U.S. Policy Update for Thursday, 26 May 2016

World map, political view

Today’s topics:    Return of Nadiya Savchenko / Silk as a Biodegradable plastic /  DoD HQ Restructuring / New  terrorist designations / Countering Violent Extremism /

 

Nadiya Savchenko

Nadiya Savchenko
Nadiya Savchenko

26 May 2016 Analyst: Savchenko Release Shows Russia Wants Negotiations (VOA News)  Russia’s release of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, exchanged for two Russian servicemen, was welcomed by rights groups and supporters. They maintain her nearly two-year detention, trial, and 22-year sentence on charges of complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists in east Ukraine was a political show.

“I regard the swap as Moscow’s step in order to minimize its own negative image and show the West its readiness to discuss a broader compromise, taking into account the interests of Russia,” said Alexander Gushchin, head of the Center of Ukrainian Studies at the Russian State University for Humanities.

26 May 2016 Kerry on Return of Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine

“I welcome today’s news that Nadiya Savchenko has returned to Ukraine and the Government of Ukraine’s humanitarian decision to release two Russian service members captured on Ukrainian soil and convicted of terrorism-related charges.

Nearly two years ago, Nadiya Savchenko was captured in combat in eastern Ukraine and forcibly taken against her will into Russia. Her release, after a long ordeal that included solitary confinement, is an important part of fulfilling Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and should now provide impetus for their complete implementation.”

26 May 2016 Statement by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, on the Release of Nadiya Savchenko (via U.S. Embassy Kyiv)

During the 708 days since her abduction in eastern Ukraine, Nadiya Savchenko has endured inhumane imprisonment, countless interrogations, solitary confinement, the deterioration of her health, and farcical Russian legal proceedings. Today, Savchenko’s nightmare has finally ended.
….
The United States will continue to press Russia for complete implementation of its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which include the return of all unlawfully detained people, as well as Russia’s withdrawal of its forces from Ukrainian territory; and for Russia to end its occupation of Crimea.

 

Food Preservation

Women picking fruit from garden
Women picking from garden with bowl of strawberries in foreground (AP Images)

26 May 2016 Will silk replace plastic and prevent food waste?    Researchers at Tufts University discovered that a coating containing a silk protein, from silkworms, kept some produce from spoiling for longer periods and without refrigeration.
When strawberries were dipped into the solution several times, the berries lasted for a week at room temperature. The berries that weren’t dipped showed color changes and were shriveled.

The findings are significant because one-third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations. The rate is even higher for fruits and vegetables (up to 50 percent). Spoilage is a large reason why.

 

Department of Defense

Overhead view of the Pentagon in Washington DC
The Defense Department is restructuring its headquarters staffs as it looks to save $1.9 billion in a 25 percent reduction of costs. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston

26 May 2016 DoD Aims to Save $1.9 Billion Through Headquarters Restructuring The Defense Department is restructuring its headquarters as it looks to save $1.9 billion through a 25 percent reduction of staff costs, a senior DoD management official said in a recent DoD News interview.

The “delayering” initiative is part of a broader institutional reform activity, in which DoD is restructuring its business processes and practices, particularly in support areas, said David Tillotson III, DoD’s assistant deputy chief management officer.

The restructuring is occurring over several years, and the intent is to implement changes through attrition, over time, he said. Positions are being modified or eliminated to accommodate the new business model, Tillotson added, emphasizing that involuntary cuts are not happening at this time.

Terrorism

25 May 2016 State Department Terrorist Designations of the Tariq Gidar Group and Jama’at ul Dawa al-Qu’ran  The Department of State has designated both the Tariq Gidar Group (TGG) and Jama’at ul Dawa al-Qu’ran (JDQ) as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign entities determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States

The TGG is a Pakistani Taliban (TTP) linked group based in Darra Adam Khel, Pakistan. … The group’s leader, Umar Mansoor, is also known as the mastermind of the January 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Pakistan, that killed 20 and wounded between 50 and 60 others.

JDQ is a terrorist group, based in Peshawar, Pakistan, and eastern Afghanistan, which pledged allegiance in 2010 to now-deceased Taliban emir Mullah Omar, and has long-standing ties to al-Qaida and Lashkar e-Tayyiba. JDQ has been responsible for various attacks, including the infamous 2010 kidnapping and death of British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

26 May 2016 Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Justin Siberell, on Assessing the State Department’s Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism

 

Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator of Counterterrorism, DoS
Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator of Counterterrorism, DoS

To summarize, these are the five objectives of our strategy:

1. To build international political will, partnerships, and expertise to better understand the drivers of violent extremism and mobilize effective interventions.

2. To encourage and assist partner governments to adopt more effective policies and approaches to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism, including changing unhelpful practices where necessary.

3. To employ foreign assistance tools and approaches, including development assistance, to reduce specific political or social and economic factors that contribute to community support for violent extremism.

4. To empower and amplify locally credible voices that can change the perception of violent extremist groups among key target audiences.

5. And, to strengthen the capabilities of government and non-governmental actors to isolate, intervene with, and promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals caught in the cycle of radicalization to violence.

 

State Department

26 May 2016 Special Briefing on the State Department Inspector General’s Report, Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements

First of all, Secretary Kerry asked our inspector general to undertake this review back in March of 2015, when he basically asked the IG to look at our records preservation and transparency systems. And we’re already working to implement numerous improvements to both our email and records management systems. Many of these improvements were underway even before the IG report came out. And I would also note that the State Department has accepted all eight of the recommendations in the report, and the OIG has basically said that the eight recommendations have been resolved, which means that they agree with our plans to address the different recommendations.

I would also like to highlight that – as stated very early on in the report – that many of the challenges that are highlighted in the review are actually common across all federal agencies. This is a time of great transition for all of us as we move from a decades-old, paper-based recordkeeping system to be able to keep up with our recordkeeping in this new electronic age that we find ourselves. And so while it is – we do face some challenges here at the State Department, other agencies are struggling with some of these same issues.