Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  There we go.  Mr. Chairman, Vice Chairman Shelby, Chairman Coons, Ranking Member Graham, all the committee members, thank you very much for coming together today and giving me this opportunity to talk about the administration’s proposed budget and how we believe it will help us achieve our national security priorities and deliver results for the American people, which is our common mission.

Let me just say that the last time I had the honor of actually appearing before the subcommittee, and Senator Graham will remember this, I had – was seated next to another witness who seemed to get a lot more attention: Bono.  (Laughter.)  So a very, very memorable day before the subcommittee, but Senator Coons, Senator Graham, very much looking forward to working with you going forward as well.

This is a critical moment for the United States and for our global leadership.  We have major tests, including stopping COVID-19; rising to the challenge of the climate crisis; supporting a global economic recovery that delivers for American workers and families; we have to revitalize our alliances and partnerships; outcompete China and defend the international rules-based order against those who seek to undermine it; renew democratic values at home and abroad; and push back against malign activity by our adversaries.

In a more competitive world, other countries are making historic investments in their foreign policy toolkit.  We need to do the same thing.  That’s why in this budget we proposed $58.5 billion for the State Department and USAID for Fiscal Year 2022.  And just to cover some of the specifics, this budget will strengthen global health.  The United States has been a leader in this field for decades – in Africa, around the world.  We’re asking for $10 billion for global health programs, including nearly $1 billion for global health security to help us prevent, prepare for, respond to future global health crises so we can stop outbreaks before they turn into pandemics that put our safety and prosperity in danger.

The budget will accelerate the global response to the climate crisis by providing $2.5 billion for international climate programs, including 1.25 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries implement climate adaptation and emissions mitigation programs, which is directly in our interest.

The budget will double down on the fight for democracy, which, as we all know, is under threat in many places around the world.  People talk of a democratic recession around the world.  Our budget request includes $2.8 billion in foreign assistance to advance human rights, fight corruption, stem the tide of democratic backsliding, and strengthen and defend democracies – for example, through technical training for elections and support for independent media and civil society.  It also requests $300 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.

The budget will support a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of irregular migration from Central America.  It will invest 861 million in the region as a first step toward a four-year commitment of $4 billion to help prevent violence, reduce poverty, curtail endemic corruption, and expand job and educational opportunities.

The budget would re-establish U.S. humanitarian leadership with a request of $10 billion in assistance to support refugees, victims of conflict, other displaced people, and to rebuild our refugee admissions program.

It will support our partners in the Middle East by fully funding our commitments to key countries, including Israel and Jordan, and by restoring humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.

It includes a budget request of 3.6 billion to pay our assessed contributions in full to international organizations, initiatives, peacekeeping efforts, including to restore our annual contributions to the World Health Organization.

As China and others work hard to bend international organizations to their worldview, we have to ensure that these organizations instead remain grounded in the values, principles, and rules of the road that have made our shared progress possible for so many decades.

Finally, to deliver in all of these areas, the budget will reinvest in our most vital asset, and that’s our people.  It will provide new resources to recruit, to train, and to retain a first-rate, diverse global workforce, with nearly 500 additional Foreign and Civil Service positions – the largest increase for State Department staffing, excuse me, in a decade.  And it will modernize our technology – cybersecurity – protect our embassies and consulates, and include a direct appropriation of $320 million for consular services worldwide so that we can continue to provide these vital services to Americans and those who seek to study, to travel, to do business with the United States.

Our national security depends not only on the strength of our armed forces, but also our ability to conduct effective diplomacy and development.  That’s how we solve global challenges, forge cooperation, advance our interests and values, protect our people, prevent crises overseas from becoming emergencies here at home.  And that’s why diplomacy and development are smart investments for American taxpayers.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, a top priority for me as Secretary is to restore the traditional role of Congress as a partner in our foreign policymaking.  That’s the spirit that I bring to today’s conversation, the spirit I’ll bring to all future conversations and engagements with this committee, and I’m grateful for the chance to answer your questions.  Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Hits: 0

News Network

  • Former NGO Procurement Official Pleads Guilty to Bribery
    In Crime News
    A former non-governmental organization (NGO) procurement official pleaded guilty today to paying bribes to NGO procurement officers in exchange for sensitive procurement information related to NGO contracts funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). These contracts were for the procurement of food and supplies that would ultimately be provided to those affected by various humanitarian crises, including refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S.-ROK Alliance – Expanding Bilateral Cooperation for the 21st Century
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Imperial Pacific International and MCC International Saipan Executives Indicted on Federal Charges
    In Crime News
    Three executives from Imperial Pacific International (IPI) and MCC International Saipan have been indicted on federal criminal charges, including Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, and international promotional money laundering announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Shawn N. Anderson for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Police Officer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Civil Rights Violation
    In Crime News
    A former officer with the St. Paul Police Department in St. Paul, Minnesota, was sentenced today to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation.
    [Read More…]
  • RGV attorney admits to detainee list bribery scheme
    In Justice News
    A 40-year-old Weslaco [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    An Ohio man was charged on Aug. 13, 2020, in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio with illegally dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license.
    [Read More…]
  • Chief Operating Officer of Network Security Company Charged with Cyberattack on Medical Center
    In Crime News
    A Georgia man was arraigned today on charges arising out of a cyberattack conducted on Gwinnett Medical Center in 2018.
    [Read More…]
  • Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry with Raj Chengappa of India Today
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
  • Federal Charges Against Stanford University Researcher Expanded
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment charging Chen Song with visa fraud, obstruction of justice, destruction of documents, and false statements in connection with a scheme to conceal and lie about her status as a member of the People’s Republic of China’s military forces while in the United States, the Justice Department announced yesterday. 
    [Read More…]
  • Poland Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • MS-13’s Highest-Ranking Leaders Charged with Terrorism Offenses in the United States
    In Crime News
    Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed in Central Islip, New York charging 14 of the world’s highest-ranking MS-13 leaders who are known today as the Ranfla Nacional, which operated as the Organization’s Board of Directors, and directed MS-13’s violence and criminal activity around the world for almost two decades.
    [Read More…]
  • Civil Monetary Penalties: Federal Agencies’ Compliance with the 2020 Annual Inflation Adjustment Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In this fifth annual review, GAO found that the majority of federal agencies that could be subject to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended (IAA), have complied with the provisions of the act to publish 2020 civil monetary penalty inflation adjustments in the Federal Register and report related information in their 2020 agency financial reports (AFR), or equivalent. However, two agencies did not publish inflation adjustments in the Federal Register as of December 31, 2020, and did not report the required information in their 2020 AFRs for one or more of their civil monetary penalties. Why GAO Did This Study The IAA includes a provision, added in 2015, requiring GAO to annually submit to Congress a report assessing agencies' compliance with the annual inflation adjustments required by the act. This is the fifth annual report responding to this requirement. For more information, contact Paula M. Rascona at (202) 512-9816 or rasconap@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System Acquisitions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.
    [Read More…]
  • The Department of Justice Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Owner of Rental Properties in Elizabeth, New Jersey
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the owner of rental properties in Elizabeth, New Jersey violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting tenants to sexual harassment. 
    [Read More…]
  • President of Commercial Flooring Company Pleads Guilty to Rigging Bids in Violation of Federal Antitrust Laws
    In Crime News
    Delmar E. Church Jr., the president and one of the principal owners of a Chicago-area commercial flooring company, pleaded guilty for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices for commercial flooring services and products sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced. The defendant is cooperating with the department’s ongoing investigation.
    [Read More…]
  • Six Additional Individuals Indicted On Antitrust Charges In Ongoing Broiler Chicken Investigation
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, returned a superseding indictment charging six additional defendants for their roles in a previously indicted conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products, and containing additional allegations against the previously charged defendants in the same conspiracy, the Department of Justice announced today.  The superseding indictment also charges one defendant with making false statements and obstruction of justice. 
    [Read More…]
  • Former Chattanooga Police Officer Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault
    In Crime News
    Desmond Logan, 35, a former officer with the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD), was sentenced by the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States and Kuwait Launch Fourth Strategic Dialogue
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Former Deputy Jailer Sentenced to 48 Months for Violating the Civil Rights of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    ​​​​​​​A former Shelby County Deputy Jailer, William Anthony Carey, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. VanTatenhove to serve 48 months in federal prison for violating the civil rights of an inmate in his custody.
    [Read More…]
  • Weapon System Sustainment: Aircraft Mission Capable Rates Generally Did Not Meet Goals and Cost of Sustaining Selected Weapon Systems Varied Widely
    In U.S GAO News
    Mission Capable Rates for Selected Department of Defense Aircraft GAO examined 46 types of aircraft and found that only three met their annual mission capable goals in a majority of the years for fiscal years 2011 through 2019 and 24 did not meet their annual mission capable goals in any fiscal year as shown below. The mission capable rate—the percentage of total time when the aircraft can fly and perform at least one mission—is used to assess the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet. Number of Times Selected Aircraft Met Their Annual Mission Capable Goal, Fiscal years 2011 through 2019 aThe military departments did not provide mission capable goals for all nine years for these aircraft. Aggregating the trends at the military service level, the average annual mission capable rate for the selected Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft decreased since fiscal year 2011, while the average annual mission capable rate for the selected Army aircraft slightly increased. While the average mission capable rate for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter showed an increase from fiscal year 2012 to 2019, it trended downward from fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2018 before improving slightly in fiscal year 2019. For fiscal year 2019, GAO found only three of the 46 types of aircraft examined met the service-established mission capable goal. Furthermore, for fiscal year 2019: six aircraft were 5 percentage points or fewer below the goal; 18 were from 15 to 6 percentage points below the goal; and 19 were more than 15 percentage points below the goal, including 11 that were 25 or more percentage points below the goal. Program officials provided various reasons for the overall decline in mission capable rates, including aging aircraft, maintenance challenges, and supply support issues as shown below. Sustainment Challenges Affecting Some of the Selected Department of Defense Aircraft aA service life extension refers to a modification to extend the service life of an aircraft beyond what was planned. bDiminishing manufacturing sources refers to a loss or impending loss of manufacturers or suppliers of items. cObsolescence refers to a lack of availability of a part due to its lack of usefulness or its no longer being current or available for production. Operating and Support Costs for Selected Department of Defense Aircraft Operating and support (O&S) costs, such as the costs of maintenance and supply support, totaled over $49 billion in fiscal year 2018 for the aircraft GAO reviewed and ranged from a low of $118.03 million for the KC-130T Hercules (Navy) to a high of $4.24 billion for the KC-135 Stratotanker (Air Force). The trends in O&S costs varied by aircraft from fiscal year 2011 to 2018. For example, total O&S costs for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Navy) increased $1.13 billion due in part to extensive maintenance needs. In contrast, the F-15C/D Eagle (Air Force) costs decreased by $490 million due in part to a reduction in the size of the fleet. Maintenance-specific costs for the aircraft types we examined also varied widely. Why This Matters The Department of Defense (DOD) spends tens of billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems in an effort to ensure that these systems are available to simultaneously support today's military operations and maintain the capability to meet future defense requirements. This report provides observations on mission capable rates and costs to operate and sustain 46 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. How GAO Did This Study GAO was asked to report on the condition and costs of sustaining DOD's aircraft. GAO collected and analyzed data on mission capable rates and O&S costs from the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force for fiscal years 2011 through 2019. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed program office officials to identify reasons for the trends in mission capability rates and O&S costs as well as any challenges in sustaining the aircraft. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in August 2020. Information on mission capable and aircraft availability rates were deemed to be sensitive and has been omitted from this report. For more information, contact Director Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Man Arrested for Illegally Entering Office of Speaker of the House
    In Crime News
    Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested today in Bentonville, Arkansas on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ office.
    [Read More…]
  • Panama investigation leads to local child pornography plea
    In Justice News
    An 18-year-old [Read More…]
  • Fugitive Charged with Leading Multimillion Dollar Fraud Scheme, Falsifying Evidence, and Tax Crimes
    In Crime News
    An American citizen was charged in two indictments unsealed this week for his alleged participation in an investment fraud scheme in which he allegedly misappropriated $6.1 million in investor-funds, manufactured evidence to mislead an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and concealed the proceeds of his fraudulent scheme from the IRS.
    [Read More…]
  • Briefing With Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Nathan A. Sales On Terrorist Designations of Al-Shabaab Leaders
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Nathan A. Sales, [Read More…]
  • Briefing with Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services Julie M. Stufft on the Current Status of Immigrant Visa Processing at Embassies and Consulates
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Julie M. Stufft, [Read More…]
  • Alabama Salesman Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    A Hoover, Alabama, salesman was sentenced to 24 months in prison yesterday for tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama.
    [Read More…]
  • Autherine Lucy: Failed Integration Bid Left Lasting Legacy
    In U.S Courts
    The story of Autherine Lucy, who challenged segregation at the University of Alabama in 1956, is featured in the African American History Month page. Despite a federal court ruling, Lucy’s career as a student lasted just three days. But her fight against racism still inspires African American students today.
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks at the United States’ Third Universal Periodic Review
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Robert A. Destro, [Read More…]
  • Maldives Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Department of State Named 2020 Government Employer of the Year by CAREERS& the disABLED Magazine
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at Virtual MOU Signing Ceremony with Korean Prosecution Service
    In Crime News
    It is with great pleasure that I sign this Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Department of Justice alongside my good friend, Prosecutor General Yoon. Enhancing the ties between our agencies has been an important priority for me during my tenure as Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. While only a few years ago we knew comparatively little about one another, our relationship has quickly blossomed into a strong and enduring friendship. I am extremely pleased that we have succeeded in developing important and lasting ties between our agencies, as underscored by our signing of this Memorandum of Understanding today.
    [Read More…]
  • ‘All too frequent tragedies demand action to improve judicial security,’ Judge tells Judicial Conference
    In U.S Courts
    “Four federal judges and three family members have been killed since 1979. These horrific tragedies must stop,” Judge David W. McKeague told the Judicial Conference of the United States today.
    [Read More…]
  • Recognizing World Ocean Day 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • On the Fate of the “Hong Kong 12”
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Readout of Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall from the Funeral of FBI Special Agent Daniel Alfin
    In Crime News
    Acting United States Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, FBI Director Christopher Wray and President Joe Biden’s Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall represented the United States Government’s official delegation today at the funeral service for fallen FBI Special Agent Daniel Alfin in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Issues Favorable Business Review Letter To ISDA For Proposed Amendments To Address Interest Rate Benchmarks
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced today that it has completed its review of the proposal by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. (ISDA) to amend its standardized model documentation for derivatives to account for the potential discontinuation of certain interbank offered rates (collectively referred to as “IBORs”).  The department has concluded, based on the representations in ISDA’s letter request, including its description of certain safeguards, that ISDA’s proposed amendments to its standardized documentation are unlikely to harm competition.  Therefore, the department does not presently intend to challenge ISDA’s proposed amendments to its standardized documentation for derivatives.
    [Read More…]
  • Actions in Turkey’s Parliament
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • U.S. Welcomes Guatemala’s Designation of Hizballah as a Terrorist Organization
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • U.S. Trustee Program Reaches Agreements with Three Mortgage Servicers Providing More than $74 Million in Remediation to Homeowners in Bankruptcy
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP announced today that it has entered into national agreements with three mortgage servicers to address past mortgage servicing deficiencies impacting homeowners in bankruptcy.
    [Read More…]
  • Undocumented alien sent to prison for causing injury to federal agent
    In Justice News
    A 33-year-old [Read More…]
  • Providing Humanitarian Assistance to Support the Vice President’s Leadership in Addressing Migration Challenges in Central America 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Deep Space Station in Australia Is Getting an Upgrade
    In Space
    Used for communicating [Read More…]
  • U.S. Businesses Must Take a Stand Against China’s Human Rights Abuses
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Keith Krach, Under [Read More…]
  • NASA, US and European Partner Satellite Returns First Sea Level Measurements
    In Space
    Launched on a Falcon 9 [Read More…]
  • U.S. Sanctions International Network Enriching Houthis in Yemen
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Antigua and Barbuda Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Celebrating International Women’s Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • DSS cooperation in international police operation results in extradition of Albanian man wanted for human smuggling
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Xhensila Kodra — [Read More…]
  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Contact Tracing Apps
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Contact tracing can help reduce transmission rates for infectious diseases like COVID-19 by identifying and notifying people who may have been exposed. Contact tracing apps, notably those using proximity tracing, could expedite such efforts. However, there are challenges, including accuracy, adoption rates, and privacy concerns. The Technology What is it? Contact tracing is a process in which public health officials attempt to limit disease transmission by identifying infected individuals, notifying their "contacts"—all the people they may have transmitted the disease to—and asking infected individuals and their contacts to quarantine, if appropriate (see fig. 1). For a highly contagious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, a contact could be anyone who has been nearby. Proximity tracing applications (apps) can expedite contact tracing, using smartphones to rapidly identify and notify contacts. Figure 1. A simplified depiction of disease transmission. Through contact tracing, an infected individual’s contacts are notified and may be asked to quarantine. (In reality, some contacts may not become infected, and some of those infected may not show symptoms.) How does it work? In traditional contact tracing, public health officials begin by identifying an infected individual. They then interview the individual to identify recent contacts, ask the individual and their contacts to take containment measures, if appropriate (e.g., a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19), and coordinate any needed care and testing. Proximity tracing apps may accelerate the process by replacing the time-consuming interviews needed to identify contacts. Apps may also identify more contacts than interviews, which rely on interviewees' recall and on their being acquainted with their contacts. Public health authorities provide the apps, often using systems developed by companies or research groups. Users voluntarily download the app for their country or region and opt in to contact tracing. In the U.S., state or local public health authorities would likely implement proximity tracing apps. Proximity tracing apps detect contacts using Bluetooth, GPS, or a combination of both. Bluetooth-based apps rely on anonymous codes shared between smartphones during close encounters. These codes contain no information about location or user identity, helping safeguard privacy. The apps allow public health authorities to set a minimum time and distance threshold for someone to count as a contact. Contact tracing can be centralized or decentralized. With a centralized approach, contacts identified by the app are often saved to a government server, and an official notifies contacts of possible exposure. For a decentralized approach, contact data are typically stored on the user's device at first. When a user voluntarily reports infection, the user's codes are uploaded to a database that other app users' phones search. Users who have encountered the infected person then receive notifications through the app (see fig. 2). Figure 2. Bluetooth-based proximity tracing apps exchange information, notify contacts exposed to an infected person, and provide follow-up information. How mature is it? Traditional contact tracing is well established and has been an effective infectious disease response strategy for decades. Proximity tracing apps are relatively new and not as well established. Their contact identifications could become more accurate as developers improve app technology, for example by improving Bluetooth signal interpretation or using information from other phone sensors. Opportunities Reach more people. For accurate COVID-19 contact tracing using traditional methods, public health experts have estimated that the U.S. would require hundreds of thousands of trained contact tracers because of the large number of infections. Proximity tracing apps can expedite and automate identification and notification of the contacts, reducing this need. Faster response. Proximity tracing apps could slow the spread of disease more effectively because they can identify and notify contacts as soon as a user reports they are infected. More complete identification of contacts. Proximity tracing apps, unlike traditional contact tracing, do not require users to recall or be acquainted with people they have recently encountered. Challenges Technology. Technological limitations may lead to missed contacts or false identification of contacts. For example, GPS-based apps may not identify precise locations, and Bluetooth apps may ignore barriers preventing exposure, such as walls or protective equipment. In addition, apps may overlook exposure if two people were not in close enough proximity long enough for it to count as a contact. Adoption. Lower adoption rates make the apps less effective. In the U.S., some states may choose not to use proximity tracing apps. In addition, the public may hesitate to opt in because of concerns about privacy and uncertainty as to how the data may be used. Recent scams using fake contact tracing to steal information may also erode trust in the apps. Interoperability. Divergent app designs may lead to the inability to exchange data between apps, states, and countries, which could be a problem as travel restrictions are relaxed. Access. Proximity tracing apps require regular access to smartphones and knowledge about how to install and use apps. Some vulnerable populations, including seniors, are less likely to own smartphones and use apps, possibly affecting adoption. Policy Context and Questions Although proximity tracing apps are relatively new, they have the potential to help slow disease transmission. But policymakers will need to consider how great the benefits are likely to be, given the challenges. If policymakers decide to use proximity tracing apps, they will need to integrate them into the larger public health response and consider the following questions, among others: What steps can policymakers take to build public trust and encourage communities to support and use proximity tracing apps, and mitigate lack of adoption by some populations? What legal, procedural, privacy, security, and technical safeguards could protect data collected through proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to improve coordination of contact tracing efforts across local, state, and international jurisdictions? What can policymakers do to expedite testing and communication of test results to maximize the benefits of proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to ensure that contact identification is accurate and that its criteria are based on scientific evidence? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Two Individuals Charged with Bribery Related to Iraq Contracts
    In Crime News
    Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.
    [Read More…]
  • Vessel Operator and Engineers Sentenced for Oil Waste Discharge Offenses
    In Crime News
    A vessel operating company was sentenced today in Hagatna, Guam, for illegally discharging oil into Apra Harbor, Guam, and for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharges of oily bilge water from the vessel Kota Harum.
    [Read More…]
  • Denial of Democracy in Hong Kong
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Chinese Man Extradited for Financing Turtle-Trafficking Ring
    In Crime News
    A Chinese citizen was extradited from Malaysia to the United States today to face charges for money laundering.
    [Read More…]
  • Manager of Hospice and Home Health Companies Sentenced to Prison for Role in $150 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Texas man was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy at the Merida Group, a chain of hospice and home health agencies throughout Texas, to falsely convince thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases they had less than six months to live in order to enroll the patients in hospice programs for which they were otherwise unqualified, thereby increasing revenue to the company. 
    [Read More…]
  • Curiosity Mars Rover’s Summer Road Trip Has Begun
    In Space
    After more than a year [Read More…]
  • Laredo men receive significant sentences for trafficking $4 million of marijuana
    In Justice News
    A 35-year-old Laredo [Read More…]
  • Three Individuals Affiliated With the Oath Keepers Indicted in Federal Court for Conspiracy to Obstruct Congress on Jan. 6, 2021
    In Crime News
    Three individuals associated with the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization focused on recruitment of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel, were indicted today in federal court in the District of Columbia for conspiring to obstruct Congress, among other charges.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Information on the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program
    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has taken steps to implement its Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP)—a dual-purpose program for navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration along the Upper Mississippi River system. Specifically, in 2004 the Corps identified 24 navigation improvement projects and 1,010 ecosystem restoration projects and proposed a plan for implementing them. For example, the Corps plans to construct or extend 12 locks to facilitate commercial barge traffic along the river system (see fig.), which the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin have generally relied on as their principal conduit for export-bound agricultural products. The Corps also plans to restore floodplains along the river system and backwaters that provide habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife. While the total estimated program cost is $7.9 billion, as of October 2020, the Corps has initiated technical studies and designs for 47 NESP projects at a cost of approximately $65 million. Barge Tow at Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, Illinois However, the Corps has identified several challenges facing the program, and it has taken steps to mitigate them. Specifically, the Corps was unable to implement NESP projects for 7 years because the program did not receive funding in fiscal years 2011 through 2017, in part because the Corps identified other projects as higher priorities. To mitigate this challenge, the Corps reprogrammed funding to help ensure projects could be executed when funds became available. Another challenge is that the Corps has not yet established partnership agreements that are needed for some NESP ecosystem projects. Corps officials said that about 15 to 20 percent of the ecosystem projects will require partnership agreements in which partners commit to share 35 percent of the project costs, typically through the purchase of land for the project. The officials said that partners may be reluctant to make financial commitments to projects while NESP funding is uncertain. Furthermore, the partnership agreements can take up to 18 months to put in place. To help expedite program implementation, Corps officials said they have pursued projects in fiscal year 2020 that can begin without a commitment from project partners. The Upper Mississippi River system provides approximately $1 billion in annual benefits to the nation’s economy through boating, fishing, and other uses, according to a Corps report. It also supports more than 2.5 million acres of aquatic, wetland, forest, grassland, and agricultural habitats. In 1986, Congress declared its intent to recognize the system as a nationally significant commercial navigation system and a nationally significant ecosystem. However, the Upper Mississippi River’s navigation system has faced significant delays in commercial boating and barge traffic, and human activity has caused a decline in environmental quality, according to a 2004 Corps report. The Corps initiated studies in 1989 and 1990 to identify ways to improve the river system. The Corps issued a feasibility report in 2004 that identified improvement projects, and in 2007 Congress formally authorized NESP and the projects identified in the report. GAO was asked to review NESP. This report describes (1) the steps the Corps has taken to implement NESP and (2) the challenges the Corps has identified to fully implementing the program and steps the Corps is taking to address these challenges. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed Corps reports, documents, and data from fiscal year 2005—the year in which the Corps began implementing NESP projects—through fiscal year 2020. GAO also interviewed Corps officials. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or gaffiganm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Department of State and National Park Service Partner to Strengthen Fulbright Exchanges and Increase Global Environmental Awareness
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]