Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone.
Foreign Minister Jaishankar, Defense Minister Singh, I am delighted to join my friend Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in welcoming you to Washington, and especially grateful for the chance to return the incredibly warm hospitality that you showed me when I visited New Delhi in July.
This meeting today marked the fourth U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. It built upon the productive meeting last September between president – between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden as well as the conversation that they had by video today, and on the strong partnership our two countries have developed across nearly 75 years of diplomatic relations.
As the world’s largest democracy and oldest democracy, we work together every day to deliver opportunity, security, freedom, and dignity to our peoples.
We’re working closely to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists and institutions across our countries are developing and producing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines together. We’re working through the Quad Vaccine Partnership, with our colleagues in Australia and Japan, to make these vaccines available throughout the Indo-Pacific. As of today, Quad partners have collectively provided more than 500 million vaccine doses; we’re rapidly expanding production to make more at the Biological E facility in India.
We’re standing together for our shared commitment to uphold a free, rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to promoting regional stability, the rule of law, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and to expanding our strategic partnership with ASEAN.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is an attack on Ukraine’s people; it’s also an attack on that rules-based order that we both adhere to and defend. The United States will continue to increase our support to the government and people of Ukraine and call on other nations to do the same, just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow’s increasingly brutal actions.
Russia’s aggression stands in stark contrast to the vision that the United States and India share for a free and open Indo-Pacific. And Russia’s actions are having a profound impact not just in Europe and in Ukraine, but around the world – for example, causing food insecurity and rising prices. Ukraine’s farmers have been forced to flee or to fight, as Russian troops intentionally destroy farmland and equipment and prevent Ukraine from exporting their wheat through Black Sea ports.
Our countries are working together to try to bring more food to world markets, as well as to the World Food Program. And the United States is also focused on securing more funding for the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and producing more fertilizer so that we can help others sustain crop yields in the future.
We also discussed our goal of driving inclusive economic growth both for our countries and across the region.
India and the United States already trade to the tune of more than $150 billion each year. But we’re deepening that relationship by restarting the U.S-India Commercial Dialogue and the U.S-India CEO Forum later this year, where our private sector partners can offer recommendations to strengthen even more our trade and investment relationship.
In the video meeting that they held earlier today, Prime Minister Modi welcomed President Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework initiative. It can allow us to increase our collaboration across more issues, including digital trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure, and tax policy.
And our countries are working together to tackle the climate crisis. The United States is supporting India’s ambitious COP26 clean energy commitments by investing in renewable energy projects and mobilizing private sector financing.
We also share a commitment to our democratic values, such as protecting human rights. We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values, and to that end we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials.
In addition to all of these critical issues, I’m pleased that we’re increasing cooperation in a number of other key areas which we focused on today.
We’re deepening our defense ties, which I know Secretary Austin will speak to.
We’re expanding our cooperation on development around the world – particularly in Asia and Africa – by working together to carry out disaster relief, as well as clean energy and climate-smart agricultural projects.
And we’re increasing people-to-people ties, which are really at the heart of the entire relationship.
We’re very lucky in the United States to be home to some 4 million Indian Americans, as well as 200,000 Indians studying in our universities.
We have a Working Group on Education and Skill Training that we formed today that will increase that number by bringing institutions in the United States and India together to develop new joint research and exchange programs. We look forward to welcoming more Indian students and scholars into our communities. We’re focusing, among other things, on STEM education. I think this is an area of tremendous potential going forward.
Let me just say in conclusion that very soon after our countries established diplomatic relations some 75 years ago, Prime Minister Nehru came to visit the United States. President Truman met him on the tarmac of the airport. And Prime Minister Nehru noted the importance of the moment, saying, and I quote: “I trust that these two republics of the Western World and the Eastern World will find many ways of working together in friendly and fruitful cooperation to our mutual advantage, and for the good of humanity.”
So for nearly 75 years, we’ve done just that. And I’m grateful to our partners for making it possible for that “friendly and fruitful cooperation” to continue and to deepen.
And with that, I hand it over to Foreign Minister Jaishankar. Or are we going to Lloyd? Sorry. Let me go to Lloyd first, the Secretary of Defense.
SECRETARY AUSTIN: Thanks, Secretary Blinken. Well, Secretary Blinken, Minister Singh, Minister Jaishankar, it’s great to be here with you for this fourth U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. As my friend Secretary Blinken has rightly noted, we’re meeting at an important moment in our partnership. It’s been nearly two decades since we signed our first bilateral defense framework, and our partnership has grown immensely ever since.
Today’s meeting shows that we’re working together to build one of the most consequential partnerships of our time. We’ve made important commitments today that will drive technological innovation and cooperation in emerging defense domains, including space and cyberspace. For example, we’re committed to launching new defense base exchanges later this year between our Space Command and India’s Defense Space Agency. And I’m pleased to announce that just a few moments ago, we signed a bilateral Space Situational Awareness arrangement, and this will support greater information sharing and cooperation in space.
We’re also deepening our cooperation in cyberspace, including through training and exercises later this year. And we’re expanding our information-sharing partnership across all warfighting domains. And meanwhile, our defense trade and technology cooperation continues to grow. We recently concluded an agreement to work together on air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles through our Defense Technology and Trade Initiative. And today we agreed to launch new supply chain cooperation measures that will let us more swiftly support each other’s priority defense requirements. India continues to acquire key U.S. defense platforms, and that is forging important and new ties between our defense industrial bases.
We’re doing all this because the United States supports India as a defense industry leader in the Indo-Pacific and a net provider of security in the region. And we all understand the challenges that we face there. The People’s Republic of China is seeking to refashion the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its interests. And so I’m pleased that we’ve identified new opportunities to extend the operational reach of our militaries and to coordinate more closely together across the expanse of the Indo-Pacific.
We welcome the Indian navy’s decision to join the Combined Maritime Forces, Bahrain, and we’ve also committed to more high-end exercises together. Last summer the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group conducted the first-ever combined anti-submarine warfare and air exercise with the Indian navy and air force. And we’re looking forward to more of this sort of cooperation as we expand the scope and the complexity of Tiger Triumph, which is our annual major tri-service exercise.
And finally, we made commitments today to reinforce our ties with like-minded countries, including Japan, Australia, and our European allies and partners. Take, for example, the Quad’s newly launched humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism, which will bring together our defense and civil disaster – and civilian disaster relief agencies to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is better prepared for future crises.
Now, as two of the world’s largest democracies, the United States and India are linked by more than our common interests. We’re bound by our shared values and commitments, including ensuring that the Indo-Pacific stays on a path defined by the rule of law and freedom of the seas and respect for territorial integrity of sovereign states.
Today’s 2+2 ministerial reflects our deep commitment to maintaining open channels of communication on a range of challenging issues. As strategic threats converge, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is more important than ever that we stand together to defend our shared values and to preserve the international rules-based order.
And so I believe that the investments that we’ve made together today will help to ensure that our shared vision of a secure, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region thrives in the decades ahead. Ministers, thank you for your partnership and for your leadership as we work together to build that future. It’s great to have you with us – here with us, so thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Now to Minister Singh.
MINISTER SINGH: Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, Dr. Jaishankar-ji, members of press, ladies and gentlemen.
(Via interpreter) very appreciative of their comments. In the past, it shows that our relationships have expanded in scale, and we have had very meaningful talks this morning. It will help in the momentum and in also expanding and taking it forward. Both of – both the nations are common and complementary, and we have shared goals which we would like to achieve, and we also have a shared will to achieve it.
We have tried to see that we will – we have talked on very many different aspects, and it’s a very unique thing that as two big democracies of the world, we have had conversation on all the issues and our views converge on each. And we hope to have a free, open, and inclusive rule-based order, which is a common vision that is shared by both our nations. Our partnership is based on Indo-Pacific, and we want to create peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
During the meeting, we also discussed about our neighbors, and we tried to make sure that our assessment is also shared. During this talk, we have talked about counterterrorism and talk about how this has been used against India. During our comprehensive engagement, we have had very comprehensive results, some of which are as follows, which we’d like to talk: The Department of Space and U.S. Department of Defense have Space Situational Awareness agreement which has been fulfilled. And in the times to come, Defense-Space and Defense artificial intelligence agreement. Third, many other initiatives and agreements which are still in the discussion phase. They have had very good progress, the military scope and also to increase the depth of it, and we have had unanimity on that.
Even after the pandemic, we’ve seen very big expansion between our military-to-military exercises, and we are happy that the maritime force in Bahrain has been joined as an associated force. This shows that in the western region it will make it more stronger. We are also happy with the COMCASA and BECA implementation, and we are working towards it. In the defense, cyber, and special forces field also, we would like to increase the forces. LEMOA and (inaudible), under these two exercises, we’ve tried to expand the scope of logistics.
Both the countries are trying with the closer engagement of the forces. We are fully working technology initiatives also. We want to take speedy decisions and implementation, and for that the processing and procurement review will be done. This is what was decided today. I have talked to American companies for making India an aerospace and (inaudible) program. I have invited them for these programs. We are talking to U.S. companies for co-development and co-production. We’re proposing it to them. We have asked the U.S. companies to work in the UP and Tamil Nadu corridor and invest in that area.
During the hard time of pandemic, the United States have given us a lot of support, and on this occasion, we express our deep appreciation for that, and during this time I would like to thank Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin and would like to thank them for their leadership. Today’s leadership meeting and the 2+2 meeting shows that we are – this was an important event to strengthen the relationship between the two nations. And in the areas of mutual interest also, I would like to say that we would support for better – (inaudible) better contribution. We want that global access should be given, and peace and security should be maintained.
I would like to once again thank Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin and would like to thank them for the support in strengthening U.S.-India relationships. I have talked to both the secretaries to – I have invited them to India for the next 2+2 ministerial dialogue in India. Thank you.
MINISTER JAISHANKAR: Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh-ji, it’s a great pleasure to meet all of you at the conclusion of a productive and substantive 2+2 ministerial today. Earlier in the day, we participated the virtual summit of our leaders, and we also met departmentally. These meetings are taking place at a time when the global order is facing multiple challenges and stresses. Obviously, a good part of my meeting with Secretary Blinken in the morning went to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that has many ramifications. Even countries far away are worrying about energy security, food security, commodities prices, and logistics disruption.
Now, this comes on top of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic with which the world has been struggling for the last two years. Quite apart from public health concerns and its economic impact, this has raised awareness about the need for reliable and resilient supply chains. Autonomously, the nature of globalization and the usage of technology has brought to fore concerns of trust and transparency.
How to ensure a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific was also on our agenda today. We spoke of developments in and around Afghanistan that have made their ripples felt well beyond. Our conversations also covered recent happenings in the Indian subcontinent.
Strategic partnerships like those between India and the United States are built through shared interests, common values, and constant nurturing. It is natural that each of us will bring to the relationship our particular perspectives, experiences, and priorities. But when there is a mutual appreciation of the significance of our ties, there is also a desire to better understand each other’s thinking. Our dialogue today, I believe, has helped in that regard.
The report card of our bilateral cooperation is an impressive one. Defense minister has already spoken of the great strides made in the field of defense and security. We also partner closely in counterterrorism and maritime security, making the world a much safer place. The integrated perspective that we brought to bear in this 2+2 format only underlines the gains made in different domains in recent times.
The economic side of the story is particularly significant. Both trade and investment are steadily growing. We have had discussions today on both of them, as also on connectivity, infrastructure, digital issues, climate action, and energy. Our shared activities in space, science and technology, and health are also noteworthy. We see our cooperation as having a larger relevance of the Indo-Pacific.
The bedrock of our relationship, as you would all agree, is its human element. It could be the students who come to universities, the flow of talent that defines our knowledge partnership, or indeed the technology and business relationships which promote innovation. They’re all examples of the human bridge that connects our societies so uniquely. I look forward to highlighting this aspect tomorrow at an event in Howard University, where I would have the pleasure of speaking along with Secretary Blinken.
In a changing world, India-U.S. ties have not only kept pace but actually emerged as a major contributor to global peace, stability, and prosperity. This is not just the weight of our expanding partnership but also the impact it makes on addressing global issues. Our vaccine cooperation can enhance its affordability and accessibility. Our B2B and G2G dealings can contribute to better connectivity and reliable supply chains. Our climate collaboration is underlined by the United States joining the International Solar Alliance and co-chairing the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Challenges in the Indo-Pacific have also been a particular focus of our discussions. We appreciate the attention and energy devoted by the United States to the Quad. Its elevation and intensification in the last year benefits the entire Indo-Pacific. Indeed, the Quad has emerged as a powerful force of global good.
So let me sum up our discussions in three broad points. One, it has helped us today to strategize on mitigating the volatility and unpredictability that the world is currently experiencing. That will be (inaudible) reflected in our policies. Two, it has encouraged us to think together on long-term challenges, especially in the Indo-Pacific. And three, it has energized our collaborative endeavors to build what is emerging as a key bilateral relationship of our times. Thank you.
MODERATOR: We’ll now turn to questions. We’ll take four questions, alternating two questions per delegation. We’ll start with Rosiland Jordan of Al Jazeera English.
QUESTION: Ministers, Secretaries, thank you. Keeping in mind that all four of you have talked about the deep friendship and alliance between the U.S. and India, I have several questions.
First, for Secretary Blinken: Isn’t it problematic that after 48 days of war that India has yet to condemn Russia’s invasion. What more can the U.S. do to persuade India to make what some argue is a symbolic step but still a critical one? And there are a number of reports suggesting that Moscow and Delhi are trying to work out some sort of currency exchange for future energy purchases. Did you tell Secretary Jaishankar that these could risk violations of not just current sanctions but also risk violating CAATSA?
Secretary Austin, this is a larger policy question. Has the U.S. missed an opportunity in the past 17 years since the beginning of this strategic partnership to replace Moscow as Delhi’s choice for weapons, for military materiel, not just the training and the robust partnership that we see in the militaries here?
And finally, for the Ministers Jaishankar and Singh, why not condemn Russia’s invasion? Wouldn’t this best reflect India’s foreign policy goals and international standing? And what is the leverage that the Indian Government has to persuade Vladimir Putin that the carnage that we are seeing every day simply must (inaudible) stop, that it’s not helping the Ukrainian people, and that it’s not helping the Russian people? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. I’m happy to start. I applaud the multi-part, multi-person question.
A few things. First, I should note, before getting into the specifics of the question, that Prime Minister Modi and President Biden had a very warm and productive conversation today in their virtual summit. Covered a lot of ground, including some of the things that we mentioned – COVID-19, climate, strengthening the global economy, the free and open Indo-Pacific that we both aspire to.
On Russia-Ukraine, they talked about ways of mitigating the profound impact that this is having on global food supplies and prices, commodity markets, and working together to achieve that.
I would note India has made very strong statements in New York at the UN, the minister, before the Indian parliament, condemning the killing of civilians in Ukraine, calling for an independent investigation of these atrocities. And I would also note that India is providing significant humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, notably medicines, which are very necessary and in real demand.
India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches this challenge. We as a general proposition are consulting with all of our allies and partners on the consequences of Putin’s war, the atrocities being committed against the people of Ukraine. In our judgment, it is important that all countries, especially those with leverage, press Putin to end the war. And it’s also important that democracies stand together and speak with one voice to defend the values that we share. And we do share, profoundly, the values of freedom, openness, independence, sovereignty, and those values need to apply everywhere.
India’s relationship with Russia has developed over decades at a time when the United States was not able to be a partner to India. Times have changed. Today we are able and willing to be a partner of choice with India across virtually every realm – commerce, technology, education, and security. And that was very much the nature of the conversation that we had today.
When it comes to oil purchases, sanctions, et cetera, I’d just note that there are carveouts for energy purchases. Of course we’re encouraging countries not to purchase additional energy supplies from Russia. Every country is differently situated, has different needs and requirements, but we’re looking to allies and partners not to increase their purchases of Russian energy.
SECRETARY AUSTIN: Well, thanks, Ros. I – regarding missed opportunities, of course, I can’t say much about policy decisions that were made before my time. But what I can tell you is that President Biden truly values strong alliances and partnerships like the one that we have with India. And that’s really what today is all about. It’s about taking a strong relationship and making it even stronger, and working on those things that create interoperability and allow us to work together to promote the things that all of us have talked about. The issue of values is central to our – this relationship, and we’ll continue to work to strengthen what’s a very strong relationship and so that we don’t miss any opportunities going forward. So thanks.
MINISTER JAISHANKAR: I think I’ll probably answer for both of us. So first of all, thank you for the advice and suggestions in your question. I prefer to do it my way and articulate it my way. Now, as Secretary Blinken has pointed out, we have made a number of statements which outline our position in the UN, in our parliament, and in other forums. And briefly, what those positions state is that we’re against the conflict; we are for dialogue and diplomacy; we are for an urgent cessation of violence; and we are prepared to contribute in multiple ways to these objectives.
I noticed you refer to oil purchases. If you are looking at energy purchases from Russia, I would suggest that your attention should be focused on Europe, which probably we do buy some energy which is necessary for our energy security. But I suspect, looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon. So you might want to think about that.
MR PRICE: We’ll turn to Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India.
Do I need to repeat? Okay. Mr. Jaishankar, (inaudible).
My second question is to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin. India, being in a tough neighborhood, is seeking to diversify its energy and (inaudible). As Prime Minister Modi says, the final goal is (inaudible), which means – also means a self-reliant India, and this includes energy independence. U.S. has played a key role in India getting food security through Green Revolution. In that context, my question to both of you is what the United States is offering to help India achieve this goal in the field of both energy and (inaudible). Thank you.
MINISTER JAISHANKAR: So if I could respond to the first question, what are we doing to mitigate volatility and unpredictability that the world is currently experiencing. Well, let me start – there are a number of things which are happening in the world. Let me start with the Ukraine situation.
I think part of what we are doing is to press for a cessation of hostilities, which I think everybody would agree would mitigate matters and clearly make the world less unpredictable. We’re also addressing the humanitarian situation. In fact, we have – the Ukrainians have been in touch with us for – especially for the supply of medicines. We’ve already provided humanitarian relief to Ukraine, to some of their neighbors, and even as we speak, a shipment of medicines is being delivered or will be delivered very soon to Kyiv.
We have discussed the economic consequences as well. I mean, we are looking at it ourselves, but we have discussed it as partners. I think a big concern we have – and not just we, I think the world has – is of energy security, of rising prices, of increasing premiums, of limited supplies. So today, you have to understand it is a legitimate concern of countries to ensure their energy security. But an equally big worry which is emerging is of food security. There are concerns across geographies of societies who are importing wheat or sugar or other foodstuff out of the conflict region.
So we have discussed today – not just us, but I think the subject also came up in the virtual summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden – about what could India do to stabilize the global economic situation. And we are quite willing, and in fact we’ve already started responding to the need for greater food supplies, especially wheat most of all but to some degree sugar as well. We have, even as we – at this moment a number of countries are discussing with us the possibility of greater food supplies, including the World Food Program.
So that’s the Ukraine part of the global situation, but that’s not the only problem that we face. I think that COVID has also left us with a lot of uncertainties and a lot of challenges to be addressed. Again, I think part of it is how do you construct more reliable and resilient supply chains, how do you increase trust and transparency, how do we work together on critical and emerging technologies like 5G. And again, we discussed an Indian initiative called performance-linked initiative which would incentivize manufacturing in India, and I think it’s very much in American interest to support it. We also spoke about how we could work together to help with the global health situation. How do we get a shot in every arm? How do we increase the distribution of vaccines?
And the other issue again which has added to global uncertainty is Afghanistan, and how do you stabilize the region, how do you again provide humanitarian assistance. We are, as you know, in the middle of providing 50,000 tons of wheat. How do you deal with the terrorism concerns that the world has in the Security Council, in FATF, et cetera? And I would say in a way, in terms of mitigating and stabilizing, the Quad itself is a great stabilizer. So that too is part of the contribution we are making towards a better world, and making that contribution in large measure through our partnership with the United States.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: You want to start?
SECRETARY AUSTIN: Yeah, I’m going to start. The question was what are we offering to India in support of its defense security, I think was the question.
As you heard in our earlier statements, we’re working closely with India on a range of priorities to support India’s security and its role as a net security provider. It is – it’s a leader in the region and it actually exports security to the region, and we’re grateful for that. Some of the things that we talked about, as we stated in our opening statements: information sharing, deeper cooperation in space, in cyberspace, liaison exchanges, continuing to work together more frequently and in the – in exercises but also exercises of increasing complexity. So we’re working with India on a number of things, and we think these things will add tremendous value to the region in terms of security.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And on the last part of the question on energy, first let me say what we’re seeing across the board is that the Russian aggression against Ukraine is having profound impacts not only on the people of Ukraine, the brutalization of the country, but it is having global impacts, including, as we were talking about, on food availability and prices and also on energy. And we’ve seen significant increases in price there as well.
One of the important steps that President Biden took was to proceed with a coordinated release from strategic petroleum reserves that will continue over the next – for the part of the United States over the next six months to ensure that there is adequate energy on world markets, both to have an impact on availability as well as on price to deal with the disruptions caused by the Russian aggression. I think if that aggression stops, if the conflict stops, it will have a positive impact both on energy availability and prices as well as on food availability and food prices.
More broadly, though, India is the third largest consumer of energy in the world. It’s a big place, a big market. Electricity demand is projected to double by 2030. We’ve dramatically increased our own energy trade with India, diversifying its energy sources. Our energy exports to India now total about $11 billion a year. Ultimately, the most effective way to satisfy this growth, the needs of the Indian people, the Indian economy, is, of course, to honor the climate goals, the ambitious climate goals that India set, including particularly the expansion of renewables. And again, I point you to the very important commitments that Prime Minister Modi made at the COP26.
We are committed, for our part, to partnering in India’s clean energy transition, and this needs to be a partnership. We have a responsibility – a historic responsibility as well as a current responsibility – in trying to make sure that we’re helping to make available the technology, the financing, the support to help countries make that transition to adapt, to build resilience in dealing with climate change, and making sure that adequate supplies of energy are reaching their people.
There is a longstanding Strategic Clean Energy Partnership that is co-led by our Department of Energy and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in India. That is deepening cooperation on energy efficiency and next-generation fuels. And we have the Quad. We’ve got a working group on climate that’s partnering on green shipping corridors and on green technology. Here at the State Department, our own Energy Bureau has done a lot of work, including collaborative studies with Indian researchers on the most economical decarbonization pathways.
And finally, I’d just note our Development Finance Corporation just announced a $500 million loan to First Solar, which will produce solar panel modules in southern India, furthering climate goals, diversifying solar supply chains.
So in all these ways and more, we are working both to deal with the impact of the Russian aggression on energy but much more broadly with this combination of helping India meet its energy needs while advancing together the vital climate agenda that we share.
MR PRICE: Ryo Nakamura of Nikkei.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for taking my question.
To Secretary Blinken: India plans to deploy S-400 missile defense system. Did you discuss this topic with your Indian counterparts today? Do you rule out the possibility of sanctioning India for its acquisition of S-400?
And to Secretary Austin, India is trying to diversify its procurement of military equipment and weapons by reducing reliance on Russia and purchasing more from other countries, including the United States. I am wondering what steps the Biden administration will take to help India accelerate their diversification effort. Is it an option for the United States to provide financial assistance to India to make U.S. systems more affordable?
To Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar: Russia has more and more aligned with China diplomatically, economically, and militarily. How much are you concerned about their alignment in terms of India’s national security? With that concern, do you think India has to reduce reliance on Russia economically and militarily as soon as possible? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m happy to start. So let me start by saying that we continue to urge all countries to avoid major new transactions for Russian weapons systems, particularly in light of what Russia is doing to Ukraine. We have not yet made a determination regarding potential sanctions or potential waivers under the CAATSA law.
But to come back to something I said a few moments ago, there is, of course, a long history and a long relationship between India and Russia, including when it comes to military equipment. That relationship took hold many years ago at a time when, as I said, we were not able to be a partner to India. And again, as I said, we are now both able and willing to be such a partner, to be a security partner of choice for India. That’s one of the areas that we discussed in some detail today.
SECRETARY AUSTIN: On the issue of future systems, we are engaged in active discussions with India on how to best support their modernization needs. And again, as we look at the future, we want to make sure that we maintain the ability to operate together, and so we look forward to those continued discussions. And it also includes a range of options that would make our systems more affordable. So this is work that will continue going forward, and again, look forward to continuing to have them as a strong and reliable partner.
MINISTER JAISHANKAR: This seems to be my day to get a lot of advice and suggestions from the press, so thank you for joining that. But look, we watch what’s happening in the world, like any country does, and we draw our conclusions and make our assessments. And believe me, we have a decent sense of what is in our interest and know how to protect it and advance it. So I think part of what has changed is we have more options than we did before.
Have a look at us today. We are standing here for a 2+2 with a substantial defense collaboration which has happened in the last decade, which we have been discussing how to take forward. And this wasn’t an option which was there for 40 years before that. So the world is changing. The world will keep changing. What we have to do in our profession is to watch it and see how your interests are best advanced in that.
And I just want to pick up on our – on the last – not this question but the previous question which Secretary Blinken answered on the energy side, which is given our energy security concerns – again, I don’t want this whole subject to go off at a – on a sort of a political note. Every country looks at its best options, and I think today an expanding India-U.S. energy relationship, which by the way didn’t exist some years ago – if my memory is right, you are the second-largest LNG supplier to India, I think the fourth or the fifth largest crude oil supplier, a big partner in the renewable side, including the agreement which Secretary Blinken just mentioned.
So we have – there is so much more going on in the world today, and a large part of it is really to fully explore the opportunities between India and the United States.
MR PRICE: We’ll take a final question from Pranay Upadhyay, ABP News.
QUESTION: Hello, ministers. My first question is direct to the defense ministers. (In Indian) major defense partnership agreement signed (In Indian).
(Via interpreter) My first – after signing the agreement, what is the roadmap and what is the conversation you have had? And from today’s (inaudible), how can the – security can be established by India and (inaudible)?
(In English) And my question to Secretary Austin: In the recent past, we have seen that the U.S. military supply to countries like Pakistan has been used against Indian interest. So when you say that U.S. is ready to forge greater defense cooperation with India, how have you assured India for the greater solidarity and safeguarding the Indian interest? And which are the critical and emerging technologies U.S. is ready to offer India to strengthen the India’s defense and security interest?
And to Secretary Austin, India’s neighborhood right now is going through a deep economic distress, especially in countries like Sri Lanka and other region – other small countries in South Asia. How U.S. is trying to cooperate with India to have a greater stability in the region as far as the economic stability for – in the post-COVID world?
MINISTER SINGH: (Via interpreter) I’m going to reply to this, and as you said, right now, that relationship between U.S. and India, I would like to say that there is a strategic relationship between the two countries and they are strategic partners. And I have insisted that India would focus on co-development of productions and all the investors should come to India. They are welcome. And because in India, they can develop the “Make in India” because we want to build and make everything in India.
SECRETARY AUSTIN: We’re proud of the fact that today, India has in its inventory a number of platforms that have – we believe and I think my colleagues would affirm – that have performed very, very reliably. And so today, what we talked about was how we’re going to increase our sharing of information, how we’re going to deepen our cooperation in space and cyberspace. And again, I think space and cyberspace are two warfighting domains that we want to make sure we continue to develop our own capabilities, but also help our partners to develop capabilities.
And I think those are the types of things that I think will cause us to be dominant in any battlespace, so we really look forward to developing this relationship a lot more and also continuing to work on – together with our counterparts here, our colleagues, in high-end, complex operations. And that’s how really you strengthen that trust and then – and build on capability.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And just on the challenges facing the region, this was very much a subject of our conversations today and an ongoing conversation. Let me say a couple things about that.
First, we are trying to deal together with a number of the immediate crises that countries are facing around the world, but including in the Indo-Pacific, including some of India’s closest neighbors. When it comes to COVID-19, we’ve been working through the Quad partnership to effectively deliver hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. We’re now deepening our work to make sure that we’re getting shots into arms, that we’re supporting health care workers, and that we are building strong supply chains both for the immediate challenge and going forward.
Similarly – we talked about this earlier – we’re very focused on the impact that the Russian aggression in Ukraine is having on food prices and food availability, and that affects countries in the region as well. India is looking – taking steps and looking at additional steps when it comes to making food stocks more widely available. We’re doing the same. We’re increasing financing to the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization. We’re looking at what we can do to incentivize the increased production of fertilizers so that even as we get beyond this year’s crops, as people are thinking about next year’s, yields can be sustained and won’t decrease, which would further interrupt supply and raise prices. So in all these areas, we’re collaborating together; similarly on energy, as we just discussed.
More broadly, one of the things that we’re talking about is an initiative that President Biden will launch in the weeks ahead, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. And there, working together with countries in the region, we can have a very positive effect and very positive impact on things like building supply chain resilience in ways that actually benefit the economies of countries in the region; on infrastructure investment, which is so needed and so critical, where India and the United States can work together; on making available green technology as part of that effort; building out global health security and the necessary infrastructure that goes with that; working together on digital trade, which is increasingly a part of the lives of people in all of our countries and has tremendous potential, including in a number of these neighboring countries.
So in all these ways and more, we are working not only individually, but increasingly we’re working together to make sure that some of the benefits of the changing economy can be brought to these countries as well as helping them to deal with many of the challenges that we’re facing.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Your Excellencies. This concludes the press availability.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
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- Army Corps of Engineers: Workforce Planning Follows Most Leading Practices but Could Be Enhanced with Additional Actions
December 10, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has a large civilian workforce that is highly specialized. The Corps faces workforce challenges, such as recruiting and retaining employees, due to competition from the private sector and other agencies. To address its civilian workforce challenges, the Corps implemented three successive strategic human capital plans during fiscal years 2010 through 2018. The most recent plan—developed in fiscal year 2017—addressed challenges in four stages: (1) planning, (2) recruiting, (3) developing, and (4) sustaining the workforce. For example, to address planning challenges, the Corps established an annual agency-wide assessment of workload-to-workforce capacity, competency, and balance. For fiscal year 2019, instead of developing a formal human capital plan, in late 2018, the Corps conducted an in-depth analysis of its workforce challenges that identified priority workforce initiatives and associated metrics for addressing these challenges. From fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2019, the Corps experienced changes to its workforce diversity, professional development, recruitment, and retention. For example, the percentage of employees identifying as Hispanic or Latino and White decreased from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2019, while the percentage of employees identifying as Multiracial increased during the same period. Gender demographics remained the same each year, at 68 percent male employees and 32 percent female employees. Extent to Which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Has Implemented Leading Practices for Strategic Workforce Planning Strategic workforce planning leading practice Implementation status Determine critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic results ● Develop workforce planning strategies designed to address gaps in critical skills and competencies ● Build administrative and other capabilities to support workforce planning strategies ● Monitor and evaluate progress toward human capital goals and programmatic results ● Involve top management, employees, and other stakeholders in strategic workforce planning ◒ Legend: Generally implemented ●; Partially implemented ◒ Source: GAO-04-39; GAO analysis of Corps documents and interviews.׀ GAO-22-104054 The Corps has generally implemented four of five leading practices of strategic workforce planning (see table). For example, the Corps generally implemented the leading practice of determining critical skills and competencies in part by conducting its annual agency-wide workforce assessment. However, the Corps only partially implemented the leading practice of involving top management in strategic workforce planning. Specifically, the Corps has not ensured that its top management set the overall direction and goals of workforce planning; top management has not updated the Corps’ strategic human capital plan since fiscal year 2017. In May 2020, Corps officials told GAO that a draft updated plan was under review. However, as of October 2021, the plan had not yet been approved. By finalizing and distributing agency-wide an updated human capital plan, the Corps would be better positioned to address its capacity and preparedness challenges and manage its current and future workforce. Why GAO Did This Study The Corps’ civilian workforce accounts for about 98 percent of its 35,000 civilian and military employees. According to Corps documentation, workforce challenges affect the agency’s ability to maintain the capacity to meet mission requirements and preparedness to meet current and future challenges. GAO has identified strategic human capital management as a government-wide high-risk area, including the need to improve talent management activities. GAO was asked to review the Corps’ civilian workforce. For fiscal year 2010 through 2019, this report (1) describes the Corps’ activities and tools for addressing civilian workforce challenges, (2) describes changes in the Corps’ civilian workforce, and (3) examines the extent to which the Corps has followed leading practices for strategic workforce planning. GAO reviewed the Corps’ civilian workforce planning documents and interviewed officials in headquarters and field offices about their activities; analyzed Corps workforce data from the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System; and compared Corps workforce planning activities to leading practices identified by GAO.
- Overseas Real Property: Prioritizing Key Assets and Developing a Plan Could Help State Manage Its Estimated $3 Billion Maintenance Backlog
September 15, 2021What GAO Found The Department of State’s portfolio of overseas assets and expenditures to operate them have grown, but State-allocated funding for maintenance has stayed nearly the same. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, both the number and square footage of State’s assets increased 11 percent and operations expenditures grew 24 percent. However, maintenance and repair funding has remained nearly unchanged. For example, State’s allocation for Maintenance Cost Sharing—for projects collectively funded by State and tenant agencies overseas—was $399 million in fiscal year 2016 and $400 million in 2020. GAO found that more than one-quarter of State’s overseas assets are in poor condition according to State’s condition standard. Further, 20 percent (almost 400) of assets that State identifies as critical to its mission are in poor condition. Federal accounting standards recognize that what constitutes acceptable asset condition may vary by the importance of specific assets to agencies’ missions. However, State set a single acceptable condition standard of “fair” for all assets and did not consider whether some assets, like chancery office buildings, were more critical to State’s mission when estimating its $3 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Had State set a higher condition standard for critical assets, its backlog would be higher. By reassessing its condition standard, State could determine whether to adopt an approach that considers asset importance and that could help guide maintenance funding to key assets. Condition of U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines – Left: Chancery Office Building; Right: Chancery Courtyard Showing Maintenance Issues, Including Mold and Water Damage State follows most, but not all, leading practices for managing deferred maintenance backlogs. Of the nine leading practices, GAO found that State followed five, partially followed three, and did not follow one. For example, State has goals, baselines, and measures for its facility management performance. However, State did not specifically request funding to address the backlog in its congressional budget requests. Officials said they had not found it necessary to specifically request such funding because they only determined that the backlog had substantially increased from $96 million in fiscal year 2019 to $3 billion in fiscal year 2020 after using a new methodology for estimating deferred maintenance and repair. In addition, State does not have a plan to address the backlog, but officials estimated it could take 30 to 40 years to eliminate the backlog with current funding levels. Developing such a plan with specific information on the funding and time frames needed to reduce the backlog would help decision makers better understand how funding levels affect backlog reduction. Why GAO Did This Study State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations operates and maintains over 8,500 owned and leased real property assets, including both buildings and structures. According to State, at least 60 percent of a building’s total lifecycle cost stems from operations and maintenance costs. GAO has reported that deferring maintenance and repairs can lead to higher costs in the long term and pose risks to agencies’ missions. GAO was asked to review State’s efforts to manage its operations and maintenance needs. This report examines (1) how operations and maintenance funding for overseas assets changed from fiscal years 2016 through 2020, (2) the condition and maintenance needs of State’s overseas assets, and (3) the extent to which State has followed leading practices to address its deferred maintenance backlog. GAO analyzed State data on operations and maintenance funding and asset condition, as well as documentation related to leading facility management practices. GAO also met with State officials in headquarters and in seven embassies.
- Human Capital: Actions Needed to Better Track and Provide Timely and Accurate Compensation and Medical Benefits to Deployed Federal Civilians
August 24, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) and other executive agencies increasingly deploy civilians in support of contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior GAO reports show that the use of deployed civilians has raised questions about the potential for differences in policies on compensation and medical benefits. GAO was asked to compare agency policies and to identify any issues in policy or implementation regarding (1) compensation, (2) medical benefits, and (3) identification and tracking of deployed civilians. GAO reviewed laws and agency policies; interviewed officials responsible for governmentwide guidance at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and for policy at six selected agencies, including DOD and State; reviewed all workers’ compensation claims filed by deployed civilians from January 1, 2006 through April 30, 2008 at the Department of Labor; and conducted a generalizeable survey of civilians deployed from the six agencies during this same period.Although policies concerning compensation for deployed civilians are generally comparable across agencies, GAO found some issues that affect the amount of compensation–depending on such things as the agency’s pay system or the employee’s grade/band–and the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of this compensation. For example, two civilian supervisors with comparable salaries who deploy under different pay systems receive different overtime pay because the overtime rate is determined by the employee’s pay system and grade/band level. While a congressional subcommittee asked OPM to develop a benefits package for all deployed civilians to war zones and to recommend enabling legislation, OPM has not yet developed such a package or provided legislation. Also, implementation of some policies may not always be accurate or timely. For example, GAO estimates that approximately 40 percent of the deployed civilians in its survey reported experiencing problems with compensation–including not receiving danger pay–in part because they did not know where to go for assistance. Moreover, in January 2008, Congress gave agency heads discretion to apply the death gratuity provision retroactively for deaths connected with operations in Iraq or Afghanistan on or after October 7, 2001. At the time of GAO’s review, agencies had not yet issued formal policy to implement this benefit. Although agency policies on medical benefits are similar, GAO found some issues with medical care following deployment, workers’ compensation, and post deployment medical screenings that affect the benefits of deployed civilians. Specifically, while DOD allows its treatment facilities to care for “non-DOD” civilians following deployment in some cases, the circumstances are not clearly identified in guidance and some agencies were unaware of DOD’s policy. Civilians who deploy also may be eligible for medical benefits through worker’s compensation. GAO’s analysis of 188 such claims filed with Labor revealed some significant processing delays resulting in part from lack of clarity about the documentation required to support claims. Without clear information on what documents to submit to support a claim, applicants may continue to experience delays. Further, while DOD requires medical screening before and following deployment for civilians, State requires medical screenings only before deployment. Prior GAO work found that documenting the medical condition of deployed personnel before and following deployment was critical to identifying conditions that may have resulted from deployment. Each agency provided GAO with a list of deployed civilians, but none had fully implemented policies to identify and track these civilians. DOD, for example, had procedures to identify and track deployed civilians but concluded that its guidance was not consistently implemented. While the other agencies had some ability to identify and track civilians, some had to manually search their systems. Thus, agencies may lack critical information on the location and movement of personnel, which may hamper their ability to intervene promptly to address emerging health issues, as GAO has previously reported.
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- Human Trafficking: DOD Should Address Weaknesses in Oversight of Contractors and Reporting of Investigations Related to Contracts
August 4, 2021What GAO Found The U.S. government has a zero tolerance policy for human trafficking, as established in a presidential directive, but trafficking in persons (TIP) of foreign workers on U.S. government contracts overseas persists. Selected Department of Defense (DOD) components have conducted limited oversight of contractors and not met combating trafficking in persons (CTIP) training requirements for contracts. Twelve of 14 Army and Navy contracting officers and contracting officer representatives (CORs) GAO spoke with said they were not aware of their CTIP oversight responsibilities, as set forth in CTIP guidance. DOD requires CORs to conduct contract oversight, but does not say how they should do so. Moreover, nine of 14 individuals said they took a CTIP training other than the required training for acquisition professionals. DOD CTIP guidance, as of fiscal year 2018, also no longer requires components to report the number or percentage of personnel trained, which may limit DOD’s awareness about whether acquisition professionals have taken their required training. Until DOD provides guidance to explain how contracting personnel should oversee contractor CTIP compliance and ensures they take the correct training, contracting personnel may continue to be unaware of their CTIP responsibilities. Department of Defense (DOD) Combatting Trafficking in Persons Awareness Poster The Army, the Navy, and DOD’s Office of Inspector General (DODIG) have systems for tracking investigations of TIP incidents, but the Army and DODIG did not report all TIP violations and investigations in contracts in annual self-assessments, as required by DOD guidance. For example, the Army and DODIG had incomplete reporting of closed TIP investigations in their annual reporting from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. Without complete reporting, DOD leadership lacks full information on TIP investigations. GAO also found that two investigations led to DOD taking action against the contractors, but the Army contracting officers did not report them as TIP violations in a federal database, as required. DOD guidance and federal regulations have different requirements for who is responsible for this reporting, and the Army has not developed clarifying guidance. Without accurate reporting of actions taken against contractors in this database, contracting officers will lack complete information when making future award decisions involving contractors that engaged in TIP. Why GAO Did This Study GAO and DODIG reports on overseas U.S. military operations have highlighted TIP among foreign workers employed on contracts. Congress included a provision in the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 for GAO to review DOD’s efforts to combat TIP related to contracts. This report examines, among other things: the extent to which selected DOD components have implemented oversight and training requirements for CTIP in contracts and the extent to which selected DOD components have tracked and reported investigations of TIP incidents in contracts from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO analyzed federal laws, and DOD guidance, regulations, contracts, and data related to CTIP. GAO also interviewed DOD officials, including Army and Navy officials responsible for overseeing contracts in U.S. Southern Command.
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June 10, 2021The Justice Department today announced its participation in a multinational operation involving actions in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Romania to disrupt and take down the infrastructure of the online marketplace known as Slilpp.
- DOD Acquisition Reform: Increased Focus on Knowledge Needed to Achieve Intended Performance and Innovation Outcomes
April 29, 2021What GAO Found As the Department of Defense (DOD) drives to deliver innovative capabilities faster to keep pace with evolving threats and emerging adversaries, knowledge—about programs’ cost, schedule, and technology—increases the likelihood that these capabilities will be achieved. GAO annually assesses selected DOD weapon programs and their likely outcomes by analyzing: (1) the soundness of a program’s business case—which provides evidence that the warfighter’s needs are valid and the concept can be produced within existing resources—at program start, and (2) the knowledge a program attains at other key points in the acquisition process. For example, the Navy’s Ford-class aircraft carrier program began with a weak business case, including an unrealistic cost estimate based on unproven technologies, resulting in over $2 billion in cost growth and years of delays to date for the lead ship. DOD’s new acquisition framework uses six different acquisition pathways and offers programs a chance to tailor acquisition approaches, providing options to speed up the process. However, preliminary findings from GAO’s 2021 annual assessment show that programs using the new middle-tier pathway face increasing risk that they will fall short of expected performance goals as a result of starting without sound business cases. While these programs are intended to be streamlined, business case information is critical for decision makers to know if a program is likely to meet its goals (see figure below). Completion of Key Business Case Documents by Selected Middle-tier Acquisition Programs The framework also introduces new considerations for program oversight and reporting. DOD has made some progress in developing its approach to oversight for programs using the new pathways, but questions remain about what metrics DOD will use for internal oversight and report to Congress for external oversight. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars annually to acquire new major weapon systems, such as aircraft, ships, and satellites, and deliver them to the warfighter. GAO has reviewed individual weapon programs for many years and conducted its annual assessment of selected major DOD weapon programs for 19 years. GAO added DOD’s weapon system acquisition process to its High-Risk List in 1990. This statement discusses: (1) the performance of selected DOD weapon programs and the role of a sound business case in that performance, (2) DOD’s progress implementing recent acquisition reforms, (3) the status of DOD’s actions to support innovation, and (4) DOD’s efforts to improve data for acquisition oversight. This statement is drawn primarily from GAO’s extensive body of work on DOD’s acquisition of weapon systems, science and technology, and acquisition reforms conducted from 2004–2021, and observations from an ongoing annual review of selected DOD weapon programs. To perform this work, GAO reviewed DOD documentation, program information, and relevant legislation. GAO also interviewed DOD officials.