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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    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays over $1 billion a year to state veterans homes (SVH)—homes owned and operated by the states—to provide nursing home care to approximately 20,000 veterans. In fiscal year 2019, VA paid SVHs $1.17 billion for an average daily census of 20,072 veterans (51 percent of the total veterans receiving nursing home care through VA). Further, VA projects its payments to SVHs will continue to increase; VA projects it will pay $1.7 billion to SVHs to provide care to veterans in fiscal year 2022. VA oversees the quality of care veterans receive at SVHs mainly through annual inspections that VA hires a contractor to perform. In its July 2019 report, GAO found that VA's SVH contractor performed the required annual inspections for all SVHs in 2018, but VA needed to take action to enhance its oversight of SVHs and to ensure that information on quality of care provided in this setting is publicly available to veterans. Specifically, GAO found the following: VA does not require its SVH contractor to identify all failures to meet quality standards during its inspections as deficiencies . For example, GAO found that VA allows its SVH contractor to cite some failures to meet quality standards as “recommendations,” rather than as deficiencies. VA officials said they do not track or monitor the nature of the recommendations or whether they have been addressed. As a result, VA does not have complete information on all failures to meet quality standards at SVHs and cannot track this information to identify trends in quality across these homes. VA is not conducting all monitoring of its SVH contractor. GAO found that, at the time of its review, VA had not monitored the SVH contractor's performance of inspections through regular observational assessments to ensure that contractor staff effectively determine whether SVHs are meeting required standards. Specifically, VA officials said they intended to observe the SVH contractor's inspections on a quarterly basis; however, at the time of GAO's review, VA officials could not recall when VA last observed the SVH contractor's inspections. In July 2020, VA provided information indicating that they will regularly monitor the SVH contractor's performance in conducting inspections through observational assessments. VA does not share information on the quality of SVHs on its website. GAO found that, while VA provides information on the quality of other nursing home care settings on its website, it does not do so for SVHs. According to VA officials, there is no requirement to provide information on SVH quality on its website, as SVHs are owned and operated by the states. VA is the only federal agency that conducts regular oversight inspection on the quality of care of all SVHs and, as a result, is the only agency that could share such quality information on its website. Veterans—like over a million other Americans—rely on nursing home care to help meet their health needs. For eligible veterans whose health needs require skilled nursing and personal care, VA provides or pays for nursing home care in three nursing home settings: the VA-owned and -operated community living centers, public- or privately owned community nursing homes, and state-owned and -operated SVHs. In fiscal year 2019, VA provided or paid for nursing home care for over 39,000 veterans. The majority of these veterans received care at SVHs. This statement summarizes the GAO's July 2019 report, GAO-19-428 , with a focus on issues related to SVHs. Specifically, it describes the: (1) use of and expenditures for SVHs, (2) inspections used by VA to assess the quality of SVH care and VA's oversight of the inspection process, and (3) information VA provides publicly on the quality of SVH care. As part of that work GAO analyzed VA data on expenditures for SVHs and interviewed VA officials. For this statement GAO reviewed expenditure and utilization data for fiscal year 2019. In its July 2019 report, GAO made three recommendations related to SVHs, including that VA require that all failures to meet quality standards are cited as deficiencies on SVH inspections. VA concurred with two recommendations and concurred in principle with the third. VA has addressed one recommendation and continued attention is needed to address the two remaining recommendations. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or silass@gao.gov.
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  • Man-Made Chemicals and Potential Health Risks: EPA Has Completed Some Regulatory-Related Actions for PFAS
    In U.S GAO News
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed three of six selected regulatory-related actions for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) outlined in EPA's PFAS Action Plan . (See fig.) For two of the three completed actions, the steps EPA took were also in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA): After proposing a supplemental significant new use rule in February 2020, EPA met a June 2020 deadline set in the FY20 NDAA when the EPA Administrator signed the final rule. Among other things, under the final rule, articles containing certain PFAS as a surface coating, and carpet containing certain PFAS, can no longer be imported into the U.S. without EPA review. EPA incorporated 172 PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory in June 2020. The FY20 NDAA directed EPA to take this action, extending EPA's original planned action to explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the inventory. Finally, in March 2020, EPA completed a third regulatory-related action, not required under the FY20 NDAA, when the agency proposed a preliminary drinking water regulatory determination for two PFAS—an initial step toward regulating these chemicals in drinking water. Status of Six Selected Regulatory-Related Actions in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan Planned action Status Propose a supplemental significant new use rule. Complete Explore data for listing PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory. Complete Propose a drinking water regulatory determination. Complete Monitor PFAS in drinking water. Ongoing Explore industrial sources of PFAS that may warrant potential regulation. Ongoing Continue the regulatory process for a hazardous substances designation. Ongoing Source: GAO analysis of EPA's 2019 PFAS Action Plan. | GAO-21-37 Three of the six selected regulatory-related actions are ongoing, and EPA's progress on these actions varies. For example: As of August 2020, EPA was developing a proposed rulemaking for a nationwide drinking water monitoring rule that includes PFAS, which EPA officials said the agency intends to finalize by December 2021. EPA planned to continue the regulatory process for designating two PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, would allow the agency to require responsible parties to conduct or pay for cleanup. On January 14, 2021, EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the hazardous substances designation to get public comment and data to inform the agency's ongoing evaluation of the two PFAS. Beginning in the 1940s, scientists developed a class of heat- and stain-resistant chemicals—PFAS—that are used in a wide range of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and some firefighting foams. PFAS can persist in the environment for decades or longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that most people in the U.S. have been exposed to two of the most widely studied PFAS, likely from consuming contaminated water or food. According to EPA, there is evidence that continued exposure above certain levels to some PFAS may lead to adverse health effects. In February 2019, EPA issued its PFAS Action Plan , which outlined 23 planned actions to better understand PFAS and reduce their risks to the public. GAO was asked to examine the status of regulatory-related actions in EPA's plan. For six regulatory-related actions GAO selected in EPA's PFAS Action Plan , this report examines (1) the number of actions that are complete and the steps EPA took to complete them and (2) the number of actions that are ongoing and EPA's progress toward completing them. GAO first identified those actions in the PFAS Action Plan that may lead to the issuance of federal regulations or could affect compliance with existing regulations. GAO then assessed the status of the actions by reviewing EPA documents and examining EPA's response to related FY20 NDAA requirements. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
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  • Missile Defense: Fiscal Year 2020 Delivery and Testing Progressed, but Annual Goals Unmet
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    What GAO Found In fiscal year 2020, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) made progress toward achieving its delivery and testing goals for some of the individual systems—known as elements—that combine and integrate to create the Missile Defense System (also known as the Ballistic Missile Defense System). However, MDA did not complete its overall planned deliveries or annual testing. The figure below shows MDA's progress delivering assets and conducting flight tests against its fiscal year 2020 plans. Percentage of Missile Defense Agency Planned Deliveries and Flight Tests Completed for Fiscal Year 2020 Deliveries— In fiscal year 2020, MDA delivered many assets it had planned. Specifically, MDA was able to deliver 82 missile interceptors for 3 elements. However, MDA was not able to deliver all planned interceptors, including one originally planned for 2018 for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, as the program experienced delays related to qualifying parts from a new supplier. Flight testing— MDA conducted two planned flight tests, but neither was successful. The issues were due to problems with non-MDA assets, but the agency was able to collect important data. In addition, COVID-19 restrictions also affected the planned schedule. However, the delays continue a trend of MDA's inability to conduct planned annual flight testing, resulting in assets and capabilities that are subsequently delayed or delivered with less data than planned. Ground testing— In fiscal year 2020, MDA continued to implement a new ground testing approach that the agency began in fiscal year 2019. In addition, MDA successfully completed three planned ground tests demonstrating defense capabilities for the U.S., U.S. forces and regional allies. However, MDA delayed two other ground tests to future fiscal years and expects disruptions in fiscal year 2021, in part due to ongoing COVID-19 disruptions. Cyber— Despite failing to meet annual operational cybersecurity assessments since 2017, MDA canceled its planned fiscal year 2020 operational assessments, instead taking steps to implement a new approach designed to improve cyber system requirements while streamlining cyber test planning. It is premature to assess whether this new approach will achieve its intended goals. Why GAO Did This Study For over half a century, the Department of Defense has funded efforts to defend the U.S. from ballistic missile attacks. This effort consists of diverse and highly complex land-, sea-, and space-based systems and assets located across the globe. From 2002 through 2019, MDA—the agency charged with developing, testing, integrating, and fielding this system of systems—received about $162.5 billion. The agency also requested about $45 billion from fiscal year 2020 through fiscal year 2024. In fiscal year 2020, MDA's mission broadened to include evolving threats beyond ballistic missiles such as defending against hypersonic missile attacks. With the inclusion of non-ballistic missile threats, the Ballistic Missile Defense System is in the process of transitioning to the Missile Defense System. Congress included a provision in statute that GAO annually assess and report on MDA's progress. This, our 18th annual review, addresses the progress MDA made in achieving fiscal year 2020 delivery and testing goals. GAO reviewed planned fiscal year 2020 baselines, along with program changes due to COVID-19 restrictions, and other program documentation and assessed them against responses to GAO detailed question sets and program and baseline reviews. GAO also interviewed officials from MDA and various Department of Defense Combatant Commands. We do not make any new recommendations in this report but continue to track the status of prior recommendations. For more information, contact John D. Sawyer at (202) 512-4841 or SawyerJ@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Following a decade of decline, including after the 2007–2009 financial crisis, the national homeownership rate started to recover in 2016 (see figure). Homeownership Rate in the United States, 1990–2018 Note: Shaded areas indicate U.S. recessions. However, not all Americans have benefitted from the recovery, even in housing markets that appear to be thriving. GAO examined homeownership trends during 2010–2018 in nine core-based statistical areas (cities)—Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, South Carolina; Denver; Houston; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. In summary, among the nine cities reviewed, GAO found that during 2010–2018: The homeownership rate declined or was flat in all cities. The homeownership rate significantly declined in Chicago, Cleveland, and Houston and remained statistically unchanged in the other cities. Average home prices grew in all cities, but at considerably different rates. For example, real house prices increased significantly in Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle but much less in Chicago, Cleveland, and Columbia. The homeowner vacancy rate dropped in all cities, indicating growing constraints on the housing supply. Most significantly, by 2018, the three cities with the largest house price increases—Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle—all had homeowner vacancy rates below 1 percent and the three lowest rental vacancy rates (below 5 percent), indicating more severe constraints on supply. Most cities became denser, and some also expanded outward. Cities such as Houston and Washington, D.C., both became denser (added more housing units in developed areas) and expanded outward (added housing units in previously undeveloped areas), while cities such as Seattle and Denver grew largely by adding more density to already high-density areas. Chicago, and Pittsburgh became less dense, as limited growth came largely through outward expansion. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly higher-income. All nine cities saw growth in the estimated number and percentage of households reporting annual incomes of $150,000 or more (the highest income category reported by Census). Similarly, with the exception of Columbia, real median incomes of borrowers increased in the selected cities. Homeowners and recent borrowers were increasingly older and more diverse. Most cities saw growth in homeownership among households aged 60 and older, often with corresponding decreases among younger owners. Additionally, loan originations by minority borrowers increased in all cities. GAO's analysis of homeownership trends in these nine cities during 2010–2018 illustrates two main points: (1) Cities grew differently and accommodated growth to differing degrees, and (2) who owns and who can buy a home differs by location and type of buyer, sometimes substantially. Historically, owning a home has been one of the primary ways Americans built wealth and financial security. This is one reason why the availability and price of housing is consequential to both households and policymakers. GAO was asked to assess the state of the current domestic housing market and this report, one in a series, focuses on homeownership trends. To conduct this work, GAO used data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data (loan and application data filed by mortgage lenders), among other sources, to identify trends in nine selected cities during 2010–2018, the most current data available at the time of GAO's review. This report examines trends prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and does not account for the profound effect it likely will have on homeowners. GAO has ongoing work that will examine implementation of foreclosure and eviction protections authorized in recent legislation. GAO makes no recommendations in this report. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or garciadiazd@gao.gov.
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  • Pregnant Women in DOJ Custody: U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Prisons Should Better Align Policies with National Guidelines
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO analyses of available data show that from calendar year 2017 through 2019, there were at least 1,220 pregnant women in U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) custody and 524 pregnant women in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody. Pregnant Women in USMS and BOP Custody: Number, Age, Race, and Length of Time in Custody from 2017 through 2019 aUSMS does not track pregnancy outcomes, so length of time in custody may include time when the women were not pregnant. For BOP, the length of time represents only the period of pregnancy. GAO analyses also show that pregnant women were held at a variety of facility types from 2017 through 2019. For example, pregnant women spent 68 percent of their time in USMS custody in non-federal facilities where USMS has an intergovernmental agreement. BOP data show that pregnant women spent 21 percent of their time in BOP custody while pregnant at Carswell—BOP's only female Federal Medical Center. While USMS and BOP both have policies that address the treatment and care of pregnant women, not all policies fully align with national guidance recommendations on 16 pregnancy-related care topics. For example, national guidance recommends specialized nutrition and when needed, mental health care. USMS policies fully align on three of 16 care topics and BOP policies fully align on eight of 16. By taking steps to more closely align agency standards and policies with national guidance as feasible, USMS and BOP would be better positioned to help ensure the health of pregnant women in their custody. USMS and BOP data show that the agencies provide a variety of medical care and special accommodations to pregnant women, and both agencies track the use of restraints. For example, USMS data show that women receive prenatal care and BOP data show that women receive prenatal vitamins and lower bunk assignments, among other things. However, USMS could do more to collect data on pregnant and postpartum women in their custody who are placed in restrictive housing. While USMS requests that facilities that hold USMS prisoners submit data on a regular basis indicating which prisoners were placed in restrictive housing, facilities are not required to indicate if any of these prisoners are pregnant or postpartum. In addition, USMS does not have a requirement for facilities to immediately notify USMS when such women are placed in restrictive housing. By requiring these notifications and data collection, USMS would be better positioned to ensure that facilities are complying with its USMS Detention Standards and Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance that state pregnant and postpartum women should not be placed in restrictive housing except in rare situations. Policymakers and advocacy groups have raised questions about the treatment of incarcerated pregnant women, including the use of restrictive housing—removal from the general prisoner population with the inability to leave the cell for the majority of the day—and restraints. Within DOJ, USMS is responsible for prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing. BOP is responsible for sentenced prisoners. GAO was asked to review issues related to pregnant women in USMS and BOP custody. This report examines (1) what DOJ data indicate about pregnant women in USMS and BOP custody; (2) the extent to which USMS and BOP policies align with national guidance on pregnancy-related care; and (3) what is known about the care provided and the extent to which USMS and BOP track when pregnant women are placed in restrictive housing or restraints. GAO analyzed available agency data from calendar years 2017 through 2019, which were the most recent data available; compared agency policies to relevant national guidance; and interviewed officials and a non-generalizable sample of prisoners who had been pregnant in USMS or BOP custody. GAO is making six recommendations, including that USMS and BOP take steps to more closely align their policies with national guidance on pregnancy-related care as feasible, and that USMS require facilities to collect data on and notify USMS when pregnant or postpartum women are placed in restrictive housing. DOJ concurred with our recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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    The Technology Assessment (TA) Design Handbook identifies tools and approaches GAO staff and others can consider in the design of robust and rigorous technology assessments. The handbook underscores the importance of TA design (Chapter 1), outlines the process of designing TAs (Chapter 2), and describes approaches for mitigating select TA design and implementation challenges (Chapter 3). While the primary audience of this handbook is GAO staff, other organizations may also find portions of this handbook useful as they consider or conduct TAs. This is an update to the handbook published in December 2019, based on the experiences of GAO teams and a review of relevant literature and comments submitted by external experts and the public between December 2019 and December 2020. The handbook identifies three general design stages, as shown in the figure below. The handbook also highlights seven cross-cutting considerations for designing TAs: the iterative nature of TA design, congressional and policymakers' interests, resources, independence, engaging internal and external stakeholders, potential challenges, and communication strategy. In addition, the handbook provides a high-level process for developing policy options, as a tool for analyzing and articulating a range of possible actions a policymaker could consider that may enhance the benefits or mitigate the challenges of a technology. Steps in developing policy options include, as applicable: determining the potential policy objective; gathering evidence; identifying possible policy options and the relevant dimensions along which to analyze them; analyzing policy options; and presenting the results of the analysis. Summary of Key Stages of Technology Assessment Design We found that GAO TAs can use a variety of design approaches and methods. The handbook includes TA design and methodology examples, along with example objectives commonly found in GAO TAs, such as: describe a technology, assess opportunities and challenges of a technology, and assess policy implications or options. For example, some GAO TAs include an objective related to describing the status and feasibility of a technology, which GAO teams have addressed by using methodologies such as expert panels, interviews, literature and document reviews, site visits, and determining the technology readiness level. Also included in the handbook are examples of TA design and implementation challenges, along with possible mitigation strategies. We identified four general categories of challenges: (1) ensuring that the design and implementation of TAs result in useful products for Congress and other policymakers; (2) determining the policy objective and measuring potential effects; (3) researching and communicating complicated issues; and (4) engaging relevant stakeholders. For example, allowing sufficient time for writing, review, and any needed revisions is one potential mitigation strategy that could help teams write simply and clearly about technical subjects and ensure that the design and implementation of TAs result in useful products for Congress and other policymakers. In 2019, GAO created the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team to expand its work on cutting-edge science and technology issues, and to provide oversight, insight, and foresight for science and technology. TAs can be used to strengthen decision-making, enhance knowledge and awareness, and provide early insights into the potential effects of technology. Systematically designing a TA can enhance its quality, credibility, and usefulness; ensure independence of the analysis; and ensure effective use of resources. Under Comptroller General Authority, we developed this handbook by generally following the format of the 2012 GAO methodology transfer paper, Designing Evaluations. Below is a summary of the approach we used to affirm and document TA design steps and considerations for this handbook. Reviewed select GAO documents, including Designing Evaluations (GAO-12-208G), published GAO TAs, select GAO products using policy analysis approaches to present policy options, and other GAO reports Reviewed select Office of Technology Assessment reports Reviewed select Congressional Research Service reports Reviewed select English-language literature regarding TAs and related to development and analysis of policy options Consulted with external experts and performed outreach, including holding an expert meeting to gather input on TA design, soliciting comments from external experts who contributed to GAO TAs published since 2015, and soliciting comments from the public Reviewed experiences of GAO teams that have successfully assessed and incorporated policy options into GAO products and TA design, including challenges to TA design and implementation and possible solutions GAO is not making any recommendations. For more information, contact Timothy M. Persons or Karen L. 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  • Intellectual Property: CBP Has Taken Steps to Combat Counterfeit Goods in Small Packages but Could Streamline Enforcement
    In U.S GAO News
    The European Union (EU) and U.S. approaches to enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) differ with respect to counterfeit goods in small packages, which are often sent through express carrier services or international mail. The EU uses a streamlined, application-based procedure to destroy suspected counterfeits in small packages. Through this procedure, rights holders request that member state customs authorities take action against such packages. The procedure allows customs authorities to bill rights holders for certain associated costs, and gives customs authorities discretion in sharing data with rights holders. In the U.S., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is required to seize any goods it determines to be counterfeit, and typically destroys such goods, regardless of shipment size. CBP does not bill rights holders for the cost of enforcement, and is required to provide specific information to rights holders after seizure of goods. EU and U.S. customs officials reported common challenges in combating the flow of counterfeit goods in small packages. For example, EU and U.S. officials said the large volume of small packages makes it difficult for customs agencies to prioritize resources among competing needs such as drug enforcement and security. EU and U.S. officials also reported that a lack of adequate data on these packages is a challenge in taking enforcement action against them. Bags of Small Packages at Mail Facilities in Germany and France While CBP has taken steps to address these challenges, its primary enforcement processes are not tailored to combat counterfeit goods in small packages. According to CBP officials, from 2014 to 2018, CBP piloted a program to help address the volume of such packages by facilitating the abandonment of goods that it suspected—but had not determined—to be counterfeit. In 2019, CBP initiated a program to obtain additional data, and as of July 2020 had begun using these data to assess the risk that such packages contained counterfeit goods. However, CBP officials said that the seizure and forfeiture processes they are required to use for goods determined to be counterfeit are time and resource intensive. In April 2019, the White House required DHS to identify changes, including enhanced enforcement actions, to mitigate the trafficking of counterfeit goods. In January 2020, DHS proposed several actions that CBP could take, but CBP has not decided which to pursue to streamline its enforcement. Without taking steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach, CBP will continue to face difficulty in addressing the influx of counterfeit goods in small packages. Counterfeit goods infringe on IPR, and can harm the U.S. economy and threaten consumer safety. CBP, the U.S. agency tasked with enforcement against counterfeits at the border, has reported that the annual number of small packages sent to the U.S. since fiscal year 2013 more than doubled, and small packages seized often contain counterfeit goods. The European Union Intellectual Property Office noted similar economic and consumer safety impacts in Europe, as well as increases in counterfeit goods in small packages. GAO was asked to review IPR enforcement practices in other advanced economies, and the extent to which CBP could apply those practices. This report examines: (1) how elements of the EU and U.S. approaches to combating counterfeit goods in small packages compare, (2) any enforcement challenges posed by these goods, and (3) the extent to which CBP has taken steps to address these challenges. GAO reviewed agency documents; interviewed CBP and customs officials in the EU; and met with private sector stakeholders, such as express carriers. GAO recommends that CBP take steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach against counterfeit goods in small packages. CBP concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.
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