Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Yalda Hakim of “Impact with Yalda Hakim” on BBC World News

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Via Teleconference

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, welcome.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So good to be with you.

QUESTION:   You just joined President Biden at the virtual G7 meeting, and, of course, there’s been the Munich Security Conference.  What is America’s message to friends, allies, and adversaries?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think you heard the President say it:  America’s back.  It’s interesting.  He was – he last spoke at the Munich Security Conference two years ago in 2019 as a professor, and he said America would be back.  And now he’s President and America is back.  But what does that mean?  It means that we’re determined once again to engage in the world, to show up again, because in the absence of American engagement, in the absence of American leadership, then one of two things happens:  either some other country tries to take our place and probably does so in a way that doesn’t advance the common interests and values of the democratic world, or no one does and then you may well have a vacuum and chaos that fills it before anything good does.

But it’s also imperative that American engagement and American leadership be for the purpose of finding new ways to cooperate among countries, because every single one of the major challenges we face, Yalda, the ones that affect the lives of our citizens, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s this pandemic, whether it’s the spread of a dangerous weapon, not a single nation acting alone can deal with them effectively.  We have to find ways to work together.  The G7 today is a very strong manifestation of that – the world’s leading democratic economies coming together to tackle COVID-19, to deal with climate, to deal with other challenges to our democracy.

QUESTION:  Well, top of the agenda at the G7, Secretary, is the global vaccination effort.  President Biden has, of course, pledged $4 billion to COVAX.  But what about allocating actual vaccines as a matter of urgency?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, you’re right, we made a major contribution to COVAX, $4 billion with the initial 2 billion coming very, very quickly.  We’re determined to be a responsible international actor, an international leader on vaccinations.  And I think you’re going to see the G7 and other countries working closely together to make sure that not only are our own populations vaccinated but that the entire world is, because here’s the challenge we face:  Unless and until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.  Because if the virus is out there and continuing to proliferate, it’s also going to be mutating.  And if it’s mutating, it’s going to come back and bite people everywhere.

So we have a strong incentive to try to work together to make sure that vaccines are getting out there as best we can everywhere, and that’s what some of these facilities are designed to do, whether it’s through the COVID program – through COVAX – through the work that we’ll be doing with the G7.

QUESTION:  Well, President Macron has said 5 percent urgently.  Is that something you are going to consider?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think Boris Johnson, who was leading the effort today to bring the G7 together, has said that we’ll look at all of these proposals to see how ultimately we can be effective in making sure that vaccines get out, get out to the world.  We’re focused, of course, on making sure in the United States that folks here are vaccinated.  We’ve made major progress in the last few weeks in doing that, but we still have a long ways to go.

QUESTION:  There is, of course, concern that Russia and China are filling that gap, and some are calling it a war of influence.  Is the COVID vaccination a feature of rivalry with Russia and China?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’re certainly seeing countries engage in so-called vaccine diplomacy.  Look, on one level, the single-most important thing for all of us as human beings is to make sure that vaccines are out there, that they’re safe, that they’re effective, that they’re distributed, and ultimately, shots wind up in arms and people are safe.  And of course, we’re in a bit of a race precisely because of these mutations.  As we see variants develop that may be somewhat more resistant to vaccines or at least vaccines may be less effective, it’s imperative that we get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can so that we cut that off, we stop it.  But for sure, countries are engaging in (inaudible).

QUESTION: I suppose a bit of a race with China as well, given your extreme competition.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, with regard to China, one of the most important things going forward is that we get full transparency, full information sharing, a full understanding of how this virus emerged in the first place for purposes of making sure that we can prevent the next one from hitting us.

We’ve seen the devastating impact that COVID has had.  We don’t need this to be repeated.  And the way we prevent it from being repeated is to make sure we have a better overall global health security system in place to spot pandemics before they fully emerge and to take the necessary steps, and that requires a few things:  It requires countries to be transparent; it requires them to share information; it requires them to give access to international experts at the beginning of an outbreak – things that, unfortunately, we haven’t seen from China.

My hope is going forward that China becomes a full participant in these efforts to make sure that we can prevent the next pandemic even as we’re dealing with the current one.

QUESTION:  The President, as you say, has laid out a pretty forward-approaching message on both Russia and China.  But is the G7 united on this?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, I think – look, I think we – I think we are.  And I think what I heard today in the G7 meeting was a tremendous sense of common purpose, a real sense of unity, and frankly, real pleasure that the United States was back and fully at the table.  And we have a lot of common challenges.  We have challenges internally to our own democracies that we have to contend with, and obviously, the United States is not immune to that.  But we also have challenges coming from outside our democracies that are targeting those democracies, and they’re coming in different ways, from China, from Russia.  And I think what I heard today was a strong desire and strong incentive to work together.

QUESTION:  Last week, the BBC World News was banned in China for our report on the sexual abuse of Uyghur women in the re-education camps.  You said that you plan on holding Beijing accountable for its abuses, but we’ve obviously heard that from other administrations.  What will that actually look like in practice in your State Department?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first with regard to the BBC, we very much condemn the action that China took.  And it is a striking thing to see China have one of the least open information spaces in the world; and yet, of course, it takes advantage of the fact that many of our countries have fully free and open information spaces, and China uses that to spread misinformation and propaganda.  That lack of reciprocity, I think, ultimately is unsustainable, and it requires countries coming together to stand up for a free and open information space.  And we’re looking at ways to do that more effectively.

But at the same time, the bottom line is that the biggest losers in all of this are the Chinese people.  They want free and open sharing of information.  That’s being denied to them by their own government.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you’ve also said that you consider what’s happening to the Uyghurs as genocide.  Some are saying in light of this that there should be a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games.  Is this something that you’re considering?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Across all these issues we will be consulting very closely with our partners, with our fellow democracies, and of course, here at home with our Congress and other interested stakeholders.  We’ll come to that question at the appropriate time, but the main thing is across all of these issues it’s really important that we consult closely and we work closely together with likeminded countries and our partners.

QUESTION:  But the Olympic – the boycott of the Olympics is not off the table?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, that’s something we’ll come to at the right time in the right moment.  But the most important thing as we approach it and as we approach any other issue is that we’re doing it in close consultation with other countries and our partners.

QUESTION:  Let’s discuss Iran, Mr. Secretary.  You’ve been speaking to European foreign ministers on rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.  Can you clarify what has been agreed with your European partners?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think what’s striking about the conversations with our European partners is that we’re once again on the same page; we’re not working at cross-purposes.  And that in and of itself is very important.  We share the same objectives.

President Biden has been clear for some time that if Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, the United States would do the same thing.  But then we would work with our partners both to lengthen and strengthen the agreement and to confront other issues, other challenges posed by Iran, including its destabilizing activities in the region, its ballistic missile program, that need to be addressed.

And what I found from my conversations with the European 3, as they’re called, is that we’re exactly on the same page.  We now have an invitation from the European Union to have an informal meeting of the so-called Joint Commission of the Iran nuclear agreement.  So the United States, the European partners, Russia, China, and Iran have all been invited, and we intend to be there.  That, if it happens, would be the opening steps on a diplomatic path to seeing if we can resolve this issue.  The —

QUESTION:  The New York Times is reporting that you’re taking limited steps to let up pressure on Iran to get them to the table.  How do you respond to criticism that these are upfront concessions?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There are no upfront concessions.  What we have is this:  We have a policy in recent years of so-called maximum pressure on Iran that has not produced results.  In fact, the problem has gotten worse.  Iran is now much closer to being able to produce on short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.  That so-called breakout time had been pushed past one year by the nuclear agreement.  It’s now down, based on published reports, to just a few months.  And meanwhile, Iran has been not standing down but acting up in the region with various destabilizing actions, attacks on our own forces in Iraq and elsewhere, on our partners.

And so the problem has gotten worse, not better.  And President Biden believes strongly that strong, principled diplomacy is the best way to try to deal with these issues, to put the nuclear problem back in the box and to push back on Iran in other areas.

QUESTION:  But I suppose the question is:  Why will Iran agree to more restrictions after you’ve given up your leverage?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, I don’t – we haven’t given up our leverage at all.  As you know, all of the sanctions remain in place.  In fact, our leverage has now increased because we’re now, once again, on the same page with our European partners.  Because they very much disagreed with the United States pulling out of the nuclear agreement, they were expending most of their energy on trying to keep the agreement alive, not in exerting pressure on Iran for some of the other egregious actions that it takes in the region and beyond.  We’re now all in the same place and we’re united in purpose, and that’s a very powerful thing.

QUESTION:  You spoke to President Ghani this week and reiterated America’s commitment to the peace process.  The U.S. Treasury Department said last month that al-Qaida influence is growing in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.  Isn’t this just a clear breach of the Doha agreement?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yalda, we’re in the midst of a very rigorous review of the policy toward Afghanistan, and in particular we needed to review carefully the agreements that had been reached between the United States and the Taliban and then the work that we had done with the Government of Afghanistan.  And all of that work is ongoing, but what we do know already and the initial conclusion we’ve come to is that it’s vitally important for us and others to press the parties to make good on the commitments that they’ve already made.  And when it comes to the Taliban, they’ve made clear commitments to disassociate themselves from al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, not support them in any way, as well as to engage meaningfully —

QUESTION:  And I suppose – but the Treasury’s saying that they continue to allow al-Qaida and protect them to remain in the country.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’re taking a very hard look at that right now, and as I’ve said, I think the most effective thing and necessary thing that we can do now along with partners in the region, including neighbors, is to press the parties, starting with the Taliban, to make good on commitments that they’ve made, including the commitments they’ve made under the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, we know that the world is a complex place, but often it’s a simple phrase that sums up a strategy, so whether that’s containment, the war on terror, or “America First.”  So I suppose my question is:  What is your foreign policy bumper sticker?  What are the words we should think of when it comes to American foreign policy under President Biden?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I don’t think there’s a simple bumper sticker.  To some extent, Yalda, the problems are too complex to be summarized or simplified in a slogan.  Having said that, look, I think the President believes in a few very fundamental principles.  And maybe you can’t confine them to a bumper sticker, but it is American engagement and American leadership, it is cooperation, and it is democracy at the foundation of our own country and the partnerships that we have around the world.  And when you put those things together – American engagement and leadership, trying to build stronger cooperation to tackle the issues that actually affect our people’s lives, and working closely with fellow democracies – I think you have the makings of an effective foreign policy.

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, I’m told I have to let you go, but I’m just going to squeeze in one question about Myanmar before I do that.  The administration has called on the military in Myanmar to immediately restore power to the democratically elected government.  The administration has also imposed sanctions, but the generals just don’t seem to be listening.  Has American influence in Myanmar waned to the point where no matter what you say or do, it’s unlikely to make a difference?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What we saw in Myanmar was a tragic step back to what had been a historic democratic transition, and of course that was a transition that brought its own challenges, including the egregious treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar.  But the democratic transition itself was a very positive development in the world, and that’s been interrupted by the military coup.  That coup triggered sanctions from the United States, very targeted and focused on the perpetrators of the coup and companies that support them.  We’ve been working overtime to work with other countries to condemn the actions of the military, to call on it to restore power to the democratically elected government, to release political prisoners from jail, and certainly not to use violence against those standing up for their democratic rights.

And we’ll see where that goes, but pressure takes time to be felt, to be exerted, and my hope is that as more and more countries come together in making clear that this is not acceptable, we will see a change from the military.  But the hard reality is that democratic transition has been interrupted against the will of the people of Myanmar, and the international community needs to speak clearly with one voice that that’s not acceptable.

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great to be with you.  Thanks, Yalda.


Editors’ Note:  After the interview concluded, Secretary Blinken was asked to provide a comment on Princess Latifa and the Dubai royal family.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We take these reports very seriously.  We will closely monitor the situation and I have to tell you that across the board, with adversaries, competitors, but also with partners and allies alike, we take human rights very, very seriously.  The President has put it back at the heart of our foreign policy, and I think countries can expect us to follow through on that.

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    The federal government has long identified the financial services sector as a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. The sector includes commercial banks, securities brokers and dealers, and providers of the key financial systems and services that support these functions. Altogether, the sector holds about $108 trillion in assets and faces a variety of cybersecurity-related risks. Key risks include (1) an increase in access to financial data through information technology service providers and supply chain partners; (2) a growth in sophistication of malware—software meant to do harm—and (3) an increase in interconnectivity via networks, the cloud, and mobile applications. Cyberattacks that exploit risks can occur against either public or private components of the sector. For example, in February 2016, hackers were able to install malware on the Bangladesh Central Bank's system through a service provider, which then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money to accounts in other Asian countries. This attack resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million. Several industry groups and firms are taking steps to enhance the security and resilience of the U.S. financial services sector through a broad range of cyber risk mitigation efforts. These efforts include coordinating within the sector through groups such as the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and the Financial Systemic Analysis and Resilience Center, conducting industrywide incident response exercises, sharing threat and vulnerability information, developing and providing guidance in conducting risk assessments, and offering cybersecurity-related training. The Departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury and federal financial regulators are also taking multiple steps to support cybersecurity and resilience through risk mitigation efforts. Among other things, federal agencies provide cybersecurity expertise and conduct simulation exercises related to cyber incident response and recovery. Treasury, as the designated lead agency for the financial sector, plays a key role in supporting many of the efforts to enhance the sector's cybersecurity and resiliency. For example, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions serves as the chair of the committee of government agencies with sector responsibilities, and Treasury coordinates federal agency efforts to improve the sector's cybersecurity and related communications. However, Treasury does not track efforts or prioritize them according to goals established by the sector for enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency. Treasury also has not fully implemented GAO's previous recommendation to establish metrics related to the value and results of the sector's risk mitigation efforts. Further, the 2016 sector-specific plan, which is intended to direct sector activities, does not identify ways to measure sector progress and is out of date. Among other things, the sector-specific plan lacks information on sector-related requirements laid out in the 2019 National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan . Unless more widespread and detailed tracking and prioritization of efforts occurs according to the goals laid out in the sector-specific plan, the sector could be insufficiently prepared to deal with cyber-related risks, such as those caused by increased access to data by third parties. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to protect the nation's critical infrastructures. The financial services sector's reliance on information technology makes it a leading target for cyber-based attacks. Recent high-profile breaches at commercial entities have heightened concerns that data are not being adequately protected. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to (1) describe the key cyber-related risks facing the financial sector; (2) describe steps the financial services industry is taking to share information on and address risks to its sector; and (3) assess steps federal agencies are taking to enhance the security and resilience of the sector. GAO analyzed relevant reports and information to determine risks and mitigation efforts and compared agency efforts against federal policies and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials at 16 private sector entities, two self-regulatory organizations, and eight federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. GAO is making recommendations to Treasury to track and prioritize the sector's cyber risk mitigation efforts, and to update the sector's plan with metrics for measuring progress and information on how sector efforts will meet sector goals and requirements, including those contained within the National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan. Treasury generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov or Michael Clements at (202) 512-7763 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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    The rapid spread and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of having quality data, analyses, and models describing the potential trajectory of COVID-19 to help understand the effects of the disease in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is using multiple surveillance systems to collect data on COVID-19 in the U.S. in collaboration with state, local, and academic and other partners. The data from these surveillance systems can be useful for understanding the disease, but decision makers and analysts must understand their limitations in order to interpret them properly. For example, surveillance data on the number of reported COVID-19 cases are incomplete for a number of reasons, and they are an undercount the true number of cases, according to CDC and others. There are multiple approaches to analyzing COVID-19 data that yield different insights. For example, some approaches can help compare the effects of the disease across population groups. Additional analytical approaches can help to address incomplete and inconsistent reporting of COVID-19 deaths as well. For example, analysts can examine the number of deaths beyond what would normally be expected in the absence of the pandemic. Examining higher-than-expected deaths from all causes helps to address limitations in the reporting of COVID-19 deaths because the number of total deaths is likely more accurate than the numbers of deaths from specific causes. The figure below shows actual deaths from the weeks ending January 1 through June 27, 2020, based on data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, compared with the expected deaths based on prior years’ data. Deaths that exceeded this threshold starting in late March are considered excess deaths that may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher-Than-Expected Weekly Mortality for 2020, as of July 14, 2020 Analysts have used several forecasting models to predict the spread of COVID-19, and understanding these models requires understanding their purpose and limitations. For example, some models attempt to predict the effects of various interventions, whereas other models attempt to forecast the number of cases based on current data. At the beginning of an outbreak, such predictions are less likely to be accurate, but accuracy can improve as the disease becomes better understood. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant loss of life and profoundly disrupted the U.S. economy and society, and the Congress has taken action to support a multifaceted federal response on an unprecedented scale. It is important for decision makers to understand the limitations of COVID-19 data, and the uses and limitations of various methods of analyzing and interpreting those data. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes a provision for GAO to, in general, conduct monitoring and oversight of the authorities and funding provided to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of the pandemic on the health, economy, and public and private institutions of the U.S. This technology assessment examines (1) collection methods and limitations of COVID-19 surveillance data reported by CDC, (2) approaches for analyzing COVID-19 data, and (3) uses and limitations of forecast modeling for understanding of COVID-19. In conducting this assessment, GAO obtained publicly available information from CDC and state health departments, among other sources, and reviewed relevant peer reviewed and preprint (non-peer-reviewed) literature, as well as published technical data on specific models. For more information, contact Timothy M. Persons, PhD at (202) 512-6888 or PersonsT@gao.gov, SaraAnn Moessbauer at (202) 512-4943, or MoessbauerS@gao.gov, or Mary Denigan-Macauley, PhD at (202) 512-7114 or DeniganMacauleyM@gao.gov.
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    The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has taken steps towards implementing an authority provided by the 21st Century Cures Act to accelerate the development of medical countermeasures. Medical countermeasures are drugs, vaccines, and devices to diagnose, treat, prevent, or mitigate potential health effects of exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. However, as of June 2020, HHS had not selected a medical countermeasures innovation partner—an independent, nonprofit entity that the 21st Century Cures Act authorizes HHS to partner with to use venture capital practices and methods to invest in companies developing medical countermeasures. Towards implementing the authority, HHS has developed a vision for the innovation partner, staffed a division to manage HHS's medical innovation partnership and determined an initial amount of funding needed, solicited and considered feedback from venture capital and other stakeholders, and developed preliminary plans for structuring and overseeing the partnership. HHS officials explained this type of partnership approach was new to the agency and required due diligence to develop. According to agency officials, the innovation partner will allow HHS to invest in potentially transformative medical countermeasures that have the potential to benefit the government. For example, the innovation partner could invest in innovative wearable technologies to help early detection of viral infections. HHS officials told GAO that the partner, which is required by law to be a nonprofit entity, will be required to reinvest BARDA's revenues generated from government investments into further investments made through the partnership. BARDA's ultimate goal will be to use these revenues to fund new investments. According to a review of stakeholder comments submitted to HHS, potential venture capital partners identified concerns regarding aspects of the agency's plans for the innovation partner, which the stakeholders indicated could hinder HHS's implementation of the authority. For example, there is a statutory limit to the annual salary that can be paid to an individual from HHS's annual appropriation, which some stakeholders indicated was too low to attract an entity to manage the innovation partner funds. HHS officials told GAO they are assessing options to mitigate some of these concerns, but that plans will not be final until they select the partner. GAO provided a draft of this correspondence to HHS and the Department of Defense for review and comment. HHS did not provide comments on this report and DOD provided technical comments that we incorporated as appropriate. The COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies caused by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents or emerging infectious diseases raise concern about the nation's vulnerability to, and capacity to prevent or mitigate, potential health effects from exposure to such threats. The 21st Century Cures Act authorized HHS to partner with a private, nonprofit entity that can use venture capital practices and methods to invest in companies developing promising, innovative, medical countermeasures. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review activities conducted under the innovation partner authority. This report describes the status of HHS's implementation of the authority. GAO reviewed relevant statutes and HHS documentation regarding its plans and actions taken to implement the authority, reviewed responses HHS received to the two requests for information it used to collect information from venture capital and other stakeholders, interviewed HHS officials, and interviewed officials from the Department of Defense, which has partnered with a private, nonprofit entity to make investments using venture capital practices. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or DeniganMacauleyM@gao.gov.
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  • Aircraft Noise: Better Information Sharing Could Improve Responses to Washington, D.C. Area Helicopter Noise Concerns
    In U.S GAO News
    According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA's ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA's and operators' approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents' inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA's approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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