Reaffirming the Unbreakable U.S.-Japan Alliance

Office of the Spokesperson

“America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.”

– President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., February 4, 2021

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will travel to Tokyo, Japan, March 15-17 to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening our alliance and to highlight cooperation that promotes peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.

Secretary Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin will attend the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) meeting hosted by Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi. Secretary Blinken will meet separately with Minister Motegi and other senior officials to discuss a range of bilateral and global issues.

Secretary Blinken will meet virtually with business leaders to highlight the importance of U.S.-Japan economic ties and shared priorities, such as addressing climate change, securing supply chains, promoting and protecting emerging technologies, fostering digital trade, and recovering from COVID-19. He will have a virtual discussion with women entrepreneurs on the challenges that women face in building successful businesses. Secretary Blinken will also host a virtual roundtable with emerging Japanese journalists to discuss the future of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the role of a free press in promoting good governance, supporting human rights, and defending democracy, and the widespread benefits of advancing gender equity and opportunities for women worldwide.

A Strong Alliance Based on Shared Values

  • The U.S.-Japan Alliance has served as the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and across the world for over six decades.
  • We are committed to working together on our shared challenges, including curbing the global COVID-19 pandemic, combatting climate change, strengthening democracy and human rights, promoting free and fair trade, and countering malign influences and PRC provocations in Asia and around the world.
  • The American and Japanese people share deeply rooted values of defending freedom, championing economic and social opportunity and inclusion, upholding human rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.
  • The peoples of Japan and the United States support each other in times of need. Japan was one of the first countries to offer assistance following the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, and Americans are proud to have supported Japan in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, ten years ago this month, through Operation Tomodachi.

The Steadfast Friendship of the American and Japanese People

  • The strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship is due in part to the substantial reservoir of goodwill created by the close ties between the American and Japanese people at the grassroots level, often supported by the U.S. and Japanese governments.
  • There are more than 30,000 American alumni of the Japanese government-sponsored Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, including nearly 200 JET program alumni working at the Department of State.
  • The Fulbright program has sent nearly 7,500 young Japanese on Fulbright scholarships to the United States since 1952. More than 3,800 Japanese are alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the State Department’s premier professional exchange initiative for emerging leaders. Japanese students comprise the 8th largest group of international students studying in the United States with an economic impact of over $682 billion. There are 37 U.S.-based Japan-America Society chapters, and the United States and Japan also share more sister city relationships than any other two countries.
  • Many other non-governmental organizations, such as the U.S.-Japan Council, Mansfield Foundation, and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, utilize public-private partnerships and U.S. government grants to support people-to-people exchanges.

Economic Ties that Benefit the American and Japanese People

  • With over $300 billion worth of goods and services exchanged each year, the United States and Japan are top trading partners, and the U.S.-Japan bilateral economic relationship is one of strongest in the world.
  • Japan-affiliated firms employ or support more than 948,100 jobs in the United States.
  • The United States is Japan’s top source of direct investment, and Japan is the top investor in the United States, with $644.7 billion invested in 2019 across all 50 states. Both countries acknowledge the important role of women as drivers of economic progress in all sectors.
  • The United States and Japan are working closely via whole-of-government initiatives, bilateral partnerships, cooperation with like-minded countries, and enhanced private-sector engagement to assist countries in the Indo-Pacific and across the globe to catalyze investment in infrastructure, energy, and the digital economy to promote connectivity and economic growth.
  • The United States and Japan are supporting open and competitive energy markets. We are strengthening energy security in the Indo-Pacific region through the Japan-United States Strategic Energy Partnership (JUSEP) and will continue to identify additional joint commercial engagements in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Our economic cooperation has also led to close collaboration in science and technology and promoted shared values in research, including on COVID-19 response, the digital economy, national security-focused investment screening, quantum sciences, artificial intelligence, space exploration, biosciences, and a wide range of emerging technologies.
  • The United States and Japan have committed to building secure 5G networks using only trusted vendors. Innovative U.S. and Japanese businesses are at the forefront of open, interoperable approaches like Open RAN (radio access network) technologies that promise to increase vendor diversity and market competition, and have the potential to reduce costs and improve security

Strengthening U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea Cooperation

  • The Biden-Harris Administration is working to strengthen America’s relationships with our allies, and the relationships between those allies. No relationship is more important than that between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). The United States continues to promote expanded U.S.-Japan-ROK cooperation to tackle COVID-19 and combat climate change, as well as reinvigorate trilateral cooperation on a broad range of global issues, including the denuclearization of North Korea.
  • A robust and effective trilateral relationship between and among the United States, the ROK, and Japan is critical for our joint security and interests in defending freedom and democracy, upholding human rights, championing women’s empowerment, combating climate change, promoting regional and global peace, security, and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific and across the globe.

Security Cooperation that Promotes Peace and Stability

  • The United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan is absolute. The United States affirms the Senkaku Islands fall within the scope of Article V of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and we remain opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea or undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.
  • The United States invests significant military resources and capabilities to meet the Alliance’s current and future security challenges. Through the U.S.-Japan Host Nation Support framework, the Government of Japan shares the costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan. On February 24, the Governments of the United States and Japan signed an amendment to the current Special Measures Agreement, a key component of Japan’s Host Nation Support framework, extending it through March 31, 2022. Negotiations for a new and expanded multi-year agreement are ongoing.
  • Japan hosts approximately 55,000 U.S. service members – the largest contingent of U.S. forces outside the United States – along with the thousands of Department of Defense civilians and family members who live and work alongside them.
  • Many of the United States’ most capable and advanced military assets are hosted in Japan, including the USS Ronald Reagan and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This demonstrates the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance and the goal of maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific through effective deterrence and work with regional partners.

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    Why This Matters The Department of Education gives grants to schools and organizations that provide disadvantaged students with services to help them attend college. These eight grant programs are collectively known as “TRIO”, named for the original three programs. Congress provides over $1 billion each year to these programs, but Education could do more to understand how well these grants work to help students. Key Takeaways Education could improve the information it has about TRIO programs in two areas: (1) grantee performance data, and (2) program assessments. Schools and organizations report data to Education to show how the TRIO grants they receive have been working. For example, organizations that receive grants to encourage students to complete college report on the numbers and percentages of students who received services and earned degrees.  Education evaluates grantees’ performance using the self-reported data, but has done little to verify the data. Accurate performance data are important because returning grantees can earn points for past performance in the next grant competition—increasing the likelihood that they will receive new grants. Almost 80 percent of recent TRIO grants went to returning grantees.  Therefore, grantees may have an incentive to report a more positive picture than warranted. Officials from an organization representing TRIO grantees told us there is a risk that some grantees may report inaccurate information.  As for assessing the individual TRIO programs, studies of some programs are outdated. In addition, Education has never assessed the effectiveness of three of the seven TRIO programs that serve students, and did not have any new assessments planned as of August 2020. How GAO Did This Study We analyzed data from Education about TRIO grantees and applicants. We also reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations and agency documents, and interviewed Education officials and other TRIO stakeholders. Education should take additional steps to ensure the reliability of grantees' performance data and develop a plan for assessing the effectiveness of the TRIO programs that serve students. Education generally agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides training to more than 45,000 medical and dental residents annually through its Graduate Medical Education (GME) program. VHA has established policy for its GME program that details many roles and responsibilities for overseeing VA medical facilities' reimbursements to affiliated academic institutions for residents' salaries and benefits. However, this policy does not define key roles and responsibilities for VHA's central office components, its regional networks, or its medical facilities. For example, VHA's regional networks do not have defined roles and responsibilities for overseeing GME disbursements—contributing to noninvolvement or inconsistent involvement in disbursement agreement oversight. VHA officials reported that they are in the process of updating disbursement agreement policy, but did not indicate if the updates would address all identified concerns. While VHA officials said that VHA's two disbursement agreement oversight mechanisms—facility periodic audits and the Resident Disbursement Audit Process (ReDPro) checklist—are meant to have distinct but complementary purposes, GAO found that VHA policy, guidance, and the tools distributed for these oversight mechanisms did not reflect the distinct purposes officials described. VHA officials said that periodic audits are intended to be a first level of defense and to review actual payments to affiliates, whereas the ReDPro checklist is intended to be a second level of defense, aimed at reviewing the process to see if the rules related to disbursement agreements are being followed by VA medical facilities. However, the ReDPro checklist tool and VHA's recommended periodic audit tool have numerous areas of overlap, including duplicative questions. This overlap causes inefficiencies and unnecessary burden on VA medical facility staff. GAO also found additional weaknesses in the tools, guidance, and training for the two oversight mechanisms. For example, GAO found an unclear ReDPro checklist tool, along with insufficient guidance and training related to conducting the ReDPro reviews. Officials from eight of 13 facilities in GAO's review indicated that the ReDPro checklist instructions were unclear regarding appropriate supporting documents for checklist responses. These weaknesses contributed to errors and inconsistencies in ReDPro responses. the lack of a standard audit tool, and inadequate guidance and training for periodic audit teams that contributed to problematic inconsistencies in the methodologies used by the audit teams and deficiencies in some of the audits conducted. Officials from 10 of 13 facilities in GAO's review indicated that they would benefit from more tools, guidance, or training related to conducting periodic audits. These weaknesses limit the effectiveness of VHA's oversight mechanisms, and put VHA at increased risk of both not being able to identify and correct facilities' lack of adherence to disbursement agreement policy and of possible improper payments to GME affiliates. Under VHA's GME program, VA medical facilities use disbursement agreements to reimburse affiliated academic institutions for residents' salaries and benefits. VHA developed policy related to establishing and administering disbursement agreements, but audits have found that facilities have not always adhered to VHA policy—resulting in improper payments to affiliates. GAO was asked to review VHA policies and procedures related to reimbursements to affiliates for GME. This report examines (1) oversight roles and responsibilities for GME disbursement agreements and (2) VHA's mechanisms for ensuring VA medical facilities adhere to policy. GAO reviewed relevant VHA documents and federal internal control standards and interviewed VHA officials. GAO also reviewed ReDPro checklist responses and documentation from 13 VA medical facilities—selected based on factors including geographic variation, GME program size, and number of affiliates. GAO also visited four of the 13 facilities and interviewed officials at the other nine facilities. GAO is making seven recommendations to VA to define key roles in policy, reduce overlap between the ReDPro checklist and facility periodic audits, and improve the oversight mechanisms' tools, guidance, and training. VA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or silass@gao.gov.
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  • Higher Education: Children’s Savings Account Programs Can Help Families Build Savings and Envision College
    In U.S GAO News
    Eighty-two Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs operated and had collectively enrolled about 700,000 children in 2019, according to survey data from the nonprofit organization Prosperity Now. These programs—operated by states, cities, and other organizations—use a variety of strategies to enroll families, especially those with lower incomes, and help them save and prepare for college. For example, CSA programs enroll families by partnering with trusted organizations (e.g., schools) or through automatic enrollment, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and CSA experts. In addition, these programs help families build savings once children are enrolled by, for example, providing initial deposits or financial education. While experts GAO interviewed said savings may be modest given lower-income families' and programs' limited resources, CSA programs also aim to help lower-income families prepare for college, such as by increasing financial knowledge. There is evidence that CSA program strategies have positive short-term effects on families, including those with lower incomes. These effects include increased CSA program enrollment and participation, amounts saved, and educational expectations, based on research GAO reviewed (see figure). For example, strategies such as automatically enrolling families and providing financial contributions (e.g., initial deposits) may help CSA programs reach more families and encourage saving. Several studies of a CSA program that used both these strategies found increases in the number of children enrolled and the amount saved by enrolled families. One study found that families who were enrolled for 7 years saved over four times more of their own money, on average, than families who were not enrolled—$261 compared to $59. When including financial contributions from the CSA program, enrolled families had about six times more total savings ($1,851) compared to other families ($323). Enrollment and participation in CSA programs may also increase families' educational expectations for their children. For example, a study found that parents with children enrolled in one CSA program were nearly twice as likely to expect their children to attend college. However, information on college enrollment and other long-term effects on families participating in CSA programs is limited because most of the children have not yet reached college age. Effects of CSA Program Strategies in Three Commonly Assessed Areas Rising college costs have outpaced federal grant aid and placed more of the financial burden on students and their families. CSA programs help families, especially lower-income families, save for college—and other postsecondary education—by providing financial contributions and possibly other supports. A Senate Appropriations Committee report included provisions for GAO to examine various aspects of college savings account programs and their effectiveness. This report examines (1) the number of CSA programs and how they use strategies to help families, especially lower-income families, save and prepare for college; and (2) what is known about the effects of these strategies on families, including lower-income families. GAO reviewed 2016–2019 annual CSA program survey data collected by the nonprofit Prosperity Now. GAO also analyzed CFPB documents and the findings of 33 peer-reviewed studies from 2010 through 2019—and one working paper from 2017—that met GAO's criteria for inclusion, for example, used data from the United States. In addition, GAO interviewed officials from CFPB, the Department of Education, and four organizations that have expertise on these programs. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.
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