Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Prasad Dodangodage of Rupavahini TV

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Colombo, Sri Lanka

QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo, on behalf of national television Rupavahini (inaudible), I would like to thank you for providing this great opportunity for us, and it’s a great pleasure and honor for us to have this very important dialogue with you, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s wonderful to be with you.  It’s been great to be in Colombo.  I’ve had a great visit so far.

QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo, now, your visit in Sri Lanka made headlines in many ways.  First, it’s taking place just before the U.S. presidential elections.  Then there was a statement made by a State Department official on Sri Lanka.  So there are many speculated definitions for this visit.  So what’s your definition for this visit?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ve traveled to this region many times.  It’s an important region for the United States.  We value democratic friendships all across the world.  I had hoped to get here sooner, had it previously scheduled, and had to cancel, but I’m glad that I was able to come here today, and I have not been disappointed.  My meeting with President Rajapaksa, my meeting with the foreign minister were all fantastic.

You can see that there is a shared vision between the people of Sri Lanka and the people of the United States, one that wants free trade and fair trade, one that wants a free and open Indian Ocean and throughout the Indo-Pacific, one that wants to work with democracies to make life better for our families.  Those are the kind of things that the United States loves to show up and work on alongside our good partners, and I’m very confident that today furthered that objective.

QUESTION:  You mentioned about the Trump administration’s policy for free and open Indo-Pacific region with vital economic benefits.  So now, security (inaudible) is also part of it, and so what’s the place of Sri Lanka in this overall policy, and how does it benefit to Sri Lanka?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So Sri Lanka sits astride an important shipping lane, for one.  It also has a great capacity for export of agricultural products, of apparel products.  Sri Lanka will benefit greatly when there’s the capacity to trade, when everyone understands that there ought to be a fair set of rules, that one not ought to accept this predatory debt that puts a real burden on countries.  This runs counter to how the United States thinks about a free and open Indo-Pacific.

So whether I have been traveling in Japan or South Korea – I’ll head on to Indonesia and Maldives from here today – each of those places understands that the best interests of their people are working alongside democratic governments that really want to live their lives in a way that improves the lives of their family.  These are the kind of things that Sri Lanka can work alongside not only India and Japan and South Korea, but the United States as well.  We’ll deliver good outcomes for the people of Sri Lanka.

QUESTION:  Yes.  And MCC and security agreements, another hot topic here.  There were some media reports speculating that your visit is aimed to pressure Sri Lanka in this regard.  Your comments, sir?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  Well, so I’ve actually read the Sri Lankan newspapers this morning.  They mostly got the purpose of the visit wrong.  Look, the MCC is one strand of an offer that we made.  If the Sri Lankan people want that, great.  If they choose to go another path, that’s certainly fine.  There are so many important things that we can work on together to make this partnership important, and for each of our two countries, to be an important part of this region which delivers on these democratic visions that we share so closely.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Now, you had discussions with Sri Lankan leaders, and what are the new options to expand longstanding bilateral relations, especially in this pandemic era which caused heap of economic problems?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  No, it’s very real.  This challenge from this virus that came from Wuhan, China, is impacting everyone all across the world wherever I travel.  No nation has been – escaped this problem set.  There’s certainly the problem set of the health issues, but enormous economic issues here.  Tourism was greatly impacted.  That’s true in many parts of the world.

Our mission set has been very clear with respect to this:  Do our level best to address the virus, make sure we take care, we take good help, find therapeutics, do the right things inside of our own country, help others around the world, and then to just go as fast as we can to get a vaccine.  And we’re getting closer.  I’m confident that we will ultimately get there.  And when we do, we’ll reduce the risk of fatality of this disease, and we can begin the hard work and the important work of getting our economies going again.

You asked originally about the reason for my visit.  We provided about $6 million in COVID assistance to Sri Lanka.  We were happy to do that.  But in the end, the best thing I am confident the United States will do for the people of Sri Lanka is that we will have more American businesses come here.  We’ll provide an export location.  We’re the largest location for Sri Lankan exports.  We’re proud of the fact that we buy goods, so many goods from the people of Sri Lanka making the people of Sri Lanka lives better.

But we’re confident that American investment here can improve lives as well.  When we show up, we hire Sri Lankans, we train Sri Lankans, we build those communities out in a way that’s consistent with good business practices.  This is a model that is a democratic model and one that we share, and not the model that the Chinese Government shows up with.  When they show up with their state-owned enterprises, it looks and feels very different and it comes with a heavy hand and a heavy hook.  That’s, in our judgment, not in the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka, and we’re confident that when Americans show up, good things will flow to the people of Sri Lanka, and we really want to be here.  We want to be a good friend and partner.

Sri Lanka needs to do its part.  It has to be an inviting place for that kind of investment.  This morning was very encouraging.  I know that the president understands this as well.  He wanted us to see if we could show up with help on renewable energy ideas and agriculture, things that will create development for some parts of Sri Lanka that frankly really need that kind of sustainable assistance.

QUESTION:  So finally, very shortly, what’s your message to Sri Lankans?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The message is the United States is another democracy.  We’ve been friends for 72 years now.  I expect we’ll continue to be, and we want to be a good part of making life better for the Sri Lankan people.

QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo, thank you for being with us —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  — and wish you all the best.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you very much, sir.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

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    GAO identified advantages of, challenges related to, and options for improving the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) current organizational structure, based on GAO's review of prior work and interviews with IRS officials and stakeholders. For example, one advantage of the current structure, according to several interviewees, is that IRS's divisions have developed specialized expertise on different types of taxpayers with similar needs, such as small businesses. Several interviewees also believed that addressing some of IRS's challenges may not require significant changes to IRS's organizational structure. GAO and others have identified challenges and options to improve IRS's structure, processes, and operations in the following areas: (1) customer service; (2) communication and coordination within IRS; (3) technology; and (4) strategic human capital management and training. While developing its reorganization plan required by the Taxpayer First Act, IRS addressed or partially addressed all six of the key practices for agency reforms that GAO reviewed (see table below). GAO Assessment of IRS's Reorganization Planning Process against Key Reform Practices Key reform practice Extent addressed Establishing goals and outcomes ◑ Involving employees and key stakeholders ● Using data and evidence ● Addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication ◑ Addressing high-risk areas and long-standing management challenges ◑ Leadership focus and attention ● Legend: ● Generally addressed ◑ Partially addressed ○ Not addressed Source: GAO analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information. | GAO-21-18 IRS established a senior-level team—the Taxpayer First Act Office—to lead the reorganization planning, involved employees and key stakeholders, and used multiple sources of data and evidence to inform its planning. Although IRS has developed preliminary goals for the plan, it has not yet finalized and communicated the goals and performance measures for the plan. IRS has also researched potential actions it could take to address long-standing management challenges at IRS, such as those related to areas of fragmentation, overlap, duplication, and high risk that GAO has identified. However, IRS has not yet decided on specific actions to address those areas in its plan. IRS officials told us that they intend to take these additional steps, but COVID-19 delayed the completion of their reorganization plan to December 2020. As a result, it is still unclear whether the reorganization plan will have outcome-oriented goals and performance measures or whether it will identify specific actions to address long-standing management challenges. Taking these steps could help IRS identify and achieve the intended outcomes of the reorganization plan, and identify reforms that can create long-term gains in efficiency and effectiveness. The Taxpayer First Act required that a comprehensive written plan to redesign IRS be submitted to Congress by September 30, 2020. Reforming and reorganizing a federal agency as large and complex as IRS is not an easy task. However, a potential reorganization could provide IRS with an opportunity to address emerging and long-standing challenges. GAO was asked to review IRS's organizational structure and IRS's plans to reform it. This report examines (1) reported advantages of, challenges related to, and options for potentially improving IRS's organizational structure; and (2) the extent to which IRS's reorganization planning process is consistent with selected leading practices. GAO reviewed documents from IRS and other sources; interviewed IRS officials and stakeholders, including three former IRS commissioners; and assessed IRS's reorganization planning process against selected key practices for agency reform efforts developed by GAO. GAO is making three recommendations to IRS as it finalizes its reorganization plan, including that IRS should finalize goals and performance measures, and identify specific actions to address long-standing management challenges. IRS responded that it plans to implement GAO's recommendations when it submits its final reorganization plan to Congress in December 2020. For more information, contact James R. McTigue, Jr. at (202) 512-9110 or mctiguej@gao.gov.
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  • Canadian National Charged with Alien Smuggling Conspiracy and Attempting to Bring Aliens to the United States
    In Crime News
    Cooperation efforts between United States and Turks and Caicos Islands law enforcement authorities culminated in today’s extradition to the United States of a Canadian national who has been charged with alien smuggling offenses.
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    In Justice News
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    This report details the demographic characteristics of stalking victims and describes the nature of stalking victimization, including the number of offenders, the victim-offender relationship, and the frequency and duration of the stalking.
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  • Vivint Smart Home to Pay $20 Million for Violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act
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    The Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), announced a $20 million settlement resolving alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), including violations of the Red Flags Rule. The settlement includes $15 million in civil penalties, which represents the largest civil penalty ever paid to resolve FCRA violations under the FTC Act.
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    In Crime News
    Insitu Inc., headquartered in Bingen, Washington, has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting materially false cost and pricing data for contracts with the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Department of the Navy (Navy) to supply and operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the Department of Justice announced today.
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  • Medicaid in Times of Crisis
    In U.S GAO News
    This Capsule—named for its 2-page format—draws from a number of GAO reports to provide examples of how the federal government and states have used Medicaid during pandemics, economic recessions, natural disasters, and other crises. In this Capsule, GAO cites policy considerations and reiterates a recommendation to Congress. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Contracting: Actions Needed to Improve Department of Labor’s Enforcement of Service Worker Wage Protections
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Labor (DOL) completed over 5,000 Service Contract Act (SCA) cases, which for many resulted in the awarding of back wages to federally contracted security guards, janitors, and other service workers, in fiscal years 2014 through 2019, according to available data. DOL enforces the SCA, which was enacted to protect workers on certain types of federal service contracts. DOL found SCA violations—primarily of wage and benefit protections—in 68 percent of cases. Employers across a range of service industries agreed to pay around $224 million in back wages (see figure for examples). Sixty cases resulted in debarment—a decision to prevent an employer from being awarded new federal contracts for 3 years. DOL's strategic plan emphasizes optimizing resources for resolving cases using all available enforcement tools. However, DOL does not analyze its use of enforcement tools, such as debarment or employer compliance agreements. Therefore, DOL may lack a complete picture of how it uses resources on different strategies for resolving SCA cases, as well as the effectiveness of these enforcement strategies. Back Wages Paid for SCA Cases in Example Industries, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 Note: Mail haul refers to surface mail transportation by contract carriers. Values are adjusted for inflation and expressed in fiscal year 2019 dollars using the Gross Domestic Product Price Index from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. DOL reported various challenges to enforcing the SCA, including difficulty communicating with contracting agencies. For example, DOL officials told GAO that poor communication with contracting agencies—particularly with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)—can affect and delay cases, though USPS officials told GAO they were unaware of any communication gaps. Without addressing communication issues between USPS and DOL, USPS's implementation and DOL's enforcement of the SCA may be weakened. GAO found that contracting agencies may face SCA implementation challenges, including not having key information about SCA debarments and violations from DOL. When recording SCA debarments, DOL does not always include the unique identifier for an employer so that contracting agencies can accurately identify debarred firms. DOL also does not have a process that consistently or reliably informs contracting agencies about SCA violations by employers. Without improved information sharing by DOL, an agency may award a contract to an employer without being aware of or considering its past SCA violations. The SCA ensures that service workers on certain federal contracts receive pay and benefits that reflect current employment conditions in their locality. From fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the U.S. government obligated over $720 billion on service contracts covered under the SCA. GAO was asked to review SCA implementation and enforcement. This report examines (1) what available data reveal about past SCA cases, (2) what challenges DOL reports facing in enforcing the SCA, and (3) how contracting agencies implement the SCA. GAO analyzed DOL and federal procurement data for fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the most recent years available; reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of contract performance assessments; examined practices at three agencies selected to represent a range of contracting services and agency size; interviewed DOL officials; and reviewed relevant federal laws, policy, and guidance. GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOL analyze its use of enforcement tools; that DOL and USPS implement written protocols to improve communication with each other; and that DOL improve its information sharing with contracting agencies on SCA debarments and investigation outcomes. DOL and USPS generally concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas M. Costa at (202) 512-7215 or costat@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Louisiana Tax Return Preparers
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint seeking to bar Louisiana tax return preparers from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The civil complaint against Leroi Gorman Jackson and Mario Alexander, both individually and doing business as The Taxman Financial Services LLC, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
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  • Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future
    In U.S GAO News
    In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life. Women Age 70 and Over by Marital Status Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence. Older adults represent a growing portion of the U.S. population and older women have a longer life expectancy, on average, than older men. Prior GAO work has found that challenges women face during their working years can affect their lifetime earnings and retirement income. For example, we found women were overrepresented in low wage professions, paid less money than their male counterparts during their careers, and were more likely to leave the workforce to care for family members. Taken together, these trends may have significant effects on women's financial security in retirement. GAO was asked to report on the financial security of older women. This report examines (1) women retirees' perspectives on their financial security, and (2) what is known about the financial security of older women in retirement. GAO held 14 non-generalizable focus groups with older women in both urban and rural areas in each of the four census regions. GAO also analyzed data from three nationally representative surveys—the 2019 Current Population Survey, the Health and Retirement Study (2002-2014 longitudinal data), and the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. For more information, contact Charles Jeszeck at (202) 512-7215 or jeszeckc@gao.gov.
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  • Department of Justice Forecasts an Increase in Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) Protection Activities and Criminal Enforcement Actions
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced the protection activities undertaken by the FBI to counter the threat posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at certain National Special Security Events (NSSEs), Special Events Assessment Rating (SEAR) events, and select mass gatherings throughout the country over the past fiscal year. DOJ and the FBI are publicizing protection activities in an effort to deter careless and criminal UAS operators in light of an anticipated increase in enforcement activity in response to the misuse of UAS.
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