Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you today as President Obama’s nominee to be the Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). I am deeply grateful to President Obama and Secretary Clinton for their trust and confidence in nominating me.
I wish my parents had lived to see this moment; they would have been as thrilled and as proud as I am.
If confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity this assignment will provide to return to the Asia-Pacific region. I have fond memories of my service in Korea and the Philippines.
My early background was in education, and I went on to study law. I remain interested in education and rule of law issues. Upon admission to the New York State Bar, I joined the U.S. Army. As a JAG Corps captain I had the privilege of serving in the International Law Division at Headquarters U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, Germany. While in Germany I passed the Foreign Service Exam and have been a member of the Foreign Service since 1981. My three children were born while I was serving overseas and are truly global citizens.
Currently, I am the Diplomat in Residence for the Midwest, based out of Chicago. My challenge is to recruit future generations of Foreign Service Officers and to be a resource and foreign policy expert to students in my region. This position has a strong public diplomacy component which complements the many years of service I have had as a consular officer and political officer. Several of my positions, including service as Deputy Principal Officer in Frankfurt, required a great deal of interaction with other United States government agencies. Frankfurt was often cited as an example of how interagency coordination and cooperation should work. We had the advantage of sharing a building and seeing each other on a daily basis so we developed excellent working relationships. If confirmed, I will seek to apply my interagency experience, which will be critically important in the FSM, where so many domestic federal agencies operate side by side with foreign affairs and defense colleagues.
The FSM consists of over 600 mountainous islands and low-lying coral atolls spread over a million square miles of Pacific Ocean. It is one of the least populated countries in the world. The landscapes are beautiful and the people are friendly. Today, the FSM and the United States enjoy a close and unique relationship.
The United Nations entrusted the United States with the administration of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. In 1986, the FSM and the United States signed the Compact of Free Association and the FSM became independent. This Compact, which was amended in 2004 to extend economic assistance for an additional 20 years, provides the framework for much of our bilateral relationship. Under the Compact, citizens of the FSM can live, study, and work in the United States without a visa. Mutual security of our nations is an underlying element of the special relationship between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia. The FSM has no military of its own. Under the Compact the United States has committed to defend Micronesia as if it were part of our own territory. Citizens of Micronesia serve in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than citizens of the United States. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and others have been wounded, some with life-long injuries. I would like to specifically note that President Mori’s daughter and one of Vice President Alik’s sons are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces today. If confirmed, I pledge to ensure that these soldiers and their families continue to receive the recognition and support they have earned from a grateful nation.
To help achieve the Compact goal of economic self-sufficiency, the United States will provide the Government of the FSM over $90 million a year in direct economic assistance through FY 2023. This assistance is directed toward six sectors: health, education, infrastructure to support health and education, public sector capacity building, private sector development and the environment. Each year, U.S. assistance to the country – including all federal services, programs, and grants – exceeds $130 million.
If confirmed, I will work with the FSM to help attain its Compact development goals; these include a significant increase in the standard of living of the citizens of the FSM and a reduction in their economy’s dependence on public sector employment funded by foreign contributions. To reach those goals I will seek to improve the business climate, fiscal policies, and capacity to govern, while reducing dependence on foreign assistance. I will also seek to ensure that U.S. assistance programs are implemented consistent with well-informed assessments from those on the ground. I will continue to work with others who are concerned with the economic impact of Compact State migrants on U.S. states and territories.
If confirmed, I will coordinate closely with the Department of the Interior,
which has primary responsibility for implementing the Compact’s economic provisions. I also look forward to working with the Department of Defense’s Pacific Command on continued security and humanitarian assistance activities in the FSM. I will also continue our close cooperation with the United States Coast Guard to implement the Shiprider agreement with FSM and other maritime security arrangements. These activities strengthen the bonds of friendship that undergird our entire relationship with the FSM. I will also work to ensure that U.S. assistance is visible and recognized, and complements the efforts of other regional donors. If confirmed, my overarching goal will be to strengthen the positive relationship our two countries have enjoyed for decades and to support the people and government of the FSM as they work towards a more prosperous future.
In closing, I can think of no greater honor or opportunity than to lead the U.S. Mission in the Federated States of Micronesia and work with our valued Micronesian friends and allies on these and other important issues. It is a time of renewed focus on our role in the Pacific and I am excited to be part of it. If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with this Committee, the Congress, and others in the U.S. government who seek to invigorate our relationship with Micronesia, across a range of interests relating to security, good governance, economic and budgetary self-reliance, health, education, and environmental protection. I believe that coordination between the executive and legislative branches will be important to this endeavor. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and would be pleased to answer your questions.