Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and Republic of Korea Defense Minister Suh Wook at a Joint Press Availability

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter)  Ladies and gentlemen, foreign and defense ministers.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  We will now start the joint press conference of the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers.  The opening remarks will be made in the order of Minister Chung, Secretary Blinken, Minister Suh, and Secretary Austin.

After the opening remarks of the four ministers and secretaries, we will have a Q&A by two journalists from the Korean and the U.S. side respectively.

First, Minister Chung.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone.  It is my utmost pleasure to welcome and to stand with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, and Minister Suh.

First of all, regarding the gun shoot that happened in Atlanta, Georgia last night, I would like to send our deepest heart to those who are sacrificed.  Among those sacrificed, we confirmed that there are Korean Americans as well.  It is our utmost interest to seek the safety of those Koreans living in the U.S.  Our heart also go to those who are sacrificed as Americans.  Also, in the starting of the meeting today, both Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin expressed their concerns and also the disheartening of the incident.  Thank you very much for mentioning that.

And also, I’d like to welcome two secretaries once again for coming to Korea in the early days of their appointment.  It has been 11 years since we had the both secretaries of the State and Defense from the U.S. that happened in 2010.  We confirmed once again today in this meeting that both countries are the linchpins of the peace, security, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, and the South – in Northeast Asia with the ROK-U.S. Alliance having the 70 years of history.  Based on the solid alliance, we made sure of the commitment to strengthen our strategic communications.  Also, we are expecting that this kind of effort will be – lead to the summit meeting between our two countries in the coming future.

Also, we decided that reciprocal and the future-oriented cooperations will be further expanded having the cooperation of the discussions on the coming issues.  The signing ceremony that happened right before – regarding SMA – has been reaffirming the solidity of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, having resolved a long-term issue.

And also, both countries have confirmed our consensus on three major areas.  First of all, the North Korea nuclear issue is the most immediate issue and it is necessary to have the close coordination between our two countries.

Secondly, in order to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue in a peaceful manner, the best diplomatic efforts will be made based on the solid security base.

Lastly, in the process of review process of the North Korea by the U.S., as well as the implementation period, fully coordinated strategy will be the base for our coordination.  Both countries will continue to have the cooperation for the sake of the progress of the Korean peace process.  Also, for the regional peace, security, and prosperity, both countries have decided to continue our cooperation, reciprocal, and the futuristic manner among the three lateral countries, with Japan.  Also with the New Southern Policy and its cooperation, we decided to have the common prosperity and stability, especially in the Indo-Pacific area.  Regarding climate change and COVID-19, we decided to have the joint responses based on our alliance.  We also decided to have that cooperation of the 2+2 meeting.  It will be very meaningful.

And also, we reaffirmed that when both countries are together, we can have the strongest power, and also our greatest asset, which is the U.S. alliance, can be sound and is reciprocal in the future and meet the time of the demands.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Secretary Blinken, please.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Well, good morning, everyone, and Mr. Minister Eui-yong, thank you for hosting us.  It’s an honor to join you, to join the defense minister, and of course, my friend and colleague Secretary of Defense Austin, for today’s 2+2 ministerial meeting.

Thank you also just for hosting me for two days in a row, and to the people of the Republic of Korea for, as always, their incredibly warm hospitality.  And I want to reiterate again our outrage and grief over the deaths of eight women in Atlanta yesterday, including, we hear, four of Korean descent.  We stand with the Korean community and everyone united against violence and hate.

This trip, as has been noted, is the first by any member of President Biden’s cabinet overseas, and it’s no accident that Secretary Austin and I came here.  The U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance is, as we have long said, the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in Northeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific, and around the world.  But we came here not only to reaffirm that fact and to reaffirm our alliance, but to build on it, and that is exactly what we’ve been doing.

We just witnessed, as the minister said, the initialing of an agreement in principle on the text of the Special Measures Agreement.  And this is the result of very diligent efforts by both sides to arrive at a fair and equitable agreement.  It will strengthen our alliance.  It will strengthen our shared defense.

This effort and our trip to the region is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to reinvigorate and modernize our alliances and partnerships around the world, which are critical and crucial to the security and prosperity of the American people.  That’s the message we’ve underscored earlier this week in our meetings with our counterparts in Japan.  That’s the message you see reflected in the joint statement that we signed and we’ll release today.

Our renewed engagement will put us on firmer footing to address a series of shared security challenges in the region and beyond, including the threat posed by North Korea.  President Biden plans to complete a North Korea policy review in the weeks ahead in close coordination and consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other key partners, including reviewing pressure options and potential for future diplomacy.

But as we conveyed to the foreign minister and the defense minister, the goals of this policy are clear:  We are committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, reducing the broader threat the DPRK poses to the United States and our allies, and improving the lives of all Koreans, including the people of North Korea who continue to suffer widespread and systematic abuses at the hands of their repressive government.

We also discussed China.  We are clear-eyed about Beijing’s consistent failure to uphold its commitments and we spoke about how Beijing’s aggressive and authoritarian behavior are challenging the stability, security, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.  Beijing’s actions make forging a common approach among our allies all the more important at a time when we’re seeing a rollback of democracy and human rights around the world, including in Burma, where the military is attempting to overturn the results of the democratic election by brutally repressing peaceful protesters.

It is more important than ever that we stand together for the values, for the interests that unite us.  And we covered a range of challenges that transcend borders, including cyber security, health security, climate change.  At the time this alliance was forged, many of these threats were not even on the horizon, but they certainly are now, and we’re determined to work together, particularly through trilateral cooperation among the United States, South Korea, and Japan to meet them.  While our diplomacy and security ties are ironclad, I think it’s also very clear that the U.S.-ROK relationship goes even deeper than that.  It’s rooted in mutual trust, in shared values, deeply intertwined economic interests, and, of course – and maybe most important – generations of family and community ties and having one another’s back in the most difficult times.

That’s what we saw in the early days of the pandemic when the Republic of Korea donated two million face masks to our country to help us fill a critical shortfall.  Five hundred thousand of those masks went to our Department of Veterans Affairs, which means that some Americans who 70 years earlier had fought side by side with Koreans found themselves protected from a deadly virus thanks to the masks donated by the Republic of Korea today.  That is what an alliance looks like.

Thank you, and it’s really wonderful to be with you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Minister Suh, please.

*DEFENSE MINISTER SUH:*  (Via interpreter) Today, we have held the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers meeting in five years.  It was a great opportunity for us to reaffirm the rock-solid ROK-U.S. Alliance that has been growing in the last seven decades based on trust and commitment.  We have appreciated the strong combined defense posture of the alliance based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea and extended deterrence.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have successfully completed the Combined Command post training in the first half of this year and created the necessary conditions for OPCON transition in enhancement of the preparedness of the alliance.  The alliance has made coordinated efforts to reach the conditions for a successful OPCON transition and agreed to continue to cooperate for OPCON transition.  The ministers also agreed to closely communicate and cooperate to achieve common goals of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing permanent peace.

We have also decided to continue the harmonious cooperation between the New Southern Policy of Korea and the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.S. for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.  The two ministers will continue to cooperate in a future oriented manner.  Thank you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Now, Secretary Austin, please.

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Well, Minister Suh, Minister Chung, Secretary Blinken, it is a privilege to be here in Seoul with all of you.

And first and foremost, as my colleagues have pointed out, I am also saddened by the horrific attacks in Atlanta, Georgia yesterday, where we believe several women of Korean descent were killed.  Our deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by this horrific crime and specifically the families of those who were killed.  And I share my colleague’s view that violence of this type or any other type has no place in our society.

Now today’s meeting is a testament to the importance of our alliance.  With the many challenges that we face, our bond, forged through shared sacrifice, is more important now than ever.  For 70 years, the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-ROK Alliance has remained – as Secretary Blinken described, has remained ironclad.  It is founded on our shared interests and values and is among the strongest bilateral, interoperable, and dynamic alliances in the world.  And it is critical not only to the security of the Republic of Korea and the United States, but also to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The United States remains fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea, using the full range of U.S. capabilities, including our extended deterrent.  As the United States and the Republic of Korea continue to maintain a robust combined defense posture, we also remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  There is no daylight between us on this point.

And today, we discussed the way forward on a host of critical strategic and operational issues.  And at the top of my agenda was ensuring a shared understanding of the importance of maintaining military readiness.  Our force remains ready to fight tonight and we continue to make progress toward the eventual transition of wartime operational control to an ROK-commanded future combined forces command.

While meeting all the conditions for this transition will take more time, I am confident that this process will strengthen our alliance.  And so we have a lot to look forward to as, together, we address global security – the global security challenges and engage in long-term strategic competition, mainly with China, which, as some of you know, is our department’s pacing challenge in the years ahead.

Today, we continue to work together to identify areas for collaboration within our respective regional strategies, particularly upholding a rules-based international order and building capacity for partners in the region.  I’m especially pleased with the initialing of the Special Measures Agreement, which reflects our commitment to this alliance and illustrate the Biden administration’s promise to revitalize our network of alliances and partnerships.  And so that is why we reaffirmed our commitment to the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral defense cooperation, because we recognize the value of multilateralism.  And we value a forward-looking agenda to address both current and future shared challenges.

Our work in today’s foreign and defense ministerial meetings reflects our firm belief that leading with diplomacy backed by a strong combined defense posture and working closely with our allies and partners will allow us to meet every challenge and outmatch every competitor.  It is why we place great value on the U.S.-ROK Alliance, which has remained the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for nearly three quarters of a century.

We face many challenges together and we’ve risen to the occasion each time.  And we are grateful to the call of the Republic of Korea, one of our closest friends and most steadfast partners, and I’m confident that our two countries will work to – continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder to meet all challenges and any competitor for the next 70 years and beyond.

As I said to Minister Suh in our meeting yesterday, we will continue to go together in the future.  Thank you.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Next, we’re going to have Q&A.  Due to time constraint, as previously arranged, two journalists from the Korean and the U.S. sides will ask questions respectively.  First, the Korean side.  We have Mr. Hong Ju-hyeong from “Segye Daily” to ask a question.

*QUESTION:*  (Via interpreter) Nice to meet you all.  My name is Hong Ju-hyeong.  I have two questions.

First of all, North Korea policy – this question goes to Minister Chung and Secretary Blinken:  Do you believe that the U.S. needs to respect the Singapore agreement?  Recently, Choe Son-hui of North Korea said that the difficult situations will continue unless U.S. stops its hostile policy to North Korea.

The second question goes to global cooperation.  Minister Chung, have you been asked to join Quad in this series of meetings?  Secretary Blinken, do you believe Korea can contribute to the strengthening of Quad?  And what kind of active engagement are you planning toward the ROK-U.S. Alliance?

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter) Let me answer the question first.

Regarding North Korea policy, now the Singapore agreement, from the Korean Government’s perspective, is a confirmation of fundamental principles to resolve the UK – resolve the U.S.-North Korea relations, establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, and denuclearization, though it needs to be considered seriously.  Recently, Kim Yo-jong made a statement and Choe Son-hui made another statement today, and I am closely monitoring the situation.  It seems North Korea is reviewing its policy toward the U.S., and it seems that North Korea is closely monitoring the dialogue between ROK and U.S. regarding North Korea policy.  I believe it’s their own way of sending messages to us and the U.S.  Today, we briefly discussed on this issue.  Now we will continue to closely coordinate on this issue with the U.S., and I support the Biden administration’s efforts to engage North Korea, and hope that the talks will be resumed.

On the visit of the secretaries from the U.S., there was no direct discussion about Korea joining Quad.  However, we discussed how we can harmonize and coordinate the New Southern Policy of South Korea and the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.S.  As I have stated several times, the Korean Government’s position is that if it conforms with the national interest of Korea and transparency and inclusiveness is ensured, we can join any regional cooperative body.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Well, thank you very much for the question.  I think as you know, with regard to North Korea, we’re engaged in a comprehensive policy review, which we hope to complete in the weeks ahead.  But what’s significant about that review is it’s being done in very close consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other allies.

We have a shared concern, a shared interest in having a strong, effective, and coordinated policy and proceeding together in lockstep.  We’re focused on reducing the threat to the United States, to our allies, posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, its missile programs, and to improving the lives of people in North Korea, throughout the region as well.  And we will continue to consult very closely in the weeks ahead as we complete the review.

With regard to the Quad, I would just say it’s – I think as you know, it’s an informal grouping of likeminded countries that have come together to deepen cooperation on a whole host of issues.  Many of these issues we’re also working very closely with the Republic of Korea.  We find that working through some of these sub-regional groupings, including the trilateral, the work we do with Korea and Japan, is very beneficial in addressing some of the challenges we face.

One of the – one of the, I think, realities of the moment we’re in is that when you consider virtually all of the issues that are actually affecting the lives of our people and of our citizens, whether it’s climate, whether it’s the pandemic, whether it’s emerging technologies – and I could go down the list – not a single one can be effectively addressed by any one country acting alone.   We have to find ways to deepen cooperation, to deepen coordination with likeminded countries.  That’s exactly what we’ve been doing with our close allies and partners here.  It’s what we do in our trilateral cooperation as well with Japan.  It’s what we do through the Quad.  It’s what we do through ASEAN.

That is, I think, the imperative of the moment we’re in.  And we’re very, very pleased that we’ve been able to do the work we’ve done here today because it’s evidence of our determination to revitalize, to strengthen our alliances, to build on them, because that is the single best way to tackle the problems that actually affect the lives of our citizens.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now, moving on to – would like to receive the questions from the U.S. press.

*MR PRICE:*  The next question will go to Christina Ruffini of CBS.

*QUESTION:*  Good afternoon, gentlemen.  Mr. Secretary, North Korea has so far not responded to U.S. attempts to engage, and as was just mentioned, today the vice minister of foreign affairs called such efforts a cheap trick and said U.S. calls for complete denuclearization were groundless rhetoric.  When it comes to this policy review that you mentioned, given how far the two sides are apart, is the U.S. considering a policy of containment rather than engagement with North Korea?  And will you be asking the Chinese to take any specific actions regarding Pyongyang when you meet in Alaska?

And Mr. Foreign Minister, if I may, you said it appears North Korea is reevaluating its relationship with the U.S.  Do you feel North Korea is more or less dangerous after the efforts of the previous administration, and have you asked Secretary Blinken to convey any message or request from your government to the Chinese?  Thank you.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  Thank you very much.  Look, the – with regard to North Korea, the most important outreach and engagement we’re doing is with our partners and allies.  That’s a big part of the reason why we’re here.  It’s a big part of the reason why, as part of the review that we’re doing, we’re in close consultation with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with other allies and partners who are concerned by the actions and activities of North Korea.  And I don’t want to get ahead of the review and pre-judge its conclusion.  We’ll have an opportunity, I know, to talk about that going forward.

China has a critical role to play in working to convince North Korea to pursue denuclearization.  China has a unique relationship with North Korea.  Virtually all of North Korea’s economic relationships, its trade go – are with or go through China, so it has tremendous influence.  And I think it has a shared interest in making sure that we do something about North Korea’s nuclear program and about the increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program.

So I would hope that whatever happens going forward, China will use that influence effectively to work on moving North Korea to denuclearization.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter)  Since 2018 on the Korean Peninsula, the peace building, indeed reconciliation of these tensions have been fruitful, in my opinion, especially in September 2018.  The Comprehensive Military Agreement between the two Koreas was a great achievement and meaningful, and that agreement is still the basis for both Koreas to be abiding by.  So that should – worthy of notice.

For the last three years, the ROK and the U.S. have been maintaining close coordination, and based off of that, we have maintained our engagement policy with North Korea.  And we believe that there is a possibility for us to have the denuclearization, and that has been proven in principle.

Through the 2+2 meeting today, both the ROK and the U.S. demonstrated that we have the fully coordinated strategies and plans, and we decided to have further plans in the future.  Based off of that, we can have the full and effective engagement with North Korea.  Having said that, we believe that it’s possible for us to have the full peace building in the Korean Peninsula.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter)  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister Chung.

Now the Korean side.  Mr. Lee Seung-yun from YTN.

*QUESTION:*  (Via interpreter)  Good morning.  I have two questions for Minister Suh.  First, the U.S. is strengthening cooperation with Quad member-states.  Was there any request from the U.S. for a combined military exercise with Quad members or intelligence sharing with the Quad members?  Second, now the U.S. DOD is reviewing the USFK deployment posture.  Did you have any discussion on that?

(In English.)  This question goes to Defense Secretary Austin.  Welcome to South Korea.

In order to strengthen national defense, the Korean Government wishes to build nuclear-powered submarine and a light aircraft carrier.  Do you think that they will be feasible and essential assets for Korea-U.S. combined forces?  And is the U.S. willing to help Korean Government to build nuclear-powered submarine?

Second, although you emphasized the challenges posed by North Korea and China yesterday, China is still necessary to solve out the North Korean nuclear issues.  So how would you cope with this dilemma?  Maybe Secretary Blinken can answer for these questions, too.  Thank you very much.

*DEFENSE MINISTER SUH:*  (Via interpreter) Let me answer the question first.  So the question about intelligence sharing or combined military exercise with Quad member-states, there is no such request from the U.S.  We discussed measures to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific and shared the understanding of the two sides, however there was no specific mentioning or a request on those issues you just raised.

Regarding the military cooperation with the U.S., the U.S. discussed emerging security threats in our responses and stressed the necessary cooperation with the U.S., Japan, and Korea.  Basically, Korea agrees that the trilateral cooperation is important.  With the occasions of bilateral meetings and multilateral meetings, we will continue to cooperate with the U.S. in terms of military cooperation.  And I believe Secretary Austin is better positioned to answer this part of the question.

Now, the U.S. DOD is reviewing the USFK redeployment or repositioning.  And we didn’t discuss this issue specifically in this meeting.  However, basically, the U.S. reaffirmed the importance of USFK in ensuring stability and peace in Northeast Asia, and U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea is steadfast.

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Yeah, so thanks.  On the issue of nuclear submarines or any other capability that the Republic of Korea might seek to acquire, I think it’s best that the leadership of the republic speak to that versus me.  And so I’ll leave it to Minister Suh to entertain those questions in the future.

You should know, though, that we’re focused on ensuring that we have the required capability to defend the alliance and to defend the ROK if and when called upon to do that.  And our efforts to continue to work together routinely to strengthen our capability I think is evident in kind of everything we do.  It’s all – it’s what we really spent a lot of time talking about in the last two days.

So we have tremendous capability at hand.  We’re going to increase that capability by ensuring that we can continue to operate as a combined team.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  And I want to first commend you on demonstrating the art of the multi-party, multi-part question.  (Laughter.)

And again, with regard to Beijing, Beijing has an interest, a clear self-interest, in helping to pursue the denuclearization of the DPRK, because it is a source of instability, it’s a source of danger, and obviously a threat to us and our partners.  But China has a real interest in helping to deal with this.

It also has an obligation under the UN Security Council resolutions to implement fully the sanctions that the international community has agreed are there in response to North Korea’s program and to its provocations.  So we look to Beijing to play a role in advancing what is in, I think, everyone’s interest.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now the last question, back to the U.S. press.

*MR PRICE:*  The final question will to go Lara Seligman of Politico.

*QUESTION:*  Good afternoon, gentlemen.

Secretary Austin, you spoke about the importance of maintaining military readiness.  For the past three years, the joint military drills between South Korea and the United States have been downsized due to ongoing negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.  What impact has that had on readiness?  And do you plan to continue the smaller-scale exercises in future, or will they return to their former size and scope?

Secretary Blinken, if I may:  As has been mentioned, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs said today that there would be no dialogue until the United States drops what she called its “hostile policy.”  Can I get you to respond directly to that?  And by insisting from the start that the end state is its complete denuclearization, aren’t you closing the door to talks and setting the stage for four years of stalemate?

And finally, if I may, for Minister Chung:  The U.S. delegation has repeatedly called for the denuclearization of North Korea – specifically North Korea, not the Korean Peninsula.  So does the Government of South Korea back this call rather than the Korean Peninsula?  Or can I have you just to respond to that, please?

*SECRETARY AUSTIN:*  Well, thanks, Lara.  I’ll start, and the question was training and readiness.  And as you would expect, for me and for everyone that works with me and for me, readiness remains a top priority.  And I know that that is a top priority for our teammates here in the republic as well.  And so we’re always looking for ways to make training better, and I think not only here but around the globe we’ve learned to be flexible, we’ve learned to be adaptive, and we have always, always been effective.

In terms of whether or not – what the training regimen will be going forward, that will be a joint decision between us and the ROK, and we’ll continue to work with the leadership here in the ROK to address those issues.

*SECRETARY BLINKEN:*  And Lara, with regard to the comments from North Korea, I’m aware of them.  But what I’m most interested in right now are the comments and thoughts of our allies and partners, which is why we’re here, as we complete our review.  So that’s what we’re focused on.

*FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:*  (Via interpreter)  Yes.  Regarding the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the result of the agreement of the denuclearization of the – both Koreas.  And also because of that we have the manufacturing and positioning and seven very concrete measures of denuclearization measures that have been under that agreement.  And also, that means that we are quite having the very sure definition of the denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula, and also the nuclear weapons will not be owned by – as according to our declaration.  And that was the declaration we made.

When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means that to the North Korea we are showing that South Korea has been already denuclearized.  And also, according to the agreement made in 1995, we are suggesting North Korea that we have to go along together, and the North Korea is fully aware of that as well.

And the international community, rather than talking about the denuclearization of the North Korea, if we can say the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, we are very much more confident that we can convince the North Korea to follow our suit.  So I believe that it is more correct to say that it is about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

*MODERATOR:*  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Now this concludes the joint press conference of the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers meeting.  Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    Since GAO's January 2020 report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security, continued to expand its public-private partnership programs—the Reimbursable Services Program (RSP) and the Donations Acceptance Program (DAP). The RSP allows partners, such as port authorities or local municipalities that own or manage ports, to reimburse CBP for providing services that exceed CBP's normal operations, such as paying overtime for CBP personnel that provide services at ports of entry (POE) outside regular business hours. The DAP enables partners to donate property or provide funding for POE infrastructure improvements. Regarding RSP, in 2020, CBP selected an additional 25 RSP applications for partnerships, bringing the total of RSP selections to 236 since 2013. There are many factors that CBP considers when reviewing applications for RSP including operational feasibility, and CBP may choose to not select certain applications. According to officials, CBP denied three RSP applications since GAO's January 2020 report. For example, CBP denied one application because the proposed agreement site was located too far away from the nearest CBP facility to make CBP officer travel time practicable. As of October 2020, CBP and its partners executed 157 memoranda of understanding (MOU) from RSP partnerships that they entered into from fiscal years 2013 through 2020. These MOUs outline how agreements are to be implemented at one or more POE. Of those 157 MOUs, 11 cover agreements at land POEs, 49 cover agreements at sea POEs, and 99 cover agreements at air POEs. The majority of MOUs executed since 2013 were at air POEs and focused on freight, cargo, and traveler processing. Although the number of RSP partnerships has increased, the growth in the total number of reimbursable CBP officer assignments, officer overtime hours, and the amount of reimbursed funds provided to CBP declined significantly in 2020. CBP officials explained that the decline in trade and travel at U.S. POEs contributed to the decline in requests for RSP services. Regarding DAP, in fiscal year 2020, CBP entered into one new donation acceptance partnership, bringing the total number of agreements to 39 since fiscal year 2015. Partners span a variety of sectors such as government agencies, private companies, and airline companies. Correspondingly, program donations served a variety of purposes such as expanding inspection facility infrastructure, providing biometric detection services, and providing luggage for canine training. As of October 2020, 27 out of 39 these projects, or 69 percent, were at land POEs. CBP officials estimated that the total value of all donations entered into between September 2015 and October 2020 was $218.2 million. On a daily basis in fiscal year 2020, over 650,000 passengers and pedestrians and nearly 78,000 truck, rail, and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $6.6 billion entered the United States through 328 U.S. land, sea, and air POEs, according to CBP. To help meet demand for CBP inspection services, since 2013, CBP has entered into public-private partnerships under RSP and DAP. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 included a provision for GAO to annually review the agreements along with the funds and donations that CBP has received under RSP and DAP. GAO has issued three annual reports on the programs—in January 2020, March 2019, and March 2018. This fourth annual report updates key information from GAO's January 2020 report by examining the status of CBP public-private partnership program agreements, including the purposes for which CBP used the funds and donations from these agreements in fiscal year 2020. GAO collected and analyzed all RSP agreements, DAP agreements, and MOUs for both programs for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, excluding those analyzed in GAO's January 2020 report. GAO also analyzed data on use of the programs and interviewed CBP officials to identify any significant changes to how the programs are administered. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.
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  • Facial Recognition Technology: Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Should Have Better Awareness of Systems Used By Employees
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In June 2021, GAO reported the results of its survey of 42 federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers about their use of facial recognition technology. Twenty reported owning systems with the technology or using systems owned by other entities, such as state, local, and non-government entities (see figure). Ownership and Use of Facial Recognition Technology Reported by Federal Agencies that Employ Law Enforcement Officers Note: For more details, see figure 1 in GAO-21-105309. Agencies reported using the technology to support several activities (e.g., criminal investigations) and in response to COVID-19 (e.g., verify an individual's identity remotely). Six agencies reported using the technology on images of the unrest, riots, or protests following the killing of Mr. George Floyd in May 2020. Three agencies reported using it on images of the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6, 2021. Agencies said the searches used images of suspected criminal activity. Fourteen of the 42 agencies reported using the technology to support criminal investigations. However, only one had a mechanism to track what non-federal systems were used by employees. By having a mechanism to track use of these systems and assessing the related risks (e.g., privacy and accuracy-related risks), agencies can better mitigate risks to themselves and the public. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers use facial recognition technology to assist criminal investigations, among other activities. For example, the technology can help identify an unknown individual in a photo or video surveillance. This statement describes (1) the ownership and use of facial recognition technology by federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers, (2) the types of activities these agencies use the technology to support, and (3) the extent that these agencies track employee use of facial recognition technology owned by non-federal entities, including the potential privacy and accuracy implications. This statement is based on GAO's June 2021 report on federal law enforcement's use of facial recognition technology (GAO-21-518). To conduct that prior work, GAO administered a survey questionnaire to 42 federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers regarding their use of the technology. GAO also reviewed relevant documents and interviewed agency officials. The June 2021 report was a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in April 2021. Information that agencies deemed sensitive was omitted from the June 2021 report and this statement.
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    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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    From 2016 through 2019, the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted or sponsored at least 11 classified or sensitive studies on contested mobility— the ability of the U.S. military to transport equipment and personnel in a contested operational environment. The studies resulted in more than 50 recommendations, and DOD officials stated they believed that some of the recommendations had been implemented. However, officials did not know the exact disposition of the recommendations, as they are not actively tracking implementation activities. Further, no single DOD oversight entity evaluated the studies' recommendations and tracked implementation across the department. As a result, DOD may be missing an opportunity to leverage existing knowledge on mobility in contested environments across organizations, and strengthen its mobility efforts for major conflicts as envisioned in the National Defense Strategy. DOD has updated aspects of wargame exercises and mobility training to prepare for a contested environment, but has not updated training for the surge sealift fleet—ships owned by DOD and the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) and crewed by contracted mariners. These crews are primarily trained and qualified to operate the ship, but receive limited contested mobility training. While DOD has updated air mobility training and other aspects of mobility training, sealift crew training requirements have not been updated by DOD and MARAD to reflect contested environment concerns because DOD has not conducted an evaluation of such training. Since sealift is the means by which the majority of military equipment would be transported during a major conflict, it is important that crews be trained appropriately for contested mobility to help ensure that ships safely reach their destinations and complete their missions. C-17 Performing Defense Maneuvers DOD has begun to mitigate contested environment challenges through improved technology and related initiatives. The Navy is acquiring improved technologies to deploy on surge sealift ships and replacement ships. The Air Force is equipping current mobility aircraft (see photo above) with additional defensive technologies and planning for the development of future replacement aircraft. According to U.S. Transportation Command, the command is revising its contracts with commercial partners to address cyber threats, and funding research and development projects that address contested mobility concerns. Many of these efforts are nascent and will take years to be put in place. China and Russia are strengthening their militaries to neutralize U.S. strengths, including mobility—the ability of U.S. military airlift and air refueling aircraft and sealift ships to rapidly move equipment and personnel from the United States to locations abroad to support DOD missions. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's ability to operate in a contested mobility environment. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has studied contested mobility and tracked the implementation of study recommendations, assesses the extent to which DOD has revised its training to incorporate contested mobility challenges, and describes the technologies that DOD uses to mitigate contested mobility challenges. GAO identified contested mobility studies conducted or sponsored by DOD; evaluated DOD's processes for monitoring implementation of study recommendations; analyzed training and exercise documents from DOD combatant commands, the Air Force, and the Navy; and reviewed DOD plans for technological improvements to its mobility forces. GAO recommends that DOD designate an oversight entity to track the implementation of study recommendations, and that DOD and MARAD evaluate and update sealift training. DOD and the Department of Transportation concurred or partially concurred with each recommendation. GAO believes each recommendation should be fully implemented, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.
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    Fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks promise to provide significantly greater speeds and higher capacity to accommodate more devices. In addition, 5G networks are expected to be more flexible, reliable, and secure than existing cellular networks. The figure compares 4G and 5G performance goals along three of several performance measures. Note: Megabits per second (Mbps) is a measure of the rate at which data is transmitted, milliseconds (ms) is a measure of time equal to one thousandth of a second, and square kilometer (km²) is a measure of area. As with previous generations of mobile wireless technology, the full performance of 5G will be achieved gradually as networks evolve over the next decade. Deployment of 5G network technologies in the U.S. began in late 2018, and these initial 5G networks focus on enhancing mobile broadband. These deployments are dependent on the existing 4G core network and, in many areas, produced only modest performance improvements. To reach the full potential of 5G, new technologies will need to be developed. International bodies that have been involved in defining 5G network specifications will need to develop additional 5G specifications and companies will need to develop, test, and deploy these technologies. GAO identified the following challenges that can hinder the performance or usage of 5G technologies in the U.S. GAO developed six policy options in response to these challenges, including the status quo. They are presented with associated opportunities and considerations in the following table. The policy options are directed toward the challenges detailed in this report: spectrum sharing, cybersecurity, privacy, and concern over possible health effects of 5G technology. Policy options to address challenges to the performance or usage of U.S. 5G wireless networks Policy Option Opportunities Considerations Spectrum-sharing technologies (report p. 47) Policymakers could support research and development of spectrum sharing technologies. Could allow for more efficient use of the limited spectrum available for 5G and future generations of wireless networks. It may be possible to leverage existing 5G testbeds for testing the spectrum sharing technologies developed through applied research. Research and development is costly, must be coordinated and administered, and its potential benefits are uncertain. Identifying a funding source, setting up the funding mechanism, or determining which existing funding streams to reallocate will require detailed analysis. Coordinated cybersecurity monitoring (report p. 48) Policymakers could support nationwide, coordinated cybersecurity monitoring of 5G networks. A coordinated monitoring program would help ensure the entire wireless ecosystem stays knowledgeable about evolving threats, in close to real time; identify cybersecurity risks; and allow stakeholders to act rapidly in response to emerging threats or actual network attacks. Carriers may not be comfortable reporting incidents or vulnerabilities, and determinations would need to be made about what information is disclosed and how the information will be used and reported. Cybersecurity requirements (report p. 49) Policymakers could adopt cybersecurity requirements for 5G networks. Taking these steps could produce a more secure network. Without a baseline set of security requirements the implementation of network security practices is likely to be piecemeal and inconsistent. Using existing protocols or best practices may decrease the time and cost of developing and implementing requirements. Adopting network security requirements would be challenging, in part because defining and implementing the requirements would have to be done on an application-specific basis rather than as a one-size-fits-all approach. Designing a system to certify network components would be costly and would require a centralized entity, be it industry-led or government-led. Privacy practices (report p. 50) Policymakers could adopt uniform practices for 5G user data. Development and adoption of uniform privacy practices would benefit from existing privacy practices that have been implemented by states, other countries, or that have been developed by federal agencies or other organizations. Privacy practices come with costs, and policymakers would need to balance the need for privacy with the direct and indirect costs of implementing privacy requirements. Imposing requirements can be burdensome, especially for smaller entities. High-band research (report p. 51) Policymakers could promote R&D for high-band technology. Could result in improved statistical modeling of antenna characteristics and more accurately representing propagation characteristics. Could result in improved understanding of any possible health effects from long-term radio frequency exposure to high-band emissions. Research and development is costly and must be coordinated and administered, and its potential benefits are uncertain. Policymakers will need to identify a funding source or determine which existing funding streams to reallocate. Status quo (report p. 52) Some challenges described in this report may be addressed through current efforts. Some challenges described in this report may remain unresolved, be exacerbated, or take longer to resolve than with intervention. GAO was asked to assess the technologies associated with 5G and their implications. This report discusses (1) how the performance goals and expected uses are to be realized in U.S. 5G wireless networks, (2) the challenges that could affect the performance or usage of 5G wireless networks in the U.S., and (3) policy options to address these challenges. To address these objectives, GAO interviewed government officials, industry representatives, and researchers about the performance and usage of 5G wireless networks. This included officials from seven federal agencies; the four largest U.S. wireless carriers; an industry trade organization; two standards bodies; two policy organizations; nine other companies; four university research programs; the World Health Organization; the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements; and the chairman of the Defense Science Board's 5G task force. GAO reviewed technical studies, industry white papers, and policy papers identified through a literature review. GAO discussed the challenges to the performance or usage of 5G in the U.S. during its interviews and convened a one-and-a-half day meeting of 17 experts from academia, industry, and consumer groups with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from six federal agencies and nine participants at its expert meeting, which it incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Hai Tran at (202) 512-6888, tranh@gao.gov or Vijay A. D’Souza at (202) 512-6240, dsouzav@gao.gov.
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    What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a five-step process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives, as authorized by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The process includes DHS coordinating with stakeholders early in the directives' development process and validating agencies' actions on the directives. However, in implementing the process, DHS did not coordinate with stakeholders early in the process and did not consistently validate agencies' self-reported actions. In addition to being a required step in the directives process, FISMA requires DHS to coordinate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure that the directives do not conflict with existing NIST guidance for federal agencies. However, NIST officials told GAO that DHS often did not reach out to NIST on directives until 1 to 2 weeks before the directives were to be issued, and then did not always incorporate the NIST technical comments. More recently, DHS and NIST have started regular coordination meetings to discuss directive-related issues earlier in the process. Regarding validation of agency actions, DHS has done so for selected directives, but not for others. DHS is not well-positioned to validate all directives because it lacks a risk-based approach as well as a strategy to check selected agency-reported actions to validate their completion. Directives' implementation often has been effective in strengthening federal cybersecurity. For example, a 2015 directive on critical vulnerability mitigation required agencies to address critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS cyber scans of agencies' internet-accessible systems within 30 days. This was a new requirement for federal agencies. While agencies did not always meet the 30-day requirement, their mitigations were validated by DHS and reached 87 percent compliance by 2017 (see fig. 1). DHS officials attributed the recent decline in percentage completion to a 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018/early 2019. Nevertheless, for the 4-year period shown in the figure below, agencies mitigated within 30 days about 2,500 of the 3,600 vulnerabilities identified. Figure 1: Critical Vulnerabilities Mitigated within 30 days, May 21, 2015 through May 20, 2019 Agencies also made reported improvements in securing or replacing vulnerable network infrastructure devices. Specifically, a 2016 directive on the Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices addressed, among other things, several urgent vulnerabilities in the targeting of firewalls across federal networks and provided technical mitigation solutions. As shown in figure 2, in response to the directive, agencies reported progress in mitigating risks to more than 11,000 devices as of October 2018. Figure 2: Federal Civilian Agency Vulnerable Network Infrastructure Devices That Had Not Been Mitigated, September 2016 through January 2019 Another key DHS directive is Securing High Value Assets, an initiative to protect the government's most critical information and system assets. According to this directive, DHS is to lead in-depth assessments of federal agencies' most essential identified high value assets. However, an important performance metric for addressing vulnerabilities identified by these assessments does not account for agencies submitting remediation plans in cases where weaknesses cannot be fully addressed within 30 days. Further, DHS only completed about half of the required assessments for the most recent 2 years (61 of 142 for fiscal year 2018, and 73 of 142 required assessments for fiscal year 2019 (see fig. 3)). In addition, DHS does not plan to finalize guidance to agencies and third parties, such as contractors or agency independent assessors, for conducting reviews of additional high value assets that are considered significant, but are not included in DHS's current review, until the end of fiscal year 2020. Given these shortcomings, DHS is now reassessing key aspects of the program. However, it does not have a schedule or plan for completing this reassessment, or to address outstanding issues on completing required assessments, identifying needed resources, and finalizing guidance to agencies and third parties. Figure 3: Department of Homeland Security Assessments of Agency High Value Assets, Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 through 2019 Why GAO Did This Study DHS plays a key role in federal cybersecurity. FISMA authorized DHS, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to develop and oversee the implementation of compulsory directives—referred to as binding operational directives—covering executive branch civilian agencies. These directives require agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems from a known or reasonably suspected information security threat, vulnerability, or risk. Since 2015, DHS has issued eight directives that instructed agencies to, among other things, (1) mitigate critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS through its scanning of agencies' internet-accessible systems; (2) address urgent vulnerabilities in network infrastructure devices identified by DHS; and (3) better secure the government's highest value and most critical information and system assets. GAO was requested to evaluate DHS's binding operational directives. This report addresses (1) DHS's process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives and (2) the effectiveness of the directives, including agencies' implementation of the directive requirements. GAO selected for review the five directives that were in effect as of December 2018, and randomly selected for further in-depth review a sample of 12 agencies from the executive branch civilian agencies to which the directives apply. In addition, GAO reviewed DHS policies and processes related to the directives and assessed them against FISMA and Office of Management and Budget requirements; administered a data collection instrument to selected federal agencies; compared the agencies' responses and supporting documentation to the requirements outlined in the five directives; and collected and analyzed DHS's government-wide scanning data on government-wide implementation of the directives. GAO also interviewed DHS and selected agency officials.
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