Closing Remarks Joint Committee Meeting
Peter A. Prahar — Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America
November 17, 2011 — J&B Restaurant, Sokeks, Pohnpei
Title III: Partnership for Community Development
Secretary Robert, Secretary Itimai, Governor Jackson, Lieutenant Governor Edward, Ambassador Mida, and other members of the FSM delegation. Also Rear Admiral Bushong and Captain White.
First some thank yous.
Let me begin tonight by thanking all the presenters that we heard today. The briefings were professional and informative, reflecting, I think, the professionalism and pride of the briefers. I know all of them wanted to talk at length about their work – which is also their passion – and I appreciate, too, the effort to fit the material into the time allotted.
Next, let me thank Assistant Secretary Ricky Cantero for coordinating and making the necessary arrangements for this meeting with my staff. Also Dave Deleo at PACOM, who handled the arrangements at this end.
We’ve heard lots of examples about the close FSM-US working relationship today but let me give you another one. Ricky and I were the first to arrive this morning and, working closely together, we managed to clean the coffee pot, get it plugged in and turned on, and brewed the first pot of coffee. It may have been a bit strong, so I also want to thank those who drank that first pot, not knowing Ricky and I had no idea what we were doing. I hope you will be able to sleep this evening.
On a more serious note, when I first arrived in the FSM nearly two years ago, I told President Mori that I had a strategic vision with three elements. I realized that an ambassador can be pulled a million different ways and that if I did not clearly lay out what my goals were, I’d end up like the proverbial hamster on a wheel: lots of motion, no movement.
My strategic vision has three goals: to ensure the security of the US and the FSM; to help the FSM achieve its economic and other development goals; and to nurture the special relationship that has traditionally existed between the people of the United States and the people of the FSM.
As I was listening to today’s briefings, I can say without doubt or fear of contraction that JCM-related activities – everyone one of them – fit perfectly within my mission’s strategic vision.
First, my Mission works to nurture the special and profound relationship between the peoples of the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia. I only have to look at the smiling faces of the kids in the pictures from Pacific Partnership 2011, or from the CCAD, to see this special and profound relationship. I only have to look at the serious and determined faces in the photographs of the young men and women enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces to see this special and profound relationship. I only have to look at the photos of the Memorial Day Ceremony at Pohnpei International Airport to see this special and profound relationship. I have only to look at the longest running Christmas Airdrop in the world – the 60th in a row this year – to see this special and profound relationship. I only have to look at the many expensive and risky search and rescue missions conducted to locate and save FSM citizens to see this special and profound relationship. This special and profound relationship, indeed, underlies all the activities we discussed today – and the spirit of friendship and partnership in which they were discussed.
Second, my Mission works to help the FSM achieve its economic and other development goals. Look what Pacific Partnership 2011 and CCAD have done. Look at the photos of the kids going to school in renovated classrooms. Look at the all-but-brand-new Pohnpei Public Library. See the Substance Abuse and Mental Health facility at the Pohnpei State Hospital. See the photos of the 16 apprentices at work side-by-side with their U.S. counterparts – and now friends – on these projects. As Secretary Robert said this afternoon, using an adjective that perhaps people of my generation don’t use very often: AWESOME. Indeed, these programs were “awesome.”
Also, I was so happy to hear from Rear Admiral Bushong, that about $1 billion in construction work was going on in Guam independently of the so-called Guam military buildup. I also urge the national and state leaders of the FSM to seize with both fists the training and employment opportunities created by construction activities now underway in Guam and later during the Guam military buildup. This activity is a game changer for the Pacific Region and, as in any competition, victory will go to the swift and to the well-prepared. The CCAD program – and the HAFSM program, too – will help prepare young men and women who wish to participate and qualify to participate in these programs. And to state and national officials I say: The apprentices deserve the support of the scholarship boards. I was delighted to hear that eight of the 16 apprentices on CCAD rotation in Pohnpei have already been awarded scholarships for further training.
I was particularly impressed, too, by the briefing on the HAFSM program, including the briefer’s efforts to detail the financial advantages of using this program. I know some believe HAFSM is too expensive – more expensive than local or imported private contractors. This simply isn’t true. Plus you have the advantage of dealing with a professional organization with professional standards and a commitment to doing the job right – without a lot of hassles and mutual recriminations or any risk of the work not being completed. Beyond the Pohnpei State Hospital project, I urge state and national leaders to take advantage of the HAFSM program for additional projects to achieve your development goals. It’s another implementation mechanism available to you, one that is proven and proven cost-effective.
Finally, I must confess to being saddened by the briefing on the ASVAB. More than 90 percent of the test takers just plain failed. Unfortunately, the dismal results we see on that exam are perfectly consistent with the results from the College of Micronesia Entrance Exam and the National Standards Tests. How far we have to go to improve educational outcomes in the FSM! I hope the ASVAB and other test results would be a wakeup call for public officials, communities, educators, parents, and the children to the crisis in education in the FSM, particularly in grades K-8. The FSM will never – and I emphasize never – achieve its development goals if it has only lost generations of students to draw on in the future.
Finally, my Mission works to ensure the security of the FSM and, through that, the security of the US and our other allies and friends in the region.
Of course, under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for defending the FSM, to use the language of the Compact, “as the U.S. and its citizens are defended.” – the highest level security commitment we can make. There’s no doubt about that commitment at all – none.
But I told President Mori almost two years ago, that my Mission would take a broad view of security.
I recognized, for example, the need to effectively protect the FSM’s most important natural resource: the last healthy tuna fishery in the world. This fishery is today threatened by unlicensed and unregulated fishing. We know that fisheries can collapse quickly and irreversibly, and permanently deprive countries of both food and income. We must continue to tackle this issue with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.
I also know we need to help the FSM at multiple levels to better prepare for natural disasters, which we all know are inevitable.
Finally, the U.S. and the FSM are working closely to combat transnational criminal activities. The Ship Rider Agreement has opened a large amount of ship traffic to enforcement opportunities to inhibit transfers of materials potentially of use to terrorist organizations, to prevent the illegal exploitation of resources taken from FSM’s EEZ, and to protect the flow of legitimate trade. JIAFT-West assistance to the Transnational Crime Unit and to other law enforcement organizations in the FSM has improved their capacities enormously. It has also created strong counterparts for law enforcement in other nations to work with. We will all succeed or fail together in the effort to combat money laundering, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes.
So, tonight, I’m a happy man! JCM-related activities were a grand slam home run in 2011.
I’m already looking forward to hearing what we’ve accomplished – together and in partnership – the next time we meet.
Thank you all for all you do for the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia.