Statement by the Press Secretary on the Horn of Africa Humanitarian Crisis
In 2011, the worst drought in 60 years struck the Horn of Africa. The United Nations declared famine in six regions of Somalia, threatening the lives of over 250,000 Somalis, and requiring urgent humanitarian assistance for more than 13.3 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and other parts of Somalia. The international community responded and famine conditions abated in January 2012. Nevertheless, today, more than 9 million people still remain in need of emergency assistance in Horn of Africa.
To prevent a worsening of the fragile humanitarian situation and more people requiring emergency aid, the United States Government is providing an additional $120 million to those in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. This assistance is targeted to avoid the crisis from escalating in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where the lateness and insufficiency of rains are expected to have a significant negative impact on crop production. We commend Ethiopia and Kenya for building the resiliency of their nations to mitigate the shock of food insecurity and drought, as well as their effort to host and provide a safe place for Somali refugees. This contribution brings the total U.S. assistance for the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa to more than $1.1 billion since the crisis began in 2011.
We urge the international community to continue their support and assistance to those in need of emergency assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with the objective of building resiliency in order to save lives.
BREAKING NEWS: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON BUDGET TALKS: “WE HAVE MADE SOME PROGRESS TODAY; GOING TO BE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK TO CLOSE A DEAL”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON BUDGET TALKS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:33 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I just completed another meeting with Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid, and I wanted to report again to the American people that we made some additional progress this evening. I think the staffs of both the House and the Senate, as well as the White House staff, have been working very hard to try to narrow the differences. We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight around the clock in order to see if we can finally close a deal.
But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism. But I think we are further along today than we were yesterday.
I want to reiterate to people why this is so important. We’re now less than 30 hours away from the government shutting down. That means, first of all, 800,000 families — our neighbors, our friends, who are working hard all across the country in a whole variety of functions — they suddenly are not allowed to come to work. It also means that they’re not getting a paycheck. That obviously has a tremendous impact.
You then have millions more people who end up being impacted because they’re not getting the services from the federal government that are important to them. So small businesses aren’t seeing their loans processed. Folks who want to get a mortgage through the FHA may not be able to get it, and obviously that’s not good as weak as this housing market is. You’ve got people who are trying to get a passport for a trip that they’ve been planning for a long time — they may not be able to do that. So millions more people will be significantly inconvenienced; in some ways, they may end up actually seeing money lost or opportunities lost because of a government shutdown.
And then finally, there’s going to be an effect on the economy overall. Earlier today one of our nation’s top economists said — and I’m quoting here — “The economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly. And the longer it dragged on, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.”
We’ve been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet. We’ve now seen 13 months of job growth; a hundred — 1.8 million new jobs. We had the best report, jobs report, that we’d seen in a very long time just this past Friday. For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable.
So, again: 800,000 federal workers and their families impacted; millions of people who are reliant on government services not getting those services — businesses, farmers, veterans; and finally, overall impact on the economy that could end up severely hampering our recovery and our ability to put people back to work.
That’s what’s at stake. That’s why it’s important to the American people. That’s why I’m expecting that as a consequence of the good work that’s done by our staffs tonight, that we can reach an agreement tomorrow.
But let me just point out one last thing. What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness.
That’s what I hope to be able to announce tomorrow. There’s no certainty yet, but I expect an answer sometime early in the day.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody.
Statement by the President on the Violence in Afghanistan
Today, the American people honor those who were lost in the attack on the United Nations in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Once again, we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were killed, and to the people of the nations that they came from. The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity. No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act. Now is a time to draw upon the common humanity that we share, and that was so exemplified by the UN workers who lost their lives trying to help the people of Afghanistan.
Readout of White House Drug Policy Deputy Director David K. Mineta’s Participation in a Veterans Substance Abuse Treatment Roundtable in Brooklyn, NY
Readout of White House Drug Policy Deputy Director David K. Mineta’s Participation in a Veterans Substance Abuse Treatment Roundtable in Brooklyn, NY
Washington, D.C. – Today, David K. Mineta, Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), held a roundtable discussion at Phoenix House Career Academy in Brooklyn, New York with 30 – 40 veterans participating in various therapeutic communities. The participating veterans are past or current clients at approximately 12 different New York City-based substance abuse treatment programs.
Topics covered in today’s roundtable included the challenges and barriers veterans uniquely confront as they recover from addiction to alcohol and drugs, and deal with myriad of other issues, including housing, employment, and mental health disorders. Particular attention was given to the experiences of women veterans and their children and the need for specialty services.
“Supporting military personnel and their families is a top priority of the Obama Administration. The treatment providers who participated in the roundtable today provide examples of how evidence-based treatment programs tailored to the specific needs of all veterans, including their families, can help restore the lives of those who have made great sacrifices for our country,” said Deputy Director Mineta. “Recent data show about one in eight active-duty military personnel reported past-month illicit drug use, a trend largely driven by prescription drug abuse. An active-duty service member who doesn’t get the appropriate treatment will one day be a veteran with a substance abuse problem – which highlights the need for treatment options specifically targeted to the unique needs of veterans and their families.”
ONDCP is coordinating an unprecedented government-wide public health approach to reduce drug use and its consequences. This effort includes requesting an increase in funding for drug prevention by $203 million and treatment programs by $137 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2011, to train and engage primary health care to intervene in emerging cases of drug abuse, expand and improve specialty care for addiction—including veterans care and family-based treatment, and to better manage drug-related offenders in community corrections.
For more information on National efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences visit: www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov
The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Touts Benefits of Tax Cut Package to Take Place in the New Year
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama looked forward to how the tax cut package he signed into law in December will benefit millions of Americans in the new year. For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments. The payroll tax cut will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family – 155 million workers will see larger paychecks because of that tax cut. Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. And eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit. Independent experts have concluded that the tax cut package should significantly accelerate the pace of the recovery.
The audio and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, January 08, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
January 08, 2011
Last month, our economy added more than 100,000 private sector jobs and the unemployment rate fell sharply. This follows encouraging economic news from increased auto sales to continued expansion of our manufacturing sector.
Now, we know that these numbers can bounce around from month to month. But the trend is clear. We saw 12 straight months of private sector job growth – the first time that’s been true since 2006. The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year. And each quarter was stronger than the last, which means the pace of hiring is picking up.
Now we’re seeing more optimistic economic forecasts for the year ahead, in part due to the package of tax cuts I signed last month. I fought for that package because, while we are recovering, we plainly still have a lot of work to do. The recession rocked the foundations of our economy, and left a lot of destruction and doubt in its wake.
So, our fundamental mission must be to accelerate hiring and growth, while we do the things we know are necessary to insure America’s leadership in an increasingly competitive world and build an economy that will provide opportunity to any American willing to work for it.
I’m absolutely confident we will get there. I am confident, first and foremost, because of you; because of the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs and business owners; the tenacity of our workers; and the determination of the American people. This is what has made our economy the envy of the world. But we have to do everything we can to help our businesses and workers win in this new economy.
Yesterday, I visited the Thompson Creek Window Company, a small business in Maryland. Over the past year, sales there have grown by 55% thanks, in part, to an energy tax credit we created. And this year, they’re also planning to take advantage of a new tax incentive for businesses. For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments. This will make it more affordable for businesses like Thompson Creek to expand and hire.
So, if you’re a business owner, I’d encourage you to take advantage of this temporary provision. It will save you money today and help you grow your business tomorrow.
This incentive is part of the economic package I signed into law last month – a package that also includes a payroll tax cut that will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family. In fact, 155 million workers will see larger paychecks this month as a result of this tax cut.
Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. Eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit to make college more affordable.
And millions of entrepreneurs in big cities and small towns across the country will benefit not only from the business expensing plan I mentioned, but from additional tax cuts that will spur research and development.
Independent experts have concluded that, taken together, this package of tax cuts will significantly accelerate the pace of our economic recovery, spurring additional jobs and growth.
And that is our mission. That should be the focus, day in and day out, of our work in Washington in the coming months, as we wrestle with a challenging budget and long-term deficits. And I’m determined to work with everyone, Republicans and Democrats, to achieve that goal. What we can’t do is refight the battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward. What we can’t do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.
The tax cuts and other progress we made in December were a much-needed departure from that pattern. Let’s build on that admirable example and do our part, here in Washington, so the doers, builders, and innovators in America can do their best in 2011 and beyond. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend.
Presidential Nominations Sent To Senate For Confirmation; Some Are Two Years Old Held Hostage By GOP
Note from the Editor of THE WASHINGTON REVIEW AND COMMENTARY:
“The following are a listing of Presidential nominations to various positions throughout the Obama Administration. Some of these nominations are two years old. Others are a year old. The reason for the delay of Senate confirmations regarding these Presidential nominations are purely partisan in nature.”
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Arenda L. Wright Allen, of Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, vice Jerome B. Friedman, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Anthony J. Battaglia, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California, vice M. James Lorenz, retired. (Originally nominated on 5/20/10)
Cathy Bissoon, of Pennsylvania, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, vice Thomas M. Hardiman, elevated. (Originally nominated on 11/17/10)
James Emanuel Boasberg, of the District of Columbia, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, vice Thomas F. Hogan, retired. (Originally nominated on 6/17/10)
Vincent L. Briccetti, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, vice Kimba M. Wood, retired. (Originally nominated on 11/17/10)
Louis B. Butler, Jr., of Wisconsin, to be United Stated District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin, vice John C. Shabaz, retired. (Originally nominated on 9/30/09)
Susan L. Carney, of Connecticut, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit, vice Barrington D. Parker, retired. (Originally nominated on 5/20/10)
Claire C. Cecchi, of New Jersey, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, vice Joseph A. Greenaway, elevated. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Edward Milton Chen, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California, vice Martin J. Jenkins, resigned. (Originally nominated on 8/6/09)
Max Oliver Cogburn, Jr., of North Carolina, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina, vice Lacy H. Thornburg, retired. (Originally nominated on 5/27/10)
Mae A. D’Agostino, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York, vice Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., retired. (Originally nominated on 9/29/10)
Roy Bale Dalton, Jr., of Florida, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida, vice Henry Lee Adams, Jr., retired. (Originally nominated on 11/17/10)
Sara Lynn Darrow, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois, vice Joe B. McDade, retired. (Originally nominated on 11/17/10)
Edward J. Davila, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California, vice Marilyn Hall Patel, retired. (Originally nominated on 5/20/10)
Charles Bernard Day, of Maryland, to be United States District Judge for the District of Maryland, vice Peter J. Messitte, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/21/10)
Bernice Bouie Donald, of Tennessee, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit, vice Ronald Lee Gilman, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Edward Carroll DuMont, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit, vice Paul R. Michel, retired. (Originally nominated on 4/14/10)
James E. Graves, Jr., of Mississippi, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, vice Rhesa H. Barksdale, retired. (Originally nominated on 6/10/10)
Caitlin Joan Halligan, of New York, to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, vice John G. Roberts, Jr., elevated. (Originally nominated on 9/29/10)
Marco A. Hernandez, of Oregon, to be United States District Judge for the District of Oregon, vice Garr M. King, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
Paul Kinloch Holmes, III, of Arkansas, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, vice Robert T. Dawson, retired. (Originally nominated on 4/28/10)
Mark Raymond Hornak, of Pennsylvania, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, vice Donetta W. Ambrose, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Amy Berman Jackson, of the District of Columbia, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, vice Gladys Kessler, retired. (Originally nominated on 6/17/10)
Richard Brooke Jackson, of Colorado, to be United States District Judge for the District of Colorado, vice Phillip S. Figa, deceased. (Originally nominated on 9/29/10)
Steve C. Jones, of Georgia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, vice Orinda D. Evans, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
John A. Kronstadt, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California, vice Florence-Marie Cooper, deceased. (Originally nominated on 11/7/10)
Goodwin Liu, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, vice a new position created by Public Law 110-177, approved January 7, 2008. (Originally nominated on 2/24/10)
Robert David Mariani, of Pennsylvania, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, vice James M. Munley, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Marina Garcia Marmolejo, of Texas, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, vice Samuel B. Kent, resigned. (Originally nominated on 7/28/10)
John J. McConnell, Jr., of Rhode Island, to be United States District Judge for the District of Rhode Island, vice Ernest C. Torres, retired. (Originally nominated on 3/10/10)
Sue E. Myerscough, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois, vice Jeanne E. Scott, resigned. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
Victoria Frances Nourse, of Wisconsin, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, vice Terence T. Evans, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
Jimmie V. Reyna, of Maryland, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit, vice Haldane Robert Mayer, retired. (Originally nominated on 9/29/10)
John Andrew Ross, of Missouri, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, vice Charles A. Shaw, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Esther Salas, of New Jersey, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, vice Katharine Sweeney Hayden, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Diana Saldaña, of Texas, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, vice George P. Kazen, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
James E. Shadid, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois, vice Michael M. Mihm, retired. (Originally nominated on 5/27/10)
Kevin Hunter Sharp, of Tennessee, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee, vice Robert L. Echols, retired. (Originally nominated on 11/17/10)
Michael H. Simon, of Oregon, to be United States District Judge for the District of Oregon, vice Ancer L. Haggerty, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/14/10)
Amy Totenberg, of Georgia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, vice Jack T. Camp, Jr., retired. (Originally nominated on 3/17/10)
Michael Francis Urbanski, of Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia, vice Norman K. Moon, retired. (Originally nominated on 12/1/10)
Kathleen M. Williams, of Florida, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, vice Daniel T. K. Hurley, retired. (Originally nominated on 7/21/10)
Fact Sheet on Security Enhancements
Statement By John Brennan on Holiday Security
As Prepared for Delivery
As we enter the peak of another holiday season, the homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence communities are collectively focused on doing everything they can to prevent terrorists from disrupting the safety and security of Americans as they travel, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy holiday festivities both at home and abroad.
We remain vigilant to attempts by al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations to carry out cowardly attacks against innocent men, women, and children, and we are working very closely with other governments to share all threat information immediately and to coordinate closely our counterterrorism and security activities. These international partnerships are critically important to our ability to identify would-be terrorists and to thwart their plans before they are able to act.
In response to President Obama’s direction, senior officials from departments and agencies met yesterday at the White House to review the latest threat reporting and to coordinate security and counterterrorism plans that will be in place during the holiday season.
Protecting the American people from the scourge of terrorism is an ongoing and constantly evolving process. It is the goal of the counterterrorism community to stay several steps ahead of our terrorist adversaries so that we can stop terrorists dead in their tracks before they are able to carry out either small scale or potentially devastating attacks. That is what the President has directed, that is what the American people rightly expect and deserve, and that is what we are bound and determined to do.
Finally, President Obama has been provided an update on the many steps that have been taken over the past year to enhance our counterterrorism capabilities as a result of the after-action reviews on several terrorism and security-related incidents, including the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas; the attempted bombings of passenger and cargo aircraft as well as of Times Square in New York City; and a variety of arrests and disruptions of terrorist plots in the homeland.
Post-Fort Hood Security Enhancements
Strengthened Cooperation Between DOD and FBI
The Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have standardized, streamlined and strengthened the processes and written procedures governing the investigation of individuals serving in or associated with the military who may pose a security threat, including the sharing of information between the two organizations about such threats. This will streamline information sharing and coordination between the FBI and all components of DOD, and will ensure that all counterterrorism investigators from both departments have all available information to further their investigations.
Thorough Analysis of CT Information
The FBI established a process that ensures a more thorough analysis of certain information available to the counterterrorism (CT) community about potential terrorist-related threats, particularly those that affect multiple equities inside and outside the FBI. The FBI has moved to ensure that it has allocated the necessary resources to accomplish that goal.
Improved Information Technology
The Government deployed specific, targeted technological enhancements to facilitate the automation of data correlation of counterterrorism-related information.
The FBI developed enhanced training programs for all counterterrorism personnel, including for detailees assigned from other departments to its Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). The FBI has ensured that all personnel assigned to its JTTFs have received this enhanced training.
Post-December 25 Security Enhancements
Clarified Analytic Responsibility
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued new guidance to clarify the counterterrorism responsibilities of each IC analytic component. This clarification will ensure that each member of the CT community has a clearly defined mission, ensuring an appropriate level of redundancy and accountability for threat warning and response but without creating gaps in coverage.
Established Pursuit Groups
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) established analytic “Pursuit Groups” to identify, pursue and track information and connect disparate pieces of intelligence that could lead to discovery of threats aimed against the U.S. Homeland or our interests abroad. These programs are aimed at ensuring that the full range of analytic tools and expertise are brought to bear on tracking and uncovering any such threats, including internal coordination to ensure suspected terrorists and their identities are expeditiously processed for inclusion on the watchlist.
Improving Information Technology
Consistent with the need to protect information from unauthorized disclosure, we continue to develop and deploy enhanced information technology tools that assist analysts in correlating disparate pieces of data, helping them to be both more efficient and more effective at identifying and connecting relevant terrorist threat information. The intelligence community is coordinating an IC-wide infrastructure that aggregates and analyzes data across agencies and networks, including the development of software that allows CT personnel to conduct “Google-like” searches across databases they are authorized to access. These technological enhancements, the implementation of which are time and resource intensive, are in various stages of development – some have been deployed, while others are in the pilot stages.
Enhancing Analytic Tradecraft
ODNI has developed new analytic training courses to enhance the rigor and raise the standard of tradecraft of intelligence analysis, with particular emphasis on uncovering and preventing terrorist plots. We are now in the process of deploying these pilot courses to train our CT analysts.
Watchlist Process Improvements and Enhanced Targeting
The Administration has revised and modified the criteria used to create terrorist watchlists, including enhancements to the process by which names are added to the No-Fly and Selectee Lists. Further, the Administration expanded the use of Terrorist Screening Database records to ensure the safety of the traveling public. In addition, TSA fulfilled a key 9/11 Commission recommendation by implementing the Secure Flight program, which matches passengers against terrorist watchlists for all flights within or bound for the U.S.. NCTC has also established an enhancement group and expanded its research of and access to relevant databases to enhance records of known or suspected terrorists.
Deploying Advanced Imaging Technology
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accelerated deployment of Advanced Imaging Technology, and has now deployed nearly 500 machines at over 75 domestic airports.
Real Time Watchlist Information
DHS and FBI launched the Watchlist Service, a new technical mechanism to transmit data from the Terrorist Screening Database, operated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, to DHS in real time. In addition to bolstering security, this system also achieves efficiencies by creating a centralized service for transmitting information to DHS instead of maintaining separate connections to multiple organizations within DHS.
Advances in Cargo Screening
In 2010, as required by the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft that depart U.S. airports is being screened commensurate with screening of passenger checked baggage. TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Program strengthens security by certifying more than 1,000 entities responsible for conducting cargo screening throughout the supply chain, minimizing the impact on the movement of commerce. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in coordination with the World Customs Organization, launched Operation Global Shield in 2010, an unprecedented multilateral law enforcement effort aimed at combating the illicit cross-border diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals for making improvised explosive devices by monitoring their cross-border movements.
Following the thwarted terrorist plot to conceal and ship explosive devices on cargo aircraft bound for the United States in October 2010, DHS took a number of additional steps to further strengthen supply chain security. These steps included adapting inbound cargo targeting rules to reflect the latest intelligence and ordering a ground halt on all cargo coming from Yemen and Somalia; prohibiting high risk cargo on passenger aircraft; prohibiting toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces on passenger aircraft – in both carry-on bags and checked bags – on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States, as well as on certain inbound international air cargo shipments; and implementing additional and enhanced screening of all cargo identified as high risk.
DHS is also working closely with industry and international partners to expedite the receipt of advanced cargo data for international flights to the United States prior to departure in order to identify and screen items based on risk and current intelligence before they are airborne. In December 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the air cargo industry launched a new joint technology pilot project to enhance the sharing of electronic shipping information to improve the identification of high-risk shipments.
Accelerated and expanded deployment of new technologies
Through the Recovery Act, TSA accelerated the deployment of a series of new technologies to airports around the country designed to detect the next generation of threats, including Advanced Imaging Technology units, Explosive Detection Systems, Explosives Trace Detection units, Advanced Technology X-Ray systems, and Bottled Liquid Scanners.
Strengthening International Aviation Security
DHS coordinated an unprecedented international commitment to enhance global aviation security. Through its participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), DHS secured: (1) a joint declaration committing member states to improving aviation security; (2) a new aviation security strategy framework that emphasizes the use of advanced screening technology and use of evolving security measures to defeat an adapting threat; and (3) a commitment to enhance global security standards, including the screening of cargo and airport workers.
2010 Information Sharing Counterterrorism Highlights
Information sharing across the federal government has increased significantly and productively since 9/11 and continues to improve every day. The Intelligence Community (IC) is cooperating with homeland security, law enforcement, and other key partners around the globe to fuse domestic and foreign intelligence in an effort to identify and disrupt homeland threats posed by alleged extremists. Below are several examples of terrorism prosecutions and / or thwarted plots that reflect such information sharing.
February 22: Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to several federal terrorism violations in connection with his role in an al-Q’aida plot to bomb the New York subway system in September 2009. Two of his associates, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, both U.S. citizens, were indicted on February 25 for their respective roles in the plot. Ahmedzay later pleaded guilty. A subsequent indictment in July charged Adnan El-Shukrijumah and other senior members of al-Q’aida for their alleged roles in recruiting Zazi, Medunjanin and Ahmedzay to carry out the attacks on the New York subway.
March 18: David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen and Chicago, Ill resident, pleaded guilty to a dozen federal terrorism violations, admitting to helping plan the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people, as well as later plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Headley admitted he attended Lashkar-e-Tayyiba training camps in Pakistan on five occasions and traveled to India five times to surveil targets on behalf of Lashkar. He also admitted that he conspired with accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri and others in plotting an attack on the Danish newspaper.
March 26: Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Chicago, Ill., resident, was arrested on federal charges for allegedly attempting to provide funds overseas to al-Qa’ida. Khan was charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism.
April 2: A superseding indictment was unsealed charging Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” and Jamie Paulin Ramirez, both U.S. citizens, with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in connection with their alleged travels to Europe to participate in violent jihad. LaRose was further charged with conspiring to murder an individual in Sweden and working with others to recruit individuals via the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe.
April 30: An indictment of Wesam el-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff, both U.S. citizens, was unsealed in federal court. The two were charged with conspiring to provide material support, including computer advice and assistance, to al-Qa’ida in Yemen.
May 4: Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and other federal crimes for attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, N.Y. on the evening of May 1, 2010. Shahzad pleaded guilty to all ten counts of the indictment on June 21, 2010, admitting that he received explosives training from the Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan and received funds for the operation from a co-conspirator in Pakistan. In October, he was sentenced to life in prison.
May 19: Khalid Ouazzani pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qa’ida. Ouazzani swore an oath of allegiance to al-Qa’ida in 2008, personally provided more than $23,000 to al-Qa’ida and performed other tasks on behalf of the terrorist organization.
June 3: Barry Walter Bujol Jr., a U.S. citizen and Texas resident, was arrested and indicted on charges of attempting to provide material support to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a result of his alleged efforts to travel to Yemen to join AQAP as a foreign fighter and to provide AQAP with currency, GPS devices, and U.S. military publications.
June 5: Mohamed Hamoud Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, both U.S. citizens, were arrested on charges of conspiring to kill, maim and kidnap persons abroad. The defendants allegedly conspired to go to Somalia, where they intended to join al-Shabaab and wage violent jihad
June 9: Syed Hashmi, charged with providing material support to al-Qa’ida and providing military gear to others who transported the gear to al-Q’aida associates in Pakistan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in April.
August 5: Four separate indictments were unsealed in Minnesota, Alabama and California charging 14 individuals with terrorism violations for providing money, personnel and services to al-Shabaab. Among those charged were Omar Hammami, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Alabama, and Jehad Mostafa, a U.S. citizen and former resident of San Diego, both of whom have allegedly joined al-Shabaab and risen to prominence in the organization.
September 1: A criminal complaint was unsealed charging Hakimullah Mehsud, the self-proclaimed emir of the Pakistani Taliban for his alleged involvement in the murder of seven American citizens on Dec. 30, 2009 at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. The complaint charged Mehsud with conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. citizens abroad.
September 19: Sami Samir Hassoun was arrested by FBI agents after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosive device outside a nightclub in Chicago.
September 23: Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced in New York to 86 years in prison for attempted murder and assault on FBI agents and military officers in Afghanistan. In 2008, Siddiqui was detained in Afghanistan by local authorities who found documents in her possession that referred to “a mass casualty attack,” and “dirty bomb” and that listed various U.S. landmarks.
October 18: James Cromitie, David Williams, Onita Williams, and Laguerre Payen were convicted in New York of several terrorism violations stemming from their efforts to detonate explosives near a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx, N.Y. and also plotting to shoot down military planes at the New York Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., with surface-to-air missiles.
October 19: Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a Jordanian national, who was arrested in September 2009 for attempting to detonate an explosive-laden vehicle at Fountain Place in downtown Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction
October 20: Zachary Adam Chesser, a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident, pleaded guilty to charges of communicating threats against the writers of the “South Park” television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement and attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab. Chesser, who allegedly communicated with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, attempted to travel twice to serve as a foreign fighter for al-Shabaab and repeatedly encouraged violent jihadists to kill U.S. citizens.
October 27: Farooque Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested on charges of assisting others whom he believed to be members of al-Qa’ida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C. area.
October 29: Two packages, each containing a bomb, were discovered on separate cargo planes as a result of intelligence received from Saudi Arabia. The packages, bound from Yemen to Chicago, Ill, were discovered en route during stopovers in England and Dubai. AQAP claimed responsibility for the plot.
November 26: Mohamed Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with a plot to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Ore.
December 8: Antonio Martinez (aka Muhammad Hussain), a U.S. citizen, was arrested on charges of attempting to murder federal officials and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with a plot to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb at an Armed Forces recruiting center in Catonsville, Md..
December 15: Abdul Kadir was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a plot to bomb JFK International Airport in Queens, N.Y. In August 2010, Kadir and co-defendant Russell Defreitas were convicted of conspiring to attack JFK International Airport by exploding fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline under the airport. Another defendant, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty before trial. A fourth alleged member of the plot, Kareem Ibrahim, faces trial on the same charges.
Remarks of President Barack Obama—As Prepared for Delivery
February 2, 2010
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:
Hello, Nashua! It’s great to be back in New Hampshire today. Now, as some of you might remember, I’ve spent a little time in this state. I’ve had beers at the Peddler’s Daughter here in Nashua and manned the scoop at ice cream socials from Sunapee to Dover to Hudson. I’ve walked Main Street in Concord, and visited with folks in all ten counties. I even once flew into the airport in Milan, which has got to be one of the only airports with a functioning wood stove.
So I’ve had the privilege of getting to know folks here in New Hampshire. I’ve seen firsthand that spirit of independence and self-reliance. I know how hard you all work, and how tough and resilient you all are.
But I also know that folks here in New Hampshire have been tested by these last two years.
We’ve gone through the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and folks here have had their lives uprooted by lost jobs, foreclosed homes, shuttered businesses, and vanished savings. Many good, hard-working people who met their responsibilities are now struggling because folks on Wall Street and in Washington didn’t meet theirs.
So when I took office, we knew the first thing we had to do was break the back of this recession. That meant doing some things that weren’t easy, and that I know weren’t popular. It wasn’t popular to prevent our financial system from collapsing by throwing a lifeline to the very Wall Street banks that helped cause this crisis in the first place. But if we hadn’t taken these steps, the entire system could have gone down and taken our economy and millions of families and businesses with it.
Because of the steps we took, the markets have stabilized. No one’s worrying about another Great Depression like they were a year ago. The worst of the storm has passed. But the devastation remains. Today, one in ten Americans still can’t find work.
That is why jobs will be our number one focus in 2010. And we’re going to start where most new jobs do – with small businesses. These are the companies that begin in basements and garages when an entrepreneur takes a chance on his dream, or a worker decides it’s time she became her own boss. They’re companies like ARC Energy, which I visited earlier today. These folks are hard at work on a new manufacturing process for ultra-efficient LED lights that will make them affordable for ordinary people. The technology they’ve created is the only of its kind in the world. They’re this little business in a condo out on Amherst Street, and they have the potential to revolutionize an industry. Right here in Nashua.
Small businesses like ARC Energy have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half. And I think we should make it easier for them to open their doors, expand their operations, and hire more workers. That’s why I’ve proposed a new tax credit for more than one million small businesses that hire new workers or raise wages – and a tax incentive for all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. And while we’re at it, we should eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, so these folks can get the capital they need to grow and create jobs.
That’s particularly critical right now, as bank lending standards have tightened, and many small businesses are struggling to get loans.
That’s why today, I’m announcing a proposal to take $30 billion of the money that was repaid by Wall Street banks, and use it to create a new Small Business Lending Fund that will provide capital for community banks on Main Street. These are the small, local banks that work most closely with our small businesses – that provide them their first loan, and watch them grow through good times and bad. The more loans these banks provide to creditworthy small businesses, the better a deal we’ll give them on capital from this Fund. Combined with my proposal back in December to continue waiving fees and increasing guarantees for SBA-backed loans, this will help small banks do even more of what our economy needs – ensure that small businesses are once again the engine of job growth in America.
This is just one example of what we’ve been doing to create jobs this past year. As some of you might remember, last February, we passed the Recovery Act, which had three parts. One third was tax relief for small businesses and 95 percent of working families. One third was emergency relief like increasing unemployment benefits and helping states keep teachers and police officers from losing their jobs. And one third was putting people to work on infrastructure, renewable energy, medical research and more.
Now, I understand why some people are wondering whether the Recovery Act has really worked. Because while these steps mean 2 million Americans are working right now who’d otherwise be unemployed, and our economy is growing again instead of shrinking – and growing at the fastest rate in 6 years – we lost 7 million jobs during this recession. So we’ve still got a pretty big hole to fill. And if you or a member of your family is one of those 7 million, I know it’s not particularly satisfying or reassuring to hear that it could have been a whole lot worse.
And because there’s no magic wand that will make economic problems that were years in the making disappear overnight, it’s easy for politicians to exploit the anger and anguish folks are feeling right now. But I have to say, I’ve noticed that some of the very same folks in Congress who opposed the Recovery Act – and claim that it hasn’t worked – have been all too happy to claim credit for Recovery Act projects in their districts and the jobs those projects have produced. In other words, they’ve found a way to have their cake and vote against it too.
So we’re making progress here, but it can’t come fast enough. And we know that if we truly want to have long-term economic growth in this country, then we need to start addressing the struggles middle-class families have been grappling with for years, long before this recession ever hit.
This past decade has been one of the toughest our middle class has faced in generations, as folks have seen their paychecks shrink and their housing prices fall, while the cost of everything from groceries to health care to college has gone up. They’re working two jobs; they’re working longer hours – but it’s not adding up. And a lot of people put their kids to bed at night wondering whether they’ll be able to give them the opportunities in life that they deserve.
I didn’t run for president to kick these challenges down the road. I didn’t run for president to play it safe and keep my poll numbers as high as possible for the next election. I ran to solve problems for the next generation. I ran to get the hard things done. And I won’t rest until businesses are hiring again, and wages are rising again, and the middle class is thriving again, and we’ve finally got an economy that works for all Americans again. I won’t rest until we do what we know will secure our continued leadership in the 21st century global economy. I’m not ready to cede the future to China or India or any other country. I’m not willing to settle for second place. Not for the United States of America.
But here’s the thing, Nashua: I can’t do this alone. Democrats can’t do this alone – nor should we. We’ve got two parties in this country. And that’s a good thing. It means we have heated debates and vigorous disagreements. And messy as that is, it means bad ideas can be discarded, good ones can be made better, and we don’t go too far to any one extreme. That’s the genius of our democracy.
So I was pleased when the House Republican Caucus graciously invited me to attend their retreat last week. For more than an hour, we had a frank conversation about the issues facing our country. We aired some grievances. We shared some ideas. There were plenty of things on which we didn’t agree. But there were also things on which we did – and many on which we should if we could just focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points.
We all agree that education is the key to a twenty-first century economy. We agree that the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. So why don’t we work together to transform our schools, so that every child in America can compete with their counterparts, from Beijing to Bangalore. Let’s work together to upgrade our community colleges, which are the gateway to a career for the children of so many working families. And in an era when a high school diploma is no longer a guarantee of a good job, let’s make college affordable for every qualified student. No graduate should have to pay more than ten percent of his or her income on student loans each year. We can see to it that they don’t – and we should.
Republicans and Democrats may not see eye to eye on the threat of global warming, but shouldn’t we agree that American grown energy is good for our security, and that new clean energy jobs are good for our economy? And surely, we can all agree that these jobs shouldn’t be going to China, or Germany – they should be here in America. So let’s invest in innovation. Let’s put people to work on solar panels and wind towers and cutting-edge batteries. Because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation.
These are key parts of the foundation we need to build a better future for our families and our country. And so is fixing a health insurance system that too often works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people.
No one should be satisfied with a system that allows insurance companies to deny care to folks with pre-existing conditions, or to kick people off their plans when they get too sick. No one should accept a system where small businesses are forced to pay outrageous premiums to get their workers covered, and seniors have big gaps in their Medicare prescription coverage. No one should accept another decade in which health insurance premiums double and millions lose their coverage altogether.
These are the things I hear about every day in the letters I get – from families going bankrupt; from small businesses crushed by their health care costs. So I won’t walk away from these efforts. I won’t walk away from these people. And I don’t think Congress should either. I think we should keep working to get this done – Democrats and Republicans together.
Finally, shouldn’t we all agree that we have got to do something about our deficits? These deficits won’t just burden our kids and grandkids decades from now – they could damage our markets, drive up our interest rates, and jeopardize our recovery right now
This isn’t how responsible families do their budgets. When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. And it’s time your government did the same.
That’s why I’ve proposed cutting more than 120 government programs – consolidating ones that are duplicative, reducing ones that are wasteful, and eliminating those that just don’t work. That’s why I’ve proposed to cap government spending over the next three years. Spending related to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and our national security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. And that’s why I’m grateful that both the House and Senate have now voted to reinstate the PAYGO rule that helped create those record surpluses back in the 1990s instead of the record deficits we had when I came into office. The concept here is very simple: you pay as you go. You want to start a new program? Go ahead. But you’ve got to cut another one to pay for it.
That’s how we’ll make sure we’re spending your money wisely. That’s how we’ll get our deficits under control. And that’s something on which Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree, if we could just get past the Washington game. Yet just last week, the Senate blocked a law I supported to create a bi-partisan Fiscal Commission that would come up with a set of recommendations for cutting our deficits in the long term – because solving this difficult challenge is something we can only do together. But this law failed when seven Republicans who had co-sponsored this idea suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I endorsed it. Now, it’s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion on something. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s another to walk away from your responsibilities to confront the challenges facing this country because you think it’s good short-term politics. That’s what we can’t afford.
The message you all sent when you elected me, and that folks made clear this past month, is that you’re out of patience for this kind of business as usual. You made it clear that you want us to start worrying less about our jobs and more about yours. You want us to worry less about our elections and more about solving your problems. And for once, you’d like your government to reflect the sense of responsibility, decency, and generosity with which you live your lives.
It’s the spirit that led students here at Nashua North to spring into action in the wake of the tragedy in Haiti – planning fundraisers, selling ribbons, collecting money at lunch – all to help folks they’ve never known in a place they’ve never been.
It’s the spirit that drives small business owners like Kedar Gupta, the CEO of ARC Energy. Years before Kedar founded ARC, he co-founded a company called GT Solar with just $1,000 – and it now has 343 employees and hundreds of millions in revenue. All along, he made sure his employees shared in the company’s profits. When the company hit tough times, he cut his own salary first. And when talking about his philosophy of business, he explains that many CEOs take a “Me, me and me” approach, but that his approach is about “we” – about not just benefitting himself, but lifting his employees too.
We’ve come through a tough year and a tough decade, but that fundamental decency – that determination to do what’s right that has always been at the core of the American people – that should fill us all with optimism about what lies ahead. So let’s put aside the small things. Let’s come together and do what’s hard, and do what’s necessary to help the middle class succeed again; to give our kids a shot at their dreams again; and to fulfill the promise of this great country in our time. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
President Obama Sets Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target for Federal Operations
Target to Drive Energy Cost Reductions in Federal Operations, Creating Clean Energy Jobs
WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama today announced that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. Reducing and reporting GHG pollution, as called for in Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, will ensure that the Federal Government leads by example in building the clean energy economy. Actions taken under this Executive Order will spur clean energy investments that create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build local market capacity, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy industries.
As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.
“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”
Federal Departments and Agencies will achieve greenhouse gas pollution reductions by measuring their current energy and fuel use, becoming more energy efficient and shifting to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal. Examples of agency actions that are underway are available on the White House Council on Environmental Quality website and can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/ceq.
On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, setting measureable environmental performance goals for Federal Agencies. Each Federal Agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010. The Federal target announced today is the aggregate of 35 Federal Agency self-reported targets.
Greenhouse gas emissions serve as a useful metric to measure the effectiveness of agency energy and fuel efficiency efforts as well as renewable energy investments. Agencies are already taking actions that will contribute towards achieving their targets, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models.
As a next step, the Office of Management and Budget will validate and score each agency’s sustainability plan, assuring a long-term return on investment to the American taxpayer. To ensure accountability, annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public.
For Immediate Release
January 8, 2010
Statement from Vice President Joe Biden
“My mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, passed away peacefully today at our home in Wilmington, Delaware, surrounded by her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and many loved ones. At 92, she was the center of our family and taught all of her children that family is to be treasured, loyalty is paramount and faith will guide you through the tough times. She believed in us, and because of that, we believed in ourselves. Together with my father, her husband of 61 years who passed away in 2002, we learned the dignity of hard work and that you are defined by your sense of honor. Her strength, which was immeasurable, will live on in all of us.”
Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden was born on July 17, 1917, the daughter of the late Ambrose J. Finnegan and the former Geraldine C. Blewitt of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1941, she married Joseph Robinette Biden. They were married for 61 years before Mr. Biden passed away in 2002.
Mrs. Biden is survived by her eldest son, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., his wife Jill Jacobs Biden and their three children, Joseph R. Biden, III, of Wilmington, Delaware, his wife Hallie Olivere Biden and their children, Natalie Paige Biden and Robert Hunter Biden, II; R. Hunter Biden of Washington, D.C., his wife Kathleen Buhle Biden and their children, Naomi King Biden, Finnegan James Biden and Roberta Mabel Biden; and Ashley Blazer Biden of Wilmington, Delaware; and by her daughter, Valerie Biden Owens of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, her husband John T. Owens and their children Valerie James Owens, Cuffe Biden Owens and Catherine Eugenia Owens; and by her two younger sons, James Brian Biden of Merion Station, Pennsylvania, his wife Sara Jones Biden and their children, James Brian Biden, Jr., Caroline Nicole Biden and Nicholas Coleman Biden; and Francis W. Biden of Florida and his daughter, Alana Jaquet Biden.
Details on services for Mrs. Biden, 92, will be available in the coming days. On behalf of the Biden family, Valerie Biden Owens has requested that, in lieu of flowers, those wishing to make a contribution in memory of Mrs. Biden do so to a hospice, the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington, Delaware, or the Naomi Christina Biden Minority Scholarship Fund at Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON STRENGTHENING INTELLIGENCE AND AVIATION SECURITY
State Dining Room
4:34 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. The immediate reviews that I ordered after the failed Christmas terrorist attack are now complete. I was just briefed on the findings and recommendations for reform, and I believe it’s important that the American people understand the new steps that we’re taking to prevent attacks and keep our country safe.
This afternoon, my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor, John Brennan, will discuss his review into our terrorist watchlist system — how our government failed to connect the dots in a way that would have prevented a known terrorist from boarding a plane for America, and the steps we’re going to take to prevent that from happening again.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will discuss her review of aviation screening, technology and procedures —- how that terrorist boarded a plane with explosives that could have killed nearly 300 innocent people, and how we’ll strengthen aviation security going forward.
So today I want to just briefly summarize their conclusions and the steps that I’ve ordered to address them.
In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted upon quickly and effectively. That’s what the intelligence reforms after the 9/11 attacks largely achieved. That’s what our intelligence community does every day. But, unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the lead-up to Christmas Day. It’s now clear that shortcomings occurred in three broad and compounding ways.
First, although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — that we knew that they sought to strike the United States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so — the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland.
Second, this contributed to a larger failure of analysis —- a failure to connect the dots of intelligence that existed across our intelligence community and which, together, could have revealed that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack.
Third, this, in turn, fed into shortcomings in the watch-listing system which resulted in this person not being placed on the “no fly” list, thereby allowing him to board that plane in Amsterdam for Detroit.
In sum, the U.S. government had the information — scattered throughout the system — to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack. Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.
That’s why we took swift action in the immediate days following Christmas, including reviewing and updating the terrorist watchlist system and adding more individuals to the “no fly” list, and directing our embassies and consulates to include current visa information in their warnings of individuals with terrorist or suspected terrorist ties.
Today, I’m directing a series of additional corrective steps across multiple agencies. Broadly speaking, they fall into four areas.
First, I’m directing that our intelligence community immediately begin assigning specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively — not just most of the time, but all of the time. We must follow the leads that we get. And we must pursue them until plots are disrupted. And that mean assigning clear lines of responsibility.
Second, I’m directing that intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the United States, be distributed more rapidly and more widely. We can’t sit on information that could protect the American people.
Third, I’m directing that we strengthen the analytical process, how our analysis — how our analysts process and integrate the intelligence that they receive. My Director of National Intelligence, Denny Blair, will take the lead in improving our day-to-day efforts. My Intelligence Advisory Board will examine the longer-term challenge of sifting through vast universes of intelligence and data in our Information Age.
And finally, I’m ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watchlists, especially the “no fly” list. We must do better in keeping dangerous people off airplanes, while still facilitating air travel.
So taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community’s ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze, and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively. In short, they will help our intelligence community do its job even better and protect American lives.
But even the best intelligence can’t identify in advance every individual who would do us harm. So we need the security — at our airports, ports, and borders, and through our partnerships with other nations — to prevent terrorists from entering America.
At the Amsterdam airport, Abdulmutallab was subjected to the same screening as other passengers. He was required to show his documents — including a valid U.S. visa. His carry-on bag was X-rayed. He passed through a metal detector. But a metal detector can’t detect the kind of explosives that were sewn into his clothes.
As Secretary Napolitano will explain, the screening technologies that might have detected these explosives are in use at the Amsterdam airport, but not at the specific checkpoints that he passed through. Indeed, most airports in the world — and in the United States — do not yet have these technologies. Now, there’s no silver bullet to securing the thousands of flights into America each day, domestic and international. It will require significant investments in many areas. And that’s why, even before the Christmas attack, we increased investments in homeland security and aviation security. This includes an additional $1 billion in new systems and technologies that we need to protect our airports — more baggage screening, more passenger screening and more advanced explosive detection capabilities, including those that can improve our ability to detect the kind of explosive used on Christmas. These are major investments and they’ll make our skies safer and more secure.
As I announced this week, we’ve taken a whole range of steps to improve aviation screening and security since Christmas, including new rules for how we handle visas within the government and enhanced screening for passengers flying from, or through, certain countries.
And today, I’m directing that the Department of Homeland Security take additional steps, including: strengthening our international partnerships to improve aviation screening and security around the world; greater use of the advanced explosive detection technologies that we already have, including imaging technology; and working aggressively, in cooperation with the Department of Energy and our National Labs, to develop and deploy the next generation of screening technologies.
Now, there is, of course, no foolproof solution. As we develop new screening technologies and procedures, our adversaries will seek new ways to evade them, as was shown by the Christmas attack. In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary. That’s what these steps are designed to do. And we will continue to work with Congress to ensure that our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement communities have the resources they need to keep the American people safe.
I ordered these two immediate reviews so that we could take immediate action to secure our country. But in the weeks and months ahead, we will continue a sustained and intensive effort of analysis and assessment, so that we leave no stone unturned in seeking better ways to protect the American people.
I have repeatedly made it clear — in public with the American people, and in private with my national security team — that I will hold my staff, our agencies and the people in them accountable when they fail to perform their responsibilities at the highest levels.
Now, at this stage in the review process it appears that this incident was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies. That’s why, in addition to the corrective efforts that I’ve ordered, I’ve directed agency heads to establish internal accountability reviews, and directed my national security staff to monitor their efforts. We will measure progress. And John Brennan will report back to me within 30 days and on a regular basis after that. All of these agencies — and their leaders — are responsible for implementing these reforms. And all will be held accountable if they don’t.
Moreover, I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer. For ultimately, the buck stops with me. As President, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people. And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands. We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.
And we’ve made progress. Al Qaeda’s leadership is hunkered down. We have worked closely with partners, including Yemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders. And we have disrupted plots at home and abroad, and saved American lives.
And we know that the vast majority of Muslims reject al Qaeda. But it is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations not just in the Middle East, but in Africa and other places, to do their bidding. That’s why I’ve directed my national security team to develop a strategy that addresses the unique challenges posed by lone recruits. And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death –- including the murder of fellow Muslims –- while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress.
To advance that progress, we’ve sought new beginnings with Muslim communities around the world, one in which we engage on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, and work together to fulfill the aspirations that all people share — to get an education, to work with dignity, to live in peace and security. That’s what America believes in. That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.
Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory. We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.
And in this cause, every one of us — every American, every elected official — can do our part. Instead of giving into cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people. For now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship — a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.
That’s what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. That’s how we will prevail in this fight. And that’s how we will protect our country and pass it — safer and stronger — to the next generation.
Thanks very much.
U.S.-Japan Joint Message on Climate Change Negotiations
Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Obama strongly affirmed their commitment to continuing to work together to usher in a new era in the global fight against climate change, and they recognized each other’s achievements toward this shared goal.
The two leaders also reaffirmed that shifting to low-carbon growth is indispensable to the health of our planet and will play a central role in reviving the global economy. To this end, our countries aspire to reduce our own emissions by 80% by 2050 and endorse a global goal of reducing emissions by 50% by that year.
Meeting the climate change challenge requires all major economies to take ambitious concrete actions: emission reduction targets by developed countries and actions by major developing countries that will significantly reduce their emissions compared to business as usual. These actions must also be subject to a robust regime of reporting and international review. A solution also requires that critical support be provided for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts among the poor and most vulnerable. The United States and Japan will continue to cooperate closely with each other on international negotiations to this end.
It is vital that we achieve a successful outcome at COP 15. The United States and Japan are determined to engage themselves at all levels to secure this goal.
INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT
BY MICHELE NORRIS AND STEVE INSKEEP
OF NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
June 1, 2009
4:02 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, welcome to the program.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Q Mr. President, thank you for joining us — that we could join you, in this case. If you want to improve relations with the Muslim world, do you have to change or alter in some way the strong U.S. support for Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t think that we have to change strong U.S. support for Israel. I think that we do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace, and that that’s going to require, from my view, a two-state solution; that it’s going to require that each side — Israelis and Palestinians — meet their obligations.
I’ve said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements including natural growth is part of those obligations. I’ve said to the Palestinians that their continued progress on security and ending the incitement that I think understandably makes Israelis so concerned — that that has to be — those obligations have to be met.
So the key is to just believe that that process can move forward and that all sides are going to have to give. And it’s not going to be an easy path, but one that I think we can achieve.
Q Mr. President, you mentioned a freeze on settlements. The Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is quoted today saying to Cabinet members in Israel that he will not follow your demand for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, that it’s not going to happen. What does it suggest that Israel is not taking your advice?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s still early in the process. They formed a government, what, a month ago? I think that we’re going to have a series of conversations. Obviously the first priority of a Israeli Prime Minister is to think in terms of Israel’s security. I believe that strategically the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security; that over time, in the absence of peace with the Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems along its borders.
And so it is not only in the Palestinians’ interest to have a state; I believe it is in the Israelis, as well, and in the United States’ interest as well.
Q But if the United States says for years that Israel should stop the settlements, and for years Israel simply does not, and the United States continues supporting Israel in roughly the same way, what does that do with American credibility in the Muslim world, which you’re trying to address?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what is certainly true is that the United States has to follow through on what it says. Now, as I said before, I haven’t said anything yet because it’s early in the process. But it is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace and that there’s not equivocation and there’s not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side; it’s going to have to be two-sided.
`And I don’t think anybody would deny that in theory. When it comes to the concrete, then the politics of it get difficult both within the Israeli and the Palestinian communities. But, look, if this was easy it would have already been done.
Q Many people in the region are concerned; when they look at the U.S. relationship with Israel, they feel that Israel has favored status in all cases. And what do you say to people in the Muslim world who feel that the U.S. has, repeatedly over time, blindly supported Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I’d say is there’s no doubt that the United States has a special relationship with Israel. There are a lot of Israelis who used to be Americans. There is huge cross-cultural ties between the two countries. I think that as a vibrant democracy that shares many of our values, obviously we’re deeply sympathetic to Israel.
And I think I would also say that given past statements surrounding Israel — the notion that they should be driven into the sea, that they should be annihilated, that they should be obliterated, the armed aggression that’s been directed towards them in the past — you can understand why not only Israelis would feel concern, but the United States would feel it was important to back this stalwart ally.
Now, having said all that, what is also true is that part of being a good friend is being honest, and I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region is profoundly negative not only for Israeli interests, but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.
Q Does it undermine your effort, reaching out to the Muslim world, which you’ll do with the speech in Cairo, that you’ll be speaking in a country with an undemocratic government that is an ally of the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind I already spoke in Turkey. They have a democracy that I’m sure some Turks would say has flaws to it, just as there are some Americans who would suggest there are flaws to American democracy –
Q Are you about to say Egypt is just a country with some flaws?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, what I’m about — don’t put words in my mouth, Steve, especially not in the White House. (Laughter.) You can wait until the postscript.
There is a wide range of governments throughout the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, and the main thing for me to do is to project what our values are, what our ideals are, what we care most deeply about — and that is democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.
Now, in every country I deal with, whether it’s China, Russia, ultimately Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, allies as well as non-allies, there are going to be some differences. And what I want to do is just maintain consistency in affirming what those values that I believe in are, understanding that we’re not going to get countries to embrace various of our values simply by lecturing or through military means. We can’t force these approaches. What we can do is stand up for human rights; we can stand up for democracy. But I think it’s a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we’re not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.
Q Michele Norris.
Q You’ve mentioned many times the importance of reaching out to Iran with an open hand, trying to engage that country. Are you also willing to try to engage with Hezbollah or Hamas, entities that have now had significant gains in recent elections?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s just underscore a point here. Iran is a huge, significant nation state that has, I think, across the international community been recognized as such. Hezbollah and Hamas are not. And I don’t think that we have to approach those entities in the same way. In the –
Q — does that change with their electoral gains?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, if at some point — Lebanon is a member of the United Nations — if at some point they are elected as a head of state — or a head of state is elected in Lebanon that is a member of that organization, then that would raise these issues. That hasn’t happened yet.
With respect to Hamas, I do think that if they recognize the Quartet principles that have been laid out — and these are fairly modest conditions here — that you recognize the state of Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate, that you abide by previous agreements, that you renounce violence as a means of achieving your goals — then I think discussions with Hamas could potentially proceed.
And so the problem has been that there’s been a preference oftentimes on the part of these organizations to use violence and not take responsibility for governance as a means of winning propaganda wars or advancing their organizational aims. At some point, though, they may make a transition — there are examples of — in the past, of organizations that have successfully transitioned from violent organizations to ones that recognize that they can achieve their aims more effectively through political means, and I hope that occurs.
Q Mr. President, because you mentioned Iran I want to ask a question about that and about your efforts to engage with the Muslim world in a different way. I’d like to know which development you think would be more harmful to America’s prestige in the Muslim world, which is worse: An Iranian government that has nuclear weapons, or an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to engage in these hypotheticals, Steve, but I can tell you that my view is that Iran possessing a nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing to the region — not just with respect to Israel’s response, but the response of other Arab states in the region, or Muslim states in the region that might be concerned about Iran having an undue advantage.
More broadly, I’ve got a concern about nuclear proliferation generally, something that I talked about in my speech in Prague. I think one of the things that we need to do is to describe to the Iranians a pathway for them achieving security, respect and prosperity that doesn’t involve them possessing a nuclear weapon. But we have to be able to make that same argument to other countries that might aspire to nuclear weapons, and we have to apply some of those same principles to ourselves, so that — for example, I’ll be traveling next month to Moscow to initiate START talks, trying to reduce our nuclear stockpiles, as part of a broader effort in the international community to contain our nuclear weapons.
Q And you want other nations to restrain themselves until you can complete that process?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s going to be the challenge. That’s why we’re so busy around here all the time.
Q Let me ask about one other challenge if I might.
Forgive me, Michele, go ahead.
Q No, go ahead.
Q Is your effort to engage the Muslim world likely to be complicated or even undermined by the fact that you’re escalating a war in a Muslim country, Afghanistan, with the inevitable civilian casualties and other bad news that will come out of there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there’s no doubt that anytime you have civilian casualties that always complicates things, whether it was a Muslim or a non-Muslim country. I think part of what I’ll be addressing in my speech is a reminder that the reason that we’re in Afghanistan is very simple, and that is 3,000 Americans were killed and you had a devastating attack on the American homeland; the organization that planned those attacks intends to carry out further attacks and we cannot stand by and allow that to happen.
But I am somebody who is very anxious to have the Afghan government and the Pakistani government have the capacity to ensure that those safe havens don’t exist. And so it’s — I think will be an important reminder that we have no territorial ambitions in Afghanistan. We don’t have an interest in exploiting the resources of Afghanistan. What we want is simply that people aren’t hanging out in Afghanistan who are plotting to bomb the United States. And I think that’s a fairly modest goal that other Muslim countries should be able to understand.
Q Mr. President, you have talked about creating a new path forward on Guantanamo, on the relationship that the U.S. has with countries in the Muslim world, and on several fronts. But at the same time, the former Vice President has been out talking about the policies in the former administration. He’s forceful, he’s unapologetic, and he doesn’t seem willing to scale back his rhetoric. How much does that undermine or complicate your effort to extend a hand, to explain the Obama doctrine and draw a line of demarcation between that administration and yours?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he also happens to be wrong. Right? And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn’t get a very good grade.
Does it make it more complicated? No, because I think these are complicated issues and there is a legitimate debate to be had about national security. And I don’t doubt the sincerity of the former Vice President or the previous administration in wanting to protect the American people — and these are very difficult decisions. If you’ve got a — as I said in my speech, if you’ve got an organization that is out to kill Americans and is not bound by any rules, then that puts an enormous strain on not only our intelligence operations, our national security operations, but also our legal system.
The one thing that I’m absolutely persuaded by, though, is that if we are true to our ideals and our values, if these decisions aren’t made unilaterally by the executive branch, but rather in consultation and in open fashion and in democratic debate, that the Muslim world and the world generally will see that we have upheld our values, been true to our ideals, and that ultimately will make us safer.
Q It’s unusual for the debate to be playing out in a public forum, though. Have you picked up the phone? Have you talked to him? Have you had a conversation?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think it’s that unusual. As I remember, there were some speeches given by Vice President Gore that differed with President Bush’s policies. And I think that’s healthy; that’s part of the debate. And I don’t in any way begrudge, I think, anybody in debating, sometimes ferociously, these issues that are of premium importance to the United States. And I am constantly listening and gauging whether or not there’s new information out there that I should take into account.
I will tell you that based on my reviews, I am very confident about the policies that we’ve taken being the right ones for the American people.
Q We’re told that our time is up. So you’ve been very generous.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys.
Official White House Statement From The Office Of The Press Secretary:
The United States is deeply concerned about the plight of innocent civilians
caught up in the conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil
Tigers, and the mounting death toll. We call on both sides to stop fighting
immediately and allow civilians to safely leave the combat zone.
We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop shelling the safe zone and
blocking international aid groups and media from accessing those civilians who
have managed to escape. International aid workers should have access to all
sites where internally displaced persons are being registered and sheltered.
The United States is working with international partners to attempt to care for
those civilians who can be reached.
We call on both sides to strictly adhere to their obligations under
international humanitarian law. We are very concerned about reports of
violations, and take these allegations very seriously.
It would compound the current tragedy if the military end of the conflict only
breeds further enmity and ends hopes for reconciliation and a unified Sri Lanka
in the future.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
April 25, 2009
Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.
One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.
All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.
But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.
It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.
Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.
But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.
First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.
Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.
Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.
And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.
We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HIGHER EDUCATION
Diplomatic Reception Room
1:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. That was excellent — we might have to run her for something some day. (Laughter.) That was terrific. Thank you, Stephanie. I want to also introduce Yvonne Thomas, who is Stephanie’s proud mother. And we appreciate everything that you’ve done. And Stephanie’s father, Albert, is around here as well.
There are few things as fundamental to the American Dream or as essential for America’s success as a good education. This has never been more true than it is today. At a time when our children are competing with kids in China and India, the best job qualification you can have is a college degree or advanced training. If you do have that kind of education, then you’re well prepared for the future — because half of the fastest growing jobs in America require a Bachelor’s degree or more. And if you don’t have a college degree, you’re more than twice as likely to be unemployed as somebody who does. So the stakes could not be higher for young people like Stephanie.
And yet, in a paradox of American life, at the very moment it’s never been more important to have a quality higher education, the cost of that kind of that kind of education has never been higher. Over the past few decades, the cost of tuition at private colleges has more than doubled, while costs at public institutions have nearly tripled. Compounding the problem, tuition has grown ten times faster than a typical family’s income, putting new pressure on families that are already strained and pricing far too many students out of college altogether. Yet, we have a student loan system where we’re giving lenders billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies that could be used to make college more affordable for all Americans.
This trend — a trend where a quality higher education slips out of reach for ordinary Americans — threatens the dream of opportunity that is America’s promise to all its citizens. It threatens to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And it threatens to undercut America’s competitiveness — because America cannot lead in the 21st century unless we have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. And that’s the kind of workforce — and the kind of citizenry — to which we should be committed.
And that’s why we have taken and proposed a number of sweeping steps over our first few months in office — steps that amount to the most significant efforts to open the doors of college to middle-class Americans since the GI Bill. Millions of working families are now eligible for a $2,500 annual tax credit that will help them pay the cost of tuition; a tax credit that will cover the full cost of tuition at most of the two-year community colleges that are some of the great and undervalued assets of our education system.
We’re also bringing much needed reform to the Pell Grants that roughly 30 percent of students rely on to put themselves through college. Today’s Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition at a four-year public institution as they did a few decades ago. And that’s why we are adding $500 to the grants for this academic year, and raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 next year, easing the financial burden on students and families.
And we are also changing the way the value of a Pell Grant is determined. Today, that value is set by Congress on an annual basis, making it vulnerable to Washington politics. What we are doing is pegging Pell Grants to a fixed rate above inflation so that these grants don’t cover less and less as families’ costs go up and up. And this will help prevent a projected shortfall in Pell Grant funding in a few years that could rob many of our poorest students of their dream of attending college. It will help ensure that Pell Grants are a source of funding that students can count on each and every year.
Now, while our nation has a responsibility to make college more affordable, colleges and universities have a responsibility to control spiraling costs. And that will require hard choices about where to save and where to spend. So I challenge state, college and university leaders to put affordability front and center as they chart a path forward. I challenge them to follow the example of the University of Maryland, where they’re streamlining administrative costs, cutting energy costs, using faculty more effectively, making it possible for them to freeze tuition for students and for families.
At the same time, we’re also working to modernize and expand the Perkins Loan Program by changing a system where colleges are rewarded for raising tuition, and instead, rewarding them for making college more affordable.
Now just as we’ve opened the doors of college to every American, we also have to ensure that more students can walk through them. And that’s why I’ve challenged every American to commit to at least one year of higher education or advanced training — because by the end of the next decade, I want to see America have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We used to have that; we no longer do. We are going to get that lead back.
And to help us achieve that goal, we are investing $2.5 billion to identify and support innovative initiatives that have a record of success in boosting enrollment and graduation rates — initiatives like the IBEST program in Washington state that combines basic and career skills classes to ensure that students not only complete college, but are competitive in the workforce from the moment they graduate.
And to help cover the cost of all this, we’re going to eliminate waste, reduce inefficiency, and cut what we don’t need to pay for what we do. And that includes reforming our student loan system so that it better serves the people it’s supposed to serve — our students.
Right now, there are two main kinds of federal loans. First, there are Direct Loans. These are loans where tax dollars go directly to help students pay for tuition, not to pad the profits of private lenders. The other kinds of loans are Federal Family Education Loans. These loans, known as FFEL loans, make up the majority of all college loans. Under the FFEL program, lenders get a big government subsidy with every loan they make. And these loans are then guaranteed with taxpayer money, which means that if a student defaults, a lender can get back almost all of its money from our government.
And there’s only one real difference between Direct Loans and private FFEL loans. It’s that under the FFEL program, taxpayers are paying banks a premium to act as middlemen — a premium that costs the American people billions of dollars each year. Well, that’s a premium we cannot afford — not when we could be reinvesting that same money in our students, in our economy, and in our country.
And that’s why I’ve called for ending the FFEL program and shifting entirely over to Direct Loans. It’s a step that even a conservative estimate predicts will save tens of billions of tax dollars over the next ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the money we could save by cutting out the middleman would pay for 95 percent of our plan to guarantee growing Pell Grants. This would help ensure that every American, everywhere in this country, can out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.
In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market — because it’s not a free market when we have a student loan system that’s rigged to reward private lenders without any risk. It’s about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students. I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is.
Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests. The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are. They are gearing up for battle. So am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families. And for those who care about America’s future, this is a battle we can’t afford to lose.
So I am looking forward to having this debate in the days and weeks ahead. And I am confident that if all of us here in Washington do what’s in the best interests of the people we represent, and reinvest not only in opening the doors of college but making sure students can walk through them, then we will help deliver the change that the American people sent us here to make. We will help Americans fulfill their promise as individuals. And we will help America fulfill its promise as a nation.
So thank you very much. And thank you, Stephanie. And thank you, Stephanie’s mom.
All right. Thanks, guys.
In the wake of a major shake-up at Johnson Publ!ishing Company, home of Ebony and Jet Magazine, the privately held corporation has announced that for the first time in its’ history, Ebony and Jet will be overseen by an editor-in-chief. Both magazines will create the position of editor-in-chief and maintain separate entities.
Tuesday Johnson Publishing Co. revealed that Mira Lowe has been named as editor-in-chief of Jet Magazine. The former Newsday associate editor was hired nearly two years ago by Johnson Publishing Co. editorial director Bryan Monroe. Monroe has since left the company with a hefty buyout option.
With the restructuring that has taken place at Johnson Publishing, of which insiders say will be on going until vast improvements begin to net profits, perhaps readers will see a more up-to-date Jet with a personality all its’ own and not a carbon copy of Ebony in miniature form. Keeping Jet magazine in step with the times will not be an easy task. But revamping Black America’s only newsweekly can, with the right person at the helm, solidify Jet’s relevance in a world that has rapidly changed since the magazine’s debut in the 1940′s.
And Ms. Lowe? Lose the “Beauty of The Week.”
CONGRATULATIONS JILL SCOTT!! Jill gave birth to a 7lb. 8oz. baby boy named Jett Hamilton Roberts!