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Presidential Memorandum -- Establishing the Director of White House Information Technology and the Executive Committee for Presidential Information Technology

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

              THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY

              THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND  BUDGET

              THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

              THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATION

SUBJECT: Establishing the Director of White House Information Technology and the Executive Committee for Presidential Information Technology

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to improve the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and Executive Office of the President (EOP), I hereby direct the following:

Section 1Policy.  The purposes of this memorandum are to ensure that the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP are efficient, secure, and resilient; establish a model for Government information technology management efforts; reduce operating costs through the elimination of duplication and overlapping services; and accomplish the goal of converging disparate information resources and information systems for the EOP.

This memorandum is intended to maintain the President's exclusive control of the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP.  High-quality, efficient, interoperable, and safe information systems and information resources are required in order for the President to discharge the duties of his office with the support of those who advise and assist him, and with the additional assistance of all EOP components.  The responsibilities that this memorandum vests in the Director of White House Information Technology, as described below, have been performed historically within the EOP, and it is the intent of this memorandum to continue this practice.

The Director of White House Information Technology, on behalf of the President, shall have the primary authority to establish and coordinate the necessary policies and procedures for operating and maintaining the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP.  Nothing in this memorandum may be construed to delegate the ownership, or any rights associated with ownership, of any information resources or information systems, nor of any record, to any entity outside of the EOP.

 Sec. 2Director of White House Information Technology.

  1. There is hereby established the Director of White House Information Technology (Director).  The Director shall be the senior officer responsible for the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP by the Presidential Information Technology Community(Community).  The Director shall:
  1. be designated by the President; 

  2. have the rank and status of a commissioned officer in the White House Office; and 

  3. have sufficient seniority, education, training, and expertise to provide the necessary advice, coordination, and guidance to the Community. 

  1. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations shall provide the Director with necessary direction and supervision. 

  2. The Director shall ensure the effective use of information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP in order to improve mission performance, and shall have the appropriate authority to promulgate all necessary procedures and rules governing these resources and systems.  The Director shall provide policy coordination and guidance for, and periodically review, all activities relating to the information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP by the Community, including expenditures for, and procurement of, information resources and information systems by the Community.  Such activities shall be subject to the Director's coordination, guidance, and review in order to ensure consistency with the Director's strategy and to strengthen the quality of the Community's decisions through integrated analysis, planning, budgeting, and evaluation processes. 

  3. The Director may advise and confer with appropriate executive departments and agencies, individuals, and other entities as necessary to perform the Director's duties under this memorandum.

 Sec. 3Executive Committee for Presidential Information Technology.  There is hereby established an Executive Committee for Presidential Information Technology (Committee).  The Committee consists of the following officials or their designees:  the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration; the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council; the Director of the Office of Administration; the Director of the United States Secret Service; and the Director of the White House Military Office.

Sec. 4Administration.  (a)  The President or the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations may assign the Director and the Committee any additional functions necessary to advance the mission set forth in this memorandum.

  1. The Committee shall advise and make policy recommendations to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and the Director with respect to operational and procurement decisions necessary to achieve secure, seamless, reliable, and integrated information resources and information systems for the President, Vice President, and EOP.  The Director shall update the Committee on both strategy and execution, as requested, including collaboration efforts with the Federal Chief Information Officer, with other government agencies, and by participating in the Chief Information Officers Council. 

  2. The Secretary of Defense shall designate or appoint a White House Technology Liaison for the White House Communications Agency and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall designate or appoint a White House Technology Liaison for the United States Secret Service.  Any entity that becomes a part of the Community after the issuance of this memorandum shall designate or appoint a White House Technology Liaison for that entity.  The designation or appointment of a White House Technology Liaison is subject to the review of, and shall be made in consultation with, the President or his designee.  The Chief Information Officer of the Office of Administration and the Chief Information Officer of the National Security Council, and their successors in function, are designated as White House Technology Liaisons for their respective components.  In coordination with the Director, the White House Technology Liaisons shall ensure that the day-to-day operation of and long-term strategy for information resources and information systems provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP are interoperable and effectively function as a single, modern, and high-quality enterprise that reduces duplication, inefficiency, and waste. 

  3. The President or his designee shall retain the authority to specify the application of operating policies and procedures, including security measures, which are used in the construction, operation, and maintenance of any information resources or information system provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP. 

  4. Presidential Information Technology Community entities shall:

  1. assist and provide information to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and the Director, consistent with applicable law, as may be necessary to implement this memorandum; and 
  2. as soon as practicable after the issuance of this memorandum, enter into any memoranda of understanding as necessary to give effect to the provisions of this memorandum.

 

  1. As soon as practicable after the issuance of this memorandum, EOP components shall take all necessary steps, either individually or collectively, to ensure the proper creation, storage, and transmission of EOP information on any information systems and information resources provided to the President, Vice President, and EOP. 

 

    Sec. 5Definitions.  As used in this memorandum:

  1. "Information resources," "information systems," and "information technology" have the meanings assigned by section 3502 of title 44, United States Code. 
  2. "Presidential Information Technology Community" means the entities that provide information resources and information systems to the President, Vice President, and EOP, including:

 

  1. the National Security Council; 
  2. the Office of Administration; 
  3. the United States Secret Service; 
  4. the White House Military Office; and 
  5. the White House Communications Agency.

 

  1. "Executive Office of the President" means: 

 

  1. each component of the EOP as is or may hereafter be established;
  2. any successor in function to an EOP component that has been abolished and of which the function is retained in the EOP; and
  3. the President's Commission on White House Fellowships, the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, the Residence of the Vice President, and such other entities as the President from time to time may determine.
     

Sec. 6General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

  1. the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, entity, office, or the head thereof; or 
  2. the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

 

  1. This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties, and subject to the availability of appropriations. 
  2. This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA

2015-03-19


Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate

NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:   

Francine Berman, of New York, to be a Member of the National Council on the Humanities for a term expiring January 26, 2020, vice Gary D. Glenn, term expired.

Richard Christman, of Kentucky, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service for a term expiring October 6, 2017.  (Reappointment)

LaVerne Horton Council, of New Jersey, to be an Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Information and Technology), vice Roger W. Baker.

Juan M. Garcia III, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Jessica Lynn Wright, resigned.

Douglas J. Kramer, of Kansas, to be Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration, vice Marie Collins Johns, resigned.

Shelly Colleen Lowe, of Arizona, to be a Member of the National Council on the Humanities for a term expiring January 26, 2018, vice Jane M. Doggett, term expired.

Andrew J. Read, of North Carolina, to be a Member of the Marine Mammal Commission for a term expiring May 13, 2016, vice Daryl J. Boness, term expired.

David J. Shulkin, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs, vice Robert A. Petzel, resigned.

Stephen P. Welby, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Zachary J. Lemnios, resigned.

2015-03-19


Executive Order -- Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade

EXECUTIVE ORDER

- - - - - - -

PLANNING FOR FEDERAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE NEXT DECADE

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) have been among our Nation's leaders as the United States works to build a clean energy economy that will sustain our prosperity and the health of our people and our environment for generations to come. Federal leadership in energy, environmental water, fleet, buildings, and acquisition management will continue to drive national greenhouse gas reductions and support preparations for the impacts of climate change. Through a combination of more efficient Federal operations such as those outlined in this Executive Order (order), we have the opportunity to reduce agency direct greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent over the next decade while at the same time fostering innovation, reducing spending, and strengthening the communities in which our Federal facilities operate.

It therefore continues to be the policy of the United States that agencies shall increase efficiency and improve their environmental performance. Improved environmental performance will help us protect our planet for future generations and save taxpayer dollars through avoided energy costs and increased efficiency, while also making Federal facilities more resilient. To improve environmental performance and Federal sustainability, priority should first be placed on reducing energy use and cost, then on finding renewable or alternative energy solutions. Pursuing clean sources of energy will improve energy and water security, while ensuring that Federal facilities will continue to meet mission requirements and lead by example. Employing this strategy for the next decade calls for expanded and updated Federal environmental performance goals with a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations and the Federal supply chain.

Sec. 2. Agency Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the head of each agency shall, within 90 days of the date of this order, propose to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) percentage reduction targets for agency-wide reductions of scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by the end of fiscal year 2025 relative to a fiscal year 2008 baseline. Where appropriate, the target shall exclude direct emissions from excluded vehicles and equipment and from electric power produced and sold commercially to other parties as the primary business of the agency. The proposed targets shall be subject to the review and approval of the Chair of CEQ in coordination with the Director of OMB under section 4(b) of this order.

Sec. 3. Sustainability Goals for Agencies. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and to achieve the goals of section 2 of this order, the head of each agency shall, where life-cycle cost-effective, beginning in fiscal year 2016, unless otherwise specified:

(a) promote building energy conservation, efficiency, and management by:

(i) reducing agency building energy intensity measured in British thermal units per gross square foot by 2.5 percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2025, relative to the baseline of the agency's building energy use in fiscal year 2015 and taking into account agency progress to date, except where revised pursuant to section 9(f) of this order, by implementing efficiency measures based on and using practices such as:

(A) using remote building energy performance assessment auditing technology;

(B) participating in demand management programs;

(C) ensuring that monthly performance data is entered into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for covered buildings;

(D) incorporating, where feasible, the consensus-based, industry standard Green Button data access system into reporting, data analytics, and automation processes;

(E) implementing space utilization and optimization practices and policies;

(F) identifying opportunities to transition test-bed technologies to achieve the goals of this section; and

(G) conforming, where feasible, to city energy performance benchmarking and reporting requirements; and

(ii) improving data center energy efficiency at agency facilities by:

(A) ensuring the agency chief information officer promotes data center energy optimization, efficiency, and performance;

(B) installing and monitoring advanced energy meters in all data centers by fiscal year 2018; and

(C) establishing a power usage effectiveness target of 1.2 to 1.4 for new data centers and less than 1.5 for existing data centers;

(b) ensure that at a minimum, the following percentage of the total amount of building electric energy and thermal energy shall be clean energy, accounted for by renewable electric energy and alternative energy:

(i) not less than 10 percent in fiscal years 2016 and 2017;

(ii) not less than 13 percent in fiscal years 2018 and 2019;

(iii) not less than 16 percent in fiscal years 2020 and 2021;

(iv) not less than 20 percent in fiscal years 2022 and 2023; and

(v) not less than 25 percent by fiscal year 2025 and each year thereafter;

(c) ensure that the percentage of the total amount of building electric energy consumed by the agency that is renewable electric energy is:

(i) not less than 10 percent in fiscal years 2016 and 2017;

(ii) not less than 15 percent in fiscal years 2018 and 2019;

(iii) not less than 20 percent in fiscal years 2020 and 2021;

(iv) not less than 25 percent in fiscal years 2022 and 2023; and

(v) not less than 30 percent by fiscal year 2025 and each year thereafter;

(d) include in the renewable electric energy portion of the clean energy target established in subsection (b) of this section renewable electric energy as defined in section 19(v) of this order and associated with the following actions, which are listed in order of priority:

(i) installing agency-funded renewable energy on site at Federal facilities and retaining corresponding renewable energy certificates (RECs) or obtaining equal value replacement RECs;

(ii) contracting for the purchase of energy that includes the installation of renewable energy on site at a Federal facility or off site from a Federal facility and the retention of corresponding RECs or obtaining equal value replacement RECs for the term of the contract;

(iii) purchasing electricity and corresponding RECs or obtaining equal value replacement RECs; and

(iv) purchasing RECs;

(e) include in the alternative energy portion of the clean energy target established in subsection (b) of this section alternative energy as defined in section 19(c) of this order and associated with the following actions, where feasible:

(i) installing thermal renewable energy on site at Federal facilities and retaining corresponding renewable attributes or obtaining equal value replacement RECs where applicable;

(ii) installing combined heat and power processes on site at Federal facilities;

(iii) installing fuel cell energy systems on site at Federal facilities;

(iv) utilizing energy from new small modular nuclear reactor technologies;

(v) utilizing energy from a new project that includes the active capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions associated with energy generation;

(vi) implementing other alternative energy approaches that advance the policy set forth in section 1 and achieve the goals of section 2 of this order and are in accord with any sustainability, environmental performance, and other instructions or guidance established pursuant to sections 4(e) and 5(a) of this order; and

(vii) including in the Department of Defense (DOD) accounting for alternative energy for this subsection, fulfillment of the requirements for DOD goals established under section 2852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 as amended by section 2842 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010;

(f) improve agency water use efficiency and management, including stormwater management by:

(i) reducing agency potable water consumption intensity measured in gallons per gross square foot by 36 percent by fiscal year 2025 through reductions of 2 percent annually through fiscal year 2025 relative to a baseline of the agency's water consumption in fiscal year 2007;

(ii) installing water meters and collecting and utilizing building and facility water balance data to improve water conservation and management;

(iii) reducing agency industrial, landscaping, and agricultural (ILA) water consumption measured in gallons by 2 percent annually through fiscal year 2025 relative to a baseline of the agency's ILA water consumption in fiscal year 2010; and

(iv) installing appropriate green infrastructure features on federally owned property to help with stormwater and wastewater management;

(g) if the agency operates a fleet of at least 20 motor vehicles, improve agency fleet and vehicle efficiency and management by:

(i) determining, as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, the optimum fleet inventory with emphasis placed on eliminating unnecessary or non-essential vehicles from the agency's fleet inventory;

(ii) taking actions that reduce fleet-wide per-mile greenhouse gas emissions from agency fleet vehicles, relative to a baseline of emissions in fiscal year 2014, to achieve the following percentage reductions:

(A) not less than 4 percent by the end of fiscal year 2017;

(B) not less than 15 percent by the end of fiscal year 2021; and

(C) not less than 30 percent by the end of fiscal year 2025;

(iii) collecting and utilizing as a fleet efficiency management tool, as soon as practicable but not later than 2 years after the date of this order, agency fleet operational data through deployment of vehicle telematics at a vehicle asset level for all new passenger and light duty vehicle acquisitions and for medium duty vehicles where appropriate;

(iv) ensuring that agency annual asset-level fleet data is properly and accurately accounted for in a formal agency Fleet Management System and any relevant data is submitted to the Federal Automotive Statistical Tool reporting database, the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration System, and the Fleet Sustainability Dashboard (FleetDASH) system;

(v) planning for agency fleet composition such that by December 31, 2020, zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles account for 20 percent of all new agency passenger vehicle acquisitions and by December 31, 2025, zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles account for 50 percent of all new agency passenger vehicles and including, where practicable, acquisition of such vehicles in other vehicle classes and counting double credit towards the targets in this section for such acquisitions; and

(vi) planning for appropriate charging or refueling infrastructure or other power storage technologies for zero emission vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles and opportunities for ancillary services to support vehicle-to-grid technology;

(h) improve building efficiency, performance, and management by:

(i) ensuring, beginning in fiscal year 2020 and thereafter, that all new construction of Federal buildings greater than 5,000 gross square feet that enters the planning process is designed to achieve energy net-zero and, where feasible, water or waste net-zero by fiscal year 2030;

(ii) identifying, beginning in June of 2016, as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, a percentage of at least 15 percent, by number or total square footage, of the agency's existing buildings above 5,000 gross square feet that will, by fiscal year 2025, comply with the revised Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings (Guiding Principles), developed pursuant to section 4 of this order, and making annual progress toward 100 percent conformance with the Guiding Principles for its building inventory;

(iii) identifying, as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, a percentage of the agency's existing buildings above 5,000 gross square feet intended to be energy, waste, or water net-zero buildings by fiscal year 2025 and implementing actions that will allow those buildings to meet that target;

(iv) including in all new agency lease solicitations over 10,000 rentable square feet:

(A) criteria for energy efficiency either as a required performance specification or as a source selection evaluation factor in best-value tradeoff procurements; and

(B) requirements for building lessor disclosure of carbon emission or energy consumption data for that portion of the building occupied by the agency that may be provided by the lessor through submetering or estimation from pro-rated occupancy data, whichever is more cost-effective;

(v) reporting building energy, beginning in fiscal year 2016 as part of the agency scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions for newly solicited leases over 10,000 rentable square feet;

(vi) including in the planning for new buildings or leases cost-effective strategies to optimize sustainable space usage and consideration of existing community transportation planning and infrastructure, including access to public transit;

(vii) ensuring that all new construction, major renovation, repair, and alteration of agency buildings includes appropriate design and deployment of fleet charging infrastructure; and

(viii) including the incorporation of climate-resilient design and management elements into the operation, repair, and renovation of existing agency buildings and the design of new agency buildings;

(i) promote sustainable acquisition and procurement by ensuring that each of the following environmental performance and sustainability factors are included to the maximum extent practicable for all applicable procurements in the planning, award, and execution phases of the acquisition by:

(i) meeting statutory mandates that require purchase preference for:

(A) recycled content products designated by EPA;

(B) energy and water efficient products and services, such as ENERGY STAR qualified and Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)-designated products, identified by EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE); and

(C) BioPreferred and biobased designated products designated by the United States Department of Agriculture;

(ii) purchasing sustainable products and services identified by EPA programs including:

(A) Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) chemicals or other alternatives to ozone-depleting substances and high global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons, where feasible, as identified by SNAP;

(B) WaterSense certified products and services (water efficient products);

(C) Safer Choice labeled products (chemically intensive products that contain safer ingredients); and

(D) SmartWay Transport partners and SmartWay products (fuel efficient products and services);

(iii) purchasing environmentally preferable products or services that:

(A) meet or exceed specifications, standards, or labels recommended by EPA that have been determined to assist agencies in meeting their needs and further advance sustainable procurement goals of this order; or

(B) meet environmental performance criteria developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies consistent with section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-113) and OMB Circular A-119;

(iv) acting, as part of the implementation of planning requirements of section 14 of this order, until an agency achieves at least 95 percent compliance with the BioPreferred and biobased purchasing requirement in paragraph (i) of this subsection, to:

(A) establish an annual target for the number of contracts to be awarded with BioPreferred and biobased criteria and dollar value of BioPreferred and biobased products to be delivered and reported under those contracts in the following fiscal year. To establish this target, agencies shall consider the dollar value of designated BioPreferred and biobased products reported in previous years, the specifications reviewed and revised for inclusion of BioPreferred and biobased products, and the number of applicable product and service contracts to be awarded, including construction, operations and maintenance, food services, vehicle maintenance, and janitorial services; and

(B) ensure contractors submit timely annual reports of their BioPreferred and biobased purchases; and

(v) reducing copier and printing paper use and acquiring uncoated printing and writing paper containing at least 30 percent postconsumer recycled content or higher as designated by future instruction under section 4(e) of this order;

(j) advance waste prevention and pollution prevention by:

(i) reporting in accordance with the requirements of sections 301 through 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (42 U.S.C. 11001 through 11023);

(ii) diverting at least 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste, including food and compostable material but not construction and demolition materials and debris, annually, and pursuing opportunities for net-zero waste or additional diversion opportunities;

(iii) diverting at least 50 percent of non-hazardous construction and demolition materials and debris; and

(iv) reducing or minimizing the quantity of toxic and hazardous chemicals and materials acquired, used, or disposed of, particularly where such reduction will assist the agency in pursuing agency greenhouse gas emission reduction targets established in section 2 of this order;

(k) implement performance contracts for Federal buildings by:

(i) utilizing performance contracting as an important tool to help meet identified energy efficiency and management goals while deploying life-cycle cost-effective energy efficiency and clean energy technology and water conservation measures;

(ii) fulfilling existing agency performance contracting commitments towards the goal of $4 billion in Federal performance-based contracts by the end of calendar year 2016; and

(iii) providing annual agency targets for performance contracting for energy savings to be implemented in fiscal year 2017 and annually thereafter as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order;

(l) promote electronics stewardship by establishing, measuring, and reporting by:

(i) ensuring procurement preference for environmentally sustainable electronic products as established in subsection (i) of this section;

(ii) establishing and implementing policies to enable power management, duplex printing, and other energy-efficient or environmentally sustainable features on all eligible agency electronic products; and

(iii) employing environmentally sound practices with respect to the agency's disposition of all agency excess or surplus electronic products.

Sec. 4. Duties of the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Chair of CEQ shall:

(a) in coordination with the Director of OMB, establish a Federal Interagency Sustainability Steering Committee (Steering Committee) that shall advise the Director of OMB and the Chair of CEQ on the performance of agency responsibilities under sections 2 and 3 of this order and shall include the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer referenced in section 6 of this order and agency Chief Sustainability Officers designated under sections 7 and 8 of this order;

(b) in coordination with the Director of OMB review and approve agency-wide scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets developed under section 2 of this order;

(c) in coordination with the Director of OMB, prepare streamlined reporting metrics to determine each agency's progress under sections 2 and 3 of this order;

(d) review and evaluate each agency's Plan prepared under section 14 of this order;

(e) within 45 days of the date of this order and thereafter as necessary, after consultation with the Director of OMB, issue implementing instructions or other guidance to direct agency implementation of this order, other than instructions within the authority of the Director of OMB to issue under section 5 of this order;

(f) within 150 days of the date of this order, prepare and issue revised Guiding Principles for both new and existing Federal buildings including consideration of climate change resilience and employee and visitor wellness;

(g) revise, as necessary and in coordination with the Director of OMB, existing CEQ guidance and implementing instructions on Sustainable Locations for Federal Facilities of September 15, 2011, Sustainable Practices for Designed Landscapes of October 31, 2011, as supplemented on October 22, 2014, Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance [Revision 1] of June 4, 2012, and Federal Agency Implementation of Water Efficiency and Management Provisions of Executive Order 13514 of July 10, 2013;

(h) within 150 days of the date of this order, prepare and issue guidance to assist agencies in the implementation of section 13 of this order;

(i) identify annually, based on total contract spending in the previous fiscal year as reported in the Federal Procurement Data System, the seven largest Federal procuring agencies responsible for implementation of section 15(b) of this order;

(j) administer a Presidential leadership award program to recognize exceptional and outstanding performance and excellence in agency efforts to implement this order; and

(k) establish and disband, as appropriate, temporary interagency working groups to provide recommendations to the Chair of CEQ associated with the goals of this order, including: grid-based green power; data quality, collection, and reporting; greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation of Federal freight and cargo; sustainability considerations in resilience planning; agency supply chain climate vulnerability; recycled content paper; green infrastructure; and carbon uptake accounting and wood products.

Sec. 5. Duties of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Director of OMB shall:

(a) issue, after consultation with the Chair of CEQ, instructions to the heads of agencies concerning periodic performance evaluation of agency implementation of this order, including consideration of the results from section 4(c) of this order;

(b) prepare scorecards providing periodic evaluation of Principal Agency performance in implementing this order and publish scorecard results on a publicly available website; and

(c) review and approve each agency's Plan prepared under section 14 of this order.

Sec. 6. Duties of the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer. Henceforth, the Federal Environmental Executive is reestablished as the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive is reestablished as the Office of the Chief Sustainability Officer, for which the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide funding and administrative support and that shall be maintained at CEQ. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer shall:

(a) monitor progress and advise the Chair of CEQ on agency goals in sections 2 and 3 of this order;

(b) chair, convene, and preside at quarterly meetings; determine the agenda; and direct the work of the Steering Committee;

(c) lead the development of programs and policies to assist agencies in implementing the goals of this order in coordination with DOE, EPA, the General Services Administration (GSA), and other agencies as appropriate;

(d) coordinate and provide direction to relevant existing workgroups through quarterly meetings to ensure that opportunities for improvement in implementation of this order are identified and addressed; and

(e) advise the Chair of CEQ on the implementation of this order.

Sec. 7. Duties of Principal Agencies. To ensure successful implementation of the policy established in section 1 of this order, the head of each Principal Agency shall:

(a) designate, within 45 days of the date of this order, an agency Chief Sustainability Officer, who shall be a senior civilian officer of the United States, compensated annually in an amount at or above the amount payable at level IV of the Executive Schedule, and report such designation to the Director of OMB and the Chair of CEQ;

(b) assign the designated official the authority to represent the agency on the Steering Committee established under section 4 of this order and perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate;

(c) prepare and distribute internally, where appropriate, performance evaluations of agency implementation of this order that reflect the contribution of agency services, components, bureaus, and operating divisions to the goals of this order;

(d) ensure, as soon as practicable after the date of this order, that leases and contracts entered into after the date of this order for lessor or contractor operation of Government-owned buildings or vehicles facilitate the agency's compliance with this order;

(e) implement opportunities to improve agency fleet sustainability, including vehicle acquisitions as established in section 3(g) of this order, waiver authority, and fleet data management practices, by revising agency fleet management review and approval procedures to include the Chief Sustainability Officers designated under this section and section 8 of this order;

(f) consider the development of policies to promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees that foster workplace vehicle charging, encourage telecommuting, teleconferencing, and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law;

(g) ensure regional agency actions consider and are consistent with, sustainability and climate preparedness priorities of States, local governments, and tribal communities where agency facilities are located;

(h) foster outstanding performance and excellence in agency efforts to implement this order through opportunities such as agency leadership award programs;

(i) continue implementation of formal Environmental Management Systems (EMS) where those systems have proven effective and deploy new EMSs where appropriate; and

(j) notwithstanding the limitations on implementation in section 17 of this order, apply, where feasible and appropriate, the strategies and plans to achieve the goals of this order in whole or in part with respect to fueling, operation, and management of tactical or emergency vehicles and to the activities and facilities of the agency that are not located within the United States.

Sec. 8. Duties of Contributing Agencies. Within 45 days of the date of this order, to ensure successful implementation of the policy established in section 1 of this order, the head of each contributing agency shall designate an agency Chief Sustainability Officer, who shall be a senior civilian officer of the United States, compensated annually in an amount at or above the amount payable at level IV of the Executive Schedule, and report such designation to the Director of OMB and the Chair of CEQ.

Sec. 9. Duties of the Agency Chief Sustainability Officers. The Chief Sustainability Officers designated under sections 7 and 8 of this order shall be responsible for:

(a) ensuring agency policies, plans, and strategies implemented to achieve the goals of this order consider the role of agency regional facilities and personnel and are integrated into agency permitting and environmental review policies, programs, and planning;

(b) developing and implementing an agency-wide strategic process that coordinates appropriate agency functions and programs to ensure that those functions and programs consider and address the goals of this order;

(c) reporting annually to the Chair of CEQ and Director of OMB a comprehensive inventory of progress towards the greenhouse gas emissions goals established in section 2 of this order;

(d) representing the agency on the Steering Committee;

(e) convening quarterly meetings of agency bureaus, commands, or operating divisions that are responsible for the implementation of strategies necessary to meet the goals of this order;

(f) representing the agency in any requests to the Chair of CEQ and Director of OMB to amend or normalize a baseline for goals established in this order due to change of greater than 5 percent as a result of agency space consolidation, a change in mission tempo, or improved data quality;

(g) providing plans, including the Plan prepared under section 14 of this order, reports, information, and assistance necessary to implement this order, to the Director of OMB, the Chair of CEQ, and the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer; and

(h) performing such other duties relating to the implementation of this order as the head of the agency deems appropriate.

Sec. 10. Regional Coordination. Within 180 days of the date of this order, each EPA and GSA Regional office shall in coordination with Federal Executive Boards established by the Presidential Memorandum of November 10, 1961 (The Need for Greater Coordination of Regional and Field Activities of the Government), DOD and other agencies as appropriate, convene regional interagency workgroups to identify and address:

(a) sustainable operations of Federal fleet vehicles, including identification and implementation of opportunities to use and share fueling infrastructure and logistical resources to support the adoption and use of alternative fuel vehicles, including E-85 compatible vehicles, zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and compressed natural gas powered vehicles;

(b) water resource management and drought response opportunities;

(c) climate change preparedness and resilience planning in coordination with State, local, and tribal communities; and

(d) opportunities for collective procurement of clean energy to satisfy energy demand for multiple agency buildings.

Sec. 11. Employee Education and Training. Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Office of Personnel Management, in coordination with DOE, GSA, EPA, and other agencies as appropriate, shall:

(a) consider the establishment of a dedicated Federal occupational series for sustainability professionals and relevant positions that directly impact the achievement of Federal sustainability goals and if appropriate, prepare and issue such occupational series; and

(b) initiate the inclusion of environmental sustainability and climate preparedness and resilience into Federal leadership and educational programs in courses and training, delivered through electronic learning, in classroom settings, and residential centers, particularly developmental training for Senior Executive Service and GS-15 personnel.

Sec. 12. Supporting the Federal Fleet. (a) GSA shall ensure that vehicles available to agencies for either lease or sale, at or below market cost, through its vehicle program include adequate variety and volume of alternative fuel vehicles, including zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles, to meet the fleet management goals of this order.

(b) DOE shall assist the United States Postal Service (USPS) in evaluating the best alternative and advanced fuel technologies for the USPS fleet and report on such progress annually as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order.

Sec. 13. Supporting Federal Facility Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The head of each agency shall, consistent with Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013, ensure that agency operations and facilities prepare for impacts of climate change as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order and consistent with planning required under section 5 of Executive Order 13653 by:

(a) identifying and addressing projected impacts of climate change on mission critical water, energy, communication, and transportation demands and considering those climate impacts in operational preparedness planning for major agency facilities and operations; and

(b) calculating the potential cost and risk to mission associated with agency operations that do not take into account the information collected in subsection (a) of this section and considering that cost in agency decision-making.

Sec. 14. Agency Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Beginning in June 2015, and continuing through fiscal year 2025, the head of each Principal Agency shall develop, implement, and annually update an integrated Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (Plan) based on guidance prepared by the Chair of CEQ under section 4 of this order. Contributing agencies are encouraged to prepare a Plan but may limit content of the Plan to a summary of agency actions to meet the requirements of this order. Each Principal Agency Plan and update shall be provided to the Chair of CEQ and Director of OMB, shall be subject to approval by the Director under section 5 of this order, and shall be made publicly available on an agency website once approved.

Sec. 15. Supply Chain Greenhouse Gas Management. In implementing the greenhouse gas management policies in section 1 of this order and to better understand and manage the implications of Federal supply chain greenhouse gas emissions:

(a) the Chair of CEQ shall, within 30 days of the date of this order and annually thereafter, identify and publicly release an inventory of major Federal suppliers using publicly available Federal procurement information, including information as to whether the supplier has accounted for and publicly disclosed, during the previous calendar year, annual scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emission data and publicly disclosed a greenhouse gas emission reductions target (or targets) for 2015 or beyond; and

(b) the seven largest Federal procuring agencies shall each submit for consideration, in conjunction with the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, a plan to implement at least five new procurements annually in which the agency may include, as appropriate, contract requirements for vendors or evaluation criteria that consider contractor emissions and greenhouse gas emissions management practices. The plans submitted for consideration may include identification of evaluation criteria, performance period criteria, and contract clauses that will encourage suppliers to manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and shall be implemented as soon as practicable after any relevant administrative requirements have been met.

Sec. 16. Revocations and Conforming Provisions. (a) Pursuant to section 742(b) of Public Law 111-117, I have determined that this order will achieve equal or better environmental or energy efficiency results than Executive Order 13423. Therefore, Executive Order 13423 of January 24, 2007, is revoked.

(b) Executive Order 13514 of October 5, 2009; Presidential Memorandum of December 2, 2011 (Implementation of Energy Savings Projects and Performance-Based Contracting for Energy Savings); section 1 of Presidential Memorandum of February 21, 2012 (Driving Innovation and Creating Jobs in Rural America through Biobased and Sustainable Product Procurement); and Presidential Memorandum of December 5, 2013 (Federal Leadership on Energy Management), are revoked.

(c) Presidential Memorandum of May 24, 2011 (Federal Fleet Performance), is revoked as of October 1, 2015.

(d) Section 3(b)(vi) of Executive Order 13327 of February 4, 2004, is amended by striking "Executive Order 13148 of April 21, 2000" and inserting in lieu thereof "other Executive Orders".

(e) Section 2(d) of Executive Order 13432 of May 14, 2007, is amended to read as follows: "'greenhouse gases' means carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, nitrogen triflouride, and sulfur hexafluoride;".

(f) Section 5 of Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013, is amended by striking "Executive Order 13514" and inserting in lieu thereof "other Executive Orders".

(g) Section 1 of Executive Order 13677 of September 23, 2014, is amended by striking "Executive Order 13514 of October 5, 2009 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance), and Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change)," and inserting in lieu thereof "Several Executive Orders have".

Sec. 17. Limitations. (a) This order shall apply to an agency with respect to the activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are located within the United States. The head of an agency may provide that this order shall apply in whole or in part with respect to the activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are not located within the United States, if the head of the agency determines that such application is in the interest of the United States.

(b) The head of an agency shall manage activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are not located within the United States with respect to which the head of the agency has not made a determination under subsection (a) of this section in a manner consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order to the extent the head of the agency determines practicable.

Sec. 18. Exemption Authority. (a) The Director of National Intelligence may exempt an intelligence activity of the United States, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from the provisions of this order other than this subsection to the extent the Director determines necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.

(b) The head of an agency may exempt law enforcement activities of that agency, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from the provisions of this order other than this subsection to the extent the head of an agency determines necessary to protect undercover operations from unauthorized disclosure.

(c) The head of an agency may exempt law enforcement, protective, emergency response, or military tactical vehicle fleets of that agency from the provisions of this order other than this subsection. Heads of agencies shall manage fleets to which this paragraph refers in a manner consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order to the extent they determine practicable.

(d) The head of an agency may exempt particular agency activities and facilities from the provisions of this order other than this subsection where it is in the interest of national security. If the head of an agency issues an exemption under this section, the agency must notify the Chair of CEQ in writing within 30 days of issuance of the exemption under this subsection. To the maximum extent practicable, and without compromising national security, each agency shall strive to comply with the purposes, goals, and implementation steps in this order.

(e) The head of an agency may submit to the President, through the Chair of CEQ, a request for an exemption of an agency activity, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from this order.

Sec. 19. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) "absolute greenhouse gas emissions" means total greenhouse gas emissions without normalization for activity levels and includes any allowable consideration of sequestration;

(b) "agency" means an executive agency as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, excluding the Government Accountability Office;

(c) "alternative energy" means energy generated from technologies and approaches that advance renewable heat sources, including biomass, solar thermal, geothermal, waste heat, and renewable combined heat and power processes; combined heat and power; small modular nuclear reactor technologies; fuel cell energy systems; and energy generation, where active capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions associated with that energy generation is verified;

(d) "alternative fuel vehicle" means vehicles defined by section 301 of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, as amended (42 U.S.C. 13211), and otherwise includes electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, dedicated alternative fuel vehicles, dual fueled alternative fuel vehicles, qualified fuel cell motor vehicles, advanced lean burn technology motor vehicles, low greenhouse gas vehicles, compressed natural gas powered vehicles, self-propelled vehicles such as bicycles, and any other alternative fuel vehicles that are defined by statute;

(e) "clean energy" means renewable electric energy and alternative energy;

(f) "climate resilient design" means to design assets to prepare for, withstand, respond to, or quickly recover from disruptions due to severe weather events and climate change for the intended life of the asset;

(g) "construction and demolition materials and debris" means waste materials and debris generated during construction, renovation, demolition, or dismantling of all structures and buildings and associated infrastructure;

(h) "Contributing Agencies" are defined as executive agencies that are not subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act and include Federal Boards, Commissions, and Committees;

(i) "divert" or "diverting" means redirecting materials from disposal in landfills or incinerators to recycling or recovery, excluding diversion to waste-to-energy facilities;

(j) "environmentally preferable" means products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, use, operation, maintenance, or disposal related to the product or service;

(k) "excluded vehicles and equipment" means any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or non-road equipment owned or operated by an agency of the Federal Government that is used in combat support, combat service support, tactical or relief operations, or training for such operations or spaceflight vehicles (including associated ground-support equipment);

(l) "Federal facility" means any building or collection of buildings, grounds, or structures, as well as any fixture or part thereof, which is owned by the United States or any Federal agency or that is held by the United States or any Federal agency under a lease-acquisition agreement under which the United States or a Federal agency will receive fee simple title under the terms of such agreement without further negotiation;

(m) "greenhouse gases" means carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, nitrogen triflouride, and sulfur hexafluoride;

(n) "life-cycle cost-effective" means the life-cycle costs of a product, project, or measure are estimated to be equal to or less than the base case (i.e., current or standard practice or product);

(o) "net-zero energy building" means a building that is designed, constructed, or renovated and operated such that the actual annual source energy consumption is balanced by on-site renewable energy;

(p) "net-zero water building" means a building that is designed, constructed, or renovated and operated to greatly reduce total water consumption, use non-potable sources as much as possible, and recycle and reuse water in order to return the equivalent amount of water as was withdrawn from all sources, including municipal supply, without compromising groundwater and surface water quantity or quality;

(q) "net-zero waste building" means a building that is operated to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, or recover solid waste streams (with the exception of hazardous and medical waste) thereby resulting in zero waste disposal;

(r) "passenger vehicle" means a sedan or station wagon designed primarily to transport people as defined in 102-34.35 of the Federal Management Regulation;

(s) "power usage effectiveness" means the ratio obtained by dividing the total amount of electricity and other power consumed in running a data center by the power consumed by the information and communications technology in the data center;

(t) "Principal Agencies" mean agencies subject to the Chief Financial Officers Act and agencies subject to the OMB Scorecard process under section 5(b) of this order;

(u) "renewable energy certificate" means the technology and environmental (non-energy) attributes that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource, that can be sold separately from the underlying generic electricity with which they are associated, and that, for the purposes of section 3(d)(iii) and (iv) of this order, were produced by sources of renewable energy placed into service within 10 years prior to the start of the fiscal year;

(v) "renewable electric energy" means energy produced by solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, ocean (including tidal, wave, current, and thermal), geothermal, geothermal heat pumps, microturbines, municipal solid waste, or new hydroelectric generation capacity achieved from increased efficiency or additions of new capacity at an existing hydroelectric project;

(w) "resilience" means the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions;

(x) "scope 1, 2, and 3" mean:

(i) scope 1: direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the agency;

(ii) scope 2: direct greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the generation of electricity, heat, or steam purchased by an agency;

(iii) scope 3: greenhouse gas emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled by an agency but related to agency activities such as vendor supply chains, delivery and transportation services, and employee travel and commuting;

(y) "United States" means the fifty States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and associated territorial waters and airspace;

(z) "water balance" means a comparison of the water supplied to a defined system to the water consumed by that system in order to identify the proportion of water consumed for specific end-uses and ensure potential water leaks in the system are addressed; and

(aa) "zero emission vehicle" means a vehicle that produces zero exhaust emissions of any criteria pollutant (or precursor pollutant) or greenhouse gas under any possible operational modes or conditions.

Sec. 20. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 19, 2015.

 

2015-03-19


Remarks by the President on Energy and Climate Change

Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.

11:28 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, It is wonderful to be here at the Department of Energy with some of our outstanding private sector partners.  Secretary Ernie Moniz is in Geneva doing some important work on behalf of our national security, but I want to thank him and his team at the Department of Energy, as well as our folks over at EPA.  And Administrator Gina McCarthy is here, as well as Christy Goldfuss at the Council on Environmental Quality. 

This has been a team effort to make sure that we are doing everything we can to boost the energy efficiency of the American economy.  And since we’ve said it’s important, we thought it was important for us to lead by example here at the federal government.  As you know, I just took a tour of the solar-powered roof upstairs.  And those panels are not just for show -- they produce power that the government doesn’t then have to buy off the grid.  And more and more businesses and more and more homeowners are following suit not because it’s simply good for the environment, but because it’s good for their bottom lines. 

Thanks in part to the investments that we’ve made over the past six years, the United States is rapidly becoming a leader in solar energy.  Last year was the biggest year for solar power in our history.  And, in fact, the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the economy as a whole.

So we’re proving that it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for our environment and tackling climate change in a serious way.

Over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to to combat climate change.  Last year, the federal government used less energy than at any time in the past four decades.   And in a historic joint announcement that many of you saw, China committed to limiting their emissions for the first time. 

So today, America once again is going to be leading by example.  This morning, I signed an executive order that will do two things.  First, we’re going to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from the 2008 levels within the next 10 years.  Second, we’re going to increase the share of electricity that the federal government uses from renewable sources to 30 percent within the next 10 years.  These are ambitious goals, but we know that they’re achievable goals.

And I want to thank the executives of some of our leading companies in the country who are here, because they’re stepping up and making similar commitments.  Folks from IBM to GE, Northrop Grumman -- some of our biggest Fortune 100 companies are setting their own ambitious goals.  And, cumulatively, what this is doing is allowing us across the economy to not only hit some key targets that are going to be required in order for us to reduce climate change, but they’re also saving money, helping their bottom line, and they’re giving a boost to the industry as a whole -- because as we get economies of scale, and demand for solar and wind and other renewable energies grows, obviously that can help drive down the overall price, make it that much for efficient, and we start getting a virtuous cycle that is good for the economy and creates jobs here in America.

So we very much want to thank our private sector partners.  You guys have done an outstanding job.  And because of the prominence of many of the companies here, and the fact that they’ve got a whole bunch of suppliers up and down the chain, what you do with respect to energy efficiency is going to have a ripple effect throughout the economy.  And we’re very pleased with that.

So thank you very much.  Thank you, guys.

Q    -- Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, we’re talking about energy, and it’s a great story, so hopefully you’ll focus on it.  Thank you, guys.

END
11:33 A.M. EDT

2015-03-19


President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Hage Geingob, President-elect of the Republic of Namibia, and the 25th Anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Namibia

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Namibia to attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Hage Geingob, President-elect of the Republic of Namibia, and the 25th Anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Namibia on March 21, 2015. 

The Honorable Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Thomas F. Daughton, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Namibia

The Honorable Karen Bass, Member of the United States House of Representatives (CA-37)

The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Department of State

The Honorable Deborah L. Birx, Ambassador-at-Large and United States Global AIDS Coordinator & Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Department of State

2015-03-19


FACT SHEET: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Federal Government and Across the Supply Chain

The President is committed to addressing the climate change threat – both by taking action here at home and showing leadership on the world stage. As part of his commitment to lead by example to curb the emissions that are driving climate change, today President Obama will issue an Executive Order that will cut the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels -- saving taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs -- and increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent. Complementing this effort, several major Federal suppliers are announcing commitments to cut their own GHG emissions. Today, the Administration is hosting a roundtable that will bring some of these large Federal suppliers together to discuss the benefits of their GHG reduction targets or to make their first-ever corporate commitments to disclose emissions and set new reduction goals.

Together, the combined results of the Federal Government actions and new supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year. And to encourage continued progress across the Federal supply chain, the Administration is releasing a new scorecard to publicly track self-reported emissions disclosure and progress for all major Federal suppliers, who together represent more than $187 billion in Federal spending and account for more than 40 percent of all Federal contract dollars.

Since the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the Nation, Federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts.  The new commitments announced today support the United States’ international commitment to cut net GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which President Obama first announced in November 2014 as part of an historic agreement with China. Additionally, the goals build on the strong progress made by Federal agencies during the first six years of the Administration under President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order on Federal Leadership on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, including reducing Federal GHG emissions by 17 percent — which helped Federal agencies avoid $1.8 billion in cumulative energy costs — and increasing the share of renewable energy consumption to 9 percent.  

Leading by example in the Federal Government

With a footprint that includes 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and $445 billion spent annually on goods and services, the Federal Government’s actions to reduce pollution, support renewable energy, and operate more efficiently can make a significant impact on national emissions. The President’s action today will build on the Federal Government’s significant progress in reducing emissions to drive further sustainability actions through the next decade. In addition to cutting emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy, the Executive Order outlines a number of additional measures to make the Federal Government’s operations more sustainable, efficient and energy-secure while saving taxpayer dollars. Specifically, the Executive Order directs Federal agencies to:

  • Ensure 25 percent of their total energy (electric and thermal) consumption is from clean energy sources by 2025.
  • Reduce energy use in Federal buildings by 2.5 percent per year between 2015 and 2025.
  • Reduce per-mile GHG emissions from Federal fleets by 30 percent from 2014 levels by 2025, and increase the percentage of zero emission and plug in hybrid vehicles in Federal fleets. 
  • Reduce water intensity in Federal buildings by 2 percent per year through 2025.

Encouraging progress across the supply chain

In addition to setting aggressive new efficiency standards for Federal agencies, the Administration is engaging with major Federal suppliers to encourage them to adopt similar practices.  Today, the Administration is hosting a roundtable that will bring some of the largest Federal suppliers together to discuss the benefits of their GHG emission reduction targets or to make their first-ever corporate commitments to disclose emissions and set new reduction goals. The companies attending this roundtable each do more than $1 billion a year in business with the U.S. Government and together account for about $45 billion in Federal contract spending.  Combined, they bring a total GHG reduction commitment of 5 million metric tons between 2008 and 2020, and have made the following specific commitments:

IBM
IBM, one of the world’s largest providers of IT services and solutions, today announced two new goals:

  • Reduce CO2 emissions associated with IBM's energy consumption 35 percent by year-end 2020 against base year 2005 adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures.  This represents an additional 20 percent reduction from year-end 2012 to year-end 2020 over the reductions achieved from 2005 to 2012 under the company’s second generation goal.
  • Procure electricity from renewable sources for 20 percent of IBM's annual electricity consumption by 2020. IBM will contract over 800,000 megawatt-hours per year of renewable electricity -- an amount that can power a city of 100,000 people. The company will match its purchased renewable electricity directly to its operations as opposed to purchasing renewable energy certificates as offsets, making a clear connection between purchases and consumption.  

IBM has been working on reducing GHG emissions and reporting results for 25 years, avoiding 3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions through conservation actions between 1990 and 2005 -- an amount equal to 40 percent of its 1990 emissions. With today’s announcement, IBM is embarking on its third generation goal.  

GE
GE, a global infrastructure and finance company, launched a line of environmentally responsible products in 2005 to accelerate innovation and growth in a resource constrained world through efficient and intelligent solutions. By the end of 2014, GE had invested $15 billion in R&D to develop more efficient technologies and generated approximately $200 billion in revenue from these products. In addition GE committed in 2005 to reduce its water use and GHG emissions -- by the end of 2013, GE had reduced its global GHG emissions by 34 percent from 2004 and water use by 45 percent from 2006. To continue this progress, GE has announced 2020 commitments to invest a cumulative $25 billion in R&D and reduce water and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from a 2011 baseline.

Honeywell
Honeywell, a global technology and manufacturing company, today announced its third public goal to reduce GHG emissions throughout its global business operations. Honeywell exceeded its first public goal to reduce GHGs by more than 30 percent from a 2004 baseline in 2011, and then achieved an additional 15 percent per dollar of revenue reduction from 2011 levels by 2014, three years earlier than originally planned.  Because of this progress, the company set its latest five-year goal earlier than anticipated; by 2019 Honeywell expects to achieve an additional 10 percent per dollar of revenue reduction from 2013 levels.  Honeywell also has exceeded goals to increase energy efficiency in its businesses.  The company’s facilities have implemented more than 2,100 energy efficiency projects including building automation/controls, lighting, and mechanical upgrades since 2010.

SRA International
SRA International, a provider of IT solutions and professional services to government organizations, today announced a goal to reduce its GHG emissions by 35 percent by FY 2020 relative to a FY 2007 baseline. SRA’s FY 2007 Scope 1 and 2 GHG goal baseline is 6,267.9 metric tons CO2-equivalent (MTCO2e). SRA has further committed to reduce paper use by 75 percent per person (from FY 2007 use) and to achieve a 90 percent recycling rate by FY 2020.  SRA has committed to conducting its operations in an environmentally responsible manner and minimizing its environmental impacts. In 2007, SRA launched its Go Green initiative. Since then, the company has applied sustainability practices to many of its business operations and has identified, assessed and implemented initiatives to help it operate more efficiently and with a lighter environmental footprint.

Humana
Humana Inc., a health and well-being company, announced today that it will work to reduce its GHG emissions by 5 percent from 2015 through 2017, from a 2013 baseline.  In 2012, Humana announced energy-saving goals, identifying and investing in a variety of energy-efficiency initiatives, primarily focused on owned real estate.  By the end of 2012, the company achieved a 6 percent reduction in energy consumption.  During 2013, the company realized an 8 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 3 percent reduction in GHG emissions (approximately 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide) from a 2009 baseline. Humana’s facilities represent one of the company’s biggest opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce emissions.  Humana will continue to invest in capital projects to support improvements in various owned and leased sites, including its data centers, adopting LED lighting standards, expanding waste-reduction programs, and continuing to explore renewable energy options.  In addition, Humana acknowledges that its employees play an important role in achieving a healthy planet, and pledges to continue enhancing engagement efforts with associates, helping them become better stewards of the environment in the workplace and at home.

CSC
CSC, a next-generation information technology (IT) services and solutions provider, today confirmed its intention to meet an absolute global greenhouse gas reduction target of 18 percent by 2018 (baseline 2012). Through implementing best practices in data center power and cooling, employee education and real estate footprint consolidation, CSC has already achieved 8.7 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in one year and eliminated 30,472 tons of Scope 1 (Direct), Scope 2 (Indirect) CO2e and Scope 3 (Travel) emissions across the business.  

AECOM
AECOM, a global infrastructure design, build, finance and operating services firm, today announced it will identify the GHG issues relevant to its operations by October 2015 and set reduction targets for 2018.  The firm will report progress toward those targets and the strategies employed will be reported in its annual enterprise sustainability report each year starting in 2016. Given the nature of AECOM’s business, the firm will report on GHG issues related to the energy consumed (conditioning, water and waste) in the spaces it occupies — in conjunction with its landlords — as well as in areas related to travel, purchasing and printing.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) 
SAIC, a technology integrator for government and select commercial customers, announced today that it plans to publicly disclose its GHG emissions for calendar year 2014 to establish a baseline for emissions and to set a goal for a new GHG reduction target by March 2016. SAIC’s GHG emissions for the first three months of operations (October – December 2013) were 4,814 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. SAIC recognizes that GHG emissions are an important metric in gauging an organization’s overall environmental impact and corporate commitment to mitigate negative impacts.   

HP
HP, one of the world’s largest providers of information technology infrastructure, software, services, and solutions, is committed to reducing GHGs across its entire value chain. HP was the first global IT company to publish and verify its complete carbon footprint and take action to reduce its GHG emissions across all three parts of its value chain: operations, supply chain and products. HP set a goal to reduce total GHG emissions from its operations (Scope 1 and Scope 2) by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 2010 levels. This built on the company’s previous goal of a 20 percent carbon reduction, which HP achieved in 2011—two years early. In 2013, HP set the industry’s first supply chain GHG emissions reduction goal: a 20 percent decrease in first-tier manufacturing and product transportation-related GHG emissions intensity by 2020, compared with 2010. In 2014, HP set a new goal to reduce the emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 40 percent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline, which will help HP and its customers worldwide reduce carbon impacts.

Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation, a global security company, is committed to environmental sustainability leadership. Northrop Grumman has announced its 2020 environmental sustainability goals: to reduce absolute GHG emissions 30 percent from 2010 levels; to reduce water consumption by 20 percent from 2014 levels; and to achieve a 70 percent solid waste diversion rate. As of year-end 2013, Northrop Grumman reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 26.5 percent relative to sales from 2008 levels and achieved its inaugural GHG reduction goal two years early. This performance resulted in the reduction of more than 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

United Technologies
United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a global aerospace and commercial building industries company, has reduced GHG emissions in its own operations by more than 30 percent since 2007. On the product side, the company’s Carrier business calculates that installations of its high-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems since 2000 have avoided the release of more than 164 million metrics tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And UTC’s Pratt & Whitney business’s innovative PurePower jet engine cuts carbon emissions by over 3,600 metric tons per aircraft per year – equal to planting more than 900,000 trees. UTC is committed to continuing its absolute GHG reduction and later this year will release new goals to be achieved by 2020.

CH2MHill
CH2M HILL, an employee-owned global consulting firm, set an absolute GHG reduction goal of 25 percent between 2012 and 2017 for global operations and is well over halfway toward meeting the 2017 target. The company’s emissions have declined through reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions for vehicles and buildings; improved efficiency of four LEED- and ENERGY STAR-certified headquarter buildings; and office energy conservation programs. Looking forward, CH2M HILL plans to continue its energy management efforts, renewable energy investments, sourcing of high-quality carbon offsets, and additional actions for management of its Scope 3 carbon footprint. In February, CH2M HILL received the Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management—Goal Setting certificate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in collaboration with the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry at the fourth annual Climate Leadership Awards. CH2M HILL was one of the first in its sector to publish a sustainability report in 2005.

ADS Inc
ADS Inc., one of the largest providers of operational equipment, procurement, and logistics solutions to the Department of Defense and various Federal agencies, announced today that it plans to rapidly expand its environmentally friendly product offering and to actively begin promoting green technologies such as flex-fuel and hybrid power generation, micro grid systems, solar and wind fuel systems. Furthermore, ADS plans to benchmark its internal energy and fuel consumption and put forth a reduction plan in 2015.

Battelle:
Battelle, a leading nonprofit research and development organization, announced today that it is committed to reporting GHG emissions beginning in 2016. Battelle is also setting a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 25 percent by the year 2025. Battelle has been participating in a continuous energy improvement program and will use the statistical model established in 2013 as the baseline. Battelle is committed to managing and operating corporate facilities in a sustainable manner. In harmony with reporting and reducing GHG emissions, Battelle will make every effort to apply strategies for sustainable buildings, pollution prevention, waste reduction, electronic stewardship, sustainable acquisition, renewable energy, and water efficiency. Battelle has already made significant investments in sustainability including a net-zero energy building, energy efficiency, and environmental protection. 

2015-03-19


Remarks by the First Lady Before Meeting With Prime Minister Abe

Prime Minister's Residence
Tokyo, Japan

3:45 P.M. JST

MRS. OBAMA:  Prime Minister, first of all, your wife is an amazing woman.  And the restaurant is good, so you have to try it.  (Laughter.)  Maybe the next time I come to visit, you can join us.  (Laughter.)

But we had a very productive meeting today.  And we are just so grateful for your support and investment in girls’ education.  We couldn’t do this without the strong support that you’ve provided.  And I’m very excited about the work that our countries will do together to spread the word.

END
3:49 P.M. JST

2015-03-19


Remarks by the First Lady Before Discussion with Mrs. Abe and Students on the Importance of Girls' Education

Iikura Guest House
Tokyo, Japan

11:18 A.M. JST

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, I am incredibly excited about the partnership between our two countries around girls’ education, because I think our countries are in a very strong position to be able to reach out and help developing countries. 

As Mrs. Abe said -- eloquently said in her remarks, there is nothing more important than getting an education.  And to think that today, there are 60 million girls around the world who don’t have that opportunity, it’s an injustice.  And when we look at the advantages that we have had, as Mrs. Abe said, I think it’s our duty and it’s our responsibility to do what we can to reach out and to aid others.

One of the things that I also say about this initiative, what -- the impact that I’m hoping that it has is to inspire young people in my country who take their education for granted.  Right now, one of the things that I’m saying very often -- I’ve got an initiative called Reach Higher, where I’m trying to encourage more young people in the U.S. to embrace the role of education, and to finish high school and to go on to college.  Because we need your generation to be highly educated, highly skilled, highly trained. 

And that’s so important to the success of our countries and to the world, quite frankly.  We just can’t afford to waste the brainpower and energy of half of our citizens on this planet, and that’s what we do when we don’t invest in young girls.  So my hope is that through partnerships like ours, the United States and Japan, that we will encourage other developed nations to step up and increase their investments. 

But there’s also a role that you all can play.  You don’t have to be a powerful nation to have an impact on this issue.  I’m urging girls in the United States to look right in their own backyards; to look at home at how they can be mentors to the young girls in their communities and to their families.  Tutor a young girl.  Bring them along.  Encourage them.  If you know young women in communities that don’t have the advantages that you have, reach out as much as you can.  Because it’s that one-on-one interaction that can really make a difference.  If they see what is possible through you, they believe that they can achieve that for themselves. 

That’s one of the reasons why I share my story so much, because I want young girls around the world not to see me as the First Lady of the United States, but I want them to know that I was a young girl in Chicago that had doubts and fears and worries, and people who told me that I couldn’t.  But with hard work and that investment in education, look where we all are.  I’m sitting here with my good friend in Japan with all of you, and we have the opportunity to change the world.  You can do that too, and so can the 62 million girls out there who aren’t getting their education.

So that’s what I hope that we’ll begin to achieve with Let Girls Learn.  But this is going to be a lifetime commitment for me, I know for Mrs. Abe, and so many.  We won’t solve this in a generation.  We have to keep plugging away.  And you all are going to be the next leaders who are going to be out there pushing it to the next level.

So I’m very proud of you all.

END
11:22 A.M. JST

2015-03-19


Remarks by the First Lady at "Let Girls Learn" Event in Tokyo, Japan

Iikura Guest House
Tokyo, Japan

10:51 A.M. JST

MRS. OBAMA:  Konichiwa.  (Laughter.)  I am so pleased to be here today as the United States and Japan announce a new partnership to educate girls across the globe.

And before I get started, on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to join in with the others to express our condolences over the horrific event yesterday in Tunisia.  Our hearts go out to the loved ones of those who were lost here in Japan and around the world.  They are very much in our thoughts and prayers today.

I now want to start by thanking my dear friend Mrs. Abe for her tremendous kindness and hospitality.  I am happy to be here with you today.  And I want to thank her for her passionate work on behalf of girls worldwide.  Mrs. Abe has been deeply involved in Japan’s efforts to create this partnership, and I am so grateful to her and to Prime Minister Abe for their leadership.

I also want to thank Director General Naoko Saiki for her wonderful remarks as well, and for her leadership. 

And of course, I want to recognize our outstanding Ambassador, Caroline Kennedy, who is a dear friend.  I am thrilled that she could join us today because I know that she shares our commitment to addressing our girls’ education crisis.  And I don’t use the word lightly –- this truly is a crisis.  Right now, as you heard, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school.

And when we talk about this issue, we often focus on the economic barriers girls face –- school fees or uniforms, or how they live miles from the nearest school and have no safe transportation, or how the school in their community doesn’t have bathroom facilities for girls so they just can’t attend.

But we all know that the problem here isn’t just about infrastructure and resources.  It’s also about attitudes and beliefs.  It’s about whether fathers -- and mothers –- think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons.  It’s about whether communities value girls simply for their bodies, for their household labor, their reproductive capacities, or whether they value girls for their minds as well.  It’s about whether societies cling to laws and traditions that oppress women, or whether they view women as full citizens entitled to the same rights and freedoms as men. 

And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we have to admit that these kinds of challenges aren’t just limited to the developing world. 

For example, while we have made tremendous strides in girls’ education in the United States and Japan, women in both our countries still struggle to balance the needs of their families with the demands of their careers.  We still struggle with the outdated belief that a woman cannot be both an accomplished professional and a devoted mother; that she has to choose between the two. 

But the reality is that when we put limits like this on women’s lives, we stifle their potential, and, more importantly, we miss out on so much of what they have to offer our societies.  And for me, that’s where this issue gets personal. 

See, I grew up in a working-class neighborhood, a place where hardly anyone went to university.  Many people worked long hours for low salaries, struggled to pay their bills.  As a young girl I was bright, outgoing, with plenty of thoughts and opinions of my own, but like a lot of young women, I was often primarily defined by my relationship to the men in my life.  I was my father’s daughter, or, even though I was just as smart as my brother -- I could hit a ball just as far, I could run just as fast -- I was always just his little sister. 

When I got to school, I sometimes encountered teachers who assumed that a girl from a humble background like mine wouldn’t be a successful student.  I was even told that I would never get accepted to the prestigious school like Princeton University, so I shouldn’t even apply.  Like so many girls across the globe, I got the message that someone like me wasn’t supposed to have big dreams; that I should keep my head down, my voice quiet, and I should make myself just a little smaller to fit other people’s modest expectations. 

But I was lucky.  I had parents who believed in me, who urged me to speak up and make myself heard in the world.  So I held fast to my dreams.  I worked hard in school.  I went ahead and I applied to Princeton -- and I got accepted.  I went on to become a lawyer, a city government employee, a hospital executive, and the director of an organization that trained young people to serve their communities.  And most of all, I became a mother, which is by far the most important job I will ever have in my life. 

Now, continuing my career while raising my daughters wasn’t easy, but for me, this was the right decision.  For me, being a mother made me a better professional, because coming home every night to my girls reminded me what I was working for.  And being a professional made me a better mother, because by pursuing my dreams, I was modeling for my girls how to pursue their dreams.  And there were two main reasons I was able to achieve this balance.

First, I had the support from my husband and family who believed in me, and from my employers, who recognized the value of hiring women and providing flexible workplaces.  And both Prime Minister Abe and President Obama are working very hard to create policies like this that allow women –- and men –- to be excellent employees and excellent spouses and parents.

And second, like so many other women, I was able to achieve both personal and professional goals because of my education.  My education was truly the starting point for every opportunity I have had in my life.

But I know that for every girl like me, there are so many others across the globe who are just as smart, just as capable, just as hungry to succeed, but they never have the chance to go to school.  And that is such a profound waste of human potential -– and such a profound loss for our world. 

I mean, just think about what we would be missing here in Japan if women were not educated.  Just imagine if Sadako Ogata was never able to attend school and become one of the greatest diplomats of our time.  Imagine the loss of her moral leadership at the United Nations. 

And what if the great violinist, Midori, never had the chance to discover her talent.  Think about all the music we would never have heard.  Think of all the beauty our world would have lost.  

And how about Chiaki Mukai.  Without her education, she never could have become the first woman astronaut in Japan, inspiring so many young girls to reach for the stars.

So just take my story, or any of these women’s stories, and multiply it by 62 million.  That’s when we begin to understand the loss to our world when we fail to educate our girls. 

But when we do educate girls, when we truly invest in their potential, there is no limit to the impact we can have.  Girls who attend school have healthier families.  They earn higher salaries.  And sending more girls to school can boost a country’s entire economy.  So we know that educating girls is the best investment we can make, not just in their future, but in the future of their families, their communities and their countries.

And that is why the United States government recently launched a new, global girls’ education effort called Let Girls Learn.  As part of this initiative, U.S. Peace Corps volunteers will work side-by-side with local leaders, families, and girls themselves to help girls go to school and stay in school.  They’ll be creating mentoring programs, girls’ leadership camps and so much more. 

But, as Mrs. Abe said, of course, no one country can solve this problem alone.  And that is why I am here today in Japan.  Japan is one of America’s closest and most important allies and development partners.  In fact, Japan is the largest aid donor in all of Asia.  And today, Japan is once again leading the way with a 42-billion-yen investment in girls’ education.

With this commitment, Japan is truly setting the standard for countries around the world.  And with this new partnership between our two nations, we are issuing a call to action to nations around the world.

In the coming months and years, we will be reaching out to world leaders and asking them to deepen their commitment to girls’ education.  For those who are already investing, we’re going to ask them to invest more.  For those not yet engaged, we will invite them to join us.  And I think it is fitting that we are starting this global effort here with our friends in Japan.  Because when it comes to development issues like girls’ education, our two countries share a unique history, as you’ve heard.

President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps back in 1961, and that inspired youth groups here in Japan who helped found JOCV, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  And today, President Kennedy’s daughter is proudly serving as America’s ambassador to Japan, and we are renewing our agreement for Peace Corps and JOCV volunteers to work together on issues like girls’ education.

As Mrs. Abe said, later this week, I’ll be traveling to Cambodia, which is one of the first countries where Let Girls Learn will operate.  And I understand that Mrs. Abe just made her own visit to Cambodia, where she focused on youth and education issues.  And we are both so excited to highlight the work that Peace Corps and JOCV volunteers are doing in that country and so many others; how they’re coming together to model the values of our nation -- values like fairness, equality, openness, opportunity. 

And today, I’m reminded of something that President Kennedy once said about young people who want to join the Peace Corps.  He said that they are “a light to all who seek a peaceful world.”  And I think that is just as true today as it was 50 years ago, especially when it comes to educating girls.  So many women leaders in developing countries –- businesswomen, politicians, professionals –- they can trace their journey back to a Peace Corps or JOCV volunteer who invested in their education. 

The story of a woman named Anastasia Msosa from Malawi is a perfect example.  When Anastasia was a girl, Peace Corps volunteers came to teach at her school in Malawi, and Anastasia was struck by their kindness and generosity.  Inspired by their encouragement, Anastasia went on to build a pioneering legal career, and she eventually became the first female chief justice of Malawi’s Supreme Court.

In reflecting on the impact the volunteers had on her life, Chief Justice Msosa said -– and this is her quote -- she said, “The volunteers shaped me into building up to be what I am.”  She said, “The time with the Peace Corps volunteers helped me to have dreams.”

So when Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe talk about building a “society where women shine,” I think this is what they’re talking about.  They’re talking about letting the power, the genius, the creativity of women shine through.  They’re talking about ensuring that women and girls can pursue their dreams. 

And that’s what this effort is all about.  It’s about creating a world where women shine.  A world where every family, every community and every nation can benefit from the contributions of all of its citizens, men and women, boys and girls.  And I cannot think of a better partner -- better partners in this work than Mrs. Abe and Prime Minister Abe, and the great country they serve. 

I am so grateful to them.  I am grateful to all of you.  And I am so grateful to the Peace Corps and JOCV volunteers who are making this vision a reality every day across the globe. 

I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead to give girls worldwide the education they so richly deserve.

Arigato gozaimasu.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)   

END
11:16 A.M. JST

2015-03-18


FACTSHEET: US & Japan - Collaborating to Advance Girls Education Around The World

About 62 million girls around the world – half of whom are adolescent – are not in school. These girls have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence.

Yet when a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community.  In addition, girls’ attendance in secondary school is correlated with later marriage, later childbearing, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS. A World Bank study found that every year of secondary school education is correlated with an 18 percent increase in a girl’s future earning power.

Earlier this month, the United States, under the leadership of the President and First Lady, announced that it is expanding its efforts to help adolescent girls worldwide access school and complete their education through an initiative called Let Girls Learn.  This new effort will build on investments that the international community, including the United States, has made and successes that have been achieved in global primary school education, and expand them to help adolescent girls complete their education and fulfill their potential.

Japan is also a global leader in international education.  Through its “School for All” concept, Japan seeks to advance education through improving educational facilities, teaching practices, community participation, administration, and health and nutrition.   Japan understands that the international community shares this concept, and believes that a comprehensive approach by other donors including the United States, international organizations, NGOs, governments of developing countries and local communities is the key to ensuring the sustainability of girls’ education.

Today we are pleased to announce that the United States and Japan will partner in this critical area, elevating the issue of girls’ education on their shared development agenda.  Japan and the United States, through this initiative, will cooperate in improving the learning environment for girls by collaborating with schools, communities and educational administration.

As two of the largest economies in the world, our combined efforts can make a difference. The President’s FY 2016 Budget request includes $250 million in new and reallocated funds in support of the Let Girls Learn Initiative.   Japan will commit Official Development Assistance (ODA) in excess of 42 billion yen over three years starting from 2015 for girls’ empowerment and gender-sensitive education.

Under this partnership:

  1. Peace Corps and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which directs Japan’s Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), will formalize cooperation through a Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies.
    • This strategic partnership between Peace Corps and JOCV will be broad and encompass a variety of activities, and will focus in particular on advancing girls’ education through cooperation on the ground in countries around the world, including Cambodia.  JOCV will enhance cooperation with the Peace Corps to facilitate girls’ participation in the field of primary and secondary education, sports and physical education.
  2. With counterpart governments around the world, the United States and Japan will increase focus on girls’ education in our respective bilateral assistance programs.
    • Building on current funding and programs at USAID, the State Department, the Peace Corps, and across the US government, the United States will work to improve access to quality education and healthcare, help address violence and other barriers to education that adolescent girls face around the world. 
    • Japan will prioritize girls’ education in its new international education cooperation policy starting from 2016.  In addition, in Southeast Asia, Japan will further provide assistance for constructing and expanding elementary, middle, and high school buildings, which is expected to benefit 20,000 adolescent girls with a good educational environment.
  3. The United States and Japan support girls’ education through strong commitments to international organizations and non-governmental organizations focused on these issues.
    • For example, the President’s FY 2016 Budget request includes an increase for the U.S. contribution to the Global Partnership for Education by 40% over current funding levels, to $70 million.  Japan will double its contribution this year to United Nations Women, to $20 million.

2015-03-18


Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Vice President welcomed the Rada’s adoption of implementing measures relating to the law on special status for certain areas of eastern Ukraine, as called for in the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk agreements. The two leaders discussed the upcoming multinational training program for Ukraine’s National Guard forces, which the United States will support.  Finally, the two leaders agreed that sanctions on Russia imposed in response to its actions in eastern Ukraine should be tied to full implementation of the Minsk agreements, and that as long as Russia continues to fuel violence and instability in Ukraine, the international community must be prepared to increase the costs to Russia for pursuing such actions.

2015-03-18


Remarks by the President to the City Club of Cleveland

Global Center for Health Innovation
Cleveland, Ohio

2:46 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Cleveland!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please, please, have a seat.  It's good to be back in Cleveland. 

Let me begin by thanking Paul for the wonderful introduction.  I want to acknowledge some of my favorite members of Congress.  Senator Sherrod Brown is here.  (Applause.)  I actually like his wife, Connie, a little more.  (Laughter.)  I'm not alone in that.   But he’s okay, too.  (Laughter.)  Congresswoman Kaptur is here.  (Applause.)  Congresswoman Fudge is here.  (Applause.)  Mayor Jackson is here -- thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Mayor?  He’s around here somewhere. 

I want to thank Don Moulthrop and the members of the City Club for inviting me here today.  It is wonderful to be back in this city.  And I see a lot of friends and, in some cases, mentors.  Pastor, it's wonderful to see you again.  Otis Moss is one of my favorite people.  (Applause.)   

Now, every sitting President since Ronald Reagan has come here, to the City Club of Cleveland, to take your questions.  And that's because this is an institution that reflects what is a truly American idea -- that's the belief that all of us have a role to play in resolving the most important issues of our time. In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.  And the City Club tradition reflects that.
 
Now, over the course of my presidency, one that began in the depths of a historic crisis, no issue has been more important than the future of our economy.  That's certainly been of great interest in Ohio and in Cleveland.  No topic has weighed more heavily on the minds of ordinary families, and no subject is more worthy of a great, big, open debate. 

Seventy-five years ago, another President came here to Cleveland to engage in this debate.  He was nearing the end of his second term, eight years in office marked by a devastating depression, a hard-fought recovery, fierce political divisions at home, looming threats overseas.  But for all the challenges of a changing world, FDR refused to accept the notion that we are anything less than the masters of our fate.  “We are characters in this living book of democracy,” he said.  “But we are also its author.  It falls upon us now to say whether the chapters that are to come will tell a story of retreat or of continued advance.”

That’s a pretty good summary of where we are today.  That was the choice that was laid out back then -- a story of retreat, or a story of continued advance.  America chose the latter, and we're better for it.  Three-quarters of a century later, we face a similar choice.  In a world changing even faster than his, do we retreat from the realities of a 21st century economy?  Or do we continue to advance, together, to renew this country’s founding promise of opportunity for everybody and not just some? 
SO, before I take questions, I want to spend some time talking about that choice and I want to set the stage by talking about where the economy is today.

Following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- in fact, by some measures, the contraction of our economy was faster and deeper than the Great Depression; we just pulled out of it faster because we have learned some lessons from the past -- we’re now in the midst of the longest streak of private sector job growth on record:  60 consecutive months, five straight years, 12 million new jobs.  (Applause.)   

America’s businesses have added more than 200,000 jobs each month for 12 straight months.  That’s the first time that’s happened in nearly 40 years.  Our unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of 10 percent in 2009.  When I first came into office, we were losing jobs at a pace of almost 800,000 jobs per month; today the unemployment rate is at 5.5 percent.  (Applause.)  Just last year we saw the fastest unemployment rate decline in 30 years.  And in one of the most hopeful signs, middle-class wages are finally starting to tick up again, finally starting to go up.

Now, this progress is no accident.  First and foremost, it’s the direct result of you, the drive and determination of the American people.  But I'm going to take a little credit.  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s also the result of decisions made by my administration, in partnership with some of these members of Congress who are here, to prevent a second depression, and to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity.  And a lot of those decisions were controversial.  And there was a lot of resistance and obstruction.  But we decided to continue to advance. 

We believe that if the last decade was defined by outsourcing of good jobs overseas then we could define this decade by bringing back good jobs to America.  And today there are more job openings in the United States than at any time since 2001.  The auto industry that we rescued, despite the fact that it was not popular at the time, is firing on all cylinders.  That’s making a difference right here in Ohio.  (Applause.) 

Factories are opening their doors at the fastest pace in nearly two decades.  Over the last five years, manufacturers have added jobs at a rate not seen since the 1980s.  Everybody talked about manufacturing being dead.  You know what, manufacturing is actually growing at a faster pace than the rest of the economy. 

And more foreign companies are realizing that “Made in the USA” is a trademark to be proud of, and they’re choosing to invest in America.  Something that I'm going to discuss next week at our SelectUSA Summit, where we get local and state officials and economic development organizations to meet with foreign investors from around the world in one-stop shopping to start getting more investment and more businesses right here in the United States.

We believed that we could prepare our kids and our workers for a more competitive world.  And today our younger students earn the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate hit another all-time high.  More Americans are earning their degrees than ever before. 

We believed we could grow the economy and create new jobs even while we were reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and even as we were tackling climate change and protecting our planet.  Today America’s not just number one in oil and gas. We’re number one in wind power.  Last year was the biggest year for solar power in our history.  We’re producing three times as much wind power and 10 times as much solar power as we did when I came into office.  (Applause.)

Every three weeks we produce as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  And just last month, the world’s largest solar installation came online in the California desert.  The solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.  And meanwhile, thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save more than 700 bucks at the pump. 

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis and shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition.  And today we’ve got the tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts.  We’ve got a new consumer watchdog to protect families from predatory lending and credit card practices, saving billions of dollars to American consumers.  (Applause.)   

Oh, and by the way, there’s this thing called the Affordable Care Act.  More than 16 million more Americans have gained the security of health care coverage.  (Applause.)  We’ve cut the ranks of the uninsured by a third, thanks to some tough, proud votes by these members of Congress.  Last year the growth in health care premium costs for business matched its lowest level on record.  If premiums had kept on growing over the last four years at the rate they had in the previous decade, the average family premium would be $1,800 higher than it is today. 

Now, we don’t get a lot of credit for that.  But keep in mind that some of the reforms that we’re putting in place are not only giving more people insurance, but we’re actually reducing the overall costs -- $1,800 in people’s pockets.  They don’t notice it because it's what didn’t happen.  That’s $1,800 that firms can use to hire and invest; $1,800 that you’re spending on a computer for your kids, or to help pay down debt and stabilize your finances or put into retirement. 

And finally, we believe that we could lay this new foundation for growth while still getting our fiscal house in order.  You’ll recall that when I first came into office, deficits were skyrocketing -- partly because the economy was plummeting.  Less tax revenue coming in, more going out.  And the notion was that the steps we took to ensure the economy recovered was going to cause even higher deficits.  Red ink as far as the eye could see.  Well, since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits as a share of our economy by about two-thirds.  Two-thirds!  (Applause.) 

And looking forward, our long-term deficit projections have improved as well, in part because we’ve done such a good job in controlling health care costs.  The Affordable Care Act alone will cut our deficits by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.  The slowing growth in health care costs has saved the Medicare system tens of billions of dollars.  Health care was the single biggest factor driving up our projected deficits.  It's now the single biggest factor driving them down. 

This is progress that every American can be proud of.  We’ve got a long way to go.  I am not satisfied; I know you aren’t either.  We’ve got a lot more work to do.  Any American will tell you that.  But we have emerged from what was a once-in-a- generation crisis better positioned for the future than any of our competitors.  We’ve picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, retooled, retrained, refocused.  The United States of America is coming back. 

Now, I want to return to the issue of the debate that we were having then because it bears on the debate we’re having now. It’s important to note that at every step that we’ve taken over the past six years we were told our goals were misguided; they were too ambitious; that my administration’s policies would crush jobs and explode deficits, and destroy the economy forever.  Remember that?  Because sometimes we don’t do the instant replay, we don’t run the tape back, and then we end up having the same argument going forward. 

One Republican in Congress warned our policies would diminish employment and diminish stock prices.  Diminish stock prices.  (Laughter.)  The stock market has doubled since I came into office.  Corporate profits are -- corporate balance sheets are stronger than they have ever been -- because of my terrible business policies.  (Laughter.) 

One Republican senator claimed we faced trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.  Another predicted my reelection would spike gas prices to $6.60 a gallon.  (Laughter.) I don’t know how he came up with that figure -- $6.60.  (Laughter.)  My opponent in that last election pledged that he could bring down the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 -- next year -- at the end of next year.  It’s 5.5 now.  (Applause.)

And right here in Cleveland, the leader of the House Republicans -- a good friend of mine -- (laughter) -- he captured his party’s economic theories by critiquing mine with a very simple question:  Where are the jobs, he said.  Where are the jobs?  I’m sure there was a headline in The Plain Dealer or one of the papers -- Where Are the Jobs? 

Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled -- I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side. 

Because their theory does not change.  It really doesn’t. It’s a theory that says, if we do little more than just cut taxes for those at the very top, if we strip out regulations and let special interests write their own rules, prosperity trickles down to the rest of us.  And I take the opposite view.  And I take it not for ideological reasons, but for historic reasons, because of the evidence.

We know from the facts that are there for all to see that America does better, our economy does better, everybody does better when the middle class does better and we’ve got more ladders for people to get into the middle class if they're willing to work hard.  We do better when everyone grows together -- top, middle, bottom.  We do better when everyone has a chance not only to benefit from America’s success, but also to contribute to America’s success.  And we know from more recent history that when we stray from that ideal it doesn't turn out well.  We’ve now got evidence there is a better way, there is a better approach.  And I’m calling it middle-class economics. 

For the first eight years of this century, before I came into office, we tried trickle-down economics.  We slashed taxes for folks at the top, stripped out regulations, didn't make investments in the things we know we need to grow.  At the end of those eight years, we had soaring deficits, record job losses, an economy in crippling recession.

In the years since then we’ve tried middle-class economics. Today we’ve got dramatically lower deficits, a record streak of job creation, an economy that's steadily growing.

So when we, the American people, when the public evaluates who’s got the better argument here, we’ve got to look at the facts.  It’s not abstractions.  There may have been a time when you could just say, well, those two theories are equally valid.  They're differences of opinion.  They could have been abstract economic arguments in a book somewhere.  But not anymore.  Reality has rendered its judgment:  Trickle-down economics does not work.  And middle-class economic does. 

And that's what we should keep in mind when we think about what’s going to take us forward -- not down a path where we slow down businesses by slashing investments in the future; not a path where we put our economy at risk again with government shutdowns, or fiscal shutdowns; not down a path where just a few of us do spectacularly well, and folks who are working hard see their incomes, their wages, their financial security erode.  We need to go forward to an economy that's generating rising incomes and chances for everybody who is willing to work hard on that continued advance where we invest in our future, give working Americans the tools they need to determine their own fate -- research, education, infrastructure, job training. 

We know the recipe for growth, and we know that we can make growth broad-based.  And we can raise incomes and wages in the process.  And those incomes and wages then get plowed back into businesses and investment, and we get on a virtuous cycle.

Now, a good place to start down a stronger path involves America’s budget, the blueprint for what we believe this country should be -- where should we go?  The budget is not just numbers on a page.  It reflects our values and our priorities.

Now, Republicans in Congress have been working hard to reposition their rhetoric around the economy.  They started noticing that people would like to see someone champion the middle class and folks who are trying to get in the middle class. So we’ve seen a shift in how they talk about the issues. 

There was one Republican who said she couldn’t agree with me more that we need to be helping working moms and dads more.  Another wrote a policy memo saying that Republicans must define themselves as the party of the American worker, the party of higher wages.  Another urged his party to shout at the top of its lungs, the GOP is the ticket to the middle class. 

Now, this is good.  This is a good development.  I’m encouraged by this, because once you get everybody talking about the same thing, now we can decide, all right, how do we do it?  If we can at least share our goals, if the goal is strengthening the middle class, creating more ladders of opportunity for the middle class, raising wages, that’s good.  There’s nothing I’d like more than an opposition party that works with me to help hardworking Americans get ahead.  I don’t have another election to run.  Come, let’s go.  Let’s work. 

Now, the problem, though, is, so far, at least, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.  The walk doesn’t sync up with the talk.  And all you have to do is look at the budget that House Republicans put forward just yesterday.  It’s a budget that doesn’t just fail to embrace middle-class economics; it’s the opposite of middle-class economics -- doubles down on trickle-down. 

I don’t expect you, by the way, to read the budget -- theirs or mine -- but you can do some fact-checking on this.  Their budget doles out even more to those who already have the most; makes massive cuts to investments that benefit all of us; asks middle-class families to foot the bill.  It’s a budget that claims that reducing our deficit should be our very highest priority, despite the fact that the deficit has been reduced by two-thirds.  But its very first proposal, its centerpiece is to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe even trillions of dollars, on another giant tax cut slanted overwhelmingly in favor of those at the top.  If you are claiming that deficit reduction is your number-one priority, how can you start by giving a tax cut to everybody at the top and not doing much to help folks down the economic pyramid?

Under the Republican budget, millionaires and billionaires would get an average tax cut of more than $50,000 per year.  Translation:  The average millionaire would take home about as much in tax cuts as the average middle-class American makes in an entire year.  Now, they say they’ll also close high income tax loopholes for folks at the top, which I’ve put some very specific proposals for how we can do that.  Their budget does not name a single loophole it would close.  Not one. 

This budget does provide nothing to prevent tax cuts from expiring for 26 million working families and students.  I mean, these are folks who for almost two decades now have gone without a raise, but their budget lets these tax cuts expire.  That’s the equivalent of a thousand-dollar-a-year pay cut for these families.

So you can call cutting taxes for the top 1 percent while letting taxes rise for working families a lot of things.  What you can’t call it is a ticket to the middle class.  That you cannot do. 

Allowing tax cuts for working families to expire doesn’t get you close to this “budgets cut at all cost” goal of $5 trillion in deficit reduction.  Republican leaders say we need to keep bringing down our deficits.  I think we should bring down our deficits; my budget would keep our deficits below 3 percent of GDP.  That’s a rate that most economists agree protects our fiscal help.  But because House Republicans want to balance the budget without asking any sacrifices of the wealthiest Americans -- in fact, asking them to sacrifice less -- that means that everybody else has to sacrifice more.  The middle class has to sacrifice more.  Those working to join the middle class have to sacrifice more. 

The authors of this budget were careful not to get too specific about the cuts they proposed, and they kind of imply that, well, no matter who you are, somebody else is going to bear the burden.  But compared to the plan I’ve put forward, if the cuts they’ve proposed were to fall equally on everybody, here is just some of what would happen over the next few years.  We’re getting to questions.  I just want to -- I’ve really got to bear down on this thing.

Investments in education would be cut to their lowest levels since 2000 -- 15 years ago -- at a time when we know we need to be upping our game in education because of competition around the world; 157,000 fewer children would have the chance to get early education through Head Start; more than 8 million low-income students would see their financial aid cut.  Investments in job training would be cut to the point where more than 4 million fewer workers would have the chance to earn higher wages through programs to help them upgrade their skills.  We would end partnerships that help 30,000 small manufacturers grow their businesses and create good jobs, including right here in Cleveland. 

These aren’t just new cuts; these are some of the greatest hits on this broken record.  (Laughter.) 

And just as more working families are finally beginning to feel some hard-fought stability and security in their lives, the Republican budget would strip health insurance for millions of Americans.  It would take away coverage from millions more who rely on Medicaid, including right here in Ohio -- nursing home patients, children with autism, parents of children with disabilities who need at-home care.  They would try once again to gut the guarantee at the center of Medicare by turning it into a voucher program.

Instead of the promise that health care will be there for you when you need it, you get a roll of the dice.  If you get sick and that voucher is enough to cover the costs of your care then you win.  But if not, you lose.  Programs that help low-income parents care for sick children, or buy food for their families, or put a roof over their heads, all those would be in the crosshairs. 

And at a time of new and evolving threats overseas, the Republican budget, despite all the talk they have about national security, would actually cut up our core national security funding to its lowest level in a decade.  And still those at the top aren’t asked to sacrifice a single dime. 

So, lower taxes for the most well-off, higher taxes for working families; gutted investments in education, job training, infrastructure, military and our national security; kicking tens of millions of Americans off their health insurance; ending Medicare as we know it. 

If you have heard these kinds of arguments about this kind of budget before, that’s because you have seen this kind of budget before.  Republicans in Congress have put forward the same proposals year after year after year, regardless of the realities of the economy.  When the economy is in a slump, we need tax cuts.  When the economy is doing well, you know what, let’s try some tax cuts.  (Laughter.) 

We know now that the gloom-and-doom predictions that justified this budget three, four, five years ago were wrong.  Despite the economic progress, despite the mountains of new evidence, their approach hasn’t changed. 

There’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion if the underlying facts change.  Serious economic proposals change when the underlying assumptions are proven false.  If Republicans believe we should adhere to a set of abstract principles, even though they hurt the middle class, then they should make the case.  Show us.  Prove it to us.  If they believe it's time to end the social contract that sustains so many of us, the basic bargain of shared sacrifice and shared responsibility, own it and make the argument. 

But you can’t credibly claim that this vision is about helping working families get ahead, or that this budget is a path to prosperity.  It's the same argument I'm having about health care.  It was one thing for them to argue against Obamacare before it was put in place.  Every prediction they’ve made about it turned out to be wrong.  It's working better than even I expected.  (Laughter and applause.)  But it doesn’t matter.  Evidence be damned, it's still a disaster.  Well, why? 

I mean, the truth is the budget they’re putting forward and the theories they’re putting forward are a path to prosperity for those who have already prospered.  And in that sense, it's a story of retreat. 

And I'm offering a different path.  The budget I’ve put forward is built on middle-class economics -- the idea that everybody does best when everybody gets their fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  And it reflects the realities of the new economy by giving every American the tools they need to get ahead in a fast-paced, highly competitive, constantly changing world. 

It means helping working families feel more secure in an ever-changing economy.  That’s why my budget makes new investments to make it easier for folks to afford child care and college and health care and paid leave and retirement -- lowering the taxes of working families, putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year. 

Middle-class economics means preparing Americans to earn higher wages down the road.  That's why my budget makes new investments from pre-K to mid-career job training.  I want to make sure all our kids get a great education from the earliest age, and that young people can afford to go to college without getting buried under a mountain of debt.  (Applause.)

And so we're working with private companies, and community colleges and universities, and businesses to provide apprenticeships and on-the-job training and other pathways into the middle class.  And I’ve proposed making two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today, to up our game.  (Applause.)

Third, middle-class economics means building the most competitive economy anywhere so that our businesses can keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.  And right before I came here, I went to Magnet.  It’s a manufacturing incubator right here in Cleveland where smaller companies are making everything from airplane parts and medical devices to whiskey.  I did not sample the whiskey before I came here.  (Laughter.)  Although I’m taking a sample home.  (Laughter and applause.)

And this partnership is bringing good manufacturing jobs back to Cleveland.  The Republican budget would cut the whole thing entirely.  If something is working, why would we get rid of it?  We should invest in it.  Which is why, today, I announced nearly $500 million in new public and private investment for American manufacturing.  (Applause.)  And that includes a new manufacturing hub that will make America a leader in producing high-tech fabrics for uniforms our soldiers wear in battle.

And 21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure, which is why my budget invests in modern ports and stronger bridges, and faster trains and the fastest Internet, and invests in basic research so that the jobs and industries of the future are created right here in the United States.  And we can pay for these investments in a responsible way -- not by adding to the deficit; we just need to cut wasteful loopholes, and ask those at the very top to pay their fair share, and reform our tax code to make our businesses more competitive.

And we can keep our exports and protect our workers with a strong new trade deal -- first in Asia, then in Europe -- that aren’t just free but are also fair.  I’ve had a lot of conversations with the delegation from Ohio about this, because here in Ohio, you saw firsthand a lot of past trade deals didn't always live up to the hype.  And that's why the trade deal I’m negotiating now, the TransPacific Partnership, would reform NAFTA with higher labor standards, higher environmental standards, new tools to hold countries accountable; would focus on the impacts it’s having on American workers, and would make sure that the rules of the 21st century economy in some of the largest markets in the world aren’t written by China.  They need to be written by the United States of America, and that's what this does.

So, helping hardworking families make ends meet; giving them the tools they need for a new economy; revving the engines of growth and competitiveness -- that's what middle-class economics offers.  That's where America needs to go.  If we make these investments in ourselves and our prosperity and our future, this economy is not just going to be stronger a year from now or five years from now, it will stronger for decades.  And it falls upon us now -- remember those words of FDR -- it falls upon us now to say whether the chapters that are to come will tell a story of retreat or a story of continued advance. 

I believe in continued advance.  The challenges that this generation of Americans has faced, they're less dire than those that the Greatest Generation endured.  But we’ve got the same will.  We got the same drive.  We got the same innate optimism required to shape another American Century.  We know what works. We know what we have to do.  We’ve just got to put aside the stale and outmoded debates.  Reject failed policies.  Embrace the policies that we know work.  Embrace the promise of the future.  And we're not just going to then move forward, we're going to write the next great chapter of our continued advance in this living book of democracy.

Thank you, Cleveland.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

Let’s take some questions.  So, Paul, I can just start calling on people, right?  Okay, I like that.  (Laughter.)

All right, so the only thing I’m going to do is -- raise your hand.  I’ll call on you.  If you could stand up, introduce yourself.  And I’m going to go boy-girl-boy-girl.  (Laughter.)  All right.  We’ll start with that young lady right there -- no, no, right here.  Yes, you.

Q    Thank you. 

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Colleen Connor.  I’m the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  And my question for you, Mr. President -- thank you, first, so much for coming to Cleveland.  My question is, you talked about the importance of everyone playing by the same rules.  Unfortunately, millions of Americans -- because we do not have the right to court-appointed counsel in civil cases -- cannot enforce the rules that are out to protect them, whether as tenants, consumers, preventing foreclosure.  How do you propose that we address that very important issue?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as you know, we’ve worked hard to continue to support legal aid around the country.  This was a target of slashed budgets early in the previous administration.  We have not fully recovered.  And with the existing Congress, it’s unlikely that we get the kind of bump up that we need. 

Two things I think we can do, though, is, one, in addition to the federal government helping, I think we can elicit more from law firms than they currently cough up.  Young lawyers are eager to participate if it’s structured properly. 

The other thing is to create in various jurisdictions more efficient, effective civil procedures, potentially, that can streamline the process.  Because a lot of the client that you work with, we don't need a full-blown court process and filings and motions that's taking forever.  And oftentimes when people are in desperate straits, let’s say, they’ve been cheated on or something by a landlord, or they bought a product and it turned out to be faulty, and they're trying to get some relief -- they can't necessarily afford some lengthy process.  And your office should be reserved for the toughest cases. 

So are there ways in which we can structure more effective dispute resolution mechanisms?  Now, that's going to necessarily operate probably jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  But some jurisdictions have come up with some creative ways to fill the holes that arose as a consequence of the legal aid cuts that took place a long time ago.  And what we should do is highlight those best practices, see if we can get them duplicated across the board. 

But thank you for the good work that you're doing.  Proud of you.  (Applause.) 

It’s a gentleman’s turn.  Let’s see.  Right there.  You, yes.  Nice-looking bowtie.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  You're welcome.

Q    My name is Greg Hutchins.  I’m the superintendent in Shaker Heights City Schools.  You visited us twice already.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a great school system.

Q    Yes, I wasn’t the superintendent at that time, but it was a great, and still is, a great school system.  (Applause.)

My question is regarding the community college initiative and how it affects the middle class.  I think that some of our community colleges here in Cleveland, as well as across the country, they get a bad reputation that they don't provide a high-quality education, which I believe that they do.  How can we better convey a message to all of our constituents and possible future community college enrolled students -- how can we convey the message that the community college does have a high-quality education and we can prepare our kids?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I tell you what, I’m doing my darnedest to advertise.   Because one of our greatest comparative advantages is our higher education system here in the United States.  Obviously, we’ve got the best universities in the world and people flock from everywhere to try to get an education.  But we also have an unparalleled community college system.  And there are places like Lorraine that are doing great work. 

The challenge we’ve got is that they're underutilized.  Oftentimes we're not linking what community college is doing with high schools, on the one hand, and four-year universities and businesses on the other.  So part of our initiative is not just to make the first two years of community college free -- because not everybody needs a four-year education.  Some people may be interested in graphic design, or interested in manufacturing processes, or even, in some cases, high-tech jobs that don't require a four-year degree but they do require some advanced training.  And if they can get that first two years free without debt, plugged into a business, they save money.  They don’t have all those student loans to pay.  They can work for a time, learn more in their career.  Then maybe they go back and decide to get a higher degree.

If they decide to take the community college and then springboard into a four-year university, they transfer their credits.  They’ve just saved themselves half the cost of that four-year college degree. 

So what we’re trying to do is to create more and more partnerships suited for the particular inclinations, aptitudes, needs, of the public.  In some cases what’s needed, for example, for a mid-career person, is a quick training program that gets them in a job right away.  So, increasingly, what we’re doing is, working with community college that reaches out to the businesses in the community where there are job openings, and have the business help design the training program, collapse the training program.

A mid-career person who needs a job right away -- maybe a single mom, or a guy who’s been laid off and now needs to get back in the workforce -- they don’t have the luxury necessarily of two years of study.  Get them into something where six, eight, 10 weeks of training, and right now if you complete this successfully, we know there’s going to be a job for you because the business helped design the program.

If you are a high school student who is interested in doing something that doesn’t necessarily require a four-year degree, we’re getting community colleges to link up with the high school ahead of time.  The high school student can then start getting credit, get hands-on experience, in some cases, with business who are partnering with the community college.  And now, that high school student has gotten a head start on moving into the career and they’re also saving money in the process. 

If it's a student who wants to go to a four-year university but they don’t have the money to, let’s say, come right away to Cleveland State -- even though Cleveland State is a pretty good price relative to a lot of other schools -- go to that community college first, but make sure that they are getting up front the kind of counseling that they need so that they’re taking the credits that are transferrable in the fields that they need, so that they’re not wasting time in the community college, taking out Pell grants and loans, then they get to the four-year university and they have got to start all over again.  Right?

So in each of these cases, by us linking businesses, four-year institutions, community colleges, high schools, we can create a series of pathways of success.  And it can be lifelong. And the great thing about community college is they’re flexible in ways that four-year institutions, because of the nature of those institutions, it's a little harder to do.  Community colleges, they can adapt and meet a need quickly.  So, a new business comes to town.  We need machine tool operators, or we need coders, or we need whatever it is -- potentially, you can design something quickly that’s effective and makes an immediate difference.

So we’ve put a lot of resources into community colleges.  We are highlighting these programs, encouraging the kinds of lengths that I just described, and we’re going to keep on doing it.  (Applause.) 

Okay.  Let’s see.  Right there, go ahead.  She was very excited to ask me a question.  (Laughter.)

Q    My name is Helen Sheehan, and welcome to Cleveland.  We love this city.  Hardworking city and hardworking county.  So thank you for coming.  I have a two-part question.  First, who’s in your bracket?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I wasn’t that creative.  I think Kentucky is going to take it.  But, you know, I haven’t won since my first year in office.  (Laughter.)  Clearly, I'm not spending as much time watching college basketball as I once did.  (Laughter.)  So I wouldn’t necessarily take my bracket and copy it -- although I suspect I’m not the only person picking Kentucky.

Q    Yes, I have, too.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s what I figured.

Q    The second part of my question is, since you’ve been in office, what has surprised you the most?

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s an interesting question -- what surprised me the most.  I’ll start by saying what has not surprised me.  I’m not surprised by the decency and determination and grit and resilience and hard work of the American people, and the fact that they’re not as divided as Washington would seem to reflect.  (Applause.) 

Because I travel around the country a lot.  One of the great things about being President is you can pretty much go anywhere. (Laughter.)  You say, hey, I want to come by.  Okay.  (Laughter.) And so you can go to factories, and you can go to community colleges, and you can go to national parks, and go to every state and meet people.  And it turns out that what I talked about back in 2004 about this being a United States of America, it really is true outside of Washington.  And that’s encouraging.  That makes me happy. 

What has surprised me, even though I had served in the Senate, was the continued difficulties in Congress getting stuff done that shouldn’t be controversial. 

There are some issues that I knew would be controversial.  I mean, we know that if there’s a debate in Congress about abortion, that’s going to be controversial.  There are strong-held views on each side.  They’re hard to reconcile.  We understand that.  And that’s part of democracy and it never gets perfectly resolved. 

But I have been pushing for us to fund infrastructure since I came into office, because we’ve got $2 trillion worth of dilapidated roads, bridges, sewer lines, and then there’s a whole new infrastructure that we have to build in terms of a smart grid that’s more secure and reliable in terms of how we use energy and making it more efficient.  There are broadband lines that still need to be going out into every part of the country.

Now, the Recovery Act that I passed, with the help of these members of Congress, when we first came in didn’t just help to avert recession.  It also was the largest investment in infrastructure in decades.  And we made significant progress, for example, in just getting broadband lines out into rural areas.  So we made some progress on it.  But we’ve still got a whole bunch to do. 

And if you talk privately to our Republican friends, they’ll say, yes, I know, we really need to do some infrastructure.  Well, why aren’t we doing it?  And the reason is the degree to which constant campaigning and sort of the polarization of the bases, and the inability, it seems, to just agree on a core set of facts means even when some of our Republican friends want to work with us, it’s hard to do.  They are worried that they’ll get attacked, or they’ll be viewed as compromisers, or they’ll get a primary challenge by somebody further to the right, and it becomes hard to just get basic stuff done.

And obviously, the greatest example of this was when the government was shut down -- or, just recently, the threat that the Department of Homeland Security was going to be shut down. 

We can have a significant debate about immigration.  Not everybody is going to agree with my view that we are a nation of immigrants, and we have a broken system, and we can craft an immigration agenda that holds into account folks who came here illegally, forces them to have a background check, they’ve got to pay back taxes, but gives them a pathway, and in turn, strengthens our borders.  That’s my view.  It’s good for the economy.  I can point to the evidence.  But I understand some folks won’t agree with me. 

The notion, though, that you would then threaten to not fund the very department that is responsible for securing our borders because you’re mad that our borders are not secured -- (laughter and applause) -- that’s not a good way of doing business.  So that surprises me a little bit.  (Laughter.)

And I think that the other -- this is a connected issue, and I’ll make this last point and then go to the next question. 

I think it’s hard for voters to see why it is that things aren’t working in Washington.  They get frustrated that they’re not working, but there’s this kind of sense, well, a plague on both their houses -- partly because the media is so splintered up.  If you’re watching FOX News, you get an entirely different reality than if you’re watching MSNBC.  So everything is just like an opinion.  But there are hard, cold facts about how things work and who is being responsible and who’s not.  And the challenge is making sure that voters are aware of that and then hold elected officials accountable for their positions. 

That’s why I talked about the budget.  Now, the Republican budget will not end up getting passed.  My budget won’t be passed, given I’ve got to work with a Republican Congress.  But it is a reflection of what our priorities are.  And it’s good for people to know what’s in there.  And our democracy only works when we’re informed enough that we can say, well, you know what, I don’t think we should cut Medicaid for families that have a disabled child.  That’s not who we are.  And I know my neighbor who relies on that -- that’s important. 

I may not like Obama, but if I’ve got -- if we know that there’s 16 million people who now have health insurance, and my health insurance hasn’t been affected, and, in fact, health care premiums across the board are going up at a slower rate than they have in 50 years, it’s not clear to me why I would want to have 16 million suddenly not have health insurance who are then going to be going to the emergency room, and then I’m going to end up paying for them because somebody has got to pay for them and I’m going to pay higher premiums.

If we know what the issues are and who is taking what positions, then I think our democracy functions well.  Right now, what happens is people just hear, there’s a mess, there’s an argument, they’re at it again -- and then oftentimes people just withdraw and don’t vote.  And then people are cynical and dissatisfied, and that actually empowers special interests and the status quo, which we want to discourage.

All right.  That was probably too long an answer.  (Laughter.) 

It’s a gentleman’s turn.  Let me ask that young man in the purple shirt.  That’s a good-looking shirt right there.  What’s your name?

Q    Oh, my name is Nelson.

THE PRESIDENT:  Nelson.

Q    I’m a high school student at Facing History-New Tech.

THE PRESIDENT:  What year are you?

Q    A junior.

THE PRESIDENT:  Junior?  Starting to think about colleges and all that? 

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes?  Starting to have to take all those tests?  Malia is going through this.  (Laughter.)  Getting enough sleep?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, good.  (Laughter.)  All right, what’s your question?  I’m sorry.

Q    How can you inspire children who want to follow a political career path to become the best they possibly can in the future, and stuff like that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you interested?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  I’m proud of you for that.

Q    Thanks.

THE PRESIDENT:  My most important advice is worry more about what you want to do rather than what you want to be.  And what do I mean by that?  I think there are a lot of folks who get into politics and they say to themselves, I want to be a -- blank.  I want to be a congressman, or I want to be a senator, or I want to be a governor, or I want to be a President.  And so then their focus is on, I want to get that position.  And that leads some young, ambitious people to say, well, it doesn’t matter to me what I stand for, as long as I can get the position. 

And you end up, maybe, if you’re talented enough, getting the position, but along the way, you haven’t really accomplished much.  And if you do get the position, you don’t know why you’re there, or what you want to do with it.

And I think that politics and public service is an incredibly noble profession, but it’s a hard life -- as these folks will tell you.  You’re away from your family.  You’re under incredible scrutiny.  People are criticizing you all the time. You miss birthday parties.  You miss soccer games.  You’re on the road -- chicken dinners and the chicken is not always great.  (Laughter.)  You’re not getting enough sleep.  You’re having to raise money. 

So the only reason to do it is if you’re getting something done.  If you’re helping somebody get health care, or you’re helping somebody get a job, or you’re making sure that our troops when they come home are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and are getting the benefits that they’ve earned -- (applause) -- or if you’re trying to clean up the environment. 

So, rather than think about, okay, I want that office, my advice to you would be start serving.  What are you passionate about?  What do you care about?  Do you care about some kids in your neighborhood that maybe don’t have the same opportunities because they’re poor and that really bugs you?  Well, start mentoring those kids, and start volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club, and start getting your friends involved and organizing a fundraiser to build a new playground. 

Are you interested in the environment and you’re worried about climate change?  Well, you know what, get started now.  Go find a group of like-minded people, and talk to your members of Congress, and get educated about the issue, and start figuring out through social media how you can form a broader organization to advance the cause.

Here’s the good news:  If you take that approach, then even if you don’t get to that office, you’ve done a world of good.  And if you do get to that office, it will be earned, and you’ll have a sense of what’s important to you and what your moral compass is, so you’ll be that much better as a congressman, or a mayor, or a councilman, or what have you. 

So this is actually, by the way, pretty good advice generally, not just for public service.  (Applause.)  Because if you look at the most successful business people, they are people who just love the thing they’re doing.  Steve Jobs loved computers.  He loved design.  So he’s working on this stuff and then it turns out you get so absorbed in it you end up being pretty good at it.

And then -- so I always tell young people, don’t wait until you get there to do something.  You can do something right now.  (Applause.) 

All right.  A young lady’s turn.

Q    I'm Lucy.  I'm a student at Hocking.  And I am wondering -- you’ve said that the Republicans, they’ve never really changed their opinion of what to do.  It's always tax cuts, tax cuts.  And why do you think that they’re always proposing tax cuts and never changing what they think we should do?  (Laughter.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  It's a good question.  Look -- and I want to be fair to their philosophy.  I think they have a particular philosophy -- at least today.  Now, keep in mind that every party changes over time.  The person who I consider the greatest President of all time, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, was also the first Republican President.  There have been Democrats whose main goal was to block civil rights, back in the ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s.  So I want to be clear that our country works best when both parties are evolving and changing.  And over certain periods of time, Democrats have been stupid and the Republicans have had better ideas, and vice versa. 

Right now, at least, the core Republican philosophy and belief is that the less government interferes with the marketplace, the better off we all are.  Some believe that because just philosophically they think government is a source of coercion and interference and telling you what to do.  And they believe that everybody, as long as they’re not hurting anybody, should be free to do exactly what they want. 

Some of it has to do with an economic theory that says capitalism in the free market is great, and so government when it meddles and gets involved in regulations, et cetera, is hurting economic growth.  Some believe that, look, if I'm out there and I'm making a whole lot of money, it's my money and I shouldn’t have to pay taxes to pay for somebody else’s school, or somebody else’s road, or what have you.  So there are a bunch of reasons why I think they have the philosophy that they’ve got. 

I think the problem right now is that we live in such a complicated, big, global society that what might be a sensible theory on paper doesn’t always make sense in real life.  So you may generally think, as I do, that the market is the greatest source of productivity and job creation and wealth creation and history, but our history tells us that if there’s a company that’s out there making a lot of money but also pouring a bunch of pollution into the water, and it catches on fire -- (laughter) -- and suddenly people can’t fish there anymore, and people are getting sick, that it makes sense for us to have some regulations that say, you know what, you can make your products, you can make a profit, that’s great, but you’re kind of messing things up and so we’re going to say you can’t just dump your pollution in the water.

In theory, you might say, we don’t want government forcing itself in the interactions of people.  But if our history shows that racial minorities or a gay person is discriminated, we make a value judgment that says this is an exception.  You can kind of do what you want, but when it comes to a hotel, you can’t decide you’re not going to serve somebody of a particular racial or ethnic group.  You’ve got a business; we don’t want you to discriminate.  That’s a principle that constrains your freedom, because we think that that is a value that we care about.

My philosophy is that you can have principles, but then you have to apply them, and how are they working in the real world, and are they fair and are they just, and are they generous, and do they work.  You have got to base some ideas on facts and our history.  And I think sometimes that’s not what happens in Washington.

And you probably know somebody like that at school, who, it doesn’t matter what happens, they keep on doing the same thing over and over again even though it doesn’t work.  (Laughter.)  Einstein called that “madness.”  (Laughter.) 

Last question -- I'm going to take two more questions.  I'm going to make an exception.  (Laughter.)  All right.  So young people have gotten some good questions so we’re going to get not as young a guy.  (Laughter.)  Go ahead.  I mean, he’s still pretty young. 

Q    Hi, Mr. President.  You speak about the dysfunction in Washington, partly because people are trying to be reelected every so often.  What about Citizens United, and overturning that, and getting some limits on campaign spending so that we bring some reality back to this situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s no doubt that among advanced democracies, we are unique in the length of our campaigns, the almost unlimited amounts of money that are now spent.  And I think it's bad for our democracy.  (Applause.)   

And I speak as somebody who has raised a lot of money.  I'm very good at it.  I'm proud of the fact that part of the reason I was really good at it is because we were the first sort of out of the gate to -- not the first, but we really refined using the Internet for small donations, and to be able to pool a lot of ordinary folk’s resources to amplify our message.  But I also got checks from wealthy people, too.  So it's not that I'm not good at it.  I just don’t think it's a good way for our democracy to work. 

I think, first of all, it makes life miserable on members of Congress, particularly those in competitive districts.  There is no doubt that it has an impact on how legislation moves forward, or doesn’t move forward in Congress.  It’s not straightforward, I'm writing the check and here’s my position.  But there’s a reason why special interests and lobbyists have undue influence in Washington, and a lot of it has to do with the fundraising that they do.  And the degree to which it’s spent on TV and the nature of just the blitzkrieg -- you guys here in Ohio, you just feel it, right?  It’s just -- every election season, you just got to turn off the TV.  It’s depressing.  And it’s all negative because we know -- the science has shown that people are more prone to believe the negative than the positive.  And it just degrades our democracy, generally.

Now, here’s the problem.  Citizens United was a Supreme Court ruling based on the First Amendment, so it can't be overturned by statute.  It could be overturned by a new Court, or it could be overturned by constitutional amendment.  And those are extraordinarily challenging processes.  So I think we have to think about what are other creative ways to reduce the influence of money, given that in the short term we not going to be able to overturn Citizens United.

And I think there are other ways for us to think creatively, and we’ve got to have a better debate about how we make this democracy and encourage participation -- how we make our democracy better and encourage more participation.

For example, the process of political gerrymandering I think is damaging the Congress.  I don't think the insiders should draw the lines and decide who their voters are.  (Applause.)  And Democrats and Republicans do this, and it’s great for incumbents. But it means, over time, that people aren’t competing for the center because they know that if they win a Democratic primary or a Republican primary, they’ve won.  So they just -- it pushes parties away from compromise in the center. 

I think that -- now, I don't think I’ve ever said this publicly, but I’m going to go ahead and say it now.  We shouldn’t be making it harder to vote.  We should be making it easier to vote.  (Applause.) 

And what I haven’t said -- I’ve said that publicly before.  (Laughter.)  So my Justice Department is going to be vigorous in terms of trying to enforce voting rights.  I gave a speech down in Selma at the 50th anniversary that was incredibly moving for me and my daughters, and the notion that this day and age we would be deliberately trying to restrict the franchise makes no sense.  And at the state and local levels, that's -- you can push back against that, and make sure that we're expanding the franchise, not restricting it. 

In Australia, and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting.  It would be transformative if everybody voted.  That would counteract money more than anything.  If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country, because the people who tend not to vote are young; they're lower income; they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups; and they're often the folks who are -- they're scratching and climbing to get into the middle class.  And they're working hard, and there’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.  We should want to get them into the polls.  So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term.

Long term, I think it would be fun to have a constitutional amendment process about how our financial system works.  (Applause.)  But, realistically, given the requirements of that process that would be a long-term proposition.

All right, last question.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  So all the guys, you guys got to put your hands down.  (Laughter.)  All right, this young lady.  She’s had her hand up quite a bit.  Go ahead.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  My name is Laura Winfrey.  No relation to Oprah, unfortunately.  (Laughter.)  I am in seventh grade, and I attend school at Citizens Leadership Academy.  My question is, if you could go back to the first day of your first term and the first day of your second term, what advice would you give yourself?  (Laughter.)   

THE PRESIDENT:  That's a good question.  I would have told myself to anticipate that because the recession was so bad and so tough for so many people, that I was going to have to be more aggressive in explaining to the public how long it was going to take for the recovery to take place.

This is challenge that we had when we first came in.  When FDR came in during the Great Depression, it had been so bad for two, three years, that everybody understood, all right, we're kind of bottomed out, and so he could come in and then just propose, here’s what we're going to do.  And there was huge support because there had already been a track record of failure by the previous administration. 

When we came in, things were crashing but it hadn’t yet shown up in the statistics.  And it would take another eight, nine months, even a year before things really bottomed out.  And I think people were nervous and they were scared, the stock market was plummeting, but people didn’t know the depths of it -- like how many jobs we were losing per month and so forth.  And I think I might have done a better job in preparing people so they kind of knew what was coming.  And that would have helped explain why we needed to pass the Recovery Act, or why we needed to invest in the auto industry.  So I think we could have done a better job on that front than we did. 

I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day.  (Applause.)  I didn’t because at that time, as you’ll recall, we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed; my Republican opponent had also said it should have been closed.  And I thought that we had enough consensus there that we could do it in a more deliberate fashion.  But the politics of it got tough and people got scared by the rhetoric around it.  And once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it’s not who we are as a country.  It is used by terrorists around the world to help recruit jihadists.  So instead, we’ve had to just chip away at it, year after year after year.  But I think in that first couple of weeks we could have done it quicker.

I was thinking maybe I should have told myself to start dying my hair now -- (laughter) -- before people noticed, because by a year in it was too late.  (Laughter.)  I’m just kidding.  Michelle thinks I look distinguished.  (Laughter.)

Let me just say it has been wonderful to be with you.  I’ll leave you with this thought.  As discouraging, sometimes, as the news is, and as certainly discouraging as the news out of Washington is sometimes, it really is important for us to understand how well positioned we are for the future. 

We get White House interns in every six months.  Wonderful young people, really inspiring because they’re so smart and clever and hardworking and idealistic.  And I tell them, if there was a time in history where you would want to be born, and you were most likely to be healthy, have enough to eat, not be subject to violence, not be subject to discrimination, not be subject to sexual assault, not to be abused by your government -- the time would actually be now.  And that’s hard to imagine with all the terrible things happening around the world.  But we’ve made enormous strides.  We’ve made enormous progress.

When I was at that bridge down in Selma, and you think about, Reverend Moss, where we were 50 years ago and where we are now -- (applause) -- as challenging, as troubling as what has happened in Ferguson and in Cleveland, and in New York around some of those issues, as much progress as we have nevertheless made -- when you think about our economy and the fact that we have the best universities and the best workers and we still have the best scientific establishment and the most innovative companies, we’ve got all the cards.  We really do.

I mean, life is tough and America has got problems and they’re hard to solve, and they’re rarely solved overnight.  And progress has never been a straight line, it’s always zigged and zagged.  And sometimes you go sideways and sometimes you even go backwards.  But our trajectory is towards greater fairness and more inclusiveness and more tolerance and more prosperity. 

And I want people to feel encouraged by that.  Because the longer I’m in this office, actually, the more proud I am of all the incredible things the American people do every single day.  And our biggest enemy I think is this corrosive cynicism that tells us we can’t do things.  There is nothing this country cannot do.  There’s nothing Cleveland cannot do, and that’s because of you.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
4:08 P.M. EDT

2015-03-18


Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Cleveland, OH, 3/18/15

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, Ohio 

12:32 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Let me start by saying the President is looking forward to his trip to Cleveland today.  Cleveland, as you know, is the home of the White House’s own Katie Beirne Fallon, so you can anticipate that there will be a vocal contingent of Beirne family residents in attendance at the event today.

The President is also looking forward to going to Cleveland because it is an appropriate venue for the President to draw a clear distinction in the top-down economic priorities of Republicans and the middle-class economic priorities that’s advocated by the President and Democrats in Congress. 

One element of this approach that is worth highlighting because of how critically important it is to Cleveland’s economy is the manufacturing sector.  Over the last five years, we've seen 877,000 private sector jobs be created in the manufacturing sector in the last five years.  That is the strongest job growth we've seen in the manufacturing sector in nearly 30 years.  And that is an indication that the President’s focus on manufacturing and investments in things like job training and a college education and research and development are paying off.

And the reason this is a useful thing to highlight is that if you take a look at the Republican budget, it actually takes away investments in manufacturing.  One specific example -- prior to delivering his remarks at the City Club of Cleveland today, the President is going to visit a facility called Magnet.  Magnet is essentially an incubator for small manufacturing entrepreneurs.  And this is a program that has led to the support of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Northeast Ohio.  Federal funding for this program, the Magnet program would be eliminated under the Republican budget proposal. 

The President believes that's the wrong approach.  We shouldn’t be eliminating funding for these kinds of programs.  We should actually be looking to double down on these investments, because we know that they contribute substantially to success in the manufacturing sector and success for middle-class families all across the country.

So that will be on display.  The other notable thing about the President’s activities today is, in addition to the remarks that the President will deliver at the City Club, there’s a tradition at the City Club that speakers will take questions from the audience, and the President will take questions from those in attendance today.

So we have a lot to look forward to in Cleveland, but before we do that, I'll take a few questions from you.

Q    Did the President speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu after the election?

MR. EARNEST:  The President at this point has not telephoned Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I can tell you that earlier today that Secretary of State John Kerry did telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu to congratulate him on the Israeli elections.  The President, in the days ahead, in the coming days, I anticipate will also call Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same thing. 

Just as a relevant piece of recent historical context is that there have been two Israeli elections during the Obama administration.  In both situations, in the aftermath of both elections, the President did not telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu until he’d already been directed by the Israeli President to begin the process of forming a coalition government.

So I'm not suggesting that the President will wait until that direction has been handed down this time.  I'm merely pointing out that in previous situations the President has not telephoned the Israeli Prime Minister on the day after the elections.  But I do anticipate that the President will call Prime Minister Netanyahu in the coming days.

Q    -- talking about the Palestinian state issue over the last couple of days, citing the election.  But now that the election is over and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been reelected, can you talk a little bit about what that means for the U.S. goals in the peace process and the hope for a two-state solution?

MR. EARNEST:  That's a good question, Justin.  I've got a couple of things to say about that.  The first is that the unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel, including our strong military and intelligence relationships, will continue.  And that relationship will continue because those relationships are essential to the security of the Israeli people, and the President is committed to continuing that important security cooperation.

The second thing I wanted to say is that it has been the policy of the United States for more than 20 years that a two-state solution is the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinian people.  And that two-state solution has been pursuit of a democratic and Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.  That has been the policy of the United States under both Democratic and Republican Presidents.

In the context of the recent election, Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated a change in his position.  And based on those comments, the United States will evaluate our approach to the situation moving forward.

Q    -- that you guys may no longer favor a two-state solution, or that you may reevaluate sort of your ability to cooperate with Netanyahu?

MR. EARNEST:  What I'm suggesting is that it has been the longstanding policy of the United States that a two-state solution is the best way to address this conflict, primarily because it is in the security interest of the Israeli people -- again, in the view of the United States -- it is in the best interest of the Israeli people because it would be the best way to resolve the very legitimate security concerns that they have.

The United States also happens to believe, and the President also happens to believe that this would be the best way to resolve the situation, this conflict in a way that satisfies the concerns of the Palestinian people as well.  They seek a sovereign, independent state.  This solution also has the benefit of best addressing the stability of the region; that this ongoing conflict has contributed to instability throughout the region and that addressing this conflict by establishing a Jewish independent state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is the best way to defuse regional tensions as well.

Of course, it's not going to solve every problem, but we know that this ongoing conflict does serve to inflame tensions around the region and promote instability.  And it has long been the policy of the United States and it continues to be the view of the President that a two-state solution is the best way to address those tensions and address that instability.

Q    Netanyahu said that there would not be a Palestinian state for as long as he’s Prime Minister.  So the U.S. position is that you favor a two-state solution.  But he’s saying that he doesn’t want that as long as he’s in office.  So does that mean the Mideast peace process is essentially dormant for the rest of the Obama administration? 

MR. EARNEST:  It means for today -- it means that for today that based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, the United States will reevaluate our position and the path forward in the situation.

Q    Josh, is having his congratulating Prime Minister Netanyahu -- other world leaders, like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended his congratulations.  And given the sensitivity of this election with the Iranian nuclear negotiations, was there any thought give to changing the protocol that you guys have used in the past and maybe speeding up the timing of the President’s call to the Prime Minister?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't have a lot of the -- let me say it this way.  I do anticipate that the President will telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu in the coming days.  In previous situations, the President has waited -- and in the previous situation, the President waited a week after the elections were held to telephone the Prime Minister.  Now, the previous election, which was very early on in the President’s tenure, the President waited substantially longer before telephoning Prime Minister Netanyahu.  In both situations, it was after he’d already been asked by the Israeli President to begin the process of forming a government. 

That is the historical context.  But what I would anticipate is that in the coming days, the President will make his own call to the Prime Minister.  

Q    Can I ask you on today’s event -- President Obama has called trade one of his most important priorities right now.  He’s going into Cleveland, in a state that trade has been generally looked poorly on in a lot of heavy unionized workers.  Will the President spend time today actively selling his trade deal, even though Sherrod Brown and other Democrats from the state seem opposed to it?  And if not, why won't he spend time?  Wouldn't it be the perfect place for him to do so?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, David, what I would anticipate is that in his prepared remarks the President will focus on the economic priorities -- or the differing economic priorities between Democrats and Republicans, and that's the focus of today’s event. However, as I mentioned, the President will take questions from the audience and I would not be surprised if someone in the audience does want to ask the President about this, and the President would, I'm sure, be happy to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss why he believes that trade agreements along the lines of what he’s discussed is in the long-term best interests of the U.S. economy and of the economy -- or I guess in the best interest of middle-class families all across the country.

Q    -- talking to Representative Kaptur about that?

MR. EARNEST:  Also I should have mentioned that Senator Brown is onboard Air Force One today, as is Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.  I don't know if they’ll talk about this specific issue, but I know that the President will spend some time with them on the flight.

Q    Josh, a couple more on Bibi.  Republicans have put out the most celebratory statements on the results.  Some like Ted Cruz have pointed out that in their view, Netanyahu seems to have won despite the efforts of the Obama administration -- the Obama political machine, I think he put it.  I wonder if you care to respond to that.  And also, could you address what this does to efforts to prevent passage of either new sanctions without a veto-proof majority, also the Corker bill to require congressional --

MR. EARNEST:  I don't anticipate that this will have a substantial impact on our ongoing efforts to resolve diplomatically the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.  And the reason for that is, obviously Prime Minister Netanyahu has had ample opportunity to make very clear what his views are about that situation, so I'm not sure that the events over the last 24 hours or so has a material impact on that.

As it relates to some of the comments from Republicans, I'll just point out that the administration, in very conspicuous fashion, avoided leaving anybody with even the appearance of an administration effort to influence the outcome of the elections one way or the other.  The President pointedly avoided commenting on the political back-and-forth that took place in the context of the election.  The President avoided meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he traveled to the United States only because it was two or three weeks before the election.

So this administration has gone to great lengths to avoid weighing in on one side or the other.  And the reason for that is we believe that the interest between our two countries is well served by preventing this relationship from being subjected to a lot of aggressive partisan rhetoric.  And the President has certainly done his part to ensure that we’re protecting the U.S.-Israeli relationship from that kind of political back-and-forth. And, again, that is consistent with the tradition that other U.S. Presidents have prioritized, which is avoiding sort of the kind of partisanship that is part of the U.S. democratic process from infecting the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Q    And then, I don’t know if you’ve had much time to talk to the President -- do you know if he was monitoring the election returns closely, or was he briefed on sort of the progress as the night went on?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know that he was getting minute-by-minute updates, but I do know that he has had an opportunity to talk with his team about the results of the election.

Q    Can I ask about Caroline Kennedy?  There were reports that she is receiving death threats in Tokyo.  Is the President aware of those threats?  And do you see any relationship to the attack against Ambassador Lippert in South Korea?  Is this kind of a copycat attempt?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of whether or not the President has been briefed on this particular matter.  I do know that the State Department, and the administration more broadly, takes very seriously the safety and security of our diplomats around the world.  That, of course, applies to the safety and security of Ambassador Kennedy. 

I know that the State Department is regularly reviewing its security posture when it comes to the precautions that are taken to protect our diplomats.  I know that, in this case, the State Department values the working relationship that they have with the Japanese government to ensure the safety of the U.S. diplomats, and we’re going to continue to rely on that relationship to keep our diplomats safe.

Q    On the Secret Service -- the letter that the Secret Service got at the White House that they tested positive for cyanide -- do you have any update on that?

MR. EARNEST:  I know that this is a letter that was received at a mail screening facility that is not on the White House grounds, so I can confirm that this letter that contained an unusual substance did not arrive at the White House.  It’s my understanding that the letter and its contents are still being tested.  But for additional questions about that I’d refer you to the Secret Service.

Q    Do you have any information on the attack in Tunisia?  Was it terrorist-related?  Are there any Americans among the at least 19 people that were killed?

MR. EARNEST:  The United States strongly condemns an act of violence like this.  The situation on the ground remains fluid, but certainly U.S. officials have been in touch with Tunisian officials about this matter.  But obviously it’s a terrible act of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who are affected by this act.

Q    -- a U.S. drone was shot down over a part of Syria.

MR. EARNEST:  I’ve seen those reports.  I would refer you specifically to the Department of Defense to comment on them.

Q    Do you have comment on Representative Schock’s resignation?

MR. EARENST:  I don’t.

Q    Can we bounce back to trade then?  I know Senator Hatch called the President earlier this week and asked him to sort of iron out differences with Senator Wyden, who is obviously leading the Democrats’ charge on this.  Hatch has said that Wyden is trying to insert provisions that would allow Congress to kind of come back and reevaluate Trade Promotion Authority.  So I’m wondering, is there going to be sort of an outreach from the President to Senator Wyden?  And is he the sort of stumbling block that you guys see in the legislative process for this right now?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think stumbling block is a fair way to describe his role in this process.  What we know to be true about advancing Trade Promotion Authority is that it is going to require bipartisan support; that because there is opposition in both the Republican conference and the Democratic caucus -- or at least concerns -- that we’re going to need both Democrats and Republicans to be supportive of this legislation.  And that’s why it’s important that Democrats and Republicans work together from the beginning to try to advance this process. 

And so the administration has been involved in talking to interested members of Congress about trying to advance legislation and we’re going to continue to do that.  That’s true of both Democrats and Republicans who are working on this issue because we know that we’re going to need support from both sides to get this across the finish line.

Q    Where does the President come down on the provisions that Senator Wyden has been offering?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, this will be something that Senator Hatch and Senator Wyden will discuss and that they're going to have to work out.  And obviously, we are working to facilitate those discussions.  We're offering some technical assistance as they carry out those discussions.  But this is ultimately something that they're going to need to resolve.  And we are strongly encouraging them to try to resolve those differences in a way that will allow for this draft at least to have bipartisan support out of the gate.

Q    And one last congressional one.  Senator Durbin, shortly before we took off, described -- was talking about the Loretta Lynch nomination, said Republicans were putting her on the back of the bus.  Is that sort of language that the President thinks is appropriate to describe what’s going on with the AG nominee?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I didn't see the entirety of Senator Durbin’s comments.  But what I have said about this certainly applies to the views of everybody in the administration, which is that the delay of her confirmation is unconscionable.  She is an independent career prosecutor with a sterling reputation.  She’s somebody with a strong track record of prosecuting terrorists to protect the American people.  She’s somebody with a track record of cracking down on Wall Street in a way that has been in the best interests of middle-class families across the country.  There is no doubt about her qualifications for this job, and there is no one who has raised a legitimate concern about her ability to do this job. 

And that's why we believe that this delay that has now stretched beyond the delay that the five previous Attorney General nominees were subjected to, combined, is one that is unacceptable.  And she should be confirmed right away.

Q    But following up on that, the chair of the CBC suggested yesterday that part of Republicans’ opposition to Lynch may be her race.  I think that's probably what Durbin was getting at in his comments.  Does the White House believe that race is playing a factor in this confirmation battle?

MR. EARNEST:  The White House believes that there is no question about her qualifications for this job and she should be confirmed immediately.

Q    I’ve got a follow-up question to some of the FOIA back-and-forth from yesterday’s briefing.  We have a story on the wire today where -- based on an analysis of those numbers, and it shows that the administration has been censoring government files, denying access to them more than ever, taking longer to turn over files, cutting the number of employees that work on FOIA, and there’s -- I could go on with a little bit more of it. But the bottom-line question is, given all of that, how do you square that with what we hear all the time from you and others in the administration that this is the most transparent administration in history?

MR. EARNEST:  As I mentioned yesterday, the United States -- this administration has a lot to brag about when it come to our commitment to the FOIA process.  For six consecutive years, the administration has responded to 91 percent of the FOIA requests in a way that provided some or all of the requested documentation.

What’s also important is that there are numerous examples of the administration releasing information that didn't require anybody to ask for it.  That's true of our WAVES records.  That's true of the salary and title of everybody who works at the White House.  That's true of more than 130,000 sets of data that this administration proactively releases.  This is true of the release of the underlying budget information in machine-readable format. So when it comes to our record on transparency, we’ve got a lot to be proud of.  And, frankly, it sets a standard that future administrations will have to have to live up to.

Q    Can I ask one more?  You mentioned Katie.  You might have seen in David’s paper that her husband has a new job working for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  You might have also seen last night that she kind of had a tweet storm of talking points on the Republican budget that were very closely aligned to things that we’ve been hearing out of the White House, things that you just said that the President would be highlighting today in Cleveland.  So I’m wondering, as we're kind of moving into 2016, the level of coordination between the White House and what is emerging as the Clinton campaign on messaging, on kind of legislative priorities for the President.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, listen, I’ll say a couple things.  I know Brian Fallon pretty well and I think he’s a remarkably talented guy.  And I don't know if the speculation about his next job has officially been confirmed, but let me say that he’s done an excellent job serving the American people at the Department of Justice and I’m sure he will do a terrific job at whatever he chooses to do next.

Secretary Clinton did an outstanding job as Secretary of State.  If she makes a decision to run for President, I’m confident that the kinds of values that she has fought for throughout her career will be the kinds of values that she will give voice to in the context of her campaign.  And if that's the case, if all of that comes about, I’m confident that there will be a lot of agreement between the priorities that she articulates and the kinds of priorities this President has been fighting for the last six years.

Q    Are there any communications in Hillary’s staff and you guys on legislative issues and priorities of the President? 

MR. EARNEST:  I'm not aware of any substantive conversations about legislative strategy.  But obviously you all, over the course of the last couple of weeks, have been asking me a lot of detailed questions about Secretary Clinton’s emails, and in the context of my best efforts to try to answer your questions, I have on a couple of occasions been in touch with representatives of Secretary Clinton’s team. 

There’s one other thing that I anticipated might come up that I just did want to mention as it relates to the Israeli elections.  Specifically, there has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of the rhetoric that emerged yesterday that was propagated by the Likud Party to encourage turnout of their supporters that sought to, frankly, marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.  The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.

It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.  We’ve talked a lot about how our shared values are an important part of what binds our two countries together, and rhetoric that seeks to marginalize one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive.  And I can tell you that these are views that the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.

Q    So will the President speak about that directly with Prime Minster Netanyahu when he speaks with him?

MR. EARNEST:  At this point I don’t want to preview any details about the call.  But I can tell you that these are -- that there is deep concern about this divisive rhetoric and we will share those deep concerns directly with the Israelis. 

Q    Did Secretary Kerry bring that up when he spoke with the Prime Minster?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have a detailed readout of Secretary Kerry’s call. 

Okay.  All right.  Thank you, guys.  I appreciate it. 

END  
12:56 P.M. EDT

2015-03-18


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Dr. Jill Biden at the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Award Ceremony

Good afternoon, everyone.

Thank you, Ellen.  The work that you are doing to help more students succeed is making a difference.

Now, more than ever, Americans are relying on community colleges to provide the stepping stones to a college degree and a better future.  Our nation’s prosperity—strengthening the middle class—truly depends on our higher education system delivering more high-quality degrees to an increasingly diverse group of students.

Helping more students go to college, stay in school, and earn their diploma is vital to the future of our economy, because in the next five years—by 2020—two out of three job openings will require some form of higher education. That’s why I believe this is the moment for community colleges to shine, and the institutions that Aspen honors today are leading by example. 

Congratulations to all of the Aspen Prize finalists! These schools are reinventing what it means to be the community’s college.  They’re partnering with local employers to provide students with the skills they need to move into jobs that already exist in their communities. They’re creating clear-cut, affordable pathways for those who want to move on to a four-year university. They’re providing the flexibility that is needed for working parents to pursue their degree or obtain new skills.

The Aspen Prize gives us an opportunity to highlight the “best of the best,” to celebrate community colleges that are excelling, and to give all other schools the opportunity to consider adapting those best practices on their own campuses.  So, thank you to the Aspen Institute, the supporters, and the many people who worked so hard to get to this day.  You have helped these institutions get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

Both in my classroom at NOVA, and when I am on the road visiting community colleges across the country, I am fortunate to see the tremendous impact community colleges have on so many students.

I see it in students like Erica, whom I met in Gainesville, Florida, last week.  As she told me, Erica almost dropped out of high school due to a bad relationship…with algebra.  As a mother of three, when Erica decided to go back to school, she found that the flexible class schedule, and the support and encouragement from the teachers and faculty at Santa Fe College, were exactly what she needed to succeed.  Not only did Erica pass her classes, but she thrived in the community college atmosphere.  She was a student ambassador and participated in the honors program.  After earning her degree from Santa Fe College, Erica is now enrolled at the University of Florida.

I see it in Christopher, a community college student whom I met at South-by-Southwest (SXSWedu) in Austin, Texas.  After high school, Christopher chose an out-of-state school that was more expensive than he could afford.  During his second year of college, even with his parents’ help, Christopher had to take out student loans and work two jobs to pay for tuition.  He knew something had to change. So, he moved closer to home and is attending Houston Community College where tuition is more affordable.  He’s now taking classes that support his dreams of going to business school, and has been accepted to Texas Tech for the fall semester.

I also see it in Jenny, a middle-aged mom of a newborn daughter.  Jenny works full time, mostly at night and on weekends so she can spend a few moments with her family between classes and work.  Her daughter was a big motivation for going back to school, but Jenny had math anxiety, and it was a stumbling block when she started thinking about all the math that she would have to do to get her degree.  Then, Jenny enrolled in Austin Community College’s innovative developmental math course, which takes place in lab the size of a football field, with over 600 computers, where students are allowed to work at their own pace, and have hands-on guidance from teachers—it has completely changed how Jenny looks at math.  In fact, she enjoys math so much that Jenny is looking to complete her degree and become a math teacher.

In reality, these are the typical community college students: mostly older, juggling work, school, and family.  That’s also what makes community colleges so special—they’re innovative and have the ability to adapt to the needs of all students, and put them on a path to reach their full potential. 

One day soon, community colleges will be free. As an educator, I am proud to be part of an Administration that is committed to investing in our students, and restoring the promise of the American education system.

I have worked with so many of you in this room: I gave my first commencement address at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn; El Paso Community College joined us at the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges; and, just two months ago, the President, Vice President and I joined Governor Haslam at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee where the President announced his proposal to make the first two years of community college free for responsible students.

I look forward to continue working with all of you in the months ahead to provide all students with the opportunity that they deserve to get a quality education.

We all have our own stories on why we are passionate about education.  I grew up in the sixties—I’m a sixties girl from Philly.  Before Joe, the men I dated wore jeans and clogs, and my hair was down past my waist, and some of theirs was too.  So, when a clean-cut Senator asked me out on a date, and showed up at my door wearing a suit and leather loafers, I wasn’t quite sure.  But what we found in one another was a shared sense of responsibility, and a passion to level the playing field.

Throughout his career in the Senate, and now as Vice President, my husband Joe has fought to lift up the middle class—to give all Americans a fair shot at the American Dream.

The same principle is the reason why I teach at a community college.  I teach because I believe education is the great equalizer.   Every day in my classroom I see the power of education to break down barriers, to open students’ eyes to the possibilities around them, and to provide them with opportunity to grow into the people they aspire to be.  You understand that better than anyone.   

Thank you again for all of your hard work, and congratulations.

2015-03-18


President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • Douglas J. Kramer – Deputy Administrator, Small Business Administration
  • David J. Shulkin – Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • LaVerne Horton Council – Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Juan Garcia – Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Department of Defense
  • Andrew Read – Member, Marine Mammal Commission, and upon appointment to be designated Chairman
  • Stephen P. Welby – Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Department of Defense

President Obama also announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • General Larry R. Ellis, USA (Ret.) – Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
  • Kathleen H. Hicks – Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
  • Thomas R. Lamont – Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
  • Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, USAR (Ret.) – Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
  • Chad Dickerson – Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Gary Hirshberg  – Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Dennis D. Williams – Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations

President Obama said, “I am grateful these accomplished men and women have made the decision to serve our country.  I look forward to working with them.”

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Douglas J. Kramer, Nominee for Deputy Administrator, Small Business Administration
Douglas J. Kramer is General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development, a position he has held since 2013.  Prior to this, he served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary from 2012 to 2013.  From 2009 to 2012, Mr. Kramer served in the Office of the White House Counsel, first as Deputy Associate Counsel for Presidential Personnel, and then as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President.  Prior to serving in the White House, he served as Counsel in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice.  From 2006 to 2009, he worked as an Associate and then Shareholder at the law firm Polsinelli PC.  From 2001 to 2006, he worked as an Associate at the law firm Covington & Burling.  From 2000 to 2001, Mr. Kramer served as a Judicial Clerk in the Chambers of the Hon. Walter L. Carpeneti of the Alaska Supreme Court.  Mr. Kramer received a B.A. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

Dr. David J. Shulkin, Nominee for Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. David J. Shulkin is President of Morristown Medical Center, a position he has held since 2010.  He has served concurrently as President of Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and as a Vice President of Atlantic Health.  From 2005 to 2009, Dr. Shulkin was President and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and from 2004 to 2005 he was Chief Medical Officer of Temple University Hospital.  Dr. Shulkin served concurrently as Chief Medical Officer of the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital and Chief Quality Officer of the Drexel University School of Medicine from 2002 to 2004.  Dr. Shulkin was Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc. from 1999 to 2002.  Dr. Shulkin was the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System from 1993 to 1999.  From 1992 to 1993, Dr. Shulkin was the Director of Clinical Outcome Assessment and Quality Management at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Shulkin received a B.A. from Hampshire College and an M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
 
LaVerne Horton Council, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs
LaVerne Horton Council is the CEO of Council Advisory Services, a position she has held since 2012.  She has also served as Chairperson of the National Board of Trustees for the March of Dimes Foundation since 2011.  From 2006 to 2011, Ms. Council served as Corporate Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Johnson & Johnson.  She worked at Dell in several roles as a Vice President and Global Vice President from 2000 to 2006.  Ms. Council worked at Ernst & Young as Global Partner for the Supply Chain, Life Sciences, and Hi Tech Practice from 1998 to 2000 and as National Leader for the Supply Chain Strategy Team from 1997 to 1998.  Earlier in her career, she held positions at Mercer Management Consulting, Accenture, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and State Farm Insurance.  Ms. Council received a B.B. from Western Illinois University and an M.B.A. from Illinois State University.
 
Juan Garcia, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Department of Defense
Juan Garcia is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, a position he has held since 2009.  In 2006, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where he represented the 32nd District from 2007 to 2009.  He also served as an attorney at Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern, L.L.P. in Corpus Christi, TX from 2005 to 2009.  After leaving active duty, Mr. Garcia commanded a unit of Flight Instructors in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and he continues to serve as a Reservist today.  From 1992 to 2004, Mr. Garcia was a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy.  From 1999 to 2000, he served as a White House Fellow at the Department of Education.  Mr. Garcia received a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, an M.P.P. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
 
Dr. Andrew Read, Nominee for Member, Marine Mammal Commission, and upon appointment to be designated Chairman
Dr. Andrew Read is the Stephen A. Toth Professor of Marine Biology in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, a position he has held since 2012.  He has held various positions at the Nicholas School of the Environment, including Rachel Carson Associate Professor from 2004 to 2012, Rachel Carson Assistant Professor from 2001 to 2004, and Assistant Professor of the Practice from 1995 to 2001.  Dr. Read served as President of the Society for Marine Mammalogy from 2008 to 2010 and on the Marine Mammal Commission’s Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals from 2003 to 2008.  He has been a member of the Editorial Boards of Marine Mammal Science, the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, and Endangered Species Research.  Dr. Read is active in the conservation of marine vertebrates and serves on the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.  He received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from the University of Guelph.
 

Stephen P. Welby, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Department of Defense
Stephen P. Welby is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Systems Engineering at the Department of Defense, a position he has held since 2011.  From 2009 to 2011, Mr. Welby was Director of Systems Engineering at the Department of Defense.  Mr. Welby worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 1997 to 2008, where he served as Director and Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office from 2004 to 2008, Deputy Director of the Information Exploitation Office from 2001 to 2004, and Program Manager from 1997 to 2001.  He was a Project Engineer and Team Leader at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory from 1988 to 1997.  Mr. Welby received a B.S. from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, an M.S. from Texas A&M University, and two M.S. degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

General Larry R. Ellis, USA (Ret.), Appointee for Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
General Larry R. Ellis, USA (Ret.) has been President and CEO of VetConnexx, LLC since 2013, a company that provides career opportunities for veterans.  He was President and CEO of Point Blank Solutions, Inc. from 2005 to 2009.  General Ellis served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 2004, where he achieved the rank of General in 2001.  During his tenure in the Army, he served in a number of command and leadership positions in the United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, South Korea, and Vietnam.  General Ellis was appointed to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 2014.  General Ellis received a B.S. from Morgan State University and an M.S. from Indiana University.

Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks is Senior Vice President, Kissinger Chair, and Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a position she has held since 2013.  From 2012 to 2013, she was Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and from 2009 to 2012 she was Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces.  From 2006 to 2009, she was a Senior Fellow at CSIS.  Between 1993 and 2006, Dr. Hicks served in a variety of career civil service positions within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, including Director for Policy Planning and Director for Homeland Defense Strategic Planning and Program Integration.  Dr. Hicks received an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College, an M.P.A. from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Thomas R. Lamont, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
Thomas R. Lamont is Principal at LAMONT Consulting Services. Mr. Lamont served as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs from 2009 to 2013.  Previously, Mr. Lamont was Special Counsel at the University of Illinois from 2005 to 2009 and Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education from 2004 to 2005.  Prior to that, Mr. Lamont was a partner at the firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens, LLP from 2002 to 2004.  Before entering private practice, he served as Executive Director of the Office of the Illinois State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor and Director of Civil Litigation in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.  Mr. Lamont was appointed to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 2014 and has served as Chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. After serving in the Illinois National Guard in various roles over 25 years, including most recently State Staff Judge Advocate General, he retired in 2007 as Colonel. Mr. Lamont
 
Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, USAR (Ret.), Appointee for Member, National Commission on the Future of the Army
Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, USAR (Ret.) currently serves on the Board of Directors of VSE Corporation, a position he has held since 2013.  He was Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve and Commanding General of the United States Army Reserve Command from 2006 to 2012.  Lieutenant General Stultz served as Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve from 2005 to 2006 and as Commander of the 143rd TRANSCOM from 2004 to 2005.  Previously, he was the Director of Movements, Distribution and Transportation for Combined Forces Land Component Command Kuwait from 2003 to 2004, Commander of the 143rd TRANSCOM (Forward) in Iraq from 2002 to 2003, and Deputy Commanding General of the 143rd TRANSCOM from 1999 to 2002.  Lieutenant General Stultz served in the Army Reserve from 1979 to 2012 and as an active duty Army officer from 1974 to 1979.  He worked at Procter and Gamble for 28 years and retired as an operations manager in 2007.  Lieutenant General Stultz received a B.A. from Davidson College.
 
Chad Dickerson, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Chad Dickerson is CEO of Etsy, a position he has held since 2011.  He was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Etsy from 2008 to 2011.  Previously, Mr. Dickerson was Director of the Brickhouse and Advanced Products teams at Yahoo! from 2007 to 2008, and was Senior Director of the Yahoo! Developer Network from 2006 to 2007.  He also served as CTO of InfoWorld Media Group from 2001 to 2005 and was CTO of Salon.com from 1998 to 2001.  Mr. Dickerson received a B.A. from Duke University.
 
Gary Hirshberg, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Gary Hirshberg is Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, Inc., a position he has held since 1999.  He was CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Inc. from its founding in 1983 to 2012, and has been Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe since 2008.  Mr. Hirshberg has been a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations since 2011.  He is Chairman and member of the Board of Directors of Just Label It, a project of Organic Voices.  Mr. Hirshberg serves as a member of several corporate boards including Late July, Orgain, Applegate Farms, Peak Organic Brewing, and Sweetgreen.  He is also a member of the board of Danone Communities Fund.  Mr. Hirshberg received a B.A. from Hampshire College.

Dennis D. Williams, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Dennis D. Williams is President of United Automobile Workers (UAW), a position he has held since 2014.  Previously, he was UAW Secretary-Treasurer from 2010 to 2014.  Mr. Williams has served as a member of the Governing Committee of the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust since 2011.  He has also been a Director of Navistar International Corporation since 2006.  Mr. Williams has been Director of UAW Region 4 since 2001 and he was Assistant Director from 1995 to 2001.  Mr. Williams was a Salvage Welder at J.I. Case Company from 1977 to 1988.  He joined UAW Local 806 in 1977 and served as member and Chairman of the Bargaining Committee. In 1988, he was appointed international representative to the National Organizing Department.  Mr. Williams served in the United States Marine Corps from 1972 to 1975.

2015-03-18


Statement by the Press Secretary on the Attack at Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum

We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of today’s heinous violence in Tunisia and condemn in the strongest terms this terrorist attack, which took the lives of innocent Tunisians as well as visiting tourists. American officials are in touch with Tunisian authorities, and the United States is prepared to offer assistance to their investigation.  

While we do not yet know the identities of the attackers or their motives, what we do know is that their cowardly acts will not intimidate the Tunisian people, whose storied heritage is showcased at the site of this attack, the National Bardo Museum. The United States is proud of our robust cooperation with Tunisia on counterterrorism and broader security issues, and we will continue to stand with our Tunisian partners against terrorist violence. 

2015-03-18


Readout of the Vice President’s Calls with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Presidential Candidate Muhammadu Buhari

Vice President Biden spoke today with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the Nigerian presidential election, which is scheduled for March 28. The Vice President commended President Jonathan and General Buhari for signing the Abuja Accord in mid-January as a show of their commitment to non-violence throughout the election process. The Vice President further expressed the United States’ support for the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission and its work to deliver free, fair, and credible elections, in part through its essential efforts to distribute Permanent Voter Cards and help ensure that electronic voter card readers are in place and fully operational. He also noted his concern about the violence during some recent election-related events and reiterated the need for both candidates to make clear that such violence has no place in democratic elections. Vice President Biden affirmed that the United States stands with the Nigerian people in support of credible and peaceful elections, and will continue to stand with the Nigerian people whatever the outcome.

2015-03-18


Readout of the President’s Call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany

The President spoke today with Chancellor Merkel of Germany regarding developments in Ukraine.  The two leaders agreed on the need for full and prompt implementation of the three Minsk agreements in order to reach a lasting and peaceful resolution to the conflict.  They reiterated their agreement that there will be no easing of sanctions imposed on Russia until it has fulfilled all of its Minsk commitments.  The President and the Chancellor also agreed on the continued importance of providing economic support for Ukraine as it implements necessary reforms.  They also reviewed recent developments in Greece and efforts to reach a pragmatic agreement that builds upon recent reforms to return the country to growth within the euro area.

2015-03-18


Presidential Memorandum -- Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT:      Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order as follows:

I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority to prepare and submit to the Congress the report required by section 1244(c) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291) (the "Act").

Any reference in this memorandum to the Act shall be deemed to be a reference to any future act that is the same or substantially the same as such provision.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

2015-03-18


FACT SHEET: President Obama Launches Competition for New Textiles-Focused Manufacturing Innovation Institute; New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative; and Funding to Support Small Manufacturers

In Cleveland, Ohio, the President launches ninth manufacturing hub competition and announces measures to strengthen the small manufacturers that power America’s supply chains.

WASHINGTON, DC  – Today the President is announcing nearly $500 million in public-private investment to strengthen American manufacturing by investing in cutting-edge technologies through a new, textiles-focused manufacturing institute competition led by the Department of Defense, and by sharpening the capabilities of small manufacturers through Manufacturing Extension Partnership competitions in twelve states. The White House, as detailed in a new report, is also launching a Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers that anchor the nation’s supply chains.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, to create jobs and strengthen America’s leadership in advanced manufacturing technology, provides the resources to double the number of manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide to 16 by the end of 2016 and fulfills the President’s goal of building a network of up to 45 institutes over the decade. In contrast, the House Republican Budget released yesterday entrenches the harmful sequester levels of funding and proposes to eliminate the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, putting at risk critical investments in advanced manufacturing, workforce development and training, and innovation proposed in the President’s Budget.

After a decade of decline in the 2000s when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with 877,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010. Ohio alone has added nearly 70,000 manufacturing jobs over that period. Manufacturing production is up by almost a third since the recession and the number of factories manufacturing across the United States is growing for the first time since the 1990s.

In addition to announcing new competitions for nearly $500 million in public and private investment the President is calling on Congress to do its part to make the bipartisan investments needed to strengthen manufacturing across the United States, including in places like Ohio.

Click here to find the new White House and Department of Commerce report on strengthening small manufactures: LINK

Investing Nearly $500 Million to Strengthen U.S. Advanced Manufacturing:

  • More than $150 Million in Public-Private Investment through a New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition
    • Today, the Department of Defense is launching a competition for leading manufacturers, universities, and non-profits to form a new manufacturing hub focused on revolutionary fibers and textiles technologies. The $75 million federal investment will be matched by more than $75 million of private sector resources.
    • This is the ninth competition for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation institute, and the first of eight new institutes that the President’s budget proposes to fund by the end of 2016. Returning to sequestration levels for appropriations, as the House Republican Budget proposes, would put this expansion at risk.
    • The first institute awarded is in Youngstown, Ohio. Only in its third year, it is already drawing investment to Ohio—including a $32 million job-creating investment in the region from GE—and advancing research that will help accelerate the speed of 3-D printing in metals by a factor of ten. 

  • $320 Million Competition to Strengthen Small Manufacturers in 12 States

    • Non-profits in 12 states will compete for $158 million in Federal funds matched by $158 million or more in private investment over five years to provide technology and engineering expertise to small manufacturers through the latest round of competitions to strengthen the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)’s network of centers in these states.

    • Today, the President will tour MAGNET’s Manufacturing Innovation Center at Cleveland State University, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate.
    • In contrast, the House Republican Budget proposes to end funding for the MEP, dealing a blow to the 30,000 small manufacturers the program serves, including the more than 450 Ohio manufacturers served by MAGNET, the Ohio MEP affiliate, in recent years.

  • New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative

    • The President will unveil a White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers and a new report on the need to further strengthen small manufacturers that form the backbone of America’s supply chains and play an increasingly important role in creating and retaining manufacturing jobs and investment in the United States.

More than $150 Million for a New Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition:

As part of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each manufacturing institute serves as a regional hub for leadership in emerging manufacturing technologies, bridging the gap between early research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that can encourage investment and production in the United States.

The new competition, kicked off by the Department of Defense is the ninth manufacturing innovation institute competition launched by the Administration to date, joining the eight institutes already underway. The Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute will ensure that America remains at the leading edge of fiber science, through a $75 million public investment matched by more than $75 million of private investment in researching, prototyping, and commercializing fibers with extraordinary properties. Known as technical textiles, these modern-day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength and electronic sensors. With wide-ranging applications, technical textiles can forge the foundation of protective gear for firefighters impervious to the hottest flames, replicate the sensing capabilities of a smart watch into a lightweight fabric, or detect when a wounded soldier needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage.

After a decade of decline in U.S. manufacturing during the 2000s, the American textile industry is adding jobs for the first time in two decades, increasing shipments by nearly a fifth since the recession, and winning globally with a 45 percent increase in exports since 2009. Today’s announcement builds on this momentum in American textile manufacturing and lays the foundation for future leadership in the production of sophisticated fibers and textile technologies.

For the latest on the new institute competition, please visit Manufacturing.gov.

$320 Million Public-Private Manufacturing Extension Partnership Competition to Expand Services to Strengthen Small Manufacturers:

The more than 230,000 small manufacturers in the U.S. employ 42 percent, or almost half, of all manufacturing workers. However, small manufacturers often trail their larger peers in adopting the latest technologies and practices to increase their competitiveness and productivity, with many small manufacturers in need of access to capital and expertise to adopt the latest innovations in manufacturing – like 3-D printing, advanced sensors, and digital design – that can help sharpen their edge. 

Across the country, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, helps small manufacturers improve their production processes, upgrade their technological capabilities, and bring new products to market.

Today’s MEP competition will award nearly $32 million annually for five years across twelve states – an expected total of $158 million matched at least dollar-for-dollar by $158 million or more of non-federal funding – to strengthen and reinvest in this nationwide network of manufacturing expertise. Non-profits working with manufacturers in each of the twelve states will have the opportunity to compete for cooperative agreements to operate MEP centers and expand the range of lean production and technology acceleration services offered to small manufacturers, and help bring their products to market. Annual funding is subject to continued performance and the availability of appropriations. New MEP competitions are being launched in 12 states: Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

For more on the competition, applicants should visit the NIST MEP competition website. A public webinar for applications will be conducted on Monday, March 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm EST.

A public-private partnership, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps small manufacturers compete, increasing employment and investment across the country and generating a high return on public investment. Every dollar of federal investment in the MEP translates into $19 dollars of new sales for small manufacturers, or almost $2.5 billion annually across the 30,000 small manufacturers that MEP serves. Since it was founded in 1988, MEP has worked with nearly 80,000 manufacturers, leading to $88 billion in sales and $14 billion in cost savings, and helping small manufacturers create more than 729,000 new jobs. Today’s announcement represents the second round of competitions as part of a multi-year plan to launch new competitions to strengthen the MEP network of centers in every state. 

New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative:

The new White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative announced today follows on the President’s State of the Union commitment to improve the access of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to technologies and resources they need to improve their innovation and productivity through public private partnerships and new federal efforts.

As discussed in depth in a new White House and Department of Commerce report, a dense network of small manufacturers makes up the backbone of America’s supply chains, contributing more than 40 percent of all manufacturing employment. However, even as their share of U.S. manufacturing employment grows, small firms continue to face stiff challenges in innovation. As the new report finds –

  • Small manufacturers are playing an increasingly important role in U.S. supply chains and the manufacturing sector overall. Today, small manufacturers employ 42 percent - or nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing workers - up ten percentage points from their share in the 1980s. 

  • Dense networks of these small manufacturers are vital to the process of taking a product from concept to market, and the exchange of manufacturing know-how across suppliers is essential for the diffusion of the new product ideas and innovative processes that give U.S. manufacturing its cutting edge.

  • However, because of the unique barriers they face, small manufacturers often lag their larger peers in adopting critical new technologies. For example, a recent survey found that fewer than 60 percent of small manufacturers were experimenting in any way with 3-D printing, a potentially transformative technology that is especially beneficial for small companies due to its flexibility. In contrast, over 75 percent of large firms were using the technology.

  • The White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative will focus on public-private partnerships and new federal efforts to strengthen U.S. manufacturing overall by closing this gap.

Later this year, the Administration will convene a Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable of CEOs and representatives of leading manufacturers committed to partnering with the small businesses in their supply chains to accelerate technology adoption, strengthen the linkages within domestic supply chains, and to improve product design and process engineering. In addition, the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Defense, as well as the Small Business Administration, will announce additional Federal efforts to help small firms adopt cutting-edge technologies and improve information flow within supply chains. 

The Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable builds on the Administration’s successful SupplierPay initiative which has brought together close to 50 companies, including Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, and IBM, to strengthen small businesses by increasing their working capital.

While strengthening our capabilities at home, the Administration is also taking key steps to provide U.S. manufacturers with new markets and new consumers throughout the world. Through trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration is breaking down barriers to U.S. exports, leveling the playing field when it comes to labor and environmental standards, and, for the first time, focusing on improving the ability of small businesses to export to these new markets.

2015-03-18


FACT SHEET: President Obama Launches Competition for New Textiles-Focused Manufacturing Innovation Institute; New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative; and Funding to Support Small Manufacturers

In Cleveland, Ohio, the President launches ninth manufacturing hub competition and announces measures to strengthen the small manufacturers that power America’s supply chains.

WASHINGTON, DC  – Today the President is announcing nearly $500 million in public-private investment to strengthen American manufacturing by investing in cutting-edge technologies through a new, textiles-focused manufacturing institute competition led by the Department of Defense, and by sharpening the capabilities of small manufacturers through Manufacturing Extension Partnership competitions in twelve states. The White House, as detailed in a new report, is also launching a Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers that anchor the nation’s supply chains.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, to create jobs and strengthen America’s leadership in advanced manufacturing technology, provides the resources to double the number of manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide to 16 by the end of 2016 and fulfills the President’s goal of building a network of up to 45 institutes over the decade. In contrast, the House Republican Budget released yesterday entrenches the harmful sequester levels of funding and proposes to eliminate the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, putting at risk critical investments in advanced manufacturing, workforce development and training, and innovation proposed in the President’s Budget.

After a decade of decline in the 2000s when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with 877,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010. Ohio alone has added nearly 70,000 manufacturing jobs over that period. Manufacturing production is up by almost a third since the recession and the number of factories manufacturing across the United States is growing for the first time since the 1990s.

In addition to announcing new competitions for nearly $500 million in public and private investment the President is calling on Congress to do its part to make the bipartisan investments needed to strengthen manufacturing across the United States, including in places like Ohio.

Click here to find the new White House and Department of Commerce report on strengthening small manufactures: LINK

Investing Nearly $500 Million to Strengthen U.S. Advanced Manufacturing:

  • More than $150 Million in Public-Private Investment through a New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition
    • Today, the Department of Defense is launching a competition for leading manufacturers, universities, and non-profits to form a new manufacturing hub focused on revolutionary fibers and textiles technologies. The $75 million federal investment will be matched by more than $75 million of private sector resources.
    • This is the ninth competition for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation institute, and the first of eight new institutes that the President’s budget proposes to fund by the end of 2016. Returning to sequestration levels for appropriations, as the House Republican Budget proposes, would put this expansion at risk.
    • The first institute awarded is in Youngstown, Ohio. Only in its third year, it is already drawing investment to Ohio—including a $32 million job-creating investment in the region from GE—and advancing research that will help accelerate the speed of 3-D printing in metals by a factor of ten.
  • $320 Million Competition to Strengthen Small Manufacturers in 12 States
    • Non-profits in 12 states will compete for $158 million in Federal funds matched by $158 million or more in private investment over five years to provide technology and engineering expertise to small manufacturers through the latest round of competitions to strengthen the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)’s network of centers in these states.
    • Today, the President will tour MAGNET’s Manufacturing Innovation Center at Cleveland State University, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate.
    • In contrast, the House Republican Budget proposes to end funding for the MEP, dealing a blow to the 30,000 small manufacturers the program serves, including the more than 450 Ohio manufacturers served by MAGNET, the Ohio MEP affiliate, in recent years.
  • New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative
    • The President will unveil a White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers and a new report on the need to further strengthen small manufacturers that form the backbone of America’s supply chains and play an increasingly important role in creating and retaining manufacturing jobs and investment in the United States.

More than $150 Million for a New Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competition:

As part of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each manufacturing institute serves as a regional hub for leadership in emerging manufacturing technologies, bridging the gap between early research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that can encourage investment and production in the United States.

The new competition, kicked off by the Department of Defense is the ninth manufacturing innovation institute competition launched by the Administration to date, joining the eight institutes already underway. The Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute will ensure that America remains at the leading edge of fiber science, through a $75 million public investment matched by more than $75 million of private investment in researching, prototyping, and commercializing fibers with extraordinary properties. Known as technical textiles, these modern-day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength and electronic sensors. With wide-ranging applications, technical textiles can forge the foundation of protective gear for firefighters impervious to the hottest flames, replicate the sensing capabilities of a smart watch into a lightweight fabric, or detect when a wounded soldier needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage.

After a decade of decline in U.S. manufacturing during the 2000s, the American textile industry is adding jobs for the first time in two decades, increasing shipments by nearly a fifth since the recession, and winning globally with a 45 percent increase in exports since 2009. Today’s announcement builds on this momentum in American textile manufacturing and lays the foundation for future leadership in the production of sophisticated fibers and textile technologies.

For the latest on the new institute competition, please visit Manufacturing.gov.

$320 Million Public-Private Manufacturing Extension Partnership Competition to Expand Services to Strengthen Small Manufacturers:

The more than 230,000 small manufacturers in the U.S. employ 42 percent, or almost half, of all manufacturing workers. However, small manufacturers often trail their larger peers in adopting the latest technologies and practices to increase their competitiveness and productivity, with many small manufacturers in need of access to capital and expertise to adopt the latest innovations in manufacturing – like 3-D printing, advanced sensors, and digital design – that can help sharpen their edge. 

Across the country, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, helps small manufacturers improve their production processes, upgrade their technological capabilities, and bring new products to market.

Today’s MEP competition will award nearly $32 million annually for five years across twelve states – an expected total of $158 million matched at least dollar-for-dollar by $158 million or more of non-federal funding – to strengthen and reinvest in this nationwide network of manufacturing expertise. Non-profits working with manufacturers in each of the twelve states will have the opportunity to compete for cooperative agreements to operate MEP centers and expand the range of lean production and technology acceleration services offered to small manufacturers, and help bring their products to market. Annual funding is subject to continued performance and the availability of appropriations. New MEP competitions are being launched in 12 states: Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

For more on the competition, applicants should visit the NIST MEP competition website. A public webinar for applications will be conducted on Monday, March 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm EST.

A public-private partnership, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps small manufacturers compete, increasing employment and investment across the country and generating a high return on public investment. Every dollar of federal investment in the MEP translates into $19 dollars of new sales for small manufacturers, or almost $2.5 billion annually across the 30,000 small manufacturers that MEP serves. Since it was founded in 1988, MEP has worked with nearly 80,000 manufacturers, leading to $88 billion in sales and $14 billion in cost savings, and helping small manufacturers create more than 729,000 new jobs. Today’s announcement represents the second round of competitions as part of a multi-year plan to launch new competitions to strengthen the MEP network of centers in every state. 

New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative:

The new White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative announced today follows on the President’s State of the Union commitment to improve the access of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to technologies and resources they need to improve their innovation and productivity through public private partnerships and new federal efforts.

As discussed in depth in a new White House and Department of Commerce report, a dense network of small manufacturers makes up the backbone of America’s supply chains, contributing more than 40 percent of all manufacturing employment. However, even as their share of U.S. manufacturing employment grows, small firms continue to face stiff challenges in innovation. As the new report finds –

  • Small manufacturers are playing an increasingly important role in U.S. supply chains and the manufacturing sector overall. Today, small manufacturers employ 42 percent - or nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing workers - up ten percentage points from their share in the 1980s. 
  • Dense networks of these small manufacturers are vital to the process of taking a product from concept to market, and the exchange of manufacturing know-how across suppliers is essential for the diffusion of the new product ideas and innovative processes that give U.S. manufacturing its cutting edge.
  • However, because of the unique barriers they face, small manufacturers often lag their larger peers in adopting critical new technologies. For example, a recent survey found that fewer than 60 percent of small manufacturers were experimenting in any way with 3-D printing, a potentially transformative technology that is especially beneficial for small companies due to its flexibility. In contrast, over 75 percent of large firms were using the technology.
  • The White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative will focus on public-private partnerships and new federal efforts to strengthen U.S. manufacturing overall by closing this gap.

Later this year, the Administration will convene a Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable of CEOs and representatives of leading manufacturers committed to partnering with the small businesses in their supply chains to accelerate technology adoption, strengthen the linkages within domestic supply chains, and to improve product design and process engineering. In addition, the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Defense, as well as the Small Business Administration, will announce additional Federal efforts to help small firms adopt cutting-edge technologies and improve information flow within supply chains. 

The Supply Chain Innovation Roundtable builds on the Administration’s successful SupplierPay initiative which has brought together close to 50 companies, including Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, and IBM, to strengthen small businesses by increasing their working capital.

While strengthening our capabilities at home, the Administration is also taking key steps to provide U.S. manufacturers with new markets and new consumers throughout the world. Through trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration is breaking down barriers to U.S. exports, leveling the playing field when it comes to labor and environmental standards, and, for the first time, focusing on improving the ability of small businesses to export to these new markets.

2015-03-18


Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Jamaica and Panama

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release

March 18, 2015

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Jamaica and Panama

The President will travel to Jamaica and Panama from April 8-11.  In Jamaica, President Obama will meet with leaders from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to discuss our ongoing partnership with the region, including through the administration's Caribbean Energy Security Initiative. 

The President will then travel to Panama where he will participate with 34 other leaders in the Seventh Summit of the Americas.  While in Panama, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, and meet with leaders from the Central American Integration System (SICA). 

 

###

2015-03-18


Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland at St. Patrick's Day Reception

East Room

5:34 P.M. EDT
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, everybody!  This is a good-looking crowd.  (Applause.)  Everybody all right back there?  Have you been enjoying yourselves too much?  (Laughter.)  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody.  (Applause.)  There are too many distinguished Irish and Irish-Americans here tonight to mention, so I’ll just offer “a hundred thousand welcomes” to the White House.  But I want to offer a warm welcome to our special guests:  Taoiseach Kenny and his lovely wife, Fionnuala.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson; and her counterpart, our man in Dublin, Kevin O’Malley.  (Applause.)
 
I also want to take a moment to recognize those who do the hard work of waging peace.  Theresa Villiers, the UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is here.  Please give Theresa a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  As is America’s Consul General in Belfast, Greg Burton.  (Applause.)  Aand Richard Haass, two men who helped bring the Stormont House Agreement to fruition, and we are very grateful to them.  Two people who were going to be here -– First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness -– are home hammering out the details to implement the agreement.  So we wish them good luck and Godspeed, so the people of Northern Ireland can finally enjoy the full fruits of a lasting peace.
 
APPLAUSE:  Hear, hear. 
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hear, hear.  (Applause.)
 
There’s always a brood of Irish-American members of Congress running around here.  (Laughter.)  Or folks who wish they were Irish.  (Laughter.)  But let me just mention one.  When Brendan Boyle ran for Congress last year, his campaign was followed closely by folks back in Ireland –- not so much because of him, although he’s an impressive young man, but because of his dad.  Frank Boyle grew up in Donegal.  He moved to America as a young man, married an Irish lass, had two sons.  He supported his family by working as a janitor for the Philadelphia public transit authority.  Today, one son, Kevin, serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  Brendan serves in the U.S. Congress.  The Boyle boys are all here today, they’ve made people across two nations very proud.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
 
So when Irish and Americans get together, there’s more than a diplomatic exchange.  It is a family reunion.  Literally.  My eighth cousin, Henry, who has become a regular at this party, I mean –- (laughter) -- where is “Henry the Eighth” -- there he is, he’s back there.  Good to see you, Henry.  (Applause.)  So is his good buddy, Ollie Hayes, who owns my favorite pub in Moneygall.  And while many of you are far from home today, I’m sure you’ve found plenty of green in the red, white and blue because we’ve got 30 or 40 million family members here in the United States and millions more who wish they were. 
 
Now, Shaw said that an Irishman’s heart is nothing but his imagination.  And if there’s any place that can set the imagination on fire, it is Ireland. I remember my own visit to Dublin, and Moneygall, and Belfast.  The unrushed landscape.  The unrushed pint of black.  (Laughter.)  Waiting for that perfect pint is 90 seconds well-spent.  (Laughter.)  A people noted for bouts of great joy and the belt of a late-night song; a people known for the good things –- slow days, hard lessons, high notes. 
 
But Irish-Americans are also rightly proud of what we’ve done here in America.  The cities our ancestors helped build, the canals they dug.  The tracks they laid, the shipyards and factories they labored in, enduring all manner of intolerance and insult to carve out a place for themselves and their children in this new world. 
 
They put their full hearts into their work, even as their hearts were far from home.  In 1897, at an Irish Fair held in New York, dirt was shipped over from each of Ireland’s counties and laid out on a map.  At least one immigrant knelt in prayer, grateful to be back in Fermanagh again, even if only for an instant.  Meanwhile, thousands of young Irish women moved to America to find work as domestic servants.  “Not a day goes by,” one said, “that I don’t look at the moon and say it’s the same in Ireland.”
 
So they persevered.  For the story of the Irish in America is a story of overcoming hardship through strength, and sacrifice, and faith, and family.  It’s an idea central to Saint Patrick himself -– faith in the unseen; a belief in something better around the bend.  That’s why the Irish did more than help build America -- I’m very impressed, by the way, whoever just -- (laughter and applause.)  I was going to wait until the Taoiseach spoke to shush everybody, but Joe handled his business -- I like that, Joe.  But the Irish did more than just build America; they helped to sharpen the idea of America:  The notion that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, in this country, you can make it.
 
    And today, we revel in that idea.  We remember the great Irish-Americans of the past -– those who struggled in obscurity, those who rose to the highest levels of politics, and business, and the arts.  We celebrate the ideals at the heart of the Irish-American story, ones that people everywhere can embrace –- friendship and family, and hard work and humility, fairness and dignity, and the persistent belief that tomorrow will be better than today.
 
Yeats is one of my favorite poets and the Taoiseach honored me by giving me a slim volume of his favorite works.  So in this 150th anniversary year of his birth, I’ll just close with words from one of his plays.  “I have believed the best of every man.  And find that to believe it is enough to make a bad man show him at his best -– or even a good man swing his lantern higher.”
 
And with that, I will turn it over to our guest -- a man who always swings his lantern higher -– the Taoiseach of Ireland. 
 
Prime Minister Kenny.  (Applause.)
 
PRIME MINISTER KENNY:  (Speaks Irish.)  Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, Fionnuala and I appreciate the honor that you bestow on the Irish people today and we’re very honored to be here in the White House on this St. Patrick’s Day.
 
Let me extend and thank you for your hospitality to the Irish people and those of Irish descent here in the United States who are represented here this evening.  I want to thank you, President Obama and Vice President Biden, for your friendship and for your support for Ireland, North and South. 
 
When we met in the Oval Office this morning, says he -- (laughter) -- we had the opportunity to discuss the progress that we are making in our economic recovery through the perseverance and the determination of the Irish people.  The United States remains our most important economic partner and the support of the U.S. has been critical to the progress that we are making.  The improvement that the U.S. economy is making under your leadership, President, is essential not only to jobs and growth in the United States, but also to Ireland’s recovery and growth throughout the global economy. 
 
Let me thank you, in particular, Mr. President, for the work that you are doing to achieve immigration reform and, in particular, for the executive actions, which you announced last November.  (Applause.)  The undocumented Irish represent a small proportion of the 11 million people affected by this issue across the United States, but I can also tell you that almost every family in our country is related to or knows somebody who is caught up in this deeply distressing situation.  Any progress that would allow our undocumented to come out of the shadows and be free to travel home for family events would be very welcome and your very welcome ambassador, Kevin O’Malley, understands this deeply on his own personal family side.
 
We also want to see a legal pathway for the future for Irish people to make their full contribution here if they so choose.  I can assure you this evening, Mr. President, that we will continue to add our voice to the many voices calling on this Congress to pass immigration reform legislation as soon as possible.  (Applause.)
 
Mr. President, I also want to acknowledge and to thank you for your ongoing support and your commitment and your engagement in the peace process.  Northern Ireland has been transformed through the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.  Huge steps have been taken with the work of building a shared future, bringing an end to sectarian division, and to ensure that future generations will grow in mutual respect and tolerance is still a work in progress.  The Stormont House Agreement reached last December is a welcome step -- a welcome further step forward, and let me publicly acknowledge the role of Senator Gary Hart, appointed by you and Vice President Biden, as your representative in reaching some bipartisan agreement.  (Applause.)
 
As you would have seen in recent days, implementation can always be the hardest part of any agreement, and I urge the Northern Ireland parties -- as you have done, Mr. President -- to do all that they can to ensure that the current roadblock is overcome, as I’m sure it will be, and that the agreement can be implemented in full.  We therefore appreciate your ongoing engagement and your support, and that of all our friends in the United States as we continue to build permanent peace and reconciliation in Ireland. 
 
Mr. President, as you said on the conclusion of the Stormont House Agreement, where there is courage and a will, these changes can happen.  In your brilliant Selma speech a few weeks ago, you said that the march is not yet over.  I agree with that sentiment, nor can it be until democratically elected politicians decide to make decisions that are of benefit to all. 
 
In Ireland, we’re now in a decade of commemorations marking the hundredth anniversary of the tumultuous events that resulted in our country achieving its independence.  Next year, we commemorate the anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Ireland and around the globe, including a major festival here in Washington in the Kennedy Center. 
 
This year, as you know, is also the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great poet W.B. Yeats, to whom you have referred, Mr. President.  We will mark that event with many occasions in Ireland, here in the U.S., and around the world.  And to mark that particular anniversary, Mr. President, this year the Shamrock Bowl is engraved with one of his most famous and beautiful poems:  “He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven.”  The last line reads in that, Mr. President, if I recall it correctly, to paraphrase it, tread softly, for you tread upon our dreams. 
 
(Speaks Irish.)  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.  Have a wonderful occasion here, Mr. President.  (Applause.)

END 
5:49 P.M. EDT

2015-03-17


Daily Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 03/17/15

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:30 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I do see a fair amount of green in the room today, which is nice to see.  I’m wearing my green today not just to pay tribute to Saint Patrick but also to pay tribute to my alma mater back in Kansas City.  The boys’ high school basketball team won the state championship over the weekend, so they’re the AAA state champs in the state of Missouri.  So congratulations to Coach Thomas and the rest of the boys that made us so proud this year.

Q    Are their uniforms green?

MR. EARNEST:  They are.  They wore green jerseys, green and white.

Q    Well, they make up for the Royals.

MR. EARNEST:  This is the Barstow School in Kansas City.  So the AAA state boys’ basketball champs.  So good news.

Let me do one other thing and then we’ll get to your questions.  As many of you have seen, Republicans in Congress have rolled out their budget proposal today and I want to make a couple of comments on that before we get started.  You heard from the President, who alluded to this in his remarks with the Taoiseach in the Oval today, but there are a couple of important differences between the proposal from Republicans and the President’s budget that he put out I guess about six weeks or so ago now.

While the President’s budget includes pro-work tax reforms designed to support working families, promote job creation and strengthen the middle class, House Republicans start their deficit reduction plan by promising large, expensive new tax cuts to high-income households.  In fact, the only specific tax proposals in the House Republican budget are tax proposals that benefit the wealthy.

Secondly, the House Republican budget fails to provide for our national security or our economic security in this country in 2016 by failing to reverse harmful sequestration cuts and then tries to balance the budget in part by further slashing middle-class investments after 2016.  This is an approach that even some Republicans have been critical of, particularly when it comes to defense spending. 

Senator McCain, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has previously described efforts to plus-up OCO contingency funding to pay for defense as essentially as a slush fund and as a gimmick.  And Paul Ryan last year called emergency spending increases “a backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of the budget process.”

Finally, and this is consistent with previous Republican budget proposals, House Republicans would end Medicare as we know it, transforming it from a guarantee that seniors can count on into a voucher program.  Their budget also contains steps that would undermine the Affordable Care Act; that, of course, is not new, either.  The fact of the matter is the President’s budget would actually strengthen Medicare with proposals that increase value and prove long-term sustainability of the program. 

So there will be an opportunity for us to have a robust debate in the coming weeks about the Republican priorities that are codified in the House Republican budget and the kinds of investments that the President believes are so critical to middle-class families all across the country.

So with that long windup, Jim, why don’t you get us started today?

Q    Thank you, and happy St. Patrick’s Day.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.  You too.

Q    May the road rise to meet you.  (Laughter.) 

What you just said about the budget, the President just earlier said, what we’re seeing right now is a failure to invest in education, infrastructure and national defense.  You mentioned national security as well but, in fact, this House Republican proposal, the one thing that it does do is provide money for national defense -- in fact, more so than the President’s own budget would.  So how do you square that?  What is the difference that you’re trying to draw here?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, what the Republican budget does is it actually does abide by the sequester caps that they themselves say are bad policy.  And what they have tried to establish in order to, frankly, give themselves political cover is to put in place -- establish this fund on the side that essentially is no different than a slush fund.  And, again, that is the kind of gimmick that Senator McCain himself has previously criticized.

Paul Ryan, the Chairman of the House Republican Budget Committee, the Chairman -- the Republican, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee last year called emergency spending increases a “backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of the budget process.”

So the fact is the President does the responsible thing, which is suggest that we should actually make increases both on the defense and non-defense side of the budget, above and beyond the sequester caps.  This is consistent with the proposal that Democrats and Republicans worked on together a couple of years ago.  This was the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray proposal to fund the budget at appropriate levels, ensuring that there were dollar-for-dollar increases on the defense and non-defense sides.  The President believes that’s the appropriate approach.  And what’s also included in the President’s budget are very specific ways that we can pay for those kinds of increases.

So what we can do is it means that we can make the investments that are needed in our national security to keep the country safe.  We can make investments that are so critical to the success of the middle class in this country, and we can do it in a fiscally responsible way. 

The Republican approach is different, which is that they have basically said, we are not going to raise revenue; we are going to abide by the sequester caps; and we are going to bring the budget into balance over the course of the next 10 years, which means that if you are not going to cut defense spending any further than they already have and if you’re not going to raise taxes, then that means that you are going to utterly decimate the kinds of investments that benefit middle-class families, and that’s everything from education to research and development, job training, and a bunch of other proposals that have contributed to the strong economic growth that we’ve seen over the last couple of years under the President’s leadership.

Q    But, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe the President’s defense spending, at least in his budget, relied on Overseas Contingency Operations that had been assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan in the past, and he was counting on the drawdown to provide money to help his defense spending.  Is that not right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’ll have to get into how the policy decisions that the President is making lead to sort of the arcane budgetary reflections that are on paper.  But the way that you described it --

Q    You guys are also saying the OCO account that you called a slush fund that the Republicans are increasing --

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the way that you’ve just described it is that we’ve reduced the amount of money that goes into the slush fund and actually put it on the books in terms of increasing the sequester caps while Republicans are, again, in a pretty disingenuous way, saying that they’re abiding by the sequester caps but increasing the funding that’s in the slush fund in a way that, frankly, is as Paul Ryan himself said, is really just a backdoor loophole that provides them political cover but doesn’t actually make the smart investments that we know we need in our national security.

Q    I wanted to ask you about Iran.  Iran’s top nuclear official today said that disagreements over a nuclear deal have pretty much been resolved, and declared himself optimistic that the deadline for a framework could be met by the end of the month.  And I’m wondering if the White House shares that assessment, whether you’ve improved your odds from 50/50 to something better.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, in the mind of the President, the odds have not moved.  We are in a situation where we are, at best, it’s a 50/50 proposition that a deal will be completed before the end of March.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  The first is, the President is driving a very hard bargain and Iran is going to have to make some very tough and specific commitments as it relates to resolving the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program as well as agreeing to a set of extraordinarily intrusive inspections.  And that’s the only way that we’re going to get to an agreement, and that’s why the President is realistic about how difficult it will be to arrive at an agreement.

The second thing is that -- well, and let me just clarify, which is the only way that this is difficult -- or let me say it in the affirmative, which is that the way that this is a reasonable approach, as the President has previously described, is that if Iran is true to their word, that they only seek a nuclear program for genuinely peaceful purposes.  If that’s the case, they shouldn’t have any concerns with the kinds of significant changes that would be made to their nuclear program, and they would be willing to readily submit to the kinds of intrusive inspections measures that the international community is going to insist upon. 

The second reason that we continue to believe that our odds of reaching this agreement are at best 50/50 is that it is going to require the Iranian leadership, including those who aren’t at the table, to sign on to this agreement.  And the fact is, from our vantage point it's difficult to predict what exactly they’ll conclude.  And so that is an X factor in these negotiations.

Q    Can’t the Iranians make the same argument about the United States?

MR. EARNEST:  Except they’re dealing with the President of the United States who does have the ability to reach this agreement with our international partners and with the Iranians. And the President has been very clear about what exactly our expectations are.  And for as clear as we’ve been about them in public, we’re obviously being even more candid and specific about what our expectations are around the negotiating table.  And the Iranians and the international community can have confidence that when the President lays out exactly what his expectations are, that he will stick to them.

Q    So bottom line is, you don’t agree then that most of the issues have been cleared?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it's possible to -- there’s no doubt that they’ve made substantial progress over the course of the last year.  And that is an indication that Iran took very seriously their participation in these negotiations.  But what is also true in the context of these negotiations is that as they encounter stumbling blocks, they just delay them to the end, which means that in the context of these negotiations some of the most difficult issues, some of the issues that they’ve been struggling with for the longest period of time, are the issues that have yet to be resolved.  So that is how it's possible that we’ve made substantial progress while acknowledging that significant gaps remain.

Q    I wanted to ask you last about a decision by the White House to exclude the White House Office of Administration from the Freedom of Information Act.  And the White House Office of Administration has been subject to FOIA by previous administrations.  Doesn’t this in effect make you the least transparent administration if you’re closing that one office that has been open to FOIA requests in the past?  And it strikes many as incredibly ironic that you chose to do this during Sunshine Week.  And I wondered if there was a message behind that decision at that particular time.

MR. EARNEST:  No.  I can tell you that no one, certainly in my office, was involved in the decision that was made as it relates to the timing of this announcement.   So I think the -- but let’s go to the substance, because you’ve raised something that’s really important for people to understand.  The administrative change that was announced this week has no impact on our compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.  This is entirely consistent with the policy that’s been in place for quite some time now, for a number of years. 

And the fact is, this change in the regulations is merely an effort to comply with a court ruling that was issued almost six years ago.  So this was actually a court decision that indicated that the Office of Administration was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act request.  And the regulations were merely updated to reflect that court’s decision.

So this is a matter of just cleaning up the records that are on the books.  It has no impact at all on the policy that we have maintained from the beginning to comply with the Freedom of Information Act when it's appropriate.  It also has no bearing on the Office of Administration and the role that they do play in ensuring that the administration is the most transparent administration in history.

It is the Office of Administration, for example, that is responsible for releasing the WAVES records on a quarterly basis. These are the records that for the first time give the American public insight into who’s actually visiting the White House.

You will recall that at least one previous administration went to the Supreme Court to prevent the release of those records, but yet it's this administration through the Office of Administration that voluntarily releases those records.  The Office of Administration, you’ll recall, is also responsible for on an annual basis releasing the list of White House employees and their salaries. 

Again, this is consistent with the transparency measures that other administrations have abided by, but it's certainly one that this administration has updated by making that information available electronically and in a form -- in essentially a machine-readable form. 

So this is cleanly in line with the kind of priority that this administration has placed on transparency.

Q    So the bottom line is the Office of White House Administration will continue to review FOIA requests, and be responsive accordingly according to the spirit of the act?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the Freedom of Information Act request does not apply to the Office of Administration.  That is not a decision that was made by the administration; that was a decision that was made by a judge.  And updating those regulations was something that was done to ensure that those regulations were consistent with the judge’s ruling.  They don’t have any bearing on the way that the administration responds to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Q    So you will -- we can still get information from them?

MR. EARNEST:  The Office of Administration, as I pointed out, does continue to extensively distribute information related to the workings of government.  But what has not changed, and what has never been the case since we’ve been here -- the Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  That is what a judge has said and that is what the regulations were updated to reflect. 

But the Office of Administration will continue to be a source of information for reporters and for the public who are seeking to obtain information about the White House and about the federal government.

Q    Is that on its terms, or based on requests that can still be submitted to the Office of --

MR. EARNEST:  Well, people are certainly welcome to submit requests, but there should be no mistaking of the fact that -- I just want to be clear with you -- the Office of Administration, since the President has took office, has not been subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  And that is because of a court ruling.  And the rules that were updated were updated simply to reflect that judge’s ruling. 

So requests can be made of the Office of Administration, but the fact that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Office of Administration has also not changed.

Q    But in 2009, Eric Holder in a memo to federal agencies said, abide by at least the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, even if you’re not legally bound to do so.  So how does that apply in this case?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, in terms of how they’re going to respond to individual inquires, I’ll have to take that question and I’ll see if I can find that out.  But across the administration, we actually do have a lot to brag about when it comes to our responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act requests. 

And just today, the Department of Justice did release records, or metrics related to Fiscal Year 2014.  The administration, in Fiscal Year 2014 alone, processed 647,142 FOIA requests, and over 91 percent of those requests resulted in the release of either some or all of the requested records.  That is the sixth year in a row in which more than -- at least or more than 91 percent of Freedom of Information Act requests were complied with in a way that included response of either or part or all of the requested records.

Q    What was the number again?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry?

Q    What was the number again?

MR. EARNEST:  Which number?  91 percent?  Or the total number -- just for Fiscal Year 2014 was 647,142. 

Julia.

Q    Thanks.  So several European allies announced today that they’re going to be joining the Chinese-led Asian Investment Bank, seen as a rival to the World Bank.  How is the administration responding to this?  Do they see it as a diplomatic blow, especially considering the President’s strategy to rebalance our relationship?

MR. EARNEST:  The U.S. position on the AIIB remains clear and consistent, particularly with respect to my objection to AIIB being a terrible acronym.  (Laughter.)  But the United States believes that there is a pressing need to enhance infrastructure investment around the world, and we believe that any new multilateral institution should incorporate the high standards that the international community has collectively built at the World Bank and at other regional development banks.

It will be important for prospective members of the AIIB to push for the adoption of those same high standards, including strong board oversight and other safeguards.  The international community has a stake in seeing the AIIB complement and work effectively alongside the existing development architecture.

Q    Would the U.S. ever consider joining?

MR. EARNEST:  Our policy right now is that we do not have a specific plan to join at this point.

Q    Also, Clancy was on the Hill today talking about the Secret Service and said that it was known that many -- not many, but some agents have been known to abuse alcohol.  Is this something the President was aware of?  And how does he feel about agents with a known problem with alcohol serving at the Secret Service?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julia, the specific matter that Director Clancy was discussing on Capitol Hill is one that continues to be under investigation by the DHS inspector general.  And obviously Director Clancy has access to some of the information about that ongoing investigation, and he was able to speak to it at the congressional hearing that he attended today.  I’m, frankly, not privy to the information that’s included in this investigation.  And because it is the subject of an ongoing independent investigation, I’m reluctant to comment on it at this point.

Jim.

Q    Josh, just to follow up on that -- Director Clancy testified that he was not told about the March 4th incident until the following Monday, five days later.  Is that acceptable to the White House?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, this is an incident that is under investigation, and part of that investigation I’m sure will include a review of how information about the incident was transmitted to other members of the agency, including the leadership at the agency.

So, at this point, I would reserve comment on it until the DHS inspector general has had the opportunity to do his job.

Q    He indicated he was pretty upset about.  He said it led to a stern conversation.  It just sounds --

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I can understand why he might feel that way, but I’m reluctant to be in a position of commenting on a matter that is the subject of an ongoing DHS inspector general investigation.

Q    Is the President still confident that Director Clancy can change the culture there?  He indicated during the hearing that he would like to see the culture change but that it may take some time.  The President is confident that Director Clancy can change the culture at the agency?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Directory Clancy is somebody who is held in very high regard not just by the President of the United States, but by the individuals who work for him at the Secret Service.  And he is somebody who certainly is capable both as a leader and as an example for the members of the agency about how to serve the agency, serve the President, and the serve the country. 

So the President absolutely believes that Director Clancy is the right person for this job.  But there is nobody around here and I don’t think there’s anybody in Director Clancy’s office who underestimates the size of the task.  This is very difficult work, and going in and reforming an agency like this will be challenging.  But somebody like Director Clancy, who has the skills and the character to implement these kinds of changes, will be critical to the success of that agency.  And the President has complete confidence in Director Clancy’s ability to implement those changes in a way that will allow the agency to live up to the high standard that they’ve set for themselves, but also to ensure that they’re properly serving the country.

Q    And on the Israeli elections, does the President believe that he can repair his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu if he is to remain the Prime Minister there?

MR. EARNEST:  Jim, the President has no doubt that the strong ties between the United States and Israel will endure far beyond this election.  And that has been true for generations now, that the U.S.-Israel relationship is not one that has been subject historically to partisanship and not one that has been subject to intense, partisan political debate.  But rather, because of our deep cultural ties, because of the deep ties between our people, because of our shared interests when it comes to national security in the Middle East, that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel will endure far beyond this upcoming election, or the election that's being held today.

Q    And what kind of relationship does the President have with Isaac Herzog?  He’s kind of a young -- maybe not so young, but an up and coming fresh face in the Israeli political scene.  He hasn’t been around in Israeli politics for very long.  Do they have a relationship?  Have they spoken?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't know about any previous conversations between the President and Mr. Herzog.  But I can tell you that the United States -- that President Obama remains committed to working very closely with the winner of the ongoing elections to cement and further deepen the strong relationship between the United States and Israel.  And the President is confident that he can do that with whomever the Israeli people choose.

Q    And I just want to ask one quick follow-up question to the President’s interview with VICE.  During that interview, he was asked about ISIL, and the President said that ISIL was a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of an invasion -- an example of unintended consequences.  He seemed to be blaming former President Bush for the growth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  Is that what meant to say there?  Is that the message he was conveying in that interview?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the President was documenting the history that we know exists about ISIL and their roots in the -- among the extremists in that region of the world.  I think those are well-known facts.  And they certainly do reflect the sometimes and often unintended consequences of foreign policy decisions that are made by the Commander-in-Chief.  And that certainly is why this President, as previous Presidents have, sought to think very carefully about the use of military force, and to carefully weigh the long-range consequences of those decisions.

Q    But his reaction to the growth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is also, wouldn’t you say, partly responsible for the strength of that terrorist organization in that country right now?  The President did not respond as quickly to the growth of ISIS when they were showing some gains not only in Syria but in Iraq, gobbling up territory.  The President -- and I know we’ve gone through this many times -- referred to ISIS and other groups like it as “the JV team.”  But in this interview, he talks about ISIS as being something that grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq --

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it did.

Q    -- with the outcome of --

MR. EARNEST:  It did.  Anybody would tell you that, and that's something that we’ve said on many occasions before.

Q    Right, but he’s sort of giving himself a pass there, isn’t he?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I’m not sure that that's the way that most people would look at this.  It certainly isn’t the way that I would look at this.  I think what the President is acknowledging is that dealing with extremism in the Middle East is something that previous Presidents have had to do, and it’s certainly something that future Presidents will have to do.  The President has been candid about that, as well.

And what he wants to do is he wants to make sure that we're making decisions about confronting that extremism in a way that, of course, protects the national security interests of the United States, but also takes into account the long-range consequences of those actions.  And the best way I think in the mind of the President to respond to this extremism is to ensure that we are building up the capacity of our partners and allies in the region to deal with this threat.

So when it comes to ISIL and the threat that they pose in Iraq, that's why the President insisted that Iraq’s central government govern that country in a way that would unite them to face the threat that's posed by ISIL; that if we put the United States on the hook once again for guaranteeing the security situation on the ground in Iraq, it is going to have negative consequences for our national security, both in terms of the substantial investment of blood and treasure in that endeavor, but also in terms of the impact that that's going to have on our allies and partners, and even in some cases, our adversaries in the region.

So that is the difficult decision-making matrix that's in front of the President as he confronts this decision, and that's why you've seen him exercise our military force very judiciously; that we’ve maximized the impact of the use of American and coalition airpower to take strikes against ISIL targets, while at the same time working closely with the Iraqi security forces to build them up, to improve their training, to offer them advice, to offer them some assistance so that they can take the fight on the ground to ISIL in their own country.

And that is the kind of measured but forceful decision-making that the President has applied to this situation in a way that has yielded significant national security benefits for the United States and has already, in just a few months of applying that strategy, has rolled back the amount of territory that ISIL has that ISIL originally controlled.

You heard me talking about this last week, that there are some measurements that indicate that up to 25 percent of the territory that was previously under ISIL control is no longer an area where ISIL can freely move.  And that's a reflection of some important progress, while I would be the first to acknowledge that much important work remains to be done.

JC.

Q    Yesterday, you mentioned you would be giving us some more information in His Royal Highness Prince Charles’s visit on Thursday. 

MR. EARNEST:  That is true.  (Laughter.)  I have some of that information for you.

Q    All right, thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  The Prince and the Duchess will visit the United States this week.  They’ll be here at the White House on Thursday, and they will meet with the President in the Oval Office.  In the course of that conversation, they will engage in activities and conversations to promote the U.K.’s partnership with the United States in such key areas as combating climate change, creating opportunities for youth, encouraging corporate social responsibility, and preserving historical and cultural ties between our two countries.  That will be the purpose of the Prince and the Duchess’s visit, but it will also be the subject of conversation in the Oval Office when they meet with President Obama.

Q    Would you imagine there will be any conversation following up Prime Minister Cameron’s visit here two months ago in terms of combating the various issues like ISIL, et cetera?

MR. EARNEST:  I would anticipate that the conversation is actually going to focus on some of the key areas that I mentioned, including combating climate change, creating opportunities for youth, encouraging corporate social responsibility, and preserving the deep cultural ties between our two countries.

Q    Thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  April.

Q    Josh, I have three subjects I want to ask you about.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, ma’am.

Q    I want to go to the Secret Service.  When there’s a culture that goes on in an organization and you lop the head off, and the culture still continues, does that mean that there could be an opportunity for a commission -- an independent commission to watch or keep an eye on the Service and Service members, and maybe offer some sort of punishment that has teeth?  Is there an opportunity for something like that, as we're seeing continual information that's negative about this group?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me say a couple things about that, April.  The first is that you change culture from the -- culture starts at the top.  And Director Clancy is somebody who has a sterling reputation inside the United States Secret Service, but also outside.  And he is somebody who has set a very high standard for himself in terms of his service to the country and his service inside the Secret Service.  And that positions him well to serve as a leader for that organization, and to implement some of the changes that he has acknowledged are badly needed.

Now, Director Clancy is also not all talk.  He has taken some decisive steps in his own right to try to begin implementing some of the needed reforms of that agency.  The first, you’ll recall, is that there were a number of members of the senior leadership at the United States Secret Service who were moved out of their leadership positions.  Some were transferred to other DHS components, others took retirement.  And that is an indication that he is willing to shake things up at that agency. And he did that by making a change at the leadership level with the Secret Service.

He’s also conducted a comprehensive, bottom-to-top assessment to determine the root causes behind some of the recent security incidents that have been the responsibility of the Secret Service.  He’s also sought additional training for Secret Service personnel that operate here on the White House grounds.

Director Clancy has also worked closely with the independent advisory committee that DHS Secretary Johnson established at the end of last year to take a look at the actions, policies, and procedures of the Secret Service and made a whole host of recommended changes.  Director Clancy is responsible for implementing those reforms.

So he has demonstrated, I think, a commitment to the kinds of reforms that are necessary at the Secret Service.  He takes very seriously the responsibility that he has as the director to influence and reform the culture at that agency.  And he talked about that in his testimony today.  And I think that is a very clear indication that he’s the right person for this very difficult job.

Q    All right, on another subject, any movement on anything when it comes to issues of Loretta Lynch and that -- I guess it’s 129 days now that she has not been up for a confirmation?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, April, I think that brings me to what I would describe as my stat of the day.  The stat of the day.  Is everybody ready for this?  I was --

Q    Is this going to be daily?

MR. EARNEST:  It’s daily for today.  And this is the statistic:  Ms. Lynch has now been waiting 129 days for confirmation.  That reflects the number of days that the previous five AG nominees waited combined in the United States Senate for their vote.  So those previous nominees were Eric Holder, Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Janet Reno.  So there are both Democrats and Republicans in here.  And all five of them have now -- if you add up the number of days that they waited for their confirmation vote, that is the number of days that Loretta Lynch alone has waited for her confirmation.  And that speaks to the kind of unconscionable delay that we’ve seen in the United States Senate that I referred to yesterday.

That's pretty good, right?

Q    That's tweetable.  I’m tweeting it now. 

MR. EARNEST:  There you go.

Q    Okay, all right, and next on the next issue, Ferguson. Ferguson, I guess right now, is ground zero when it comes to race relations in this country in 2015.  And you have a movement afoot by many of the black lawmakers here on the Hill to try to make the government there reflect the community, meaning adding more  -- or electing more African Americans or other minorities on city council and other electable positions.  What is the thought of this administration with that move to try to make the city government, the elected officials look like the community more so?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s the view of the administration that it’s the people in the community of Ferguson that should make the decisions about who is leading that city.  And I have read some anecdotal accounts that we are seeing enhanced civic engagement in that community in the aftermath of some of the violence and strife that has racked that community.  That's a good thing.

There is an opportunity for people to get involved and engaged in our democracy in a way that can tangibly influence the leadership of their communities.  And so the fact that we are seeing more people declare their candidacy for local office in a place -- in a community like Ferguson, the fact that we're seeing more people outwardly encouraging their friends and neighbors and others in their community to participate in the election process is a good thing.

The President continues to be incredibly confident that if the American people are willing to get engaged in their local government, that they can exact the kinds of changes that they want to see in their communities; that citizens in a community like Ferguson do have the power to bring change to their communities.  And that is a good thing.  That is an important lesson that the President believes is important not just for the citizens in Ferguson, but for citizens all across the country. 

And the President talked about this a little bit at the speech that he delivered in Selma a week and a half ago, that the lesson to take away from the historic events that took place in Selma, Alabama is that average people, when they band together and seek to change the country that they love, can be incredibly powerful, even against very entrenched forces. 

And that should be a cause for optimism for people all across the country.  It’s not a reason to despair, but should be a reason that people can be optimistic that they do have the power to change their communities in a way that better reflects their ambitions and their will and, frankly, the high standards that they’ve set for the community in which they live.

Jon.

Q    Josh, a couple of quick ones.  One, I’m wondering if you might be able to give an answer that we’ve been unable to get out of the State Department.  Do you know if Secretary -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the OF-109 Separation Statement Form that all State Department employees are supposed to sign?  Because apparently, State has not been able to answer that question?

MR. EARNEST:  I have no idea, but I’m sure that either Secretary Clinton and her team can get that answer for you.

Q    Not yet, I tried. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, but I don’t happen to know the answer to that question.

Q    How about more broadly?  That is specifically for the State Department and USIA.  But as I understand it, similar separation statement forms are required for other agencies.  Do you know if it's routine for Cabinet secretaries to not have to do that, and that would just be something for lower level?  Or and when previous Cabinet secretaries left, have they been required to sign some more statements? 

MR. EARNEST:  My guess is that that’s going to vary by agency.  I can tell you that at the White House that -- while I have not gone through the separation process here at the White House, some of my colleagues have, and there is a lot of paperwork that’s involved, including signing some documentation related to their tenure here at the White House.  But I don’t know what that process is at the State Department or other agencies.

Q    But that’s not something that senior officials would be able to just say, yeah, I'm not going to do that, it's only for lower levels?  It's generally something that applies to everybody who is leaving -- at the White House. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, my understanding at the White House that that applies to everybody that serves at the White House.  I don’t know whether it applies to the President and the Vice President, I guess.  But in terms of staff who work here, I do know that they have to sign those kinds of agreements. 

Q    Okay.  And then a quick one on the Israeli elections.  I know you’ve been very careful not to show any favoritism towards either side, obviously.  But isn’t it rather obvious that Isaac Herzog would make it easier for the President to sell the Iran deal, obviously.  He’s been on record saying that he trusts the President to get a good deal, whereas Netanyahu came all the way over here to rather extensively criticize the emerging deal.

And then, of course, you have the question of the Palestinian State, which now Bibi Netanyahu is saying that he would not be in favor of. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jon, as we speak, there are Israeli citizens going to the polls right now.  And so I'm reluctant to talk about, in much detail at all, about the individual candidates that are on the ballot there.

So at this point, I'm going to refrain from opining on that admittedly relevant observation.  But after the polls are closed and we do a briefing in here next, then maybe we can have a little bit more discussion about that. 

Q    Okay.  And then one last quick one on the budget.  Of course, you mentioned the House Republicans were out with their budget today.  It does, they claim, lead to have balanced the budget at the end of 10 years.  You might say there are some gimmicks in there, but they have put that as a goal, and they claim to get to that point after 10 years.  The President’s budget does not do that.  Does the President view a balanced budget as a goal, as something that should be strived for?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, one thing that is important about the Republican budget is that it does include some gimmicks, as you pointed out.  But it also does not specify the kind of draconian cuts that would be required in a lot of programs that benefit the middle class in order to attain the goal that they aspire to. 

So that is one element of their budget proposal that is a little questionable, to say the least -- which is that they’re willing to say and tout the benefits of their proposal without being candid about the kind of significant sacrifices that would be required in order to attain that goal.  In this case, sacrifice means essentially sacrificing so much of the interests of the middle class in this country in a way that in the mind of the President would be detrimental to the country and detrimental to our economy.

When it comes to deficit reduction and the President’s budget proposal, a couple of things merit pointing out.  The first is that, since the President has took office, we have succeeded in reducing the deficit by nearly two-thirds now.  So when the President talks about deficit reduction, he’s somebody who has the credibility and the record to actually discuss it because he’s done it. 

The second is -- and I would admit on the front end that he’s done that in some situations by working with Republicans.  In some situations it's by working against Republicans successfully in the matter of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to make sure that they’re paying their fair share in terms of deficit reduction.

Early in the presidency when there was a lot of talk about what was needed to try and stabilize our rising debt and deficit, there was a lot of talk about the need to ensure that our deficit-to-GDP ratio was down to 3 percent.  And for the last couple of years we’ve actually seen that ratio down below 3 percent.  And because of the fiscally responsible proposal that the President has put out, over the next 10 years our deficit-to-GDP ratio would remain below 3 percent over that period of time.

And what our economists, and presumably some accountants tell us, is that the key to stabilizing our debt is making sure that that ratio stays at 3 percent.  And the fact of the matter is, because of the wise choices that the President has put forward, we could actually keep that ratio below 3 percent.

Q    So does that mean -- given what the economists and accountants you’re citing say, does that mean that an actual balanced budget is no longer a goal, or should not be a goal of fiscal policy in the White House here?  A balanced budget.  I’m not talking about getting down to percentage of GDP and all that -- but a balanced budget, is that something that is not actually important?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that’s not how I would describe it.  I think what I would describe it is our priority is on making sure that we are dealing with our deficit situation, and one way to do that is to make fiscally responsible decisions about how to keep the ratio -- or that percentage below 3 percent.  And that’s exactly what the President is does.

Q    -- continuing deficits, not a balance? 

MR. EARNEST:  But those continuing deficits would be stabilized under the policy decisions that this administration has put forward.

Bill.

Q    In his testimony earlier today, Director Clancy referred to a video which he described as showing events somewhat at odds with the information that is out there.  Has anybody in the White House seen the video of what happened at the East Entrance that night?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any White House personnel who have seen that video.  There may have been some.  But this is a video that I’m confident has been turned over to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security that is conducting an independent investigation into this matter.

Q    And for the record, does the President retain full confidence in Director Clancy?

MR. EARNEST:  Without a doubt.

Doug.

Q    Back to the Iran situation a little bit.  Now, I’m confused by the widely divergent perspectives on the status of talks right now, the Iranians saying that things are moving along at a good pace and that they expect to meet this deadline for a framework, you, on the other hand, I think you said a 50/50 shot --

MR. EARNEST:  At best.

Q    -- at best.  Are you increasingly hobbled by congressional action on this thing?  The Corker bill, specifically, now has six Democratic supporters -- cosponsors, Menendez, Kaine, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Nelson, Bennet, King.  Ten Democrats have apparently signed onto the bill if Mitch McConnell agreed not to fast-track it, which he has apparently done so.  You're right at the cusp now of a veto-proof majority.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Doug, we have been pretty clear about the fact that the President would veto a legislative proposal like the one that you described because it would interfere with the ability of the executive branch to negotiate this agreement alongside our international partners with the Iranians.  And the President has been very clear about the important role that Congress has and will continue to play in these negotiations and the implementation of this agreement.

I mentioned this yesterday and I still read a couple of news reports that insisted, somehow, unbelievably, that the administration continues to insist that Congress doesn’t have a role in this agreement.  And that’s just flat-out wrong.  We have been crystal-clear from the very beginning that Congress had an important role to play on the front end in terms of passing statutory sanctions against Iran that, because of the wise implementation of this administration to coordinate those efforts with the international community, we have compelled Iran to the negotiating table. 

And throughout the negotiations, the administration has been aggressive in making sure that our congressional partners are aware of the status of the talks.  And what the President envisions is using the authority that Congress has already given him in the context of that sanctions bill to waive some elements of those sanctions as a part of this broader agreement.

But the President does not believe that Congress should vote to take away those sanctions.  That would be going easy on Iran. To vote to take away those sanctions right away would be a bad thing.  Because what the President believes is that we need to make sure that Iran is demonstrating sustained compliance with the agreement not over the course of a few days and not over the course of a few weeks, not even over the course of a few months  -- over the long term.  We want to see that Iran is demonstrating a genuine compliance with the terms of the agreement, that they are submitting to the inspections as they agreed to in the agreement.  And if they do that over the longer period of time, then Congress should step forward and play their rightful role, and make a decision about the wisdom of removing that sanctions regime.

Q    Is the administration tweaking the agreement in the negotiating process in any way because of Congress’s increased flexing of its muscle?

MR. EARNEST:  I mean, candidly, no.  This is an agreement that we are still working closely with our international partners and closely, obviously, with the Iranians who are sitting on the other side of the table.  And what we are determined to do is to ensure that we find an agreement that shuts down every path that Iran has to a nuclear weapon and codifies with a lot of clarity exactly how intrusive these set of inspections will be to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.  And if Iran is not able to come to terms with those expectations, with those commitments, then there won’t be an agreement; that the President has been very clear, his National Security Advisor has been very clear that the President won’t sign a bad deal, that he’ll walk away, that no deal is far better than a bad deal.

But if we can reach an agreement where we shut down their path -- every path they have to a nuclear weapon and make sure that we’ve got intrusive inspections in place, and over the long term, we can verify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement, that would be a good deal for the United States and it would avert the kind of nuclear arms race that we’re concerned could precipitate if Iran is able to continue making progress toward a nuclear weapon.

Chris.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  I want to go back to the hearing today, and there did seem to be some bipartisan frustration with some of the answers given by Director Clancy, whether it was the five-day delay in him learning about what happened, the lack of him personally getting involved, and, finally, one member of Congress suggested you can’t just punt this to the inspector general.  Is there a sense that, no matter what, that the buck stops here?  Or is the White House comfortable with this being handed off completely to the inspector general, which seemed to be the impressions the members of Congress got today?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, listen, I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the testimony, but describing the Director’s decision as punting to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security is a curious notion.  The Inspector General exists to have the resources necessary to conduct an investigation -- an independent investigation that isn’t subject to political interference, to get to the bottom of what exactly happened.  They’re vested with resources and professionals inside that office so that they can conduct a tough but fair investigation to determine exactly what happened.  That’s why the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general exists. 

So it does reflect the Director’s commitment to getting to the bottom of what exactly happened that he has asked the DHS IG to step in and conduct this investigation.  And so I think that speaks to his willingness and determination to get to the truth.

Q    Would Director Clancy asking questions of the agent fall under the category you call political interference?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, not necessarily.  But in the minds of some, including in the minds of some people he was testifying before in Congress, you could imagine that it might.  I mean, it’s much easier for me to imagine that he is sitting there in front of the congressional committee that has oversight over the Secret Service and having them asking him why he didn’t refer it to the inspector general.  After all, they would say, the inspector general exists to conduct independent investigations like this.  So it strikes me as curious that somebody would be criticizing him for taking this very prudent step that is rooted in his commitment to making the changes that are necessary at that organization. 

Q    If I can ask you just really quickly about Loretta Lynch, and obviously about Corker and Lamar Alexander saying that they’re not going to vote for her.  And I just wonder the level of confidence at this point about her confirmation, and ultimately, if she is confirmed does the margin by which she is confirmed make a difference?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me just say that if Ms. Lynch were not confirmed by the United States Senate, it would be an astonishing display of partisanship.  Particularly given the fact that not a single member of the United States Senate has raised a legitimate concern about her aptitude for that office. 

This is an independent career professional who has successfully prosecuted terrorists in New York.  She has successfully prosecuted public figures for breaching the public’s trust.  She has succeeded in securing settlements with some of the largest actors on Wall Street for the actions that they took at the height of the financial crisis.  This is somebody who has a sterling reputation with law enforcement because of her commitment to toughness and fairness.  And that is why she has earned strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate.

Now, it's the responsibility for each of these senators to make their own decisions, but if the outcome were to be that she were denied confirmation for this seat, it would be astonishing.

Q    Well, in his statement, Lamar Alexander said that this is an opportunity within the Senate rules -- in his words -- “to express my disapproval of the President’s abuse of executive authority and it's an opportunity I intend to take.”  Do you take any issue that he is working within senate rules, or is his right to use that vote the way that --

MR. EARNEST:  So he’s acknowledging that he’s playing politics with the nation’s top law enforcement officer.  I think that is -- I guess I have got to hand it to him for his honesty and for his candor, but I can’t imagine that many Americans are going to think that the confirmation of a well-qualified attorney general, a historic attorney general, is an opportunity for partisan politics.  Again, I don’t think that’s a notion that many Americans are going to agree with.

Q    And is the White House looking at the margin or do you just want the confirmation?  It’s irrelevant what the margin is?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we believe that Ms. Lynch should be confirmed in bipartisan fashion and she has already waited far too long.

Okay.  Cheryl. 

Q    Thanks, Josh.  A few weeks ago the President and the Department of Labor proposed a new fiduciary standards rule for retirement plans.  In the interim, a major industry group has come and said the approach is flawed and especially the CEA’s report is flawed.  What is your response to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess my first response is that it's not particularly surprising that an industry-backed study is raising concerns about a proposal that would crack down on the industry.  I think that’s the first thing. 

The second thing is it is undeniably true that the rules that this administration has put in place would protect the retirement savings of millions of Americans in a way that would actually lead to preventing $17 billion of losses. 

Now the fact is, all we are suggesting is that rules should be put in place that govern the way that financial advisors make decisions; that there are some financial advisors who are not required to put the best interest of their clients ahead of their own personal financial interests.  This seems like a pretty common-sense thing, and the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of financial advisors are honest brokers -- no pun intended -- and they are individuals who are genuinely vested in the success of their clients.  All the more reason it’s just common sense that we should put in place very tough rules of the road that requires every single financial advisor to abide by this standard when it comes to offering advice to middle-class Americans that are trying to figure out how to do the responsible thing, which is wisely save for their retirement. 

Q    So you stand by the CEA’s approach then?

MR. EARNEST:  Without a doubt.  And in fact, the criticism from the securities industry is I think evidence that we’re probably on the right track here. 

All right.  Tommy.

MR. EARNEST:  Thanks, Josh.  I have two questions for you.  First of all, over the weekend Secretary Kerry said in an interview that the letter from the 47 Republican senators was unconstitutional.  I wanted to know if the White House agrees with that assessment and if so what can be done about that.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you can check with the State Department for a more detailed accounting of his comments, but my sense is that he was referring to the fact that, for centuries, the responsibility of the President of the United States to conduct foreign policy for the country is a well-established principle.  It's one that’s described in the Constitution and it's one that Presidents in both parties have abided by. 

Q    Do you think it's more a violation in spirit than the letter, maybe? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, maybe so.  I'm not an attorney, so it's hard for me to sort of draw those conclusions.

Q    All right.  Secondly, there’s been a report on Fox News that a source with knowledge says that the Senate is launching an investigation into allegations that the administration interfered with the Israeli election.  Do you have a reaction to that report?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, no -- primarily because it doesn’t sound like it's particularly well-sourced.  But the -- I'm sorry?

Q    That’s a reaction. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, maybe.  But I guess I think the broader point is just to remind you and others who may be interested in this story that the administration, since earlier this year, has gone to great lengths to demonstrate our commitment to not interfering in the Israeli elections. 

And the truth is there are -- that is a stance that has garnered some criticism.  But the fact is, this is a principle that the President believes is really important because it goes to the nature of the strong relationship between the United States and Israel that we should not subject that kind of critically important alliance to partisan bickering.  And the President has gone to great lengths to ensure that he didn’t leave anybody even with the appearance of interfering with those elections.

All right. John.

Q    Thank you, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome, John.  (Laughter.)

Q    And happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  Two questions.  First, could you elaborate a little bit on the role that the President has played in the last few weeks in Greece renegotiating its laws from the institution, so to speak, and particularly talking to Chancellor Merkel, and a conversation -- in the White House with the Athens government urging them to negotiate?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, John, I don’t have a lot of additional detail to provide to you about the kinds of conversations the President has had with Chancellor Merkel.  We have acknowledged in the past that it's not uncommon for economic issues on the continent to come up in their conversations.  Obviously the United States is very interested in the financial and economic health of one of our largest trading partners. 

But it's principally the Department of Treasury that has been the point of contact for monitoring that situation and engaging in conversations with their financial counterparts both throughout the EU and in Greece as those two entities work to resolve their differences.

Q    My other question, just following up on Tommy’s question on the 47 senators -- I'm sure both the President and you have seen the historical precedents that have been provided, the case of a Congressman of New York meeting with the German foreign minister in August 1939 to say we needed better relations with Berlin, to the 10 Democratic House members in the ‘80s writing Commandant Ortega, voicing disagreement with the Reagan administration’s policy.  Do you think these are accurate historical analogies for the letter of the 47 senators sent?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, John, I am not steeped in the details of those previous engagements that have been described by some as a precedent for the letter written by 47 Republican senators.  I will say that it's telling that those who are scrambling to explain and defend their signatures on the letter have to go back decades -- in one case, it sounds like eight decades -- to try to find a precedent.  I think that might be an indication they might be just a little bit defensive.  And I think that’s understandable given the kind of bipartisan criticism that they have received.

But as it relates to those specific matters, I'm not steeped in the details, but I guess my point would be it doesn’t matter how relevant those previous examples are.  What matter is that there’s a clear principle at stake.  And I do think that it's true that any time you have 47 senators from the same party that are writing a letter to one of the chief adversaries of the United States, that’s probably not a very good idea and probably is doing more to serve the interest of the party than it is serving the interest of the country.

Allie. 

Q    Thank, Josh.  I’ve got a couple questions about Syria.

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.

Q    Does the White House have any response to reports that the Assad regime carried out a chlorine gas attack in northern Syria yesterday?

MR. EARNEST:  I do.  The United States is aware of these reports and the videos that are circulating on social media.  We are seeking additional information and cannot at this point confirm the details.  But if these allegations are confirmed, this would, tragically, be only the latest example of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people.

The regime continues to inflict daily terror through air strikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, starvation, and the use of chemical weapons.  We continue to take all allegations of chemical weapons use, and in particular, these recent allegations regarding the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon, very seriously.  And we have long held that any credible allegations of chemical weapons used must be investigated, and we support the OPCW’s fact-finding mission in this pursuit.

Q    So are you saying that if this is confirmed, that these videos are confirmed, you would place blame on the Assad regime?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, there is additional information that we need to learn in this matter, and if they were confirmed, we obviously would have very significant concerns about the situation. 

Q    And presumably, though -- you mentioned the Assad regime in your response, not anybody else, not any other parties in this conflict.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the point is that’s the accusation that’s out there, and that’s what I'm responding to.  And this is an accusation that we need to learn more about.

Q    And related to this, the U.N. on Friday passed a resolution that was drafted by the U.S. that would impose Chapter 7 military responses, potentially, if the use of chlorine gas or other chemical weapons is confirmed.  So what actions would the United States press for if this is confirmed?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’ll wait until it's confirmed before we start availing ourselves to those kinds of Chapter 7 options.

Q    And one more, actually.

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.

Q    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded yesterday to what Secretary Kerry said, and he seemed to think that the comments were directed, in fact, at Assad himself, not the Assad regime, and he said that he wants to see actions before anything happens.  So I'm just wondering what’s the White House’s response to that? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, just that we’ve -- I think we’ve tried to be very specific about what Secretary Kerry was referring to, which is that he does not envision a scenario where President Assad pulls up a seat at the table because, frankly, President Assad has lost legitimacy to participate in those kinds of negotiations.  But what is true is that resolving the unstable situation in Syria through a political transition will require substantive, meaningful negotiations between the moderate Syrian opposition and some elements of the regime.  But we do not envision a role for Assad either in those talks or in the future of Syria.

Viqueira.

Q    Thank you.  Josh, the leader of Israel has come out against a two-state solution.  Where does that leave the peace process?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll say a couple things about that.  The first is, I’ve gone to great lengths to try to avoid leaving anybody with even the appearance or even the suggestion that the United States or anybody here at the White House is putting their thumb on the scale in favor or against any candidate that's participating in the Israeli elections.  The stakes for doing that are even more significant when the polls are actually open and people are casting their votes.  So at this point, I would refrain from commenting on the substantive claim that was made by one candidate in the Israeli elections.

But as I mentioned yesterday, the policy of the United States about the two-state solution remains.  And we continue to hold that position because we believe it is in the best interest of our close allies in Israel.  We also believe it's in the interest of the Palestinian people to resolve the situation in that manner, and that successfully resolving their difference would be a way for us to ease tensions throughout the region.  And it continues to be a priority of this administration.

Q    You went out of your way to note that these comments were made in the context of an election, an imminent election, an election ongoing at this very hour.  Is that reason, in the administration’s view, not to take it as seriously as you might take it otherwise?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think you can be assured that the administration takes very seriously everything that the leader of one of our closest allies says in public. 

Mara.

Q    Just to clarify on Syria, I thought that you and the President have said in the past that Syria gave up its chemical weapons and that was one of your foreign policy accomplishments.

MR. EARNEST:  The accusation at this point is that the Assad regime has used chlorine weapons in this specific attack.  The chemical weapons that were destroyed that were previously maintained by the Syrian regime were things like sarin gas and other weaponized chemicals that were used for attacks.  Things like chlorine do have legitimate commercial purposes, but they have no legitimate use in a war context like this.

Q    The chlorine wasn’t counted as a chemical weapon?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, chlorine is a --

Q    I mean for the purposes of your effort to get him to get rid of his chemical weapons.

MR. EARNEST:  The point is that when chlorine is used as a weapon it is a chemical weapon and one that we condemn.  We did not seek to rid the nation of Syria of chlorine gas because there are legitimate uses for chlorine.

Toluse.

Q    I wanted to ask you about the Republican budget.  There are -- the Republican plan, you basically described it as -- you said it's a gimmick.  You said it's a slush fund.  You said it's a backdoor proposal.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, to be clear, Senator McCain and Chairman Ryan described it that was as well.  So not just me.  I'm in good company.

Q    More generally, on the actual amount, the Republicans have increased the defense spending more than what the Obama administration has.

MR. EARNEST:  But, again, this goes to Jim’s question -- I don't mean to interrupt you -- but just that the only way they can reach that calculation is through establishing this set-aside slush fund.  Again, “slush fund” is the way that Paul Ryan had previously described it and John McCain had previously described it -- as a “backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of the budget process” is exactly what Paul Ryan said.

Q    I'd like you to respond to the idea that folks like Senator Cotton have said that the White House is shortchanging defense; at this time when we have problems in Ukraine, the Middle East and China, that the White House is not spending enough on defense.  Can you respond to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess I'd say a couple of things about it.  The first is the President has put forward a plan that is consistent with the recommendations that he has received from his civilian and military leadership at the Pentagon.  So Senator Cotton is certainly entitled to his opinion, but it stands in contrast to the expert advice that the President has received from the uniform and military and civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

The second thing is Senator Cotton is certainly welcome to put forward his own proposal.  What he should not do is resort to a gimmick, as some other members of his party have, in terms of setting up a slush fund to set this policy.  If Senator Cotton feels strongly about this, then what he should do is he should put out his own proposal about what level these programs should be funded at.  He should be mindful, though, of the principle that is well established, a bipartisan principle that increases in defense spending above sequestration levels should be paired dollar for dollar with increases in nondefense spending -- that we're not going to be in a situation in which we shortchange the middle class and programs that they benefit from to pay for our national security; that if we're going to make investments in our national security, we need to make investments in our economic security, too.

And this is a principle that Chairman Ryan and Senator Murray agreed to a couple of years ago, and it is the way that they were able to work in bipartisan fashion in the past to ensure that our budget was funded at appropriate levels.  We’d welcome a return to that kind of endeavor, but I suspect that's not what Senator Cotton has in mind.

Q    I have another topic, on Tikrit.  The Iraqi forces have sort of experienced a bit of a setback there, pausing their counteroffensive against ISIS.  How big of a -- you did call this a dress rehearsal for Mosul.  How big of a setback is this?  And there are also calls for the U.S. to bring airstrikes.  Is that something that's on the table?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the first thing I'd say is the way that Iraqi security forces have described the situation outside Tikrit right now is that they are in a position where they are being resupplied and getting fresh personnel and materiel and equipment to carry on the fight.  So for questions about their current posture, I'd refer you to Iraqi security forces.  As we've pointed out, U.S. military forces are not involved in that particular effort.

Second, I think that's the reason that I would not describe the offensive against Tikrit as a dress rehearsal for the offensive against Mosul.  I think that there are some commentators who have said that; I'm not aware that the administration has described it that way.

The other thing that I would point out is that we know that ISIL fighters have sustained significant losses in that battle and that we are seeing signs of significant internal dissension within the ranks as they try to defend that city.

The other thing that we know is that Iraq’s political leadership has succeeded in ensuring that that operation continues to be the effort of a multi-sectarian force that includes elements of not just Shia militias, but also Sunni tribal fighters, as well.  And we know that so far there are not widespread reports of those fighters trying to use that operation as cover for sectarian revenge. 

This is something that we were concerned about at the beginning.  We took a lot of solace in the public pronouncements of Prime Minister Abadi and other Sunni leaders who showed support for this operation.  They apparently, based on the report, based on what we know now, have lived up to that standard.  And we certainly would encourage them to continue to do so.  That is going to be critical to the long-term success of Iraqi security forces in taking the fight to ISIL in the country. 
As it relates to any conversations about U.S. military involvement, I will tell you that the United States military in Iraq continues to be in very close touch with Iraq’s political leaders and with the leaders of Iraq’s security forces.  And we do so to discuss all of the efforts that are underway by Iraq’s security forces against ISIL on the ground.  And there are a number of communities and a number of regions of the country where Iraq’s security forces are having success in pushing back ISIL.

We continue to be supportive of those efforts, and we're going to continue to have conversations with them about all of their efforts.

Q    One last thing on -- I want you to respond to what Mitch McConnell said.  He basically said that the administration has not lifted a finger to move this human trafficking bill, which is stopping Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.  Is the White House doing enough on that specific bill?  And then on more generally, we kind of saw the same type of White House response when the DHS issue was happening.  We didn't really see you all getting into the ring with Congress.  You sort of say Congress needs to figure this out on their own.  Is that the sort of new strategy with this Republican-led Congress, for you all to sort of allow them to work things out on their own, even when there are some security issues that are being held up?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Toluse, I did not see the Leader’s comments on the floor, but I take you -- assuming that what you've told me is accurate, and it usually is when you relay these kinds of comments.  I have to admit, though, I’m actually surprised that a seasoned, veteran leader of the United States Senate like Mitch McConnell would need the assistance of the President of the United States to pass a common-sense piece of legislation like a child sex trafficking bill.  I’m surprised that he would need help to get that done.

This seems like a pretty common-sense thing.  And if we're just focused on the policy and focused on common ground and working in bipartisan fashion to get things done, I’m confident that Senator McConnell should be able to move that through the United States Senate.

There’s one thing that -- there are a couple of pieces of this -- and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to talk about this -- there are couple pieces of this that I think are relevant here.  The first is that the House of Representatives, which typically is regarded as the more partisan body based on their election schedule and based on the rules that govern their floor procedure, has actually passed a version of this legislation with strong bipartisan support.  And the Republican sponsor of this legislation, a gentleman named Erik Paulsen from the great state of Minnesota -- when asked about the specific provision in the Senate bill that Democrats find -- many Democrats find objectionable, said, “There is no reason it should be included in these bills.”  This is the Republican congressman who sponsored the House version of bill.

He said that this objectionable provision -- that there is no reason it should be included in these bills.  “This issue” -- meaning combating child sex trafficking -- “is far too important to tie it up with an unrelated fight with politics as usual.  To me, this is about saving lives.”
So much was made of my rather forceful argument about this yesterday, but it’s entirely consistent with the argument that's being made by the Republican sponsor of the bill in the House.  So Senator McConnell doesn't need the help of the President of the United States to pass this bill.  He just merely needs to ensure that he’s taking on this very important issue in genuine bipartisan fashion. 

That was the solution to the DHS fight -- that the reason that Republicans got bogged down in trying to pass funding for the Department of Homeland Security was because they tried to do it along party lines.  That didn't succeed.  But when Republicans -- or when the leaders in both the House and the Senate turned to a bipartisan approach, they succeeded in passing a full year funding bill that had bipartisan support.  And they got that done.  That is the recipe for governing in the current environment.

When you have Republicans who are in charge of the Congress, and a Democrat sitting in the White House, it places a premium on both sides succeeding in acting in bipartisan fashion.  By definition, it’s going to have to be bipartisan.  It’s going to be passed by a Republican-majority Congress and signed into law by a Democratic President.

So as soon as Republican leaders are ready to start acting in bipartisan fashion in working with Democrats to get things done, I’m confident that they can be productive -- even when it comes to something as common-sense as trying to fight child sex trafficking.

Connie, I’ll give you the last one.

Q    Thank you.  Two questions.  Vanuatu -- beyond what you said yesterday, what sort aid is the U.S. giving to Vanuatu and the other islands?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the USAID has been designated at the government agency in that region of the world that will be the point of contact for our ongoing efforts there.  So I know that they're working in close concert with other countries in the region, including Australia, as they try to help the people of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and other places that have been affected by this terrible cyclone.

Q    Will the Prince have a press conference?  Or is that beyond him, beneath him?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry?

Q    Will Prince Charles have a press conference?  Or is that beneath him?

MR. EARNEST:  Oh, I don't know if that's what he’s planned. But you can check with his folks to see what his plans are to talk to reporters while he’s in the U.S.

Q    That story about South African nuclear stockpiles -- is the U.S. in active talks with South Africa about their nuclear stockpile, or are you concerned about it?

MR. EARNEST:  Connie, I haven’t seen that story.  We’ll have to take the question.

Q    Hey, Josh, real quick to breaking news just from Jen Psaki over at State.  She says they have no record -- they’re fairly certain -- that’s a quote -- that she did not sign a separation statement, that Secretary Clinton did not sign the Separation Statement.  And pressed further, Psaki said, “We don’t have a record of it at the State Department.”  Neither do they have a record of Secretary Rice or Powell’s signing of the separation agreement.  Your reaction?  Did she break the law?

MR. EARNEST:  If previous Secretaries of State didn’t do it, it doesn’t sound like she did.  But, again, for those kinds of questions, the State Department is the right place to get the answer.

Thanks, everybody.  Have a good day.

END 
1:47 P.M. EDT

2015-03-17


FACT SHEET: House Republican Budget Resolution: Same Failed Top-Down Economics

With more than 12 million private-sector jobs created over the last 60 months, it is clear that the President’s middle class economic agenda is working.  But instead of taking the steps we need to strengthen the standing of working families, the House Republican budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016 would return our economy to the same top-down economics that has failed us before. The Republican budget cuts taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing investments in the middle class that we need to grow the economy, like education, job training, and manufacturing.  The Republican proposal stands in stark contrast to the President’s FY 2016 Budget, which would bring middle class economics into the 21st Century.

The President’s Budget builds off the progress we’ve made and shows what we can do if we invest in America's future and commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America. It lays out a strategy to strengthen our middle class and help America's hard-working families get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change. And it makes the critical investments needed to accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run, including in research, education, training, and infrastructure.

House Republicans have chosen different priorities. Yet again, they are seeking to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, while cutting taxes for the wealthy and well-connected. House Republicans still won’t say where close to $1 trillion of their spending cuts come from. But they are clear that their budget would continue the harmful cuts known as sequestration in 2016, threatening economic growth, cutting programs middle-class families count on, and attempting to fund national security through irresponsible budget gimmicks.  Their budget slashes domestic investments that support middle-class even more significantly after 2016, along with programs that serve the most vulnerable Americans.  It would end Medicare as we know it, transforming it from a guarantee seniors can count on into a voucher program. And, despite the more than 16 million Americans who have health insurance today as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it yet again proposes to repeal the law’s coverage expansions.

The choice could not be more clear and the consequences more stark. Thanks to President Obama and the resilience of the American people, the economy is growing again. The Republican budget would put that growth at risk and limit opportunity for the middle-class and those seeking to join it.

In a budget that claims to be fiscally responsible, House Republicans start by promising large tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. Among the few specific tax proposals in the House Republican budget is a promise to spend hundreds of billions on high-income and business tax cuts, with up to trillions more in unspecified high-income and corporate rate reductions.  The proposals they specify would cut the tax bill of the average millionaire by more than $50,000, before even adding the proposed cuts to tax rates.  Meanwhile, the House Republican budget does nothing to prevent a tax increase on 26 million working families and students. And in the past, they have made clear they would let this tax increase happen – raising taxes by an average of $900 apiece for 16 million working families and by $1,100 for 12 million families and students paying for college.

Because House Republicans refuse to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share or to raise a single dollar of revenue, their budget relies on the same, failed top-down economics as in previous years. Specifically, it would:

  • Cut investments in the middle class by maintaining sequestration funding levels. Under the House Republican budget, both non-defense and base defense discretionary funding in 2016 would be at the lowest real levels in a decade. Investments in the middle class would be heavily impacted: real preK-12 per pupil education funding would fall to its lowest levels since 2000, and real R&D funding would fall to its lowest level since 2002, except when large sequestration cuts also took effect in 2013. Compared to the President’s Budget, the Republican budget would result in: [1] 

    • 35,000 fewer children on Head Start.
    • $1.2 billion less in Title I education funding, enough to fund 4,500 schools, 17,000 teachers and aides, and 1.9 million students.
    • $347 million less in IDEA funding, an amount that could support up to 6,000 special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and other related staff.
    • More than 2 million fewer workers receiving job training and employment services.
    • Elimination of the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, which serve 30,000 small manufacturers that contribute to the creation of middle-class jobs and economic growth.
    • 1,300 fewer medical research grants at NIH.
    • 950 fewer competitive science research awards at the NSF, affecting 11,600 researchers, technicians and students.
    • 133,000 fewer families receiving Housing Choice Vouchers, and another 20,000 fewer rural families receiving help for affordable rental housing.
    • Fewer community-based services for seniors, including approximately 500,000 fewer rides to doctors and grocery stores, approximately 200,000 fewer hours of assistance for seniors unable to perform activities of daily living, and approximately 100,000 fewer hours of care for dependent adults.
    • 3,500 fewer low-income homes achieving annual energy cost savings through residential energy retrofits.

Meanwhile, as a wide range of national security experts ranging from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Ambassador John Bolton have pointed out, locking in sequestration for defense would undermine our readiness and efforts to secure technological superiority for U.S. forces in future conflicts.  Instead of providing a plan to appropriately fund our national security, House Republicans try to have it both ways on defense funding – maintaining sequestration and then using overseas contingency operations funds intended for wars and not subject to budget caps to fund the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon.  This is both bad budgeting and harmful to military planning -- Senator John McCain has called it a “gimmick” and former House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan referred to it as treating overseas contingency funding as a “slush fund.” 

  • More than doubles cuts to middle class investments starting in 2017.  In 2017, the House Republican budget more than doubles its cuts to these investments, and the cuts grow even deeper after that. The budget hides these deep cuts in later years to mask their effects. But if non-defense discretionary funding were cut 12 percent below sequestration levels in 2016 – the cut the Republican budget would make in 2018 – it would mean the following compared to the President’s Budget: [2]
    • More than 157,000 children would lose out on access to Head Start services.
    • More than 4 million workers would lose out on job training and employment services.
    • Title I education funding would be $2.7 billion lower, enough to fund about 10,000 schools, 38,000 teachers, and aides, and 4.2 million students.
    • IDEA funding would be nearly $1.6 billion lower, an amount that could support up to 26,800 special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and other related staff.
  • Take away health insurance from more than 16 million people who have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act is working. Thanks to its coverage provisions, the share of Americans without health insurance is at or near historic lows – and these provisions are costing almost one third less than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) initially projected. Almost exactly five years after the ACA was enacted into law, Republicans will be voting for the more than 50th time to repeal these provisions. Beyond the effect on the millions who have gained health insurance coverage through the ACA Marketplaces or through Medicaid, the House Republican Budget would:

    • Deprive up to 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions of the security of knowing they will still be able to buy affordable health coverage if they lose their jobs or otherwise lose their health insurance;
    • Deny millions of young adults of the option to stay on their parents’ plans if they re-enroll in school or get a job without health coverage; and;
    • Increase prescription drug costs for more than 4 million seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Reaches its fiscal targets through unspecified cuts and gimmicks, plus deep cuts to programs that serve the most vulnerable. On top of its cuts to middle-class investments and the ACA, the Republican budget calls for an additional nearly $2 trillion in cuts to health, safety net, and other mandatory programs. For the fifth year in a row, the budget declines to specify where almost $1 trillion of these savings would come from. But the budget does single out a few programs as the first places it would look to reduce the deficit:

    • It eliminates mandatory funding for Pell Grants and freezes the maximum grant at its current level, instead of allowing it to increase to keep pace with inflation, and makes other unspecified cuts to the program. Over time, this would reduce financial aid for almost all of the more than 8 million students who rely on Pell Grants to afford college.
    • It block grants Medicaid, cutting resources for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by more than $900 billion, on top of the impact of repealing the ACA coverage provisions. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of a similar proposal in previous Republican Budgets found that as many as 20 million people would be denied the coverage they would have gotten under pre-ACA Medicaid.
    • It cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by about $140 billion over 10 years and in 2021 would block grant the program, jeopardizing the more than 46 million Americans who depend on it, the majority of them children, the elderly, or people with disabilities.  Research has shown that SNAP not only helps families put food on the table, but it also has a positive long-term impact on children’s health and education outcomes.

Since even these cuts leave the Republican budget short of its fiscal goals, House Republicans get the rest of the way there by policies such as:

  • Declining to implement their own policies in their budget. While claiming to “fully repeal Obamacare” and stripping away health coverage from millions, the House Budget retains the ACA’s savings, claiming they will replace the revenues through unspecified tax reforms.  And while House Republicans have voted to extend hundreds of billions in business tax cuts without offsets, their budget adds up only by assuming those measures would be paid for.
  • Counting about $150 billion in deficit reduction from highly uncertain “dynamic scoring.” Not only is dynamic scoring uncertain in general, but the dynamic estimates of the Republican budget take into account only its deficit reduction, not the long-term economic costs of its cuts to research, education, and other investments.
  • Terminating the FDIC’s Orderly Liquidation Authority. This authority was enacted to ensure taxpayer funds are never again used to bail out ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions.  And though the House budget says it does “not rely on gimmicks or creative accounting tricks”, the ‘savings’ from this termination are both, because, by law, any costs of the program must be recouped from the financial industry.

The Republican budget also proposes other policy changes that would have severe consequences for seniors and the middle class. It would:

  • End Medicare as we know it. For new beneficiaries starting in 2024, the House Republican budget would end Medicare as we know it by substituting guaranteed access to the traditional Medicare program with a voucher program, increasing costs for millions of seniors and forcing millions out of traditional Medicare, risking a death spiral as private plans siphon off healthier and less expensive beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries would receive a premium-support payment that may not completely offset the premium for the Medicare plan of their choice (either a private plan or the traditional Medicare program).  As CBO and numerous outside analysts have found, under a voucher system healthier, lower-cost Medicare beneficiaries would be more likely to enroll in private plans.  Meanwhile, traditional Medicare would increasingly be left with sicker, more expensive beneficiaries. 

  • Undercut important consumer protections.  In addition to cutting services and aid for the most vulnerable, the House Republican budget calls for rolling back key aspects of Wall Street Reform, while underfunding the agencies working to implement it. It terminates mandatory funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), greatly limiting the independence of this watchdog for the rights of consumers.  In the process, the House budget gains ‘creative accounting’ savings by shifting CFPB funding to appropriations.  In addition, it risks returning us to the days of “too big to fail,” protecting Wall Street firms from important regulatory safeguards and putting ordinary citizens and the economy at risk.

  • Do nothing to address our Nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The President has put forth a detailed plan to make significant investments in repairing and modernizing our infrastructure, paid for by closing specific loopholes that allow U.S. companies to shift profits and jobs to tax havens as part of pro-growth business tax reform.  Not only does the House Republican budget lack a real plan to address the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund by establishing an unspecified reserve fund “to provide for innovative thinking,” but House Republicans’ extreme sequestration cuts put funding for successful infrastructure programs like TIGER grants at risk.

The consequences of the Republican budget approach for the economy and the middle-class are stark. The budget’s own numbers show that its deep near-term spending cuts would reduce the size of the economy by an average of 0.5 percent over the next three years, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Its cuts to investments in education, training, research, and manufacturing would have compounding effects on the economy over time.

Instead of the same top-down economics that led to the financial crisis, the President’s Budget invests in an economy that puts the middle class first and cuts the deficit in a balanced way by closing tax loopholes to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. Now is the time to strengthen the standing of working and middle class families, not go back to the same failed Republican top-down economics.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Because the House Republican budget does not provide specific discretionary program levels, this analysis assumes an overall nominal percentage reduction in available non-defense discretionary funds of 1.5 percent below currently enacted 2015 levels, in order to account for both sequestration and unavoidable cost growth in certain areas (such as veterans’ medical care). This reduction is applied mechanically across-the-board to all discretionary programs. To prevent cuts of this magnitude in any specific program would require deeper cuts than described in other programs.

[2] Similar to the analysis of House Republican budget cuts in 2016, the analysis of the 12 percent cut relative to sequestration levels assumes an across-the-board reduction to the enacted 2015 levels and compares to the President’s 2016 proposals.  

2015-03-17


Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland After Bilateral Meeting

Oval Office

11:30 A.M. EDT
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is a great pleasure to once again welcome my good friend and colleague, the Taoiseach, Prime Minister Kenny, back to the White House and the Oval Office along with his outstanding delegation.
 
This is an annual affair and always one of my favorites.  It allows me to trot out my Irish heritage and brings back incredibly fond memories of my visits to Ireland, and it allows us to reaffirm the incredible friendship and family ties between our two countries.  The Taoiseach visits at a time when Ireland is on the move after a very challenging financial crisis and economic recession.  Under the Taoiseach’s leadership, finances have stabilized, the economy is now growing again, unemployment is beginning to come down, and there are terrific opportunities for us to further collaborate in creating jobs both in the United States and in Ireland.
 
One of those areas is the potential for a Transatlantic Trade Partnership between the United States and the European Union.  And we had discussions about how we can continue the negotiations on those fronts.  And I was able to hear from the Taoiseach about Europe’s progress in trying to strengthen its economy as a whole, because obviously what happens in Europe, as one of our largest trading partners, has a great impact on what happens here in the United States as well.
 
We had the opportunity to talk about Northern Ireland, and although the recent framework agreement that has been put in place offers great hope for a resolution of some longstanding challenges there, there is still more work to do.  But we very much appreciate the leadership that the Taoiseach has shown in this process and the collaboration with the United States in encouraging both parties to arrive at peaceful resolutions that can lead to more prosperity and growth in Northern Ireland.
 
We had an opportunity to talk about some of the domestic issues here.  Of great interest to the Taoiseach is immigration reform.  I indicated to him the executive actions that I’ve taken, some of which are currently tied up in the courts.  And we share the view that one of the great strengths of the United States has always been its willingness to welcome new immigrants to our shores -- that’s what’s made us unique and special.  And nobody has contributed more to the growth and dynamism of the U.S. economy than our Irish immigrants, and that continues to be the case.  So we appreciate the interest there.
 
And we had a chance to discuss some of the broader security issues that we face in common.  The importance of having a firm and resolute position with respect to Ukraine, and Russian aggression there, and the need to maintain strong sanctions and ensure that the Minsk agreement is fully implemented and that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine is respected.  We had a chance to discuss the challenges in the Middle East and the importance of stemming the flow of foreign fighters, both to Ireland and to the United States and the rest of Europe, and increasing the deepening cooperation in counterterrorism and countering foreign fighter flows.  And we very much appreciate the cooperation that’s been provided there.
 
So, as usual, the biggest challenge that I have when I meet with the Taoiseach is finding something we disagree on.  It’s very hard because we’re great partners and he is a great friend.  We look forward to welcoming everybody to the White House for some St. Patrick’s Day cheer later this evening.  We’re going to be going over to Congress for some friendship and fellowship on a bipartisan basis. 
 
I should mention that I was hoping for a little luck of the Irish as the Republicans put forward their budget today.  Unfortunately, what we’re seeing right now is a failure to invest in education and infrastructure and research and national defense -- all the things that we need to grow to create jobs, to stay at the forefront of innovation, and to keep our country safe.  It’s not a budget that reflects the future.  It’s not a budget that reflects growth.  It’s not a budget that is going to help ensure that middle-class families are able to maintain security and stability and that people who are trying to get into the middle class will have the rungs on the ladder to get into the middle class.
 
So I’m going to be talking more about this tomorrow.  We’re going to have a robust debate.  And my hope is, is that ultimately we can find some compromises where together we are financing the education, the research, the training, the building of roads and bridges and ports and railways and all the things that we need to grow and put people back to work and make sure that the incredible momentum that our economy has built over the last several years continues well into the future and future generations. 
 
So I’ll keep my four-leaf clover in my pocket and see if the Speaker and Mitch McConnell and others are interested in having that conversation.
 
Taoiseach.
 
PRIME MINISTER KENNY:  Thanks very much.  Well, first of all, it’s a privilege to be back again here in the environs of the Oval Office.  I wish the President a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and his First Lady a safe journey on her travels to the Far East.
 
I thank the President for the appointment of Ambassador Kevin O’Malley to our country.  He’s doing an outstanding job, and we welcome him wholeheartedly. 
 
The President has outlined the issues that we discussed here.  I’ve given him a rundown on the progress that Ireland has made in the last number of years in terms of our growth -- employment increasing and unemployment dropping.  The progress in respect of our economy -- our deficits will be eliminated by 2018 and so on.  But I reminded him that it’s a fragile progress and it’s work that’s not yet complete.  So our challenge is to manage that carefully for the future, which is what we intend to do.
 
I’ve given the President an update in respect of Europe with the situation insofar as the election in Britain is concerned, the issues that might arise there; the potential for a referendum in respect of staying in or staying out of Europe, and the need for Britain to stay in, and our big support for that and for the comments of Prime Minister Cameron.
 
I referred to the situation in Greece where the Prime Minister was clear that he wanted time and space to produce sustainable programs for the future.  He did not want to default or leave the euro, and he’s been granted that by the European Council.  Time is obviously shortening, and the ball is very much in the court of the Greek politicians.

We referred to the T-TIP transatlantic agreement.  We’re very big supporters of this, and I commended the President on his forthrightness in making the decision to have the American side of that team engage with the European teams.  And we want that to happen, and we want it to happen in the lifetime of this administration.  And, therefore, the next six months are critical for that.
 
I will speaker to President Juncker and President Tusk on Thursday in Brussels about this.  The President is very strong on moving this along.  
 
We referred obviously to immigration and the issue that affects us here.  I commended President Obama on his executive action.  Obviously, I’m aware that this is going through the courts.  And the question of visa waivers and E3 visas and all of that are part of the process.  So I would hope that at the end of the day, that political leadership here in Washington, the greatest nation -- the most powerful nation on Earth can actually deal with this particular problem.  And it can only be dealt with by having courage and leadership to actually make it happen.
 
I referred to one of the recipients of the scientific medal, which I awarded yesterday, to France Córdova, herself the descendant of immigrants to America from Ireland, who became head of NASA and one of the best-known astrophysicists in the world.  And that kind of contribution is part of what immigration has brought for the U.S.
 
So we hope that that can move through the system, and that the work of the -- the decisiveness of President Obama on this can bear fruit, and particularly the element of that -- on the road to legitimacy is the opportunity to travel over and back to see loved ones, as the case might be.  That’s an essential part of this.  President Obama tried deal with this by executive action.  Obviously, there’s a court process in place now.
 
We discussed the issue of the talks in respect of nonproliferation, and the ISIS situation, and the Middle East in general, and the challenges that face many countries, and indeed humanity in that part of the world at the moment.
 
We also discussed the Ukraine, the necessity to have clarity about strength in respect of sanctions.  And I’ve reminded the President that Europe has been very clear on this and wants to be clear in coordinating activity with the United States in respect of sanctions being imposed on Russia.
 
So, all in all, it’s been a very constructive and I think a very inclusive conversation.  I’m very privileged to be here on behalf of the Irish people and to say that it is quite unique for a country as small as Ireland to have this reach right to the center of influence here in the White House.  And I thank you, President Obama, and your good wife and family, and your administration for allowing our country to have this access.  And I wish you the very best for the future.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you.  And I just want to point out that the Taoiseach got me a book of poetry by Yeats, one of my favorite poets.  So in addition to all its wonderful exports, at the top of the list has to be poetry from the Irish. 
 
Thank you, everybody.

END
11:41 A.M. EDT

2015-03-17


Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with Shotaro Yachi, Secretary General of Japan’s National Security Secretariat

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met today with Shotaro Yachi, Secretary General of Japan’s National Security Secretariat.  Ambassador Rice noted that the President looks forward to hosting Prime Minister Abe for an official visit next month, the first of its kind since 2006.  The two discussed U.S.-Japan cooperation in addressing a range of bilateral, regional and global security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and maritime security in East Asia.  They took note of the progress that has been made in revising the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, and agreed that a successful outcome will ensure that the Alliance continues to be fully capable of responding to 21st century security challenges.  Ambassador Rice underscored the importance of strong relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, and the need to maintain G-7 unity in responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

2015-03-17


UPDATED GUIDANCE: First Lady Michelle Obama to Travel to Japan and Cambodia March 18-22

Tokyo, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Siem Reap, Cambodia

*Updated with additional event information for the First Lady’s visit to Tokyo.

In case you missed it: Read the First Lady’s Op-Ed “Let’s Ensure That Every Girl Can Learn” HERE.

On the heels of the President and First Lady’s launch of the Let Girls Learn international girls education initiative, Mrs. Obama will travel to Japan and Cambodia from March 18-22, 2015. She will visit Tokyo on March 18-20, Kyoto on March 20, and Siem Reap on March 20-22.  She will be joined by Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

For more information on the Let Girls Learn Initiative, please click HERE.

While in Tokyo, the First Lady will meet with Mrs. Akie Abe, the Spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan, and deliver remarks on the importance both countries place on international girls education. The First Lady will also announce plans to deepen our partnership on this issue, including through a collaboration between the Peace Corps and Japan’s Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. Following their remarks, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Abe will meet with Japanese university students and share stories from their own educational backgrounds.

* Also in Tokyo, the First Lady will meet with the Emperor and Empress of Japan and will participate in a meet and greet with embassy employees.

The First Lady will travel to Kyoto on March 20 and visit the Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist Temple and the Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. She will also greet staff from the U.S. Consulate in Osaka.

On the evening of March 20, the First Lady will travel to Cambodia, one of the first 11 countries to be included in the Let Girls Learn Peace Corps initiative.  In Cambodia, Mrs. Obama and Peace Corps Director Hessler-Radelet will see up close how community-driven solutions – which are key components of the Let Girls Learn Peace Corps program – are changing girls’ lives.

While in Cambodia, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bun Rany, the First Lady of Cambodia, will meet with high school students and hear directly how they benefit from community-led programs like Room to Read and the Peace Corps. Room to Read is a non-profit organization that focuses on literacy and gender equality in education, specifically working in Asia and Africa.

Following the First Lady’s meeting with Cambodian students, she will deliver remarks to Peace Corps Volunteers participating in a girls education training event that is part of Let Girls Learn. Community leaders and educators who serve as local partners for the Peace Corps volunteers will also be at the event, working together with their respective volunteers to affect change. The training – representative of others happening around the world – equips Peace Corps Volunteers with the necessary resources to break down barriers to girls’ education in their communities.

The First Lady will also host a roundtable with Peace Corps Volunteers, local community leaders, and civil society members who are implementing projects to support girls’ education in Cambodia. While in Siem Reap, the First Lady will also visit Angkor Wat and participate in a meet and greet with embassy employees in Cambodia.

In both Japan and Cambodia, the First Lady will share her trip with students through daily online diary entries and a collaboration with PBS LearningMedia. PBS LearningMedia will offer opportunities for young people to connect to, and learn from, Mrs. Obama’s trip, and will provide resources for U.S. classrooms that explore the culture, geography and current events in Japan and Cambodia.

2015-03-17


First Lady Michelle Obama to Travel to Japan and Cambodia March 18-22

Tokyo, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Siem Reap, Cambodia

*Updated with additional event information for the First Lady’s visit to Tokyo.

In case you missed it: Read the First Lady’s Op-Ed “Let’s Ensure That Every Girl Can Learn” HERE.

On the heels of the President and First Lady’s launch of the Let Girls Learn international girls education initiative, Mrs. Obama will travel to Japan and Cambodia from March 18-22, 2015. She will visit Tokyo on March 18-20, Kyoto on March 20, and Siem Reap on March 20-22.  She will be joined by Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

For more information on the Let Girls Learn Initiative, please click HERE.

While in Tokyo, the First Lady will meet with Mrs. Akie Abe, the Spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan, and deliver remarks on the importance both countries place on international girls education. The First Lady will also announce plans to deepen our partnership on this issue, including through a collaboration between the Peace Corps and Japan’s Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. Following their remarks, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Abe will meet with Japanese university students and share stories from their own educational backgrounds.

* Also in Tokyo, the First Lady will meet with the Emperor and Empress of Japan and will participate in a meet and greet with embassy employees.

The First Lady will travel to Kyoto on March 20 and visit the Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist Temple and the Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. She will also greet staff from the U.S. Consulate in Osaka.

On the evening of March 20, the First Lady will travel to Cambodia, one of the first 11 countries to be included in the Let Girls Learn Peace Corps initiative.  In Cambodia, Mrs. Obama and Peace Corps Director Hessler-Radelet will see up close how community-driven solutions – which are key components of the Let Girls Learn Peace Corps program – are changing girls’ lives.

While in Cambodia, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bun Rany, the First Lady of Cambodia, will meet with high school students and hear directly how they benefit from community-led programs like Room to Read and the Peace Corps. Room to Read is a non-profit organization that focuses on literacy and gender equality in education, specifically working in Asia and Africa.

Following the First Lady’s meeting with Cambodian students, she will deliver remarks to Peace Corps Volunteers participating in a girls education training event that is part of Let Girls Learn. Community leaders and educators who serve as local partners for the Peace Corps volunteers will also be at the event, working together with their respective volunteers to affect change. The training – representative of others happening around the world – equips Peace Corps Volunteers with the necessary resources to break down barriers to girls’ education in their communities.

The First Lady will also host a roundtable with Peace Corps Volunteers, local community leaders, and civil society members who are implementing projects to support girls’ education in Cambodia. While in Siem Reap, the First Lady will also visit Angkor Wat and participate in a meet and greet with embassy employees in Cambodia.

In both Japan and Cambodia, the First Lady will share her trip with students through daily online diary entries and a collaboration with PBS LearningMedia. PBS LearningMedia will offer opportunities for young people to connect to, and learn from, Mrs. Obama’s trip, and will provide resources for U.S. classrooms that explore the culture, geography and current events in Japan and Cambodia.

2015-03-17


Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy

President Obama will host Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House on Friday, April 17.  Italy is a valued NATO ally and partner on a broad range of global challenges.  During their meeting, the President and Prime Minister Renzi will discuss support for Ukraine and continued U.S.-EU unity on pressuring Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to adhere to the Minsk agreements; the situation in Libya; and the need for the international community to continue efforts to counter ISIL and other extremists throughout the Middle East.  They will also exchange views on economic developments in Europe, support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, climate change and energy security, and other issues of mutual interest.

2015-03-17