would be incomplete without the efforts of local media reporting on the value of the river and the effects of unsustainable practices. We applaud the tireless efforts of civil society advocates that strive for transparency, sustainability, and accountability.

Closing

The conference report reflects knowledge and expertise from around the globe. It provides recommendations to ensure the millions of people who depend on the Mekong River have a prosperous future.

There is much riding on our efforts, and a lot of hard work lies ahead of us. I encourage you all to stay in touch on our work. You can check out our website at mekonguspartnership.org and follow us on Twitter at @USAsiaPacific . I also encourage you to the follow and use the excellent Mekong Dam Monitor at @MekongMonitor  and at monitor.mekongwater.org.

Together, I am confident we can ensure the Mekong River basin remains healthy and vibrant, sustaining generations far into the future.

Thank you.

More from: Ambassador Atul Keshap, Principal Deputy Assistant SecretaryBureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

News Network

  • DOD’s High-Risk Areas: Observations on DOD’s Progress and Challenges in Strategic Planning for Supply Chain Management
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense's (DOD) management of its supply chain network is critical to supporting military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere and also represents a substantial investment of resources. As a result of weaknesses in DOD's management of supply inventories and responsiveness to warfighter requirements, supply chain management is on GAO's list of high-risk federal government programs and operations. In July 2010, DOD issued a new Logistics Strategic Plan that represents the department's current vision and direction for supply chain management and other logistics areas. Today's testimony draws from GAO's prior related work and observations from an ongoing review of DOD supply chain management, and, as requested, will (1) describe DOD's prior strategic planning efforts in the area of logistics, (2) highlight key elements in the new Logistics Strategic Plan, and (3) discuss opportunities for improvement in future iterations of this plan. In conducting its ongoing audit work, GAO reviewed the Logistics Strategic Plan, compared elements in the plan with effective strategic planning practices, and met with cognizant officials from DOD, the military services, and other DOD components as appropriate.Prior to the publication of its new Logistics Strategic Plan, DOD issued a series of strategic planning documents for logistics over a period of several years. In 2008, DOD released its Logistics Roadmap to provide a more coherent and authoritative framework for logistics improvement efforts, including supply chain management. While the roadmap discussed numerous ongoing initiatives and programs that were organized around goals and joint capabilities, it fell short of providing a comprehensive, integrated strategy for logistics. GAO found, for example, that the roadmap did not identify gaps in logistics capabilities and that DOD had not clearly stated how the roadmap was integrated into DOD's logistics decision-making processes. GAO's prior work has shown that strategic planning is the foundation for defining what an agency seeks to accomplish, identifying the strategies it will use to achieve desired results, and then determining how well it succeeds in reaching results-oriented goals and achieving objectives. DOD said that it would remedy some of the weaknesses GAO identified in the roadmap. The July 2010 Logistics Strategic Plan, which updates the roadmap, is DOD's most recent effort to provide high-level strategic direction for future logistics improvement efforts, including those in the area of supply chain management. The plan provides unifying themes for improvement efforts, for example, by including a logistics mission statement and vision for the department, and it presents four goals for improvement efforts with supporting success indicators, key initiatives, and general performance measures. One goal focuses specifically on supply chain processes. The plan is aligned to and reiterates high-level departmentwide goals drawn from both the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2009 Strategic Management Plan for business operations. Key initiatives in the plan appear to focus on issues that GAO has identified as needing management attention. While the Logistics Strategic Plan contains some of the elements necessary for strategic planning, it lacks some detailed information that would benefit decision makers and guide DOD's logistics and supply chain improvement efforts. The plan lacks specific and clear performance measurement information (such as baseline or trend data for past performance, measurable target-level information, or time frames for the achievement of goals or completion of initiatives), definition of key concepts, identification of problems and capability gaps, and discussion of resources needed to achieve goals. Further, linkages to other plans and some key related activities under way within logistics are unclear, and it is similarly unclear how the plan will be used within the existing governance framework for logistics. Without more specific information in the Logistics Strategic Plan, it will be difficult for DOD to demonstrate progress in addressing supply chain management problems and provide Congress with assurance that the DOD supply chain is fulfilling the department's goal of providing cost-effective joint logistics support for the warfighter.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken to U.S. Mission Canada
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng Admits to Misleading Global Financial Institution
    In Crime News
    The Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Wanzhou Meng, 49, of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), appeared today in federal district court in Brooklyn, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud.
    [Read More…]
  • VA Acquisition Management: Fundamental Challenges Could Hinder Supply Chain Modernization Efforts if Not Addressed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found VA has one of the most significant acquisition functions in the federal government, with over $34 billion obligated in fiscal year 2021. GAO added the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) acquisition management to its High-Risk List in 2019 due to long-standing acquisition management challenges, including purchases of goods and services, particularly medical supplies. For example, VA's Medical-Surgical Prime Vendor (MSPV) program is the VA medical centers' primary source for medical supplies. In 2017, GAO reported that VA's initial implementation of the current version of MSPV was flawed. It lacked an overarching strategy, stable leadership, and medical center buy-in. Consequently, despite some improvements, the program has yet to fully meet medical centers' needs for medical supplies. Additionally, during 2019 and 2020, the Veterans Health Administration piloted the Defense Logistics Agency's version of MSPV and decided to expand it VA-wide. However, it did not evaluate whether the pilot was scalable, as GAO recommended in September 2020. A legal challenge has led to further delays, during which the medical centers continue to face the shortcomings of the current version of the program, including frequent backorders and other issues. GAO's March 2021 High-Risk Update reported that VA has made limited progress addressing its acquisition management challenges. Since that time, VA has issued a high-risk action plan. While this plan identifies root causes of problems GAO identified in prior work, it lacks specifics. For example, the plan does not identify the scope of VA's supply chain and how existing programs and initiatives will be included in its overall supply chain modernization effort. In March 2021, GAO made a recommendation that VA develop a comprehensive supply chain management strategy, given existing and continuing supply chain challenges that were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, VA has taken action and, according to the Chief Acquisition Officer, plans to complete a supply chain assessment by the end of 2022, which will inform its supply chain strategy. While GAO recognizes that VA is taking action on supply chain issues, preliminary observations from its ongoing work underscore that VA has fundamental acquisition management challenges that, if not addressed, could undermine these supply chain efforts. For example, preliminary observations indicate that several of VA's key acquisition programs are not following VA's acquisition framework introduced in 2017—a situation confirmed by senior VA acquisition officials. A good acquisition framework, among other things, can help ensure that VA leaders have a structured process and the necessary information to make decisions at key points as it implements and executes a program. Such a framework also provides leaders with ways to monitor program outcomes and ensure accountability. GAO will be reporting on VA's current framework and actions it is taking to develop and implement a new framework and other actions related to acquisition oversight in the summer of 2022. Why GAO Did This Study GAO's prior work shows that VA has long faced challenges in achieving efficient acquisitions. Further, VA faced supply chain challenges during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as GAO testified in June 2020, September 2020, and March 2021. This statement discusses VA's supply chain and broader acquisition management challenges, its efforts to address them, and implications for improving VA's overall acquisition management. This statement is largely based on information from GAO reports and testimony statements issued from 2017-2021 and preliminary observations from ongoing work. The ongoing work includes reviews focused on VA's management of major acquisitions and its acquisition workforce, on which GAO plans to issue reports in summer 2022. To perform the ongoing work, GAO reviewed VA documentation and interviewed VA officials. Information about the scope and methodology of prior work on which this statement is based can be found in those products.
    [Read More…]
  • TSA Acquisitions: TSA Needs to Establish Metrics and Evaluate Third Party Testing Outcomes for Screening Technologies
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2013, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) introduced the concept of third party testing—having an independent testing entity verify that a security screening system meets certain requirements. The concept is that screening system vendors would take this additional step either prior to submitting their technologies to TSA or if their system failed TSA's test and evaluation process. The goal is for third party testing to reduce the time and resources that TSA spends on its own testing. However, since introduced, TSA has directed only three vendors that failed TSA tests to use third party testing, with varying outcomes. In two other cases, TSA supplemented its test capabilities by using third party testers to determine that systems installed at airports were working properly. TSA officials and industry representatives pointed to several reasons for third party testing's limited use since 2013, such as the cost to industry to use third party testers and TSA's reluctance to date to accept third party test data as an alternative to its own. Despite this, TSA officials told GAO they hope to use third party testing more in the future. For example, in recent announcements to evaluate and qualify new screening systems, TSA stated that it will require a system that fails TSA testing to go to a third party tester to address the identified issues (see figure). Example of Use of Third Party Testing When a System Experiences a Failure in TSA's Testing TSA set a goal in 2013 to increase screening technology testing efficiency. In addition, TSA reported to Congress in January 2020 that third party testing is a part of its efforts to increase supplier diversity and innovation. However, TSA has not established metrics to determine third party testing's contribution toward the goal of increasing efficiency. Further, GAO found no link between third party testing and supplier diversity and innovation. Some TSA officials and industry representatives also questioned third party testing's relevance to these efforts. Without metrics to measure and assess the extent to which third party testing increases testing efficiency, TSA will be unable to determine the value of this concept. Similarly, without assessing whether third party testing contributes to supplier diversity and innovation, TSA cannot know if third party testing activities are contributing to these goals as planned. TSA relies on technologies like imaging systems and explosives detection systems to screen passengers and baggage to prevent prohibited items from getting on board commercial aircraft. As part of its process of acquiring these systems and deploying them to airports, TSA tests the systems to ensure they meet requirements. The 2018 TSA Modernization Act contained a provision for GAO to review the third party testing program. GAO assessed the extent to which TSA (1) used third party testing, and (2) articulated its goals and developed metrics to measure the effects of third party testing. GAO reviewed TSA's strategic plans, acquisition guidance, program documentation, and testing policies. GAO interviewed officials from TSA's Test and Evaluation Division and acquisition programs, as well as representatives of vendors producing security screening systems and companies providing third party testing services. GAO is recommending that TSA develop metrics to measure the effects of third party testing on efficiency, assess its effects on efficiency, and assess whether third party testing contributes to supplier diversity and innovation. DHS concurred with GAO's three recommendations and has actions planned to address them. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or MakM@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Defense Logistics: Army Should Track Financial Benefits Realized from its Logistics Modernization Program
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundThe Army Materiel Command (AMC) is using the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) Increment 1 to support its industrial operations, but additional development is necessary, according to the Army, because the current system does not support certain critical requirements, including enabling the Army to generate auditable financial statements by fiscal year 2017. Officials at the 14 AMC sites GAO visited stated that LMP provided the core functionality they needed to support their operations and that they are improving in their ability to use the system. Additionally, some sites have locally developed tools to augment LMP capabilities. Army officials stated that although LMP is functional, it currently does not support certain critical requirements that have emerged since its initial development, such as automatically tracking repair and manufacturing operations on the shop floor of depots and arsenals. In addition, according to Army officials, the current system will not enable the Army to generate auditable financial statements by 2017, the statutory deadline for this goal. Increment 2, which is estimated to cost $730 million through fiscal year 2026, is expected to address these shortcomings. The Army is in the process of developing Increment 2 and expects to complete fielding by September 2016.The use of LMP Increment 1 has provided the Army some benefits, but whether the system has delivered the expected financial benefits to date is unknown because AMC does not have a process for tracking financial benefits realized. Since its deployment, LMP has provided some benefits to the Army. For example, because LMP relies on accurate data to perform effectively and efficiently, the Army has made data accuracy a priority and improved the accuracy of its data by conducting data assessments, correcting data problems, and placing management emphasis on data accuracy. Additionally, the use of LMP has improved accountability for inventory stored at AMC depots, increased visibility over Army assets, and resulted in other efficiencies--such as providing faster access to information. AMC officials also stated that LMP has enabled them to develop and begin to implement a set of standardized, enterprise-wide performance measures to better assess the business operations of AMC sites. The officials stated that these performance measures, which were being used during AMC leadership reviews in June 2013, were necessary because the measures previously used to assess AMC performance were inadequate. However, the extent to which financial benefits have been realized from deploying LMP is unknown. The Army expected LMP to lead to over $750 million in financial benefits by fiscal year 2012 and eventually achieve more than two dollars in benefits for every dollar spent. Army officials told us that there currently is no accurate process in place to track financial benefits associated with LMP. Officials stated that the inability to quantify benefits from LMP-driven performance improvements was due in part to the fluctuations in AMC workload resulting from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army is in the process of developing a performance baseline for sites that will pilot Increment 2, and it intends to apply these metrics to other AMC sites before May 2015. Federal guidelines and standards outline the need for assessing whether the benefits expected from an investment are achieved. Without a process in place to track the financial benefits associated with LMP, the Army does not have a way to determine whether LMP's projected financial benefits are materializing.Why GAO Did This StudyLMP is an Army enterprise resource planning system that supports industrial operations conducted by AMC at its life cycle management commands and its maintenance, manufacturing, and storage sites. Increment 1 of LMP was fully deployed in October 2010, and the Army has spent approximately $1.4 billion on LMP through fiscal year 2012. In order to expand the system's capabilities, the Army plans to deploy a second increment of LMP. The life cycle cost for LMP Increment 1 and Increment 2, from fiscal year 2000 through 2026, is estimated to be over $4 billion. GAO was asked to evaluate AMC's use of LMP. This report assesses the extent to which (1) LMP supports AMC's industrial operations and (2) the Army has realized the expected benefits from deploying LMP. GAO reviewed Army documents regarding LMP usage and interviewed officials from AMC headquarters, the LMP product office, and 14 AMC sites that use LMP to conduct their operations.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA’s AIRS Monitors Tropical Storm Fay as It Deluges the East Coast
    In Space
    From its vantage point [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Kishi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Files Civil Action to Shut Down Mississippi Tax Return Preparer
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi seeking to bar a Senatobia, Mississippi, tax return preparer from preparing federal income tax returns for others.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Discussion with Civil Society
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Judges Appreciate Jurors as Their Partners in Justice
    In U.S Courts
    In a new, five-minute installment in the Court Shorts video series, 11 federal judges bring attention to the central role of citizens in maintaining public trust in the justice system.
    [Read More…]
  • Uganda’s Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Former Owner of Health Care Staffing Company Indicted for Wage Fixing
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices by lowering the rates paid to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in north Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictment also charges Jindal with obstruction of the Federal Trade Commission’s separate investigation into this conduct.
    [Read More…]
  • Utah Man Posing As Medical Doctor To Sell Baseless Coronavirus Cure Indicted On Fraud Charges
    In Crime News
    Utah resident Gordon H. Pedersen has been indicted for posing as a medical doctor to sell a baseless treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). According to the indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City late last week, Pedersen fraudulently promoted and sold ingestible silver-based products as a cure for COVID-19 despite having no evidence that his products could treat or cure the disease. Pedersen is also alleged to have claimed to be a physician and worn a stethoscope and white lab coat in videos and photos posted on the Internet to further his alleged fraud scheme.
    [Read More…]
  • Undocumented alien sent to prison for causing injury to federal agent
    In Justice News
    A 33-year-old [Read More…]
  • The United States and the Friends of the Mekong: Proven Partners for the Mekong Region
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Statement from Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall on the Passing of Former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III
    In Crime News
    Today, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall issued the following statement on the passing of former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III:
    [Read More…]
  • Antigua and Barbuda’s National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Restaurant Chain Manager Pleads Guilty to Employment Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    The manager of the San Diego Home Cooking restaurant chain pleaded guilty today to employment tax fraud, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. for the Southern District of California.
    [Read More…]
  • General Aviation and CBP Processing
    In Travel
    For CBP processing, [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.