Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice L. Jacobs
Swearing-In Ceremony Remarks
Ben Franklin Room
Department of State
July 22, 2008, 12:00 p.m.
Mr. Deputy Secretary, family, friends and honored guests, It is a great honor to stand before you today. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to President Bush and Secretary Rice for nominating me and the Senate for confirming me to be Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.
I also want to thank the Deputy Secretary for participating in today’s ceremony and for his support in our work together over the years. I want to give special thanks to my son, Eric, and to my mother, Oma, brother, Larry, brother-in-law, Rob, and his wife, Ann, and children Sarah, Josh, and Julia for being here today and for all their love and support over the years.
This day would not be possible without the love and support of my husband Ken. His unfailing patience, understanding and wise counsel over the past 23 years have helped keep me going. I would also like to thank all of my friends and colleagues for joining us today. And a special welcome to members of the 140th A-100 class who are here.
It is an exciting time to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. As the Deputy Secretary noted in his remarks, CA is a fundamental part of the Department’s mission. We protect the lives and interests of American citizens overseas, and we enhance our nation’s security through the proper adjudication of visas and passports.
We touch lives every day by assisting Americans abroad, reuniting families, and facilitating the travel of millions of visitors to the United States. What we do is of enormous interest to the American public, Congress and the press. How we do it forms lasting impressions of the United States Government and the country as a whole.
With a budget of over two billion dollars and some 10,000 employees and contractors working in some 300 offices around the world and in 19 domestic passport agencies and two visa processing centers, the Bureau of Consular Affairs could be compared to a Fortune 500 business.
In reality, CA is more like a public utility because our services are mandated by law and we must be prepared to provide timely and courteous service to our customers. As we have carried out our mission, we have risen to and met some difficult challenges in recent years.
September 11, 2001 changed our Bureau as it changed the country. In the aftermath of those terrible events, the Bureau of Consular Affairs worked tirelessly to enhance the security of the visa process for our citizens and international visitors alike.
At the same time, we made sure that we kept our country’s doors open to legitimate travelers, so that foreign visitors can come to see our people and our country for themselves.
We essentially rebuilt the visa process after 9/11, improving visa security and decision-making through advanced technologies, new partnerships with other agencies and revamped procedures. Our hard work paid off – last year we issued a record-breaking number of student and exchange visitor visas.
Travel document requirements for American citizens also changed after 9/11. Faced with record demand for passports, we have turned to creative technological and staffing solutions, developed a new business model and expanded facilities to ensure we continue to provide the American public with the most secure and reliable travel document on the planet.
Meeting passport demand also includes the requirement to protect the personal data entrusted to us by the American traveling public. As Assistant Secretary, I am deeply committed to improving safeguards to ensure that passport records are properly protected.
We are meeting our most fundamental duty the protection of American citizens overseas -- by providing services around the cycle of life to millions of Americans who live and work and travel overseas each year.
We created a comprehensive program to assist American victims of crime or terrorism overseas. We implemented the Hague Adoption Convention. We developed a means for American citizens to reach us online and better ways for us to track them in times of crisis.
We know we have achieved much we can be proud of. But we also know we face some compelling challenges. Demand for visa services is growing in every region of the world, and by double digits in places like China, India and Mexico.
We’re rolling out a brand new travel document – a secure passport card – to meet the passport needs of the millions of our citizens who live along our borders and cross them every day. We must continue to hone our crisis management capabilities, to be prepared for crises born of civil unrest, natural disasters or global pandemics.
The issues we face as a nation, as a Department and as a Bureau are complex, and I do not underestimate the management, security and public diplomacy challenges they present.
Throughout my 28 years of service, I have seen first-hand the outstanding work of the people of this Bureau. We have many
courageous, moving, and inspiring stories to tell such as:
and our consulates in Lahore and Karachi who worked with each other and with other diplomatic missions to return an American
citizen child who had been abducted to Pakistan back to his mother in Canada;
to acquire from Spanish authorities a list of hundreds of sexual predators and added that list to our worldwide database,
enabling us to thwart the travel of criminals and stimulating interagency discussions in Washington on this important subject.
These stories, and hundreds of others like them that we hear about each year, reflect the highest standards of the Foreign Service, and of consular work.
I am confident that with the talent, heart and dedication to service displayed every day by the members of what I have come to regard as the world’s finest consular corps, we will succeed in the tasks to come. I take on the responsibilities of Assistant Secretary with great pride and respect for the tenacity and leadership of my predecessors, Mary Ryan and Maura Harty. Both were committed to public service and to the Consular Bureau and function.
As Assistant Secretary, I hope to continue their legacies of commitment and leadership. I will focus my energies and the talent of the Consular Affairs family
to fulfill our continuing responsibilities and reach new goals. I am proud to serve in this position with this outstanding team. I look forward to working with all of you to serve the leadership of the Department and the American people.