October 18, 2021


News Network

Senior Administration Officials On the Upcoming U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue

24 min read

Office of the Spokesperson

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you all for joining this background briefing with senior administration officials to discuss the upcoming U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue in Mexico City on October 8th. As a reminder, this call is being conducted on background, and the contents are embargoed until the conclusion of the call. For reporting purposes, please refer to our briefers as senior administration officials.

Today, we are joined by , , and . We’ll begin with short remarks from each of our speakers, and then we will open up the queue for a question-and-answer session.

Let’s start with , please.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us today as we preview the upcoming trip to Mexico City for the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue. Tomorrow, Secretary of State Blinken will lead a U.S. delegation to Mexico City to participate in a dialogue with our Mexican counterparts on our shared security interests. Secretary Blinken will be joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland, State Department Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols, and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez.

Before talking about the priorities for this trip, I want to share why we are having these discussions. Mexico is one of the United States’ closest and most important partners. More than just a border, we share deep historical economic and cultural ties. Our relationship spans nearly 200 years. We are fortunate on both sides of the border to enjoy the benefit of this unique relationship. It is incumbent upon us to preserve and expand it.

This High-Level Security Dialogue is an important opportunity for us to expand our bilateral cooperation on security issues of mutual interest. It is a critical element in the ongoing transformation of U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations, which complements the High-Level Economic Dialogue which took place on September 9th; and the ongoing close cooperation on migration, development, climate change, and a range of other issues.

The United States and Mexico recognize the need to adapt our bilateral security cooperation to address the concerns and priorities of both governments. Our security challenges are shared and so is the responsibility for resolving them. We look forward to discussions with our Mexican counterparts during this trip on an updated security framework to meet today’s challenges and ways to reinvigorate security cooperation that will be called the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities.

In addition to the High-Level Security Dialogue, Secretary Blinken will meet with President Lopez Obrador and Secretary Ebrard. We have a dynamic and deep bilateral relationship with Mexico, and we look forward to advancing our collaboration through this trip.

With that, I will turn to and then for their opening remarks. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you, . I second your remarks.

Good afternoon, everyone. I want to speak a little bit more specifically about DHS’s perspective on and role in this engagement. Institutionally, DHS is excited to be joining our interagency partners for this important High-Level Security Dialogue, and Secretary Mayorkas is personally pleased to be participating alongside the Secretary of State and Attorney General. He values his relationship with his Mexican counterparts, and he always looks forward to meeting with them. In fact, this is Secretary Mayorkas’s third trip to Mexico since he became Secretary, an indication of his commitment to those relationships and of the value that he places on our bilateral partnership.

This HLSD is also the first meeting of its kind to occur in a few years. Consistent with what just said, DHS believes this is very important in terms of our broader U.S. Government relationship with Mexico, but also for DHS’s engagement with its counterparts. Secretary Mayorkas has said many times that security is an effort that requires partnership. In the case of Mexico, they are our partners, and we are their partners. We have shared interests and shared destiny.

This new framework then is important for both of our countries. With this framework, we are creating a balanced and sustainable approach to security. This new security framework looks at security through a wide-angle lens and challenges our government to create the conditions for prosperity.

It remains true that we must continue to investigate, arrest, and prosecute criminals, which are key components of this framework. But it is equally true that must secure air, land, sea, and rail ports of entry to prevent the transit of illicit goods. And DHS, and its component agencies, will be working closely with our Mexican counterparts on these and other activities.

We must always keep in mind that while the HLSD focuses on security, the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and DHS’s relationship with its counterparts, is much, much broader than security. Our relationship is multidimensional and encompasses social and economic issues as well.

I now want to turn the time over to for his remarks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you, , and thank you, . Why don’t I take the first part about Merida, and then I’ll let my colleagues jump in after that.

So our High-Level Security Dialogue is modernizing our security framework to make it much more holistic to confront the existing and new challenges, and it’s enhancing our cooperation with Mexico on the priorities that both nations share. After 13 years of the Merida Initiative, we’re really due for an updated look at bilateral security cooperation across the full range of issues and concerns for our governments and our peoples. The Merida Initiative did a lot of things. It helped strengthen the rule of law. It helped train Mexican law enforcement agencies. It helped increase the international accreditation of Mexican law enforcement at the federal and state level. It helped deal with threats from fentanyl and illicit finance.

But that was – even that breadth of activities is much, more narrow than the things we’re looking at in the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities, and expanding to that broader area is what we’re doing now, is building on the work that we have done in the past and bringing it into a modern era to deal with the realities that we face.

MODERATOR: Let’s go over to Lara Jakes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Perhaps – this is , this is from DOJ. Just addressing the question about counternarcotics targets, understandably, of course, we are not in a position to speak to operational priorities, precisely because of operational concerns. But I can say, and say from personal experience, that the United States and Mexico work together every day to disrupt the cartels and transnational criminal organizations that prey on Mexicans and on U.S. citizens, and which are responsible for fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine that pose dangers to both countries and the violence that they bring to both countries, including to the citizens of Mexico.

So together, as the framework makes clear, we will pursue those cartels, including their labs and their production facilities and their supply chains, and seek to inhibit, not only the cross-border movement of drugs north, but of firearms and bulk cash south and to deny revenue to these cartels. But at the same time, as I emphasized in my opening statement, we’re also going to be looking at causes, not just the crime itself, and we’re going to be looking at ways we can increase joint efforts to decrease demand for narcotics and for strategies that can be applied in both countries and to share our experiences in seeking to reduce violent crime.

And I’ll turn it over to or for the remainder. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, this is from DHS. I think migration is a complicated topic and it requires a regional approach to address what is a regional challenge. And so, I think what I can say is that the Department of Homeland Security alongside the Department of State and other agencies continues to engage not only with Mexico but with partners throughout the region to figure out the solutions that are going to be the most effective and can ensure that the human rights and dignity of all individuals are respected.

I don’t think it would be appropriate to get into sort of the specifics of that at this point, but I know that the Secretary is committed to a humane approach to migration management that makes sure that we both respect the rights of those who are migrating but also respect the laws of the countries to which they’re migrating. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Let’s go over to Lara Jakes.

OPERATOR: Ms. Jakes, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. To follow up on that last point, do you expect any deliverables to be announced on migration policy tomorrow, as a result of these talks?

And then I also wanted to ask a question about Venezuela. We’ve seen AMLO kind of warm up to the Venezuelan Government, including having President Maduro in Mexico City last month for the CELAC conference. We’ve seen his administration step back from Juan Guaido. I’m just wondering to what extent this is going to be raised with him or with the foreign secretary tomorrow. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Hi, this is . I’ll just talk about the issue of Venezuela and, more broadly, our commitment to democracy and the welfare of the people of this hemisphere. The situation in Venezuela is one where the Venezuelan people lack basic rights and freedoms. Their rights to choose their own leaders, to set their own future have been systematically denied. And we are committed to promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on a global level. And we discuss those issues with all of our partners around the globe and will continue to do so. Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: This is again. I think to the first question I would say that one of the key components of this security framework is actually to address human smuggling and trafficking, which is a crime that victimizes the most vulnerable, and it’s something that neither government wants to let stand. And so, I think one of the areas on which we intend to collaborate within this broader security framework is to take steps – or additional steps, I guess I should say – to address the criminal activity associated with the movement of individuals.

MODERATOR: Let’s go over to Simon Lewis.

OPERATOR: Mr. Lewis, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks a lot for doing this. Just a couple of follow-ups on the Bicentennial Framework you mentioned. Is this going to include any military assistance like equipment or even training militarily? And does this involve new funding from Congress, and/or does it replace the existing funding? Will it use the existing funding that’s in place for Merida? How’s that going to work in terms of how this is paid for on the U.S. side? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks. This is again. This is a very broad, comprehensive framework for our cooperation. We’re looking at cross-cutting commitments to protect human rights and promote prosperity, to share information, to focus on data and results. We’re protecting our people, we’re preventing transborder crime, we’re pursuing criminal networks, and we are doing it in a way that recognizes our shared goals and the sovereign responsibilities of each nation.

So, the next steps for us will be to develop our action plan to implement the framework, and we hope to have that done by December 1st, and then our three-year bilateral framework and plan by January 30th of 2022 that will flesh out more details. And you’ll be able to see the specific lines of effort in greater detail. I don’t want to talk about resource requests, but we are working across our governments to deliver better security, improved health and safety of our peoples, and you’ll see that coming into clearer focus as we meet those other milestones I talked about.

MODERATOR: Let’s go over to Nick Schifrin, please.

OPERATOR: Mr. Schifrin, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Forgive my asking a question that was asked, but not quite answered, if you don’t mind. Will you discuss how you will comply with the Supreme Court order to reinstate “Remain in Mexico”? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, this is from DHS. The HLSD doesn’t get into the specifics of U.S. court orders, but DHS intends to comply with the court order in good faith, as we said we are going to do. And we continue to have an open and robust dialogue with Mexico on that matter.

MODERATOR: Let’s go over to Nike Ching, please.

OPERATOR: Please, go ahead. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you for this call briefing. On migration, I would like to follow up. What is the U.S. ask from Mexico, as we saw last month large groups of Haitians heading to the U.S.-Mexico border? Is the U.S. providing assistance to Mexico to fly some Haitian migrants back to their country? Also, you just mentioned two dates, an action plan by December 1st and the framework by January 30th of next year. Is there a significance of these two dates? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So – hi, this is again. I didn’t quite understand the last part of the question, but I’ll just note that the United States and Mexico, as well as the Haitian Government, are working to promote safe, humane treatment for irregular migrants, and we’re cooperating to that end. The – and we discussed that at all levels. I’ll defer to my colleague on additional details.

And if I understood correctly, the significance of the dates contained in our framework – so basically, this is – this is a pretty – already a detailed and complex approach to promoting safety and security for our citizens, and we’ll need further time to get deeper into the details and flesh out the action plan. So, we need to give ourselves a little bit of time to do that. But we’ve had intensive talks over quite some time to get to where we are, and we have a shared vision. And we’re going to work very hard to implement that vision as we will build a better future for our peoples.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: This is . I don’t have anything additional to what said.

MODERATOR: Let’s take one final question from Kylie Atwood, please.

OPERATOR: And Kylie Atwood, please, go ahead. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, guys, for doing this call. Can you hear me?


QUESTION: Great. Three questions. I’m wondering if there’s yet any agreement on the visas for DEA agents, and if not, if this will be focused on during discussions tomorrow.

Secondly, I know you said that there is kind of the nuts and bolts of disagreement to be hashed out by December and January, but as of now, how much funding is going to back this new agreement?

And then does the agreement explicitly involve some agreement about controlling the flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexico? Thank you.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Okay. So, with respect to the question of visas, again, we’re not in a position to discuss operational issues of that type. But I can say, again, that we are committed to, and the bilateral framework makes clear that both countries are committed to, close law enforcement cooperation, and cooperation both operationally and all that that entails, and cooperation on thinking through strategies for confronting crime and the causes of crime. So, that will be an important goal of what we’re doing.

As to arms trafficking, again, while not going into operational decisions, the framework will make clear the commitment of both countries, and of course, especially the United States in this regard, to work to deal with the flow of arms into Mexico. That does require a collaborative effort. It requires work together on tracing firearms, on thinking through strategies to go after, that is, to investigate and prosecute traffickers, and to see that they’re held accountable on both sides of the border. And I’m happy to say that that’s work that’s already well underway, and that the framework will allow us to intensify.

And thanks, and I’ll leave the remainder to my colleagues.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, . I’ll just note that I think one of the positive aspects of the approach that we are taking is that we want the needs and the details of our work to drive our cooperation and the numbers in terms of where that resourcing is needed, where that goes.

Often, you’ll see efforts where a number is picked out of the sky, that’s the number, and then you plan against a number. We’re planning against the challenges that we face, what we need to do to accomplish these goals. And as we dig deeper into the details in each of these areas, then we will know what’s required. And cooperatively, with our Mexican colleagues, we will find the resources to meet those goals, rather than just throwing out a number and doing what we can to meet that number.

MODERATOR: That concludes today’s background briefing. Thank you all for joining. The embargo is now lifted and have a great rest of your evening.

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    Modern airplanes are equipped with networks and systems that share data with the pilots, passengers, maintenance crews, other aircraft, and air-traffic controllers in ways that were not previously feasible (see fig. 1). As a result, if avionics systems are not properly protected, they could be at risk of a variety of potential cyberattacks. Vulnerabilities could occur due to (1) not applying modifications (patches) to commercial software, (2) insecure supply chains, (3) malicious software uploads, (4) outdated systems on legacy airplanes, and (5) flight data spoofing. To date, extensive cybersecurity controls have been implemented and there have not been any reports of successful cyberattacks on an airplane's avionics systems. However, the increasing connections between airplanes and other systems, combined with the evolving cyber threat landscape, could lead to increasing risks for future flight safety. Figure 1: Key Systems Connections to Commercial Airplanes The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a process for the certification and oversight of all US commercial airplanes, including the operation of commercial air carriers (see fig. 2). While FAA recognizes avionics cybersecurity as a potential safety issue for modern commercial airplanes, it has not fully implemented key practices that are necessary to carry out a risk-based cybersecurity oversight program. Specifically, FAA has not (1) assessed its oversight program to determine the priority of avionics cybersecurity risks, (2) developed an avionics cybersecurity training program, (3) issued guidance for independent cybersecurity testing, or (4) included periodic testing as part of its monitoring process. Until FAA strengthens its oversight program, based on assessed risks, it may not be able to ensure it is providing sufficient oversight to guard against evolving cybersecurity risks facing avionics systems in commercial airplanes. Figure 2: Federal Aviation Administration's Certification Process for Commercial Transport Airplanes GAO has previously identified key practices for interagency collaboration that can be used to assess interagency coordination. FAA coordinates with other federal agencies, such as the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security (DHS), and with industry to address aviation cybersecurity issues. For example, FAA co-chairs the Aviation Cyber Initiative, a tri-agency forum with DOD and DHS to address cyber risks across the aviation ecosystem. However, FAA's internal coordination activities do not fully reflect GAO's key collaboration practices. FAA has not established a tracking mechanism for monitoring progress on cybersecurity issues that are raised in coordination meetings, and its oversight coordination activities are not supported by dedicated resources within the agency's budget. Until FAA establishes a tracking mechanism for cybersecurity issues, it may be unable to ensure that all issues are appropriately addressed and resolved. Further, until it conducts an avionics cybersecurity risk assessment, it will not be able to effectively prioritize and dedicate resources to ensure that avionics cybersecurity risks are addressed in its oversight program. Avionics systems, which provide weather information, positioning data, and communications, are critical to the safe operation of an airplane. FAA is responsible for overseeing the safety of commercial aviation, including avionics systems. The growing connectivity between airplanes and these systems may present increasing opportunities for cyberattacks on commercial airplanes. GAO was asked to review the FAA's oversight of avionics cybersecurity issues. The objectives of this review were to (1) describe key cybersecurity risks to avionics systems and their potential effects, (2) determine the extent to which FAA oversees the implementation of cybersecurity controls that address identified risks in avionics systems, and (3) assess the extent to which FAA coordinates internally and with other government and industry entities to identify and address cybersecurity risks to avionics systems. To do so, GAO reviewed information on key cybersecurity risks to avionics systems, as reported by major industry representatives as well as key elements of an effective oversight program, and compared FAA's process for overseeing the implementation of cybersecurity controls in avionics systems with these program elements. GAO also reviewed agency documentation and interviewed agency and industry representatives to assess FAA's coordination efforts to address the identified risks. GAO is making six recommendations to FAA to strengthen its avionics cybersecurity oversight program: GAO recommends that FAA conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment of avionics systems cybersecurity within its oversight program to identify the relative priority of avionics cybersecurity risks compared to other safety concerns and develop a plan to address those risks. Based on the assessment of avionics cybersecurity risks, GAO recommends that FAA identify staffing and training needs for agency inspectors specific to avionics cybersecurity, and develop and implement appropriate training to address identified needs. develop and implement guidance for avionics cybersecurity testing of new airplane designs that includes independent testing. review and consider revising its policies and procedures for monitoring the effectiveness of avionics cybersecurity controls in the deployed fleet to include developing procedures for safely conducting independent testing. ensure that avionics cybersecurity issues are appropriately tracked and resolved when coordinating among internal stakeholders. review and consider the extent to which oversight resources should be committed to avionics cybersecurity. FAA concurred with five out of six GAO recommendations. FAA did not concur with the recommendation to consider revising its policies and procedures for periodic independent testing. GAO clarified this recommendation to emphasize that FAA safely conduct such testing as part of its ongoing monitoring of airplane safety. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov, or Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Announces Global Resolution of Criminal and Civil Investigations with Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma and Civil Settlement with Members of the Sackler Family
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice announced a global resolution of its criminal and civil investigations into the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue), and a civil resolution of its civil investigation into individual shareholders from the Sackler family.  The resolutions with Purdue are subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court. 
    [Read More…]
  • Afghanistan Security: U.S. Efforts to Develop Capable Afghan Police Forces Face Challenges and Need a Coordinated, Detailed Plan to Help Ensure Accountability
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2005, the Department of Defense (Defense), with support from the Department of State (State), has directed U.S. efforts to develop the Afghan National Police (ANP) into a force capable of enforcing the rule of law and supporting actions to defeat insurgency, among other activities. This testimony discusses (1) U.S. efforts to develop a capable ANP; (2) challenges that affect the development of a capable ANP; and (3) GAO analysis of U.S. efforts to develop a coordinated, detailed plan for completing and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which comprise the ANP and the Afghan National Army (ANA). This statement is based on a concurrently issued GAO report titled Afghanistan Security: Further Congressional Action May Be Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to Develop and Sustain Capable Afghan National Security Forces, GAO-08-661 (Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2008).Although the ANP has reportedly grown in number since 2005, after an investment of more than $6 billion, no Afghan police unit (0 of 433) is assessed by Defense as fully capable of performing its mission and over three-fourths of units (334 of 433) are assessed at the lowest capability rating. In addition, while the ANP has reportedly grown in number to nearly 80,000 personnel, concerns exist about the reliability of this number. Several challenges impede U.S. efforts to develop capable ANP forces. First, the shortage of police mentors has been a key impediment to U.S. efforts to conduct training and evaluation and verify that police are on duty. Second, the ANP continues to encounter difficulties with equipment shortages and quality. Third, the ANP faces a difficult working environment, including a weak Afghan judicial sector and consistent problems with police pay, corruption, and attacks by insurgents. Defense has recognized challenges to ANP development and, in November 2007, began a new initiative called Focused District Development--an effort to train the police as units--to address them. This effort is too new to fully assess, but the continuing shortfall in police mentors may put the effort at risk. Despite a 2005 GAO recommendation calling for a detailed plan and a 2008 congressional mandate requiring similar information, Defense and State have not developed a coordinated, detailed plan with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, milestones for completing and sustaining the ANSF, and a sustainment strategy. In 2007, Defense produced a 5-page document intended to address GAO's 2005 recommendation. However, the document does not identify the role or involve the participation of State--Defense's partner in training the ANP. Further, State has not completed a plan of its own. In the absence of a coordinated, detailed plan that clearly defines agency roles and responsibilities, a dual chain of command exists between Defense and State that has complicated the efforts of mentors training the police. Defense's 5-page document also contains few milestones, including no interim milestones that would help assess progress made in developing the ANP. Without interim milestones, it is difficult to know if current ANP status represents what the United States intended to achieve by 2008. In addition, Defense's 5-page document lacks a sustainment strategy. Without a detailed strategy for sustaining the ANSF, it is difficult to determine how long the United States may need to continue providing funding and other resources for this important mission.
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  • Equatorial Guinea National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Russian Project Lakhta Member Charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A criminal complaint was filed today charging a Russian national for his alleged role in a conspiracy to use the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to open fraudulent accounts at banking and cryptocurrency exchanges.
    [Read More…]
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