Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Seoul, Republic of Korea
American Center Korea
MR RAPSON: Hello, everyone. Mission Seoul Colleagues, family members, thank you for being with us – or, I should say, Zooming in with us – for this afternoon’s very special occasion. As our time is limited, though, let me get right to the point: I’m absolutely delighted to introduce to you our Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who arrived in Korea just a couple of hours ago. While no stranger to Korea, this is the Secretary’s first overseas visit in his new job, and for that we’re deeply honored and appreciative, as I know his Korean hosts are as well. So with no further ado, Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming to Korea and thank you for engaging in this virtual conversation with our terrific and ever resilient community. Our only wish is that we could have done this in person, but that’s for another time, perhaps your next visit to Korea. So thank you, Mr. Secretary. The Zoom is yours.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you very, very much. It’s really wonderful to be back here, and in fact, in this very spot I think I spent some quality time on my last tour of duty. And it’s very good to be back. It’s particularly nice, Rob, to be with you, as well as the whole mission. We’ve done some good work together in the past. I’m looking forward to doing more going forward, and to the entire team, hello. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
I want to say as well that I wish we were all together in person, but we’ll take advantage of the technology and at least have this virtual gathering. And I can tell you this is not goodbye, it’s hello, and I suspect I’ll be back. And so I hope the next time we will be able to get together in person. But I do want to start by thanking the entire embassy team for helping to put this together under these rather different circumstances. I know what goes into these visits, and of course, we tried to give you twice the fun, because Secretary of Defense Austin is also here. I know you’re going to have a heck of a wheels up party when we get out of town.
But as the Chargé said, this is my first in-person travel overseas as Secretary, and it was important to come here first because Korea’s such an indispensable ally to the United States, and the work that you all are doing every single day is what makes our relationship with South Korea so strong. You’ve heard President Biden talk a lot about leading by the power of our example, and I think what you’ve done as a mission in this unprecedented time is just that. And I want to highlight a couple of examples that I know are well known to you, but it’s good for everyone to hear them.
First, your response to this pandemic. Dr. Haas I know has led the mission in implementing measures to keep staff and loved ones safe and informed. You put an innovative public clearance system in place to test new arrivals. JT Tracy I’m told organized numerous COVID-safe community events that helped lift morale during the lockdown. And Claire and Tanis Koscina who are just, I think, 16 and 14 years old set up soccer camps for kids on base. CLO team helped families adapt to teleworking and remote schooling; Joseph Hwang organized his high school classmates to deliver groceries to families in quarantine.
And even as you were doing all these things, most important, you kept the critical work of the embassy going, helping 150,000 U.S. citizens in this country navigate testing in quarantine, processing immigrant visa petitions from priority groups like U.S. service members and Korean orphan adoption visas; all the work of the political and economic sections, including marshaling a robust condemnation of the coup in Burma and helping secure a new special measures agreement, not to mention a lot of terrific reporting, some of which I’ve already benefited from. So it really has been a remarkable all-hands-on-deck effort, and I just want to commend you for coming together, and not just coming together, coming together with ingenuity and coming together with heart.
Your dedication is all the more reason we owe it to you and your families to get you vaccinated as soon as possible, and we’ll probably have an opportunity to talk about that, but I just want to assure you that the administration is working as fast as possible to deliver vaccines to you. There is nothing that we take more seriously, there is nothing that I take more seriously than your health and well-being, and we also want to make sure that we’re keeping you posted at every step along the way. And that’s critically important. The answers may not always be the ones that you’d like to hear, but we’ll always tell you what’s going on and what you need to hear.
A second example that I wanted to cite today is your leadership on diversity, inclusion, equity. As a community, I know that you stood up against violence against black people in the United States. You’ve stood with LGBTQI people here and around the world. Some of your actions took real courage, and I want to commend you for them. It’s deeply important to me that the State Department be a place where everyone is welcome, everyone is respected, everyone is treated with dignity. That’s one reason we’ve made diversity and inclusion a major priority for this administration. I strongly believe that America’s diversity is one of our core strengths as a nation and also a competitive advantage, and so we’ve got to have a diplomatic workforce that looks like the country it represents. Otherwise, we will be conducting our diplomacy with one hand tied behind our back.
And I know you get that. You’ve done work here to break down barriers, from the children’s book club you set up on D&I issues to the tough conversations that I know you’ve had on unconscious bias and white privilege. Your council for diversity and inclusion even sent up a set of recommendations on how the State Department can foster a more inclusive workplace. And this is really important because we need to learn from each other. Across the entire State Department family, we’re finding that embassies, different bureaus are doing things that the whole community needs to know about, and so I really appreciate sharing from your own experience.
As I see it, from what I’ve learned about this mission and the work you’re doing, you really are a model for how our teams around the world can actually turn our values into concrete action and go the extra mile on behalf of the American people and each other. So thank you. Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for the way you’ve performed that service. I’m very, very proud to be your Secretary, and now I’d really like to have a conversation and I’m anxious to hear from you. So thank you. It’s great to be here. Thank you, Rob. (Applause.)
Greetings I’m Sam.
I edit, report and maintain this site. If you have any questions You can mail below me but it could be a while before I get back to you.
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However, the increasing connections between airplanes and other systems, combined with the evolving cyber threat landscape, could lead to increasing risks for future flight safety. Figure 1: Key Systems Connections to Commercial Airplanes The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a process for the certification and oversight of all US commercial airplanes, including the operation of commercial air carriers (see fig. 2). While FAA recognizes avionics cybersecurity as a potential safety issue for modern commercial airplanes, it has not fully implemented key practices that are necessary to carry out a risk-based cybersecurity oversight program. Specifically, FAA has not (1) assessed its oversight program to determine the priority of avionics cybersecurity risks, (2) developed an avionics cybersecurity training program, (3) issued guidance for independent cybersecurity testing, or (4) included periodic testing as part of its monitoring process. 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FAA has not established a tracking mechanism for monitoring progress on cybersecurity issues that are raised in coordination meetings, and its oversight coordination activities are not supported by dedicated resources within the agency's budget. Until FAA establishes a tracking mechanism for cybersecurity issues, it may be unable to ensure that all issues are appropriately addressed and resolved. Further, until it conducts an avionics cybersecurity risk assessment, it will not be able to effectively prioritize and dedicate resources to ensure that avionics cybersecurity risks are addressed in its oversight program. Avionics systems, which provide weather information, positioning data, and communications, are critical to the safe operation of an airplane. FAA is responsible for overseeing the safety of commercial aviation, including avionics systems. The growing connectivity between airplanes and these systems may present increasing opportunities for cyberattacks on commercial airplanes. GAO was asked to review the FAA's oversight of avionics cybersecurity issues. The objectives of this review were to (1) describe key cybersecurity risks to avionics systems and their potential effects, (2) determine the extent to which FAA oversees the implementation of cybersecurity controls that address identified risks in avionics systems, and (3) assess the extent to which FAA coordinates internally and with other government and industry entities to identify and address cybersecurity risks to avionics systems. To do so, GAO reviewed information on key cybersecurity risks to avionics systems, as reported by major industry representatives as well as key elements of an effective oversight program, and compared FAA's process for overseeing the implementation of cybersecurity controls in avionics systems with these program elements. GAO also reviewed agency documentation and interviewed agency and industry representatives to assess FAA's coordination efforts to address the identified risks. GAO is making six recommendations to FAA to strengthen its avionics cybersecurity oversight program: GAO recommends that FAA conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment of avionics systems cybersecurity within its oversight program to identify the relative priority of avionics cybersecurity risks compared to other safety concerns and develop a plan to address those risks. Based on the assessment of avionics cybersecurity risks, GAO recommends that FAA identify staffing and training needs for agency inspectors specific to avionics cybersecurity, and develop and implement appropriate training to address identified needs. develop and implement guidance for avionics cybersecurity testing of new airplane designs that includes independent testing. review and consider revising its policies and procedures for monitoring the effectiveness of avionics cybersecurity controls in the deployed fleet to include developing procedures for safely conducting independent testing. ensure that avionics cybersecurity issues are appropriately tracked and resolved when coordinating among internal stakeholders. review and consider the extent to which oversight resources should be committed to avionics cybersecurity. FAA concurred with five out of six GAO recommendations. 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- Political Donor Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Lobbying and Campaign Contribution Crimes, Tax Evasion, and Obstruction of JusticeBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021A venture capitalist and political fundraiser was sentenced today to 144 months in federal prison for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee. Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.[Read More…]
- Additional Restrictions on the Issuance of Visas for People’s Republic of China Officials Engaged in Human Rights AbusesBy Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020
- Remarks at Munich Security Conference Special SessionBy Sam NewsFebruary 22, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- F-35 Sustainment: DOD Needs to Address Key Uncertainties as It Re-Designs the Aircraft’s Logistics SystemBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is integral to supporting F-35 aircraft operations and maintenance. However, F-35 personnel at 5 locations GAO visited for its March 2020 report cited several challenges. For example, users at all 5 locations we visited stated that electronic records of F-35 parts in ALIS are frequently incorrect, corrupt, or missing, resulting in the system signaling that an aircraft should be grounded in cases where personnel know that parts have been correctly installed and are safe for flight. At times, F-35 squadron leaders have decided to fly an aircraft when ALIS has signaled not to, thus assuming operational risk to meet mission requirements. GAO found that DOD had not (1) developed a performance-measurement process for ALIS to define how the system should perform or (2) determined how ALIS issues were affecting overall F-35 fleet readiness, which remains below warfighter requirements. DOD recognizes that ALIS needs improvement and plans to leverage ongoing re-design efforts to eventually replace ALIS with a new logistics system. However, as DOD embarks on this effort, it faces key technical and programmatic uncertainties (see figure). Uncertainties about the Future F-35 Logistics Information System These uncertainties are complicated and will require significant planning and coordination with the F-35 program office, military services, international partners, and the prime contractor. For example, GAO reported in March 2020 that DOD had not determined the roles of DOD and the prime contractor in future system development and management. DOD had also not made decisions about the extent to which the new system will be hosted in the cloud as opposed to onsite servers at the squadron level. More broadly, DOD has experienced significant challenges sustaining a growing F-35 fleet. GAO has made over 20 recommendations to address problems associated with ALIS, spare parts shortages, limited repair capabilities, and inadequate planning. DOD has an opportunity to re-imagine the F-35's logistics system and improve operations, but it must approach this planning deliberately and thoroughly. Continued attention to these challenges will help ensure that DOD can effectively sustain the F-35 and meet warfighter requirements. The F-35 Lightning II is DOD's most ambitious and costly weapon system in history, with total acquisition and sustainment costs for the three U.S. military services who fly the aircraft estimated at over $1.6 trillion. Central to F-35 sustainment is ALIS—a complex system that supports operations, mission planning, supply-chain management, maintenance, and other processes. A fully functional ALIS is critical to the more than 3,300 F-35 aircraft that the U.S. military services and foreign nations plan to purchase. Earlier this year, DOD stated that it intends to replace ALIS with a new logistics system. This statement highlights (1) current user challenges with ALIS and (2) key technical and programmatic uncertainties facing DOD as it re-designs the F-35's logistics system. This statement is largely based on GAO's March 2020 report on ALIS ( GAO-20-316 ), as well as previous F-35 sustainment work. GAO previously recommended that DOD develop a performance-measurement process for ALIS, track how ALIS is affecting F-35 fleet readiness, and develop a strategy for re-designing the F-35's logistics system. GAO also suggested that Congress consider requiring DOD to develop a performance-measurement process for its logistics system. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations and is taking actions to address them. For more information, contact Diana C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Houthi Attacks Impacting CiviliansBy Sam NewsFebruary 8, 2021
- Two Individuals And Two Companies Sentenced In Scheme To Fraudulently Sell Popular Dietary SupplementsBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A federal court in Texas sentenced two former dietary supplement company executives to prison and ordered two companies to pay a combined $10.7 million in criminal forfeiture for their roles in fraudulently selling popular workout supplements, the Justice Department announced today.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Remarks to the PressBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2020
- Four Former Minneapolis Police Officers Indicted on Federal Civil Rights Charges for Death of George Floyd; Derek Chauvin Also Charged in Separate Indictment for Violating Civil Rights of a JuvenileBy Sam NewsMay 7, 2021A federal grand jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota returned two indictments that were unsealed today. The first indictment charges former Minneapolis Police Department officers Derek Chauvin, 45; Tou Thao, 35; J. Alexander Kueng, 27; and Thomas Lane, 38, with federal civil rights crimes for their roles in the death of George Perry Floyd Jr.[Read More…]
- DOD Acquisition Reform: Increased Focus on Knowledge Needed to Achieve Intended Performance and Innovation OutcomesBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021What GAO Found As the Department of Defense (DOD) drives to deliver innovative capabilities faster to keep pace with evolving threats and emerging adversaries, knowledge—about programs' cost, schedule, and technology—increases the likelihood that these capabilities will be achieved. GAO annually assesses selected DOD weapon programs and their likely outcomes by analyzing: (1) the soundness of a program's business case—which provides evidence that the warfighter's needs are valid and the concept can be produced within existing resources—at program start, and (2) the knowledge a program attains at other key points in the acquisition process. For example, the Navy's Ford-class aircraft carrier program began with a weak business case, including an unrealistic cost estimate based on unproven technologies, resulting in over $2 billion in cost growth and years of delays to date for the lead ship. DOD's new acquisition framework uses six different acquisition pathways and offers programs a chance to tailor acquisition approaches, providing options to speed up the process. However, preliminary findings from GAO's 2021 annual assessment show that programs using the new middle-tier pathway face increasing risk that they will fall short of expected performance goals as a result of starting without sound business cases. While these programs are intended to be streamlined, business case information is critical for decision makers to know if a program is likely to meet its goals (see figure below). Completion of Key Business Case Documents by Selected Middle-tier Acquisition Programs The framework also introduces new considerations for program oversight and reporting. DOD has made some progress in developing its approach to oversight for programs using the new pathways, but questions remain about what metrics DOD will use for internal oversight and report to Congress for external oversight. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars annually to acquire new major weapon systems, such as aircraft, ships, and satellites, and deliver them to the warfighter. GAO has reviewed individual weapon programs for many years and conducted its annual assessment of selected major DOD weapon programs for 19 years. GAO added DOD's weapon system acquisition process to its High-Risk List in 1990. This statement discusses: (1) the performance of selected DOD weapon programs and the role of a sound business case in that performance, (2) DOD's progress implementing recent acquisition reforms, (3) the status of DOD's actions to support innovation, and (4) DOD's efforts to improve data for acquisition oversight. This statement is drawn primarily from GAO's extensive body of work on DOD's acquisition of weapon systems, science and technology, and acquisition reforms conducted from 2004–2021, and observations from an ongoing annual review of selected DOD weapon programs. To perform this work, GAO reviewed DOD documentation, program information, and relevant legislation. GAO also interviewed DOD officials.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Wolf Blitzer of CNN’s The Situation RoomBy Sam NewsFebruary 9, 2021
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Republic of Cyprus Foreign Minister ChristodoulidesBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Olena Removska of Radio Free Europe/Radio LibertyBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021
- Cryptocurrency Fraudster Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud and Money Laundering Charges in Multi-Million Dollar Investment SchemeBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021A citizen of Sweden pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges that defrauded more than 3,500 victims of more than $16 million.[Read More…]
- U.S.-Armenia-Azerbaijan Joint StatementBy Sam NewsOctober 25, 2020
- Hospital Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Steal Trade Secrets, Sell Them in ChinaBy Sam NewsFebruary 1, 2021A former Dublin, Ohio, woman was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 30 months in prison for conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions. Li Chen, 47, also conspired to commit wire fraud. Chen admitted in her guilty plea in July 2020 to stealing scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for her own personal financial gain.[Read More…]
- Puerto Rico: Efforts to Improve Competition for Medicaid ProcurementBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021What GAO Found Like other U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico implements major functions of its Medicaid program by procuring services from contractors, such as the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2018, procurement costs represented $2.4 billion of Puerto Rico's $2.5 billion in total Medicaid expenditures. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—the federal agency that oversees Medicaid—requires states and territories to use the same process for Medicaid procurements as they do for their non-federal procurements. However, in February 2021, GAO found that CMS has not taken steps to ensure Puerto Rico has met this requirement. Instead, CMS has relied on Puerto Rico to oversee the territory’s procurement process and to attest to its compliance. CMS officials told GAO that states and territories are in the best position to ensure compliance with their respective procurement laws. A 2019 federal indictment alleging Puerto Rico officials unlawfully steered Medicaid contracts to certain individuals has also raised questions about Puerto Rico's Medicaid procurement process, including whether this process helps ensure appropriate competition. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, directed Puerto Rico to publish a Medicaid procurement reform plan to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, which the territory provided to Congress in December 2020. In its procurement reform plan, Puerto Rico acknowledges the need to improve competition and outlines future initiatives and general timeframes to do so. For example, Puerto Rico notes that by August 2021, it will identify the circumstances under which the use of noncompetitive contracts is justified, as well as the factors it might consider in making this determination. By April 2021, Puerto Rico intends to identify procurement information it will make public as part of its competitive procurement process and will make such information public by the end of 2021. Such changes—if implemented as planned—could address some of the issues GAO identified in its review of eight selected Puerto Rico procurements. In its review, GAO found that Puerto Rico did not include important steps to promote competition and mitigate the risk for fraud, waste, and abuse, underscoring the need for federal oversight. GAO and others have found that competition is a cornerstone of procurement. Using competition can reduce costs, improve contractor performance, curb fraud, and promote accountability. As Puerto Rico continues to develop and carry out its planned reforms, implementing GAO’s recommendation for ongoing, risk-based oversight of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid procurement process could enable CMS to promote competition and efficiency while preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in the program. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's February 2021 report, entitled Medicaid: CMS Needs to Implement Risk-Based Oversight of Puerto Rico’s Procurement Process (GAO-21-229). Specifically, the testimony discusses findings from the report as they relate to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid procurement reform plan.[Read More…]
- Federal Contracting: Actions Needed to Improve Department of Labor’s Enforcement of Service Worker Wage ProtectionsBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020The Department of Labor (DOL) completed over 5,000 Service Contract Act (SCA) cases, which for many resulted in the awarding of back wages to federally contracted security guards, janitors, and other service workers, in fiscal years 2014 through 2019, according to available data. DOL enforces the SCA, which was enacted to protect workers on certain types of federal service contracts. DOL found SCA violations—primarily of wage and benefit protections—in 68 percent of cases. Employers across a range of service industries agreed to pay around $224 million in back wages (see figure for examples). Sixty cases resulted in debarment—a decision to prevent an employer from being awarded new federal contracts for 3 years. DOL's strategic plan emphasizes optimizing resources for resolving cases using all available enforcement tools. However, DOL does not analyze its use of enforcement tools, such as debarment or employer compliance agreements. Therefore, DOL may lack a complete picture of how it uses resources on different strategies for resolving SCA cases, as well as the effectiveness of these enforcement strategies. Back Wages Paid for SCA Cases in Example Industries, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 Note: Mail haul refers to surface mail transportation by contract carriers. Values are adjusted for inflation and expressed in fiscal year 2019 dollars using the Gross Domestic Product Price Index from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. DOL reported various challenges to enforcing the SCA, including difficulty communicating with contracting agencies. For example, DOL officials told GAO that poor communication with contracting agencies—particularly with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)—can affect and delay cases, though USPS officials told GAO they were unaware of any communication gaps. Without addressing communication issues between USPS and DOL, USPS's implementation and DOL's enforcement of the SCA may be weakened. GAO found that contracting agencies may face SCA implementation challenges, including not having key information about SCA debarments and violations from DOL. When recording SCA debarments, DOL does not always include the unique identifier for an employer so that contracting agencies can accurately identify debarred firms. DOL also does not have a process that consistently or reliably informs contracting agencies about SCA violations by employers. Without improved information sharing by DOL, an agency may award a contract to an employer without being aware of or considering its past SCA violations. The SCA ensures that service workers on certain federal contracts receive pay and benefits that reflect current employment conditions in their locality. From fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the U.S. government obligated over $720 billion on service contracts covered under the SCA. GAO was asked to review SCA implementation and enforcement. This report examines (1) what available data reveal about past SCA cases, (2) what challenges DOL reports facing in enforcing the SCA, and (3) how contracting agencies implement the SCA. GAO analyzed DOL and federal procurement data for fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the most recent years available; reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of contract performance assessments; examined practices at three agencies selected to represent a range of contracting services and agency size; interviewed DOL officials; and reviewed relevant federal laws, policy, and guidance. GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOL analyze its use of enforcement tools; that DOL and USPS implement written protocols to improve communication with each other; and that DOL improve its information sharing with contracting agencies on SCA debarments and investigation outcomes. DOL and USPS generally concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas M. Costa at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Study Coordinator Charged in Scheme to Falsify Clinical Trial DataBy Sam NewsMay 11, 2021A federal grand jury in Miami, Florida, returned an indictment today charging a Florida woman with conspiring to falsify clinical trial data regarding an asthma medication.[Read More…]
- U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Tigray Crisis ResponseBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021
- Chinese Energy Company, U.S. Oil & Gas Affiliate and Chinese National Indicted for Theft of Trade SecretsBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020A federal grand jury has returned an indictment alleging corporate entities conspired to steal technology from a Houston-area oil & gas manufacturer, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. Jason Energy Technologies Co. (JET) in Yantai, People’s Republic of China; Jason Oil and Gas Equipment LLC (JOG) USA and Chinese national Lei Gao aka Jason Gao, 45, are charged with conspiracy, theft of trade secrets and attempted theft of trade secrets.[Read More…]