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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Announcing New Hiring Commitments for Veterans and Military Spouses | The White House

Announcing New Hiring Commitments for Veterans and Military Spouses | The White House

CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS SAYS OPTIONS PROVIDED TO PRESEIDENT REGARDING SYRIA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Dempsey: Military Provides Options to President on Syria
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2013 - The U.S. military stands ready to do whatever it is ordered to in Syria by civilian leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor news roundtable that nothing he has heard out of Syria in the past week changes the mission for U.S. military leaders.

"We've been planning, we're talking about the options, and we're looking to determine if these options are still valid or if anything has changed," Dempsey said. "That doesn't mean that anything we've heard over the past week wouldn't change the policy calculus."

Militarily, the U.S. task is to continue to engage partners in the region and "to continue to define options so that if we are asked to implement any, we will be ready," the nation's top military officer said.

Evidence indicates that the Syrian regime has used sarin, a deadly nerve agent, White House officials said last week. President Barack Obama said that use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer."

"The reason for that is that we have established international law and international norms that say when you use these kinds of weapons, you have the potential of killing massive numbers of people in the most inhumane way possible," the president said during a White House news conference this morning. "The proliferation risks are so significant that we don't want that genie out of the box."

But while physiological evidence indicates that chemical weapons were used in the country, that evidence is not concrete, the president said. "We don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them," Obama said. "We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened.

"And when I am making decisions about America's national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I have got to make sure I've got the facts," he continued.

One option advanced by advocates of action in Syria is establishing a no-fly zone over at least part of the country. The persistent argument is that NATO flights over Libya were decisive in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

But Syria is far different from Libya, Dempsey said. It has five times the air defense capability Libya had, with most of it concentrated in the western third of the country. Dempsey called the Syrian air defense "high-end."

"I'm not saying we couldn't beat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer and require greater resources," he said.

Without going into specifics, Dempsey spoke about setting up a no-fly zone. "Any military operation tends to be a little more complicated," he said. "They tend to be more risky."

To an extent, the chairman said, the American military may be a victim of its own success. U.S. air power set up and maintained a no-fly zone over northern and southern Iraq for a decade. NATO maintained a no-fly zone over parts of Serbia and Kosovo in the 1990s, and NATO and coalition nations enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. "They made the very difficult look very manageable for a long time," Dempsey said.

A no-fly zone has to have several elements to succeed, the chairman said. "Although stealth technology exists, to have a no-fly zone, you can't just simply penetrate," he said. "You have to control, which means at some level you have to degrade the integrated air defense system."

Secondly, he said, any time the United States puts an aircraft over a dangerous area, there has to be a way to retrieve the pilot or crew in case they are shot down or forced down in hostile territory. "There has to be a search-and-rescue or a personnel recovery plan," the chairman said.

Another factor, Dempsey told the reporters, is what might happen outside a no-fly zone.

"I have to assume that the potential adversary is not going to just sit back and let us impose our will," he said. "They could in fact, take exception to the fact that we are imposing a no-fly zone, and outside their borders launch long-range rockets and missiles and asymmetric threats. So regionally in the area that bounds the no-fly zone, you'd better have your readiness condition up."

Contracts for April 30, 2013

Contracts for April 30, 2013

U.S. OFFICIAL'S REMARKS AT COMMUNITY OF DEMOCRACIES MINISTERIAL

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Remarks at the Community of Democracies Ministerial
Remarks
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
April 29, 2013

Good Morning. President Elbegdorj, Foreign Minister Bold -- thank you for hosting this ministerial and for your superb leadership of the Community of Democracies. I also want to thank the Community of Democracies’ first Secretary General Ambassador Maria Leissner and her team for their excellent work to advance the principles on which this organization is founded.

I’d first like to read a message from President Obama to this important gathering of the Community of Democracies, and then add a few brief comments:

I want to thank President Elbegdorj and people of Mongolia for your committed leadership of the Community of Democracies. Along with everyone gathered in Ulaanbaatar, you have helped transform the Community from a forum where democracies get together into a platform for democracies to get things done.

In our interconnected world, new technologies and tools for activism are remaking the relationship between citizens and governments. That’s why it’s so important to build the infrastructure, like the Community of Democracies and the Asia Democracy Network, to support collaboration between democracies and civil society. And it’s why we need leaders in every sector, but especially diplomats, to help us expand that cooperation. The Community of Democracies is already providing a platform for exchanging ideas with some of the world’s newest democracies. Through working groups, task forces in Moldova and Tunisia, and the LEND Network, you’re strengthening the next generation of democratic leaders, empowering women, and standing up for civil society. This is the sturdy foundation on which we need to build together.

Our nations go forward together, knowing that the work of building democracy isn’t easy. The gains can at times be incremental, and the job is never truly finished. It falls to every generation to build on the work of our predecessors and to leave our children societies that are more just and equitable, where their rights and dignity are respected. As you continue this noble work, you will have a friend and partner in the United States.

It is an honor for me to be here in Ulaanbaatar, a very fitting setting for a very significant meeting to promote our shared interest in vibrant democracies and civil societies. The preamble to the Mongolian constitution affirms the Mongolian people’s aspiration to develop "a humane, civil, [and] democratic society." This is a worthy and universal aspiration.

The calls for dignity, freedom, and democracy we have heard from Tunis to Sana’a are no different from those we heard two decades ago in Warsaw or Ulaanbaatar. This ministerial is a testament to how far democracy and the Community have come in so many different parts of the world.

Look at Asia. A region long claimed by some to be ill suited for democracy, Asia today is home to India and Indonesia, the first and third-largest democracies in the world, and to democratic success stories stretching from Timor Leste to the Republic of Korea.

And right now, we are witnessing encouraging signs of a democratic opening in Burma. After decades under one of the continent’s most repressive regimes, Burma has undertaken promising new reforms that have resulted in the release of political prisoners, the registration of opposition political parties, and elections that sent one of democracy’s genuine heroes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to parliament and to the Community of Democracies Ministerial today.

At our last ministerial, the Community heard your call to support democracy in Burma. Today, we are honored by your presence, and we reaffirm our support for democratic reform in your country.

There are no regions, and no regimes, exempted from the obligation to be accountable to their citizens and respect their rights. The promise of stability, when based on the denial of human dignity and universal rights, is a false promise. When governments clamp down on political expression, violate human rights, and fail to provide economic opportunity, they sow the seeds of their own downfall.

That is one of the reasons why advancing democracy is not only the right thing to do – it is also the smart thing to do. Democracies make for stronger and more stable economic, political, and security partners. And, as President Obama emphasized, the world needs the Community of Democracies to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are working on behalf of more transparent, accountable and responsive governments.

To do this effectively, the Community of Democracies needs to become better at learning, networking, and taking concrete action.

First, we know that the world’s most oppressive regimes are effective at sharing best practices in repression – from the use of regulation to suffocate civil society, to censorship of online expression. Democracies need to innovate and learn more quickly from one another and share best practices for advancing open and representative government – not just with each other but with societies in transition and under repression. The Community of Democracies is the obvious platform for gathering and transmitting these lessons.

Second, we need to build new networks among our democracies to advance this goal. The information revolution provides new tools to connect citizens with each other and their governments. We need to harness the potential of this phenomenon to cultivate new ideas and new solutions.

Finally, the Community of Democracies needs to continue its transformation into a body of action.

In the two years since our last ministerial meeting in Lithuania, we have made significant progress on all three counts. We have enacted far-reaching reforms and remade our institutional architecture and governance. We have established a Governing Council that is truly democratic, enabling the organization to make tough decisions, including the suspension of countries where democracy has seriously faltered. We have launched a series of initiatives -- including the LEND Network – to provide on-demand democracy support to countries in transition. And we organized working groups to tackle critical issues such as combating threats to civil society, empowering women, and supporting democracy education.

We need to sustain this momentum. Our citizens and circumstances demand that we do more and go farther. Let us come together to meet this challenge and in so doing continue to offer people around the world the opportunity to one day see their nations join the community of democracies.

Thank you.

U.S. OFFICIAL'S REMARKS AT THE INSTANBUL PROCESS MINISTERIAL

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
The Istanbul Process Ministerial: Results and Prospects for the Future
Remarks
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Almaty, Kazakhstan
April 26, 2013

Assistant Secretary Blake:
Ambassador [Orzayev] is a hard person to follow, but I’ll do my best.

First of all I want to thank the Rector of Nazarbayev Kazakh National University for hosting us today and putting on this wonderful conference. I want to thank my friend, the dynamic Martha Olcott who does in fact know me quite well. And of course I want to thank Ambassador [Orzayev] and my good friend Director General Waissi, we’ve worked very closely together for many years, for being with us today.

I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to the viewers in Washington as well as to the viewers in India. I think this is probably the first time in Central Asia that I’ve ever participated in a trilateral video conference like this. I think it’s a wonderful innovation. It also is a great manifestation of the spirit of today’s conference, trying to bring all of these countries together. So again, I really congratulate on you that.

I also want to congratulate Kazakhstan and Afghanistan for the whole idea of bringing in scholars, bringing in the business community into this conference which I think is a very very important part going forward there. Their advice can really help inform the way forward.

Ambassador [Orzayev] has already done a great job of laying out all the basic accomplishments of what’s gone on today and I do first want to congratulate Kazakhstan for the terrific job that Kazakhstan did in organizing and hosting this and working very closely with the government of Afghanistan. These are incredibly difficult things to put on and it was really conducted flawlessly, not only logistically, but also in terms of getting real concrete action plans out on the table and now approved, and of course now the hard part comes to actually implement these.

I won’t go through what Ambassador [Orzayev] has already said. Let me just try to give some more concrete examples of some of the work that is being done. And given our audience today is mostly in Kazakhstan and India, let me focus mainly on them and maybe talk a little bit about Turkmenistan as well.

First of all with respect to Kazakhstan, obviously in addition to hosting this conference, Kazakhstan has been a wonderful supporter of international efforts in Afghanistan. It was the host along with Pakistan of the disaster management confidence building measure. It has been very active in promoting business to business cooperation between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. It is one of the few countries in this region that has contributed to the sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces. And it has also been funding infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. And perhaps most importantly it has extended its $50 million program to educate Afghan students here in Kazakhstan. So a bravo to Kazakhstan for all of its terrific work.

Likewise India I think has played a really instrumental role. They chaired the very important working group and confidence building measure on commercial and business to business relations and all of you know they’ve been very active for a very long time in this area. India already accounts for roughly one-quarter of Afghanistan’s exports and India-Afghanistan trade is probably going to double to about $1 billion by 2013, despite the fact that there’s not yet direct transit trade between India and Afghanistan. So I think that’s quite an important milestone that’s been achieved already, and much more to come.

India has also chaired several investment conferences before the Tokyo conference, and the India-led SAIL consortium is now leading this very important effort to begin to extract high quality iron ore in the Hajigak mine in central Afghanistan. Again, one of the very first but very very important projects to go forward not only to help develop the minerals of Afghanistan but also to help develop the infrastructure that will be needed to get those minerals to market.

Lastly, I just wanted to talk a little bit about Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has chaired the very important infrastructure confidence building measure and of course infrastructure is one of the key things that needs to happen to help provide the basis for more private sector led growth in Afghanistan and in the region. And so they have been very very active. Many of you know that they have just announced, Turkmenistan has just announced that they are going to help construct a railway line that will go from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Tajikistan. That will supplement a separate line that Kazakhstan is about to inaugurate going from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan. So very soon you will have a very long and integrated network in that part of the country.

I’d like to just give a couple of examples about why it’s so important to make some concrete progress on some of the transit and other issues that we’ve been talking about and give some examples of how the benefits of regional trade can really be fully implemented.

One is the cross-border transport agreement that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan are working on under the auspices of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program of the Asian Development Bank. This is going to help facilitate the transport of goods and people through that region, and again, I want to commend the governments for that.

A second obvious one that is very very important is the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement which again has led to quite a substantial increase already in trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I think there is more to go and there is now the intent to extend that to Central Asia as well, which again would be a very welcome and important initiative.

Likewise, there’s the Black Sea Corridor Initiative which is running from Afghanistan across Turkmenistan and over the Caspian to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Turkey I should say has been a really important leader in this whole process. They started the Istanbul Process with Afghanistan. They remain a very active and helpful driver of this whole initiative to encourage regional integration.

I mentioned very briefly the CAREC program that’s led by the Asian Development Bank. They have a goal now of mobilizing $20 billion in financing to develop these six transport corridors that will go across Central Asia. They have been real leaders in developing all of the infrastructure and helping to develop Central Asia in particular.

I mentioned Turkmenistan. I know their signature project is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome there, but already the four countries of the region have taken very very important steps, for example on the gas sales purchase agreement, and now a lot of important work is already underway. So they’ve made more progress in a year than in the last 20 years. I think that’s quite notable.

There’s still so much more that can be done. Pakistan, for example, has a 30 percent electricity deficit; Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have significant potential to export surplus [summer] power. That’s the underlying rationale behind the CASA 1000 Project.

India has huge energy needs. Gas, electricity, and that of course is the driving force behind the TAPI Pipeline.

I don’t want to go on for too long because there’s a lot that everybody wants to talk about, but the bottom line I’d like to say is, I think what’s happened today shows that there is now not only regional buy-in into the concept of regional integration but there is also now concrete progress being made in many many different spheres that show that these countries are putting their own resources into this effort and really believe it. I really want to commend them again, and particularly Kazakhstan and Afghanistan for really driving this progress and process.

Again, thank you so much for the opportunity to participate, and of course I’ll be glad to answer any questions later.

Moderator: I’d like to make two comments, then I will introduce my colleague in DC, and then I will stand on the side so I can do questions from here and questions from DC.

I was privileged to be able to sit in on the ministerial conference today and I really thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan for granting Carnegie that privilege, which it really was.

I think the two things I came away from were first, there was a strong message in virtually all of the speeches that it’s a regional effort. Recovery of Afghanistan is a regional effort and without the region itself beginning to cooperate or coordinate better there won’t be the kind of growth in the region as a whole. So Afghanistan can’t recover without the region; the region can’t recover without Afghanistan; and the region can’t thrive unless it finds a way to work together through these kinds of measures.

The second thing that I heard that I thought was really important was the interconnectedness of all these various confidence building measures, that they don’t stand alone, that it’s an integrated approach to enhanced regional cooperation, and as several speakers have mentioned, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railroad project, which is a signature project, but even before this project comes, as it enters the planning stage, is going to lead to new electric lines across Afghanistan and new gas lines across Afghanistan and that’s really critical. So the whole idea is that you don’t wait for a vision to be completely developed to go forward with it, but it’s integrated steps being taken at the same time, which I see as something that really shows maturity on the part of the international organizations and all the ministries in the region, that there’s a realization that there has to be coordination and simultaneous movement forward which I thought was really critical.

Question: Dick Miles, former Ambassador in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and Chargé in Turkmenistan.

I was interested in Assistant Secretary Blake’s comment about the Black Sea Corridor Initiative. Actually it’s the first I’ve heard of that. I wonder if he would speak a little bit more about it.

If I heard correctly, you said the cost for all of this, I can imagine what’s in it, but you said the cost would be something like $20 billion, which is a large amount of money. Is this an air/sea/land initiative? Or what exactly does it involve?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Sorry, I think that got conflated. The Black Sea Corridor is not $20 billion. The $20 billion is what CAREC, the ADB’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program has mobilized for six different transport corridors. The Black Sea Corridor is different. In fact I should say there are actually several Black Sea initiatives. There are efforts to work out of the Port of Turkmenbashi, to work out of the Port of Aktau in Kazakhstan, and leverage a lot of the rail lines that are being developed in Azerbaijan, in Kars, in Tbilisi, Baku, those kinds of lines that are now being developed.

That would be one of the very important trade routes that will go effectively all the way from China through Kazakhstan, down through Aktau or through Turkmenistan and then across the Black Sea.

So there will be, again, a very important opportunity to move trade to Turkey and not have to go around by sea and therefore cut substantially the shipping times, and of course cut the costs.

Question: [Inaudible], ATLC Energy here in Washington, DC.

I was wondering if you could address the issue of Uzbekistan’s role. Because you touched on Uzbekistan and the relationship between Uzbekistan and [Afghanistan].

Assistant Secretary Blake: Uzbekistan played a very helpful bilateral role with Afghanistan in working to develop the rail line that’s gone from Haratan to Mazar-e-Sharif. They’ve also been very active in developing the electricity lines that now go all the way to Kabul. A lot of Uzbek energy is now lighting Kabul. And I think that Uzbeks are quite interested in working in other ways to support further these developments.

Uzbekistan traditionally has not been as willing to work multilaterally and regionally. We certainly hope that Uzbekistan will do that. Obviously they’re centrally located. They have borders with every single other Central Asian country, and it would be of enormous benefit to further integrate let’s say the electricity transmission lines, the rail lines and so forth. But I can tell you either from our own experience working on the Northern Distribution Network, there’s already quite a lot of important lines going in various directions. So it is a matter of building on those and again working with our friends in Uzbekistan to help them understand the huge benefits that they will derive from regional integration.

Question: I do have a question to Ambassador Blake, which is you mentioned [inaudible] the pipeline project, TAPI, that has been available the past 20 years. Can you elaborate a bit on the fact? The fact that if it was so, this is the [inaudible] of major [inaudible] as well as political achievements.

Assistant Secretary Blake: I think one of the main changes, of course, has been the huge growth in the Indian economy. So that now India has giant demands for energy that need to be met from all different sources. That was one of the reasons that animated the U.S. civil nuclear deal. But there are still enormous unmet energy needs. So TAPI is a very important opportunity that India has strongly supported.

Again, Indian economic growth really began to sort of shift into high gear in the early 2000’s, about ten years ago when the reforms that were initiated by then Finance Minister Singh really took hold and propelled growth of about eight or nine percent a year. That in turn has propelled energy demands and I think has given a lot of impetus to programs like the TAPI Pipeline.

But I should also say that as India has grown economically, it has widened its strategic horizons and its weight in diplomatic circles has increased dramatically so that they’re able now to leverage that, to take projects, difficult projects like this and help them move forward.

Question: [Inaudible] Kazakhstan and my question is to Assistant Secretary Blake.

How the U.S. government can make human rights and regional stability, and what is your government commitment to support democracy and human rights in the region in the post-Afghanistan era? And what is the most remarkable [inaudible] on USAID [inaudible] is the right thing to do in this situation? Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Blake: I gave a talk in Uzbekistan two days ago and I got that exact same question so that’s obviously on people’s minds.

I’d like to just say that I think human rights promotion is going to continue to be one of the most important priorities for the United States going forward. It already is a very very high priority. And the point we always make to governments in the region is having open, responsive, democratic and accountable governments, is going to make for more stable and prosperous societies, and we really believe that based on experience around the world. So we have a lot of diplomatic effort that goes into this, but we also have programming and we particularly think it’s important to support civil society. Civil society is facing very restricted and constrained space in Central Asia. It’s very very important to support civil society now.

With respect to assistance, I actually would tell you that your facts are not entirely accurate. Our programs in Central Asia continue to be very very well funded. As you know, the overall budget in the United States and the State Department budget has gone down for FY14, our fiscal year ’14 request by about six percent. For South and Central Asia it’s only down about three percent. So we’re actually, others are going to have to take a greater cut than ours because everybody understands the importance of Central Asia.

Question: [inaudible]

Assistant Secretary Blake: First of all I want to say thank you for reading my transcripts of what I say in other countries. I’ve very impressed. [Laughter].

In terms of relations between non-state actors, first of all this conference itself, what we’re doing today, right now, is a very good example of what we need to do much more of. A lot of what comes now or up to the last several years mostly was, you’re right, state to state kinds of engagement. What we’re really trying to do through the Istanbul Process is to expand the scope of engagement to include not only governments but the business sector, civil society of all kinds, critically important is our business community because business and their economic interests are really going to drive a lot of the progress in this region. We see that in projects like TAPI, like CASA 1000, where it’s economic interests that are going to help to drive integration. That’s certainly happening now.

I think we need to do better in incorporating the business community into a lot of what we’re doing. I had a meeting in Uzbekistan two days ago where it was quite interesting, we had members of the business community, members of the multilateral development banks, and government altogether. That’s the kind of model we want.

Moderator: I want to thank everybody in Washington and everybody here. I think we’ve had a very successful effort and I wish the Istanbul Process and every forum generated by it lots of success as we go forward. Thank you all.


DOD OFFICIAL DISCUSSES TRANSITION ASSISTANT FOR THOSE LEAVING MILITARY SERVICE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Official Discusses Transition Assistance Program at House Hearing
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 26, 2013 - The Defense Department, in concert with the military services and interagency partners are successfully implementing the department's revamped Transition Assistance Program, a senior DOD official told a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee here April 24.

Dr. Susan S. Kelly, principal director of DOD's Transition to Veterans Program Office, testified before the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel on the status of the requirements of the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act and the recommendations of the Presidential Veteran Employment Initiative Task Force for the redesigned TAP.

"[DOD] and its partners have fundamentally redesigned TAP, making the needs of today's service members and their families a top priority," Kelly said, adding that the redesigned program encompasses the requirements of the VOW Act, in addition to recommendations from the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force.

DOD, the military services and interagency partners are "successfully implementing" the revamped TAP, Kelly said.

The new TAP, now in its second phase of use, is known as the DOD Transition Assistance Program: Goals, Plans and Success, or TAP GPS.

TAP GPS is the cornerstone of DOD's transition efforts and a collaborative partnership among the Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor and Education departments, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Personnel management, Kelly noted.

The redesigned TAP "is the primary platform used to deliver an array of services and benefits information to separating service members," she said. "Our overall goal at DOD is to ensure that those who are leaving the service are prepared for their next step, whether that step is pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector, or starting their own business."

The core of the redesigned TAP establishes the new career readiness standards, extends the transition preparation through the entire span of service members' careers, and provides counseling to develop their individual transition plan, she said.

Now on course toward putting into place the Military Life Cycle Transition model by the end of fiscal year 2014, Kelly explained that the objective of the model is for "transition to become a well-planned, organized, progression, and [to] empower service members to make informed career decisions and take responsibility for advancing their personal goals."

Monday, April 29, 2013

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY CONGRATULATES MARSHALL ISLANDERS ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM: U.S DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Marshall Islands National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 29, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am pleased to send warmest congratulations to the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the anniversary of your nation’s independence on May 1.

The citizens of our countries enjoy a friendship based on shared history, traditions, and commitments, and we are grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of your citizens as members of the United States Armed Forces. The Marshall Islands has also been a significant partner in support of international security and peace.

We are working, including through our Compact of Free Association, to strengthen maritime security, combat climate change, respond to disasters, foster economic development, and cooperate on other issues of mutual interest. I send my best wishes to you for continued peace and prosperity in the coming year

First Lady Speaks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing | The White House

First Lady Speaks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing | The White House

Dust Plume over the Sahara

Dust Plume over the Sahara

Contracts for April 29, 2013

Contracts for April 29, 2013

U.S. OFFICIAL SPEAKS AT U.S. EMBASSY IN TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Remarks at U.S. Embassy Tashkent
Press Availability
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
April 25, 2013


Assistant Secretary Blake: Good morning, everybody. I’m very pleased to be back here in Tashkent and to see a lot of familiar faces. I’d like to begin by thanking our hosts in Uzbekistan for their customary gracious hospitality over the last few days.


I was very pleased to have the opportunity yesterday to meet with His Excellency President Karimov as well as with Deputy Prime Minister Azimov and Foreign Minister Kamilov. As always we had good discussions that covered the full range of issues on our bilateral agenda. We also had an opportunity to meet with representatives of civil society as well as with representatives of the business community and multilateral development banks to discuss business opportunities here in Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, and with Afghanistan.

We continue to seek ways to broaden and deepen our relations with Uzbekistan and I had the opportunity to tell our friends in the Uzbek government that our relations are much more than about the good progress that we have on Afghanistan, and that Uzbekistan will remain a priority well after 2014.

As all of you know after my stop in Tashkent I will be returning to Kazakhstan to join the U.S. delegation to the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process Ministerial in Almaty where I’ll be joining our Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

I’d like to just take the opportunity to thank Ambassador Krol and his great team for the great job they’re doing here to represent the United States here in Uzbekistan.

Again, thank you so much for coming and I’d be glad to take some questions.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. She used to be a former journalist with the [inaudible] Television Company. We think that everything starts from the head of the fish and also wise people say that if the king is fair then everyone in the country would be fair. But vice versa, then the people will be the same too.

The thing is, me with my colleague were against bad censorship and corruption in the television and we happened to be in the street now, and after two years I wanted to get my labor book about my registration and it happened that they fired me not in 2010 but in 2011, one year later.

My question is, I was covering your visit in 2009 when you were in Uzbekistan and you had press conference in Intercontinental Hotel and it’s four years. What is your opinion about the situation in Uzbekistan, and does the government of the United States provide some kind of proposals for the government of Uzbekistan? And perhaps we should start kind of advocacy company so that like mass media as BBC and Voice of Freedom should come back to Uzbekistan. Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you very much for that question.

Let me just say as a general rule that human rights and promotion of democracy are very very important parts of our dialogue with the government of Uzbekistan and of course our support for civil society. You have all heard me say that the United States is concerned about the shrinking space for civil society and for journalists all over Central Asia. I think you’ve seen our recent Human Rights Report about the situation here in Uzbekistan. That lays out in very clear terms our position. And we continue to have a very open and respectful dialogue with the government of Uzbekistan about this.

We also had a visit by our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Mr. Mike Hammer, and he really focused on this very important issue of press freedom which is an integral part of the opening of society that needs to take place, not only herein Uzbekistan but in other parts of Central Asia. Thank you.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. [Inaudible], Agency France Press.

I’d like to learn, recently we had the recent visit of Mr. Hammer in Uzbekistan. He participated in different conferences. And the relations between Uzbekistan and U.S. are getting better, but as we see, just like we had in Soviet Union, we still have this fear that if someone is close to the United States and people say about this now, so apparently the regime will change or the leadership will change. So in this regard, what do you think? To what extent the relations with Uzbekistan are reliable and to what extent Uzbek government is trusting about the intentions of the U.S. in Central Asia?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Obviously I’ll let the Uzbek government speak for itself about whether they trust the United States. But from our perspective I’d like to just say what Secretary Kerry told Foreign Minister Kamilov when the Foreign Minister visited Washington earlier this year, which is that our relations with Uzbekistan are far more than about our cooperation on Afghanistan. And I think it was notable that in their meeting, most of the meeting was focused on how to expand our cooperation, particularly in the economic sphere, but also in other areas such as science and technology, in energy cooperation, possibly climate change. And obviously Afghanistan will continue to be an important part of what we discuss, but the overall message was that Uzbekistan will continue to be important to the United States after the transition in Afghanistan and we will continue to attach a high priority to developing further these relations after 2014.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. [Inaudible] Radio, and I work in the radio. My question is the following.

Yesterday you had a meeting with the President and you talked about the, have you talked about the specific issues of registering political parties?

Assistant Secretary Blake: In our talks with the Foreign Ministry and with the government of Uzbekistan we talk about all of these issues. I don’t want to get into the specific details of our diplomatic conversations, but we talk about the full range of human rights issues from some of the political issues that you just mentioned, the problems that civil society is facing, as well as important issues like trafficking in persons which are of great importance to the United States.

So again, we talk about these in a very open and frank but also respectful way. We obviously have a goal of making progress. In some cases we see some progress. We were very happy to see that Mr. Mamadali Makhmudov was recently released. We welcome that. Obviously there are many more people that remain in prison including journalists. We would like to see those people released as well. Again, we talk about those on a regular basis with our friends in the government.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. I have the following question. You talked about the permanent talks with the government about the human rights issues and the status as well as journalists. And as I know, you have the application about two journalists which are now in prison. Did you specifically talk about those two journalists?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t want to get into the specific details of our diplomatic discussions. But again, I just want to say that our talks do cover the full range of issues. We do raise specific cases, but again, I don’t want to talk about that publicly because it’s much better for these to be discussed in a private way so that there’s not the appearance of sort of undue pressure on the part of the United States. We want to see progress on all of these issues, and again, we talk about them in a very detailed and respectful way, to try to see progress on these issues.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. My question is the following. I’d like to learn if you, what would be the relations with the U.S. without the fact of a withdrawal in 2014? What do you think? Would the United States insist more on changing our development of the progress in human rights without the withdrawal in 2014 through Uzbek territory? Is it clear?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Will the transition affect our dialogue on human rights?

Voice: Also if there wasn’t the U.S. interest in the security and use of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan would there be more of a focus on human rights?

Assistant Secretary Blake: No, I don’t think there would be more of a focus after the withdrawal. I think there’s already quite a significant focus on human rights. Again, that will continue.

Again, these are things where we always try to understand first of all the position of all of the governments of Central Asia, but we also try to place human rights in the context of why it’s in their own interest to allow more open societies, to allow more representative government, to allow, for example, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly. And that all of these will help to create more open, more stable, more representative and more prosperous societies.

So we spend a great deal of time talking about that and again, trying to first of all understand why these things happened but also then to explain why we think it’s in their own interest for progress to be made on all of these fronts.

Again, those kinds of things are really irrespective of what’s going on in Afghanistan. So again, I expect that even after the withdrawal of our troops that we will continue to have exactly this kind of dialogue. Not only with Uzbekistan but with countries across Central Asia and the wider region.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Vasily Marco, Independent information Service of Uzbekistan.

Recently we had received a message that Great Britain had agreed with Tajikistan about the withdrawal of their troops from the territory of Tajikistan, not Uzbekistan. To what extent the U.S. government is considering this option, or you have already developed this option?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t want to get too much into the details of what specific agreements we have with each of these countries for obvious security reasons, that we do not want to have potential extremists or terrorists attack whatever might be going on. But let me just say that we do have good cooperation with Tajikistan on a wide range of fronts, but that the bulk of our transit of supplies going into Afghanistan and perhaps now increasingly leaving Afghanistan will be transiting through Uzbekistan for the simple reason that Uzbekistan has the only rail line going into Afghanistan.

So again I want to take the opportunity to express our thanks to the government of Uzbekistan for all of their assistance in facilitating the shipments and I think that there’s been very good progress on that. We are confident that that progress will continue.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. The world is guided and ruled by interests and as Churchill said, in the last century, then the state doesn’t have friends, the state has interests. And from this point of view every country is cooperating with another country and this is not a question, this is kind of a gratitude and kind of a commend that the United States based on its own interests at the same time assists the development, not development, but to ensure the freedom of press, to ensure the human rights in Uzbekistan. But I know that it’s not easy and I hope that even if we don’t work freely, I hope that our children will be able to work and live in the true democratic Uzbekistan. Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Mr. Blake said that he will not talk about details, but let’s try to clarify. Do you have any information, so we talked about Britain and we know that Germans also want to leave something in Uzbekistan. What about U.S.? Are you planning to leave some kind of defense items in Uzbekistan after the withdrawal? Assets?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I think this question refers to the question of excess defense articles from Afghanistan. Let me respond to that by saying that the process for determining what defense articles in Afghanistan may be available is really just beginning now as units start to transition out. Some of those defense articles will be transferred to the Afghan National Forces themselves to help sustain their efforts, but some of them also will be made available to partners around the region including Uzbekistan. So we have begun a conversation with Uzbekistan and with other countries about what their needs are and what their requirements are. There will now be a process to try to match those with what might be available and then at some point later the actual transfers will take place.

But again, I want to stress we’re really just at the beginning of this process now.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. We’d like to thank you for this rare opportunity to meet with you. Thank you for this excellent opportunity. We know that it’s a very rare case. Thank you for your availability to listen to us, our questions. And once again we’d like to learn of you since you came back to Uzbekistan in certain time and you talked to our leadership, what do you think? Do we have any changes to the better side or to the worse side? What are your personal conclusions after this visit?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Well again, I think our views are very clearly laid out in our Human Rights Report so I think I’d refer you to that because that can give you a very comprehensive sense of U.S. government views. I don’t really have much to add beyond that, and again, I’d just refer you to that and to say again, this is an important part of our dialogue with the government of Uzbekistan and will continue to be so.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Can we have a group picture with you after the press conference?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Sure.

Let me just say that it’s a pleasure to see many of you again. If any of you are ever in Washington of course I’d be glad to see you. And again, thank you for coming out today, and of course I’d be glad to have a picture.

DEFENSE INVESTMENTS AND INNOVATION, INDUSTRY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Science, Technology Investments to Focus on Innovation, Industry

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., April 24, 2013 - To meet the Defense Department's 21st century security objectives, its science and technology funding will focus on innovation and industry, the acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering said here today.

In remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association's 14th annual science and engineering technology conference, Alan Shaffer said mitigation, affordability and surprise technology lay the foundation for the DOD's science and technology commitments.

Shaffer noted a rise in the commons known as technology enablers that include space, cyberspace and the oceans. "These are the places that no one owns and yet enable all our operational systems," he said.

In electronic warfare, Shaffer explained, the United States has enjoyed pre-eminent electronic detection systems with its allies, but now must maintain balance in the electromagnetic spectrum for its systems to operate.

"Increasingly, a space communications layer is vulnerable to being jammed," he said. "Space is contested. Space is no longer assured -- nobody owns cyber, but it certainly will [affect] how we're thinking about the world."

In cyberspace, research and resilience of data are key, Shaffer said. "We need robustness and ... the ability to operate through any type of cyberattack," he added.

And considering cyberspace as a science is critical, he said.

"I can go out and measure warheads," Shaffer said. "How do you measure cyber as to whether or not you're improving?" DOD also must continue countering weapons of mass destruction through sensors, network analytics, data integration and predictive tools, he told the audience.

Developing new tools and more prototyping within DOD and throughout industry are important to affordability, Shaffer said.

"Right now, it [takes] roughly 20 years to field a new weapon system," he noted. "The requirement cycle cannot envision where you're going to be in that period of time." The services are using a program called Engineered Resilient Systems, which develops predictive tools to execute an open system design and perform thousands of system trades with larger, more complex systems within a computer, Shaffer said.

Typically, he explained, technology investment involves money and a lot of time in early basic research before encountering a concept, then learning about a capability that grows rapidly before flattening out.

"I don't want to continue to have to invest in older, mature technologies where we flattened out some," Shaffer said. "I want to create surprise for other folks. That means the DOD must continue to invest in a lot of concepts in basic research, look for the maturation, and then put some big bets behind things to hit the high part of the growth curve."

DOD science and technology also will encompass human systems, he said, from realistic and immersive training to better man-machine interface.

Analysts will further research how humans can better interface with platforms, and how DOD can reduce time for a human to better operate a system, he added.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS SAYS U.S. WILL REMAIN WORLD POWER DESPITE BUDGET

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Dempsey: U.S. Will Remain World Power Despite Budget 'Mess'
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan, April 25, 2013 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't mince words when he spoke about the Defense Department's fiscal challenges during a town hall gathering here today.

"OK, the budget," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said. "It's a mess. It's just a real mess."

Dempsey landed in Japan today on the last leg of a weeklong trip that also has taken him to South Korea and China. He spoke to an audience of several hundred, mostly airmen, minutes after landing.

This year's budget is particularly difficult because we're trying to absorb all these changes in the last six months of the fiscal year," the chairman said.

"And we are generally about 80 percent spent with 50 percent of the year left," he added. "So we have 20 percent of what we thought we'd have, to stretch ourselves out to the end of the [fiscal] year."

Dempsey said the military will get through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, by stretching its readiness as far as possible and being "extraordinarily careful about how we spend our money." The services have reduced maintenance, flying hours and steaming hours, he noted.

"So we're going to have to play some catch-up in [fiscal year 2014]," he said. "We're working to really get our legs under ourselves in [fiscal 2015] and beyond."

Aspects of the funding squeeze "just are heart-wrenching," Dempsey said. He told civilian employees in the audience that he is "personally embarrassed" about "this issue of furlough [that] hangs over you." Current Defense Department plans call for cutting 14 days from civilian employees' work schedules and paychecks between June and the end of September. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has told the chairman and the service chiefs to "get that number [of furlough days] down as low as you can," Dempsey said.

"And we will," he added, noting that the challenge in doing so is getting to the end of the fiscal year with a force that is still ready. The answer, he said, is that money has to come out of modernization, maintenance, training and compensation.

During his 39 years of service, the chairman said, this is the third time he's seen serious defense budget crunches.

"It's a pain in the neck. ... The budget's coming back to something like a historic norm -- it's just coming down faster than it really should," he said.

In response to a question about changes to the military retirement system, Dempsey said any changes will be "grandfathered" to exclude those currently serving. Service members have a right to expect that the promises made to them when they joined up will be kept, he said, adding, "I haven't heard anyone waffle about that."

Any changes to retirement will be subject to a committee or a commission's study, he said, and will not happen quickly.

"I do think we need to change," the chairman said. He explained that while only 17 percent of those who serve eventually retire, the Defense Department is required to set aside retirement funds for 100 percent of the force.

"That accrual fund tends to suck money off the budget every year," he noted. While the retirement system may in the future change in a number of ways, he said, veterans associations work diligently to protect health care, compensation and retirement.

"That is their charter," he said, "and unless we can convince them we're actually making it better for you, we tend to be at odds with each other. ... We've got to find a system that will be acceptable -- not only to those now serving, but to those who will serve, and that we can reconcile with the veterans support organizations."

Manpower costs at their current level will overwhelm modernization and training, Dempsey said.

"I don't want to be the chairman known for having taken a machete to your paycheck," he said. "That's not the reputation I want to have. ... But I don't want you being the most well compensated military on the planet that doesn't train."

Dempsey also responded to a question about whether the United States can remain a global power in light of its fiscal difficulties.

Given America's role in maintaining open markets and access to resources, as well as assuring freedom of navigation in the sea and air domains, he said, "we can't afford not to be the stabilizing influence that we are."

"Although some are hoping that this budget challenge rocks us back a bit," he added, "I think ... they still want us to provide a stabilizing platform."

The U.S. military won't withdraw to "Fortress America," Dempsey said, and the Defense Department has pared back its forward presence in places such as Japan, the Korean Peninsula and Europe "about as far as we can."

Rotational deployments and other measures can help the nation's military "accomplish almost the same thing, but with smaller force structures," he said.

"We're going to have to think about how to remain a global power with fewer resources, and also managing it inside of an [operational tempo] that is acceptable to you. ... I'm actually quite confident we'll be able to figure that out," he said.

Dempsey told the troops to remember one thing: "We are going to do less with less, but not less well. That's the commitment. ... You're still going to be the best-trained, best-equipped, best-led force on the planet."

Dempsey's visit to Japan will continue in the coming days, and is scheduled to include senior-level meetings and other engagements.

U.S.-ASTRAILIA SIGN AGREEMENT TO SHARE INFORMATION ON MAN-MADE SPACE OBJECT LOCATIONS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

U.S.-Australia Agreement Promotes Space Situational Awareness


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service


OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., April 24, 2013 - A new agreement made between the United States and Australia represents the first in what U.S. Strategic Command's commander hopes will be many that promote transparency in the space domain.

Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler signed the agreement on behalf of the United States, short-cutting the process for the Australian government to request data through Stratcom's Space Situational Awareness Sharing Agreement Program.

The agreement represents another step in the November 2010 pact between the two countries to cooperate on space situational awareness activities.

It streamlines the process for the Australians to make specific requests about space data gathered by Stratcom's Joint Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. This information, which includes locations of some 23,000 man-made objects in space, is critical in planning launches into the increasingly crowded space domain.

"Many nations share the space domain, and it is in our best interest to create an environment where the sharing of [space situational awareness] data facilitates transparency and improves flight safety," Kehler said.

The new U.S.-Australian agreement paves the way for similar ones between the United States and its closest allies and partners, and is modeled on commercial agreements Stratcom has forged with commercial companies over the past three years.

Space situational awareness exchanges will assist partners with activities such as launch support, maneuver planning, support for on-orbit anomaly resolution, electromagnetic interference reporting and investigation, support for launch anomalies and de-commissioning activities, and on-orbit conjunction assessments, officials noted.

President Barack Obama's National Space Policy and the National Security Space Strategy promoted this concept in 2010 and 2011, respectively, noted Air Force Col. Lina Cashin, Stratcom's division chief for space, cyber and deterrence policy and security cooperation.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

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President Obama Speaks at the Planned Parenthood Gala | The White House

President Obama Speaks at the Planned Parenthood Gala | The White House

EPA OFFICIALS TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE REGARDING 2014 BUDGET

FROM:  U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Testimony Before the Senate Appropriations Committee

WASHINGTON
-- As prepared for delivery.

Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Murkowski , and members of the Committee, thank you once again for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. I'm joined by the Agency's Acting Chief Financial Officer, Maryann Froehlich.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget demonstrates that we can make critical investments to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and grow the economy while continuing to cut the deficit in a balanced way. The Budget also incorporates the President’s compromise offer to House Speaker Boehner to achieve another $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction in a balance way. By including this compromise proposal in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices. EPA's budget request of $8.153 billion for the 2014 fiscal year starting October 1, 2013 reflects our ongoing efforts to change the way EPA does business –to invest in more efficient ways for the Agency to operate, to further reduce costs wherever possible all while we preserve and enhance our ability to carry out the Agency’s core mission to protect human health and the environment.

The President’s budget reinforces our firm commitment to keeping American communities clean and healthy, while also taking into consideration the difficult fiscal situation and the declining resources of state, local and tribal programs.

EPA’s requested budget will allow us to continue making progress toward cleaner air, addressing climate change, protecting the nation’s waters, supporting sustainable water infrastructure and protecting lands and assuring the safety of chemicals.

It is the product of long discussions and difficult choices. In the end, we believe this budget will enable us to work toward the Agency’s goals as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Let me run through a few highlights from the President’s FY 2014 budget request.

Despite the fiscal challenges we face, supporting our state and tribal partners, the primary implementers of environmental programs, remains a priority of the EPA. Funding for states and tribes through the State and Tribal Assistance Grants – or STAG – account is once again the largest percentage of the EPA's budget request – at nearly 40 percent in FY 2014. The FY 2014 budget includes a total of $1.14 billion in categorical grants.

We have requested a $60 million investment in an agency-wide initiative to develop new tools and expand systems designed to reduce the regulatory reporting burden on regulated entities, and provide EPA, states, and the public with easier access to environmental data for compliance monitoring and other purposes. This new initiative is fully paid for, so does not add a single dime to the deficit.

This project – what we call "E-Enterprise" – would enable businesses to conduct environmental business transactions with regulators electronically through a single interactive portal, similar to online banking. The paperwork and regulatory reporting burden would be reduced thanks to more efficient collection, reporting, and use of data, in addition to regulatory revisions to eliminate redundant or obsolete information requests. The initiative will encourage greater transparency and compliance.

The result will be widespread savings – for industry and for the states and tribes. For example, E-Enterprise builds on efforts such as the e-manifest system which is projected to reduce reporting costs for regulated businesses by up to a range of $77 - $126 million annually, because it replaces the millions of paper manifests for hazardous waste shipments with a modern tracking and reporting system.

The FY 2014 request also includes $176.5 million to support the agency’s work with partners and stakeholders to address greenhouse gas emissions and its impacts. These funds will help reduce emissions – both domestically and internationally – through careful, cost-effective rulemaking and voluntary programs that focus on the largest entities and encourage businesses and consumers to limit unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of this funding will support existing, successful approaches like ENERGY STAR, the Global Methane Initiative, the GHG Reporting Rule, and state and local technical assistance and partnership programs, such as SmartWay. $20 million will go towards research, so we can better understand the impacts of climate change on human health and vulnerable ecosystems. Our requested budget contains $175 million to support our Clean Air Act-mandated work to develop, implement and review air quality standards and guidance. This funding will also allow EPA to enhance our support to our state, local and Tribal partners to implement the programs.

Nutrient pollution is one of the nation’s most widespread and challenging environmental problems. To assist in tackling this challenge, EPA is requesting an increase of $15 million in Clean Water Act Section 106 Water Pollution Control grant funding to support states, interstate agencies and tribes that commit to strengthening their nutrient management efforts.

Ensuring that federal dollars provided through the State Revolving Funds support effective and efficient system-wide planning remains a priority for EPA. The FY 2014 budget request includes $1.1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $817 million for the Drinking WaterSRF. This money will also assist EPA efforts to expand and institutionalize the use of up-front planning that considers a full range of infrastructure alternatives like "green" infrastructure, so that the right investments are made at the right time, and at the lowest life-cycle cost. This budget request will allow the SRFs to finance approximately $6 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects annually.

In FY 2014, the agency is requesting over $1.34 billion for its land cleanup programs to continue to apply the most effective approaches to preserve and restore our country’s land. This money will go towards developing and implementing prevention programs, improving response capabilities, and maximizing the effectiveness of response and cleanup actions. The agency is also renewing its request to reinstate the Superfund tax in order to provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue for the Superfund Trust Fund and to restore the historic nexus that parties who benefit from the manufacture or sale of substances that commonly contaminate hazardous waste sites should bear the cost of cleanup when viable potentially responsible parties cannot be identified.

Ensuring the safety of new or existing chemicals in commerce to protect the American people is another top priority. Chemicals are used in the production of everything from our homes and cars to the cell phones we carry and the food we eat. The $686.2 million requested in FY 2014 will allow EPA to continue managing the potential risks of new chemicals entering commerce, without impacting progress in assessing and ensuring the safety of existing chemicals. These resources encompass all efforts across the agency associated specifically with ensuring chemical safety and pollution prevention, including research and enforcement.

EPA’s research budget provides $554 million to support critical research in key areas, ranging from chemical safety to water sustainability to climate and energy to human health. This research will help advance the Administration’s commitment to healthy communities and a clean energy future.

Finally, let me discuss some steps we are taking to ensure taxpayer dollars are going as far as they possibly can.

The budget includes $54 million in savings by eliminating several EPA programs that have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts. Adding to these savings and demonstrating a willingness to make tough choices, more than 20 EPA programs, are being reduced by 10 percent or more in FY 2014.

EPA has also been laying the groundwork to ensure the best use of human resources, which will continue in FY 2014. We will continue to analyze our workforce needs to achieve the Agency’s mission effectively and efficiently. This is reflected in our FTE request for FY 2014, which is our lowest in 20 years.

We also continue to look for opportunities to consolidate physical space and reduce operating costs at our facilities nationwide. On-going improvements in operating efficiency, combined with the use of advanced technologies and energy sources, have reduced energy utilization and saved nearly $6 million annually.

In FY 2014, we are requesting $17 million in the Building &Facilities appropriation to accelerate space consolidation efforts, which will result in long-term savings in rent and operating costs. By consolidating space, we have, since 2006 released approximately 417 thousand square feet of space at headquarters and facilities nationwide, resulting in a cumulative annual rent avoidance of over $14.2 million.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. While my testimony reflects only some of the highlights of EPA's budget request, I look forward answering your questions.


CONFERENCE STATEMENT REGARDING TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Statement at the 2015 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Remarks
Thomas M. Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Second Session of the Preparatory Committee
Geneva, Switzerland
April 22, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I congratulate you on your selection to chair this second Preparatory Committee meeting. I assure you of our Delegation’s readiness to work with you and other delegations to build on the encouraging results of the 2010 Review Conference and to advance preparations for 2015.

I would like to begin my remarks by reading a message from Secretary of State John Kerry to the 2013 NPT Preparatory Committee:

Begin Message

On behalf of the United States, please accept my hopes for and personal commitment to a successful and productive meeting of the preparatory committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

This summer, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the signing of the NPT. Although conceived in a different era when the hands of the Doomsday Clock pointed precariously towards disaster, the treaty’s goal of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons remains no less relevant today. This is why, in 2009, President Obama re-affirmed our nation’s support for the treaty and called on all countries to join us in working to secure the peace and security of a world free of the threat of nuclear catastrophe.

The President’s agenda is rooted in the interest almost all of us share in preserving the treaty as a basis for global cooperation. We will continue to do our part by taking action to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, their roles, and the likelihood of their use. At the same time, we will work to strengthen international safeguards and encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy by states that meet their obligations. In response to those who abuse the treaty, we will continue to insist that violations be confronted with the urgency they require. A treaty that is universally followed will best advance international security and nuclear energy’s contribution to peace, health, and prosperity.

I wish this conference well and offer my hope for a productive discussion that builds on the consensus action plan approved by the 2010 NPT Review Conference and that puts us on a path to success in 2015.

End Message

Mr. Chairman, we share the view of many here that agreement on the 2010 Action Plan was an important achievement. It was not only the first of its kind in the NPT’s history, but it reset the NPT and each of its three pillars at the center of efforts to build a safer world: one in which the barriers to nuclear proliferation remain high; violators are held accountable; and progress to reduce nuclear weapons, contain risks of nuclear terrorism, and expand peaceful uses of nuclear energy is not only possible but underway. This is the direction we seek. It is one that we believe all NPT parties should support and which will keep us on course toward our ultimate goal of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Some may argue that the Action Plan is not perfect. We agree; it does not reflect every U.S. priority and others view it similarly from their perspective. Imperfection is to be expected given the complexities of a multilateral negotiation among the Treaty’s diverse membership. But even an imperfect document is still valuable. And in this instance, the NPT membership should take pride in having adopted a forward-looking set of principles and commitments that so clearly reinforce the NPT and its underlying purposes.

Progress on the Action Plan should naturally be the subject of review by NPT parties. We encourage such a review, and a dialogue that is balanced, addressing all action items and each of the Treaty’s three pillars; substantive; candid; and pursued with the aim of preserving collective support for the Treaty as an instrument of security.

Disarmament

The United States acknowledges its special responsibility to work toward nuclear disarmament and to help create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. President Obama has made clear our unequivocal support for this goal. It will not be achieved overnight or absent further improvements in the international security environment. But as our President has said, we must continue this journey with concrete steps.

Mr. Chairman, the United States is making good on that pledge. We are reducing the role and numbers of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. We have committed not to develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions for nuclear weapons. We are implementing the New START Treaty with Russia that will reduce deployed nuclear warheads to levels not seen since the 1950s – more than a decade before the NPT entered into force. President Obama has committed the United States to pursue still deeper cuts. And let me be clear: We share concerns about the profound and serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and have articulated our deep and abiding interest in extending forever the 68-year record of non-use. And we will continue our diligent work with our P5 partners to meet our commitments under the Action Plan.

Nonproliferation

Let me state clearly that disarmament is not an obligation limited to the five nuclear-weapon states. It will require action by all NPT Parties, who collectively share a responsibility to support the nonproliferation regime and ensure its rules are robust and fully respected.

The Action Plan makes clear the importance of resolving all cases of noncompliance with IAEA safeguards. The United States regards noncompliance by Iran and Syria as the most serious threat to the integrity and relevance of the nonproliferation regime. NPT Parties must stand shoulder-to-shoulder in demanding these governments return to full compliance with the NPT, consistent with their international obligations. We will comment later in the Conference on North Korea’s dangerous challenge to regional peace. States must be held accountable for their violations of the Treaty or for abusing the withdrawal provision. This should be of concern to all NPT Parties.

Looking forward, we must ensure the IAEA continues to have the resources and authorities it needs to verify peaceful nuclear uses in conformity with Article III of the Treaty. A system of IAEA safeguards that enjoys broad political support and is technically sound benefits the security of all NPT Parties. It demonstrates to everyone the commitment not to pursue nuclear weapons and makes peaceful nuclear cooperation possible. So we will continue working with Parties to gain acceptance of the Additional Protocol, along with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, as the standard for NPT verification and encourage further IAEA work to strengthen safeguards implementation so that the international community can be assured that a state’s nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

The United States also wishes to highlight the indispensable role of nuclear security and prevention of nuclear terrorism in advancing our nonproliferation goals. We have made great strides to address this threat through the Nuclear Security Summit process launched by President Obama in 2010 and look forward to expanding our partnerships, accelerating cooperation, and establishing durable institutions to carry on this vital work. The IAEA’s International Conference on Nuclear Security this July will be an important gathering to advance this urgent priority.

Peaceful Uses

Mr. Chairman, when nuclear security and nonproliferation are reinforced, we are in a stronger position to promote the safe and responsible use of nuclear energy. We recognize the right of NPT Parties to access peaceful nuclear energy consistent with the Treaty’s nonproliferation provisions. There is no more generous partner than the United States in technical cooperation. We contribute more than any single state to IAEA promotional programs that benefit the Treaty’s non-nuclear weapon states, and pledged to provide $50 million over five years to a new IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI). More than 120 IAEA Member States have benefited from PUI assistance.

Nations will make their own choices about nuclear energy. But international cooperation can offer new and beneficial opportunities that empower those choices and ensure the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy. President Obama has called for new frameworks for civil nuclear cooperation, and my government supports the establishment of an IAEA fuel bank and related measures to assure nuclear fuel supply and that contributes to the Treaty’s nonproliferation goals.

Conclusion

Before closing, I would like to comment on efforts to hold a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, a subject on which the United States will have more to say later. I emphasize that the United States supports the goal of establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and the convening of a conference involving all states in the region to discuss it. Although it proved not possible to meet in Helsinki last year, my government remains firmly committed to working with the Facilitator, the other conveners, and with all states in the region to take steps that will create conditions for a successful and meaningful conference. On that basis, we hope the relevant parties can agree to hold it soon. Reaching Helsinki, and success at Helsinki, will require the states of the region to engage with each other and I know that all State Parties support such engagement.

Mr. Chairman, the NPT remains the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and a basis for international nuclear cooperation. The regime has its challenges, but none are insurmountable and none are beyond discussion.

We look forward to a productive dialogue at this Preparatory Committee meeting. We will work together to ensure the Treaty’s contributions to international peace and security are strengthened and endure. Thank you.

Friday, April 26, 2013

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

Contracts for April 26, 2013

Contracts for April 26, 2013

A tip to quit

A tip to quit

Enhanced CLAS standards

Enhanced CLAS standards

AFRICOM MARKS WORLD MALARIA DAY

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Africom, Partners Mark World Malaria Day Sharing Best Practices


By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Olufemi A. Owolabi
U.S. Africa Command


STUTTGART, Germany, April 24, 2013 - U.S. representatives, along with experts in malaria programs and chiefs of medical services from eight nations of the Economic Community of West Africa are commemorating World Malaria Day by sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices in confronting the malaria-bearing mosquito.

The meeting of the West Africa Malaria Task Force kicked off today in Accra, Ghana. It continues tomorrow, the World Health Organization's annual observance of World Malaria Day, and runs through April 26.

Medical and military representatives from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo are participating in the program, sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces Health Center.

"We are excited about partnering with the eight African nations who are participating," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) David K. Weiss, command surgeon for U.S. Africa Command. "We'll share best practices about how to treat malaria, which adversely impacts all of our forces in West Africa. This is a great opportunity for all of us, and I truly believe that we are stronger together as partners."

The event is a regional African initiative, supported by Africom. The goal, officials said, is to develop solutions to malaria challenges. Africom personnel who specialize in malaria will partner with Africans and will help facilitate ideas and strategy sessions in support of the task force.

"The task force is their idea," said Dr. Refaat Hanna, Africom epidemiologist and a public health specialist with the command surgeon's office. "The intent is to discuss and share results of the military malaria program gaps and leverage resources available through the [U.S.] President's Malaria Initiative in West Africa."

PMI is a five-year, $1.2 billion expansion of U.S. government resources to reduce the impact of malaria and to help address poverty in Africa.

"Malaria is the leading cause of death in Africa," Hanna said. "Ninety percent of worldwide malaria cases are diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a great impact on the health and productivity of Africans. It is the most common reason for hospital visits, with most patients being children and pregnant women."

The engagements aim to enhance civilian-to-military cooperation in African partner countries and leverage resources from other organizations in support of the partner country, said Michael Hryshchyshyn, chief of Africom's humanitarian and health activities branch.

"The establishment of the West Africa Malaria Task Force helps fulfill both of these goals," he said. "This task force reinforces and benefits from other programs to include HIV/AIDS, disaster preparedness, pandemic influenza and humanitarian assistance."

Representatives of five East African militaries participating in an Africom-hosted symposium in 2011 came up with the idea of a multinational Malaria Task Force in East Africa to address their common malaria challenges. That, in turn, prompted the western region to start its first West Africa Malaria Task Force.

Weiss called this week's meeting a valuable opportunity for information sharing.

"The hope is we can learn from each other," he said. "This program is about Africans learning from each other on how they can develop solutions that address the impact of this devastating disease."

By helping African militaries maintain the health of their forces, it also supports Africom's goal of building African capacity and capabilities, Hanna said.

The U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Kenya has been helping the African continent to combat malaria since 1973, he noted. It coordinates operations between Africom, the U.S. interagency, and numerous Kenyan ministries.

NAVY GOATS

FROM:  U.S. NAVY

Northwest Base Goes Green with Goats


INDIAN ISLAND, Wash. - (NNS) -- In recognition of Earth Day 2013, Naval Magazine Indian Island (NMII) is utilizing a herd of goats as an eco-friendly method of invasive vegetation control at NMII, April 15 through mid-June.

More than 100 goats from more than nine different breeds are being employed to remove noxious weeds and shrubs without using heavy machinery or chemicals at NMII.

"My goats eat the brush and unwanted vegetation in a very natural way," said Tammy Dunakin, chief goat wrangler for Rent-A-Ruminant, LLC.

By eating the weeds and shrubs the goats ecologically diminish the seed source and reduce plant growth in the areas.

"I have been really impressed with the Navy's green initative. They are doing a lot of stuff to keep these places really beautiful," said Dunakin. "It's really a win-win for both parties using these goats. People don't think about the safety aspect, but these goats will go where it is dangerous for people, where they might slip and hurt themselves."

When asked about the Navy's use of goats, Cmdr. Michael Yesunas, NMII commanding officer, said it was cost-effective, safe, and environmentally friendly.

"This benefits the Navy by clearing the invasive species," said Yesunas. "It's great because we are not using machines to clear this.

"It really shows the Navy's dedication to the environment," said Yesunas. "You go out of your way to make something like this come together. It's a testament to the Navy's dedication to being eco-friendly."

The Department of the Navy Earth Day theme for 2013 is "Global Reach - Local Action." The theme is meant to encourage Sailors to take local action to show the Navy's dedication to protecting the environment.

Through April and May, Navy installations and tenant commands within Navy Region Northwest will be participating in Earth Day related events like cleanup projects, a fish planting and recycling competitions.

Navy and Marine Corps commands officially celebrate Earth Day April 22. Earth Day officially started on April 22, 1970 as a day to reflect on the planet's environment and ways to help keep it healthy.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Official: Action on Chem Weapons Requires Clearer Evidence

Official: Action on Chem Weapons Requires Clearer Evidence

DOD Contracts for April 25, 2013

Contracts for April 25, 2013

Il Trentino-Alto Adige

Il Trentino-Alto Adige

Raw Video: Dr. Jill Biden at the Marathon Memorial in Copley Square, Boston | The White House

Raw Video: Dr. Jill Biden at the Marathon Memorial in Copley Square, Boston | The White House

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER IN ECONOMICS DISCUSSES IMPROVING MILITARY DECISION MAKING

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Nobel Laureate Discusses Improving DOD Decision Making
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2013 - Defense Department personnel pride themselves on their decision-making ability, but Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman believes there are ways to systematically improve and help remove biases from the process.

Kahneman presented his opinions during the "New Ideas @ OSD" seminar in the Pentagon this morning. Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig moderated the discussion.

Defense leaders literally make life-or-death decisions. They decide how to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money. They decide how best to approach leaders in other countries and how to best implement programs and policies.

Kahneman received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 and wrote the New York Times bestseller "Thinking, Fast and Slow." He said there are three elements in making decisions: options, judgments and evidence. The judgments and evidence feed into providing options, which constitute the crux of decision making.

Stressing the need for quality control in the process, Kahneman urged that defense leaders be aware of the role their biases play.

"Institutions in general can be viewed as factories that produce decisions," he said. "When there is a production line, there is a need for something called quality control."

He suggested a quality control checklist for decision making. "This is not a checklist of relevant facts that pertain to the decision," Kahneman said. "It is a checklist of the likely errors that can be made in the process of deciding." The checklist should provide an evaluation of whether the decision is being made well, he said. The list should include the likely biases and mistakes that could be entering into the decision-making process.

He suggested this checklist could move along even as a decision is being made. There is no need to await the outcome.

The process entails uncertainty, and a decision can be viewed as a gamble, the professor said. "There is no perfect corollary between the quality of decisions and the quality of the outcome," he said.

In general, there is a very strong tendency for people to evaluate decision making by outcome and not by process, Kahneman said. "We cannot prevent ourselves from seeing, 'If something ended well, it was done well, and if something ended badly, somebody must have fouled up,'" he said.

He called this the "hindsight bias."

"Our model of the world is changed by the outcome," he said. "It is almost impossible to control."

The hindsight bias is unkind to decision makers, the professor said. "Their failures tend to look stupid, and their successes tend to look obvious," he said. "We cannot foretell the future, but we can almost always explain the past."

This leads to another bias he called the "outcome bias." This means decision makers are rewarded or punished by the outcome of their decisions, and not by the quality of the process.

"Knowing about the existence of these biases ... will do absolutely nothing for you," he said. "You will not be able to avoid these errors." But people can correct for these biases, he added.

"The only way to control for these biases is to identify the circumstances under which it is likely to occur and to make a conscious effort to correct the judgment," he said.

Another bias that Kahneman said is common is for people to exaggerate their chances for success. "Especially if they have a plan, they tend to be really optimistic about the chances of their plan succeeding," he said. "They tend to have an illusion of control. These are very deep-seated illusions."

Officials need to control for this by looking at other, similar plans and gauging the similarities from those, he said. "They will find sometimes that their conclusions are not even in the ballpark," he added.

Kahneman discussed decision makers holding a "pre-mortem" for their decisions. In this, the leader tells those helping with the decision to imagine the decision went horribly wrong, and that it is now a year later and they have to discuss why it failed.

In making a decision, organizations "increasingly get locked into that decision," he said, and dissent becomes very difficult. Organizations love optimists, Kahneman noted, while pessimists are almost seen as disloyal. A pre-mortem helps to find flaws in the plan he said.

"I believe you can improve decision making if you are conscious of errors, and in an organization that does things systematically and does thing slowly, there is an opportunity to improve decision making," Kahneman said.

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY MEETS WITH STAFF AND FAMILIES OF TRI-MISSION IN BRUSSELS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Meeting With Staff and Families of Tri-Mission Brussels
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ambassador Gutman's Residence
Brussels, Belgium
April 22, 2013

AMBASSADOR GUTMAN:
Good afternoon. Michelle and I would like to welcome you to our home, which is America’s home here in Brussels. Today, it’s another huge thrill. First of all, it’s always a special day when I join Ambassadors Kennard and Daalder. I will skip the usual joke about the smart one, the wise one, and the good-looking one. (Laughter.) Besides, both Ambassadors Daalder and Kennard told me that they wanted to be the good-looking one this time. (Laughter.)

It is a true honor and a privilege to get to assist in introducing Secretary John Kerry here today. I’ve known Secretary Kerry for several years. I got to witness repeatedly and firsthand his terrific judgment at weekly meetings during the period leading up to the 2008 election campaign. At these meetings in Washington, there’d be about 15 topnotch Washington advisors and insiders, plus me. And one by one – I would say nothing, but one by one, the leading guys would give their opinion, and usually Tom Daschle and Secretary Kerry, then Senator Kerry, would speak last. And having heard from a roomful of well-meaning opinions, when these two men spoke the campaign heard the measured voice of experience, and I reveled at being able just to be a spectator during that process.

So I knew his judgment. I got to see his effectiveness firsthand at my own Senate confirmation hearing for the ambassadorship four years ago in the Senate. I was on a panel with two dear friends – David Thorne, who’s a dear friend of the Secretary’s, and Don Beyer. And we got to the room. There were – a lot of senators had come from both sides of the aisle. And we were sitting David Thorne, a seat, myself, a seat, and Don Beyer. And then Senator Kerry got off the bench, came down, and sat between David Thorne and myself, and any potential opposition left the room, because he was going to be testifying on behalf. That was his effectiveness. And again, I sat there.

But knowing about his effectiveness and his judgment, nothing prepared me for how amazing he would represent our country in just the first two months. Even before the President’s trip to the Middle East, Secretary Kerry had personally worked on the Israeli-Turkey reconciliation and he’s been relentless repairing that relationship since. He’s personally brought back to life the Israel-Palestine efforts.

He then stayed in the region, traveling to Iraq to open blind eyes to what was happening in Syria. When we realized that Secretary Kerry had gone to Iraq and had not come home, I joked to my DCM, to Rob, "Where’s he going to be tomorrow, in Kabul, fixing the Parwan detention center?" And sure enough, when I woke up the next day, he was meeting with Karzai, fixing the Parwan detention center.

And on his way home, just for a stopover, he stopped in France, got the French to reconsider Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, to take a good look at the new trade negotiations. Then he went back to Asia to talk about North Korea, and things have been quiet since.


Both of the achievements, worthy of several careers for this Secretary; it’s the opening salvoes in his first two months. I, for one, am so proud to be, even for just a few months, a part of this State Department and so thrilled to welcome Secretary Kerry here today.

But first, the good-looking one, my dear friend Ambassador Kennard. (Laughter and applause.)

AMBASSADOR KENNARD: Thanks. Okay. Next time I want to be the wise one. (Laughter.) Well, thank you all for coming. And Senator Kerry – Secretary Kerry, thank you so much for being here. I don’t think that in the history of our country we have had someone who was better prepared to be Secretary of State than John Kerry. And I witnessed that firsthand today. We had a luncheon with Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy over at the European Commission. And I saw Secretary Kerry speak so passionately and represent our country so well on a large range of issues.

And then afterwards, we met with a group of stagiaires in the Commission. And there was a young woman who asked a question of Secretary Kerry: "Now, how are you going to follow in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton and ensure that the role of women and girls around the world is still a high priority for the U.S. Government?" And I thought to myself, "How is he going to handle this one?" (Laughter.) And true to form, he hit the ball out of the park. So I felt so proud watching our new Secretary of State represent our country so well.

And Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being here. You’ve already spent a considerable time in Europe. You’ve only been in the job two and a half months and already made your first visit to Brussels, so all of us really appreciate the time and attention that you’ve paid to our issues. We appreciate it so very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR DAALDER: I’m not sure what that makes me, but it’s – (laughter) – what’s left. Mr. Secretary, it’s a real honor and a pleasure to welcome you here on behalf of U.S. NATO to Brussels. Tomorrow will be the first time that you take the chair as the Secretary of State to represent the United States at the North Atlantic Council, and I can’t think of a better person to take on that job tomorrow.

May I mention three – first, your language skills. Everyone knows that – by now – that you speak excellent French, which, after all, is the second language of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But I’m not sure that everybody also knows that you speak a language that’s frankly far more difficult and impossible for most people to understand. It’s the language of NATO – (laughter) – where we speak entirely in acronyms. (Laughter.) You can talk with them, effortless there, over there, about (inaudible) PASP (inaudible), ISAF and (inaudible). And if you like, you can make up some acronyms just by your – on your own. (Laughter.) The other ministers won’t admit it, but they don’t know what you’re talking about. (Laughter.) They’ll just nod knowingly, smile, take notes. (Laughter.)

Second, really a little bit more seriously: You know the military in a way that few other people do. You’ve earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat Valor, three Purple Hearts for your incredible service in Vietnam. You know what it means to send young men and women into harm’s way, because you’ve been there yourself. That is what we try in NATO not to do, and having you at the table to make sure that we don’t need to send our young men and women into harm’s way is what we are looking to you for.

Third, you’ve known our alliance and fought its battles for almost three decades. When you became a senator, there was just 16 members in NATO. There was a Berlin Wall dividing the continent, and there were Soviet divisions lined up in Central Europe. Today, there are 28 nations that sit around the NATO table, the Berlin Wall is a long-gone artifact of history, and so is the Soviet Union. You’ve been part of all the great changes and challenges in Europe and of the alliances, so you know from where we came and from where we need to go.

You followed the advice of President John F. Kennedy, in whose Senate seat you had the honor to serve for 28 years. He said, "If we’re strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we’re weak, words will be of no help." You’ve worked very hard to assure that the American military in the forces of NATO are strong and second to none. But you’ve also worked tirelessly on that basis to try to reduce tensions, to resolve conflicts, to work through arms control and nonproliferation, and through diplomatic rather than military solutions to make this a better world.

By your own example, you illustrate those other words of John F. Kennedy: "We are not here to curse the darkness but to light the candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future." All of us here in Brussels at U.S. NATO, at the U.S. mission to the European Union, at the bilateral mission, we’ll do everything in our power to support you as you search for the way for a safer and saner world. We wish you every success, not only tomorrow at the NAC, but in the months and years ahead as you travel that journey.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s my wonderful pleasure to introduce to you the Secretary of State of the United States, Mr. John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. I have never been introduced by the smart and the wise and the good-looking. (Laughter). In fact, I’ve never been introduced by three ambassadors, may I say. (Laughter.) I thought I’d come here today and change their mind – just call them the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Laughter.) But that will get me in a lot of trouble, so I’m not going there.

I have to tell you, my cup really is running over from the series of introductions that I just have heard. I’m not blowing smoke – oops, what happened? We lose somebody? Testing – there we go.

I’m not blowing smoke at anybody when I tell you without any question these are three of the finest ambassadors that we have serving in the State Department today, and I’m honored to come here. (Applause). Really, each of them stands out in their own way very, very specially, as do all of you, because you’re bringing together – which is not easy – three separate embassy efforts under one roof, in a sense, the tri-embassy effort here. And each is distinct in a very significant way with increasing responsibilities, increasing tasks.

Since Howard has been here, I’m proud to say that our relationship with Belgium has grown extraordinarily. I’m not going to go backwards sort of negatively in history, but we weren’t doing so well here not so long ago, in substance and in terms of the data, the polling data and the relationship. And there were concrete things that people were trying to do or had done to try to sort of step in the way of the United States policy as a result of that.

In these last four years, under the leadership of President Obama and the direction that he has taken our nation, restoring our relationship and our reputation, in many ways, in so many parts of the world – excuse me – he has leveraged what every one of you are trying to do and have to do in your responsibilities. He leveraged my ability to go out and meet the needs and promote the values and interests of our country. And I really congratulate him for that. He and Michelle have been just a superb team together. I don’t know of any ambassador anywhere in the world who has visited 588 of 589 communities in the country he lives, and he’s about to hit the 589th. And it’s so important to the country that the Prime Minister of the nation is going to come to be there to greet him and to celebrate that accomplishment. It’s certainly quite extraordinary and I really tip my hat to him. (Applause.) It really is diplomacy at its best.

And I tell you, when you go into those communities, they’ve never seen an American, and the Ambassador comes in, and you have a day of events that are planned and different people are partaking in it – the mayor, other kinds of folks. Man, that leaves such an impression. And Howard, my understanding that he’s giving autographs when he walks down the street – (laughter) – and kind of being treated like a rock star. But that’s the way an American Ambassador ought to be treated. (Laughter.) I like that.

And as for Bill and his efforts with respect to the EU, the EU is growing so significant in its importance – the euro crisis, their help in Afghanistan, in Libya, in – and obviously a lot of that spills over into NATO, obviously, also. But the EU is the largest trading bloc in the world, all by itself. And the idea of the United States joining up, under this TTIP, and raising the standards of the world for trade, and being able to create interoperability in terms of our communications and internet networks, so forth; to raise standards so we have a common understanding about safety, about regulations, about law enforcement – all the kinds of things that go with it – will change the world. Because other people already want to get into it.

I was in Turkey, and the Prime Minister of Turkey said to me, "Hey, this TTIP thing, we really want to be in it. We want to negotiate with you." And I said, "Well, it’s kind of complicated. It’s with the EU" – (laughter) – and that can open up a whole new can of worms. I’m telling you. (Laughter.) At which point – but I said, look, we ought to be – but then they’ve talked about negotiating parallel. Now, obviously it’s complicated enough to figure out where we’re going to go with Europe, and as we get ahead of this effort with Europe, the possibilities of doing that with Turkey, I think, are very real. And we should think about sort of how we can be inclusive and bring more people to the table.

So the EU agenda, as the EU evolves and as the Eurozone crisis forces this confrontation with the question of the euro project – this is a project that began after World War II, the vision of Jean Monnet and the whole effort to have sort of a monetary union, and ultimately, the European Common Market. But that’s only the beginning. The end is, how do you deal with the sovereignty issues of each of these countries so as to have a fiscal discipline and a capacity to be able to be united and move forward with the real power of the euro that is a governing entity? And it’s complicated. It’s not easy. Culturally, you all fight with those issues all the time and you see them.

And then, of course, there’s the challenge of NATO, which has proven the viability of this alliance through a period where a lot of people thought, "Well, the Cold War was over in the 1990s; what do we need NATO for?" And what started with these few countries now has the 27 members, the 28 at the table, and talk of expanding still with important countries coming to the table. That is a great stabilizer. It is a great equalizer in the end. And it’s a great sort of bringing together and uniting of common values and interests that is critical in terms of this struggle against violent extremism and chaos in certain parts of the world.

There are parts of the world today where I regret to tell you that extremism, and violent extremism, and religious extremism is growing faster than democracy or a yearning for democracy. And that’s dangerous, dangerous for all of us. We’re going to have to figure out what the model is and what the means it is by which we’re going to change this dialogue. Because one thing I know: We’re not going to solve this problem with drones and Seal teams. It’s going to take something more than that, and that’s all of you – it’s called diplomacy. It’s the extraordinary numbers of different agencies – I think about 40 different agencies – that are working together here, under one roof.

And so many of you have worked in different capacities. I just met a group who either are going to Afghanistan or who were in Iraq and Afghanistan who have come back from that, have been part of that sort of process. This is the year of transition. This is the critical year in Afghanistan. I was just there with President Karzai. In fact, I’ll be meeting with President Karzai and with General Kayani and with the civilian Foreign Minister from Pakistan while I’m here. We’re going to have a trilateral and try to talk about how we can advance this process in the simplest, most cooperative, most cogent way so that we wind up with both Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s interests being satisfied, but most importantly, with a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, which is worth the expenditure of the treasure and effort of these last years, and the service of all of you who have been there and those of you who are going.

So these are the challenges. The bottom line is this: Even though Bill and Howard each talked about my taking on this job and my sort of, quote, "readiness" for it, or whatever you want to call it, that the proof will be in the pudding. I don’t know about all that, and I’m certainly not going to stake any claims. But I’ll tell you this: I could not be more proud than to be at the helm of the State Department, because it’s something that is literally in my blood because of my father. But more than that, it’s in my blood because I believe in building relationships. I believe in reaching out to people and trying to break down barriers. I don’t know a child – two years old, two and a half, three, four years old – who hates anybody, except maybe he hates broccoli or there’s something that they got to – (laughter) – but they don’t hate people. And they don’t have an idea in their head that is malevolent and angry and mean-spirited. It is taught. And it’s taught in too many textbooks and too many streets and too many religious institutions in different places, because people don’t have anything else to offer.

Those guys who blow people up, whether it’s the two kids in Boston or people in Madrid or London or Islamabad or anywhere else, they don’t have a theory of governance. They don’t have something to offer that actually keeps faith with people’s aspirations for human rights and for opportunity and dignity. And I’d just remind all of you, that fruit vendor who ignited a revolution in Tunisia, he didn’t do what he did because of any Islamic extremism or any religious extremism or any ideology. He did what he did because he wanted dignity and opportunity of the right to be able to sell his fruit without the interference of corrupt police officers beating him around in the street.

And those kids in Tahrir Square, they’re the ones who brought you that revolution – not the Muslim Brotherhood. It was not an Islamic driven revolution. It was a generational revolution. And I say to you as sure as I stand here, we’re going to see more of that in these years ahead, because young people, people under the age of 30 – 30 years old, 60 percent of Egypt – 50 percent of Egypt is under the age of 21. Forty percent is under the age of 18. If they don’t get an education, and if they don’t get an opportunity to have a job, they’re too connected through these little machines you guys are holding up over there. Those video things and telephones and all the rest of it, they’re going to talk to each other, and they see what the rest of the world has, and they exchange ideas, and they blog and they tweet and they get it.

So these guys who don’t offer anything are not the future. I believe the future is standing in this room. I believe the future are the aspirations that are espoused most days – not every day – in the United States Capitol. I believe that is what our country stands for and what has brought all of you to this great endeavor of representing our great country.

Sometimes we have setbacks. Losing Anne Smedinghoff hurt all of us. Losing the guard in Ankara, who saved lives as he stood out and prevented that guy from getting through there and hurting a lot of people in the embassy. Those things happen. And Benghazi, obviously. And Khobar Towers and Nairobi Embassy. You can go back. I admire all of you for being willing to come into a job, which may not carry all of those risks as much here in a place like Brussels or in some other place, but at one point or another in your lives, and everybody, even here, there are always risks. We do that because we believe in what we’re doing, because we believe in the values that are at the core of our DNA as Americans, and because we believe in protecting the interests of our country. Real diplomacy is a balance of interests and values. Sometimes you get to represent one more than the other in the effort to get something done. But all the time they’re both on the table.

And so I just want to thank you for taking time away from friends and family sometimes. A lot of you in this post – got a lot of families here – I thank you for that too. I remember what it was like to pack up when I was 11 years old and go somewhere that I didn’t have a clue where I was. And the language was obviously strange and it was hard to make friends and find people and all of those things. But you know what? Looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was very lucky and I think your kids are and so are you.

So God bless you. Thank you on behalf of President Obama and the entire Administration for doing what you do. Keep on doing it. Keep on making these three embassies click together the way they do. Keep on pushing the interests of our country, and I will do everything in my power, whether in the budget or in policy, to back you up every single day.

Thank you and God bless. (Applause.)