tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 20, 2013 10:30pm-1:01am EST
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as john kirby said, i'm going to make a few remarks and then take questions. e noted that the admiral and mr. branch are here if you want to go into greater detail at greater length. prevention, identification, and action against fraud against the government has been a focus of mine since i first entered public service in mississippi as state auditor, and i have continued putting an action. lately, our efforts to go after contracting fraud have produced some headlines. while we are obviously not pleased about the conduct of those involved in the case, i do believe that the discovery of the allegations are indications that our efforts are working.
i have not spoken publicly about this case before, and i am still restricted in what i can say now because of the ongoing prosecution because -- by the united states attorney in san diego. i want to say the office has done a tremendous job with a difficult case, and i want to express my thanks on behalf of the navy for their work and for their support of what navy and its eis -- and ncis has done. it's important that the people know the role may be played in discovering suspicious activity, in developing the case, and in working closely with other gencies to address it. the naval criminal investigative service along with the defense criminal investigative service and the defense contract auditing agency did and is doing incredibly impressive work to
ferret out the alleged fraud and corruption carried out by gdma. yes, allegations against naval personnel as well. ncis opened this investigation in may 2010 against gdma based on suspicious claims and invoices the company submitted to the navy, claims that insurance processes navy had set p help to reveal during this investigation, ncis uncovered critical evidence that directed one of their own agents to the suspicious activity, and ncis deliberately planted bogus information in reports in order to protect this investigation and did so without any leaks outside the investigation. information gathered during this investigation was eventually
turned over to government prosecutors and led to recent charges filed in federal court. according to the u.s. attorney's office, shortly after ncis filed a false report to mislead the agents suspected of involvement, this report said that the investigations against gdma and its owner, leonard francis, were about to be closed, he traveled from singapore to san diego for a meeting with navy officials, which allowed law enforcement officials to arrest him. i was briefed for several months before this case became public. by necessity, the number of people who knew of the investigation was kept very small. throughout this time, i repeatedly instructed ncis agents to take the investigation wherever it led. although the criminal investigation was and is being conducted independently by law enforcement, i understand that they have pulled no punches and will continue to pursue any and all leads. and it was ncis that announced the first arrest in this case. this occurred on september 16. the day of the washington navy yard shootings. some have questioned why gdma won a contract after the investigation was opened, and i think the answer is straightforward. first, information about the investigation was restricted with few exceptions to prevent leaks. as i have noted, even that precaution was not enough for a time because an ncis agent was actively obstructing the investigation by helping leonard rancis avoid ejection. second, contracting officers
certainly were not told because that could have compromised the investigation. first, information about the investigation was restricted with few exceptions to prevent leaks. as i have noted, even that precaution was not enough for a time because an ncis agent was actively obstructing the investigation by helping leonard francis avoid ejection. second, contracting officers certainly were not told because that could have compromised the investigation.
finally, if the navy suspends the company's ability to compete for contracts or refuses to award a contract to a low bidder, we are required by federal law to give that contractor a reason. in this case, a notification would have tipped off gdma that something was wrong. this is a very serious case, and it is a serious issue. i am making sure that navy leaders everywhere understand ow deeply concerned i am about it, and i have already spoken with a chief of naval perations, our fleet commanders, and our component commanders reiterating these points. but i think the public discussion today sometimes misses the fact that the concerns were first raised by
people inside the navy, that the navy acted on these suspicions by building a case against the company, its own, and implicated navy officials, and that the navy partnered with government rosecutors and assist in the current prosecution. without the navy and navy actions, there would almost certainly be no story today. the conduct and behavior alleged to have occurred in this case is absolutely incompatible with the standards we require of our officers and civilians. it's as a result of this investigation criminal prosecutors decide not to pursue criminal charges but instead refer cases to the navy for disposition, i am announcing that those cases case is will be reviewed and resolved through a consolidated disposition authority.
this cda will be a four-star admiral and a team of professionals, all of whom will be fully vetted to have had no part in this case. this cda will ensure that allegations are substantiated, individuals will be held appropriately accountable. i want to talk briefly about efforts this department has taken to prevent or act against contract fraud. soon after i took office, i made several changes to our acquisition procedures to crack down on companies and individuals who attempt to defraud the government. some examples -- we have dramatically increased suspension and department proceedings to address conduct and poor performance by navy contractors. since 2000 nine, navy has suspended 254 contractors and d bart 400 -- d bart -- debarred 400. more than 120 of these were for eriods longer than the
three-year default period where situations warranted. to improve accountability, we now require navy commands to refer termination sport default to our acquisition integrity office, which in fiscal year 2013 resulted in the referral of about 11 contract terminations. next, if there is an illegal gratuity or bribery under government contract, there is a special statute to terminate those contracts and assess punitive damages regardless of whether criminal conviction has occurred. in 2011, i directed a change to establish the tail procedures for cases involving this type of criminal activity. gdma may be the first case to use those new procedures. finally, as an example, i have also provided detailed guidance
to assist contracting officers to determine whether a contract award is appropriate, and to do so beyond checking just to see if a contractor has been suspended or debarred. the government accountability office grated navy as having one of the top acquisition fraud programs in government -- graded navy as having one of the top acquisition fraud programs in government, but it is also apparent that we need to do even more to prevent fraud and corruption in our contracting process. so i am announcing a series of additional initiatives. irst, i directed the assistant secretary of navy for research, acquisition, and development to review acquisition strategies for husbanding and similar contracts worldwide. we now have the preliminary
results of this review, and based on those, we are taking some immediate steps. the so-called red team of experts from across the fleet and from naval supply assistance has been formed to scrutinize the process from end to end and recommend changes to correct deficiencies in those procedures and provide maximum effective oversight of the process. when their work is done, and based on that work, the assistant secretary will issue a revised acquisition strategy that will be used on all husbanding contracts globally. second, we will further standardize requirements, further standardize contract vehicles, further standardized administration, and increase oversight of husbanding contracts and contractors. ne way we will do this is to increase the use of firm, fixed price line items and minimize the use and improve the oversight of underpriced line items. third, we will remove pay functions to husbanding service providers and provide better guidance on requirements and
more contracting support to ship co's went overseas. fourth, we will incorporate standardize processes. a final report is due in june of next year to identify improvements in internal ontrols. we will also continue implementing reforms we have already made, and we will keep looking for additional ways to strengthen provisions. as long as we are aggressively pursuing allegations in the gdma investigation, i expect we will continue to see headlines resulting from the discovery and disposition of these cases. the navy has a long tradition of transparency when we uncover allegations and misconduct, particularly against high-ranking officers. because not only can the spotlight act as a deterrent,
but mostly because it is the right and to do. i would rather get that headlines -- get bad headlines than let that people get away. brought -- but fraud prevention is only part of the problem. i want to briefly mention we are also radically changing the way we manage contracts which consume an increasing percentage of our top line. in closing, i want to stress hree points. first, the navy is a leader in combating procurement fraud, and we are seeing the results as the allegations in gdma demonstrate, but the job is not done. second, we will continue, as we have done since i came into this office, to identify ways to protect our acquisition processes against those who would criminally or otherwise take dollars away from our war
fighters and those war fighters' ability to protect our nation. last, i think it is vital that we do not let the alleged, conduct, and criminal behavior of a few stain the reputation of the navy sailors who are ethical, honorable, and who strive everyday to keep our navy the strongest, most credible force on the seas. i am very proud of them and their families, and as long as i am secretary, i will continue to do everything i can to preserve the integrity of the institution we serve and we love. >> ok, folks, if you could just identify yourself before you ask your question. >> to questions. you alluded to it in your statement -- do you expect further arrests of serving u.s. navy officers in this case? second, you mentioned that since
2009, you have suspended 250 and debarred 400 contractors. i assume those were cases where it is not just a billing dispute but the navy feels it is ripped off. that is a large number. is the navy such a soft target? >> one, i think it is better to say that there would be more disclosures coming in gdma. what kind of disclosures those are, i'm not at liberty to say, but i certainly do not think we have seen the end of it. second, i think that the numbers that i have put out there actually speak to the opposite conclusion, that we go after them. we have set up procedures to try to prevent fraud, but any time
you've got this kind of money, there are going to be people trying to steal it, people trying to defraud the government. you can do two things, and i think we have done both of those things. first is you can set up procedures to try to prevent it. but that is always a race because every time you set up a rule, someone tries to figure out a way around it, but the second one is to hold people accountable. to go after them very aggressively, and that is not just for defrauding government. that is also for not performing or signing a contract and just not performing on that. i see that as an example of the transparency that we need because we publish these things when we do these. these suspensions and these debarments. we are actively looking at everything we do to make sure
taxpayer money is being used ell. >> great. mr. secretary, one striking case -- maybe the public is not surprised at a contractor might try to take advantage of the government, but there have been 16 navy officers implicated one way or another in this case, plus a senior ncis agent. how much of this is a contracting problem and how much is an ethics problem with senior fficers in the navy? >> i think at least part of it is a contracting issue and is making sure that we do that, but i also think that -- i'm going to go back to what i said -- it is very important to note that people inside the navy were the first people to raise the suspicions. people inside the navy went after this case and don't this case, and when naval personnel
were involved -- people inside he navy went after this case and built this case, and when naval personnel were involved, we announced it. we do that all the time. i have spoken to our fleet commanders and component commanders to make sure that they are personally interested, but this not only goes against all the ethics rules that we have -- these few people that are alleged to have done these hings -- this goes against everything you should have learned at home. everything that -- i mean, everybody knows it's wrong to take a bride -- bribe. everybody knows it is wrong to get paid to give a contract. that's why i said the thing i did at the end.
we have a third of our fleet to ploy today -- deployed today all over the world. we have navy officers contracting for those ships to go into port. the vast, vast majority are doing it honestly, honorably. i do not want the actions of a few who -- not just ethics, it's n some cases -- i mean, it's criminal -- to tarnish the actions of the many. we are not going to stop. i told ncis when i was being briefed on this case -- the one consistent rain i told them every single time we met was, "take this investigation where it leads. it doesn't matter. take it wherever it leads." >> you noted that any time you have got this amount of money involved, there might be problems.
do you have an estimate -- how much money are we talking about with gdma? how much may have been defrauded? >> i cannot say because it is in prosecution right now. > mr. secretary, when you step back from the bribery and you look at the whole husbanding process, can you talk about why the navy in the way it structures these contracts and polices them seems to leave itself open for fraud? and why the supply guy on the ship is reluctant to go and deal with these husbanding agents to try to negotiate deals on the fly to try to get a ship out of our? >> number one, there are rules we have to follow.
for example, because one employee leaves one company and goes to another one, it does not mean we can take action against that second company. if we do, or if we say we are oing to pull all the contracts and start over, a couple of things are going to happen. one, we are going to be sued real asked -- fast, and they are probably going to win. it's like if we had taken this contract away from gdma before the investigation was finished and did not have enough evidence to prove it. gdma would have gotten the contract back. second, we are global, and we do have a lot of these contracts out there.
i think right now, there are 14 regional contracts that were all done by did -- by bid. that is the thing i will keep oing back to -- is the tripwires that we have set up, the procedures that we have set up are the things that are leading to these discoveries. again, i would rather have some of the headlines that i get the cause -- because we are actively doing these things and pursuing these than not be here today because there is no story. because you or i or anybody else does not know about these things that are going on. >> can you talk a little bit more -- you mentioned in your remarks changes in the contracting, in the husbanding, changes in the supply officer ole.
and a lot of that was recommended in the 2007 study that we referenced this morning. the idea that you have a certain number of fixed items, and if the ship shows up and the husbanding guides do not have appropriate supplies but can give others for way more money, somebody is really monitoring that, and it is not the kind of centralized ordering you see in the commercial shipping world. can you talk about how vulnerable that made you and how you might change the basic approach in the contracting? >> number one, i do think there were gaps in the contracting. several years o a standardized list of
fixed-priced line items and the estimate was that those items should account for about 1% of contracts because ships tend to need the same thing going into port over and over again. one of the things that you have just pointed out is that the sometimes the husbanding agent would come in and say, we don't have that. we don't have whatever it is that's a fixed line item, we got more. ut it goss costs we didn't have the centralized ability to tell the contracting officer on the ship don't do this.
it has allowed us to chase down overpayments in a lot of these cases, but that's one of the reasons that we are doing much ore in terms of centralization in these contracts and in the way that we are going to central icize the oversight and not put the commanding officer this these things. i'll give you another simple example, they take waste off ships, particularly wastewater off ships and one of the things that we were noticing after i came in here was that there was often a big dispute between what the contractor said they had taken off and what the c.o. thought they should have taken
off and the contractor thought they were charging way more. . put in more very stunning thing to it is not a very stunning thing to do, but now we know how much that is done. one of the ways you find out about and quite this is you see aberration, and you take action to correct it. and that is why i think we have done a lot, but i think we have still got a good bit more to do in doing these things. because we are worldwide. we are operating everywhere in the world. and we have got to have a more centralized, more standard procedure, so that we don't put commanding officers, supply officers on ships, in the
position of having to make these decisions on the fly, as you put it. >> we have got time for just one more. >> secretary, the navy has been out and about, doing these kind of things, for over 200 years. we have been dependent on overseas resupply and that kind of thing. it seems troubling that it has ran into these kind of problems. is there any system -- do you have a system -- should you have had a system to screen the husbanding agents, so that when somebody came in with a lower bid, you can disqualify them because of the failure to perform in the past, or any other problems with them? >> a little history. before 1999, there were scores of husbanding agents that we would contract with around the world. and that got to be such a problem because of performance issues, because of fraud issues,
because of all sorts of things, that the navy in 1999 went to this regional approach, so we would have fewer husbanding agents to deal with, so that there would be, hopefully, competition among companies big enough to do these things, and so that we would begin to have a history of how companies did. because while the smaller companies in one part may be here one day and not here the next. and we set up procedures. and i strengthened those procedures to do exactly what you said. before i came into this office, the only thing a contracting officer had to look to do was see whether somebody had been
suspended or debarred. now, they have to go a lot deeper, to see if this person has performed, has performed adequately, has performed on time, has had any sort of questions raised about him. now, in the case of -- i will go back to gdm may -- gdma. if during this investigation, a contracting officer had asked those questions, nothing would have come up, as we were holding the information coming out of that investigation closely, because we wanted to make sure that we did the investigation right, so that we made sure that we followed it to wherever it went, to make sure that we did not just and one contract, but if there was a systemic problem with a company or an individual that we addressed that more
globally, more universally. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] next "washington journal" julian sanchez from the cato institute. after that, environment and energy news reporter elana schor looks at the current state of five prominent environmental groups. later in the program, a look at what was accomplished this year in congress. a roll call senior editor joins us. we welcome your comments by phone, e-mail, and twitter beginning live on saturday at 7 a.m. eastern on c-span here > -- c-span. >> as a moderate, i have come to a troubling conclusion -- the data broker as it is today does
not have constraints and does not have shame. it will sell any information about any person regardless of sensitivity for 7.9 cents a name. list ofe price of a rape sufferers which was recently sold. of rape sufferers, victims of domestic violence, police addresses, people who suffer from genetic illnesses, complete with the names, home addresses, ethnic city, gender, and many other factors. this is what is being sold and circulated today. it is a far cry from visiting a website and seeking and ad. this is a sale of a personally
identified information and highly sensitive information of americans. span, yourekend on c- medical history, income, your lifestyle -- the senate committee looks at data mining 10 a.m. eastern. an c-span 2, without a strong middle class, the u.s. is heading for an economic explosion. p.m. s at 8:45 span 3, it was becoming clear that a strong dominance had begun. from world war two cold war. eastern. 7:30 p.m. a trade deal known as the transatlantic trade partnership
with increased trade and government procurement. -- theyead negotiators spoke to that should he spoke at a meeting for half an hour. >> good morning, everyone. thank you for being here. we would like to start this press conference right now with just a press briefing. they will make opening statements and we would like to open up to your questions. we do ask that you limit your questions to one per outlet so everyone gets a chance to ask a question. and we also ask that you limit your follow-up questions. i will open the floor now. >> thank you very much. good morning, everybody and thank you very much for joining
us as we report on the third round of the transatlantic trade investment partnership negotiations or a t-test as we call it. -- or ttip, as we call it. we began our negotiations this year in july with a week-long set of negotiations. within a few weeks of the administration having completed its consultations with congress and within a few weeks of the commission having received its mandate from the council. we had a weeklong set of negotiations. we had 24 different negotiating groups discussing the wide range of areas that we would anticipate would be part of a competence of trade and investment agreement. each of the groups compared their approaches to each of the different areas, look for areas of convergence, identified areas
of divergence, and made plans for follow-on work on to the second round. the second round happened in brussels and in videoconferences during the week of november 11. at that stage, the negotiating groups continue discussing their ideas and began to talk about specific negotiating proposals. during the third round, this week, the negotiating groups have been meeting on virtually all of the areas that we would anticipate would be covered in thettip. these -- in the ttip. we had the regulatory and standards group which focused on technical regulations, sanitary regulations, primarily in the area of food safety, regulatory coherence and particular sectors. we also discussed investments
and services, including in the areas of telik vacation, electronic commerce, cross- border services and financial services and we covered property, labor, environment, state owned enterprises and the one of the issues of global concern, small and medium-size enterprises, localization barriers to trade, competition, run materials and energy and legal and institutional issues such as dispute settlement. in each of these areas, the negotiating groups were fleshing out the earlier proposals and discussing new text and other proposals. in several of the groups, the teams were also continuing their discussions on what we call the architecture of the agreement, how issues we are dressing in each of these negotiating groups would be reflected in the testament agreement, how they would work together, how these
different areas would relate to each other. in the regulatory area, we continue our discussions of the various ways to facilitate the development of regulation on both sides of the atlantic, that both achieve the revelatory objectives -- for instance, our chosen levels of environmental protection, consumer protection, but also minimize or eliminate the cost and barriers to trade and investments that are caused by unnecessary divergences in these regulations. so we are continuing to undertake work, this regulatory work, across several intertwined areas, including horizontal or crosscutting approaches to a wide range of regulatory and standards based activities, such as mechanisms or procedures that promote transparency, that promote participation, that promote accountability, as well as more and specific discussions in the range available to reduce costs in particular sectors.
a major source of growth of jobs would be the elimination of tariff barriers. we anticipate that this work will need to take place -- will continue to take place in the fourth round after our exchange of tariff offers early next year. during this round, we also pursued and we will continue pursuing other important areas for market access, including government procurement and services. finally, in this third round, as in the previous two rounds, we continue to be guided by the important input that we received from a wide range of stakeholders. as you know, the united states and the european union summarize their objectives in a report of
a high-level working group of levels of growth in february. the administration further described its objectives in a letter that it sent to the u.s. congress. that letter is available on our website. since then, we have held innumerable meetings with a wide range of stakeholders to receive input on those objectives and to exchange views and most recently, this past wednesday, during the course of the round, the u.s. and eu negotiators took time to share information and hear viewpoints for more than 350 different stakeholders from environmental groups, consumer and other nongovernmental organizations, labor, business
and academia. this included a three-our session that consisted of more than 50 policy presentations that covered a range of issues, including consumer and food safety. and agriculture. these assessments offered the stakeholders an opportunity to provide negotiators valuable feedback on the negotiating objectives for ttip as we proceed in the stocks. following that session, ignacio and i conducted a briefing of a large group of stakeholders for about an hour and a half. i think i can stay for negotiators on both sides when i say that we found this exchange with stakeholders in our ability to receive use and exchange views with the stakeholders to be extremely important as we
determine the specifics of our way forward in these negotiations. we believe that this agreement has to be one that increases growth, increases jobs, increases our international competitiveness, and that has a solid stakeholder support. as i said, this is our last round of 2013. in 2014, we anticipate taking stock at a political level of what we have a converse of this year and what we need to move the negotiation forward in the year 2014. the exact timing of this assessment will depend on for the discussion in january based on the work this week, which as i mentioned is still ongoing until the end of the day today. and we are also working on a schedule for several negotiating rounds in 2014. thank you very much for your attention. i will turn the floor over to ignacio now and we would be happy to answer any questions. thank you. >> thank you and good morning to everyone. as don has said, we can be satisfied about this round of negotiations. we remind -- we remain on track with a ambitious investment agreement to boost our economy, deliver growth and more
importantly for both europeans and americans. i can't emphasize how important this is at this point in time. we have had opportunity to be on topics. each side would like to be covered in this conference of agreement. this has been possible because of a very strong mobilization of our teams, including a very active participation of regulators from both sides. as we move forward, to the next to go skating rounds, i would like to emphasize a few considerations. i think it is critical that we maintain a high level of ambition on all the suite components. that is to say on tariffs, on procurement, and on services and investment.
on regulatory issues, it should probably be achieved across the board, both on the so-called [indiscernible] and on the specific sectors. in the next round, we should be able to intensify our work and our discussions on the very important issues such as competition policy, trade related aspects and sustainable development including labor and environment, and of course, other facilitations. i would like to highlight that it will be critical that the ttip include benefits for small and medium enterprises. and that it be reflected throughout the agreement and also in a specific chapter with related issues.
we anticipate the political [indiscernible] early next year that will help guide us forward. it is very clear for us that this is not a routine training initiation. it needs not just a strong support from all stakeholders. it needs -- we saw direct involvement from stakeholders. it is because of the nature of what we have to do. the regulatory component of the negotiation in particular requires us to develop a much more substantial process of stakeholder consultation. we have engaged again this week with a very broad range of stakeholders. we dedicated the full-day of wednesday to input from the stakeholder presentations and engaging in the question-and-
answer system and their have been opportunities to have meetings with a broad range of stakeholders representing different interests, business, temperamental groups among consumer organizations, trade unions and found the engagement very productive and very interesting. and i would like to also take this opportunity to mention that the 14th of january, the european commission will be organizing a civil society dialogue that would be open to stakeholders. we will continue to innovate and we are determined to get this right. on regulatory issues more generally, i would like to reiterate and i think i can
speak for both sides that we are committed to ensuring that these negotiations will not the about lowering or compromising the highest standards of consumer, environment, privacy, health or other legitimate protections. and that each side will obviously maintain its regulatory [indiscernible] the ttip is not and would not be about a deregulation agenda. i am very pleased to announce that we will be organizing the next negotiating round which will take place in russell's -- in brussels. i would be happy to communicate that you very soon. thank you. >> so happy to answer any of your questions. >> just a question on the
transparency issue, we note that in the rounds here in washington, the u.s. had negotiators hearing presentations from the stakeholders and there were press negotiators and they were all coming together. but in the second round in brussels, the commission chose not to do that. i am wondering why the commission is not allowing that model and, if there is a plan for a change in the fourth round, will the commission be doing something similar with the stakeholders? >> as i said, we are always ready to innovate and to include participants. it was organized in somewhat special circumstances. i am very pleased that come in this round, we had a round of discussions. we believe that is very important.
we will see about what is the best way to organize that in the next round. i can assure you at any case that this continuous process of dialogues, we are receiving inputs from all of the aspects of the negotiations. perhaps it is important that we hear what they have to say but we also have the opportunity to engage in the discussion and reflect the best way to organize these, not only in the negotiating round, but also throughout the entire negotiating process. >> i should point out that ignacio and i did have exchange with approximately 400 stakeholders over the course of two and half hours or a little after. we were -- they pretty much exhausted the number of questions in the room.
it was a high level of interaction with a large number of stakeholders. >> i want to touch a little bit on [indiscernible] what sector is the use repaired on -- which sector is the u.s. prepared on negotiating on? [inaudible] >> i think that, throughout this negotiating round and in the previous round, we have been discussing the number of sect there's. -- of sectors. we have an interest in the possibility of having specific sector commitments. we have looked at sectors like automobiles, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics,
textiles, chemicals, ict -- i hope am not forgetting any of them. and i wish to emphasize that these sectors are what both sides have indicated an interest in moving forward in terms of exploring specific commitments and in which all sectors to a large extent have been joined by both european and united states stakeholders. we have seen this is an issue of common interest for both the united states and the european union. >> when we went out for the federal register comments, we got about 370 different comments from a lot of different industries and other interested parties suggesting what we
should do. as he said, we started to identify some sectors that we think are useful to have discussions on, to look for ways that we can reduce costs associated with unnecessary regulatory divergences. yet we are not finished identifying the issues associated with sect or's. -- sectors. we are still working through those good and there -- through those and their interrelationship in the horizontal issues. you mentioned sectoral annexes and it's worthwhile that the sizing that some of the discussions we will be having will be over the architecture of the agreement and how we actually reflect the work that we do in the sectoral component, physically. an ultimate agreement is still to be determined. we are continuing to work forward. there is certainly not at this point a close list of sectors or sectoral issues. >> let me emphasize that, in the point of view, we are still looking into the point -- the possibility of looking into some
of the sectors where there may also be opportunities to do work as the negotiations progress. we may well decide to look into other areas. >> aside from the sect or's, best the sectors -- aside from the sectors, have you decided on the scope of the agreement aside from the sectors? and to what extent does that still reflect the higher level working group report? >> i would say that the overall scope and set of objectives remain the same. as i mentioned, this week, we
did have virtually all of the negotiating groups meeting on the range of issues. i think the scope of what we hope to achieve is reflected in the higher working group report and in our letter to congress which remains valid. >> obviously, everything in the high-level working group report is very much part of our discussions. of course, one would need to take some decisions about architecture and issues to look after and remain open and is something, as we progress in the negotiations, we will be possibly determining these issues. >> on textiles, i have a two- part question. what is the nature of the discussions? at what stage are you in terms of -- have you exchanged offers this early in the process?
secondly, at the stakeholder meeting, the american apparel and footwear association raised an ongoing issue. eu imposed a 20% tariff on u.s. denim exports and that stems from the burden of the dto case. were you able to address this issue and how close are you to resolving it? thank you. >> first, the discussions i have taken place on textiles has been mostly focusing on the regulatory sector. we have not yet gotten to the stage where we have exchanged offers. one of the things that we would be aiming to do early next year on all of the sectors. of course, not only on textiles. the discussion and the horizontal aspects have really started to discuss the specific rules which apply in different
sectors. as to the specific measure that you referred to, it is not foreign to this type of specific trade concerned. we have been focusing on what we came to do in the ttip. so it is not a in issue that we have discussed. i think it is fair to say that, on textiles, market taxes, rules of origin, we did have conversations this week. i think those conversations will be continuing into 2014 as we move forward to the exchange of offers. >> a follow up question to your comments about the sectors. which at the moment are to be
included in that short list? where you are seeking regulatory compatibility? and what about energy, specifically u.s. exports in this negotiation? >> i think it is important that you bear in mind that come in each of those sectors, a significant range of issues have been raised where it has been suggested that rightfully maintaining the level of protection in the european union and in the united states, it is possible to achieve significant regulatory cost savings. it depends very much on each sector. in some cases, it is a question of the possibility of meeting the conditions of relations in a car sector. in other areas commit is a question of mutual recognition.
this is being discussed in the medical devices and cosmetic sector. it is a question of better new space -- of better coordinating and the type of tools that depend very much on the specificities of each sector and you have to have regulators looking into opportunities and moving forward on each of them as we progress in these negotiations next year. i think at this point in time, what we are doing in each of the sectors is analyzing the issues, reviewing the evidence and engaging in these processes among the regulators. we ask the trade negotiators to see how we can achieve these goals without compromising the levels of protection. on energy and raw materials, we certainly have an interest and
we hope that there will be a clear guarantee of facility of access to u.s. resources. this is something of great importance. of course, we are looking into the issue of raw materials not only for the point of view, but also from the broader system perspective because we believe that the the european union and the united states have a common interest in promoting open, transparent environments for open investment and looking at the best way to continue to fulfill that objective. >> on the question of sectors, it is true that each of the different sectors that we are looking at present their own issues, their own challenges.
in a way, they reflect the broad range of tools that we have at our disposal to reduce cost. in certain areas, it may well be that, if the two sides have the same level of protection but different regulatory ways of achieving that, there may well be opportunities for equivalent or mutual recognition. in other areas, the focus may be more on whether you can have a recognition of conformity assessment results and arrive at a point where a product can be tested just wants and not twice before it comes into the market. in other areas, it might be a question of sharing information and analyses of products. each sector, the nature of the sector -- each sector can present its own issues that are above and beyond the horizontal issues i identified.
it is difficult to say which sector is further along and which sectors for the behind. i think they are all moving forward and all the parties are engaged in trying to find solutions to reduce cost due to diversions is. on the gas export issue, in the united states, we have a regime where exports of natural gas are deemed in the public interest. a trading partner with whom we have a trade agreement that provides for natural treatment, natural gas. there is the presumption that exports are in that. there are opportunities for increased trade. ultimately, whether trade actually takes place will depend
on if the customers and best depend on the customers in the pricing and the marketplace actors. >> at the stakeholders meeting on wednesday, there was a question about whether or not data privacy would be part of the ttip. many of the groups opposed any inclusion of data privacy in the final agreement because they felt there were processes on both sides of the atlantic now to address the issue of data privacy in the wake of the nsa surveillance scandal. thank you. >> i think you know our point of view on this because we have made it clear in many occasions.
data privacy is not part of the ttip negotiations. there are issues and concerns relating to data privacy. they are being discussed between the united states and the european union. but the ttip is not the right forum for those issues. we're not ready to talk about issues on electronic commerce. this is a very important component of the economy. whenever it comes to personal data of european citizens, that data can only be transferred abroad in compliance with european union regulation on that matter. that is an in shoe -- that is an issue of fundamental rights, one that is very clear and very well known.
>> companies on both sides of the atlantic have else up one of the most robust data transfer networks in the world. and it is a network that really forms the backbone of our mutual international competitiveness and helps support the $4 trillion in foreign direct investment that we have in each other's economies and the $3 billion a day in trade in goods and services that occur every day. so the ttip should offer opportunities to facilitate and support those flows. we are confident as we work through this process that we can accomplish that result and do in a manner that remains respectful of the privacy regimes on both sides of the atlantic. >> you are talking about the
stakeholder meetings on wednesday. most of the stakeholders are from environmentalists, consumer advocacy groups, and really the stakeholder meetings are no substitute for full transparency, which in their eyes is really saying the draft text after each round. so why not just do that after each round? why not release the full text of the public so that stakeholders know and lets the press nine the public know what is being negotiated? >> you want to take a first? >> we have been working a lot through the stakeholder engagement settings and meetings and through written letters to the congress and reports to maximize the level of transparency to describe precisely what we are doing to engage one-on-one in many instances or with a group of stakeholders in other instances to try to make as clear as possible what it is we are doing and to get their viewpoints.
in our view, the value of transparency is paramount in our mind. we do need, however, to give the negotiators space to have conversations, to negotiate in the national interest. i think what we are achieving is a balance he between giving those negotiators the space that they need to be frank, to have frank our stations and negotiate, but also communicate as fully as we are able -- to have frank conversations and negotiate him a but also communicate as fully as we are able. >> trying to strike the balance right, that has indicated that it is critical to make trade negotiations where each party comes forward with its own proposals, that you have the space to see how you can accommodate each party. this is a interactive process
that takes place throughout the negotiation and at such time you can say a common european and american view. there may be a possibility for both sides to compromise and it would be more difficult if those steps come out ahead of time. at the same time, we want to be able to communicate as much as much as possible to our citizens what is the position. at the european union, we have made as many position papers public where we indicate in each of the different negotiating areas which are the objectives that we are pursuing in the negotiation and those are always
open to discuss with any stakeholder. you can see that certain issues have given rise to discussion and we engage in the discussion to explain the positions and to better understand the views of the stakeholders. i think this is a balance that needs to be maintained. we will continue to reflect as the negotiations progress on how to ensure that this element of maintaining this privacy is done in a respectful manner and accountability. once it becomes stable and
consolidated, everyone will be able to see the result and it will be done before the final decision is taken by our legislators to ratify the text and to know what is the content of each of the chapters of this agreement. >> that is to say we are making a huge effort to implement deep transparency in this negotiation. but of course, we can always improve. we can always do better. so we appreciate the views and we hear from stakeholders about what we can do to improve this process. >> there is a growing concern that this could give companies the power to directly challenge negotiations in europe. do you think those concerns are legitimate?
>> all views are always legitimate and all views need to be respected and need to be discussed. previously, on certain issues where concerns were being displaced by different groups in the european union and the united states, we look to see what is the best way to arrest them. i think it is important to be clear that [indiscernible] is not something new. there are treaties. we have been concluded by every member state of the european union, all of which includes this mechanism.
nine of our member states already have those treaties with the united states. that is the current reality. but we are discussing whether it is possible to include the regime for cicely to ensure that -- precisely to ensure that regulatory measures cannot be successfully challenged. you need to strike the right balance between the protection of the investor and ensure that there is no threat to [indiscernible] that both the united states and the european union value. i should note that, despite the fact that we have these nine treaties between member states of the european union and the united states for more than 20 years, there have not been a
single case in which a regulatory measure of one of those member states or of the european union have been successfully challenged. there is only one case that was lost and it did not relate to something that could be described as a legitimate regulatory measure. in any case, for us, we take these concerns seriously. that is why we are saying that, while we have that's what we have been tried to do at the european level in negotiations with canada is to ensure that the investment protection standard of those agreements are defined as much as possible. the sooner we reach this decision, the lesser can there be misinterpretation by any arbitrator. so we are looking for more definition of the investment protection standards and looking how to reinforce the guarantees of the process. the need to avoid frivolous claims and avoid an element doesn't have an element to
ensure guarantees. we have made a number of important innovations in this area. it is provided in the current investment treaty by member states and we very much hope that we will be able to look into this and perhaps even do better. >> i don't have a lot to add other than to that we do understand the concern and we do appreciate those concerns having been communicated to us so clearly. for us, it is a key goal of ours in negotiations and the ttip will be to protect the rights of the government's to regulate the rights of the public interest in a right that we will never negotiate away. at the same time, we want to
pursue strong investor protections so that, from our perspective, american companies investing abroad have the same access to fair and equitable treatment as they received in the united states. that system for us does include a variety of mechanisms, including state to state dispute mechanisms and investor state dispute mechanisms to ensure fair and equal treatment. this is an approach that we have taken all of our fta's, an approach that has evolved over the course of a decade of its that eating our investment provisions, receiving input on those provisions, and striking the right balance to ensure that governments can continue to have the ability to regulate in the public interest. >> i have a question on the timetable more on the u.s. side
in this case. what is the hope for pushing things through 2014? we have midterm elections upon us and we need an eta should to the president. president.o the hopes and concerns there? >> focusing on your last question, it is very important to us to be able to bring home the international agreements that we have. we are working with congress to get that authority. it helps the finer objectives with congress and lays out the processes and procedures we need to follow to put one of these agreements in place. so it is very important and we are very hopeful that we will be getting that authority in the near term. in terms of the overall timetable, as i've suggested in
my initial comments, within a couple of weeks of being able to, we began the negotiation. purdue much as quickly as one could do we have a second round -- pretty much as quickly as one could do we have a second round and we worked very closely intersessional a between the rounds to make progress. we are committed to moving very quickly on this. but the main important thing for us is to get it right. so we are working hard. we are working quickly. but we don't want to sacrifice the ultimate quality of the agreement. at the end of the day, we have to be able to point to an agreement that actually does increase growth, jobs, and international competitiveness. so we don't have a timetable except we want to move quickly and we want to get it right. >> if i can turn this around a little bit and ask you something
negative, has there been any discussion between you two or your bosses on what may not be possible in this agreement? so when you get to the final hurdle, it is not as high as it looks now. have you discussed it? is there an agreement of what is a bridge too far? >> there are continue discussions about the different elements of the agreement. i don't think at this stage we are discussing what the final decision will be. >> we are proceeding in this round as in previous rounds with a wide range of topics that we would hope to be included in a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. >> just a quick comment before my question.
i was a little bit confused on wednesday about why you're briefing us take holders was closed to the press if you are trying to increase transparency. my real question is more about the timetable for deciding what you'll decide. that is, when would you expect to decide on the heirs -- on the sectors that you will deal with and from that point, how much far longer would you expect to go to reach -- are you hoping to reach an agreement this year? is this something that will be taking place next year? can you give us the outside and what your timetable is for various elements of this agreement? >> on the latter question, i don't think we have a timetable
for making the decision on specific things. we are try to move forward and make progress in all of the areas as much as we can. there will come a time i suspect we will be figuring out how we will wrap up issues, but that time is not yet. on your first question, we have the three-hour session with all of the stakeholders in the negotiators and lots of members of the press. so for the three-hour session were there was the direct negotiators, stakeholder interaction with members of the press and the stakeholders, our feeling was that the briefing that we gave to the stakeholders on wednesday afternoon was their opportunity to pose questions to us and have exchange and the opportunity for the press have a briefing and have questions and answers would come at the end of
the round when we completed the round during this hour. >> i would like to say a word on the sectors. the sectors that i mentioned in the outset to your reviews question are those sectors that we are currently exploring the possibility of having specific regulatory commitments. we are discussing very broadly disciplined for all sectors, looking into many other issues. there are sectors where we are looking completely where it is possible to achieve specific regulatory commitments that go beyond and complement what is being done. it is not a closed list. it is just a list that we have started to work cooperatively with you leaders from both sides. -- regulators from both sides.
and within each of the sectors, there is a list of issues that we are looking into. as we progress in a discussion, we will see how far it is possible to go on each of the issues and each of the sectors. i think that is important to bear in mind. >> the commission this week released a draft on restricting products from cloned animals. can you tell us to what extent that issue will find its way into the trade agreement and the trade negotiations? can you elaborate more on the food issues they discussed this week? >> on the specific proposal of the commission, no, this is not in issue that we are discussing in these negotiations. of course, we are always ready to listen to questions and comments about our initiatives.
but it is not an issue as such that we are discussing in these negotiations. on food safety, there are good discussions between the two teams. we are looking into what could be the elements of an ambitious sps plus chapter. and there are also conversations about how to try to facilitate and to solve specific issues all in full respect of each side's legislations and regulatory framework. i think there are good discussions on these topics. but on the specific issue that you referred to is not an issue that has been discussed. >> maybe i will just elaborate a bit.
we did undertake in a high-level working group to address these sanitary or sps next -- sps measures related to food safety. we said we would explore ways in which we could explore sts plus aspects for disciplines back go beyond and elaborate on the current the btl requirement that food safety measures be based on science, be based on risk assessment. so what we are discussing during these rounds is the various ways that we can focus on some of these requirements, focus on some consultant to mechanisms that we can put in place to have our regulators work together to
achieve sts plus disciplines on the food safety measures. the united states and europe have two of the best food safety regimes in the world. and by cooperating together and agreeing on cooperative measures where we can both achieve our appropriate level of protection, using appropriate science, using appropriate risk assessment, i think we can both gain on this on the food safety area. >> time for one more. >> i just will -- want to follow-up on an issue. why is it so important for the trade agreement? both the united states and the european union are negotiating a
treaty with china. i'm wondering if you have plans [indiscernible] with china? >> the negotiations that we do with china on investment, one of the issues that would be certainly discussed is investor to state sentiment. it is very in nearly stage of the discussion, but we would be discussing this issue also with our chinese colleagues. >> for us, as i said, it is extremely important to maintain the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, but it is a strong objective to make sure that we have in the international system strong investor protections that do include the variety, like i mentioned, stick to state as
well as a investor-state to sue element. >> thank you. >> thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> looking ahead at the weekend schedule, a hearing on the marketing of arsenal consumer information i data brokers. from the senate commerce
>> saturday night at 8:35 eastern. our guestsenator is this week and on newsmakers. he is the top republican on the environment and public works committee. he discusses some of the obama administration's recent climate change initiatives. watch sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. eastern here on c-span. >> s 2013 wraps up, we are here on the west front of the capital to tell you about c-span's year in review series. here is the lineup. coming up on monday, a look at immigration laws. >> that all starts on monday beginning at 8 p.m. eastern on
c-span. >> president obama and a beer with a news conference today in the white house briefing room. he addressed the health care law, negotiations with iran and nsa surveillance. this is an hour. >> good afternoon, everybody. i know you are eager to skip town and spend time with your families. not surprisingly, i am too. but you know what they say. it is the most wonderful press conference of the year, right now. i am eager to take your questions. first, i want to say a few words about our economy. in 2013, our businesses created another 2 million jobs. adding up to more than 8 million in just over the past 45 months. this morning, we learned that over the summer our economy grew
at its strongest pace in nearly two years. the unemployment rate has steadily fallen to its lowest point in five years. our fiscal situation is firmer, with deficits that are now less than half of what they were when i took office. for the first time in nearly two decades, we produce more oil at home then we buy from the rest of the world. and our all of the above strategy for new american energy means lower energy costs. the affordable care act has helped keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. that means bigger paychecks and bigger savings for businesses. and for all the challenges we have had and all the challenges that we have been working on diligently in dealing with both the aca and the website these past couple months, more than half a million americans have
enrolled through healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of december alone. in california, a state operating its own marketplace, more than 15,000 americans are enrolling every single day. and in the federal website, tens of thousands are enrolling every single day. since october 1, more than one million americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. all told, millions of americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health care insurance come new year's day. this holiday season, there are mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, and workers who have something new to celebrate, the security of knowing that when the unexpected or misfortune strikes, hardship no longer has to. you add that all up, and it means we head into next year with an economy that is stronger than it was when we started the
year. more americans are finding work and experiencing a positive paycheck. businesses are positioned for new growth and new jobs. i firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for america. but, as i outlined in detail earlier this month, we know there is a lot more we are going to have to do to restore opportunity and broad-based both for everyone in america. that is going to require some action. earlier this week, the first time in years, both parties in both houses of congress came together to pass a budget that unwinds some of the damaging sequester cuts that have created headwinds for our economy. it clears the path for businesses and for investments that we need to strengthen our middle class, like education and scientific research. it means the american people will not be exposed to the threat of another reckless shutdown every few months. that is a good thing.
it is probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it is also fair to say we are not committed to endless gridlock. there are areas where we can work together. i believe work should begin with something republicans in congress should have done before leaving town this week, and that is restoring the temporary insurance that helps folks when they are looking for a job. because congress did not act, more than one million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at christmas time, leaving a lot of job seekers without any source of income at all. i think we are a better come -- a better country than that. we do not abandon each other when times are tough. keep in mind unemployment insurance only goes to folks who are actively looking for work -- a mom who needs help feeding her kids when she sends out her resumes, or a dad who needs help
paying the rent while working part-time and learning the skills he needs for that new job. when congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right. i know a bipartisan group is working on a three-month extension of this insurance. they should pass it. i will sign it right away. let me repeat. i think 2014 needs to be a year of action. we have work to do to help more americans earn the skills and education they need to do these jobs, and to make sure those jobs offer wages and benefits that let families build a little bit of financial security. we still have the task of finishing the fix on our broken immigration system. we have got to build on the progress we have been staking
staking -- painstakingly made over these last five years with respect to our economy, and offer the middle-class and those looking to join the middle class a better opportunity. and that is going to be where i focus all of my efforts in the year ahead. let me conclude by saying just as we are strengthening our position here at home, we are also standing up for our interests around the world. this year, we have demonstrated that with clear right, principled diplomacy, we can pursue new paths to a world that is more secure, a future where iran does not build a nuclear weapon, where serious chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed. but the end of next year, the war in afghanistan will be over, just as we ended our war in iraq. we will continue to bring our troops home. as always, we will remain vigilant to protect our homeland and our personnel overseas from terrorist attacks. a lot of our men and women in uniform are still overseas. a lot are spending their christmas far away from their families and friends, still in
harm's way. for them and their families back home, we want to thank you. your country stands united in supporting you and being grateful for your service and your sacrifice. we will keep you in our thoughts and in our prayers during this season of hope. before i wish a merry christmas to all and to all a good night, i will take some questions. jay prepared a list of who is naughty and nice, so we will see who made it. julie must be nice. >> thank you, mr. president. despite all the data points you cited in your opening statement, when you look back this year, very little of the domestic agenda you outlined in your inaugural address has been achieved. health-care rollout obviously had problems, and your ratings from the public are near historic lows for you. has this been the worst year of
your presidency? >> i have to tell you, julie, that is not how i think about it. i have now been in office close to five years. i was running for president for two years before that. for those of you who covered me during that time, we have had ups and downs. i think this room has probably recorded at least 15 near death experiences. and what i have been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball in helping the american people, families, have more opportunity, have more security to feel as if, if they work hard, they can get ahead? and if i look at this past year, there are areas where there have obviously been frustrations, where i wish congress had moved more aggressively.
not passing background checks in the aftermath of newtown was something i continue to believe is a mistake. but because of the debate that occurred, work has been done at state levels to ensure we do not see tragedies like that happen again. there is a lot of focus on legislative activity at the congressional level. even when congress does not move on things they should move on, there are a whole bunch of things we are still doing. we do not always get attention. but the connect program we announced, initiating wireless capacity in every classroom in america. it will make a huge difference
for kids across this country, and for teachers. a manufacturing hub that we set up in youngstown, something i talked about during the state of the union, is going to create innovation and connect universities, manufacturers, job training, to build on the renaissance we are seeing in manufacturing. when it comes to energy, this year is going to be the first year in a very long time we are producing more oil and natural gas here in this country then we are importing. that is a big deal. i understand the point you are getting at, which is that a lot of our legislative initiatives in congress have not moved forward as quickly as we might like. i understand that. which means i am going to keep at it. if you look at immigration
reform, probably the biggest thing i wanted to get done this year, we saw progress. it passed the senate with a strong bipartisan vote. there are indications in the house that even though it did not get completed this year, that there is a commitment on the part of the speaker to try to move forward legislation early next year. the fact that it didn't hit the timeline that i prefer is obviously frustrating, but it is not something i end up brooding a lot about. >> it's not just your legislative agenda. when you talk to americans, they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you, your credibility has taken a hit, the health care law was a big part of that. do you understand that those -- the public has changed in some way their view of you? >> julie, i guess what i'm saying is if you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. if i was interested in polling, i won't have run for president.
i was polling at 70% when i was in the u.s. senate. i took this job to deliver for the american people, and i knew and will continue to know that there are going to be ups and downs. you're right, the health care website problems were a source of great frustration in the last press conference that i adequately discussed my frustrations on those. on the other hand, since that time i now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have health care on january 1. and that is a big deal. that's why i ran for this office. as long as i've got an opportunity every single day to make sure that in ways large and small i'm creating greater opportunity for people, more kids are able to go to school, get the education he they need, more families are able to stabilize their finances, the housing market is continuing to
improve, people feel like their wages maybe are inching up a little bit. if those things are happening, i'll take it. i said before, i have run my last political race. at this point my goal every single day is just to make sure that i can look back and say we are delivering something. not everything, because this is a long haul. >> thank you, mr. president. one of the most significant events of this year was the revelation of the surveillance of the national security agency. as you review how to rein in the national security agency, a federal judge said for example the government has failed to site a single instance where the n.s.a. -- are you convinced the collection of that data is
useful to the national security to continue? >> i'll talk more broadly then talk specifically about the program you're referring to. as you know the independent panel that i put together came back with a series of recommendations, 46 in total, i had an extensive meeting with them down in the situation room to review all the recommendations that they have made. i want to thank them publicly because i think they did an excellent job and took my charge very seriously. i told them i want you to look from top to bottom at what we're doing and evaluate whether or not the current structures that we have and the current programs that we have are properly addressing both our continuing need to keep ourself secure and prevent terrorist attacks or proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction or other threats to the homeland, and are we also making sure that we are taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties. what we are doing now is evaluating all the recommendations that have been made. over the next several weeks i'm going to assess based on conversations not just with the intelligence community but others in government and outside of government how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations. and i'm going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in january where i'll be able to say here are the recommendations that we think makes sense. here are ones that we think are promising but still need to be refined further. here's how it relates to the work we are doing not just internally but also in partnership with other countries.
and -- i'm taking this very seriously because i think, as i have said before, this needed to be had. one specific program, the 215 program, is the bulk collection of phone numbers and exchanges that have taken place. that has probably gotten the most attention, at least with respect to domestic audiences. what i have said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the n.s.a. in executing this program believed based on experience from 9/11 that it was important for us to be able to track if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the united states calling into the united states where that call might have gone.
and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats. and i think it's important to note that in all the he reviews of this program that have been done, in fact there have not been actual instances where it's been alleged that the n.s.a. in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data, but what is also clear is from the public debate people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse. that's what the judge in the district court suggested. and although his opinion obviously differs from rulings on the fisa court, we are taking those into account. the question we are going to have to ask is, can we accomplish the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in ways that give the
public more confidence that, in fact, the n.s.a. is doing what it's supposed to be doing? i have confidence in the fact that the n.s.a. is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around, but i also recognize that as technologies change, people can start running algorithms and programs that map out all the information in our telephones and computers we may have to refine further to give people more confidence. i'll work very hard on doing that. we have to provide more confidence to the international community. in some ways what has been more challenging is the fact that we do have a lot of laws and checks and balances and safeguards and audits when it comes to making sure that the n.s.a. and other intelligence agencies are not spying on americans.
we have had less legal constraint in terms of what we are doing internationally, but i think part of what's been interesting about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world some of these boundaries don't matter anymore. and just because we can do something doesn't mean we necessarily should, and the values that we've got as americans are ones that is we have to be willing to apply beyond our borders i think perhaps more systematically than we have done in the past. ed henry. >> thank you, mr. president. i want to follow-up on that because -- merry christmas, by the way. >> merry christmas. >> when edward snowden first started leaking the information, you told the american people you already reformed them.
you said: my team evaluated them. we scrubbed them. we expanded some of the oversight. you also said we may have to he rebalance some. there may be changes. you concluded, you can complain about big brother and how this potential program run amuck, when you look at the actual details, i think we have struck the right balance. that was six months ago. the judge is saying no. your own panel is saying no. even your own panel. the changes have to be made. my question is, were you wrong then because you were not fully read in not just on these programs but on other programs, outside of the ones you just talked about, where we were potentially listening in on the german leaders, brazilian leaders, and others that suggest there were abuses, number one? and number two, if you weren't fully read in on these programs, is it another example, what julie was getting at, was this question of credibility with the american people, just like health care, you like your plan you can keep it. on surveillance you looked the american people in the eye six months ago and said we've got the right balance. six months later you're saying
maybe not. >> hold on a second. i think it's important to note that when it comes to the right balance on surveillance, these are a series of judgment calls we are making every single day because we have a whole bunch of folks whose job it is to make sure that the american people are protected. and that's a hard job. because if something slips then the question that's coming from you the next day at the press conference, mr. president, why didn't you catch that? why did the intelligence people allow that to slip? isn't there a way we could have found out -- >> strike the right balance. >> the point is not that my assessment of the 215 program has changed in terms of technically how it works, what is absolutely clear to me is that given the public debate that's taken place and disclosure that's taken place over the last several months, that this is only going to work if the american people have confidence and trust.
now, part of the challenge is is that because of the manner in which these disclosures took place in dribs and drabs, oftentimes shaded in a particular way, and because some of the constraints that we have had in terms of declassifying information and getting it out there, that that trust in how many safeguards exist and how these programs are run, has been diminished. so what's going to be important is to build that back up. and i take that into account in weighing how we structure these programs. let me be very specific on the 215 program. it is possible, for example, that some of the same information that the intelligence community feels is required to keep people safe can be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer and to create some mechanism where he
they can be accessed in an effective fashion. that might cost more. there might need to be different checks on how those requests are made. there may be technological solutions that have to be found to do that. and the question that we are asking ourselves now is, does that make sense not only because of the fact that there are concerns about potential abuse down the road with the data being kept by government rather than private companies, but also does it make sense to do it because people right now are concerned that maybe their phone calls are being listened to, even if they're not? we have to factor that in. my point is is that the environment has changed in ways that i think require us to take
that into account. but the analysis that i have been doing throughout has always been periodically looking at what we are doing and asking ourselves, are we doing this in the right way? are we making sure that we are keeping the american people safe, number one. are we also being true to our civil liberties and privacy and values? >> i understand. it's a tough job. god forbid there is another terror attack. every one of us will be second- guessing you and it's extremely difficult to be in the oval office. you put it on your back. my question is, do you have any personal regrets. you're not addressing the fact the public statement you made, your director of national intelligence, got a question from a democrat, not a are republican, about whether some of this was going on.
he denied it. doesn't that undermine the public trust? >> you're conflating first of all me and mr. clapper -- >> is he doing the job? >> what i'm saying is this is that yes, these are tough problems. that i am glad to have the privilege of tackling. your initial question was whether the statement that i made six months ago are ones that i don't stand by. what i'm saying is is that the statements i made then are entirely consistent with the statements that i make now, which is that we believed that we had scrubbed these programs and struck an appropriate balance. and there had not been evidence and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how it was used. it was a useful tool working with other tools of the intelligence community to ensure that if we have a thread on a potential terrorist threat that that can be followed effectively. what i have also said, though, is in light of the disclosures
that have taken place, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have, may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse. if that's the case, there may be another way of skinning the cat. so we just keep on going at this stuff and saying can we do this better, can we do this more effectively? i think the panel's recommendations are consistent with that. so if you had a chance to read the overall recommendations, what they were very clear about is, we need this intelligence. we can't unilaterally disarm. there are ways we can do it potentially that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances, there is sufficient oversight, sufficient transparency, programs like 215 could be redesigned in way that
give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse, and that's exactly what we should be doing is to evaluate all these things in a very clear, specific way. and moving forward on changes. that's what i intend to do. >> you have no regrets. >> john croft. >> thank you, mr. president. it's been a tough year. you may not want to call it the worst year of your presidency, but it's clearly been a tough year. the polls have gone up and down but they are on a low point right now. what i'm asking you, you have acknowledged the difficulties with the health care rollout. when you look back and you look at the decisions that you have made and what you did, what you didn't do for you personally what do you think has been your biggest mistake? >> with respect to health care specifically or just general? >> the whole thing. >> well, there's no doubt that when it came to the health care rollout even though i was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience, an easy experience
in getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options were for them, to be able to get high quality, affordable health care. the fact is it didn't happen in the first month. first six weeks in a way that was at all acceptable. since i'm in charge obviously we screwed it up. part of it as i have said before had to do with how i.t. procurement generally is done and almost predates this year. part of it obviously has to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of technology and cracking the whip on the whole
bunch of contractors. so there were a whole bunch of things that we have been taking a look at and i'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we have gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up. but having said all that, the bottom line also is that we've got several million people are going to have health care that works. it's not that i don't engage in a lot of self-reflection here, i promise i beat myself up even worse than you or ed henry does, on any given day, but i've also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that i do better the next day. and that we keep moving forward. and when i look at the landscape for next year, what i say to myself is, we're poised to do really good things.
the economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. our next challenge is to make sure everybody benefits from that, not just a few folks. and there's still too many people who haven't seen a raise and are still feeling financially insecure. we can get immigration reform done. we've got a concept that has bipartisan support. let's see if we can break through the politics on this. i think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms of brinksmanship coming out of the government shutdown. there have been times where i thought about were there other ways i could have prevented those three, four weeks that hampered the economy and hurt individual families who were not getting a paycheck during that time?
absolutely, but i also think that in some ways given the pattern that we have been going through with house republicans for a while, we might have needed just a little bit of a bracing sort of recognition that this is not what the american people think is acceptable. they want us to try to solve problems. and be practical even if we can't get everything done. the end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what you can do better next year. that's how i intend to approach it. i'm sure that i will have even better ideas after a couple of days of sleep and sun. >> thank you, mr. president. on the debt ceiling your treasury secretary has estimated that the u.s. government will lose its ability to pay its bills come late february or early march. house budget committee chairman, paul ryan, said the republicans are going to decide what it is
they can accomplish on this debt limit fight. will you negotiate with house republicans on the debt ceiling? >> you know the answer to this question. we are not going to negotiate for congress to pay bills that it's accrued. i want to emphasize the positive as we enter into this holiday season. i think congressman ryan and senator murray did a good job in trying to narrow the differences and actually pass a budget that i can sign. it's not everything that i would like, obviously. it buys back part of these across-the-board cuts, the so- called sequester, but not all of them, we are still underfunding research, we are still underfunding education, we are still underfunding transportation and other initiatives that would create jobs right now, but it was an honest conversation.
they operated in good faith. and given how far apart the parties have been on fiscal issues, they should take pride in what they did. i actually called them after they struck the deal and i said congratulations and i hope that creates a good pattern for next year. where we work on at least the things we agree to even if we agree to disagree on some of the other big-ticket items. i think immigration potentially falls in that category where let's -- here's an area where we've got bipartisan agreement. there are a few differences here and there, but the truth of the matter is that the senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high-skilled workers who are
doing great things in places like silicon valley and around the country. so let's go and get that done. now, i can't imagine that having seen this possible daylight breaking when it comes to cooperation in congress that folks are thinking actually about plunging us back into the kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis that has done us so much harm over the past few years. to repeat, the debt ceiling is raised simply to pay bills that we have already accrued. it is not something that is a negotiating tool. it's not leveraged the responsibility of congress. it's part of doing their job. i expect them to do their job, although i'm happy to talk to them about any of the issues they actually want to get done. if congressman ryan's interested
in tax reform, let's go. i've got some proposals on it. if he's interested in any issue out there, i'm willing to have a constructive conversation of the sort that he we just had in resolving the budget issues, but i've got to assume folks aren't crazy enough to start that thing all over again. >> quickly on a more personal note, what is your new year's resolution? >> my new year's resolution is to be nicer to the white house press corps. absolutely. >> thank you. greg leggett, the head of the n.s.a. task force on edward snowden, he told "60 minutes" quote we are having a conversation about granting edward snowden leniency.
to what degree were you pleased he floated this trial balloon? what do you say to americans, sir, after possibly being alerted to john leon's decision earlier this week reading the panel recommendations, believe edward snowden set in motion something that is proper and just in this country about the scope of surveillance and should not be considered by this government a criminal? >> i've got to be careful here, major, because mr. snowden is under indictment. he's been charged with crimes, and that's the province of the attorney general and ultimately a judge and jury. i can't weigh in specifically on this case at this point. i'll make -- i'll try to see if i can get at the spirit of the question even if i can't talk about the specifics. i said before and i believe that this is an important
conversation that we needed to have. i have also said before that the way in which these disclosures happened have been damaging to the united states and damaging to our intelligence capabilities. and i think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage. i'll give you just one specific example. the fact of the matter is that the united states for all our warts is a country that abides by rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our constitution, and we have countries who
actually do the things that mr. snowden said he's worried about very explicitly, engaging in surveillance of their own citizens, targeting political dissidents, targeting and suppressing the press. who somehow are able to sit on the sidelines and act as if it's the united states that has problems when it comes to surveillance and intelligence operations. and that's a pretty distorted view of what's going on out there. so i think that as important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to u.s. intelligence capabilities and u.s. diplomacy. but i will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general
to weigh in publicly on the specifics of mr. snoweden's case. >> if i could follow up, mr. leggitt is setting in motion -- if there was ever to be a conversation on amnesty or plea- bargain. >> i think that's true, major. i guess what i'm saying is -- >> you would never consider it? >> what i'm saying is there is a difference between mr. leggitt saying something and the president of the united states saying something. >> thank you, mr. president. merry christmas and happy new year. you talk about the issues with health care and the website rollout, but there have been other issues, misinformation about people keeping their policies, extended deadlines, postponements, we have a new waiver that h.h.s. announced last night. how do you expect americans to have confidence and certainty in this law if you keep changing it?
this one here, this new waiver last night, you could argue you might as well have delayed the mandate. >> that's not true because what we are talking about is a very specific population that received cancellation notices from insurance companies. the majority of them are either keeping their old plan because the grandfather clause has been extended further, or they are finding a better deal in the marketplace with better insurance for cheaper costs, but there may still be a subset, a significantly smaller subset than some of the numbers that have been advertised, that are still looking for options or still concerned about what they are going to be doing next year. and we just wanted to make sure that the hardship provision that was already existing in the law would also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition period. so that's the specifics of this latest change.
you are making a broader point that i think is fair. and that is that in a big project like this, what we are constantly doing is looking -- is this working the way it is supposed to? and if there are adjustments that could be made to smooth out the transition, we should make them. but they do not go to the core of the law. the core of the law is that for 85% of the population, all they have been getting is free preventive care, better consumer protections, the ability to keep their kids on their insurance plan until they are 26, a $1000 or $500 discount on prescription drugs for seniors on medicare. 85% of the population, whether they know it or not, over the last three years have benefited
from a whole set of the provisions of the law. either way, if it were to be repealed, you would be taking away all those benefits from folks who already are enjoying them. you have this sub portion of the population, 15%, who either do not have health insurance or are buying it on the individual market. that is still millions of people. what we are doing is creating a marketplace where they can buy insurance and we can provide them tax credits to help them afford it. the basic structure of that law is working, despite all the problems, despite the website problems, the messaging problems despite all that, it is working. again, you do not have to take my word for it. we have got a couple million people who are going to have health insurance just in the first three months, despite the fact that the first month and a half was lost because of problems with the website, and
about as bad a bunch of publicity as you could imagine. and yet, you still got 2 million people who signed up. or more. so what that means is that the demand is there. and as i said before, the product is good. in putting something like this together, there are going to be all kinds of problems that crop up, some of which may have been unanticipated. what we are trying to do is respond to them in a commonsense way. and we are going to continue to try to do that. but that does not negate the fact that, you know, a year from now or two years from now, when we look at, we are going to be able to say that even more people have health insurance, and that is not a bad thing. that is a good thing. that is part of the reason i
pushed so hard to get this law done in the first place. and, you know, i have said before this is a messy process. i think sometimes when i say that, people say, it is real messy. and b, isn't the fact it has been so messy some indication there are more fundamental problems with the law? i guess what i would say to that, chuck, is, when you try to do something this big, affecting this many people, it is going to be hard. and every instance, whether it is social security, medicare, the prescription drug plan under president bush -- there has not been an instance where you tried to really have an impact on the american people's lives and well-being, particularly in the health care arena, where you do not end up having some of these challenges.
the question is going to be, ultimately, do we make good decisions trying to help as many people as possible in as efficient a way as possible? and i think that is what we are doing. >> 72 hours ago, you made this change, where people are buying a junk-type policy you are trying to get people away from. >> keep in mind, first of all, that the majority of folks are going to have different options. this is essentially a additional net in case folks may have slipped through the cracks. we expect it is going to be a relatively small number. these are folks who want insurance, and the vast majority of them have good options. in a state like north carolina, the overwhelming majority have kept their own plans. the ones they had previously. but we thought, and continue to
think, it makes sense that as we are transitioning to a system in which insurance standards are higher, people do not have unpleasant surprises because they thought they had insurance until they hit a limit, and next thing you know, they owe $300,000 for a hospital visit, that as we transition to higher standards, better insurance, that we also address folks who get caught in that transition and the unintended consequences. i will be honest -- that was the original intent of the grandfather clause in the law. obviously, the problem was it did not catch enough people. and we learned from that, and we are trying not to repeat those mistakes. >> and the enforcement, going forward. >> bill mattingly? >> what was the message you were trying to send with not only
your decision not to attend the sochi games, but with the people you named to the delegation? >> first of all, i have not attended olympics in the past. i suspect that me attending the olympics, particularly at a time when we have all the other stuff people have been talking about is going to be tough, although i would love to do it. i will be going to a lot of olympic games post-presidency. the delegation speaks for itself, outstanding americans, outstanding athletes, people who will represent us extraordinarily well. and the fact that we have got folks like billie jean king or brian boitano, world class athletes everyone acknowledges for their excellence and their character, who also happen to be
members of the lgbt community -- you should take that for what it is worth. when it comes to the olympics and athletic performers, we do not make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. we judge people on how they perform, both on the court and off the court, on the field and off the field. and that is a value that i think is at the heart of not just america, but american sports. i am going to just roll down these last few real quickly. ari shapiro, last day at the white house. he deserves a question. >> senator max baucus was widely seen as the best hope for a large-scale deal to overhaul the tax code. what does your decision to nominate him as ambassador for china say to your hopes for a major tax overhaul? >> it says max baucus will be an
outstanding ambassador to china, and i would like a swift confirmation. and my expectation and hope is that if both senate democrats, or if democrats and republicans in the house and the senate, are serious about tax reform, it is not going to depend on one guy. it is going to depend on all of us working together. and my office is ready, willing, and eager to engage both parties in a conversation about how we can simplify the tax code, make it fairer, make it work to create more jobs and do right by middle-class americans. jackie combs? >> thank you, mr. president. how do you say it in hawaii? >> mele kalikimaka. >> i would like to ask you what your reaction was to the
nonpartisan truth telling group politifact when it said the lie of the year was your statement that if you like your health care plan you can keep it? related to the health care problems we have seen over the past year, the fallout from that seems to be making democrats particularly in the senate a little rambunctious and independent of you, evidenced most clearly in the debate over iran sanctions. it looks like senate majority leader harry reid has expedited consideration of iran sanctions bill for january, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions? >> you are stringing a bunch of things along. let us see if we can have a question? >> that is a lot less than henry had. [laughter] >> i thought we were trying to get along. [laughter] >> how about i separate out the iran question from the health
care question? on the health care question, i think i have answered several times -- this is a new iteration of it. bottom line is that we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of the health care law and the website and all elements of it, including the grandfather clause, work better, every single day. as i have said in previous press conferences, we are going to make mistakes. and we are going to have problems. but my intentions have been clear throughout. i just want to help as many people as possible feel secure, and make sure they do not go broke when they get sick. we are going to keep on doing that. on iran, there is the
possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for american national security for over a decade. and that is getting iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue a nuclear weapon. already, even with the interim deal that we struck in geneva, we have the first halt, and in some cases some rollback of iran's nuclear capabilities. the first time we have seen that in almost a decade. and we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for iran to get right with the international community
in a verifiable fashion, to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or allies in the region, including israel? as i have said before and i will repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that is possible, not because it is guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem, with all kinds of unintended consequences. i have been clear from the start i mean what i say. it is my goal to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. i sure would rather do it diplomatically. i am keeping all options on the table.
i would think that would be the preference of everybody on capitol hill, because that sure is the preference of the american people. and we lose nothing during this negotiation, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. we will have more insight into iran's nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously. we will know if they are violating the terms of the agreement. they are not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium. in fact, they have to reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. ironically, if we did not have this six months in which we are testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem, they would be advancing even further on their nuclear program.
in light of all that, what i have said to democrats and republicans is, there is no need for new sanctions legislation. not yet. if iran comes back and says we cannot give you a assurances we are not going to weaponize, if they are not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it is not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthened sanctions even further. i will work with members of congress to put even more pressure on iraq.
n. -- on iran. but there is no reason to do it right now. i am not surprised that there has been some talk from some members of congress about new sanctions. i think the politics of trying to look tough on iran are often good when you are running for office. or if you are in office. but as president of the united states right now, who has been responsible over the last four years, with the help of congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what i am saying to them, what i have said to the international community, what i have said to the american people, is, let's test it. it is the time to try to see if we can get this thing done. i have heard some logic that
says, well, mr. president, we are supportive of the negotiations, but we think it is useful to have this club hanging over iran's head. we still have existing sanctions in place that are resulting in iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. we already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied, even as the negotiations are taking place. it is not as if we are letting up on that. i have heard arguments that this way we can be assured, and the iranians will know, that if negotiations fail, even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. i do not think the iranians have any doubt that congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. we can do that in a day. on a dime. but if we are serious about negotiations, we have to create an atmosphere in which iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them, and contrary to their ideology and
rhetoric, and their instincts and their suspicions of us. and we do not help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action. all right? ok, everybody. i think i am going to take one more question. colleen mccain nelson, and that is it. >> thank you, mr. president. a lot of longtime advisers are leaving the white house. new advisors are coming in, or taking on new roles. as you reshape your team, how does that impact what you think you can accomplish, going forward? >> i just had lunch with pete,
that will be a significant loss, although he will still be in town, and hopefully i will be able to consult with him on an ongoing basis. i think jonathan, coming in, will be terrific. he may deny it, but i have been trying to get in him -- in here for some time. he ran my transition office. at that time, i think he was still feeling he wanted to develop other organizations. john is a great strategist. he is as good as anybody on domestic policy. and i think he will be a huge boost to us and give us more bandwidth to deal with more issues. i suspect we may have additional announcements in the new year. there is a natural turnover that takes place. people get tired. people get worn out. sometimes you need fresh legs. but what i can tell you is that the team i have now is tireless,