Remarks at the 7th Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Ernest J. Moniz, President & Chief Executive Officer, Energy Futures Initiative

As Prepared

Thank you, thanks so much, Dr. Crane. Thanks for a very kind introduction and for your role here.

I’m very delighted, I’m really delighted to be with all of you today. I want to begin by thanking my friends, Ministers Heiko Maas and Peter Altmeier. Less than two months in, I’m very confident that all together, with the help of good friends like them and many others around Europe we’re going to be able to make a world of difference for our countries and really for the whole world. Our shared work on climate is absolutely critical needless to say.

I want to congratulate you for hosting the 7th Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue. Germany’s Energiewende is an inspiration, an important moment to exchange ideas. It reflects a long period, really decades of determination to transition away from fossil fuels and pioneer a new path  for our countries to follow.

I also want to acknowledge the role Germany has played, leading efforts to form a consensus among EU members on a more ambitious 2030 climate target and, simultaneously, a COVID-relief package that promises a green recovery. It’s fair to say that you’ve always been a stalwart ally in the climate fight, but in recent years, I personally have been particularly grateful for Germany’s leadership – not only within the EU but also through multilateral fora – the G7, the G20, the UN Security Council where we worked very closely together on the Iran Nuclear Agreement as well as Paris and other things, and obviously as we gear up for COP 26 in Glasgow at the end of the year.

I guess it’s really cliché, and we keep having to reach for the language that adequately conveys the measure of this threat, but it is true that the stakes have literally never been higher than they are now. We’re in what I think is the decisive decade for climate action. Why? Because even if we did everything we’ve laid out in the Paris Agreement, we’re still seeing a warming of the earth’s temperature to about 3.7 degrees, and we’re not doing everything. Because clearly, to hold the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees, as well as to get to net zero by 2050, you don’t start in 2030 or 2040. You’re going to start now much more effectively than we have been. So we are in the decade of decision. And the decisions we make right now, leading up to Glasgow and following up through Glasgow, are going to truly write the future.

President Biden understands this, as well as, obviously, many of your leaders and you. And that is why he ran on the single most ambitious, comprehensive climate platform of any presidential candidate in U.S. history.

It’s also why, just hours after being sworn in as president, he rejoined the Paris Agreement. And a few days later he also signed executive orders placing climate squarely at the center of every single decision that we are going to be making in the U.S. government. It is a government-wide initiative, and climate must be front and center in every decision that is made. And the reason for that is pretty simple, I guess you all understand it better than I do, probably, but I’m going to repeat, to some degree anyway, the obvious. Because the obvious is what is going to drive us to actually solved this. And the obvious is that no one country can solve this problem. China is 30% of emissions, we’re 15% of emissions, the EU is somewhere around 9% of emissions, India, following, Russia. Twenty countries equal about 81% of all the emissions on the planet. And that tells you a story, not only about the challenge, but about the responsibility.

We need, absolutely, without any question at all, to forge an international strategy that galvanizes the world, that drives greater ambition from every single country, even the less developed countries that could make a choice not to build a coal-fired power plant and to do what’s necessary to leapfrog, hopefully with the help of the technologically more advanced and financially more advanced countries.

Next month, President Biden is hosting a Leaders Summit on Climate – April 22nd, Earth Day – to ensure that we continue to hit the ground running. The Summit is an opportunity for the United States and others to ensure we are reengaging on the global climate. From our point of view, we really feel a responsibility to be doing that thoughtfully, strategically, and at the highest levels of government. As part of the Summit, President Biden is going to reconvene the Major Economies Forum – those 20 countries I’m referring to, those countries responsible for most of the emissions – and we’re going to do this with a view to trying to make sure we are all pulling hard in the same direction because that decade, the decade of 2020s, has got to be the decade of ambition and the decade of decision and the decade of action. So it’s a sprint. And it’s a sprint towards substantial emission reductions by 2030. Why? Because I’ll tell you if you get to 2030, ask any of your scientists, any of your technical people, the curve that you then, the steepness of the curve that you then have to get on to meet 2050 net zero is pretty impossible to achieve barring a genius/miraculous breakthrough on storage or fission or fusion or direct capture or battery storage, I mean the number of things that obviously we’re pursuing assiduously.

I have said many times that the United States comes to this rejoining, this new effort, with genuine humility as well as ambition. The humility comes from our knowing that because of our country, four years of leadership was lost, four years of effort by our nation in a unified way because of the preceding President pulling out of that agreement. Humility also because we know that no one country is going to make all the difference, no continent alone can get this done.

Ambition is also what brings us to the table. Ambition knowing that at the COP in November, we either all raise our sights at COP26 in Glasgow, or, believe me, we all fail.

I think every one of you would agree that failure is not an option. We hear constant talk about how the climate crisis is existential, and yet I ask you to ask yourself whether you believe we are actually responding as if it was in fact existential. So failure is not an option, and ambition is the only really critical thing that we have to all focus on simultaneously, and come not only to the meeting in Washington in April but to the March 31st meeting which Europe, China, and other will hold, to subsequent, to the G7, to the UN, to the G20, and ultimately to the COP, where we have an opportunity to codify all of these good intentions.

We know that success means tapping into the very best of global ingenuity, the best of creativity, of diplomacy, from brain power to alternative energy power, using every single tool we have to get where we need to go and to accelerate the pace.

We know that a zero-emissions future offers huge opportunity for business, unbelievable opportunity. We’re actually looking at the largest market human beings have ever known. We’re looking at the greatest growth potential we’ve ever known. We’re currently 4.5 to 5 billion users in this market. It’s now already a multi-trillion dollar market. But because of what we’re all going to need to do, it’s going to become an even bigger market, bigger financially and bigger in terms of the returns on investment, and bigger certainly in the challenge. But the truth is that we’re going to go up to 9 billion people from the current users, and we have a billion people without any electricity, and it’s going to be in the double digits of trillions of dollars on an annual basis. So a zero-emissions future offers enormous job creation. I’ll just share with you that the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States recently put out that there are only three jobs in America that are going to have more than 50% growth. The highest is at 62% and that’s wind turbine technician. The second is practicing nurses, registered nurses, and we all know why that’s growing. And then the third is solar panel installer and that’s at 51%, the top at 62%. So enormous growth potential is staring us in the face.

We also know that, for all of you tuning in today, I know that there’s a great deal of commitment, everybody’s among the committed, but the fact is that we have to acknowledge the degree to which we have our work cut out for us. And we have to get beyond some of the happy talk about NDCs when people are putting out a national defined* contribution that clearly is not going to get the job done.

According to the most recent statistics, emissions globally rose over the years since Paris. While 2020 saw a temporary drop in global emissions due to COVID, they are again on the rise — and many analysts are predicting a very quick rebound unless much more stringent incentives or policies are put in place. The science community has given us a very clear picture of the chaos that awaits us if we don’t limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Paris says well below 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees if we can achieve it. But the latest IPCC reports tell us there’s no longer a great variant available to us – we need to try to achieve the 1.5. To be on track to get 1.5, and even have a 66% probability of keeping global temperatures from rising more than that 1.5, we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030. I wasn’t kidding when I said that this is the decisive decade.

Now to get where we need to be, we need to phase out coal five times faster than we have been doing it, based on the comparison with the trend from 2013-2018, increase tree cover about five times faster, ramp up renewable energy about 6 times faster, and transition to electric vehicles at a rate about 22 times faster.

Can you do it? Can we do it? Yes, we can do it. It’s not a question of feasibility, it’s a question of political will. It’s a question of whether or not many corporations, some of whom have been in denial for these past years in our country, are going to turn around and see this economic opportunity staring them in the face. So I believe we can do it. It’s not easy, but the United States and Germany particularly by virtue of the course we are already pursuing, I think ought to give people some confidence.

Our two countries are pretty well aligned in our fundamental goals of leading the world to develop innovative, clean technologies, transforming energy systems across the board, achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across global economies by 2030 or before that.

And together we have a long history of leadership on the energy transition. Both of our countries are working hard right now to bring about a sustainable energy transition by investing in a clean economy and in the industries of the future to drive economic growth, create good jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. And we’re seeing a lot of examples of this partnership, specifically - Ford announced in February 2021 a one-billion-dollar investment and an ambitious timeline to transform its cologne factory into an electric vehicle production facility. Ford’s first European-built all-electric passenger vehicle will be available by 2023. Tesla is set to open up its “Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg” by the end of the year. And we all ought to note that Tesla, a one brand car, i.e., electric, it’s all they make, is the highest valued automobile company in the world. That’s a sign. The Berlin-Brandenburg factory aims to become the most advanced high-volume electric vehicle production plant in the world. Amazon, which has invested heavily in mobility initiatives in Germany, has deployed part of its new fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles at its newest German hub in Leipzig.

So, this is just honestly the beginning of what is possible. The truth is the global energy transition is gaining momentum every single day, and thanks in no small measure to Germany’s sustained decades-long effort to pioneer the use of clean technologies. Germany’s landmark EEG law at the turn of the 21st century set off a boom in solar and wind power for the next two decades, and by guaranteeing a premium price for renewable energy, Germany created an early market for emerging technologies that has gone on to flourish all around the world.

In fact, we worked hand-in-hand to create that early solar market and after Germany’s EEG law created that rapidly growing solar market, the Obama-Biden Administration harnessed the 2009 recovery act in the United States to support the first five utility-scale solar projects in the world greater than 100 megawatts, launching a utility-scale solar revolution. That is something we should apply as a lesson to what we need to do now. Today, solar is the cheapest and fastest growing power source around the world, and those of you involved in it know that there is new technology changing some of the ingredients of the solar panel that will make a solar panel perhaps as much as 40% more efficient, which will be even a further revolution in the possibilities for countries that need to avoid coal and leapfrog to the future.

So today, countries in every corner of the world watch Germany bring down the cost of renewable energy and solve the technical challenges of integrating intermittent wind and solar onto the grid. And that example has now emboldened countries such as India to even more decisively invest in clean energy transition, and I think that’s a critical lesson.

Germany is also setting examples of how to manage not just the deployment of new technologies but the transition to those new technologies. I think Germany produces 45% of its electricity now from renewables, more than the proportion from fossil fuels, and it has developed tools from virtual power plants to long-distance transmission to maintain power reliability even at the highest penetrations of renewable energy.

It’s also, I think, showing the world a new way to transition from coal power, a tough decision, a big decision, and we all know how brutally politically complicated some of these decisions can be. But it concluded the first round of auctions to retire coal and that’s a creative mechanism that pays plant owners to shut down and it elicits the lowest market price to do so. And the government has developed a 4 billion euro plus compensation package, really critical, a compensation package to help affected companies and workers as the industry transitions by 2038, consistent with its law.

So, my friends, it’s critical that we decarbonize power, and President Biden has now committed, he committed actually during the campaign but he’s now codifying this in the executive orders and in all of the planning that he’s doing, to make sure that we in the United States are completely carbon free in our U.S. power sector by 2035. More broadly, the Administration plans to decarbonize all sectors of the economy not just power by putting the United States on a net zero emissions path by no later, by achieving net zero no later than 2050, and sooner if at all possible.

Now let me share one last thought or a couple thoughts with all of you. Some politicians, demagogues usually, want to try to scare people and say, “oh this transition’s going to mean you’re going to have to give up your lifestyle,” or you know, “you won’t be able to turn on the tv,” or whatever, the scare tactics are quite extraordinary. But quite the opposite.

What I’ve just described is the greatest revolution we’ve seen, as I said, since the industrial revolution. And President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda aligns job creation with the task of slashing emissions with clean energy. For example, we’re going to ramp up public procurement of zero emission vehicles as we clean up the transportation sector, which is the largest source of U.S. emissions. We are going to accelerate clean energy development. We’re going to level a currently tilted playing field, astonishingly even in 2021, still it has been tilted more towards fossil fuel than towards the renewables. We are going, the President has instructed all our federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, to pause new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, and to speed up clean energy investment. And around the world we’re going to promote fuel-based energy while simultaneously advancing the alternative renewables.

So, my friends, we have a lot to achieve together. Germany has unveiled a very impressive 9-billion-euro national hydrogen strategy. I think there are many other things we can do and there’s certainly a lot of things that we can work on together. We have a chance to transform the way people live for the better. Better health, less disease, much greater job growth, better economy, in the long run more stable, and finally greater security for all of our nations. I think this is a transition worth being excited about and I’m delighted to join you today to talk about that.

*determined

More from: John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Ernest J. Moniz, President & Chief Executive Officer, Energy Futures Initiative

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    What GAO Found Deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting and other limitations on the scope of GAO's work resulted in conditions that prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the Schedules of the General Fund as of and for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020. Such scope limitations also prevented GAO from obtaining sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an opinion on the effectiveness of the Bureau of the Fiscal Service's (Fiscal Service) internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund as of September 30, 2020. In addition, such scope limitations limited tests of compliance with selected provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements for fiscal year 2020. Fiscal Service was unable to readily provide sufficient appropriate evidence to support certain information reported in the accompanying Schedules of the General Fund. Specifically, Fiscal Service was unable to readily (1) identify and trace General Fund transactions to determine whether they were complete and properly recorded in the correct general ledger accounts and line items within the Schedules of the General Fund and (2) provide documentation to support the account attributes assigned to Treasury Account Symbols that determine how transactions are reported in the Schedules of the General Fund. The resulting scope limitations, the first of which GAO reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, are the basis for GAO's disclaimer of opinion on the Schedules of the General Fund. As a result of these limitations, GAO cautions that amounts Fiscal Service reported in the Schedules of the General Fund and related notes may not be reliable. Three significant deficiencies in Fiscal Service's internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund, which GAO reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, continue to exist. One of the continuing significant deficiencies contributed to the first scope limitation discussed above. In addition, GAO identified four other control deficiencies, three newly identified and one reported in its fiscal year 2018 audit, which GAO does not consider to be material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. Fiscal Service worked extensively, both internally and with other federal agencies, to address two scope limitations from GAO's fiscal year 2018 audit, such that GAO no longer considers these to be scope limitations for fiscal year 2020. Fiscal Service also (1) took action to close six of the 12 recommendations that GAO issued as a result of its fiscal year 2018 audit, (2) is implementing plans for remediating the remaining six recommendations over the next few years, and (3) plans to develop corrective actions for the three new recommendations issued in this report. Fiscal Service expressed its commitment to remediating the scope limitations and significant deficiencies reported for fiscal year 2020, acknowledging that it expects to take several years to resolve them, given the nature and complexity of certain identified issues. In addition, GAO is issuing a separate LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report on information systems controls. Why GAO Did This Study Because GAO audits the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government and the significance of the General Fund of the United States (General Fund) to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audited the fiscal year 2020 Schedules of the General Fund to determine whether, in all material respects, (1) the schedules are fairly presented and (2) Fiscal Service management maintained effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the Schedules of the General Fund. Further, GAO tested compliance with selected provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements related to the Schedules of the General Fund. As the reporting entity responsible for accounting for the cash activity of the U.S. government, in fiscal year 2020, the General Fund reported over $23 trillion of cash inflows and nearly $22 trillion of cash outflows. It also reported a budget deficit of $3.1 trillion, the largest recorded federal deficit in history. The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, and other COVID-19 pandemic relief laws, contained a number of funding provisions that resulted in a significant increase in the cash activity and budget deficit reported by the General Fund during fiscal year 2020.
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    In Crime News
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  • GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance Conferences
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO began 42 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of the 42 requested entrance conferences (i.e., initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff) for those audits, DOD scheduled 41 within 14 days of notification and held all 42 entrance conferences within 30 days of notification. Scheduling was delayed for one entrance conference, which was scheduled 21 days after notification, because DOD and GAO were working to reach agreement on the primary action officer, which is the appropriate office or component within the department that coordinates DOD's response to the audit. The entrance conference was held 8 days after it was scheduled. Entrance conferences allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the third of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first two quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020 (April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that were sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received the notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the relevant GAO team for each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Aviation Consumer Protection: Increased Transparency Could Help Build Confidence in DOT’s Enforcement Approach
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Transportation's (DOT) enforcement approach generally uses a range of methods to encourage compliance with consumer protection regulations, including conducting outreach and information-sharing, issuing guidance, and sending non-punitive warning letters for those violations that do not rise to the level that warrants a consent order. DOT usually enters into consent orders when it has evidence of systematic or egregious violations. Such orders are negotiated between DOT and violators (e.g., airlines) and typically include civil penalties. DOT officials see benefits from using consent orders, which can include credits for actions taken to benefit consumers or to improve the travel environment. Annual consent orders increased from 20 in 2008 to 62 in 2012, but then generally declined to a low of eight in 2019. GAO's analysis showed that the decline in consent orders was most marked among those issued against non-air carrier entities (e.g., travel agents), those addressing certain types of violations such as advertising, and orders containing smaller civil penalty amounts. DOT officials said that the agency did not change its enforcement practices during this time. Examples of DOT's Compliance Promotion and Enforcement Efforts Airlines and consumer advocates GAO interviewed said that DOT's enforcement process lacked transparency, including into how investigations were conducted and resolved and about when and why DOT takes enforcement actions. Moreover, DOT publishes limited information related to the results of its enforcement activities, notably information about the number and type of consumer complaints it receives as well as issued consent orders. DOT does not publish other information such as aggregated data about the number or nature of open and closed investigations or issued warning letters. DOT is taking some actions to increase transparency, such as developing a publicly available handbook, but none of those actions appears to fully address the identified information gaps such as information about the results of investigations. Some other federal agencies provide more information about enforcement activities, including publishing warning letters or data about such letters. Publishing additional information about how DOT conducts investigations and enforcement, and about the results of enforcement activities, could improve stakeholders' understanding of DOT's process and help build confidence in its approach. Consumer advocates, airlines, and other stakeholders have raised concerns about how DOT enforces aviation consumer protection requirements. DOT has the authority to enforce requirements protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive practices, discrimination on the basis of disability or other characteristics, and other harms. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 contained a provision for GAO to review DOT's enforcement of consumer protection requirements. This report examines: (1) DOT's approach to the enforcement of aviation consumer protections and the results of its efforts, and (2) selected stakeholder views on this approach and steps DOT has taken to address identified concerns. GAO reviewed DOT data on consent orders and consumer complaints; reviewed other DOT documentation related to its enforcement program; interviewed DOT officials and selected industry and consumer stakeholders, including advocacy organizations, which we identified from prior work and a literature review; and identified leading practices for regulatory enforcement. GAO is making two recommendations, including: that DOT publish information describing the process it uses to enforce consumer protections, and that DOT take additional steps to provide transparency into the results of its efforts. DOT concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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    Bankruptcy filings dropped 38.1 percent for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2021, a dramatic fall that coincided with the coronavirus (COVID-19), which first disrupted the economy in March 2020. 
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    In Crime News
    A Las Vegas area resident charged with perpetrating a prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million pleaded guilty today, the Department of Justice announced.
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    In Crime News
    Medical device maker Merit Medical Systems Inc. (MMSI), of South Jordan, Utah, has agreed to pay $18 million to resolve allegations that the company caused the submission of false claims to the Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE programs by paying kickbacks to physicians and hospitals to induce the use of MMSI products, the Department of Justice announced today. 
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    In U.S Courts
    A recent program honoring the 25th anniversary of a landmark case allowing women to enroll in the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) also celebrated a broader theme: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decades-long effort to remove gender bias from state and federal laws.
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  • Offshore Wind Energy: Planned Projects May Lead to Construction of New Vessels in the U.S., but Industry Has Made Few Decisions amid Uncertainties
    In U.S GAO News
    Under the Jones Act, vessels carrying merchandise between two points in the U.S. must be built and registered in the United States. Developers are planning a number of offshore wind projects along the U.S. east coast, where many states have set targets for offshore wind energy production. Stakeholders described two approaches to using vessels to install offshore wind energy projects in the U.S. Either approach may lead to the construction of new vessels that comply with the Jones Act. Under one approach, a Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) would carry components from a U.S. port to the site and also install the turbines. WTIVs have a large deck, legs that allow the vessel to lift out of the water, and a tall crane to lift and place turbines. Stakeholders told GAO there are currently no Jones Act-compliant vessels capable of serving as a WTIV. One company, however, has announced a plan to build one. Under the second approach, a foreign-flag WTIV would install the turbines with components carried to the site from U.S. ports by Jones Act-compliant feeder vessels (see figure). While some potential feeder vessels exist, stakeholders said larger ones would probably need to be built to handle the large turbines developers would likely use. Example of an Offshore Wind Installation in U.S. Waters Using a Foreign-Flag Installation Vessel and Jones Act-Compliant Feeder Vessels Stakeholders identified multiple challenges—which some federal programs address—associated with constructing and using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind installations. For example, stakeholders said that obtaining investments in Jones Act-compliant WTIVs—which may cost up to $500 million—has been challenging, in part due to uncertainty about the timing of federal approval for projects. According to officials at the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for approving offshore wind projects, the Department plans to issue a decision on the nation's first large-scale offshore wind project in December 2020. Some stakeholders said that if this project is approved, investors may be more willing to move forward with vessel investments. While stakeholders also said port infrastructure limitations could pose challenges to using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind, offshore wind developers and state agencies have committed to make port investments. Offshore wind, a significant potential source of energy in the United States, requires a number of oceangoing vessels for installation and other tasks. Depending on the use, these vessels may need to comply with the Jones Act. Because Jones Act-compliant vessels are generally more expensive to build and operate than foreign-flag vessels, using such vessels may increase the costs of offshore wind projects. Building such vessels may also lead to some economic benefits for the maritime industry. A provision was included in statute for GAO to review offshore wind vessels. This report examines (1) approaches to use of vessels that developers are considering for offshore wind, consistent with Jones Act requirements, and the extent to which such vessels exist, and (2) the challenges industry stakeholders have identified associated with constructing and using such vessels to support U.S. offshore wind, and the actions federal agencies have taken to address these challenges. GAO analyzed information on vessels that could support offshore wind, reviewed relevant laws and studies, and interviewed officials from federal agencies and industry stakeholders selected based on their involvement in ongoing projects and recommendations from others. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • 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
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    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. 
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  • Southwest Border Security: Actions Are Needed to Address the Cost and Readiness Implications of Continued DOD Support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    In U.S GAO News
    Since April 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted 33 requests for assistance (RFA) to the Department of Defense (DOD) for support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) mission at the southwest border. DOD established six criteria for evaluating RFAs, which it documents in decision packages. When reviewing four selected decision packages, GAO found that DOD fully evaluated four of these six criteria. GAO found that DOD developed rough cost estimates that were not reliable. In addition, DOD did not fully evaluate the effect on military readiness of providing support at the time the Secretary of Defense considered DHS's requests. Without reliable cost estimates and a timely readiness analysis, DOD is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect of supporting DHS on its budget and readiness rebuilding efforts. DOD's Detection and Monitoring Support Mission DOD has not provided Congress with timely information on the full costs it has incurred since 2018 in supporting DHS. Specifically, during this review, DOD did not submit its statutory report to Congress for fiscal year 2019, which was due March 31, 2020. Additionally, GAO found that DOD's internal tracking of obligations excludes potentially significant costs of border support activities, such as installation support costs and the cost of benefits retroactively provided to members of the National Guard. By providing more timely and complete information to Congress, DOD would enhance Congress's ability to conduct oversight and make funding decisions for DOD and DHS. DOD and DHS employed several key interagency collaboration practices for DOD's support on the southwest border, but they have not agreed on a common outcome for DOD's support in fiscal year 2021 and beyond. DHS anticipates needing at least the current amount of DOD support for the next 3 to 5 years, possibly more, and officials stated that the desired outcome is for DOD to provide the capabilities requested in the RFAs. This differs from DOD's desired outcome, which is to provide temporary assistance until DHS can independently execute its border security mission. Defining and articulating a common outcome for DOD's support could enable DOD to more effectively plan for the resources it will need to support DHS and enable DHS to plan to manage its border security mission more effectively with its own assets. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in February 2021. Information on force protection that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. For decades, the U.S. southwest border has been vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity such as illegal entries, smuggling of drugs and contraband, and terrorist activities. Since 2002, DOD has supported DHS's mission to secure the nation's borders and episodically supported its efforts to manage surges in foreign nationals without valid travel documents who are seeking entry—most recently since April 2018, when the President directed the Secretary of Defense to support DHS in securing the southwest border. GAO was asked to examine this support. This report assesses the extent to which (1) DOD has evaluated DHS's RFAs, (2) DOD has reported to Congress the full costs of its support, and (3) DOD and DHS have collaborated on border security operations. GAO reviewed RFAs that DHS submitted to DOD between April 2018 and March 2020 and a non-generalizable sample of decision packages that DOD prepared in response, and conducted four site visits to border locations where military personnel were stationed. GAO makes seven recommendations, five to DOD to improve its analysis and reporting of cost and unit-level readiness impacts of supporting southwest border operations and one each to DOD and DHS to define a common outcome for DOD's future support. DOD agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with five. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted as discussed in the report. DHS agreed with the recommendation to it. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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    Today, senior law enforcement officials from the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras announced criminal charges in Central America against more than 700 members of transnational criminal organizations, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, which resulted from a one-week coordinated law enforcement action under Operation Regional Shield (ORS).
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    A new Moments in History video, in recognition of Native American Heritage Month, recounts how Chief Standing Bear persuaded a federal judge in 1879 to recognize Native Americans as persons with the right to sue for their freedom, establishing him as one of the nation’s earliest civil rights heroes.
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