Ambassador Robert A. Riley Joint Committee Meeting 2017 Remarks

Good morning. It is a pleasure to address you all today. The annual JCM is a great opportunity to reflect on our bilateral security relationship, to plan together future activities, and to fortify further our already strong defense commitments. We have seen recently an increased level of engagement, and I anticipate that this will intensify further over the next few years. You will be hearing about some new initiatives during this JCM, as well as our many ongoing activities. While there is no overlap between Title II and Title III of the Compact and it is clear that those lines will not be crossed, it is important to emphasize that, as we approach 2023 and the nature of United States’ financial assistance to the FSM changes, there will nonetheless be no change in the total commitment of the United States to the defense of the FSM, and that this commitment continues in perpetuity.

The U.S. and the FSM have a strong, long standing and close relationship that dates back to the liberation of the FSM during the grueling and bloody war of the Pacific during World War II. Significant military engagements took place in all four states, and they are commemorated every September with state Liberation Days. There are also commemorations for other important World War II battles such as Operation Hailstone in Chuuk. Our relationship endures, and the Pacific Command’s current active and increasing engagement with the FSM is a sign of the importance that we attach to the relationship.

As you know, the United States has full authority and responsibility for the security and defense of the FSM. The United States is committed to defending the FSM as it would its own territory and that commitment will continue in perpetuity. There is no sunset to our dedication to the defense of the FSM; the U.S. Armed Forces will always be there to protect the FSM and its people.

We have had already had many important discussions regarding our continued security engagement in the FSM; these conversations will continue, and broaden and deepen over time; there are many topics to cover; the tempo of operations has increased over the last year, and they will continue to accelerate in the years ahead. We hope to provide here more definition to future PACOM engagement in the North Pacific theater. During these important JCM meetings, the FSM and the United States coordinate future military engagements ranging from ship visits to exercises and operations. We also discuss security sector concerns and set priorities. Recent topics at the Joint Committee Meetings have included port security, unexploded ordinance, maritime domain awareness, and countering transnational crime, among many others. Possible new areas for engagement will also be discussed.

I had the privilege of participating in the USS Momsen ship visit last year, the first time since independence that a US Navy ship stopped in every state. More recently, just last September, as part of 3rd Fleet’s Triggerfish 2017, the USS Brunswick made lengthy stops in Pohnpei and Chuuk, where they conducted important sea-port and airfield surveys. These surveys will help facilitate future exercises and military visits by determining what ships and aircraft can be provided access. To help build capacity to respond to humanitarian crisis, Pacific Fleet’s Pacific Partnership mission will visit Yap State in 2018. This mission will assist in building capacity in medical, dental, engineering, and veterinary skills.  The Pacific Air Force will also continue this year its long running humanitarian assistance mission, Operation Christmas Drop, starting in ten days, and which has taken place every year since 1952.  Christmas Drop practices air re-supply capabilities, while at the same time delivering holiday gifts and supplies by parachute to the outer islands throughout FSM.   In response to security sector training needs, yet more new events will be introduced this year.  For example, Koa Moana 18 will be executed in partnership with Marine Forces Pacific.  Koa Moana, which means ‘Ocean Warrior’ in the Hawaiian language, will practice various military skills.

One of the most beloved US military programs in the FSM, the Construction Civic Action Detail, or CCAD, continues its fine work around the FSM. The FSM hosts the CCAD team, consisting of U.S. Navy Seabees, to work on various community service projects such as renovation of schools, medical clinics, libraries, and other community facilities. The CCAD team performs this work continuously in FSM, concentrating on a single state for one year before rotating to the next state.  In addition to the CCAD team, another group of Seabees is assisting USAID with recovery efforts in Ulithi from 2015’s devastating Typhoon Maysak. The FSM is also contracting with the Army Corps of Engineers to help build FSM infrastructure management capacity.

A healthy fish stock is vital to the economic health of the FSM, and important as well for its economic development. The United States assists in patrolling FSM’s vast EEZ to help protect its valuable fish and other ocean resources. In 2008, a cooperative Shiprider agreement was initiated between the FSM and the United States. This effort was expanded in 2014 through the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative’s (OMSI) ship-rider agreements, so that USCG and FSM Maritime Law Enforcement personnel could embark U.S. Navy vessels to carry out marine law enforcement objectives.  Navy ships have embarked 21 ship-riders in the 14 OMSI missions that have taken place since 2014.   These patrols help enforce compliance with fishing laws and combat poaching.

The reciprocal nature of our defense relationship can be best seen by the very high U.S. military enlistment rate within the FSM. FSM citizens enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces in greater number per capita than in any of the 50 U.S. States. In particular, we honor the 10 service FSM members who have given their lives in the line of duty, as well as all of those FSM citizens who have served before, and those who are serving now. They exemplify the strength, solemnity, and sincerity of our close friendship.

Let us continue, through this year’s JCM and throughout the year, to move forward cooperatively, and to expand our security ties. I hope that you are as enthusiastic as I am about how much we have done together in the past, and how much more we can do in the future.