Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi Before Their Meeting

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, DC

Treaty Room

 

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. It is very good to welcome my friend, Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of Jordan, here to the State Department and to Washington. Needless to say, we’re very focused on the situation in Israel, West Bank, Gaza, very deeply concerned about the rocket attacks that we are seeing now that need to stop and need to stop immediately, and also, of course, concerns about the violence, provocative actions in and around the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. That violence needs to cease. All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down. I appreciate some of the steps we’ve seen in the last – of the last 24 hours, particularly with regard to rerouting the parade and putting off the decision on the evictions, but it’s imperative that all sides take steps to de-escalate and calm the situation. And again, I’m deeply concerned about the rocket attacks. And even as all sides take steps to de-escalate, Israel, of course, has a right to defend its people and its territory from these attacks.

I know that the foreign minister and I will have opportunity to discuss this. We have a lot else on our agenda as well. Jordan knows that President Biden is a long and strong friend of Jordan, and Jordan has been a long and strong friend of the United States – the closest of partners in dealing with the many challenges that we face together in the region, a very valued and trusted advisor as we confront these issues, as well as some of the real opportunities that are out there. So I’m looking forward to a conversation that covers a lot of this territory.

Meanwhile, Ayman, welcome. It’s very good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Good afternoon. And thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for your kind words. I’m looking forward to what I know will be extremely instructive and useful conversation between two friends and two allies, particularly at this very, very critical situation. We’re all trying to tackle the extremely dangerous situation in Jerusalem. We’ve repeatedly said in Jordan that Jerusalem is a redline and that maintaining peace and stability in Jerusalem is key. Our focus right now on ensuring that the escalation stops, and for that to happen we do believe that all immediate provocative measures against either the peoples of Sheikh Jarrah or in terms of the violations into al-Haram must stop, status quo needs to be preserved, and the rights of the Palestinians need to be respected so that we calm the situation and create the political horizon that the U.S., Jordan and all of us want to see towards a lasting, comprehensive peace that would address the rights of all peoples on the basis of the two-state solution.

So today, priority is stop the escalation, make sure that international law is respected, rights of Palestinians, rights of worshippers are upheld, status quo is preserved, and move forward with creating that political horizon.

The United States has a leading role to play – it has the leading role to play, in fact, in terms of trying to bring about the peace and stability that we all want. We all believe in peace as strategic choice; nobody is doing anybody a favor by opting for peace. It’s a right for all. We know the formula of the two-state solution is the one that will get us there. And again, we do look forward to the leadership of the United States at this effort, because this is something that is a common objective for all of us.

As the Secretary said, Jordan and the United States have enjoyed a tremendously strong historical partnership. This is a partnership of which we are proud. His Majesty King Abdullah is looking forward to coming here and engaging with the President as well as the rest of the administration on how we can move forward not just in the interests of the goals for our country, but also their interest of peace, stability, prosperity in the region. We are proud of this relationship, and we do look forward to what I know will be extremely useful and important discussions with the Secretary on, again, addressing the challenges and dangerous situation in the West Bank and Jerusalem right now, but also in the rest of the region. We have a lot of good work that we do together – on fighting terrorism to supporting the stability in Iraq, looking for answers to political solutions in the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen. And again, in all that we’re partners, we seek the same objective, and we’ll continue to be working together.

So again, sir, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. On behalf of His Majesty, on behalf of all of us in Jordan, a big thank you to the United States for the tremendous support that it has shown the kingdom historically and in terms of trying to deal with the many challenges that we are facing, unfortunately, in a very troubled part of the world.

Thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you all.

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    What GAO Found Since GAO's April 2020 report on the status of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) major facilities projects, the Large Hadron Collider High Luminosity Upgrade program began construction, and it along with the four other major facilities projects in construction (see figure), have weathered schedule delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To partially account for increased costs associated with the pandemic, such as the cost of paying project staff while work is paused, NSF has authorized $38.9 million in total project cost increases to the award recipients constructing three of the five projects: $18.9 million for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, $10.0 million for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, and $10.0 million for Regional Class Research Vessels. Because the pandemic is ongoing and its full effects are not yet known, NSF expects to make further adjustments to the cost and schedule of all five major projects in construction. Design work on an additional major facility project continued without significant interruption from the pandemic. Further, NSF made awards to begin the agency's first three mid-scale research infrastructure projects. National Science Foundation Major Facilities Projects in Construction NSF has fully implemented GAO's prior recommendation on information sharing among award recipients and has drafted guidance or taken other steps towards addressing GAO's three remaining recommendations. To enhance information sharing among award recipients, NSF added a section to its terms and conditions in its major facilities agreements that encourages awardees to share information among awardees and participate in a knowledge management program. Why GAO Did This Study NSF supports the design, construction, and operations of science and engineering research infrastructure such as telescopes and research vessels. These projects include major facilities that cost over $100 million to construct or acquire, and mid-scale research infrastructure projects. Over the past 5 fiscal years, NSF has received over $1 billion in appropriations for these projects. Prior GAO reports reviewed NSF's oversight of the projects, its cost estimating and schedule policies, and the project management expertise of its oversight workforce. Senate Report 115-275, Senate Report 114-239, and House Report 114-605 included provisions for GAO to review and report annually on projects funded from NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. This report, the fourth, examines (1) the cost and schedule performance of NSF's ongoing major facilities and mid-scale research infrastructure projects and (2) the extent to which NSF has implemented prior GAO recommendations related to its management of major facilities. GAO reviewed NSF and award recipient documents for the projects. GAO examined policies and procedures to identify efforts to implement recommendations and interviewed NSF officials for clarifying information.
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  • Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges and Opportunities with Acquiring Space Systems in a Changing Environment
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) is making changes to its space-related processes and organization that will present both opportunities and challenges to the way it acquires its space systems. GAO has reported over the past decades on challenges DOD faces in its space acquisitions—including schedule delays, multibillion-dollar cost increases, significant reductions in capabilities, and in some cases cancelation—and made recommendations that have improved program outcomes. For example, DOD took actions to implement a GAO recommendation to use an incremental approach to acquiring space launch services. DOD's modified approach reduced risk by allowing it to incorporate knowledge gained from early launch competitions to inform subsequent competitions. Many of the most troubled programs are nearing completion, and DOD is starting new programs to develop the next generation of capabilities, some of which are being acquired under a streamlined acquisition process known as the middle-tier of acquisition pathway (see table below). Starting new programs is an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and take measures to put programs on successful paths. GAO's work has shown that in many cases, DOD is attempting to do so. Selected New DOD Space Programs and Near-Term Estimated Costs Dollars in billions New program Current estimated costs for 5-year middle-tier effort Evolved Strategic SATCOM (ESS) Protected satellite communications $1.4 Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) Ground control for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites $3.0 Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Block 0 Missile warning, infrared intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance $8.4 Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) Protected satellite communications $1.0 Source: Department of Defense (DOD) data. | GAO-21-520T However, DOD faces challenges because it will be starting these new programs amid significant changes to the acquisition environment. Some of these changes are external to DOD, such as increased threats to on-orbit space systems. But over the past several years, DOD also initiated substantial organizational and acquisition process changes. While the Space Force offers an important opportunity to streamline lines of authority, accountability, and decision-making and avoid duplication of effort, many details will require careful consideration. In addition, adopting leading practices for acquisition, as previously recommended, could help DOD achieve faster delivery of new capabilities, especially if DOD balances new, streamlined acquisition processes with sufficient oversight to help ensure program success. Why GAO Did This Study DOD space systems provide critical capabilities that support military and other government operations. Space systems can be expensive to acquire and field, costing billions of dollars each year. The U.S. Space Force was recently established as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. As planned, the Space Force will consolidate leadership, planning, and management for some DOD space programs, as appropriate and authorized. This statement discusses the challenges and opportunities DOD faces as it acquires space systems amid changes to the acquisition environment. This statement is based on GAO reports issued over the past 10 years on DOD space programs. It also draws on recent work supporting GAO's 2021 annual report on the progress of major defense acquisition programs.
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  • Lead Paint in Housing: HUD Has Not Identified High-Risk Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties
    In U.S GAO News
    During fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) obligated about $421 million through two grant programs to state and local governments to help identify and control lead paint hazards in housing for low-income households. HUD also issued guidelines for evaluating and controlling lead paint hazards, generally encouraging abatement (such as replacing building components containing lead) as the preferred long-term solution. HUD has supported research on lead paint hazard control and provided education and outreach to public housing agencies, property owners, and the public through publications and training events. HUD monitors lead paint-related risks in its Project-Based Rental Assistance Program, one of HUD's three largest rental assistance programs, through management reviews and periodic physical inspections, but has not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment to identify properties posing the greatest risk to children under the age of 6. HUD's management reviews include assessing property owners' compliance with lead paint regulations—such as by reviewing lead disclosure forms, records of lead inspections, and plans to address lead paint hazards. Inspectors from HUD's Real Estate Assessment Center also assess the physical condition of properties, including identifying damaged paint that could indicate lead paint risks. According to HUD officials, they have not conducted risk assessments in project-based rental assistance housing because they believe the program has relatively few older and potentially riskier properties. However, GAO's analysis of HUD data found that 21 percent of project-based rental assistance properties have at least one building constructed before 1978 (when lead paint was banned in homes) and house over 138,000 children under the age of 6. If HUD used available program data to inform periodic risk assessments, HUD could identify which of the properties pose the greatest risk of exposure to lead paint hazards for children under the age of 6. Unless HUD develops a strategy for managing the risks associated with lead paint and lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing, it may miss the opportunity to prevent children under the age of 6 from being inadvertently exposed to lead paint in those properties. Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties with at Least One Building Built before 1978 and That House Children under Age 6, as of December 31, 2019 Note: Children under the age of 6 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure because they have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, often crawl on the floor, and ingest nonfood items. Lead paint exposure in children under the age of 6 can cause brain damage, slowed development, and learning and behavioral problems. Exposure to lead paint hazards can cause serious harm to children under 6 years old. HUD is required by law to reduce the risk of lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted rental housing—including project-based rental assistance (subsidies to make privately owned multifamily properties affordable to low-income households). The 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act Joint Explanatory Statement includes a provision for GAO to review, among other things, HUD's oversight of lead paint and related hazards in affordable rental housing. This report (1) describes how HUD programs and guidance address lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted and other low-income rental housing, and (2) examines HUD's oversight procedures for assessing risk for lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing. GAO reviewed HUD and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint regulations and documents on lead programs and methods for addressing lead paint hazards. GAO reviewed HUD oversight policies and procedures and analyzed HUD data on building and tenant age. GAO interviewed staff at HUD, EPA, and organizations that advocate for safe affordable housing. GAO recommends that HUD (1) conduct periodic risk assessments for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Program and (2) develop and implement plans to proactively manage identified lead paint risks. HUD agreed to conduct periodic risk assessments and develop and implement a plan to proactively manage risks. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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    An Indiana man who distributed unregistered pesticides to the tenants and managers of an apartment building he owned has pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
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    In Crime News
    A nurse formerly employed by an Ann Arbor, Michigan, health care consultancy was sentenced to 65 months in prison for defrauding employers of over $2.2 million and evading more than $697,000 in taxes, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has completed its investigation into whether Georgetown Day School, Holton-Arms School, Landon School, Maret School, National Cathedral School, The Potomac School, St. Albans School, and Sidwell Friends School (jointly, “the Schools”) collectively agreed to stop offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses by 2022 in violation of the Sherman Act.  The Schools announced in June 2018 that they would eliminate AP courses from their curricula by 2022. 
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