October 21, 2021

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Briefing with Senior State Department Officials to Traveling Press

29 min read

Office of the Spokesperson

London, United Kingdom

Grosvenor House Hotel

MODERATOR:  So we’ll go ahead and get started.  We’ll do this on background, two U.S. officials, if everyone is comfortable with that.  As I think you all know, was deeply engaged in the preparations for this and the G7.  has been engaged on the bilateral aspect and in different areas as well.

So , if you want to start just with broad thoughts about the G7 and a quick sketch of the day today, and then maybe a preview of tomorrow, what’s to come.  And then we’ll turn it over to .

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Sure.  So, obviously, today was the launch of the foreign minister and development minister G7 conference.  We actually started last night.  There was a dinner that the ministers had on their own, and literally with no notetakers, no one present.  And the political directors met and we were continuing our negotiations on the communique which will be released at the end of the meeting.

And I’ll go through the schedule in a minute, but I just kind of want to underscore what the G7 represents.  I mean, this is – obviously you know the membership of it, but this is an organization that goes back to the 1970s that brings probably the most likeminded group, at least of those countries of that caliber, most likeminded group on a planet together.  And I think that the atmosphere that I observed today – and I’ve been to many of these G7 conferences in various capacities, probably five or six of them over the years – this is an incredibly positive and collegial gathering.  People were very happy to get together physically.  The British leadership and – of this year’s G7 was very well organized.  Obviously, there were a lot of procedures and protocols we had to honor to make sure we’re all safe and healthy with COVID, so that changed the – some of the atmosphere unless there were fewer people around.  But I just thought people were relieved to be able to get together and talk about the weighty issues that we all are confronting.

The program was held at the Lancaster House, which is, of course, a very impressive conference facility that – here in London.  And we covered just an incredible range of issues.  The phrases I heard throughout the day were about coherence, about collaboration, about cooperation.  The emphasis was very much on shared values and shared goals.  The ministers really – I can’t think of a single topic where there was a real disagreement of any meaning.  Obviously at the – at our level we’re still working on the communique to get the language just right.  Those things have to be worked out.  But the atmosphere is just incredibly collaborative, and there was a lot of work that went into getting to this point, which I can go into if you’re interested in that.  But I just – I said I’d go through the summary of topics today.

We started at 8:45 in the morning and we went through for an hour-and-a-half discussion of China, and then smaller sessions, 30-minute sessions on Myanmar, on Libya, on Syria; an hour and 30 minutes on Russia, including tackling Ukraine and Belarus; 30 minutes on Afghanistan, and that wrapped up the session of the ministers.  And throughout this period we had breakout sessions in which we were able to do bilats, which I think will address.

And then tonight we’re going to be joined – the British theme of course, which I’ll come back to, is building back better and open society, but they also wanted to include, and we’re all enthusiastic about it, a component on the Indo-Pacific.  So Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa, and the ASEAN chair Brunei will be joining for dinner tonight, and they’ll be attending throughout the schedule tomorrow as well.  So tonight we’ll be hearing from them rather than talking to them about their priorities and how we can all cooperate in the Indo-Pacific.

Tomorrow’s schedule will bring in the development ministers virtually, and Administrator Samantha Power will be joining by videoconference, and we will discuss open societies, then we will have an open lunch discussion, and then in the afternoon vaccines and health priorities with one session, and then climate and girls’ education is another session, and then we’ll wrap things up.

As I said a moment ago, there is a lot of work that goes into these things.  And just to give you a flavor for it, my colleague is sort of the day-to-day negotiator, and at his level they have met every week since the British took the presidency in January to prepare what is now about a 90-page communique, which I know you’ll read every word of – (laughter) – and weigh carefully.  But again, it reflects our shared values, how we see the world today.

And what’s interesting, again, about the G7 is that each of us has a global perspective, which is not true of every country in the world, and we all have things at stake and all the agenda topics that I just went through.  So that’s why we had to discuss it on this regular basis to get ready for this.  Political directors met three times as were preparing to come to London, and we have been in continuous contact since we got here in order to wrap things up and make sure that this was the best possible forum for the Secretary of State and his colleagues.

Obviously, we’re preparing for the summit that’s just going to be held in June, also virtually, here in the UK.  And there’s going to be a second foreign ministerial meeting in late summer, early fall, with a focus on Africa and the development issues there.  And the health ministers will be meeting as well just before the summit.  I am not involved in those negotiations.

So those are the themes that we covered on today and be happy to answer any questions as I turn it over to .

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Sure.  I can just add to what was saying about the most likeminded group on the planet.  I mean, this is – you hear the Secretary talk frequently about the world – the rules-based international order.  And this is the group, of course, that has helped define that, these countries and others as well, and shape that and defend that.  And so that was a theme I think that came up in a lot of the bilats.  The great thing about this format is not only can they meet together, but then they can break out in smaller groups.  We obviously started yesterday with a bilat with Foreign Secretary Raab that was two, two and a half hours I think we spent together, just going through the whole range of issues – international issues, global issues – that the U.S. and the UK work on together, as well as some of our bilateral issues.

The G7 itself, with the UK, as the Secretary put it, doing an absolutely terrific job in pulling this together in a difficult year, given the pandemic that creates all of these protocols but also is a major theme and focus of discussion.  They talked about the broader scope of likeminded countries, speaking about things like open societies in the multilateral systems.  That’s been the theme, and you’ve heard Secretary Blinken raise that repeatedly as his and President Biden’s focus on re-engaging, revitalizing partnerships and alliances, and even reimagining the kinds of things we can accomplish together, particularly in the transatlantic space.

I think the Secretary and foreign secretary found themselves, as they put it, in “violent agreement” on the agenda of things that we needed to look at.  Another C word that could be added to the ones used, like collaborative, would certainly be consensus in terms of things like China where we find the – convergence, actually, is another – C words abound – convergence among the G7 on the challenges of China and how we approach that.

Again, as I said, the international rules-based order was a main theme that came up in every one of the bilateral meetings that included EU high rep and Vice President Josep Borrell.  These were short meetings.  These are also opportunities – probably the third or fourth time they’ve had a chance to meet.  They speak quite regularly.  You’ll recall that the Secretary was with a number of these partners – the British, French, UK, and the Canadians, of course, too – at the NATO meetings just a couple weeks ago and the NATO ministerial in March when he also saw Borrell.  And then they talked about the summit that will emerge not only at the G7 in June but the NATO summit the President will attend and the U.S.-EU meetings.

Those are really the primary themes.  In each of the bilats we ran through the various subtopics; looking at Ukraine, for instance, where we’re all in agreement and stand in solidarity with Ukraine against Russian aggression, which is the external threat they face, but also the internal aggression that they face from corruption and the challenges of moving ahead on the reform process.  So we all stand with the same messages there, and obviously the Secretary going to Kyiv from here will give him an opportunity to raise those points with President Zelenskyy and other interlocutors there.

Strong agreement across the board on that.  Also on Russia.  The Secretary was able to underscore what he and the President have said, that we want a stable, predictable relationship with Russia.  We’re not trying to escalate, but that we will respond to their reckless and aggressive behavior.  And as you’ve seen, we’ve had strong support from partners and allies in terms of our response to Russian actions.

In all of the meetings, we talked about Afghanistan.  It was a clear topic with Foreign Minister Maas, the fact that you saw the Allies and others embrace the President’s decision for our troop pullout, but everybody underscored that that doesn’t mean we as nations in support of Afghanistan and the Afghan people are pulling out.  We talked about stepping up our diplomacy, things the Secretary has referred to in other fora.

They also talked in each of those meetings about Iran.  As you know, the EU has convened the talks in Vienna, for which the Secretary expressed thanks to them.  We keep working on that.  The French, British, and Germans are all part of the JCPOA process.

And we talked about Africa not only in the G7 contact but in some of the – context but in some of our – in each of the bilats, actually, whether it was the Horn of Africa, where we have a new special envoy, Jeff Feltman, including the Ethiopia-Sudan border issue, the Tigray issue.  There’s a whole range of issues of great concern there.  And France, of course, with a major focus on the Sahel; talked about the developments in Chad.

So really a great opportunity to just exchange notes, touch base on things that we’re engaged upon regularly, and then return to these broader sessions where they speak among the whole group.  And that’s, I think, a good summary of what we covered in those.  Can also take questions.

MODERATOR:  Shaun.

QUESTION:  Sure.  Thanks for doing this.  Could I ask a little bit more on China?  You mentioned that there was quite a bit of agreement among all the countries.  Was there any thought of doing things more collectively on China, sort of have a – having a broader – broader policy goals, whether it’s sanctions or not necessarily that or other things?  Was there some talk of – beyond agreement of what countries can do together, and really just about – I think there’s news coming out today that the EU is not going forward with ratification of the investment pact with Beijing.  Is that something that figured into the talks here? Or is there any broader take that you have on that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, China was the dominant topic today, I would say.  We opened with it because it was the most important agenda item for us, out of the many important things that we had to discuss.  And as I said, there was broad agreement, both the fact that we all want China to be an integral member of the international order, but to do that, it has to play by the rules of that international order.  So no one’s asking people to choose to be with China or against China.  It’s a question of ensuring that China is abiding by those rules and competing fairly with us.

But also there was a great deal of concern about China’s behavior in terms of human rights and honoring the commitments it itself has made through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other formats.  This is not an internal affair.  This is a matter of living up to international obligations that China signed up for, and there was a unanimity in the G7 on that score as well.

And also a great deal of concern about Chinese economic coercion, behavior that China – the story – the ways in which China uses economic initiatives to actually coerce their opponents or even, in some instances, their allies into certain behavior patterns that are unacceptable.

And, of course, China’s threatening and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and other areas around its border.  And again, there was a strong discussion of how we can – what we can do together to counter that, to build alliances, to recognize that these are shared concerns by all of us, not just the G7, but also how we can – and this goes to your question – how we can reach out to other likeminded states as we approach this problem.  And I think that’ll be a very rich discussion tonight with the Indo-Pacific group.

And again, what we’re trying to do in the Indo-Pacific is about inclusivity, about making sure that there are robust alternatives to Chinese investment, that the West is present and offering the alternative path built on our model of development growth, of individuals and societies, not the Chinese model, which, again, I know you know well.

QUESTION:  Sure.  The investment pact – was that something that —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  That broke I think – I first saw the – one of you probably sent it, the news on that, while we were at the prime minister’s.  So that didn’t come up specifically today, but particularly with Borrell, they did recall in March they had relaunched the U.S.-EU dialogue on China, where we had developed a framework to discuss all these issues and talked about looking forward, probably in the coming weeks, to move ahead with a higher-level – not minister level, but another level – meeting of that.  So that may come up too.

QUESTION:  Can I – just two quickies, one on Nord Stream.  I saw the readout of the Maas meeting, and it mentioned that you had – or the Secretary had brought up Nord Stream.  Can you say whether that was just sort of a pro forma, hey, continuing to stress opposition, or whether there was any change in the German position or any movement on that score?

And then on China, is there anything you’re actually asking countries to do on economic coercion, certain commitments or certain dialogue that might proceed on that?  And I think Daleep Singh had said one point in an interview that the U.S. was also looking for specific commitments from the G7 on cutting off trade on Xinjiang, specifically cotton from Xinjiang.  Is that – was that part of the discussion today, seeking commitments from Europe?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Do you want to start?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Certainly.  On the Nord Stream 2, as he has I think in every conversation with Foreign Minister Maas that I’ve been privy to, the Secretary raised Nord Stream 2 again, reminded him of our position on it and the legal requirements we have and the President’s views of that, and that this remains a real issue, clearly for us, obviously, in the context of a broader partnership, where we’re dealing with, as we’ve described here, lots and lots of other issues.  But we are able, through these relationships that the Secretary has built in these first 100 days to engage with each of these counterparts and speak openly and clearly about areas where we have differences and concerns, Nord Stream 2 being one with the Germans, obviously.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  To answer the second question on economic coercion, one of the processes we’ve embarked on and included in our discussion today was building awareness of just what economic coercion looks like and being aware of a connectivity between certain Chinese actions and what their ultimate objective is in doing that.  Some of the economic coercion is directed toward individuals who have stood up and spoken out against Chinese policies and then they try to use their economic power as a threat against people who do that and as a deterrent – a hoped-for deterrent against others doing likewise.

Another instance is it’s using their development strategies of the Belt and Road Initiative to basically make these societies highly dependent on China in ways that essentially compromise the sovereignty of those countries.  And if you look at the – and we often encourage countries to look at the fine print of agreements that they’ve signed or that have been put in front of them to recognize the extent to which it’s not just a debt trap, but actual formulations in which access to parts of their country will be closed to them and open to Chinese.  I am a firsthand witness to this in my last assignment in Pakistan.  And then so just airing that, making it clear to everyone what the problem is and then developing strategies, and in some cases using our regulations and laws to make sure that we’re working against that.

And a very important part of the – the Chinese economic coercion I’ve mentioned briefly is finding alternatives so that – because often when you go to a country, a leader of a country that’s trying to develop their economy, they’ll say I understand the problem; I don’t have an alternative.  What can you do?  So we are honing our DFC, the Development Finance Corporation, and we’re talking to other partners who have similar organizations on how we can collaborate on this regard.

I don’t believe that there was a discussion today – I know there wasn’t – of the specific sanction you touched on in Xinjiang.  But the G7 is a process; it’s not just a meeting.  And it continues all year round.  It depends really on the presidency to a certain extent.  The British have been an extremely active and forward-leaning president.  We’ve had – and this is unprecedented in my experience.  We’ve already had four standalone statements, including on Hong Kong in the case of China, but also Navalny, on Burma, and on Ethiopia.  And you can expect continued statements like that over the course of the year.  And we definitely – in terms of promoting democratic values, we – sanctions is a clear tool that we all, I think, value, and the EU is increasingly – —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICAL TWO:  Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Increasingly prepared to use that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  And Borrell noted that, the things they have developed, and you’re really seeing an evolution.  I mean, I’ve been at this for a little over two years and we’ve seen the EU, first of all, gain an awareness – which means that member-states are gaining that as well as the institutions in Brussels – of the challenges, what exactly we’re talking about with China, whether it’s 5G or other behaviors, including human rights.  And they’re developing a number of tools; the 5G toolkit, for example, was something that they developed for their member-states in how to deal with that challenge.

MODERATOR:  Barbara.

QUESTION:  Just a question about the Ukraine.  You mentioned solidarity against external aggression and internal aggression.  Did that get – did that move beyond statements of principle?  Or will the Secretary be bringing something more specific to Ukraine on both those issues after talks here?  So for example, you know the president in Ukraine in the last few weeks again raised the issue of NATO membership or a plan for NATO membership, in terms of what solidarity against external aggression actually means in practice, which is never quite completely spelled out.  And then internal aggression, presumably in response to the moves with the energy board and so on, has – was there anything – was there a joint statement on that?  Like was that – was there a joint response to that that the Secretary will be taking with him?

And then just a broad question.  You’re talking – both mentioned a lot – like you stressed the likemindedness, you brought in these extra countries for this meeting.  I mean, do you feel that there’s – this is a real evolution of the G7?  Do you feel that it is entering a new phase, sort of obviously focused by the concern about what you call the international rules-based order, but it’s China really propelling —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I would say the mood in the meeting today was more of a restoration of the G7, that the commitment to multilateralism that is I think a core foreign policy element here for the Biden-Harris administration and certainly Secretary Blinken’s approach just was pronounced and great endorsement and encouragement by all the delegations of that reality.

So I think – and there have been times when the G7’s been extremely active.  I don’t want to compare it to every single chapter, but this – under the British presidency, it’s clear that we’re going to have a lot of significant meetings over the course of the year.  And we sure need them given the fact that multilateralism needs to be restored, but also we’re facing global challenges that can only be dealt with through multilateral methods on a global basis.  And these are the countries that are the strongest and the richest democracies with shared values, so who else is better positioned to begin to play a leadership role on issues like health and climate, economic recovery, and the security challenges that, of course, we’ve already covered?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  And that’s actually a great segue to the Ukraine question, because in Ukraine and with Ukraine, the G7 plus the EU – which, of course, has been here with us today in the shape of the high rep – played a role in terms of engaging together on the ground with the Ukrainian Government, sharing the sort of agenda for things particularly on the internal challenges that we talked about.  And they regularly meet to review with the government certain things.

So for instance, on this issue that we’ve raised, it was likeminded concern about what we see as really a step back in terms of corporate governance, something that they’ve worked very hard on over a period of time, with help from ourselves as well as the international financial institutions – the World Bank, IMF – and so we’ll be raising that collectively through our embassies that work so closely together in Kyiv, but obviously with the Secretary going tomorrow night and having meetings on Thursday, he’ll be raising that as well.

The security issues, while everybody is likeminded, observed the steps we’ve seen from Russia since most of us met, certainly the NATO members just a couple weeks ago – that’s not really this fora in terms of that.  Obviously, the Secretary will talk in his meetings there the whole range of issues with President Zelenskyy.

MODERATOR:  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Oh, sorry.  None of the readouts with the Asian nations included conversations about Taiwan, which surprised me.  Any conversations about getting Taiwan-specific assurances, anything you can say about that?

And then the – if I – on a totally different topic, the British papers, the days we were – before we were arriving were all buzzing about whether Secretary Raab was going to really push a trade deal again, whether that was going to be a big part of the one-on-one meetings.  Anything you can tell us?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  They mentioned still wanting to look at a trade deal.  Obviously, we now have – since some of the earlier meetings, we have a U.S. trade rep who the Secretary’s been in touch with.  Broad agenda – the prime minister also mentioned some of these tariff issues where the Biden-Harris administration took steps to – on both sides with our European friends to suspend some of the tariffs that were in place to see if we can’t work those things out, say, with the Airbus – Boeing-Airbus tariffs.  But we didn’t delve into specifics of trade at all.  That wouldn’t be the – this wouldn’t be the place or the people to do that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  On Taiwan, it did come up.  I don’t have anything really specific to say about it except that, obviously, everyone is focused, looks at it, and we have our stated policies on Taiwan.  That hasn’t changed.  And one of the things that we’re going to see in the communique is strong support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations like the WHO and WHA, where they really – it’s not just that Taiwan should have a right to be there, because you don’t have to be a state to be a participant in it, but that they have a lot to bring to the table, particularly on COVID.  I mean, they have a lot of experience in this that can help all of us, and it just seems really self-defeating to exclude them.  So that’s one of the themes you’ll see in the communique.

QUESTION:  Did I miss – was there a session or is there a session tomorrow on technology, high technology?  And if not, can you talk about the role that has played?  I mean, particularly, when it comes to China, you have AI, super-computing, semiconductor manufacturing.  I mean, anything you can just say to give us a flavor of how people are thinking or talking about that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  There was not a session on that today.  Obviously, it’s woven through in sort of underlying themes on China, and also on economic development for all of us.  Because again, there’s this reality that while we want to make sure China’s playing by the rules of the road, we also all want to benefit from Chinese economic activity, so long as they’re not stealing our IPR and that kind of thing or using that technology to invade into our societies like we’ve – see with Huawei, 5G.

There are – the reason I was looking at is there are other formats of the G7 where we have these discussions.  I’m not – I know this much about technology, so —

STAFF:  Sure.  I believe last week there was a meeting of G7 digital and technology ministers.  We don’t have one in the United States that would participate at that level.  We had a White House representative.

QUESTION:  Okay.

STAFF:  And – yeah.

QUESTION:  Okay.  That makes sense.

MODERATOR:  A final question or two, maybe?

QUESTION:  On Myanmar, the UK said it was going to urge those present to take stronger action against the military to increase humanitarian assistance, but obviously, sanctions have not had a great impact as far as stopping the military’s violent actions.  Is there – was there discussion of taking a different approach outside of sanctions, whatever that might be, or – what was the discussion around moving forward considering that the violence continues?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Yeah.  Well, there are a lot of ideas that are out there.  I think a lot of the focus on the diplomatic process is looking toward ASEAN right now.  You may have seen that they came out with an initiative.  At some level anyway, the Burmese regime has responded to that.  There was announced intent to appoint an envoy, an ASEAN envoy, so we would like to see that develop.  We’ll discuss that further tonight when we’re with the ASEAN chair, Brunei.

We talked about sanctions, and there are two ways, both important, to look at sanctions.  One is to see if it changes behavior.  The other is that if something’s happened that is so contradictory to our values, we feel leaders and democratic societies often see no choice but to register our displeasure with that through the vehicle of sanctions.  So I think you see both of those happening in the case of Burma.  And I don’t mean this as a cop out, but sanctions do take time. And – but you’re right that it is not – we’ve not seen the military leadership behave the way we’d like.

A third point I would make, maybe related to the second one, is that sanctions also are a signal and a message to the people who are suffering this repression that we’re with them and that we’re trying to be with them in as meaningful a way as we can, but in a targeted way so that it doesn’t make their own economic lives and well-being even worse than it already is.  So one of the themes we discussed today was how can we best target our sanctions so that they really are focused on the military, and then how can we get the non-G7 states, particularly in Asia, to play a role in that.

QUESTION:  Can I ask a follow-up on Ukraine quickly?  So you said, of course, that the Europeans are deeply engaged in Ukraine and monitoring and so on?  Did you get any new insights from Ukraine’s neighbors about (a) what they thought Russia was actually up to with that military deployment, and (b) what the president was up to with that move last week?  I mean, it seemed to take the State Department by surprise.  Did you get any further insight into how they were looking at both of those issues?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  By “move,” you mean —

QUESTION:  The anti – the – changing the energy board.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  The dismissal of the Naftogaz —

QUESTION:  Yeah, yeah.  The Naftogaz.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  — board?  It was – I wouldn’t say a complete surprise.  There were rumors and talk about that, and something we certainly had advised against, which – which they did, and we put out a statement saying exactly how we felt about it, which was shared by everybody in that sense.  Talked about the G7 being – sort of working together through our embassies on the ground in Kyiv, but, of course, the French and the Germans are part of the Normandy Format.  And in the conversations with both Foreign Minister Maas and Foreign Minister Le Drian, the pull-aside bilateral meetings, that came up, both of them realizing the difficulty in moving forward on that, largely because Russia won’t really participate.

QUESTION:  Did they have a view on this other platform?  You know how the – Navalny has talked about a different platform or expanding a platform?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I’m not sure — Navalny —

QUESTION:  No, not Navalny.  Is it – what’s his name?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Sorry.

QUESTION:  The president.  The president —

QUESTION:  Zelenskyy.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Oh, Zelenskyy.  Zelenskyy.

QUESTION:  Zelenskyy, sorry.  Long day.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  It’s okay.  I do it too.

QUESTION:  Did they have any view on changing the format?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  We hadn’t – we didn’t get into that today.  Maybe I’ve heard him talk – and that – these may be good questions – you’re coming to Kyiv, right?

QUESTION:  Mm-hmm.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  So we’ll talk in 48 hours or something.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Just one more quickly.

MODERATOR:  Final question.

QUESTION:  , you mentioned, if I remember you – if I remember what you said correctly, that there’ll be another G7 meeting on Africa later in the year.  I presume this is a British initiative, but could you explain a bit more about the reasoning for that?  Is this to focus on particular conflicts there?  Is there a particular impetus?  Why Africa?  Or is it to bring more Africans to the table?  What’s the thinking behind having that (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, it’s a British decision to do that, but it’s one we warmly embrace.  It’s always a region of huge potential but also many, many conflicts.  And I think that all of us feel a responsibility to interact, engage on Africa, see where we – what we can do to help them resolve conflicts.  We obviously are very focused right now on Ethiopia, on the Horn of Africa – you see the appointment of Jeff Feltman, which was very welcomed in the gathering today – and hear from Africans.  So again, I haven’t heard the details yet on how the British plan to formulate this, but I hope that we’ll be hearing African voices as well, because we also want to see African solutions to these issues.  But the G7 I think has a very strong role to play and that many of these countries have long historic relations.

Today, we talked about the Sahel at great length, as well as Ethiopia, and the terrorist threat emanating from there.  So there will be lots to talk about.  And then we all recognize that when we’re talking about economic coercion and China, Africa is part of that story, and again, making sure that we provide a positive alternative to countries seeking the best way to develop the – and meet the aspirations of their citizens.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I’d just add – maybe just quickly, because it’s something that has come up a couple times – the G7 is a great format too for countries that might not normally or through – historically have aligned views.  So the French and the Italians, for instance, on some of the North Africa and Sahel issues, or Libya, for instance, have used that, have come together very well with that.  And the Italians have expanded their diplomatic engagement not just in Libya, but into the Sahel, because they understand that that’s necessary for a lot of things that are of key interest to them, including migration and terrorist threats and other things.  So I think it’s been a good platform on that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, , .  Thanks so much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Thank you.  Thanks a lot.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Enjoy the rest of your trip.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

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    GAO's 19th annual assessment of the Department of Defense's (DOD) weapon programs comes at a time of significant internal changes to the department's acquisition process. Specifically, DOD began implementing its new acquisition framework intended to, among other things, deliver solutions to the end user in a timely manner. However, GAO found that many programs have planned acquisition approaches that, unless properly managed and overseen, could result in cost and schedule challenges similar to those GAO has reported on for nearly the past 2 decades. DOD's new acquisition framework allows program managers to use one or more of six acquisition pathways—including the major capability acquisition and middle-tier acquisition (MTA) pathways used by the programs GAO reviewed. Each pathway is governed by separate policies for milestones, cost and schedule goals, and reporting. Program managers can tailor, combine, and transition between pathways based on program goals and risks associated with the weapon system being acquired (see figure). Notional Use of Multiple Efforts and Multiple Pathways DOD's framework also introduces new considerations to program oversight. In particular, DOD has yet to develop an overarching data collection and reporting strategy for programs transitioning between acquisition pathways or conducting multiple efforts using the same pathway to deliver the intended capability. The lack of a strategy not only limits DOD's visibility into these programs but also hinders the quality of its congressional reporting and makes the full cost and schedule of the eventual weapon system more difficult to ascertain. DOD Plans to Invest Over $1.79 Trillion in Its Costliest Weapon Programs, but Not All Costs Are Reported DOD's reported costs primarily reflect major defense acquisition program (MDAP) investments (see table). However, DOD is increasingly using the MTA pathway to acquire weapon programs . The totals do not include all expected costs because, among other things, MTA estimates do not reflect any potential investments after the current MTA effort, and cost figures do not include programs that have yet to formally select a pathway or are classified or sensitive. Department of Defense Total Investments in Selected Weapon Programs GAO Reviewed (fiscal year 2021 dollars in billions)   Procurement reductions in DOD's costliest program—the F-35—drove an MDAP portfolio cost decrease since GAO's last annual report (see figure). Excluding this program, quantity changes and other factors such as schedule delays contributed to one-year portfolio cost growth. Sixteen MDAPs also showed schedule delays since GAO's 2020 report. Such delays are due, in part, to delivery or test delays and poor system performance. Major Defense Acquisition Program One-Year Cost Change Including and Excluding the F-35 Program (fiscal year 2021 dollars in billions) F-35 reported an overall procurement cost decrease of $23.9 billion in fiscal year 2020, primarily due to lower prime and subcontractor labor rates. As GAO found last year, DOD continues to expand its portfolio of the costliest MTA programs, expecting to spend $30.5 billion on current efforts. Due to inconsistent cost reporting by MTA programs, GAO could not assess cost trends across the MTA portfolio. However, GAO observed examples of cost changes on certain MTA programs compared with last year. Weapon Programs Do Not Consistently Plan to Attain Knowledge That Could Limit Cost Growth and Deliver Weapon Systems Faster Most MDAPs continue to forgo opportunities to improve cost and schedule outcomes by not adhering to leading practices for weapon system acquisitions. Some MTA programs also reported planning to acquire only limited product knowledge during program execution, leading to added risks to planned follow-on efforts. Further, while both MDAPs and MTA programs increasingly reported using modern software approaches and cybersecurity measures, they inconsistently implemented leading practices, such as frequently delivering software to users and conducting certain types of cybersecurity assessments during development. Why GAO Did This Study Title 10, section 2229b of the U.S. Code contains a provision for GAO to review DOD's weapon programs. This report assesses the following aspects of DOD's costliest weapon programs: their characteristics and performance, planned or actual implementation of knowledge-based acquisition practices, and implementation of selected software and cybersecurity practices. The report also assesses oversight implications of DOD's changes to its foundational acquisition guidance. GAO identified programs for review based on cost and acquisition status; reviewed relevant legislation, policy, guidance, and DOD reports; collected program office data; and interviewed DOD officials .
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  • Readout of the Political Directors Small Group Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Public Transportation: Identifying Lessons Learned Could Help Improve FTA’s Process to Manage Safety Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Of the twelve selected transit agencies GAO spoke with, most faced challenges incorporating the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) requirements to develop and document its Safety Management Systems (SMS) in their new agency safety plans. SMS is a performance-based, data-driven framework to manage safety risks throughout an organization. Some rail transit agencies noted difficulties transitioning from the former 21-element safety plan to SMS and its four required components. However, most transit agencies said they benefited from FTA's assistance. FTA's assistance included guidance documents, webinars, and training. Upon request, FTA also reviewed transit agencies' draft safety plans, providing lessons learned from those reviews. FTA established a Safety Risk Management (SRM) process to identify, assess, and mitigate safety risks across the nation's transit agencies. During the initial implementation, FTA selected four safety concerns to review (see fig. below). According to FTA, the use of cameras on rail transit was a pilot project, and FTA has completed four of the five steps in its process for the camera safety pilot. Though FTA continues to evaluate that pilot and work on the other three safety concerns, it has not completed actions to prepare for future rounds of the SRM process. In particular, FTA has not identified and documented lessons learned from the pilot. Documenting and incorporating such lessons could enhance the effectiveness and timeliness of FTA's SRM process and thus FTA's ability to address transit-wide safety risks. GAO's Assessment of the Status of the Safety Risk Management (SRM) Process for Four Safety Issues under Review by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) FTA continues to gather information while it considers whether to mandate certain transit safety standards. FTA has issued safety bulletins for rail cameras and end-of-railcar signage. These bulletins suggest but do not require certain actions related to the installation of cameras and signage in rail transit cars. FTA, however, has not yet initiated a rulemaking for any mandatory federal safety standards. While the diverse nature of the transit industry can make setting federal safety standards challenging, transit agencies GAO spoke with were generally open to mandatory safety standards for some safety issues. For example, many of the selected transit agencies expressed support for requiring medical examinations of employees, as well as other so-called human-factor safety risks. Why GAO Did This Study In recent years, new laws gave the Department of Transportation's FTA additional requirements and authorities to oversee transit safety. In turn, FTA now requires, among other things, transit agencies to develop new safety plans that incorporate SMS to manage and mitigate safety risk. FTA also incorporated SMS in its transit agency oversight to better identify and assess safety risks, and determine appropriate mitigation efforts, including mandatory safety standards. GAO was asked to examine how FTA is implementing its new responsibilities and authorities. This report examines (1) selected transit agencies' experiences in incorporating SMS in their new safety plans; (2) steps FTA is taking to identify, assess, and mitigate safety risks; and (3) FTA's status on mandating safety standards and stakeholders' views on the benefits and challenges of such standards. GAO reviewed FTA documents on safety oversight policies and practices and interviewed officials from 12 transit agencies and their 9 respective state oversight agencies. GAO selected transit agencies to reflect a variety of modes, sizes, age, and geographic diversity.
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  • Designation of Former Prosecutor General Dobroslav Trnka of the Slovak Republic for Involvement in Significant Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq: U.S. Ministry Capacity Development Efforts Need an Overall Integrated Strategy to Guide Efforts and Manage Risk
    In U.S GAO News
    Iraq's ministries were decimated following years of neglect and centralized control under the former regime. Developing competent and loyal Iraqi ministries is critical to stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. The President received $140 million in fiscal year 2007 funds and requested an additional $255 million in fiscal year 2008 to develop the capacity of the Iraq's ministries. This report assesses (1) the nature and extent of U.S. efforts to develop the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, (2) the key challenges to these efforts, and (3) the extent to which the U.S. government has an overall integrated strategy for these efforts. For this effort, GAO reviewed U.S. project contracts and reports and interviewed officials from the Departments of State (State), Defense (DOD), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.Over the past 4 years, U.S. efforts to help build the capacity of the Iraqi national government have been characterized by (1) multiple U.S. agencies leading individual efforts, without overarching direction from a lead entity that integrates their efforts; and (2) shifting timeframes and priorities in response to deteriorating security and the reorganization of the U.S. mission in Iraq. First, no single agency is in charge of leading the U.S. ministry capacity development efforts, although State took steps to improve coordination in early 2007. State, DOD and USAID have led separate efforts at Iraqi ministries. About $169 million in funds were allocated in 2005 and 2006 for these efforts. As of mid-2007, State and USAID were providing 169 capacity development advisors to 10 key civilian ministries and DOD was providing 215 to the Ministries of Defense and Interior. Second, the focus of U.S. capacity development efforts has shifted from long-term institution-building projects, such as helping the Iraqi government develop its own capacity development strategy, to an immediate effort to help Iraqi ministries overcome their inability to spend their capital budgets and deliver essential services to the Iraqi people. U.S. ministry capacity efforts face four key challenges that pose a risk to their success and long-term sustainability. First, Iraqi ministries lack personnel with key skills, such as budgeting and procurement. Second, sectarian influence over ministry leadership and staff complicates efforts to build a professional and non-aligned civil service. Third, pervasive corruption in the Iraqi ministries impedes the effectiveness of U.S. efforts. Fourth, poor security limits U.S. advisors' access to their Iraqi counterparts, preventing ministry staff from attending planned training sessions and contributing to the exodus of skilled professionals to other countries. The U.S. government is beginning to develop an integrated strategy for U.S. capacity development efforts in Iraq, although agencies have been implementing separate programs since 2003. GAO's previous analyses of U.S. multiagency national strategies demonstrate that such a strategy should integrate the efforts of the involved agencies with the priorities of the Iraqi government, and include a clear purpose and scope; a delineation of U.S. roles, responsibilities, and coordination with other donors, including the United Nations; desired goals and objectives; performance measures; and a description of benefits and costs. Moreover, it should attempt to address and mitigate the risks associated with the four challenges identified above. U.S. ministry capacity efforts to date have included some but not all of these components. For example, agencies are working to clarify roles and responsibilities. However, U.S. efforts lack clear ties to Iraqi-identified priorities at all ministries, clear performance measures to determine results at civilian ministries, and information on how resources will be targeted to achieve the desired end-state.
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  • On the Occasion of World Humanitarian Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • المساعدات المُقَدّمة للضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة: في حالة إستئناف التمويل، فإن زيادة الرقابة على إمتثال الجهة الفرعية الحاصلة على المنح لسياسات وإجراءات مكافحة الارهاب الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية قد يُقلل من المخاطر
    In U.S GAO News
    This is the Arabic language highlights associated with GAO-21-332, which issued on Monday, March 29. لماذا أجرى مكتب مساءلة الحكومة ھذه الدراسة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية منذ عام 1993 أكثر من 6.3 مليار دولار على شكل مساعدات ثنائية للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ووزارة الخارجية الأمريكية، تم إيقاف تمويل صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي (ESF) منذ يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مجموعة من الإجراءات السياساتية والقانونية. إن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية مسؤولة بشكل رئيسي عن إدارة المساعدات المقدمة من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة وضمان الامتثال لسياساته وإجراءاته الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. تتضمن قوانين التخصيص للسنوات المالية 2015-2019 أحكاماً لمكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمراجعة استخدامات أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي الخاصة ببرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. كما طُلِبَ من مكتب مساءلة الحكومة مُراجعة كيف يؤثر وقف هذه المساعدات على موارد التوظيف في الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية. يدرس هذا التقرير (1) حالة مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي المقدمة من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية للبرنامج في السنوات المالية 2015-2019، وذلك اعتباراً من 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020؛ (2) الخطوات التي اتخذتها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تجاه المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف عندما توقفت مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي؛ (3) مدى امتثال الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لسياساتها وإجراءاتها الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب للسنوات المالية 2015-2019. وقد راجع مكتب مساءلة الحكومة القوانين وسياسات الوكالة وإجراءاتها ووثائقها وبياناتها وقام بتقييم عيّنة قابلة للتعميم من 245 من الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المنح للتأكد من الامتثال لسياسات واجراءات الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. النتائج التي توصل إليها مكتب مساءلة الحكومة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية مساعدات للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة لتعزيز السلام في الشرق الأوسط منذ عام 1993، جزئيا من خلال البرامج التي تُديرها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ويمولها صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي. وقد توقف هذا التمويل منذ 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وبحلول 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020، كانت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية قد انفقت معظم أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي التي تم تخصيصها لبرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة في السنوات المالية 2015-2019. على وجه التحديد، انفقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 487.3 مليون دولار من أصل 540.4 مليون دولار من مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للبرنامج في السنتين الماليتين 2015 و2016. وأعادت إدارة الرئيس ترامب برمجة الـ 230.1 مليون دولار التي كانت مخصصة للسنة المالية 2017 لبرامج أخرى ولم تخصص مبالغ للسنتين الماليتين 2018 و2019. وأعلنت السلطة الفلسطينية في شهر ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2018 بأنها لن تقبل المساعدة بعد 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مخاوف لديها بشأن قانون توضيح مكافحة الإرهاب (Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act) لعام 2018. ووفقاً لمسؤولين من وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية والوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية فإن القانون يتضمن أحكاماً يمكن أن تجعل الجهات المتلقية للمساعدات من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي خاضعة لدعاوى قضائية أمريكية. وفي شهر يناير/ كانون الثاني 2021، أعلنت إدارة الرئيس بايدن نيتها إستئناف تقديم المساعدات الأمريكية للبرامج في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. اتخذت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عدة خطوات بشأن المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة بعد توقف تقديم المساعدة للبرنامج اعتبارا من 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وقد أوقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 27 مشروعاً جارياً. كما توقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عن إعادة شغل الوظائف المصرح بها في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة، واقترحت تخفيضا في قوة العمل، ووضعت حوالي 50 موظفا في مَهام مؤقتة لأنشطة أخرى. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية، فإنه اعتبارا من شهر مايو/ أيار 2019، طلبت لجان الكونجرس من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تعليق تخفيض الوظائف المُخطط له انتظاراً لاستمرار المداولات. وفي حين أن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لم تنهِ عمل موظفيها، إلا أن عدد موظفي البعثة انخفض بنسبة 39 بالمئة من ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2017 وحتى سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020 بسبب مُغادرة الموظفين للبعثة وعمليات النقل والاستقالات. تُحدد سياسات وإجراءات مكافحة الإرهاب للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية والخاصة بالضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة ثلاثة متطلبات لمُتلقي التمويل من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي: الفحص بالنسبة للعديد من الجهات غير الأمريكية التي تتلقى المساعدات، وشهادات مكافحة الإرهاب لمُتلقي المِنَح أو الاتفاقيات التعاونية، وأحكام إلزامية تهدف لمنع الدعم المالي للإرهاب في جميع مِنَح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية والفرعية. توصل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة إلى أنه بالنسبة للسنوات المالية 2015-2019، امتثلت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية بشكل كامل لجميع المتطلبات الثلاثة عند منح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية، غير أنها لم تتأكد بشكل متسق من إمتثال الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المساعدات. بالإضافة لذلك، أظهر تحليل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لعيّنة المنح الفرعية القابلة للتعميم ومراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية وجود فجوات في الامتثال لمتطلبات الفحص والأحكام الإلزامية على مستوى المنح الفرعية. فعلى سبيل المثال، توصل التحليل الذي أجراه مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمُراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية إلى أن 13 من أصل 86 تقريراً كان فيها حالة أو أكثر من عدم قيام الجهة الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح بتضمين الأحكام الإلزامية، والتي تُغطي 420 من المنح الفرعية. قدمت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تدريباً للجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح سابقاً على تقديم المساعدة حول متطلبات مكافحة الإرهاب بالنسبة للجهات التي تحصل على المنح الفرعية، غير أنها لم تتحقق من أن الجهات الحاصلة على المنح لديها إجراءات للامتثال لهذه المتطلبات. وبالإضافة لذلك، أجرت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية مراجعات للامتثال لاحقة على تقديم المنح الفرعية تمت بعد انتهاء المنحة الفرعية في بعض الأحيان، حيث كان الأوان قد فات لاتخاذ اجراءات تصحيحية. و في حالة استئناف تمويل صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي، فإن التحقق من أن الجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح لديها هذه الاجراءات، وإجراء مراجعات للامتثال لاحقة على تقديم المساعدة في وقت يسمح بإجراء التصحيحات من شأنه أن يضع الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية في وضع أفضل بالنسبة لتقليل مخاطر تقديم المساعدة للكيانات أو الافراد المرتبطين بالإرهاب. توصيات مكتب مساءلة الحكومة يوصي مكتب مساءلة الحكومة، في حالة استئناف التمويل، أن تقوم الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية بـ (1) التحقق من أن الجهات الرئيسية الحاصلة على المساعدة لديها إجراءات لضمان الامتثال للمتطلبات قبل تقديم المنح للجهات الفرعية، و (2) إجراء مراجعات الامتثال بعد منح المساعدات في وقت يسمح بإجراء التصحيحات قبل إنتهاء المنحة. وقد وافقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية على هذه التوصيات. هذه نسخة بلغة أجنبية لتقرير صدر في مارس/ آذار2021. أﻧﻈﺮ اﻟﻮﺛﯿﻘﺔ21-332-GAO. ﻟﻠﻤﺰﯾﺪ ﻣﻦ اﻟﻤﻌﻠﻮﻣﺎت،ﯾﺮُ ﺟﻰ اﻻﺗﺼﺎل ﺑـ ﻻﺗﯿﺸﺎ ﻟﻮف Latesha Love ﻋﻠﻰ رﻗﻢ اﻟﮭﺎﺗﻒ: 4409-512 (202)، أو ﻣﻦ ﺧﻼل اﻹﯾﻤﯿﻞ: lovel@gao.gov
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  • Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Alabama for Unconstitutional Conditions in State’s Prisons for Men
    In Crime News
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  • Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports: Access and Quality Problems in Managed Care Demand Improved Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    At the state and federal levels, GAO found weaknesses in the oversight of Medicaid managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS), which assist individuals with basic needs like bathing or eating. Through various monitoring approaches, six selected states identified significant problems in their MLTSS programs with managed care organization (MCO) performance of care management, which includes assessing beneficiary needs, authorizing services, and monitoring service provision to ensure quality and access to care. State efforts may not be identifying all care management problems due to limitations in the information they use to monitor MCOs, allowing some performance problems to continue over multiple years. Performance Problems in Managed Care Organization (MCO) Care Management, Identified by Selected States GAO found that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) oversight of state implementation of its 2016 requirements, and of access and quality in MLTSS more broadly, was limited. This hinders the agency's ability to hold states and MCOs accountable for quality and access problems beneficiaries may face. Oversight did not detect quality and access problems. GAO identified cases where CMS learned about problems not through its regular oversight, but instead from beneficiary complaints, media reports, or GAO. CMS officials said that states had not reported these problems to the agency. Lack of national oversight strategy and assessment of problems in MLTSS. Weaknesses in oversight reflect a broader area of concern—namely, that CMS lacks a strategy for oversight. CMS also has not assessed the nature and extent of access and quality problems across states. Without a strategy and more robust information, CMS risks being unable to identify and help address problems facing beneficiaries. As of July 2020, CMS had convened a new workgroup focused on MLTSS oversight, though the goals and time frames for its work were unclear. An increasing number of states are using managed care to deliver long-term services and supports in their Medicaid programs, thus delegating decisions around the amounts and types of care beneficiaries receive to MCOs. Federal guidance requires that MLTSS programs include monitoring procedures to ensure the appropriateness of those decisions for this complex population, which includes adults and children who may have physical, cognitive, and mental disabilities. GAO was asked to review care management in MLTSS programs. Among other things, this report examines state monitoring of care management, and CMS oversight of state implementation of 2016 requirements related to MLTSS quality and access. GAO examined documentation of monitoring procedures and problems identified in six states selected for variation in program age and location. GAO reviewed federal regulations and oversight documents, interviewed state and federal Medicaid officials, and assessed CMS's policies and procedures against federal internal control standards. GAO is making two recommendations to CMS to (1) develop a national strategy for overseeing MLTSS, and (2) assess the nature and prevalence of MLTSS quality and access problems across states. CMS did not concur with the recommendations. GAO maintains the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in this report. For more information, contact at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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  • Electricity Grid Resilience: Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Climate change is expected to have far-reaching effects on the electricity grid that could cost billions and could affect every aspect of the grid from generation, transmission, and distribution to demand for electricity, according to several reports GAO reviewed. The type and extent of these effects on the grid will vary by geographic location and other factors. For example, reports GAO reviewed stated that more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may adversely affect hydroelectricity generation in Alaska and the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States. Further, transmission capacity may be reduced or distribution lines damaged during increasing wildfire activity in some regions due to warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Moreover, climate change effects on the grid could cost utilities and customers billions, including the costs of power outages and infrastructure damage. Examples of Climate Change Effects on the Electricity Grid Since 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions to enhance the resilience of the grid. For example, in 2015, DOE established a partnership with 18 utilities to plan for climate change. In 2018, FERC collected information from grid operators on grid resilience and their risks to hazards such as extreme weather. Nevertheless, opportunities exist for DOE and FERC to take additional actions to enhance grid resilience to climate change. For example, DOE identified climate change as a risk to energy infrastructure, including the grid, but it does not have an overall strategy to guide its efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that federal efforts can focus on risk reduction by creating resilience goals and linking those goals to an overarching strategy. Developing and implementing a department-wide strategy that defines goals and measures progress could help prioritize DOE's climate resilience efforts to ensure that resources are targeted effectively. Regarding FERC, it has not taken steps to identify or assess climate change risks to the grid and, therefore, is not well positioned to determine the actions needed to enhance resilience. Risk management involves identifying and assessing risks to understand the likelihood of impacts and their associated consequences. By doing so, FERC could then plan and implement appropriate actions to respond to the risks and achieve its objective of promoting resilience. Why GAO Did This Study According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, changes in the earth's climate are under way and expected to increase, posing risks to the electricity grid that may affect the nation's economic and national security. Annual costs of weather-related power outages total billions of dollars and may increase with climate change, although resilience investments could help address potential effects, according to the research program. Private companies own most of the electricity grid, but the federal government plays a significant role in promoting grid resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions; withstand potentially disruptive events; and, if disrupted, to rapidly recover. DOE, the lead agency for grid resilience efforts, conducts research and provides information and technical assistance to industry. FERC reviews mandatory grid reliability standards. This testimony summarizes GAO's report on grid resilience to climate change. Specifically, the testimony discusses (1) potential climate change effects on the electricity grid; and (2) actions DOE and FERC have taken since 2014 to enhance electricity grid resilience to climate change effects, and additional actions these agencies could take. GAO reviewed reports and interviewed agency officials and 55 relevant stakeholders.
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  • Justice Department Obtains $100,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Case Against Ohio Landlords
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Toledo, Ohio, landlords Anthony Hubbard, Ann Hubbard, Jeffery Hubbard, PayUp LLC and No Joke Properties Inc. have agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that Anthony Hubbard sexually harassed female tenants at rental properties he owned or managed with the other defendants.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Invests More than $295.8 Million in Grants to Improve Public Safety, Serve Crime Victims in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities
    In Crime News
    The Department of [Read More…]
  • Warfighter Support: Improved Joint Oversight and Reporting on DOD’s Prepositioning Programs May Increase Efficiencies
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) prepositions equipment to help ensure combat-ready forces receive equipment in days rather than the weeks it would take if it had to be moved from the United States to their location. Prepositioned stocks may also support activities including disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. As GAO's third report in response to Congress's annual reporting requirement, GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) met the six reporting requirements in the annual report to Congress on its prepositioned stocks, and whether additional information may be needed related to those requirements; (2) developed effective departmentwide guidance on prepositioned stocks to achieve national military objectives; and (3) organized effectively to provide joint oversight over its prepositioning programs and achieve efficiencies. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant DOD reports, strategies, and policies, and met with DOD and service officials in the U.S., Kuwait, and Qatar.In its 2010 report to Congress, DOD generally responded to its six required reporting elements and GAO's prior recommendations, which resulted in a more informative report. However, DOD's report does not discuss the full range of prepositioned equipment, such as Army equipment required in excess of a military unit's authorization to meet specific combatant command planning requirements. The Army may spend at least $441 million to replenish this equipment, which is part of the $4.5 billion needed to fully reconstitute the Army's prepositioned stocks. Without this information, Congress may lack a complete picture of areas where potential efficiencies may be gained. In addition, DOD's report does not list any operation plan affected by shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, as required. Further, DOD's report does not include the specific risks of such shortfalls, the full range of mitigation factors, and the extent to which these factors reduce risk. Although not required, we believe that such information would help clarify DOD's assessment of the consequences of choosing among options and continuing evaluation of areas where the department can assume greater risk, as called for in its 2008 National Defense Strategy. DOD has limited departmentwide guidance that would help ensure that its prepositioning programs accurately reflect national military objectives, such as those included in the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. DOD has developed departmentwide guidance, referred to as Guidance for Development of the Force, but as of September 2010 this guidance contained little information related to prepositioned stocks even though DOD's 2008 instruction on prepositioned stocks specifically directed the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to develop such guidance. Furthermore, the information the services use to determine their requirements for prepositioned stocks may not clearly state the full range of DOD's need for these stocks. DOD's challenges in identifying the full range of potential demands for prepositioned stocks highlight the importance of departmentwide guidance specifying planning and funding priorities associated with DOD's current and future needs in this area. DOD faces organizational challenges which may hinder its efforts to gain efficiencies in managing prepositioned assets across the department. Specifically, DOD has been unable to ensure that the working group established to address joint prepositioning issues achieves its objectives because the working group lacks clearly stated lines of authority and reporting to other components within DOD. As a result, the working group may not be able to effectively synchronize or integrate, as appropriate, the services' prepositioning programs and the results of its efforts may not go beyond the working group itself. According to joint and service officials, efficiencies or cost savings could be gained through improved joint program management across the services and leveraging components in DOD such as the Defense Logistics Agency, which may be able to provide efficiencies in delivering stocks during early stages of contingency operations. GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Defense take five actions to provide comprehensive information, develop overarching guidance, and enhance joint oversight to increase program efficiencies. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendations.
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  • Defense Health Care: Actions Needed to Define and Sustain Wartime Medical Skills for Enlisted Personnel
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The military departments have not fully defined, tracked, and assessed wartime medical skills for enlisted medical personnel. The departments have defined these skills for 73 of 77 occupations. However, among other issues, the Army and the Air Force have not defined skills for numerous highly-skilled subspecialties that require additional training and expertise, such as Army Critical Care Flight Paramedics. Subspecialty personnel are key to supporting lifesaving medical care during deployed operations. The Army does not consistently track wartime medical skills training for enlisted medical personnel in its official system. The military departments are not able to fully assess the preparedness of enlisted medical personnel because, according to officials, they have not developed performance goals and targets for skills training completion. As a result, the military departments lack reasonable assurance that all enlisted medical personnel are ready to perform during deployed operations. The Department of Defense (DOD) has not fully developed plans and processes to sustain the wartime medical skills of enlisted medical personnel. While the Defense Health Agency (DHA) has initiated planning efforts to assess how the military departments' three primary training approaches sustain readiness (see figure), these efforts will not fully capture needed information. For example, DHA's planned metrics to assess the role of military hospitals and civilian partnerships in sustaining readiness would apply to a limited number of enlisted occupations. As a result, DHA is unable to fully assess how each training approach sustains readiness and determine current and future training investments. Approaches to Train Enlisted Medical Personnel's Wartime Medical Skills DOD officials have identified challenges associated with implementing its training approaches. For example, DOD relies on civilian partnerships to sustain enlisted medical personnel's skills, but DOD officials stated that licensing requirements and other issues present challenges to establishing and operationalizing civilian partnerships. DOD has not analyzed or responded to such risks, and may therefore be limited in its ability to sustain wartime medical skills. Why GAO Did This Study DOD has over 73,000 active-duty enlisted medical personnel who must be ready to provide life-saving care to injured and ill servicemembers during deployed operations, using their wartime medical skills. Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's efforts to maintain enlisted personnel's wartime medical skills. This report examines, among other objectives, the extent to which (1) the military departments have defined, tracked, and assessed enlisted personnel's wartime medical skills, and (2) DOD has developed plans and processes to sustain these skills and assessed risks associated with their implementation. GAO analyzed wartime medical skills checklists and guidance; reviewed plans for skills sustainment; and interviewed officials from DOD and military department medical commands and agencies, and nine inpatient military medical treatment facilities.
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  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. Agrees to Pay $179.7 Million to Resolve Overpayments from the Department of Veterans Affairs
    In Crime News
    TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. has agreed to pay the United States $179,700,000 to resolve claims that it received overpayments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in connection with its administration of certain VA health care programs, the Department of Justice announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Defense Management: DOD Needs to Establish Clear Goals and Objectives, Guidance, and a Designated Budget to Manage Its Biometrics Activities
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD), in its response to unconventional threats from terrorists, uses biometrics technologies that identify physical attributes, including fingerprints and iris scans. However, coordinating the development and implementation of biometrics and ensuring interoperability across DOD has been difficult to achieve. Biometrics also is an enabling technology for identity management, a concept that seeks to manage personally identifiable information to enable improved governmentwide sharing and analysis of identity information. GAO was asked to examine the extent to which DOD has established biometrics goals and objectives, implementing guidance for managing biometrics activities, and a designated budget. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed documentation, including DOD biometrics policy and directives, and interviewed key DOD officials involved with making policy and funding decisions regarding biometrics.DOD established, in October 2006, the Principal Staff Assistant, who is the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, and an Executive Committee as part of its attempts to improve the management of its biometrics activities. However, as of August 2008, it had not established management practices that include clearly defined goals and objectives, implementing guidance that clarifies decision-making procedures for the Executive Committee, and a designated biometrics budget. First, while DOD has stated some general goals for biometrics, such as providing recognized leadership and comprehensive planning policy, it has not articulated specific program objectives, the steps needed to achieve those objectives, and the priorities, milestones, and performance measures needed to gauge results. Second, DOD issued a directive in 2008 to establish biometrics policy and assigned general responsibilities to the Executive Committee and the Principal Staff Assistant but has not issued implementing guidance that clarifies decision-making procedures. The Executive Committee is chaired by the Principal Staff Assistant and includes a wide array of representatives from DOD communities such as intelligence, acquisitions, networks and information integration, personnel, and policy and the military services. The Executive Committee is responsible for resolving biometrics management issues, such as issues between the military services and joint interests resulting in duplications of effort. However, the committee does not have guidance for making decisions that can resolve management issues. Past DOD reports have noted difficulties in decision making and accountability in the management of its biometrics activities. Third, DOD also has not established a designated budget for biometrics that links resources to specific objectives and provides a consolidated view of the resources devoted to biometrics activities. Instead, it has relied on initiative-by-initiative requests for supplemental funding, which may not provide a predictable stream of funding for biometrics. Prior GAO work on performance management demonstrates that successful programs incorporate such key management practices, and for several years, DOD reports and studies have also called for DOD to establish such practices for its biometrics activities. Similarly, a new presidential directive issued in June 2008 supports the establishment of these practices in addition to calling for a governmentwide framework for the sharing of biometrics data. DOD officials have said that DOD's focus has been on quickly fielding biometrics systems and maximizing existing systems to address immediate warfighting needs in Afghanistan and Iraq. This focus on responding to immediate warfighting needs and the absence of the essential management practices have contributed to operational inefficiencies in managing DOD's biometrics activities, such as DOD's difficulties in sharing biometrics data within and outside the department. For example, in May 2008 GAO recommended that DOD establish guidance specifying a standard set of biometrics data for collection during military operations in the field. These shortcomings may also impede DOD's implementation of the June 2008 presidential directive and the overall identity management operating concept.
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  • Disabilities Reported by Prisoners: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016
    In Justice News
    (Publication)
    This brief presents findings based on data collected in the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, a survey conducted through face-to-face interviews with a national sample of state and federal prisoners across a variety of topics, such as their demographic characteristics, socio-economic background, health, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
    3/30/2021, NCJ 252642, Mariel Alper, Jennifer Bronson, Laura M. Maruschak [Read More…]
  • Peruvian National Sentenced to 90 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Defraud Thousands of Spanish-Speaking Immigrants
    In Crime News
    A Peruvian national has been sentenced to 90 months in prison for operating a series of call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by falsely threatening them with arrest, deportation and other legal consequences. In the same case, two additional Peruvian co-conspirators pleaded guilty and two others were extradited to the Southern District of Florida to face prosecution for their roles in the scheme.
    [Read More…]
  • Somerset County Man Admits Concealing Material Support to Hamas
    In Crime News
    A Somerset County, New Jersey, man admitted today that he concealed his attempts to provide material support to Hamas, Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, FBI-Newark Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., and FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn announced.
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