December 5, 2021

News

News Network

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Roula Khalaf of The Financial Times

29 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

London, England

Grosvenor House Hotel

QUESTION:  Antony Blinken, good to see you, and thanks for being with us at the Global Boardroom.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great to join you.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Let’s start – let’s start with the pandemic.  The U.S. wants to lead the global response to COVID-19.  We always hear that.  But at the same time, there have been criticism that, one, you’re not sharing patents; two, there is an effective ban on exports of some raw materials that are needed in – for vaccine production elsewhere; and there’s also been criticism of Washington’s response to what’s – what – the horrendous situation right now in India, where China, Russia, others have really been ahead, at least in speaking out and in trying to help.

So my question to you is:  Are you leading in the way that you would want?  And is China winning the vaccine – in vaccine diplomacy?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think we are leading, and I think we’re going to be leading increasingly effectively.  Because let’s step back for one second and look at what we’ve done, but also critically where we’re going.  On day one of this administration, President Biden put us back into the World Health Organization, which is critical.  And of course, we are now the leading contributor in the world to COVAX, the facility that makes vaccines available, particularly to low and middle-income countries – $2 billion invested, another 2 billion between now and the end of 2022 as other countries step up.  And of course, that’s not as obvious in some ways or not as direct.  It doesn’t seem to have an American flag on it.  But it is a critical vehicle for making available vaccines.  There have been some challenges with COVAX.  It’s been underfunded to date.  And of course, India had been a primary supplier, and for obvious reason that’s been pulled back.  But COVAX remains an important facility.

In addition, besides that, we’ve worked closely with partners in the so-called Quad – with Australia, with Japan, and India – to find other ways to increase vaccine production and access over time.  We made some initial contributions, loans to our closest land neighbors, Canada and Mexico.  And now that our population has full access to vaccines, we are in a place where, with some of the vaccines that we’ve contracted for, including the AstraZeneca vaccines, of which there are about 60 million, we’ll be able to move out and make those available.

We share this conviction.  No one in the world will be fully safe until in effect everyone is.  And as long as the virus is replicating somewhere, it could be mutating.  And as long as it’s mutating, it could come back to bite anyone, including the United States.  So we’re really leaning into this.

QUESTION:  So you are starting to lean into this now, but would it have made sense months ago to – for the U.S. and for other countries, including the UK, to say we’re going to vaccinate our populations, all of those, let’s say, over 40, and then we’re going to start sharing with the rest of the world; rather than, we’re going to vaccinate as much as possible as quickly as possible, and then if we’ve got leftovers, we’ll give them away?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think everyone has an obligation and feels an obligation to vaccinate their own populations.  But beyond that, just as it’s necessary for our own security and well-being to see the rest of the world vaccinated, so is it important for the security and well-being of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.  This works in both directions.  And I think we’ve had to do both.  Now we’re in a position where I believe we can.

So we’re putting in place a process for the vaccines we contracted for that can be made available, but also critically looking at ways that we can ramp up production with other countries around the world so that there is a constant and growing supply.  We also don’t know what some of the contingencies are going to be going forward.  Are people going to need booster shots at some point?  As younger people are able to get the vaccine, we have to provide for that.  All of that’s being factored in.

And then maybe a word about India, because it’s so, so important.  This has touched Americans profoundly, because we have, as does the UK, such deep connections to India, to the Indian people.  And we’ve seen the images.  We’ve talked to colleagues and friends.  We’ve made a very significant effort very quickly to try to get to India as much as we could of what it needs most critically in this moment.  Oxygen supplies, the various things that go into holding and distributing oxygen, PPE, therapeutics, precursors to the extent that they’re needed for vaccines – all of that has started to flow.  We’re in direct, regular contact with our counterparts from India.

Beyond that, what I’ve seen really is an amazing mobilization not just of the United States Government, but of our private sector, and of Indian Americans as well.  I was on a call a week ago with virtually every leading CEO – it was a who’s who – all wanting to help.  And the government, our government, is coordinating those efforts.  So we are doing everything we can.

India came to our assistance early on in our hour of need when we were having real struggles with COVID-19, providing millions and millions, for example, of protective masks.  We remember that, and we’re determined to do everything we can to help now.

QUESTION:  Let me ask you – President Biden said in his speech to Congress last month that he hears from other world leaders that they’re happy to see the U.S. back, but they often ask for how long.  How are you dealing with such concerns, and what are you hearing from your counterparts?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’ve heard some of the same thing.  I’ve heard a real – a profound satisfaction that we are back, that we are engaged, that we’re working closely with allies and partners and others, both on a direct bilateral basis, but also through institutions – multilateralism, as it’s called in the lingo of foreign policy.

And sure, there’s a question about the durability.  I understand that.  But I think that the more we can show success, the more we can show especially to our own people that this kind of engagement, this kind of work with other countries is actually delivering results for them, the more we’re going to be able to sustain that going forward.  That really is the, I think, the challenge.  If we demonstrate that our kind of engaged foreign policy is making a real difference in the lives of our fellow citizens, they’re going to support that, and they’re going to support that going forward irrespective of who’s president.

QUESTION:  Let’s talk about China, the biggest strategic challenge that the U.S. now faces.  You laid out your positions, both you and the Chinese in Alaska, and the U.S. said it’s going to stand up to its values.  The Chinese weren’t too happy with that, and said they wouldn’t accept interference in the core issues, whether it’s Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang.  What did you learn in Alaska about the Chinese approach that you may not have known?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m not sure we learned anything new about their approach.  And we did, after the public fireworks, have about eight or ten hours of very direct conversation covering a whole series of issues – the adversarial, the competitive, and the cooperative.  Because all three are features of our relationship.  But we wanted to have an opportunity to speak directly and clearly to our Chinese counterparts just so that there are no misunderstandings and no miscommunication, especially about what we’re all about.

And the case that we made to them is as follows:  We are not about trying to contain China, or to hold China down.  What we are about is upholding the international rules-based order that we’ve invested so much in over many decades, that has served us well, but not just us; we think, for all its imperfections, it’s served the world pretty well – including, by the way, China.  And anyone who takes action that would disrupt that order, that would challenge that order, that would seek to undermine it, we’re going to stand up and protect it.

So to your points, when China says to us things that we complain about, whether it’s Xinjiang and the egregious treatment of Uyghurs or whether it’s Taiwan or whether it’s Tibet or whether it’s Hong Kong, that these are internal matters, they don’t regard us, that’s simply not true.  When it comes to Xinjiang, for example, China signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations.  When it is not making good on its —

QUESTION:  But a lot of countries signed up to the Declaration of Human Rights and —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, that’s the point, but our point is we take this seriously.  And this is part of the rules-based order.  And if you’re not going to abide by your commitments, we’re going to say something about it.  And we have the right to.  With regard to Taiwan, if you’re —

QUESTION:  I want to come back – I want to come back —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  — to the whole human rights questions.  But I’m interested in what happens next.  What are you – what – and what are you hoping to accomplish this year, for example?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, we’re engaged with China in a whole variety of places on a variety of issues as is part of the normal course of doing business.  We’re engaged with them right now on Iran and the effort to return to compliance with the JCPOA.  There are going to be no doubt discussions about North Korea and its nuclear program going forward.  We’re talking about climate.  President Xi was – participated in President Biden’s climate summit.  There are a whole series of areas where we have clearly overlapping interests and we’re engaged.  But beyond that, we want the engagement that we have with China to be results-oriented and practically focused on getting things done, not just talk for the sake of talk.  That’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION:  So one thing that you said is that the U.S. wants to rebuild to demonstrate the resilience of its own democracy and then approach China from a position of strength.  I’m still trying to figure out what the end goal is.  You said it’s not to contain China, but do you think that you can convince China to actually change its behavior?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think in some areas, particularly when it’s not just the United States.  It is countries around the world that feel aggrieved by some practice that China is engaged in coming together.  That stands a much better chance.  Let’s just take economic and commercial issues, for example.  When it’s the United States alone complaining about them, we’re 25 percent of world GDP.  If we’re working closely with other similarly aggrieved countries, mostly democracies, that might well be 40, 50, 60 percent of world GDP.  That’s a lot harder for China to ignore.

And we’ve seen in the past when countries that have been unhappy about the conduct of the government in Beijing on a particular issue actually engage in it together, we’re more likely to get China to make changes.  I don’t want to exaggerate the prospects, but at the very least, countries should be standing up in defense of a rules-based order that has served all of us very well.

QUESTION:  You’ve talked about alliances and the fact that you want to work with allies and to coordinate sanctions and other measures.  China can wield a lot of economic pressure.  And we’ve seen that play out where – countries that feel that they are trapped between the U.S. and China, including in Europe.  Are you confident that you can get people on your side without them having to succumb to Chinese pressure?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, a couple of things.  First, we’re not asking countries to choose.  We recognize that countries have complicated relationships, including with China, including economic relationships.  And the issue is not that those need to be cut off or ended.  But there are certain basic criteria.  There are certain basic rules that all of us, we think, should abide by.

And in particular when it comes to trade and commerce, we want to see a race to the top, not a race to the bottom when it comes to basic investment standards, when it comes to making sure that we’re paying mind to the environment, when we’re making sure that we’re protecting the rights of workers, when we’re protecting intellectual property and technology theft.  All of those things need to be front and center, but that’s not inconsistent with countries engaging with China, but we want to see them engaging, as I said, to a high standard, not a low standard.  And that’s profoundly in their interest.  Again, when countries are doing that together, it’s more likely that China will have to play by those rules, not rules it arbitrarily sets that prove to be a race to the bottom, not the top.

QUESTION:  There’s a lot of Cold War rhetoric and a lot of people assuming that we have entered now into a new Cold War and making comparisons with the Soviet Union.  Would you describe the current situation as a new Cold War?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I resist putting labels on most relationships, including this one, because it’s complex.  And as I said, if you look at it, we’ve seen unfortunately in recent years the government in Beijing acting more repressively at home and aggressively abroad.  And when I look at the relationship, I see adversarial aspects.  I see competitive aspects.  I see cooperative aspects – all three.

And what we’ve said and what we believe strongly is whatever aspect we’re looking at, we have to be able to engage China from a position of strength, and that means a few things.  It means actually working with allies and partners, not disparaging them.  That is a position of strength.  It means leaning in and engaging in the vast array of multilateral and international organizations because that’s where so many of the rules are made.  That’s where the norms are shaped.  And if we’re not leaning in, we know that Beijing is likely to be trying to do so in our place.  And it means critically – and maybe most critically – actually investing in ourselves, investing in our own people, in our workers, in our technology, in our infrastructure.  If we do that, then I think we’re going to be fine.

QUESTION:  Do you think – do you think companies should be preparing for possible conflict with China over Taiwan?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, we’ve had over many years consistent with the “one China” policy, consist with the Taiwan Relations Act, the six communiques – the Three Communiques, excuse me, the Six Assurances – all of this language that you hear.  The bottom line is we have managed Taiwan, I think, quite well and quite effectively.  What is very troubling and very concerning is that Beijing seems to be taking a different approach, acting aggressively.  And I think that we are committed to making sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.  That commitment is not going away.  And at the same time, I think it would be a very serious mistake for anyone to try to disrupt by force the existing status quo.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So let me ask you this:  Do you think that U.S. companies should be sponsoring the Beijing Olympics?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’re still a ways away from the Beijing Olympics, something that we’ll look at in the months ahead.  We’ll certainly talk to other countries, to allies and partners, to get their perspective, but that’s not something we’ve focused on yet.

QUESTION:  And have you decided who to invite yet to the U.S. Democracy Summit?  There are sort of two views of this in Europe.  one is that this will very helpful, especially vis-a-vis China; the other is that what you risk doing is carving up the world into blocs, and to go back to our Cold War – my Cold War question, initiating a new Cold War.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So this is not about initiating a Cold War.  This is all about doing our part to make sure that democracy is strong, resilient, and meeting the needs of its people.  You know what we’ve seen over the last 15 years is unfortunately something of a democratic recession around the world: countries falling back on the basic metrics of democracy.  The United States has had its own challenges visible for the world to see when it comes to democracy.

So we think this is – President Biden thinks this is an important moment for democracies to come together, think together, reason together, and ultimately act together.  A big part of this is going to be looking at ourselves and the challenges that we face and ultimately, how we can be more effective in delivering for our citizens, because that is the test.  And when you hear autocracies challenging democracies, the argument they’re making is they can’t deliver; we’re delivering more effectively, we’re delivering more efficiently.  We have to be able to answer that question with conviction and with confidence that no, the system that we believe in is more effective in making a real difference in the lives of our citizens.  So a big part of this conversation is going to be talking about ways we can do that better.

QUESTION:  Talking – well, you mentioned human rights before, and obviously, you personally have made a huge commitment on human rights.  But a lot of people would say that they see tough rhetoric but not so tough action.  For example, you have said that you would have to work and that you will work with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, even though you did publish – the administration did publish the report on Jamal – the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which clearly states that the crown prince was ultimately responsible.

So should we imagine that the crown prince will one day be invited to the White House, for example?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, to my knowledge, the crown prince has no plans anytime soon to come to the United States, but pause for one second on that question, and you mentioned it already.  We put out a report with the imprimatur of the United States making clear responsibility for the heinous murder of Mr. Khashoggi.  And of course, this had been reported in the news, in the FT, among other places.  It’s not that there was necessarily anything new factually, but to have that with the imprimatur of the United States behind it, I think in and of itself was meaningful.

Second, of course, we sanctioned a number of people and entities that were directly involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.  But beyond that, we put in place a new rule, a new system to make sure, to the best of our ability, that anyone who would seek to repress or threaten or do harm to people speaking out against their country from the United States – we’d make sure that they no longer had the benefit of being in the United States.  And not just with regard to Saudi Arabia; across the board.

But when we’re thinking about how do we advance our values – not just our interests, but our values – one strong value we have as well as an interest is ending the war in Yemen, which is the worst humanitarian situation in the world.  And that’s speaking volumes right now.  Well, we need some help from Saudi Arabia to do that.  Are we better off in terms of advancing that value, totally cutting off the relationship with Saudi Arabia, or trying to recalibrate it as we’ve done, making clear what is acceptable and what’s not, but also continuing to work with them?  I think we’re better off making sure we can find ways to work together consistent with our values.

QUESTION:  So one of the more recent developments is that the Saudis and the Iranians appear to be talking.  We broke a story about a week ago.  Is that something that you’ve encouraged?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Specifically?  No.  But generally, if they’re talking, if others are —

QUESTION:  If they’re talking, sir, you can tell me.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I don’t want to speak for them, but if they’re talking, I think that’s generally a good thing.  Talking is usually better than the alternative.  Does it lead to results?  That’s another question.  But talking, trying to take down tensions, trying to see if there’s a modus vivendi, trying to get countries to take actions on things they’re doing that you don’t like – that’s good, that’s positive.

And look, we have, I think, still, when we’re acting at our best, a greater ability than any other country to mobilize others in positive, collective action.  But if countries are talking directly together without us in the middle, that’s maybe even better.

QUESTION:  So let’s talk about Iran.  There are elections – presidential elections coming up and it does look like a hardliner will be elected president.  Now, not to exaggerate the role of a president or of a foreign minister in Iran, but how is that going to affect the indirect negotiations that are now underway?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, it’s very hard to predict, and certainly, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what one outcome or another in Iran’s elections – what impact that would or wouldn’t have on any nuclear negotiations.  And to your point, I think it’s clear who the decider is in the Iranian system, and that’s the supreme leader, and he’s the one who has to make the fundamental decisions about what Iran’s approach would be.

We’ve had serious discussions in Vienna that have gone on now for several weeks.  I think we’ve seen some progress at least in demonstrating the seriousness with which the United States takes the effort to return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.  We still have a long way to go if we’re going to get anywhere, and in particular, we still have to see whether Iran is willing and able to make the necessary decisions on its part for returning to compliance.  And I think as one of my colleagues said the other day, there is more road yet to go than road that’s been traveled, so let’s see where we get.

QUESTION:  President Putin, as you know, relishes an acknowledgement of his status as one of the world’s most powerful leaders.  Why is President Biden afraid to meet him?  And has he spoken to Angela Merkel, who tried very hard to engage with President Putin but found that he lied to her consistently?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First, the President has spoken to Angela Merkel on several occasions, and of course, spoke to her along with President Obama regularly some years ago, including when Russia invaded Ukraine.  And so we well know the challenges that are posed by engaging with President Putin.

But President Biden believes very strongly that it’s important to be clear and direct, and one of the best ways to do that is actually meeting face to face.  He’s had a couple of conversations with President Putin on the phone now, and there’s no secret; he has said to him, including from before he was elected President, he’s been very clear that if Russia engages in reckless, aggressive actions, we will respond.

On the other hand, we do not seek to escalate.  We’d prefer to have a more predictable relationship with Russia, but that is up to Mr. Putin.  And if Russia continues to take reckless and aggressive actions, it can be sure we will respond again.  I think it’s beneficial also to – for the two presidents to be able to speak directly face to face.  There are also areas where it’s in our mutual interest to cooperate.  We’ve already seen one of them, and that was the extension of the New START Treaty.  There are other areas of the so-called strategic stability realm where maybe progress can be made.

But diplomacy is all about actually engaging directly.  And I’ve always been struck; as a diplomat, people sometimes seem to think that’s a problematic thing or some sign of weakness.  Just because you engage with someone doesn’t take the word “no” out of your vocabulary.

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, thank you for your time.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

News Network

  • COVID-19: Federal Agencies’ Initial Reentry and Workplace Safety Planning
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Federal agencies adopted a maximum telework posture following the March 2020 national emergency declaration related to COVID-19. In April 2020, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance established a framework for agencies to plan for the reentry of employees to the workplace and cognizant agencies issued guidance in 2020 on how to plan for the eventual return of the workforce to office locations. In response to the call for office reentry, the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act agencies developed reentry plans. Agencies' 2020 reentry plans varied considerably. All the agencies developed phased approaches for reentry, though agencies did not progress through the established phases at the same rate and the characteristics of each phase differed by agency. None of the agencies' plans consistently covered all aspects of recommended federal guidance. For example, reentry planning documents for 10 or more agencies did not fully address employee training on reentry, office ventilation controls, and face covering requirements, as recommended by federal guidance. In January 2021, the new administration established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) to provide guidance to agencies and required a 25 percent capacity limit for federal buildings, subject to exceptions with approval. It also issued guidance directing agencies to submit plans addressing a set of model workplace safety principles to the Task Force. Agencies' workplace safety plans, in contrast to initial reentry plans, were generally consistent with the updated federal guidance. Agencies' plans cited most safety principles described in the guidance, including the occupancy limit and additional safety measures to protect the workforce, such as face mask requirements and optimized ventilation and air filtration. Agencies also established COVID-19 coordination teams, as required by January 2021 guidance. These teams developed and monitored agency plans, led decision-making regarding safety procedures and exceptions, and coordinated with external groups, including the Task Force. Federal oversight and coordination were limited for 2020 reentry planning but increased under 2021 guidance related to workplace safety. Initial reentry guidance did not include clear oversight roles and responsibilities. As a result, there was no government-wide oversight or review of initial agency reentry plans. Guidance issued in January 2021 established model safety principles and specific roles for the Task Force, directing Task Force members to guide and oversee agency COVID-19 workplace safety efforts. This increased clarity and oversight and supported consistency in workplace safety planning. The Task Force also used approaches to coordinate workplace safety planning that GAO previously identified as beneficial to support and sustain effective interagency collaboration. For example, the Task Force is made up of relevant participants, including agencies with expertise in health, emergency response, and employee safety. The Task Force supported agencies' COVID-19 response efforts and contributed input to agency workplace safety plans. Updated guidance released in June 2021 indicates that the Task Force and its members plan to continue these oversight and coordination efforts for continued workplace safety and updated reentry planning. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government employs approximately 2.8 million civilian workers, a workforce that plays an important role in maintaining vital government services. The White House, OMB, and other cognizant agencies issued guidance to support federal agencies as they developed tailored plans for bringing the federal workforce back to offices and safely conducting on-site work. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to monitor and oversee the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report (1) examines agencies' approaches to initial reentry planning, (2) assesses the extent to which agencies' workplace safety plans are consistent with federal guidance, and (3) examines the coordination and oversight of federal reentry and workplace safety planning across the government. GAO analyzed federal guidance from cognizant agencies to identify crosscutting themes for reentry planning, and reviewed OMB guidance on workplace safety principles. GAO assessed workplace safety plans, reentry plans, and relevant documentation from the 24 CFO Act agencies against the themes and principles identified in guidance and interviewed agency officials. GAO also reviewed guidance to identify oversight and coordination responsibilities and reviewed prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness and interagency collaboration. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-6806 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Italy Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Defense Headquarters: Guidance Needed to Transition U.S. Central Command’s Costs to the Base Budget
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO analysis of U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) and its service component commands' data shows considerable increases in the number of authorized positions over the past decade. The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning reductions, but the extent of these reductions has not been finalized. The number of authorized military and civilian positions at CENTCOM grew about 70 percent from almost 1,590 in fiscal year 2001 to almost 2,730 in fiscal year 2013, primarily driven by increases in the number of positions within CENTCOM's intelligence directorate and its theater special operations command. However, focusing solely on trends in authorized military and civilian positions provides an incomplete picture of the personnel dedicated to CENTCOM because the command relies heavily on temporary personnel and contractors to augment its headquarters. GAO analysis of CENTCOM's data found that the command headquarters had about 550 temporary personnel, who officials stated are primarily responsible for supporting the command's operations in Afghanistan and do not fill any permanent authorized positions, and 1,100 contractor personnel in fiscal year 2013. Additionally, GAO found that authorized military and civilian positions at CENTCOM's Army and Marine Corps service component commands had also increased. In response to the Secretary of Defense's direction to reduce headquarters spending, DOD is planning to decrease personnel at CENTCOM and its service component command headquarters. For example, CENTCOM is planning to reduce its total authorized positions by 353 positions from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. As DOD's headquarters reduction efforts continue and contingency operations in Afghanistan wind down, the department has recognized that CENTCOM and its service components' have enduring headquarters costs that are expected to continue after ongoing operations end, but the majority of the costs to operate and support CENTCOM, two of its service component commands, and its theater special operations command headquarters are funded with overseas contingency operations appropriations. For example, CENTCOM's Marine Corps service component command funded $34 million out of a total of $42 million in headquarters costs in fiscal year 2013 with overseas contingency operations appropriations. CENTCOM and its components have determined some of these costs are enduring and expected to continue after the end of contingency operations, such as for Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but the military services have not transitioned or developed a time frame to transition these enduring costs to DOD's base budget. DOD's base budget contains the department's priorities for allocating resources. DOD officials stated that the department has not issued guidance that addresses how to fund these costs or established a time frame for when to transition them from DOD's overseas contingency operations budget to its base budget because DOD is waiting on decisions about future military involvement in Afghanistan. Officials also stated that the constrained fiscal environment has contributed to the department's reluctance to transition overseas contingency operations costs to DOD's base budget. However, without guidance that addresses how to pay for enduring headquarters costs funded by overseas contingency operations appropriations and a time frame to transition these costs to DOD's base budget, DOD may not be able to fully resource these activities once the funding decreases or ceases. Why GAO Did This Study CENTCOM is one of six geographic combatant commands that DOD operates to perform its military missions. CENTCOM's geographic region is composed of countries located in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia. CENTCOM and each of its service component commands' headquarters are composed of military and civilian personnel and receive millions of dollars in funding each year to accomplish assigned missions. GAO was mandated to review CENTCOM's resources. This report (1) identifies trends in personnel devoted to CENTCOM and its service component commands since fiscal year 2001 and any steps DOD is planning to take for reducing personnel in the future, and (2) assesses how DOD funds CENTCOM and its service component commands' headquarters costs. GAO analyzed data on authorized positions, temporary personnel, and headquarters costs for CENTCOM and its service component commands from fiscal years 2001 through 2013. GAO also interviewed DOD officials about commands' resources and plans for funding headquarters costs.
    [Read More…]
  • Three Operators of Financial Services Firm Charged and Arrested in Alleged $155 Million Investment Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A three-count criminal indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Roberto Gustavo Cortes Ripalda, 54, of Madrid, Spain; Fernando Haberer Bergson, 48, of Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Ernesto Heraclito Weisson Pazmino, 53, of Miami, Florida, with conspiring to defraud investors and financial institutions as part of an international fraud scheme stretching through the United States, South America, and Europe. The defendants are each charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal agents arrested Weisson in Miami yesterday. Cortes and Haberer were also arrested yesterday in Spain and Argentina, respectively. 
    [Read More…]
  • Cameroon Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Soccer coach admits to producing child pornography
    In Justice News
    A former McAllen youth [Read More…]
  • Department of Defense: Eating Disorders in the Military
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) screens for eating disorders for all applicants entering into the military but does not specifically screen servicemembers for eating disorders after entrance. However, after joining the military, servicemembers receive annual health screenings, and medical personnel may be able to diagnose eating disorders during in-person physical exams. Service branch behavioral health specialists told GAO that DOD medical personnel are trained to notice signs of eating disorders, such as changes in vital signs and emaciated appearance. DOD is examining ways to improve its screening of eating disorders in the military and recently expanded the available research funding for eating disorders in its Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). DOD provides health care services to approximately 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries, including services to treat those diagnosed with eating disorders, through TRICARE, DOD’s regionally structured health care system. Servicemembers can obtain these services at military treatment facilities—referred to as direct care—or receive care purchased from civilian providers—referred to as purchased care. DOD officials told us that the specialized level of care necessary to treat eating disorders is available to TRICARE beneficiaries through purchased care, rather than direct care. The Defense Health Agency (DHA), which oversees the TRICARE program, uses two contractors to develop regional provider networks. According to the two TRICARE contractors’ data for purchased care, as of spring 2020, there were 166 eating disorder facilities located in 32 states throughout the country and the District of Columbia. The facilities vary by geographic location, population served, and level of treatment provided: Geography: About half of the 166 facilities (79) are located in the following five states: California (24), Florida (18), Illinois (15), Texas (13), and Virginia (nine).  Population: Of the 166 eating disorder facilities, over three-quarters provide treatment to both adult (132 facilities) and child and adolescent (132 facilities) populations. Level of Treatment: Most facilities provide inpatient hospitalization programs, which are for serious cases requiring medical stabilization (81 facilities); partial hospitalization, which are day programs providing treatment 5 to 7 days a week (133 facilities); or intensive outpatient programs, which are treatment programs providing therapy 2 to 6 days a week (107 facilities). About one-fifth of the facilities (35) provide residential treatment services, which are living accommodations providing intensive therapy and 24-hour supervision. TRICARE contractors have met with some challenges entering into contracts with eating disorder treatment facilities in certain areas of the country, according to DHA officials and both contractors. However, both contractors told GAO they consider it their responsibility to ensure beneficiaries receive the care they need regardless of the location of the facility. No access-to-care complaints related to eating disorder treatment were reported by TRICARE beneficiaries, according to the most recent DHA data for years 2018 through 2019. Eating disorders are complex conditions affecting millions of Americans and involve dangerous eating behaviors, such as the restriction of food intake. They can have a severe impact on heart, stomach, and brain functionality, and they significantly raise the risk of mortality. Many with eating disorders also experience co-occurring conditions such as depression. Research has yielded a range of estimates of the number of servicemembers with an eating disorder, due to differences in research methods. For example, a 2018 DOD study concluded that servicemembers likely experienced eating disorders at rates that are comparable to rates in the general population, while other survey-based research suggested the number of servicemembers with eating disorders may be higher than those with a medical diagnoses of such disorders. The potential effects that eating disorders can have on the health and combat readiness of servicemembers and their dependents underscores the importance of screening and treating this population. GAO was asked to provide information on eating disorders among servicemembers and their dependents. To describe how DOD screens for eating disorders among servicemembers, GAO reviewed DOD policies related to health screening and interviewed behavioral health specialists from the military branches. To understand approaches and challenges with implementing screening in a military environment, any planned or ongoing DOD-sponsored research related to this topic, and available eating disorder treatment, GAO interviewed representatives from the Eating Disorder Coalition, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and the University of Kansas. To describe how DOD provides eating disorder treatment to servicemembers and their dependents, GAO interviewed DHA officials and TRICARE contractors and reviewed the TRICARE policy manual to identify the types of eating disorder diagnoses and treatments that are covered through direct and purchased care. GAO received data from the two TRICARE contractors related to the availability of eating disorder treatment services as of spring 2020. For more information, contact Sharon Silas at (202) 512-7114 or Silass@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Rebuilding Iraq: Preliminary Observations on Challenges in Transferring Security Responsibilities to Iraqi Military and Police
    In U.S GAO News
    Since the fall of the former Iraq regime in April 2003, the multinational force has been working to develop Iraqi military and police forces capable of maintaining security. To support this effort, the United States provided about $5.8 billion in 2003-04 to develop Iraq's security capability. In February 2005, the president requested a supplemental appropriation with an additional $5.7 billion to accelerate the development of Iraqi military and police forces. GAO provides preliminary observations on (1) the strategy for transferring security responsibilities to Iraqi military and police forces; (2) the data on the status of forces, and (3) challenges that the Multi-National Force in Iraq faces in transferring security missions to these forces. To prepare this statement, GAO used unclassified reports, status updates, security plans, and other documents from the Departments of Defense and State. GAO also used testimonies and other statements for the record from officials such as the Secretary of Defense. In addition, GAO visited the Iraqi police training facility in Jordan.The Multinational Force in Iraq has developed and begun to implement a strategy to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police forces. This strategy would allow a gradual drawdown of its forces based on the multinational force neutralizing the insurgency and developing Iraqi military and police services that can independently maintain security. U.S. government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped. As of March 2005, the State Department reported that about 82,000 police forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and about 62,000 military forces under the Iraqi Ministry of Defense have been trained and equipped. However, the reported number of Iraqi police is unreliable because the Ministry of Interior does not receive consistent and accurate reporting from the police forces around the country. The data does not exclude police absent from duty. Further, the departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and body armor. The insurgency in Iraq has intensified since June 2003, making it difficult to transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. From that time through January 2005, insurgent attacks grew in number, complexity, and intensity. At the same time, the multinational force has faced four key challenges in increasing the capability of Iraqi forces: (1) training, equipping, and sustaining a changing force structure; (2) developing a system for measuring the readiness and capability of Iraqi forces; (3) building loyalty and leadership throughout the Iraqi chain of command; and (4) developing a police force that upholds the rule of law in a hostile environment. The multinational force is taking steps to address these challenges, such as developing a system to assess unit readiness and embedding US forces within Iraqi units. However, without reliable reporting data, a more capable Iraqi force, and stronger Iraqi leadership, the Department of Defense faces difficulties in implementing its strategy to draw down U.S. forces from Iraq.
    [Read More…]
  • Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization
    In Crime News
    An Ohio man, who was scheduled to start jury trial today, pleaded guilty Friday evening to one count of attempting to provide material support – himself, as personnel – to foreign terrorist organizations, namely ISIS and ISIS Wilayat Khorasan (ISIS-K).
    [Read More…]
  • Former Media Producer Indicted on Charges of Extortion and Obstruction of Justice
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment Tuesday charging a former media producer with extortion and obstruction of justice during a federal investigation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    [Read More…]
  • Four Plead Guilty to Multi-State Dogfighting Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    Four defendants pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting and conspiracy charges for their roles in an inter-state dogfighting network across the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
    [Read More…]
  • The Sentencing of Russian Opposition Figure Aleksey Navalny
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Man Sentenced to More Than 16 Years’ Imprisonment for Attempting to Provide Material Support to Terrorists
    In Crime News
    A New York man was sentenced today to 200 months, more than 16 years, in prison for attempting to provide material support and resources to the designated foreign terrorist organizations the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front.
    [Read More…]
  • Environment and Natural Resources Division Distributes Memorandum Summarizing Enforcement Policies and Priorities
    In Crime News
    On Friday, the Environment and Natural Resources Division publicly distributed a memorandum summarizing important principles and priorities for environmental enforcement. The memorandum, issued Jan. 14 by outgoing Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, emphasizes that robust enforcement of our nation's environmental laws remains one of the division’s highest priorities. It emphasizes that, when engaged in criminal and civil enforcement, it is important that the division continue to enhance the fair and impartial application of the law.
    [Read More…]
  • Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability’s (Troubled Asset Relief Program) FY 2021 and FY 2020 Financial Statements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO found (1) the Office of Financial Stability's (OFS) financial statements for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as of and for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2021, and 2020, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) OFS maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting for TARP as of September 30, 2021; and (3) no reportable noncompliance for fiscal year 2021 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, OFS stated that it is proud to receive an unmodified opinion on its financial statements and its internal control over financial reporting. OFS also stated that it is committed to maintaining the high standards and transparency reflected in these audit results. Why GAO Did This Study The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, includes a provision for TARP, which is implemented by OFS, to annually prepare and submit to Congress and the public audited fiscal year financial statements that are prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. EESA further states that GAO shall audit TARP's financial statements annually. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or clarkce@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Warfighter Support: DOD Needs a Complete Picture of the Military Services’ Prepositioning Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    The services preposition combat and support assets ashore and afloat worldwide, including in the Indo-Pacific region. Prepositioned assets include combat vehicles, equipment sets for engineering and construction, and protective gear for chemical or biological attacks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Defense (DOD) used prepositioned medical assets for personnel in Guam, South Korea, and Germany. All of the services have reported some shortfalls in their prepositioned assets from 2015 through 2019—including mortars, combat vehicles, and medical equipment. In the Indo-Pacific region, for example, the Army reported shortfalls in equipment to construct bridges over difficult terrain. All services also cited challenges, such as insufficient storage space, storage facilities located far away from intended points of use, and the perishability of some assets. In some cases, the services are taking actions to address these shortfalls and challenges. In others, the services are accepting risk because, according to officials, not all shortfalls and challenges can be fully addressed. Sailors and Marines Offload Assets from a Prepositioning Ship during the COVID-19 Response in Guam DOD has taken steps to implement a joint oversight framework but does not have a complete view of the services' prepositioning programs. DOD revised two guidance documents—an instruction in 2019 and a strategic implementation plan in 2020—to establish a joint oversight framework. However, DOD has focused much of its joint efforts to date on preparing a required annual report to Congress on the status of the services' prepositioning programs. While the report provides some useful information, GAO found inaccurate and inconsistent information in multiple annual reports, which hinder their utility. DOD does not have a reporting mechanism or information-collection tool to develop a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. The current annual reporting requirement expires in 2021, which provides DOD with an opportunity to create a new reporting mechanism, or modify existing mechanisms or tools, to enable a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. By doing so, DOD could better identify gaps or redundancies in the services' programs, make more informed decisions to mitigate asset shortfalls and challenges, reduce potential duplication and fragmentation, and improve its joint oversight. The U.S. military services preposition critical assets at strategic locations around the world for access during the initial phases of an operation. DOD uses these prepositioned assets for combat, support to allies, and disaster and humanitarian assistance. For many years, GAO has identified weaknesses in DOD's efforts to establish a joint oversight framework to guide its ability to assess the services' prepositioning programs. This has led to fragmentation and the potential for duplication. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the services' prepositioning programs and associated challenges. This report (1) describes the types of assets the services preposition worldwide, as well as asset shortfalls and challenges the services have identified, and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing a joint oversight framework for the services' programs. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed DOD prepositioning documents and interviewed DOD and State Department officials from over 20 offices. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in December 2020. Information that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO recommends that DOD develop a reporting mechanism or tool to gather complete information about the military services' prepositioning programs for joint oversight and to reduce duplication and fragmentation. DOD concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Remarks to Embassy London Staff
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Spotlight on Naloxone Co-Prescribing
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    As we recognize [Read More…]
  • Judge Testifies at House Hearing on Pandemic Impacts
    In U.S Courts
    Through a combination of advance planning, expanded use of technology, and the dedication of thousands of employees, the federal Judiciary’s response to the pandemic has enabled courts to continue to operate, while ensuring the health and safety of the public and court personnel, U.S. Senior District Judge David G. Campbell told Congress on Thursday.
    [Read More…]
  • Spinoff Highlights NASA Technology Paying Dividends in the US Economy
    In Space
    NASA’s technology [Read More…]

Crime

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