Briefing with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

New Delhi, India

Mr. Kerry:  I’ll begin by saying I’ve had a terrific visit.  Really productive.  And I look forward to having a chance to have a dialogue with you and take your questions, et cetera.

Could you hear me before?

What I said was, I think I’ve had a really very constructive visit to India and enjoyed meeting with key ministers – the Minister of Environment, Minister of Energy, Minister of Power, Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs, External Affairs.  I also met with Amitabh Kant and Niti , so we had a very good discussion in the context of the broader challenges facing all of us and what the latest thinking is about climate and where we’re headed.

The bottom line to this visit is that President Biden is committed to moving forward aggressively to deal with the climate crisis.  He’s made it one of the top priorities of the administration.  One of four top priorities – COVID-19; the economy; healing the divisions, racial divisions in America; and climate.  And climate is integrally related to our economic recovery.  For all of us it’s a huge economic opportunity for jobs, for new technology, for transition, to a new economy, a new energy economy, and we’re very excited about that.

India is a key partner.  It’s not only the largest democracy in the world, but it is by values a country that hugely cares about the relationship of all of us to the planet, to the environment, the surroundings around us, and I think the Prime Minister is hugely seized by a sense of responsibility which we feel provides the capacity for a very important partnership.  We have, both of us, innovative, entrepreneurial populations that are always trying to push the limits of discovery.  Research and development, the creation of new products, new solutions, and I think that having a partnership really links a country that has enormous development challenges with a country that is developed but still has major transitional infrastructure and other types of challenges, so there’s a lot in common and we very much look forward to working with our friends here.

So on that note —

Journalist:  Good afternoon.  My name is Indrani Bagchi from The Times of India.

You were quoted in your remarks at the CERA Week essentially where you were talking with Ernest Moniz.  You spoke about putting together a consortium for financing renewable energy projects in India.  Where is this consortium coming from?  Which countries might be willing to invest?

Mr. Kerry:  Thank you.  I think there are lots of countries that would be willing to invest, obviously with the right investment conditions.  But in the immediate effort to accelerate the deployment of 450 gigawatts of power which Prime Minister Modi has set out as his goal, we think that’s a terrific goal.  We think that’s a powerful goal.  We want to make sure that we’re facilitating the ability to reach that goal.  That’s part of the partnership that we reached, the discussion that we agreed upon in our discussion yesterday where we intend to work very closely together, focusing on the deployment of N450 on technology and on the finance components of that.

I came here from the UAE where we had the first-ever Middle East Dialogue on climate alone with our country and the countries of the region.  Many other countries, a lot of countries in the region.  We had Sudan, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait and Bahrain, UAE, et cetera, all coming together to talk about the urgency of doing something serious at Glasgow and the urgency of reducing emissions and moving forward in new technology.  I can tell you with certainty the UAE is already doing a couple of things with India and they’re very interested in partnering with us in a partnership.  I’ve also talked to other countries – I’m not going to name them because it’s up to them to decide to do that, but I can tell you there are some in Europe, there are some in our continent, who are prepared to try to be helpful.

The bottom line is that we need to do some working through the details with the Modi government, which has already started, actually, but we will continue to try to grow this out very, very quickly over the course of the next weeks.

The reason is that the clock is ticking.  The clock is ticking on Glasgow, the clock is ticking on 2030.

We look at 2020-2030 as the critical, decisive decade.  That’s the period during which we have to do everything in our power to make sure we’re trying to keep the 1.5 degree Celsius limitation, to keep it alive and that’s the period during which we will do the setting of the road map that takes us to net zero by 2050.  But much more interesting than net zero 2050 is the notion that 2020-2030 is the operative ,  because if you don’t do enough then, the others are impossible.  We don’t have the ability to hold 1.5 and we don’t have the ability to meet .  So this is the time.  There’s no delay.  It’s urgent.  Prime Minister Modi understands that.  He’s committed to moving and so are we, so is President Biden.

Journalist:  Gaurav Saini, Press Trust of India.  Do you agree with India’s Energy Minister’s suggestion that instead of talking about  net zero emissions, we should be talking about net negative emissions? .

Mr. Kerry:  The goal that people are talking about for 2050 is net zero in that period of time.  But I happen to believe at some point we’re going to get to zero, and at some point once we have the ability to, we need to be net negative.  Yes.  Absolutely correct.  Even if we got to 2050 net zero, we will still have the mission ahead of us of sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, because there’s enough of it up there that even after getting to 2050 net zero, you still have damage being done and that is being added to now by methane.  Methane is leaking at a rate that is very dangerous because methane is anywhere from 20-100 times, I hear various numbers, but the baseline I’ve ever heard is 20 times more damaging than CO2.  It doesn’t last as long, but it’s much more damaging.  So that’s happening now because permafrost is melting in Alaska.  The tundra is melting in Siberia.  You run around the world and we see increasing threats because of methane alone and other greenhouse gases.

So the focus is not just on CO2.  The focus is on all greenhouse gases of which methane is perhaps the most destructive.

Journalist:  Jayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times.  I have a couple of questions that are related.  One, did you have any discussions regarding carbon markets or carbon trading with the Indian officials?  And did you have any discussions regarding net zero emissions target – first the 2030 targets and then leading up to net zero emissions later?

Mr. Kerry:  Any discussions about what?

Journalist:  With the Indian officials, with your Indian counterparts.

Mr. Kerry:  About?

Journalist:  About carbon trading and carbon markets.

Mr. Kerry:  Okay.  That’s the main question.

Yes, not in-depth, not a huge one, but we both agree carbon markets exist and need to exist.  We need them to be stronger.  President Biden believes that at some point in time we need to find out a way to have a price on carbon that’s effective.  He hasn’t decided or made an announcement about it, but we all know that one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions is putting a price on carbon.  You’re paying a price here now.  You have a price on gas, you have a price on coal, and it has some effect but no one has yet put the reality price on anything.  The fact is, prices are low enough that it’s just not having the kind of broad effect that we need to have on a global basis.  It’s a subject that needs to be discussed.  I think going into the next months there will be a lot more talk about whatever tools are available to us and certainly a carbon market is an important tool.

Journalist:  Suhasini Haidar, The Hindu.  Thank you.  Mr. Kerry, you were here  in August 2016 and you had  discussions with the Indian government of a very similar nature.  At that time you were talking before the Paris Accord.  In fact, India joined the Paris Accord  on the basis of certain assurances also that they had received  from the U.S. when it came to climate financing, when it came to climate justice.

Subsequently Mr. Trump was elected in the U.S. and we saw the U.S. government actually rescind many of those commitments, particularly to rejoin the climate accord. But also comments that were made about India being one of the world’s biggest polluters and not deserving some of the assurances that had been made.

So my question really is how much damage, when you say that time is of the essence, how much damage did the last four years really do to the U.S.’ quest for leadership, for driving the climate change initiative?  And how do you propose to make up for it?  I know the Finance Minister said in her conversation with you, in tweets we read,  that America should get back to that commitment –if it’s $100 billion from developed countries for developing countries.  How quickly do you think you can make up for the kind of damage you’ve seen over the last four years?

Mr. Kerry:  You and people around the world are going to have to decide how quickly it happens.  We can’t decide it.

What we can do is act in good faith and we can restore America’s credibility by doing the things we said we’d do.

Now we made the announcement, President Obama and Vice President Biden made the announcement that the United States was going to put $3 billion into the climate fund.  We quickly managed to expedite $1 billion of that during the budget cycle but we didn’t have control over subsequent cycles and this fellow named Trump came in and the rest is history.  He shot America’s credibility in the head and turned his back on science and became the only leader of a nation, let alone one of the biggest nations, but the only leader of any nation who decided to withdraw from the agreement.  Without science, without any rational — other than telling something to the American people that wasn’t true, which is that Paris put too big a burden on the United States.  Well guess what?  Paris didn’t place any burden on the United States.  Every country wrote its own plan in Paris.  Every country decided itself what it would do. And we worked very closely with all of the environment community, the faith-based community, but also with big businesses and others to determine what would work, how could we do this?

So when we left Paris I remember saying to the delegates in the session right after we celebrated the passage of the agreement that we weren’t leaving Paris pretending that we had held the earth’s temperature to two degrees centigrade, let alone 1.5.  We were leaving Paris having 196 countries all together sending the same message to the world.  We’re going to deal with climate and here’s what we’re going to do.

Now it didn’t happen.  And sadly, even if every nation did what Paris, what they said they would do in Paris, we would still see the earth’s temperature rising by 3.7 degrees centigrade.  And we’re not doing everything we said we’d do in Paris.

So in effect we’re heading now towards four degrees, or 4.5.  I don’t know exactly.  Nobody can tell you with precision.  But they can tell you it’s absolutely heading in that direction with this monumental level of damage.

So that’s the urgency.  That’s why when we go to Glasgow we can’t just do something light.  We have to come up with things that now will make a difference.  That’s why 2050 net zero is not enough.  You can’t go there and say we’re going to do what we’re going to do in 30 years, because if you don’t do what we need to do between now and 2030 you can’t do what needs to be done to reach 1.5, or to hold to 1.5 and to reach net zero.  You just can’t do it scientifically.  So unless there’s a miracle discovery that does in fact take all the carbon dioxide out and provides you with  storage or creates an entire new generation of a fuel – which might happen.  But you can’t take the planet and bet it on the potential of something, some sort of a miracle or something.  You can’t do that.  And that’s what we would be doing otherwise unless we come together and raise our ambition.

So the United States comes back to the table understanding this obligation.  Understanding what we need to do.  We come back with humility.  We come back knowing the last four years were a disappointment to people.  But we also come back knowing that governors and mayors and citizens throughout America worked hard to stay in the Paris Agreement.  And that’s very important for you to please register in this.  We have 37 states which have renewable portfolio laws and 37 governors – Republican and Democrat alike – lived by those laws.  So we continued to reduce somewhat.  We also had over a thousand mayors come together.  The mayor of every major city in America came together and said we’re not getting out, we’re still in Paris.

So Donald Trump pulled out, but the vast majority of the American people stayed in the Paris agreement.

So yeah, we get hurt by him getting out but the truth is the American people continued to fight.  And people need to know that because that will help us restore our credibility.

In addition, right now President Biden has kept his promise.  He said he’d rejoin Paris and he rejoined within hours of being President.  He immediately issued executive orders that undid the bad things Donald Trump did; that put in place our Climate Action Plan; that put in place the restraints on automobile standards and other things.  And he is committed to replenishing the money that we promised five years ago.

So he is planning to put into the budget the $2 billion that was owed but also he’s going to make his own payment, the Biden administration payment, that he will put in additional money for these forward years, and I think that is called living up to your obligations and keeping faith with your promises.  And I hope people in India and elsewhere in the world will recognize that Donald Trump is Donald Trump.  He’s over here.  He lost the race.  President Biden was part of the Obama administration that helped make Paris happen and now we’re going to try to help – I mean help, because every country is the key to this to make Glasgow a success.

It’s a long answer for you, but it’s really important for people to understand what took place.

Journalist:  Anubhuti Vishnoi, The Economic Times.  Mr. Kerry, there is renewed expectation for India to announce its net zero target.  Now is this a realistic or practical expectation given India is still a growing economy?  We are years away from hitting peak target.  Do you think it is something that can be practically expected of India?

Mr. Kerry:  Do I think it could be?  Yes.  Am I sitting here saying that’s what India absolutely has to do?  No.  That wasn’t my message in my meetings with the Prime Minister.  He understands the challenge.  India understands the challenge.  It would be great if India wanted to say that, but I don’t think it’s an absolute requirement in the sense that India is doing all the things that it needs to do to get us there, then that’s better than a lot of nations.  And India right now has this plan for 450 gigawatts.  If 450 gigawatts of renewable power were able to be put in place and operative, India would be one of the few nations helping to keep 1.5 degrees alive.

Now, I also emphasized earlier what’s more important than making the pledge – and we welcome the pledge.  We love to have so many make the pledge.  It’s helpful to get everybody doing it.  But what’s more important is real actions now — from 2020 to 2030 — because as I said, if you’re not one of the nations taking real actions right now, you’re not making 2050 mean anything.  That’s our challenge in the  course of the next months — is to get more people engaged in 2020 to 2030.  That’s what President Biden is trying to do with the Summit that he’s hosting where he’s asking nations to up their ambition and Paris contemplated, that is part of Paris, that we would revisit, that we would evaluate where we are, and that we would have subsequent meetings in order to raise ambition.  So this Summit is going to have the major economies of the world come together, virtually, and every head of state will have an opportunity to say what their plans are going forward.  And whether they’re raising the ambition or not.  And we think it’s critical to do so.

Journalist:  Avishek Dastidar, The Indian Express.  Mr. Kerry, I want to ask something that is related obviously.  While we are having this conversation on climate,  how, globally, how important do you think is the role played by young climate activists?  And how important is it for governments to make sure that their human rights, wherever they are, human rights are safeguarded?  What I want to ask is do governments play a role in encouraging these young climate activists?  Because the context in India is that a young climate activist named Disha Ravi was recently arrested because she shared her online toolkit about some protest and she was in conversation with Greta Thunberg.  So, as a leading personality on this issue, how important do you think is the role played by government in encouraging — protecting the human rights of young climate activists?

Mr. Kerry:  Human rights are always a critical issue to the United States and it’s something that we pride ourselves in trying to live up to.  We obviously have had our own internal challenges in the last few years and historically, but young people — you asked how important are young people — young people have been the key to pushing a lot of adults in the world to do what adults are supposed to do, which is get the job done.  Behave like adults.  Listen to the evidence.  Respond to the science.  Do things.  And I have great admiration for the activists who — Fridays for Future or the various movements, 350.org, you can name these groups.  The Sunrise Movement, different young people around the world have been trying to claim their future.  And I personally welcome that kind of activism.  I think it’s critical that it translates into votes where people are allowed to vote.  And in America  in the last election it did translate into votes.  For the first time that I can remember since 1970 probably, the environment, climate crisis was a voting issue.  Something that motivated people to come out and organize and vote for it.  And young people led that charge.  All around the world.  Because they know what’s happening to their world and their future if we don’t respond properly.

So historically, I think when you look at the history in a lot of democracies, and even where there isn’t democracy, and you look at young people in Eastern Europe and places, who pushed back against the Soviet Union, and adult leaders too who stood up.  There is this spirit in the souls of human beings that demands freedom.  And respect.  And dignity.

So this movement that we’re all involved in to deal with the climate crisis is in the end about people’s ability to be able to eat food, and live where they live, and not have to be moved because it’s too hot to live.  Or you don’t have food anymore, there’s no water.  Or climate refugees who are compelled to find a home because their home isn’t livable anymore.  That’s what’s happening.

We already have climate refugees on this planet.  So I think young people more than anybody else have said, hey wait a minute, you guys are screwing this up.  You’re stealing our future.  You’ve got to stop.  And I think President Biden has heard that call.  He made this one of the key issues of his campaign.  And he has followed through by creating a special position to help organize and go out and get this done.

So I think that’s where the – this is all wrapped up in that.

The folks who live in a lot of countries in the world are putting less than 0.7 percent into the atmosphere, but they are often the people paying the highest price for what twenty-plus countries have done – 20 nations are 81 percent of all the emissions.  And so yes, is there a big responsibility on those people to try to step up?  You better believe it.  Yes, there is.  That’s a principle that we have carried through our negotiations since the first negotiation in Rio.

But no one can use that as an excuse not to do things that they need to do.  China is the biggest emitter, we’re the second biggest emitter, India is the third biggest emitter, Russia, Indonesia, a bunch of countries follow.  And we need to therefore, all of us, join together.  Even if one of those countries went to zero tomorrow, zero emissions, if it’s just them it’s not going to make the difference that we need.  We need everybody to be heading towards zero.

And it’s doable.  It’s a very exciting transformation.  That’s my message to all of you, that the economic transformation we’re looking at is gigantic.  It’s full of jobs.  Jobs for construction of the grid, jobs for new transmission, jobs to build a new solar plant, jobs to manage these things, jobs to build the solar panels, jobs to have electric vehicles.  Run the list.  Jobs to construct new buildings that are made with better materials, that are more energy efficient, that don’t demand enormous power, and so forth.  That’s the future.  And all the young people are out there pushing for that future, will have an opportunity to help define it in many different ways.

I think it’s a great opportunity.

I don’t doubt that we will get to a zero carbon economy.  What I’m not sure of yet, because of the lack of willpower, is whether we will get there fast enough.  That’s the challenge.  This is not some doomsday thing where we’re sitting here powerless – it’s not.  We have capacity to be able to make decisions that will resolve this crisis, and we’ve just got to behave like the adults we are, allegedly, and get it done.

Thank you very much.  Thanks for coming out.  I appreciate it.

More from: John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

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    Why this Matters Safe vaccines are critical to fighting diseases, from polio to COVID-19. Research shows that the protection provided by U.S. licensed vaccines outweighs their potential risks. However, misinformation and unjustified safety concerns can cause people to delay or refuse vaccination, which may increase preventable deaths and prolong negative social and economic impacts. The Science What is it? A vaccine is generally considered safe when the benefits of protecting an individual from disease outweigh the risks from potential side effects (fig. 1). The most common side effects stem from the body's immune reaction and include swelling at the injection site, fever, and aches. Figure 1. Symptoms of polio and side effects of the polio vaccine. A vaccine is generally considered safe if its benefits (preventing disease) outweigh its risks (side effects). In rare cases, some vaccines may cause more severe side effects. For example, the vaccine for rotavirus—a childhood illness that can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, and even death—can cause intestinal blockage in one in 100,000 recipients. However, the vaccine is still administered because this very rare side effect is outweighed by the vaccine's benefits: it saves lives and prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 childhood hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. The two messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines authorized for COVID-19—a disease that contributed to more than 415,000 American deaths between January 2020 and January 2021—can cause severe allergic reactions. However, early safety reporting found that these reactions have been extremely rare, with only about five cases per 1 million recipients, according to data from January 2021 reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In general, side effects from vaccines are less acceptable to the public than side effects from treatments given to people who already have a disease. What is known? Vaccine developers assess safety from early research, through laboratory and animal testing, and even after the vaccine is in use (fig. 2). Researchers may rely on previous studies to inform future vaccine trials. For example, safety information from preclinical trials of mRNA flu vaccine candidates in 2017 allowed for the acceleration of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine development. Vaccine candidates shown to be safe in these preclinical trials can proceed to clinical trials in humans. In the U.S., clinical trials generally proceed through three phases of testing involving increasing numbers of volunteers: dozens in phase 1 to thousands in phase 3. Although data may be collected over years, most common side effects are identified in the first 2 months after vaccination in clinical trials. After reviewing safety and other data from vaccine studies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may license a vaccine to be marketed in the U.S. There are also programs to expedite—but not bypass—development and review processes, such as a priority review designation, which shortens FDA’s goal review time from 10 to 6 months. Safety monitoring continues after licensing. For example, health officials are required to report certain adverse events—such as heart problems—following vaccination, in order to help identify potential long-term or rare side effects that were not seen in clinical trials and may or may not be associated with the vaccine. Figure 2. Vaccine safety is assessed at every stage: development through post-licensure. Following a declared emergency, FDA can also issue emergency use authorizations (EUA) to allow temporary use of unlicensed vaccines if there is evidence that known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh known and potential risks, among other criteria. As of January 2021, two COVID-19 vaccines had received EUAs, after their efficacy and short-term safety were assessed through large clinical trials. However, developers must continue safety monitoring and meet other requirements if they intend to apply for FDA licensure to continue distribution of these vaccines after the emergency period has ended. What are the knowledge gaps? One knowledge gap that can remain after clinical trials is whether side effects or other adverse events may occur in certain groups. For example, because clinical trials usually exclude certain populations, such as people who are pregnant or have existing medical conditions, data on potential adverse events related to specific populations may not be understood until vaccines are widely administered. In addition, it can be difficult to determine the safety of new vaccines if outbreaks end suddenly. For example, vaccine safety studies were hindered during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic when a large increase in the number of cases was followed by a sharp decrease. This disrupted the clinical trials of Ebola vaccine candidates, because the trials require many infected and non-infected people. Furthermore, a lack of understanding and/or misinformation about the steps taken to ensure the safety of vaccines hinders accurate public knowledge about safety concerns, which may cause people to delay or refuse vaccination. This resulting hesitancy may, in turn, increase deaths, social harm, and economic damage. Opportunities Continuing and, where necessary, improving existing vaccine safety practices offers the following opportunities to society: Herd immunity. Widespread immunity in a population, acquired in large part through safe and effective vaccines, can slow the spread of infection and protect those most vulnerable. Health care improvements. Vaccinations can reduce the burden on the health care system by reducing severe symptoms that require individuals to seek treatment. Eradication. Safe vaccination programs, such as those combatting smallpox, may eliminate diseases to the point where transmission no longer occurs. Challenges There are a number of challenges to ensuring safe vaccines: Public confidence. Vaccine hesitancy, in part due to misinformation or historic unethical human experimentation, decreases participation in clinical trials, impeding identification of side effects across individuals with different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Mutating viruses. Some viruses, such as those that cause the flu or COVID-19, may mutate rapidly and thus may require new or updated vaccines, for which ongoing safety monitoring is important. Long-term and rare effects. Exceedingly rare or long-term effects may not be identified until after vaccines have been widely administered. Further study is needed to detect any such effects and confirm they are truly associated with the vaccine. Policy Context & Questions What steps can policymakers take to improve public trust and understanding of the process of assessing vaccine safety? How can policymakers convey the social importance of vaccines to protect the general public and those who are most vulnerable? How can policymakers leverage available resources to support ongoing vaccine development and post-licensure safety monitoring? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
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  • Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations: DOD Needs to Take Action to Help Ensure Superiority
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The electromagnetic spectrum (the spectrum) consists of frequencies worldwide that support many civilian and military uses, from mobile phone networks and radios to navigation and weapons. This invisible battlespace is essential to Department of Defense (DOD) operations in all domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. The interruption of U.S. forces' access to the spectrum can result in a military disadvantage, preventing U.S. forces from operating as planned and desired. According to the studies by DOD and others that GAO reviewed for its December 2020 report on military operations in the spectrum, adversaries, such as China and Russia, are also aware of the importance of the spectrum and have taken significant steps to improve their own capabilities that challenge DOD and its operations. For example, studies described how China has formed new military units and fielded new unmanned aerial vehicles with spectrum warfare capabilities, and Russian electromagnetic warfare forces have demonstrated their effectiveness through successful real-world applications against U.S. and foreign militaries. These developments are particularly concerning in the context of challenges to DOD's spectrum superiority. GAO's analysis of the studies highlighted DOD management challenges such as dispersed governance, limited full-time senior-level leadership, outdated capabilities, a lengthy acquisition process, increased spectrum competition and congestion, and a gap in experienced staff and realistic training. GAO found that DOD had issued strategies in 2013 and 2017 to address spectrum-related challenges, but did not fully implement either strategy because DOD did not assign senior leaders with appropriate authorities and resources or establish oversight processes for implementation. DOD published a new strategy in October 2020, but GAO found in December 2020 the department risks not achieving the new strategy's goals because it had not taken key actions—such as identifying processes and procedures to integrate spectrum operations across the department, reforming governance structures, and clearly assigning leadership for strategy implementation. Also, it had not developed oversight processes, such as an implementation plan, that would help ensure accountability and implementation of the 2020 strategy goals (see figure). Actions to Ensure DOD Superiority in the Electromagnetic Spectrum Why GAO Did This Study The spectrum is essential for facilitating control in operational environments and affects operations in the air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace domains. Spectrum use is pervasive across warfighting domains and thus maintaining or achieving spectrum superiority against an adversary is critical to battlefield success. This statement summarizes: (1) the importance of the spectrum; (2) challenges to DOD's superiority in the spectrum; and (3) the extent to which DOD has implemented spectrum-related strategies and is positioned to achieve future goals. This statement is based on GAO's December 2020 report (GAO-21-64) and updates conducted in March 2021. For the report, GAO analyzed 43 studies identified through a literature review, reviewed DOD documentation, and interviewed DOD officials and subject matter experts. For the updates, GAO reviewed materials that DOD provided in March 2021.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Intuit Inc. and Credit Karma Inc. (Credit Karma) to divest Credit Karma’s tax business, Credit Karma Tax, to Square Inc. in order for Intuit, the creator of TurboTax, to proceed with its $7.1 billion acquisition of Credit Karma.  The department said that without this divestiture, the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition for digital do-it-yourself (DDIY) tax preparation products, which are software programs used by American taxpayers to prepare and file their federal and state returns.
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  • Littoral Combat Ship: Unplanned Work on Maintenance Contracts Creates Schedule Risk as Ships Begin Operations
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a class of small surface ships with two unique design variants. Both LCS variants carry smaller crews and rely more on contractors for maintenance than any other Navy ship. While this strategy was intended to reduce operating costs, it contributes to challenges in the Navy's strategy for contracted maintenance. Specifically: Contractor travel. U.S. law states that foreign contractors generally cannot conduct certain types of LCS maintenance. This results in the Navy paying for contractors to regularly travel overseas to perform routine maintenance. GAO's sample of 18 delivery orders showed estimated travel costs for the orders reviewed ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $1 million. Heavy reliance on original equipment manufacturers. LCS includes numerous commercial-based systems that are not used on other Navy ships. However, the Navy lacks sufficient manufacturer technical data to maintain many of these systems. This can lead to longer maintenance periods due to extra coordination needed for the manufacturers to assist with or complete the work. Although the Navy is establishing teams of its personnel to take on routine maintenance, contractors will continue performing some of this work. Littoral Combat Ship Variants under Maintenance The Navy is beginning to implement contracting approaches for LCS maintenance in order to help mitigate schedule risk, while taking steps to avoid it in the future. GAO found in the 18 LCS maintenance delivery orders it reviewed that the Navy had to contract for more repair work than originally planned, increasing the risk to completing LCS maintenance on schedule. A majority of this unplanned work occurred because the Navy did not fully understand the ship's condition before starting maintenance. The Navy has begun taking steps to systematically collect and analyze maintenance data to determine the causes of unplanned work, which could help it more accurately plan for maintenance. The Navy has also recently begun applying some contracting approaches to more quickly incorporate unplanned work and mitigate the schedule risk, such as (1) setting a price for low-dollar value unplanned work to save negotiation time and (2) procuring some materials directly instead of waiting for contractors to do so. Such measures will be important to control cost and schedule risks as additional LCS enter the fleet in the coming years. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy plans to spend approximately $61 billion to operate and maintain LCS, a class of small surface ships equipped with interchangeable sensors and weapons. With limited operations to date, these ships have entered the Navy's maintenance cycle. Since 2005, GAO has reported extensively on LCS issues, including ships delivered late and with increased costs and less capability than planned. The Navy also encountered problems as LCS entered the fleet, including higher than expected costs for contractor maintenance and numerous mechanical failures. In 2020, GAO reported that major maintenance on other surface ships using the same contracting approach as LCS was 64 days late, on average. The Navy acknowledges the importance of reducing maintenance delays in order to improve the readiness of its surface fleet. A House Report included a provision for GAO to review long-term contracting strategies and challenges for LCS repair and maintenance. This report (1) describes the effect of the LCS program's acquisition and sustainment strategies on its contracted maintenance and (2) assesses the extent to which the Navy is using contracting approaches to address any cost and schedule risks in maintaining LCS. To conduct this assessment, GAO reviewed relevant Navy documentation, including a sample of 18 delivery orders for LCS maintenance from fiscal year 2018 through April 2020 selected to cover each availability type and each LCS variant. GAO also interviewed Navy officials and contractor representatives. For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or OakleyS@gao.gov.
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  • Program Evaluation: Key Terms and Concepts
    In U.S GAO News
    Both the executive branch and congressional committees need evaluative information to help them make decisions about the programs they oversee—information that tells them whether, and why, a program is working well or not. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) and GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) established a framework for performance management and accountability within the federal government. Building on that foundation, Congress has since passed, among other laws, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act) to strengthen the evidence-building efforts of executive branch agencies. This product updates our previous glossary (GAO-11-646SP) to highlight different types of evaluations for answering questions about program performance, as well as relevant issues to ensure study quality. This glossary can help agency officials better understand fundamental concepts related to evaluation and enhance their evidence-building capacity. For more information, contact Lawrance Evans, Jr. at 202-512-2700 or EvansL@gao.gov.
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  • U.S. Law Enforcement Takes Action Against Approximately 2,300 Money Mules In Global Crackdown On Money Laundering
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    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment charging Norman W. Fries Inc., dba Claxton Poultry Farms (Claxton), headquartered in Claxton, Georgia, with participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.
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    In Crime News
    Prince Bixler, 41, of Lexington, Kentucky, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Wier to 36 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $333,100 in restitution to three sex trafficking victims.
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