Secretary Antony J. Blinken to U.S. Mission Mexico

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, John, thank you very, very much, and hello, everybody.  It is wonderful to be with you virtually, and hopefully at some point soon in person.  But thanks so much to our Charge D’affaires John Creamer – John, for your leadership and for that very kind introduction.  I want to say thank you as well, to Yvonne Gonzales and Naomi Fellows, for their hard work as the control officers for this unique visit.  I’m wondering exactly what kind of wheels up party you’re going to have, when I quote-unquote, “leave.”  Maybe it’s a link-down party.  We need to find some kind of new terminology for it.  But I’m really grateful for all you’ve done to make this possible.  And I really do wish I could be with you in person today, but I’m delighted that we’re pioneering virtual travel together.

With your help, we put together a strong itinerary for my first trip to Mexico as Secretary.  We’ve got meetings with leaders across the Mexican Government, a virtual tour of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez port of entry.  By the end of the week, I think we will have touched on many of the critical issues that the United States and Mexico deal with together: migration, security, economic growth, regional competitiveness, environmental sustainability.  We could literally stretch this visit out for weeks and still have more issues to cover, because, as you know better than anyone, our relationship with Mexico is one of the most comprehensive we have in the world.  And I very much agree with John, this really is one of the most important relationships we have with any country anywhere.

And that’s why I’m visiting Mexico during my very first trip as Secretary.  The family, the cultural, the economic, the security, the political, the legal ties we have with Mexico are vast. And you, the women and men of Mission Mexico, are responsible for maintaining those ties every single day.

So I really wanted to just say one very simple thing at the outset, and that’s thank you.  Whether you’re direct hire employees, locally employed staff, family members, whether you work for the State Department or for one of the many other U.S. Government agencies represented here from Treasury to the FDA to the DOJ, you are part of this mission.  So thank you for serving the United States.  And thank you for shaping and leading this complex diplomatic partnership, which is so vital to American interests, and maybe more than anything else, directly affects millions of American families, millions of American lives every day.

I have some sense from my past service that this work is often difficult.  I know it takes sacrifice, and that’s in normal times.  This past year has been particularly hard because of COVID-19. You’ve lost 21 colleagues to the virus, including contractors and local guards.  That’s devastating. And I know that many more of you have gotten sick or seen loved ones get sick.  So I want you to know that stopping this pandemic is our number one priority.  Nothing matters more to me than your health and safety.  That is job one.  So I’m determined to do everything we can to make sure that all our Mission Mexico employees and eligible family members are vaccinated as soon as possible in every consulate across the country.  I don’t think it’s a secret that there have been logistical challenges, but I want to tell you the administration is working fast, and we will give you as much information as we can as soon as we can as we make our vaccination plans and we execute on them.

We have to be partners in this every step of the way, and I’m determined that we move this as quickly as we possibly can.  I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary work that you’ve done to keep this embassy functioning throughout the pandemic.  Consulate General Monterrey managed to process more than a quarter million H-2 visas last year, and that in turn helps secure the U.S. food supply chain.  Mission Mexico adjudicated more than 40 percent of all non-immigrant visas worldwide.  That’s remarkable.  Last time I was in Mexico as deputy secretary, I spent some time visiting with Consular Affairs, visiting with the American services folks, and I know what a remarkable job you’re doing every day, and again, in this pandemic, what was already a challenging task has become even more so.

You’ve ensured that critical manufacturing and service supply chains stayed operational.  USAID kept its work going with farmers and communities in southern Mexico, helping them switch to more sustainable land management practices.  And on the public diplomacy front, you continue to engage the Mexican public virtually.  I know you do this work because you believe in it.  It is more than a job; it is truly service.  And I just want you to know that as Secretary, I will try to honor your service by doing all I can to support you.

I know that we have work to do as a department to rebuild trust, rebuild morale.  We’ve got to do a better job listening to the women and men of State when formulating policy.  We’ve got to invest in diversity and inclusion, and I know that’s a priority for this mission.  More broadly, we’ve got to build a workplace culture of collegiality, teamwork, and respect.  I am deeply committed to this work, and I want to be clear:  It doesn’t just apply to the people at Main State. It applies to you and all your colleagues in embassies and consulates around the world.  We are all part of this community, and I am incredibly proud to be your Secretary.  So thank you again for helping make my first virtual trip to Mexico a success.  I look forward to the day when I can be there in person, but mostly, thank you for your service to the United States.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    The Navy's four shipyards completed 38 of 51 (75 percent) maintenance periods late for aircraft carriers and submarines with planned completion dates in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, for a combined total of 7,424 days of maintenance delay. For each maintenance period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225 days late for submarines. Maintenance Delays at Navy Shipyards for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 Unplanned work and workforce factors—such as shipyard workforce performance and capacity (having enough people to perform the work)—were the main factors GAO identified as causing maintenance delays for aircraft carriers and submarines. The Navy frequently cited both factors as contributing to the same days of maintenance delay. Unplanned work—work identified after finalizing maintenance plans—contributed to more than 4,100 days of maintenance delays. Unplanned work also contributed to the Navy's 36 percent underestimation of the personnel resources necessary to perform maintenance. The workforce factor contributed to more than 4,000 days of maintenance delay on aircraft carriers and submarines during fiscal years 2015 through 2019. The Navy has taken steps but has not fully addressed the unplanned work and workforce factors causing the most maintenance delays. First, the Navy updated planning documents to improve estimates and plans to annually update these data, but knowing whether changes improve results may take several years. Second, the Navy has consistently relied on high levels of overtime to carry out planned work. GAO's analysis found that high overtime among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32 percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent. Furthermore, shipyard officials told us that production shops at all four shipyards are working beyond their capacity. Overtime at such rates has been noted as resulting in diminished productivity. Third, the Navy initiated the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative in the fall of 2018 to address the unplanned work and workforce factors, but it has not yet developed 13 of 25 planned metrics that could improve the Navy's understanding of the causes of maintenance delays. In addition, the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative does not include goals, milestones, and a monitoring process along with fully developed metrics to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses. Without fully developing metrics and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process, the shipyards are not likely to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses and the Navy is likely to continue facing maintenance delays and reduced time for training and operations with its aircraft carriers and submarines. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, the Navy spent $2.8 billion in capital investments to address shipyard performance, among other things. However, the shipyards continue to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder the readiness of aircraft carriers and submarines. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, included a provision for GAO to review Navy shipyards' performance. GAO evaluated the extent to which the Navy (1) completed maintenance at its shipyards on time on aircraft carriers and submarines in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, (2) has identified the main factors leading to maintenance delays, and (3) has addressed the main factors affecting any delays in that maintenance. GAO reviewed data related to Navy shipyard maintenance for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, analyzed factors contributing to delays and plans to address them, visited all four Navy shipyards, and met with Navy and shipyard officials. GAO is making three recommendations to the Navy, including updating workforce planning requirements to avoid the consistent use of overtime; completing the development of shipyard performance metrics; and developing and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and monitoring results. The Navy concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Diana Maurer, (202) 512-9627, MaurerD@gao.gov, or Asif A. Khan, (202) 512-9869, KhanA@gao.gov. 
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  • Alabama Salesman Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    A Hoover, Alabama, salesman was sentenced to 24 months in prison yesterday for tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama.
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  • Company President and Employee Arrested in Alleged Scheme to Violate the Export Control Reform Act
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Jonathan Carson, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), announced the arrests today of Chong Sik Yu, a/k/a “Chris Yu,” and Yunseo Lee.  Yu and Lee are charged with conspiring to unlawfully export dual-use electronics components, in violation of the Export Control Reform Act, and to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.  Yu and Lee were arrested this morning and are expected to be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox in Manhattan federal court.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards Ceremony
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Vessel Operator and Engineers Sentenced for Oil Waste Discharge Offenses
    In Crime News
    A vessel operating company was sentenced today in Hagatna, Guam, for illegally discharging oil into Apra Harbor, Guam, and for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharges of oily bilge water from the vessel Kota Harum.
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  • Executive Office for Immigration Review Announces Investiture of 20 New Immigration Judges, Resulting in a 70 Percent Expansion of the Immigration Judge Corps Since 2017
    In Crime News
    The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced the investiture of 20 new immigration judges today, including three new assistant chief immigration judges.  The introduction of this class marks the most recent step in the ongoing development and expansion of the nationwide corps of professional adjudicators who resolve questions regarding the legal status of aliens in the United States and adjudicate claims of relief or protection from removal, such as asylum or withholding of removal.
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