Read all posts from May 2011
Jesse LeeMay 23, 2011
10:19 AM EST
Ed. Note: You can help people affected by disasters like the recent floods, tornadoes and wildfires, as well as countless other crises at home and around the world, through American Red Cross Disaster Relief. If you are in the affected areas, you can also register as "Safe and Well" to let your friends and family know you are OK.
In the wake of yet more terrible storms, this time in the Midwest, the President called Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to personally extend his condolences and to tell all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes that they are in his thoughts and prayers. The President assured the governor that FEMA will remain in close contact and coordination with state and local officials.
The President has directed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Missouri to ensure the state has all the support it needs. In addition, in anticipation of requests for assistance, a FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) is en route to Joplin. This self-sustaining team will work with FEMA officials already in Missouri to coordinate with state and local officials to identify needs and any shortfalls impacting disaster response and recovery.
The President also released this statement last night:
Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri as well as communities across the Midwest today. We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time. At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas' state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed.
May 21, 2011
05:55 PM EST
Regional innovation clusters are based on a simple but critical idea: if we foster coordination between the private sector and the public sector to build on the unique strengths of different regions - while creating the incentives for them to do so - we will be better equipped to marshall the knowledge and resources that America needs to compete in the global economy.
The $33 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge that the Obama Administration announced yesterday will help capitalize on shared strengths, encouraging America's regions to plan more strategically to support long-term growth and an environment where the private sector can succeed. It reflects an understanding by both private sector leaders and policymakers that we must implement strategies that capitalize on the full extent of regional assets and ensure that the benefits of cluster development extend to all workers and communities throughout the region.
Sixteen federal agencies are working together on this unprecedented initiative to drive job growth through public-private partnerships in at least 20 regions around the country. High-growth clusters from rural and urban regions across the nation will compete for award funds. Each Challenge investment will serve as a catalyst for leveraging additional private capital to the winning regions from sources including foundations, financial institutions, corporations and other private-sector partners.
The Innovation Accelerator Challenge represents the Obama Administration's commitment to accelerate the development of strong industry clusters - like the Research Triangle in North Carolina - that promote robust economic ecosystems and the development of a skilled workforce, both of which are critical to long-term regional success. We're looking to be a catalyst for regional clusters that can:
- Promote sustainable economic growth in the region;
- Support business formation, especially of small businesses, while leveraging existing businesses' assets;
- Advance commercialization of federal and private research;
- Increase exports;
- Develop a skilled workforce through outreach, training, and the creation of career pathways, and;
- Integrate historically underserved businesses and communities into the economic activities of the cluster.
This cluster announcement reflects another important goal of the Obama Administration - to streamline government while maximizing resources. Applicants will submit ONE application, instead of multiple applications to several agencies, cutting down on costs and time. Awardees will receive funds in a coordinated, integrated manner that is more efficient and predictable. When President Obama was elected, he promised to change the way government does business. The Accelerator and 40 other innovation cluster projects that were awarded in FY 2010 reflect his commitment to deliver on his promise.
As President Obama said during a Winning the Future forum in February, "This cluster concept is so important...When you get a group of people together, and industries together, and institutions like universities together around particular industries, then the synergies that develop from all those different facets coming together can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts."
Find details on this funding opportunity here.
Jesse LeeMay 21, 2011
04:00 AM EST
May 20, 2011
06:05 PM EST
In his Proclamation naming this Small Business Week, the President explains that “small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of America's promise.” Veterans increasingly make up part of that backbone as entrepreneurs translating their service-related skills into job-creating companies.
The number of Veterans early in their careers is on the rise: 74 percent of service-disabled Veterans over the last 10 years are under 30 years old. They are equipped with unique skills as a result of their service, and their Veteran status offers distinct business advantages.
A wide array of services and benefits are available to Veterans in launching a new business. In addition to VA programs like VetSuccess, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), the new Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, and numerous local programs provide varying degrees of support. The challenge is in knitting it all together and making it work for each Veteran’s individual needs.
As part of the White House-led Startup America initiative, this month the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2), in partnership with the SBA and the Department of Labor, announced two new business incubators with the sole mission of helping Veteran entrepreneurs get their start by integrating existing services and offering new forms of business support.
Jesse LeeMay 20, 2011
05:54 PM EST
This afternoon, the President made the third visit of his term out to Langley, although there was a different feeling this time. As Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper put it, the death of bin Laden was not only a moment of some closure for families of the victimes of his attacks, it was a moment of some closure for the intelligence community. But of course that community toils on without a break, going through the millions of pages of intelligence found there and hunting down threats around the world. So standing beside DNI Clapper and CIA Director Panetta, the President thanked them for it:
May 20, 2011
05:54 PM EST
Your quick look at the week of May 16th to May 20th on WhiteHouse.gov:
Graduation Season: This week, the President and First Lady spoke at commencements around the country. President Obama addressed graduating seniors at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, TN -- the winners of the 2011 Commencement Challenge. The First Lady spoke at Spelman College in Atlanta and delivered a historic address to graduating Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Moment of Opportunity: President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa. After the speech, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes answered questions from all over the world via Twitter.
Do You Know Someone Like This?: Nominate an everyday hero for the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal.
Huskies at the White House: President Obama honored the NCAA champions the UConn Huskies in a ceremony at the White House. Watch a video of the team's basketball clinic with local kids.
Jesse LeeMay 20, 2011
04:03 PM EST
A day after the President’s speech on the Middle East and North Africa, where he spoke on the changes sweeping the region as well as the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the President hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel for a lengthy meeting. Afterwards they both spoke to the press in the Oval Office, and the President described their discussion as focusing on the same themes as his speech, including support for reforms in countries throughout the region:
Well, let me, first of all, welcome again Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think has now been here seven times during the course of my presidency. And I want to indicate that the frequency of these meetings is an indication of the extraordinary bonds between our two countries, as is the opportunity for the Prime Minister to address Congress during his visit here. I know that’s an honor that’s reserved for those who have always shown themselves to be a great friend of the United States and is indicative of the friendship between our countries.
We just completed a prolonged and extremely useful conversation touching on a wide range of issues. We discussed, first of all, the changes that are sweeping the region and what has been happening in places like Egypt and Syria and how they affect the interests and security of the United States and Israel, as well as the opportunity for prosperity, growth and development in the Arab world.
We agreed that there is a moment of opportunity that can be seized as a consequence of the Arab Spring, but also acknowledge that there’s significant perils as well, and that it’s going to be important for the United States and Israel to consult closely as we see developments unfold.
The President also spoke at some length about their discussion of the peace process:
Vivek KundraMay 20, 2011
03:08 PM EST
When the Department of Defense in the 1990s released GPS data, originally developed for military use, to the public, it sparked an explosion of innovation that gave rise to tools we now use in our everyday lives – from helping us find our way in an unfamiliar city to assisting first responders save lives. But why stop there?
On May 21, 2009, we launched Data.gov to democratize data across the government and tap into the ingenuity of the public to develop tools that help the American people. 47 datasets were available on day one. I’m pleased to announce that two years later, Data.gov hosts 389,681 datasets covering every aspect of government operations, from health care data to public safety information. As events break across the globe, Data.gov helps puts the resources of the United States government at the fingertips of the world – most recently, providing real-time alerts and data related to the earthquakes off the coast of Japan and radiation levels in the United States.
Innovators from across the country have been busy putting these datasets to work. So far, hundreds of apps have been created that include helping parents keep their children safe, assisting travelers find the fastest route to their destinations, and informing home buyers about the safety of their new neighborhood.
This emerging “app economy” not only gives rise to innovative applications, it also helps us crack down on wasteful and redundant government spending. For too long, the government has relied on armies of consultants, a fragmented infrastructure, and customized, one-off applications, spending billions of dollars to share information within government and with citizens. By mobilizing citizen-developers and leveraging the Data.gov platform, we can do more for less.
May 20, 2011
10:01 AM EST
Tonight, in a historic first, Michelle Obama will address the Cadets and families of the United States Military Academy (USMA) Class of 2011 at their Graduation Banquet. I will have the honor and pleasure of accompanying her on the trip up the Hudson Valley, to what West Point graduates refer to as our “Rockbound Highland Home.”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time of widely varying lengths on the West Point campus. Four years as a student from 1991 to 1995, four days getting married on a brief break from flight school in 1996, and three and a half years as a history professor from 2005 to 2009. I’ve gotten to know the campus pretty well in that time, but this trip is a chance to see it through the fresh eyes of Mrs. Obama and her staff.
At the banquet, The First Lady will speak to the core of what it means to serve the nation as an officer in the armed forces. She will invoke those hallowed words shining brightly on the USMA Crest – Duty, Honor, Country – that have served as a signpost for the generations of West Point graduates that have come before, the Long Gray Line. And she’ll talk about the challenges that lie ahead as these men and women move forward to defend a nation at war.
Arun ChaudharyMay 20, 2011
12:00 AM EST
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week the President visited flood survivors in Memphis,TN before speaking at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation, celebrated the Situation Room's 50th birthday, and gave a speech on the change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.
Find out more about the topics covered in this edition of West Wing Week:
Jesse LeeMay 19, 2011
07:29 PM EST
In a major speech at the State Department, President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa. He made clear that the United States will support people who call for democracy and reform and leaders who implement them, will oppose violence in cracking down on protests and efforts to limit the rights of minorities, and continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Watch the President's full remarks here.
Also watch the online discussion that took place afterwards with questions from all over the world via Twitter, or learn more from two White House fact sheets:
Ambassador Ron KirkMay 18, 2011
03:30 PM EST
This year, the United States is hosting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual meetings for the first time since 1993. As part of these efforts, I am leading meetings in Big Sky, Montana this week with 21 of my fellow Ministers Related to Trade. This week, we are working to advance common APEC objectives that complement President Obama’s forward-looking, export-focused trade agenda.
APEC is the premier forum for facilitating sustainable economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the region, and the Asia-Pacific region is the largest market in the world for U.S. exports. In fact, APEC economies represent nine of the top 15 export markets for U.S. goods. Over 60 percent of U.S. goods exports and 70 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2010 were to APEC economies.
Jesse LeeMay 18, 2011
02:41 PM EST
The President gave his last Commencement Address of the season this afternoon at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. He spent the bulk of his time walking the graduating class down memory lane of the years of tough training and education they had endured, but first he spoke about his personal experience with the Coast Guard:
I have to say, it is a personal pleasure to be here, because since the day I took office, the United States Coast Guard has played a special role in my presidency and with my family. I’ve seen the Coast Guard’s precision when some of you -- the Class of 2011 -- marched in the parade during my inauguration. You looked pretty good on that day, too. (Laughter.) It was a little colder that day, if you recall. (Laughter.)
I’ve seen your devotion to duty -- all along the Gulf Coast -- when the Coast Guard, including members of this class, worked day and night, tirelessly, as you led the largest environmental cleanup in our nation’s history.
I’ve seen your pride, when I was in, of all places, Afghanistan. I was in Bagram, thanking our troops for their service. And I was giving a shout-out to every service -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. And then, way in the back of the crowd, a voice shouted out: “and Coast Guard!” (Laughter.) There was no ocean in sight. (Laughter and applause.) Not a body of water visible anywhere. (Laughter.) But the Coast Guard was there, serving with honor, as you have in every major conflict that our nation has ever fought.
Macon PhillipsMay 18, 2011
01:59 PM EST
Thursday at 11:40am EDT, President Obama will deliver a speech on events in the Middle East and North Africa and the United States' policy in the region. The speech will be live-streamed from the State Department and available to anyone at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Immediately afterwards, the live-stream will switch to a follow-up Twitter chat with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, where anyone will be able to pose questions and reactions via Twitter.
NPR's Andy Carvin (@acarvin) and Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch (@abuaardvark), two experts who bring both a deep understanding of foreign policy and extensive online networks, will facilitate a world-wide conversation that will include participants from the Middle East and North Africa. As Andy explains:
Rather than come up with all the questions ourselves, we'd like to invite you to help us craft the questions. If you're on Twitter and want to submit a question, please post a tweet with your question and include the hashtag #MEspeech in the tweet. You can pose your question before or during the speech. We won't be able to get to every question, of course, so we encourage everyone to follow the #MEspeech hashtag and join the broader conversation about the speech on Twitter.
Don't forget: Tune into WhiteHouse.gov/live tomorrow at 11:40am and stick around afterwards for your opportunity to continue the conversation about this important topic.
May 17, 2011
07:15 PM EST
Earlier today, I had the privilege of traveling with members of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to visit Permac Industries, a small manufacturer just outside Minneapolis, Minn. Why Permac? Because the firm represents the best America has to offer – a company that has grown from a simple machine shop into a state-of-the-art facility that manufactures precision parts for customers worldwide in virtually all industries.
I was glad to have a chance to talk about the Obama administration’s commitment to giving businesses like Permac the tools they need to win in the global economy. That effort is a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we’re aggressively incentivizing investment here in America, as highlighted by key provisions that President Obama insisted be included in the December tax package, such as a new expensing benefit that will let companies write off 100 percent of their machinery and equipment purchases made in 2011. This, the largest temporary investment incentive for businesses in American history, will help create demand for new equipment and will mean new factory orders – which in turn means companies will need to hire more workers to keep up with the demand.
At the same time, the administration is making unprecedented efforts to help companies grow by breaking into new foreign markets. That’s why early last year President Obama announced his National Export Initiative, which mobilizes departments throughout the federal government to help double U.S. exports by 2015 and support millions of jobs. The reason for this is simple. The more American companies export, they more they produce. And the more they produce, the more workers they need. And that means jobs.
Exports have become a key driver of America's economic recovery, accounting for nearly half of U.S. economic growth since mid-2009. (Consider that exports directly support more than 9 million U.S. jobs!) If we want to continue that success, we’ll need more participation from small to medium-sized businesses, which often aren’t exporting nearly as much as they could. That’s where the federal government can help, armed with the NEI and the support it provides to companies that want to sell more of what they make overseas.
We know government can’t solve all the problems facing our country. What it can do is create smart incentives so that businesses like Permac can build something special. That’s how we ensure that U.S. companies compete and win in the global economy and create new American jobs. And I’m confident that together we will get there.
Kori SchulmanMay 17, 2011
06:47 PM EST
Continuing a tradition of welcoming championship teams to the White House, President Obama honored the UConn Huskies yesterday. The President offered his congratulations to "the best college basketball team in the land" and thanked them for "inspiring some future stars here from D.C." Before being honored by the President, all the players and coaches held a basketball clinic on the White House court. Huskies Coach Jim Calhoun, Assistant Coach Kevin Ollie, and Forward Jeremy Lamb offered some inspiration to local kids.
Watch the video of the basketball clinic with the UConn Huskies here.
Jesse LeeMay 17, 2011
06:13 PM EST
Watch the President's full remarks here.
This afternoon the President welcomed some of the most influential people of our time to the White House, from Members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices to Elie Wiesel, who he called "a dear friend of mine and an inspiration to the world." As he explained, they are just the latest generations in a long tradition that has helped shape our country and the world:
This month is a chance for Americans of every faith to appreciate the contributions of the Jewish people throughout our history –- often in the face of unspeakable discrimination and adversity. For hundreds of years, Jewish Americans have fought heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace. They’ve built our cities, cured our sick. They’ve paved the way in the sciences and the law, in our politics and in the arts. They remain our leaders, our teachers, our neighbors and our friends.
Not bad for a band of believers who have been tested from the moment that they came together and professed their faith. The Jewish people have always persevered. And that’s why today is about celebrating the people in this room, the thousands who came before, the generations who will shape the future of our country and the future of the world.
Jesse LeeMay 17, 2011
04:00 PM EST
Watch the President's full remarks after this bilateral meeting here.
Today President Obama welcomed His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, who he described as his "good friend." During remarks after their meeting, the President discussed some of the topics of conversation:
We discussed the situation in Libya, and are grateful for the support of a wide range of Arab countries in our efforts to make sure that humanitarian assistance and humanitarian protection occurs inside of Libya. We discussed the rapid transformation that’s taking place in places like Egypt and Tunisia, and we both agreed that it’s critical that not only does political reform proceed, but economic reform accompanies those changes there, because so much of what’s taking place has to do with the aspirations of young people throughout the Arab world for their ability to determine their own fate, to get an education, to get a job, to be able to support a family. And that means some of the old structures that were inhibiting their ability to progress have to be reworked.
His Majesty discussed the reform efforts that are taking place inside Jordan as well, and we welcome the initiatives that His Majesty has already embarked on, and feel confident that, to the extent that he’s able to move these reforms forward, this will be good for the security and stability of Jordan, but also will be good for the economic prosperity of the people of Jordan. And so we’re very pleased to support him on that front.
The President also reinforced his commitment to resolving the Israel and the Palestinian conflict:
We also discussed the situation with respect to Israel and the Palestinian conflict. And we both share the view that despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it’s more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security.
Jordan, obviously, with its own peace with Israel, has an enormous stake in this. The United States has an enormous stake in this. We will continue to partner to try to encourage an equitable and just solution to a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years.
Finally, I just want to say that we continue to appreciate all the security and counterterrorism cooperation that we receive from the Jordanians. It is very important in terms of our own security, and that partnership we expect to continue.
May 17, 2011
03:20 PM EST
Today, you might have seen news stories about waivers from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. There has been no shortage of confusion and deliberate obfuscation on this issue and we want to ensure you have the facts.
Under the Affordable Care Act, we have implemented new rules that phase out, by 2014, health insurance companies’ ability to slap restrictive annual dollar limits on the amount they will pay for your care. But between now and 2014, we also want to make sure workers are able to maintain their existing insurance, because on their own they would likely be shut out of the individual market or face unaffordable options. To do that, the Affordable Care Act allows the Department of Health and Human Services to issue temporary waivers from the annual limit provision of the law if it would disrupt access to existing insurance arrangements or adversely affect premiums, causing people to lose coverage. So far, we have granted 1,372 of these waivers to employers, health plans, and others in all 50 states, covering less than 2 percent of the insurance market and protecting coverage for more than 3.1 million Americans. We have been completely transparent about this process, announcing the waiver process in a regulation last summer, publishing clear guidance on the application process on our website, and posting a list of waivers we have granted on our website.
These temporary waivers will not be available beginning in 2014 when annual limits are banned and all Americans will have affordable coverage options. And millions of Americans – including many small business owners – will be able to shop for affordable coverage in new competitive marketplaces.
Heather ZichalMay 17, 2011
02:54 PM EST
From the beginning, this Administration has shown a commitment to protecting American families at the pump by taking steps to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. In March, the President announced a goal of reducing oil imports by a third by 2025, through a combination of increased domestic production, investment in alternative fuels, and increased efficiency in the vehicles we drive. As the President has made clear, there is no immediate fix for high gas prices. That said there are sensible steps we can take to protect families over the long term. In last week’s weekly address, the President laid out important steps that the Administration is taking to continue to expand responsible and safe domestic oil production. These include a number of sensible, bipartisan ideas that we can act on with existing authority-- like directing the Department of the Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, while respecting sensitive areas; speeding up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic; and creating new incentives for industry to develop their unused leases both on and offshore. About 57 percent of leased onshore acres and over 70 percent of leased offshore acres are currently inactive, and last year, of the nearly 37 million offshore acres offered for lease by the Federal government, only 2.4 million acres were leased by companies.