Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Birta Bjornsdottir of Rikisutvarpio

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Reykjavik, Iceland

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

QUESTION: So welcome to Iceland, Mr. Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.

QUESTION: You met with Iceland’s – Icelandic officials yesterday. Both our prime minister and our president said in interviews after meeting with you that they felt kind of more harmony with the foreign policy of the new U.S. Government that you are a part of, more than the previous one. What have been the main challenges on the international stage taking over for – from the Donald Trump administration?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s – first of all, it’s wonderful to be here, and we had very, very both I think important and positive meetings with our colleagues here, and I can’t be more thankful for the reception that we’ve had.

But we’re very much focused on looking forward, and looking ahead, and there are two things that we’re really focused on. One is strengthening and reinvigorating our partnerships with our closest allies, including Iceland – founding members of NATO together – but also working together on so many different things, whether it’s on climate or on COVID or on new technologies. In fact, I saw some remarkable things on the geothermal side just yesterday.

The other thing that we’re working on is re-engaging in multilateral institutions, including the Arctic Council. And so this was an opportunity to do both, to come here and really put energy into the relationship between the United States and Iceland and also the work we’re doing together on the Arctic Council.

QUESTION: Speaking of the Arctic Council, you emphasized in a press conference yesterday that the Arctic should be an area of peaceful cooperation. What are the biggest threats to that goal, in your opinion?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think we have to remain focused on the fact that it has been and should remain an area for peaceful cooperation, a place where together the Arctic countries can work on dealing with climate change; can work cooperatively on scientific progress and advancement; can work on the needs of indigenous peoples in the region. And I think we’ve had a good track record to date of doing that.

Now, there are challenges. For example, as the Northern Sea Route gets more and more traffic, there is always the challenge of an accident or a miscommunication. That’s something we have to be very mindful of. But I think it’s an obligation on all of us to keep the focus on peaceful cooperation. That’s been a hallmark. And there are so many other parts of the world where peaceful cooperation is not the norm, and we should be grateful and focused on preserving that here.

QUESTION: The U.S. and NATO have increased military activities in the area in the recent years. How does that align to this off-tension – no-tension strategy, in your opinion?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, NATO is a defensive alliance, and it is fully transparent in everything it does. We’re not hiding what we do and we’re focused on making sure that if there are challenges or threats to security, that we’re able and prepared to meet those challenges and to defend the interests and values that bring us together. But I think what stands out about NATO and our two countries as founding members is it’s profoundly – it’s defensive in nature and it’s open about everything it does.

QUESTION: I have to ask you about a comment from your Russian counterpart, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, that made headlines on Monday, when he stated that the Arctic is their territory and their land. What is your response to that comment?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think we know that there is a lot of – eight different countries that are here, that have their interests, their rights that come together. But we do that in a way that, as I say, emphasizes cooperation and preserves this region as one of peace and progress. So I hope that all of us stay focused on that.

QUESTION: And speaking of Mr. Lavrov, the world has shown great interest in your upcoming meeting later tonight. There’s been a notable change, a maybe more direct approach, towards Russian officials from the Biden administration. To name an example, Mr. Biden agreed to a question of whether Vladimir Putin is a killer in an interview in March. Will your approach in the meeting be similar to that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m looking forward to seeing the foreign minister. We have a lot to talk about, and in particular, it’s likely that our two presidents will meet in the weeks ahead, so I think we will want to talk about that, what – make sure that we each understand what the other would like to talk about when they meet.

But for the United States, I can tell you this: We would welcome having a stable, predictable relationship with Russia. We have so many challenges that our countries are facing, particularly COVID-19 and both dealing with that, building our economies back in a way that meets the needs of our people, that I think being in conflict doesn’t serve anyone’s interest.

So our preference would be to have a stable, predictable relationship. At the same time, we will always stand up for our interests and values if they’re being challenged by anyone.

QUESTION: You mentioned about this potential meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin. Is this kind of a rehearsal for that potential meeting and will you two be laying any groundwork for that to work out?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, when these meetings happen they always have to be well-prepared to be as productive as possible, and I think one of the responsibilities that I have and that Foreign Minister Lavrov has is to do just that. So that’s certainly one of the things we’ll talk about.

QUESTION: After your experience, would you recommend Iceland as a meeting place?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Absolutely, I would recommend it as a meeting place; I would recommend it to anyone, and by the way, that’s what I’ll be doing when I get back home. And I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to come back and maybe spend a little bit more time.

QUESTION: I have to ask you a bit about the situation in the Middle East, which has dominated the world news again. Mr. Biden has, of course, expressed support for a ceasefire. He did that on Monday, but Israel has, of course, been one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance for decades. Can U.S. be seen as an honest broker here?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, two things. First, we’ve been very clear about our commitment to the proposition that Israel, of course, has the right to defend itself, as any country would, from attack. And what we’ve seen from Gaza have been attacks launched by a terrorist group, Hamas, indiscriminately targeting civilians in Israel. And so it has a right to defend itself. But Palestinians and Israelis alike also have a right to live in peace and security, and I think Israel has an extra burden as a democracy to do everything it possibly can in these kinds of situations to make sure that civilians are protected. I think you’ve probably heard the President today, President Biden today, having spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and our expectation that there will be, starting now, a de-escalation en route to a ceasefire. That’s what we’re looking for.

QUESTION: The U.S. have now blocked three times in one week the adoptation of a joint UN Security Council calling for – to a halt to Israel and the Palestinian violence. Why is that? And how does that rhyme with this demand for peace?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve been engaged in very intensive diplomacy, and most of it’s quiet, it’s on the phone, it’s in meetings, but it’s comprehensive and it’s intensive, starting with President Biden, who’s been on the phone repeatedly with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, with other leaders, myself, and other colleagues. And we just want to make sure that anything we’re doing is going to actually advance the prospect of ending the violence, and then hopefully moving to more positive things. And so we will look at anything we think can advance that prospect, the prospect for peace, and if we think it does, we’ll support it. But our focus has been on this quiet diplomacy, trying to get to a place where the violence ceases, and we can start to focus on more positive things.

QUESTION: But although everyone seems to agree that the situation is not acceptable, there has been little progress towards a future – futuristic peaceful solution. Don’t we need to change courses or do something else?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, as – again, as the President said – President Biden said today, our expectation is that we are going to see a de-escalation in violence on the path to a ceasefire. And that’s what we’re looking toward. We continue our own diplomacy and our own efforts in that direction.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you a bit about you grew up partly in France.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.

QUESTION: Do you think that experience has benefited you for this job to be the Secretary of State?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think so. I certainly hope so. Anyone who has the opportunity to live outside their own country, I think it’s a wonderful experience, but one of the things that it does is it opens your eyes to different perspectives, to different cultures, and it also helps you see your own country in different ways through the eyes of others. I hope that’s been helpful because when it comes to diplomacy, to the responsibilities I have now, one of the most important things is to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. And having the opportunity to live abroad and have that experience at such a young age, I hope at least, has helped me do that.

QUESTION: I’ve been told our time’s up, but I have one final question for you, and then we, of course, focus on the most important stuff. You’re a musician. You are – have a couple of songs on Spotify. Do you have time for your music in your life now in your new, I imagine, busy job?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Not as much as I’d like, but I try to steal a few moments whenever I can. It’s something that has been a constant in my life. I wish I had an opportunity to play more. I certainly need the practice. But at least I get an opportunity to listen and to have that really be such a positive source of inspiration in my life.

QUESTION: Have more people listened to your songs on Spotify since you became the Secretary of State?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: The truth of the matter is – but it was – the – is yes. But since it was starting from an extremely low level, that wasn’t very difficult.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks.

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    What GAO Found In January 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a reorganization of its fair lending activities that moved its Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity (Fair Lending Office) from the Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending Division to the Office of the Director and reallocated certain of its responsibilities (see figure). As CFPB planned and implemented the reorganization, it did not substantially incorporate key practices for agency reform efforts GAO identified in prior work—such as using employee input for planning or monitoring implementation progress and outcomes. GAO identified challenges related to the reorganization (including loss of fair lending expertise and specialized data analysts) that may have contributed to a decline in enforcement activity in 2018. However, CFPB has not assessed how well the reorganization met its goals or how it affected fair lending supervision and enforcement efforts. Collecting and analyzing information on reorganization outcomes would help CFPB determine the impact of the changes and identify actions needed to address any related challenges or unintended consequences. Key Changes in Fair Lending Responsibilities under CFPB's 2018 Reorganization As of February 2019, CFPB stopped reporting on performance goals and measures specific to fair lending supervision and enforcement—such as the number of completed examinations and the percentage of enforcement cases successfully resolved. Without these goals and measures, CFPB is limited in its ability to assess and communicate progress on its fair lending supervision and enforcement efforts, key components of CFPB's mission. CFPB has used additional Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data that some lenders have had to report since 2018 to support supervisory and enforcement activities and fair lending analyses. CFPB incorporated these new loan-level data into efforts to identify and prioritize fair lending risks and support fair lending examinations. For example, the new data points improve CFPB's ability to compare how different institutions price loans, which helps its staff identify potentially discriminatory lending practices. Why GAO Did This Study Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, CFPB is responsible for two federal fair lending laws that protect consumers from discrimination: the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. In January 2019, CFPB completed a reorganization of its fair lending activities. GAO was asked to review issues related to CFPB's oversight and enforcement of fair lending laws. This report examines how CFPB has (1) managed the reorganization of its fair lending activities, (2) monitored and reported on its fair lending performance, and (3) used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data to support its fair lending activities. GAO reviewed CFPB documents related to its fair lending activities (such as strategic and performance reports, policies and procedures) and to the reorganization of its Fair Lending Office. GAO evaluated implementation of this reorganization against relevant key practices identified in GAO-18-427. GAO also interviewed CFPB staff.
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  • Federal Research: Agencies Need to Enhance Policies to Address Foreign Influence
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S. research may be subject to undue foreign influence in cases where a researcher has a foreign conflict of interest (COI). Federal grant-making agencies can address this threat by implementing COI policies and requiring the disclosure of information that may indicate potential conflicts. GAO reviewed five agencies—which together accounted for almost 90 percent of all federal research and development expenditures at universities in fiscal year 2018—and found that three have agency-wide COI policies, while two do not (see figure). The three agencies with existing policies focus on financial interests but do not specifically address or define non-financial interests, such as multiple professional appointments. In the absence of agency-wide COI policies and definitions on non-financial interests, researchers may not fully understand what they need to report on their grant proposals, leaving agencies with incomplete information to assess the risk of foreign influence. GAO found that, regardless of whether an agency has a conflict of interest policy, all five agencies require researchers to disclose information—such as foreign support for their research—as part of the grant proposal that could be used to determine if certain conflicts exist. Elements of Conflict of Interest (COI) Policies at Agencies with the Most Federal Research Expenditures at Universities Based on a review of university documents, GAO found that all 11 of the universities in its sample have publicly available financial and non-financial COI policies for federally funded research. These policies often align with the financial COI policies or requirements of the grant-making agencies. All five agencies have mechanisms to monitor and enforce their policies and disclosure requirements when there is an alleged failure to disclose required information. All agencies rely on universities to monitor financial COI, and most agencies collect non-financial information such as foreign collaborations, that can help determine if conflicts exist. Agencies have also taken actions in cases where they identified researchers who failed to disclose financial or non-financial information. However, three agencies lack written procedures for handling allegations of failure to disclose required information. Written procedures for addressing alleged failure to disclose required information help agencies manage these allegations and consistently apply enforcement actions. In interviews, stakeholders identified opportunities to improve responses to foreign threats to research, such as harmonizing grant application requirements. Agencies have begun to address such issues. The federal government reportedly expended about $42 billion on science and engineering research at universities in fiscal year 2018. Safeguarding the U.S. research enterprise from threats of foreign influence is of critical importance. Recent reports by GAO and others have noted challenges faced by the research community to combat undue foreign influence, while maintaining an open research environment that fosters collaboration, transparency, and the free exchange of ideas. GAO was asked to review federal agency and university COI policies and disclosure requirements. In this report, GAO examines (1) COI policies and disclosure requirements at selected agencies and universities that address potential foreign threats, (2) mechanisms to monitor and enforce policies and requirements, and (3) the views of selected stakeholders on how to better address foreign threats to federally funded research. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, federal guidance, and agency and university COI policies and requirements. GAO also interviewed agency officials, university officials, and researchers. GAO is making nine recommendations to six agencies, including that grant-making agencies address non-financial conflicts of interest in their COI policies and develop written procedures for addressing cases of failure to disclose required information. Five agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations. The National Science Foundation neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but identified actions it plans to take in response. For more information, contact Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or wrightc@gao.gov.
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  • Navy and Marine Corps: Services Continue Efforts to Rebuild Readiness, but Recovery Will Take Years and Sustained Management Attention
    In U.S GAO News
    The Navy and Marine Corps continue to face significant readiness challenges that have developed over more than a decade of conflict, budget uncertainty, and reductions in force structure. These challenges prevent the services from reaping the full benefit of their existing forces and attaining the level of readiness called for by the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Both services have made encouraging progress identifying the causes of their readiness decline and have begun efforts to arrest and reverse it (see figure). However, GAO's work shows that addressing these challenges will require years of sustained management attention and resources. Recent events, such as the ongoing pandemic and the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard affect both current and future readiness and are likely to compound and delay the services' readiness rebuilding efforts. Selected Navy and Marine Corps Readiness Challenges Continued progress implementing GAO's prior recommendations will bolster ongoing Navy and Marine Corps efforts to address these readiness challenges. The 2018 National Defense Strategy emphasizes that restoring and retaining readiness is critical to success in the emerging security environment. The Navy and Marine Corps are working to rebuild the readiness of their forces while also growing and modernizing their aging fleets of ships and aircraft. Readiness recovery will take years as the Navy and Marine Corps address their multiple challenges and continue to meet operational demands. This statement provides information on readiness challenges facing (1) the Navy ship and submarine fleet and (2) Navy and Marine Corps aviation. GAO also discusses its prior recommendations on Navy and Marine Corps readiness and the progress that has been made in addressing them. This statement is based on previous work published from 2016 to November 2020—on Navy and Marine Corps readiness challenges, including ship maintenance, sailor training, and aircraft sustainment. GAO also analyzed data updated as of November 2020, as appropriate, and drew from its ongoing work focused on Navy and Marine Corps readiness. GAO made more than 90 recommendations in prior work cited in this statement. The Department of Defense generally concurred with most of GAO's recommendations. Continued attention to these recommendations can assist the Navy and the Marine Corps as they seek to rebuild the readiness of their forces. For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.
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  • Veterans Health Care: Agency Efforts to Provide and Study Prosthetics for Small but Growing Female Veteran Population
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides veterans with prosthetic services to assist with their mobility, vision, and hearing needs. The proportion of prosthetics VHA provided to female veterans has been small compared to the share provided to male veterans. However, in fiscal years 2015 to 2019, this proportion grew from 6.8 percent to 7.9 percent and accounted for about $889.1 million of the $15.4 billion total cost of prosthetics. Artificial limbs comprised a relatively small number of the total prosthetics VHA provided to veterans in fiscal years 2015 to 2019; however, veterans who use artificial limbs have complex needs and are significant users of health care services. VHA provided prosthetic services to a small but growing female veteran amputee population (almost 3 percent of veteran amputees in fiscal year 2019), who were generally younger than male veteran amputees. VHA has established an individualized patient care approach in its Amputation System of Care that seeks to address the prosthetic needs of each veteran, including accounting for gender-specific factors. VHA officials said that using a standardized, multidisciplinary approach across VA medical facilities also helps them incorporate the concerns and preferences of female veterans. For example, veterans are provided care by a team that includes a physician, therapist, prosthetist (clinician who helps evaluate prosthetic needs and then designs, fabricates, fits, and adjusts artificial limbs), and other providers as needed. Female veteran amputees GAO spoke with at one VA medical facility said they were satisfied with their VHA care. They also noted a lack of commercially available prosthetic options that VHA providers can use to meet women's needs. Examples of Female Veterans' Artificial Limb Prosthetics Women are generally studied less than their male counterparts in prosthetic and amputee rehabilitation research. VHA designated prosthetics for female veterans a national research priority in 2017, and has funded eight related studies as of May 2020: four pertain to lower limb amputation, three pertain to upper limb amputation, and one pertains to wheelchairs. VHA officials noted the importance of this research priority and the ongoing challenge of recruiting study participants due to the small female veteran population. VHA researchers said they employ various tactics to address this challenge, such as using multi-site studies and recruiting participants from the non-veteran population. Women are the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, with the number of female veterans using VHA health care services increasing 29 percent from 2014 to 2019. Female veterans accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the total veteran population in fiscal year 2019. They are eligible to receive a full range of VHA health care services, including obtaining prosthetics. House Report 115-188 included a provision for GAO to review VHA's prosthetic services for female veterans. This report examines 1) trends in prosthetics provided by VHA to female veterans; 2) characteristics of the female veteran population with limb loss and how VHA provides prosthetic services to these veterans through its Amputation System of Care; and 3) VHA's research efforts and the challenges that exist in studying prosthetics for female veterans with limb loss. GAO analyzed VHA documents, as well as data from fiscal years 2015 to 2019 on prosthetics and veterans with amputations. GAO interviewed agency officials from VHA central office and officials and female veteran amputees at two VA medical facilities selected for expertise in amputation care and prosthetics research activities. In addition, GAO interviewed VHA researchers conducting studies on prosthetics for female veterans. GAO provided a draft of this report to VA. VA provided general and technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or farbj@gao.gov.
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  • Electricity Grid Cybersecurity: DOE Needs to Ensure Its Plans Fully Address Risks to Distribution Systems
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The U.S. grid's distribution systems—which carry electricity from transmission systems to consumers and are regulated primarily by states—are increasingly at risk from cyberattacks. Distribution systems are growing more vulnerable, in part because their industrial control systems increasingly allow remote access and connect to business networks. As a result, threat actors can use multiple techniques to access those systems and potentially disrupt operations. (See fig.) However, the scale of potential impacts from such attacks is not well understood. Examples of Techniques for Gaining Initial Access to Industrial Control Systems Distribution utilities included in GAO's review are generally not subject to mandatory federal cybersecurity standards, but they, and selected states, had taken actions intended to improve distribution systems' cybersecurity. These actions included incorporating cybersecurity into routine oversight processes and hiring dedicated cybersecurity personnel. Federal agencies have supported these actions by, for example, providing cybersecurity training and guidance. As the lead federal agency for the energy sector, the Department of Energy (DOE) has developed plans to implement the national cybersecurity strategy for the grid, but these plans do not fully address risks to the grid's distribution systems. For example, DOE's plans do not address distribution systems' vulnerabilities related to supply chains. According to officials, DOE has not fully addressed such risks in its plans because it has prioritized addressing risks to the grid's generation and transmission systems. Without doing so, however, DOE's plans will likely be of limited use in prioritizing federal support to states and industry to improve grid distribution systems' cybersecurity. Why GAO Did This Study Protecting the reliability of the U.S. electricity grid, which delivers electricity essential for modern life, is a long-standing national interest. The grid comprises three functions: generation, transmission, and distribution. In August 2019, GAO reported that the generation and transmission systems—which are federally regulated for reliability—are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. GAO was asked to review grid distribution systems' cybersecurity. This report (1) describes the extent to which grid distribution systems are at risk from cyberattacks and the scale of potential impacts from such attacks, (2) describes selected state and industry actions to improve distribution systems' cybersecurity and federal efforts to support those actions, and (3) examines the extent to which DOE has addressed risks to distribution systems in its plans for implementing the national cybersecurity strategy. To do so, GAO reviewed relevant federal and industry reports on grid cybersecurity risks and analyzed relevant DOE documents. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizable sample of federal, state, and industry officials with a role in grid distribution systems' cybersecurity.
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  • Natural Disasters: Economic Effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma
    In U.S GAO News
    Between January 1980 and July 2020, the United States experienced 273 climate and weather disasters causing more than $1 billion in damages each, according to NOAA. The total cost of damages from these disasters exceeded $1.79 trillion, with hurricanes and tropical storms accounting for over 50 percent of these damages, according to NOAA. Across the regions affected by these hurricanes over the period from 2005 to 2015, CBO estimated that federal disaster assistance covered, on average, 62 percent of the damage costs. GAO has reported that the rising number of natural disasters and reliance on federal disaster assistance is a key source of federal fiscal exposure. GAO was asked to review the costs of natural disasters and their effects on communities. This report examines (1) estimates of the costs of damages caused by hurricanes and hurricanes' effects on overall economic activity and employment in the areas they affected, and (2) actions subsequently taken in those areas to improve resilience to future natural disasters. GAO conducted case studies of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma, selected for two reasons. First, they were declared a major disaster by the President under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which establishes key programs through which the federal government provides disaster assistance, primarily through FEMA. Second, they had sizable effects on the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia during the period from 2004 through 2018. GAO analyzed federal agency and other data on costs, economic activity, employment, and recovery and mitigation projects in selected areas affected by these hurricanes. GAO also visited selected recovery and mitigation project sites; interviewed experts and federal, state, and local government officials; and reviewed federal, state, and local government reports and academic studies. Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma (selected hurricanes) caused costly damages and challenges for some populations in affected communities. In these communities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated the cost of damages to be approximately $170 billion for Katrina, $74 billion for Sandy, $131 billion for Harvey, and $52 billion for Irma. These estimates include the value of damages to residential, commercial, and government or municipal buildings; material assets within the buildings; business interruption; vehicles and boats; offshore energy platforms; public infrastructure; and agricultural assets. These hurricanes were also costly to the federal government. For example, in 2016, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that federal spending exceeded $110 billion in response to Katrina and $53 billion in response to Sandy. GAO analysis suggests that the selected hurricanes were associated with widely varying effects on overall economic activity and total employment in affected metropolitan areas and counties. Economic activity was lower than expected in the month of the hurricane or some of the three subsequent months in three of the affected metropolitan areas GAO analyzed. Within one year, average economic activity in these three metropolitan areas was similar to or greater than what it had been the year before the hurricane. Total employment was lower than expected in the month of the hurricane or some of the three subsequent months in 80 of the affected counties GAO analyzed. Total employment was higher than pre-hurricane employment on average in 47 of those counties within one year but remained below pre-hurricane employment on average in the other 33 counties for at least one year. Finally, state and local government officials said that the selected hurricanes had significant impacts on communities, local governments, households, and businesses with fewer resources and less expertise, and that challenges faced by households may have impacted local businesses. Communities affected by selected hurricanes have been taking actions to improve resilience, but multiple factors can affect their decisions. Actions taken after selected hurricanes include elevating, acquiring, and rehabilitating homes; flood-proofing public buildings; repairing and upgrading critical infrastructure; constructing flood barriers; and updating building codes. A community’s decision to take resilience actions can depend on the costs and benefits of those actions to the community. Multiple factors affect these costs and benefits, including the likelihood, severity, and location of future disasters, as well as the amount of federal assistance available after a disaster. Finally, vulnerabilities remain in areas affected by selected hurricanes. For example, state and local government officials indicated that many older homes in these areas do not meet current building codes. In reports to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), states indicate they anticipate that the scope of damages via exposure to weather hazards, such as hurricanes, will likely remain high and could expand across regions affected by the selected hurricanes. In addition, some local governments have projected that population will grow in the regions affected by selected hurricanes. For more information, contact Oliver Richard at 202-512-8424 or richardo@gao.gov.
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