Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
MS KVIEN: So it is my absolute pleasure and honor to welcome Secretary of State Tony Blinken to Kyiv today, and I’m really happy that he has taken the time to meet with all of us. As many of you know – especially our local staff, I would say, who have been doing this a long time – Secretary Blinken knows Ukraine very well. He’s visited many times in his years with the White House, the State Department, and on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Secretary’s visit today is extremely important as Ukraine faces threats both from Russia and internal challenges to reform.
It’s been a tough year for Mission Ukraine, as it has been for posts around the world, so I sincerely thank Secretary Blinken for his visit, which is an important signal to Embassy Kyiv that the department is behind us but also equally important demonstration of U.S. support to Ukraine as it faces its external and internal challenges.
So without further ado, I’ll hand over the floor to Secretary Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, Kristina, thank you very, very much, and everyone, it’s so great to be in Kyiv. It’s so great to be with you. It’s a little strange that I’m in Kyiv but we’re not actually – and you are, too, but we’re not in the same room. So we’re getting one step closer, and I hope next time I’m here we’ll actually be able to get together in person. But I really am thankful for the fact we have a chance to talk a little bit today.
I really want to start with a word of profound thanks, Kristina, to you for your incredible leadership of this mission at what is, for a whole variety of reasons, a challenging time. To you, to the Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Joe Pennington, thank you, thank you, thank you. We’re really grateful for everything you’re doing every day.
And I also want to thank the entire team that worked on this trip. As Kristina said, we have packed a lot into this day, so much so that I’ve managed to make us a little bit late. But very well worth it, and we’ve touched a lot of bases that I think reflects the fact that we have so many different things going on here. And I was really happy to have a chance to spend some time with civil society leaders and people on the front lines of fighting corruption, as well as, of course, a lot of our government counterparts, leaders of the Rada, and a chance to visit Saint Michael’s as well.
So we got a lot done, but I know how much these visits, even of short duration, demand of the embassy team and community, so I’m really thankful to all of you who worked on the visit. I’m not sure what a wheels-up party looks like in the age of COVID, but I wish you a good one, however you choose to celebrate it.
This is a very important relationship for us and something that we’ve invested in, as you know, over many years – a relationship that President Biden is deeply and personally committed to. And he asked me to try to get to Ukraine as early as I could in my tenure on his behalf to send a clear message on two fronts: one, that we stand strongly with Ukraine when it comes to defending its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its independence; and equally, we stand with Ukraine and strongly encourage its efforts to advance reforms, to fight corruption, and to build a strong democracy. And as Kristina alluded to, I think we’ve got flip sides of the same coin that we’re – we have to be focused on: the external aggression coming from Russia; the internal aggression coming from the forces of corruption – oligarchs and others – who are challenging Ukraine’s democracy from the inside, which, in turn, Russia uses itself to advance its own interests.
So that’s just one fundamental, central piece of what we’re doing. There is much, much more that’s reflected in the fact that we have so many different agencies represented here as part of the team – Energy, Justice, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, and others. And of course – and I hope we can do even more of this, especially when we get beyond COVID – really strong people-to-people ties, something I believe strongly in. I hope that we can do even more with our exchange programs when we’re given the opportunity.
But each and every one of you on this call are the ones keeping the relationship going day in, day out. And to the charge’s point, I know that the past couple of years have been particularly difficult. Even before COVID, Ukraine and this mission were pulled into matters that should not have been the case, and one thing that’s very important is that politics stops at the C Street door, and that’s very much the case now. And of course, COVID itself, and I have some sense of how tough that’s been here in particular. I am told that quite a number of you actually got sick, some of you lost loved ones, we lost a locally employed staff member. And even for those who weren’t directly affected by the illness itself, we know that what it’s done to our work lives and the challenges it’s placed on getting the job done have been almost unprecedented.
So somehow, with lockdowns in Kyiv itself, multiple waves of the virus, you’ve managed to keep the mission going through all of that with determination, with resilience. And you’ve helped a number of our fellow citizens here in Ukraine navigate – excuse me – what has been a very, very frightening time for them as well. So whether you’re a direct hire, whether you’re locally employed, whether you’re a family member, whatever section you work in, and whether you work for State or one of our fellow agencies, I’m deeply, deeply appreciative of everything you’ve been doing, everything you are doing. And simply put, you’re playing an indispensable role in advancing our interests and telling our story to the world in this place that gets a lot of attention.
One more thing I want to say before opening it up and hearing from some of you. Back in January when I first had the privilege of taking this job and getting into the office, the very first thing I said in coming into C Street was that we have work to do as a department to rebuild trust and morale, to do a better job listening to the people of the department, the men and women of the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, when we’re formulating our policies, investing in diversity and inclusion, building a workplace that looks like the country we represent and that has a real culture of collegiality, of teamwork, and of mutual respect. And that has to start with my office, but it involves each and every one of us.
And this is something I’ve repeated every time I’ve had an opportunity to talk to our teams in different parts of the world, because, again, it doesn’t only apply to Main State. It applies to all of us, to all of our missions, to all of our colleagues in embassies and consulates around the world. It’s a – I know it sounds like a hackneyed or even cliched thing, but we actually are part of a community and we each have a responsibility to build the best possible community where everyone is valued, welcomed, and feels part of the same mission.
And so I am deeply committed to doing everything I can to support you in your work, because you’re supporting the country every single day, and that’s what I owe you. That’s what we owe you.
So again, thank you, thank you, thank you for what you’re doing every day. Now let’s open it up to some questions.
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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Why GAO Did This Study Behavioral health conditions, which include mental health and substance use disorders, affect a substantial number of adults in the United States. For example, in 2019, an estimated 52 million adults in the United States were reported to have a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and 20 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder. Experts have expressed concerns that the incidence of behavioral health conditions would increase as a result of stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, longstanding questions have been raised about whether coverage or claims for behavioral health services are denied or delayed at higher rates than those for other health services. GAO was asked to examine several issues about the demand for behavioral health services, as well as coverage and payment for these services. 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- Lifting Self-Imposed Restrictions on the U.S.-Taiwan RelationshipBy Sam NewsJanuary 9, 2021
- Chinese National Charged with Criminal Conspiracy to Export US Power Amplifiers to ChinaBy Sam NewsJanuary 29, 2021An indictment was unsealed this week charging Cheng Bo, also known as Joe Cheng, a 45-year-old national of the People’s Republic of China, with participating in a criminal conspiracy from 2012-2015 to violate U.S. export laws by shipping U.S. power amplifiers to China. Cheng’s former employer, Avnet Asia Pte. Ltd., a Singapore company and global distributor of electronic components and related software, agreed to pay a financial penalty to the United States of $1,508,000 to settle criminal liability for the conduct of its former employees, including Cheng. As part of a non-prosecution agreement, Avnet Asia admitted responsibility for Cheng’s unlawful conspiracy to ship export-controlled U.S. goods with potential military applications to China, and also for the criminal conduct of another former employee who, from 2007-2009, illegally caused U.S. goods to be shipped to China and Iran without a license. This conduct violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.[Read More…]
- Missile Defense: Fiscal Year 2020 Delivery and Testing Progressed, but Annual Goals UnmetBy Sam NewsApril 28, 2021What GAO Found In fiscal year 2020, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) made progress toward achieving its delivery and testing goals for some of the individual systems—known as elements—that combine and integrate to create the Missile Defense System (also known as the Ballistic Missile Defense System). However, MDA did not complete its overall planned deliveries or annual testing. The figure below shows MDA's progress delivering assets and conducting flight tests against its fiscal year 2020 plans. Percentage of Missile Defense Agency Planned Deliveries and Flight Tests Completed for Fiscal Year 2020 Deliveries— In fiscal year 2020, MDA delivered many assets it had planned. Specifically, MDA was able to deliver 82 missile interceptors for 3 elements. However, MDA was not able to deliver all planned interceptors, including one originally planned for 2018 for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, as the program experienced delays related to qualifying parts from a new supplier. Flight testing— MDA conducted two planned flight tests, but neither was successful. The issues were due to problems with non-MDA assets, but the agency was able to collect important data. In addition, COVID-19 restrictions also affected the planned schedule. However, the delays continue a trend of MDA's inability to conduct planned annual flight testing, resulting in assets and capabilities that are subsequently delayed or delivered with less data than planned. Ground testing— In fiscal year 2020, MDA continued to implement a new ground testing approach that the agency began in fiscal year 2019. In addition, MDA successfully completed three planned ground tests demonstrating defense capabilities for the U.S., U.S. forces and regional allies. However, MDA delayed two other ground tests to future fiscal years and expects disruptions in fiscal year 2021, in part due to ongoing COVID-19 disruptions. Cyber— Despite failing to meet annual operational cybersecurity assessments since 2017, MDA canceled its planned fiscal year 2020 operational assessments, instead taking steps to implement a new approach designed to improve cyber system requirements while streamlining cyber test planning. It is premature to assess whether this new approach will achieve its intended goals. Why GAO Did This Study For over half a century, the Department of Defense has funded efforts to defend the U.S. from ballistic missile attacks. This effort consists of diverse and highly complex land-, sea-, and space-based systems and assets located across the globe. From 2002 through 2019, MDA—the agency charged with developing, testing, integrating, and fielding this system of systems—received about $162.5 billion. The agency also requested about $45 billion from fiscal year 2020 through fiscal year 2024. In fiscal year 2020, MDA's mission broadened to include evolving threats beyond ballistic missiles such as defending against hypersonic missile attacks. With the inclusion of non-ballistic missile threats, the Ballistic Missile Defense System is in the process of transitioning to the Missile Defense System. Congress included a provision in statute that GAO annually assess and report on MDA's progress. This, our 18th annual review, addresses the progress MDA made in achieving fiscal year 2020 delivery and testing goals. GAO reviewed planned fiscal year 2020 baselines, along with program changes due to COVID-19 restrictions, and other program documentation and assessed them against responses to GAO detailed question sets and program and baseline reviews. GAO also interviewed officials from MDA and various Department of Defense Combatant Commands. We do not make any new recommendations in this report but continue to track the status of prior recommendations. For more information, contact John D. Sawyer at (202) 512-4841 or SawyerJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Florida and Tennessee Pain Clinic Owner Extradited from Italy to the United States to Face RICO ChargesBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020A dual U.S.-Italian national was extradited from Italy to the United States on Nov. 20. The U.S. Marshals Service effectuated the transportation of the defendant from Lamezia Terme, Calabria to Knoxville, Tennessee.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Nevada to End Discriminatory Policies Against Inmates with HIV and Inmates with DisabilitiesBy Sam NewsFebruary 11, 2021The Justice Department today reached a settlement agreement with Nevada to ensure that inmates with HIV are not illegally segregated or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of HIV status and that inmates with disabilities are provided an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) programs.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Peruvian Foreign Minister WagnerBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021
- F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: DOD Needs to Update Modernization Schedule and Improve Data on Software DevelopmentBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) delayed the completion of key testing until problems with the F-35 aircraft simulator are resolved, which GAO also reported last year, and will again delay its full-rate production decision. In August 2020, the program office determined the aircraft simulator—to be used to replicate complex test scenarios that could not be accomplished in real-world environment testing—did not fully represent F-35 capabilities and could not be used for further testing until fixed. Since then, program officials have been developing a new plan to ensure the simulator works as intended. Until they finalize the plan and fix the simulator, the next production milestone date—which would formally authorize DOD's transition from development to full production—remains undetermined (see figure). F-35 Operational Test Schedule and Key Events through 2021, as of November 2020 DOD is now in its third year of its modernization effort, known as Block 4, to upgrade the hardware and software of the aircraft. While DOD added another year to the schedule, GAO found the remaining development time frame is not achievable. The program routinely underestimated the amount of work needed to develop Block 4 capabilities, which has resulted in delays, and has not reflected historical performance into its remaining work schedule. Unless the F-35 program accounts for historical performance in the schedule estimates, the Block 4 schedule will continue to exceed estimated time frames and stakeholders will lack reliable information on when capabilities will be delivered. GAO found the F-35 program office collects data on many Block 4 software development metrics, a key practice from GAO's Agile Assessment Guide, but has not met two other key practices for monitoring software development progress. Specifically, the F-35 program office has not implemented tools to enable automated data collection on software development performance, a key practice. The program's primary reliance on the contractor's monthly reports, often based on older data, has hindered program officials' timely decision-making. The program office has also not set software quality performance targets, inconsistent with another key practice. Without these targets, the program office is less able to assess whether the contractor has met acceptable quality performance levels. Why GAO Did This Study The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains DOD's most expensive weapon system program. DOD is 3 years into a development effort that is loosely based on Agile software development processes to modernize the F-35 aircraft's capabilities. With this approach, DOD intends to incrementally develop, test, and deliver small groups of new capabilities every 6 months. Congress included provisions in two statutes for GAO to review the F-35 program. This report addresses the F-35 operational testing status, DOD's Block 4 modernization development schedule, and how the F-35 program office implements key practices for evaluating Agile software development progress. To assess cost and schedule concerns identified in prior years, GAO selected three key practices that focus on evaluating Agile software development progress. GAO reviewed DOD and contractor documentation and interviewed DOD officials and contractor representatives.[Read More…]
- NASA Wins 4 Webbys, 4 People’s Voice AwardsBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Winners include the [Read More…]
- Federal Grand Jury Returns a Superseding Indictment Adding New Charges in the Conspiracy to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen WhitmerBy Sam NewsApril 28, 2021A federal grand jury in Michigan returned a superseding indictment that adds new charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against three defendants and adds federal firearms violations against two defendants in the case alleging a conspiracy to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.[Read More…]
- On the 41st Anniversary of the U.S. Embassy Takeover in TehranBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020
- Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt Delivers Remarks at Health Care Fraud Takedown Press ConferenceBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020Good morning and thank you for joining us today. We are here this morning to announce the results of truly historic nationwide law enforcement operations led by the Criminal Division’s Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program — part of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.[Read More…]
- DelawareBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020There are currently no [Read More…]
- Defense Health Care: Actions Needed to Define and Sustain Wartime Medical Skills for Enlisted PersonnelBy Sam NewsJune 18, 2021What GAO Found The military departments have not fully defined, tracked, and assessed wartime medical skills for enlisted medical personnel. The departments have defined these skills for 73 of 77 occupations. However, among other issues, the Army and the Air Force have not defined skills for numerous highly-skilled subspecialties that require additional training and expertise, such as Army Critical Care Flight Paramedics. Subspecialty personnel are key to supporting lifesaving medical care during deployed operations. The Army does not consistently track wartime medical skills training for enlisted medical personnel in its official system. The military departments are not able to fully assess the preparedness of enlisted medical personnel because, according to officials, they have not developed performance goals and targets for skills training completion. As a result, the military departments lack reasonable assurance that all enlisted medical personnel are ready to perform during deployed operations. The Department of Defense (DOD) has not fully developed plans and processes to sustain the wartime medical skills of enlisted medical personnel. While the Defense Health Agency (DHA) has initiated planning efforts to assess how the military departments' three primary training approaches sustain readiness (see figure), these efforts will not fully capture needed information. For example, DHA's planned metrics to assess the role of military hospitals and civilian partnerships in sustaining readiness would apply to a limited number of enlisted occupations. As a result, DHA is unable to fully assess how each training approach sustains readiness and determine current and future training investments. Approaches to Train Enlisted Medical Personnel's Wartime Medical Skills DOD officials have identified challenges associated with implementing its training approaches. For example, DOD relies on civilian partnerships to sustain enlisted medical personnel's skills, but DOD officials stated that licensing requirements and other issues present challenges to establishing and operationalizing civilian partnerships. DOD has not analyzed or responded to such risks, and may therefore be limited in its ability to sustain wartime medical skills. Why GAO Did This Study DOD has over 73,000 active-duty enlisted medical personnel who must be ready to provide life-saving care to injured and ill servicemembers during deployed operations, using their wartime medical skills. Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's efforts to maintain enlisted personnel's wartime medical skills. This report examines, among other objectives, the extent to which (1) the military departments have defined, tracked, and assessed enlisted personnel's wartime medical skills, and (2) DOD has developed plans and processes to sustain these skills and assessed risks associated with their implementation. GAO analyzed wartime medical skills checklists and guidance; reviewed plans for skills sustainment; and interviewed officials from DOD and military department medical commands and agencies, and nine inpatient military medical treatment facilities.[Read More…]
- NASA’s Curiosity Keeps Rolling As Team Operates Rover From HomeBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020The Mars mission has [Read More…]
- Gang members sentenced for assaulting federal officersBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021The final Houston area [Read More…]
- Eighth Circuit Reverses Tax Court in Case Involving Statute of Limitations and Bona Fide ResidencyBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a published opinion on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, holding for the government in a case involving the statute of limitations on assessment in the context of bona fide residency in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.[Read More…]
- Barbados Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- 8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing AnniversaryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020The NASA rover touched [Read More…]
- Air Deliveries Bring NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Closer to LaunchBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020A NASA Wallops Flight [Read More…]
- Automated Technologies: DOT Should Take Steps to Ensure Its Workforce Has Skills Needed to Oversee SafetyBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020Stakeholders GAO interviewed said that federal oversight of automated technologies—such as those that control a function or task of a plane, train, or vehicle without human intervention—requires regulatory expertise as well as engineering, data analysis, and cybersecurity skills. Stakeholders also stated that as automated systems become more common across transportation modes, overseeing them will require understanding vehicle operating systems, software code, and the vast amounts of data produced by these systems to ensure their safety. Skills Needed to Oversee the Safety of Automated Technologies, according to Stakeholders The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Departmental Office of Human Resources Management has identified most skills DOT needs to oversee automated technologies, but it has not fully assessed whether its workforce has these skills. Through its workforce planning efforts, DOT identified many of the skills cited by stakeholders as important for overseeing automated technologies—regulatory expertise, engineering, and data analysis. In 2016 and 2020, DOT surveyed staff in related positions and identified gaps in some of these skills, including regulatory expertise. However, DOT did not survey staff or assess skill gaps in data analysis or cybersecurity positions important to automated technology oversight. As a result, DOT lacks critical information needed to identify skill gaps and ensure key relevant staff are equipped to oversee the safety of these technologies now and in the future. DOT developed strategies to address some but not all gaps in skills needed to oversee automated technologies. For example, DOT implemented some recruiting strategies and established hiring goals as a means of closing gaps identified in the 2016 survey and plans to continue these efforts in light of the 2020 survey. However, DOT has not tracked the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps since the 2016 survey, nor has it implemented training strategies. Accordingly, some skill gaps related to overseeing the safety of automated technologies will likely persist in DOT's workforce. Automated technologies in planes, trains, and passenger vehicles are in use today and likely to become increasingly widespread. While these technologies hold promise, accidents involving them demonstrate potential safety challenges. DOT is responsible for overseeing the safety of all modes of transportation. This report addresses: (1) stakeholders' perspectives on the skills required to oversee automated technologies; (2) the extent to which DOT has identified and assessed the skills it needs to oversee these technologies; and (3) the extent to which DOT has developed strategies to address any gaps in skills. GAO reviewed relevant literature and DOT workforce planning documents, and interviewed DOT human capital officials, selected modal administrations, and stakeholders, including transportation associations and technology developers. GAO selected modal administrations based in part on the prevalence of automated technologies. GAO is making four recommendations, including that DOT: (1) assess skill gaps in key occupations involved in overseeing automated technologies and (2) regularly measure the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps. DOT concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with one on measuring progress. GAO clarified this recommendation and believes its implementation is warranted. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Omani Foreign Minister Al-Busaidi By Sam NewsFebruary 24, 2021
- Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Endangered Species ActBy Sam NewsFebruary 1, 2021A New York man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to selling a mounted leopard, which is an endangered species.[Read More…]
- DSS protects at 10,000 feetBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Bureau of Diplomatic [Read More…]
- Riverside, California Man Who Admitted Planning Mass Casualty Attacks and Purchasing Firearms Later Used in 2015 Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino Ordered to Serve 20-Year Federal Prison SentenceBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020A Riverside man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks in the Inland Empire and for providing assault rifles later used in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.[Read More…]
- Seven North Carolina Tax Preparers Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRSBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2021Seven Charlotte, North Carolina tax return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by preparing and filing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina, and Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).[Read More…]
- Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr at Hillsdale College Constitution Day EventBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020I am pleased to be at this Hillsdale College celebration of Constitution Day. Sadly, many colleges these days don’t even teach the Constitution, much less celebrate it. But at Hillsdale, you recognize that the principles of the Founding are as relevant today as ever—and vital to the success of our free society. I appreciate your observance of this important day and all you do for civic education in the United States.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMay 25, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Colorado Businessman Indicted for Employment Tax FraudBy Sam NewsApril 21, 2021A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment charging a Bow Mar, Colorado, businessman with tax evasion, failing to pay over employment taxes, and failing to file tax returns.[Read More…]
- Costa Rica Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Do not travel to Costa [Read More…]