Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi Before Their Meeting

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Tokyo, Japan

Iikura Guest House

FOREIGN MINISTER MOTEGI:  Tony and General – may I call you Lloyd?

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Yes, please.  (Inaudible.)

FOREIGN MINISTER MOTEGI:  Welcome to Tokyo.  And I’m so glad and delighted to host a 2+2 meeting face-to-face, and for the first time in two years, and even in this COVID situation.

From here, I will speak in Japanese.

(Via Interpreter) This is the first time in history that the U.S. State Secretary and Defense Secretary have together visited Japan as their first overseas port of call after the inauguration of a new administration in the United States. This is proof of the unshakeable commitment that the two of you and the Biden administration have to the Japan-U.S. alliance and the region overall.

Last week, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11. At the time of the earthquake, the U.S. Forces in Japan dedicated themselves selflessly to Operation Tomodachi and relief work. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation once again to our American friends.

Over the past few years, the world situation has changed greatly. The strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific in particular is in a totally different dimension. There has been a change in the power balance as not only military strength but also economic development and high-tech advancements have exerted an influence on the power situation. The free and open international order is faced with major challenges, such as unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and the expansion of authoritarianism.

The COVID-19 pandemic that broke out last year has accelerated these trends. In this context, maintaining a free and open international order based on the rule of law and ensuring regional peace, stability, and prosperity are the path and the strategic goals Japan and the U.S. must band together to pursue. From this perspective, Japan is fully committed to further strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, and we sincerely look forward to collaborating closely with both of you.

I believe the order of speakers is Minister Kishi, then Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Austin. Minister Kishi, please.

DEFENSE MINISTER KISHI: (Via Interpreter) Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, I would like to warmly welcome you to Japan. Minister Motegi spoke of this, but I also would like to thank you once again for the support we received from the U.S.  government and for Operation Tomodachi led by the U.S. military at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake 10 years ago. The fact that our American friends were with us and were supporting us during those difficult days is deeply etched in the hearts of the Japanese people. This experience deepened and strengthened the bonds between our two countries even more and further solidified the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Over the past 10 years, the Japan-U.S. alliance has steadily been strengthened. Our two countries have furthered our strategic dialogue and have joined hands to address security issues in the region and in the world. Moreover, Japan has created legislation for peace and security and moved forward with strengthening its own defense capabilities.

Today more than ever, the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military have become partners who can act together while protecting each other. Amid the increasingly tense security environment, however, we must further solidify the Japan-U.S. alliance. As Defense Minister, I would like to deepen discussions with both of you today on concrete initiatives that we should take to enhance our ability to deter and respond under the Japan-U.S. alliance. Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  It is really an honor to join you, Mr. Minister, Toshi; Defense Minister Kishi, it’s very good to see you again after many years; and your friend and colleague, Secretary of Defense Austin, to be together for this 2+2 ministerial meeting.  And thank you so much to all of our hosts, and to the people of Japan for their extraordinary hospitality, as always.

Secretary Austin and I are the first members of President Biden’s cabinet to make an overseas trip.  And for that trip, we’ve come to Japan.  Because for more than 60 years, our alliance has been a cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity – not only for our two countries, but for the region, and indeed for the world.

We’re here to reaffirm our commitment to this alliance and to build upon it, to ensure that we keep delivering for our people today and into the future.  We too believe that this alliance is critical for a free and open Indo-Pacific region in which countries pursue shared objectives effectively, resolve any differences peacefully, respect international law, and use multilateral institutions to build cooperation.

We will work together on a range of issues that you both alluded to, but these are issues that are not abstractions; they actually shape the lives of our citizens.  And that’s why it’s so important that we work closely together on them, whether it’s health security, including stopping COVID-19; economic security; cybersecurity; combatting climate change.

We will continue to work together on core security issues like the denuclearization of North Korea and maritime security, and we’ll stand up for our shared democratic values, because we know that democracy and human rights are core elements of any stable and secure region.

President Biden has emphasized that our administration will lead with diplomacy.  That diplomacy that we’ll conduct here today I hope and believe will serve the people of Japan and the United States, and the people across the Indo-Pacific.  Our alliance is strong, and together we will make the region stronger.  This alliance ultimately is more than a security agreement.  It’s also a bond of friendship, trust, and respect.

As you said, Toshi, last week marked the 10th anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami – a devastating tragedy.  The United States joins you in remembering and honoring those who were lost.

We’re proud to be your friend then, now, and in the years to come.  So thank you for receiving us today.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Minister Motegi, Minister Kishi, I want to thank you for your warm welcome, and I offer my profound thanks to the people of Japan for their gracious hospitality.  I am tremendously honored to join all of you here in Tokyo for my first international trip as Secretary of Defense.  I’m grateful to join my dear colleague, Secretary Blinken, as we work together to build upon the resolute and resilient bond between our two countries.

As I mentioned to Minister Kishi earlier today, the U.S.-Japan alliance is strong, and I look forward to charting a path towards continued success in the future as we work together to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific.  I am a firm believer in the notion that we are at our strongest when we work together as part of a larger team.

And that’s why we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm with Japan – the cornerstone of the alliance, the Indo-Pacific, that has preserved peace and security in this region and across the globe for more than half a century.

As we lead with diplomacy on a range of issues that Secretary Blinken mentioned, I want you to know that we at the Department of Defense stand ever ready to buttress the hard work of our diplomats.  Diplomacy and defense complement one another, and together they make us stronger.

Today’s meeting is a testament to that premise, as we work together in the spirit of teamwork and cooperation to seize the shared opportunities and address our shared challenges now and in the years ahead.  We need only look at Operation Tomodachi in the wake of the 3/11 tragedy 10 years ago to give us confidence that our resolute and resilient alliance rests firmly on our bonds of friendship and shared sacrifice.

Thanks again for welcoming us today, and I look forward to a productive discussion.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd., the owner of the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to aiding and abetting the attempted export of shark fins out of Hawaii in violation of the Lacey Act, the Department of Justice announced.
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  • Follow NASA’s Perseverance Rover in Real Time on Its Way to Mars
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  • The Department of State Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger
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  • Puerto Rico Electricity: FEMA and HUD Have Not Approved Long-Term Projects and Need to Implement Recommendations to Address Uncertainties and Enhance Resilience
    In U.S GAO News
    As of October 2020, 3 years since the hurricanes destroyed much of Puerto Rico's electricity grid, neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had approved long-term grid recovery projects in Puerto Rico. In 2019, GAO made four recommendations to FEMA and HUD to address identified challenges in rebuilding the electricity grid in Puerto Rico. As of October 2020, FEMA had fully implemented one recommendation and partially implemented two others, while HUD had not implemented its recommendation. Specifically, FEMA established an interagency agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) to clarify how the agencies would consult on recovery efforts. FEMA had taken actions to partially implement recommendations on improving coordination among federal and local agencies and providing information on industry standards. However, further steps are needed, including finalizing guidance on FEMA's process for approving funding for projects. Regarding HUD, it has not addressed GAO's recommendation to establish time frames and requirements for available funding. Damaged Power Lines in Puerto Rico in November 2017 after Hurricane Maria Until HUD and FEMA implement GAO's recommendations, uncertainty will linger about how and when federal funding for long-term grid recovery will proceed. In particular, it is uncertain how available funding sources will support measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, such as smart grid technology. FEMA officials told GAO that additional funding sources could be used for resilience measures but that this would not be determined until specific projects are submitted to FEMA for approval. Moreover, although FEMA finalized a $10 billion cost estimate for grid repairs in September 2020, several steps remain before FEMA approves funding for projects—a process officials said they were drafting. HUD funding could supplement FEMA funding but, as discussed above, HUD has yet to establish conditions for using these funds and has not established time frames and a plan for issuing this information. According to HUD officials, they plan to publish requirements in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, but this depends on other factors, such as input from other federal agencies. Further delays in publishing the conditions could contribute to delays in Puerto Rico's ability to initiate grid recovery projects. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged Puerto Rico's electricity grid, causing the longest blackout in U.S. history. It took roughly 11 months after the hurricanes for power to be restored to all of the customers with structures deemed safe for power restoration. Since electricity service has been restored, local entities have undertaken the longer-term task of more fully repairing and rebuilding the grid. GAO reported in 2019 on challenges hindering progress in rebuilding the grid and recommended that FEMA and HUD take actions to address these challenges. This report examines the status of efforts to support long-term grid recovery in Puerto Rico, including actions taken by FEMA and HUD to implement GAO's 2019 recommendations. For this report, GAO assessed agency actions; reviewed relevant reports, regulations, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal and local officials. GAO previously made three recommendations to FEMA and one to HUD to provide needed information and improve coordination to support grid recovery. Both agencies disagreed with GAO's characterization of their progress made addressing these prior recommendations. GAO continues to believe additional actions are needed to fully implement these recommendations. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.
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  • Judges Learn Students’ Perspectives in Law Day Events
    In U.S Courts
    Federal judges are creating opportunities throughout May for critical thinking and candid conversations with students about the rule of law, as part of the Judiciary’s annual observance of Law Day.
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  • Department of Justice Announces Formation of Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces to Crack Down on Sources of Crime Guns
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice announced it will launch five cross-jurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces within the next 30 days to help reduce violent crime by addressing illegal gun trafficking in significant firearms trafficking corridors. Tomorrow, the Attorney General will discuss with the President, law enforcement officials, and local and community leaders, this initiative, which, along with other measures, the Department of Justice is undertaking as part of the administration-wide comprehensive strategy to combat the rise in violent crime. 
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  • Electricity Grid Cybersecurity: DOE Needs to Ensure Its Plans Fully Address Risks to Distribution Systems
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The U.S. grid's distribution systems—which carry electricity from transmission systems to consumers and are regulated primarily by states—are increasingly at risk from cyberattacks. Distribution systems are growing more vulnerable, in part because their industrial control systems increasingly allow remote access and connect to business networks. As a result, threat actors can use multiple techniques to access those systems and potentially disrupt operations. (See fig.) However, the scale of potential impacts from such attacks is not well understood. Examples of Techniques for Gaining Initial Access to Industrial Control Systems Distribution utilities included in GAO's review are generally not subject to mandatory federal cybersecurity standards, but they, and selected states, had taken actions intended to improve distribution systems' cybersecurity. These actions included incorporating cybersecurity into routine oversight processes and hiring dedicated cybersecurity personnel. Federal agencies have supported these actions by, for example, providing cybersecurity training and guidance. As the lead federal agency for the energy sector, the Department of Energy (DOE) has developed plans to implement the national cybersecurity strategy for the grid, but these plans do not fully address risks to the grid's distribution systems. For example, DOE's plans do not address distribution systems' vulnerabilities related to supply chains. According to officials, DOE has not fully addressed such risks in its plans because it has prioritized addressing risks to the grid's generation and transmission systems. Without doing so, however, DOE's plans will likely be of limited use in prioritizing federal support to states and industry to improve grid distribution systems' cybersecurity. Why GAO Did This Study Protecting the reliability of the U.S. electricity grid, which delivers electricity essential for modern life, is a long-standing national interest. The grid comprises three functions: generation, transmission, and distribution. In August 2019, GAO reported that the generation and transmission systems—which are federally regulated for reliability—are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. GAO was asked to review grid distribution systems' cybersecurity. This report (1) describes the extent to which grid distribution systems are at risk from cyberattacks and the scale of potential impacts from such attacks, (2) describes selected state and industry actions to improve distribution systems' cybersecurity and federal efforts to support those actions, and (3) examines the extent to which DOE has addressed risks to distribution systems in its plans for implementing the national cybersecurity strategy. To do so, GAO reviewed relevant federal and industry reports on grid cybersecurity risks and analyzed relevant DOE documents. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizable sample of federal, state, and industry officials with a role in grid distribution systems' cybersecurity.
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  • High-Risk Series: Dedicated Leadership Needed to Address Limited Progress in Most High-Risk Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    Overall ratings in 2021 for 20 of GAO's 2019 high-risk areas remain unchanged, and five regressed. Seven areas improved, one to the point of removal from the High-Risk List. Two new areas are being added, bringing our 2021 High-Risk List to 36 areas. Where there has been improvement in high-risk areas, congressional actions, in addition to those by executive agencies, have been critical in spurring progress. GAO is removing Department of Defense (DOD) Support Infrastructure Management from the High-Risk List. Among other things, DOD has more efficiently utilized military installation space; reduced its infrastructure footprint and use of leases, reportedly saving millions of dollars; and improved its use of installation agreements, reducing base support costs GAO is narrowing the scope of three high-risk areas by removing segments of the areas due to progress that has been made. The affected areas are: (1) Federal Real Property (Costly Leasing) because the General Services Administration has reduced its reliance on costly leases and improved monitoring efforts; (2) DOD Contract Management (Acquisition Workforce) because DOD has significantly rebuilt its acquisition workforce; and (3) Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources (Offshore Oil and Gas Oversight) because the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has implemented reforms improving offshore oil and gas oversight. National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse is being added to the High-Risk List. National rates of drug misuse have been increasing, and drug misuse has resulted in significant loss of life and harmful effects to society and the economy. GAO identified several challenges in the federal government's response, such as a need for greater leadership and coordination of the national effort, strategic guidance that fulfills all statutory requirements, and more effective implementation and monitoring. Emergency Loans for Small Businesses also is being added. The Small Business Administration has provided hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of loans and advances to help small businesses recover from adverse economic impacts created by COVID-19. While loans have greatly aided many small businesses, evidence of fraud and significant program integrity risks need much greater oversight and management attention. Nine existing high-risk areas also need more focused attention (see table). 2021 High-Risk List Areas Requiring Significant Attention High-risk areas that regressed since 2019 High-risk areas that need additional attention USPS Financial Viability IT Acquisitions and Operations Decennial Census Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation U.S. Government's Environmental Liability Strategic Human Capital Management Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safety EPA's Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals   Source: GAO. | GAO-21-119SP   GAO's 2021 High-Risk List High-risk area Change since 2019 Strengthening the Foundation for Efficiency and Effectiveness Strategic Human Capital Management ↓ Managing Federal Real Propertya ↑ Funding the Nation's Surface Transportation Systemb c n/a Modernizing the U.S. Financial Regulatory Systemb ● Resolving the Federal Role in Housing Financeb ● USPS Financial Viabilityb ↓ Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resourcesa ● Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risksb ● Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations ● Improving Federal Management of Programs That Serve Tribes and Their Members ● Decennial Census ↓ U.S. Government's Environmental Liabilityb ● Emergency Loans for Small Businesses (new)c n/a Transforming DOD Program Management DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition ● DOD Financial Management ↑ DOD Business Systems Modernization ● DOD Approach to Business Transformation ● Ensuring Public Safety and Security Government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Processb ↑ Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nationb ↓ Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions ● Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests ● Improving Federal Oversight of Food Safetyb ● Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products ● Transforming EPA's Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals ↓ National Efforts to Prevent, Respond to, and Recover from Drug Misuse (new)c n/a Managing Federal Contracting More Effectively VA Acquisition Managementd n/a DOE's Contract and Project Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management ↑ NASA Acquisition Management ↑ DOD Contract Managementa ● Assessing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Tax Law Administration Enforcement of Tax Lawsb ● Modernizing and Safeguarding Insurance and Benefit Programs Medicare Program & Improper Paymentse ● Strengthening Medicaid Program Integrityb ● Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs ● Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programsb c n/a National Flood Insurance Programb ● Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Careb ↑ (↑ indicates area progressed on one or more criteria since 2019; ↓ indicates area declined on one or more criteria ; ● indicates no change; n/a = not applicable) Source: GAO. | GAO-21-119SP aRatings for a segment within this high-risk area improved sufficiently that the segment was removed. bLegislation is likely to be necessary in order to effectively address this high-risk area. cNot rated, because this high-risk area is newly added or primarily involves congressional action. dRated for the first time, because this high-risk area was newly added in 2019. eOnly rated on one segment; we did not rate other elements of the Medicare program. The federal government is one of the world's largest and most complex entities; about $6.6 trillion in outlays in fiscal year 2020 funded a broad array of programs and operations. GAO's High-Risk Series identifies government operations with vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or in need of transformation to address economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. This biennial update describes the status of high-risk areas, outlines actions that are still needed to assure further progress, and identifies any new high-risk areas needing attention by the executive branch and Congress. Solutions to high-risk problems save billions of dollars, improve service to the public, and strengthen government performance and accountability. GAO uses five criteria to assess progress in addressing high-risk areas: (1) leadership commitment, (2) agency capacity, (3) an action plan, (4) monitoring efforts, and (5) demonstrated progress. This report describes GAO's views on progress made and what remains to be done to bring about lasting solutions for each high-risk area. Addressing GAO's hundreds of open recommendations across the high-risk areas and continued congressional oversight and action are essential to achieving greater progress. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.
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  • DHS Office of Inspector General: Actions Needed to Address Long-Standing Management Weaknesses
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since fiscal year 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has not adhered to a number of professional standards for federal OIGs and key practices for effective management. Frequent leadership turnover and associated shifts in leadership priorities have contributed to DHS OIG's long-standing management and operational weaknesses and impeded efforts to address them. DHS OIG senior leaders acknowledge that various challenges have contributed to these weaknesses, and have taken steps to begin to address some of them, as follows: Organizational performance management: DHS OIG has operated for 4 of the past 6 years without a strategic plan. This limits its ability to implement other organizational performance management activities, such as annual planning and performance assessment. In the absence of a strategic plan, GAO found that DHS OIG staff may not understand its oversight priorities and goals, which can negatively affect operations and staff performance. In 2020, DHS OIG contracted with a nonprofit academy of government experts to develop a strategic plan for fiscal years 2021–2025, with expected completion in June 2021. Quality assurance: DHS OIG has not developed or implemented organization-wide roles and responsibilities for quality assurance. DHS OIG retracted some reports in recent years because they did not adhere to professional standards. Because there is no overarching system of internal quality assurance for audit, inspection, evaluation, and other work, DHS OIG cannot know if its internal processes ensure that its work (1) adheres to its policies and (2) meets established standards of performance. Report timeliness: Project time frames have increased in recent years, and DHS OIG has not taken steps to understand the causes of such increases or determine how to address them. For example, in the Office of Audits, eight of 102 projects completed in fiscal year 2017 took more than 18 months, compared to more than half (35 of 67) of projects completed in fiscal year 2020. Without timely DHS OIG reports, DHS's ability to respond to such oversight efforts and Congress's ability to conduct effective oversight of DHS operations are limited. Coordination with DHS: DHS OIG does not have a consistent process for coordinating with DHS components to receive and respond to technical and management comments on DHS OIG audit, inspection, and evaluation work. Further, DHS officials do not have confidence in DHS OIG's processes to (1) correct factual errors before finalizing reports and (2) redact sensitive but unclassified information before publicly issuing reports. As a result, the process by which DHS OIG resolves DHS's comments is at risk of miscommunication and misunderstandings. These and additional weaknesses GAO identified are of particular concern given that OIGs need to maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity in light of their mission, according to quality standards for federal OIGs. Without addressing these and other long-standing management and operational weaknesses, DHS OIG is not well positioned to fulfill its oversight mission. Why GAO Did This Study DHS OIG plays a critical role in overseeing DHS, which encompasses multiple components and programs and has tens of billions of dollars in annual budgetary resources. However, DHS OIG has faced a number of long-standing management and operational challenges that have affected its ability to carry out its oversight mission effectively. GAO was asked to review DHS OIG's management and operations. This report addresses the extent to which DHS OIG adheres to professional standards and key practices in its management and operations, among other objectives. GAO reviewed DHS OIG management and operations from fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2020. GAO evaluated DHS OIG's processes against quality standards for federal OIGs, relevant federal standards for internal control, and human capital and organizational change leading practices. To do so, GAO reviewed DHS OIG documents, interviewed officials, and analyzed DHS OIG data and published reports.
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  • Former U.S. Army Employee Pleads Guilty to Kickback Scheme to Steer U.S. Government Contracts
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    A former civilian employee of the U.S. Army’s Directorate of Public Works pleaded guilty today for his role in a kickbacks scheme to steer government contracts for work at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait.
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  • Department of Justice Releases Report on its Efforts to Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy MS-13
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice released “Full Scale Response: A Report on the Department’s Efforts to Combat MS-13 from 2016-2020.”  This report describes the Department’s work to dismantle La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in the United States and abroad.  The data show that since 2016, the Department has prosecuted approximately 749 MS-13 gang members.  So far, more than 500 of these MS-13 gang members have been convicted, including 37 who received life sentences.  Department prosecutors are using more than 20 federal criminal statutes to prosecute MS-13 members, including, for the first time, filing terrorism charges against MS-13’s leadership.  The data also show that for decades MS-13 has exploited weaknesses in border enforcement policies, as approximately 74 percent of the defendants prosecuted were unlawfully present in the United States.  The report also describes the Department’s efforts to combat MS-13 internationally through increased partnerships with law enforcement in Mexico and Central America.  Through international cooperation, hundreds of MS-13 members have been arrested abroad and more than 50 MS-13 members have been extradited to the United States.
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