Ambassador-Designate to the Federated States of Micronesia

Peter Alan Prahar
Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
November 5, 2009

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, also known as the FSM. I am deeply grateful to the President and Secretary Clinton for their trust and confidence in nominating me. I look forward, if confirmed, to having the honor to represent the United States and to working with Congress to advance our interests in the FSM.

I would also like to introduce to the Committee my wife, Amy. Amy and I met in 1975 on the first day of the new school year at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, where she was a scholarship student from Hong Kong and I was attending on the G.I. Bill. Our joint effort to master the Japanese language led to a partnership and love that has endured for more than 32 years of marriage, including through numerous hardship assignments and the forced separations of life in the Foreign Service. If I am confirmed, Amy will accompany me to the FSM, where I am sure she will be a great asset in personal outreach to the Micronesian citizens, in ensuring our colleagues within the embassy know they belong to an organization that values their service to the United States, and in working with the diplomatic community.

If confirmed, this assignment will cap a long career in the Pacific community. I grew up in a small town on the Oregon coast that faces some of the same challenges found throughout the Pacific region: management of fisheries and other natural resources, stressed environments, unemployment, and unpredictable economic cycles. In the Air Force, I served as a Chinese linguist on Taiwan and in the Republic of Korea and followed that with university studies in Tokyo. In the Foreign Service, I have had one tour in China and two tours in Japan. More recently, I was the Director of the office responsible for developing and implementing criminal justice system reform and law enforcement development programs in China, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, and elsewhere in region. I will bring this extensive program management experience to bear on promoting U.S. interests in the FSM and enhancing our bilateral relationship with this remarkable nation.

Today, the FSM, one of the least populated countries in the world, and the United States, the most powerful, 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, provides the framework for much of our bilateral relationship. Its provisions ensure the security of the FSM and contribute to the security of the United States.

Under the Compact, citizens of the FSM can live and work freely in the United States. They can also serve in the U.S. military, as many have done and continue to do today, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several Micronesians have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States and others have been severely wounded. If confirmed as Ambassador, I pledge – both as a representative of the American people and as a proud veteran – to ensure that these soldiers and their families continue to receive the recognition and support they have earned from a grateful nation.

Under the Compact, the United States provides more than $90 million in annual assistance to the FSM through Fiscal Year 2023. Last year, total U.S. assistance to the country, including all federal services, programs, and grants, exceeded $130 million. If confirmed, I will work with our Micronesian partners to support their goal that this assistance promotes the economic advancement and budgetary self- reliance of the FSM. This assistance is intended to be an economic springboard as the FSM improves its business climate, fiscal policies, and capacity to govern, while reducing its dependence on recurrent, public sector expenditures supported by foreign assistance. If we are to meet these development goals by 2023 – which, in development terms, is very soon – we must ensure that programs in which we invest have clearly stated goals and objectives, agreed-upon benchmarks and performance indicators, and formal monitoring and evaluation plans that provide feedback on what is working and what is not, and how deficient areas can be improved.

At the same time, while insisting on reasonable safeguards for U.S. taxpayer money, we must be careful to avoid the impression that the most powerful country in the world is dictating to one of the smallest. We need to reaffirm that we seek the same results from the Compact’s investments to the FSM: a good educational system, improved public health, effective governmental services, an open business climate, and protection of the FSM’s unique and lovely environment.

More than 30 U.S. government agencies conduct programs in the FSM. If confirmed, I will maintain effective coordination with these agencies and ensure that assistance efforts are appropriately coordinated and implemented with transparency and accountability. I will work especially closely with the Department of the Interior, which has primary responsibility for implementing the Compact’s economic provisions. I will also encourage the Department of Defense’s Pacific Command to continue its security and humanitarian assistance activities in the FSM. Just last year, for example, as part of the Pacific Partnership men and women of the USNS Mercy provided medical services to more than 17,000 Micronesians. These activities strengthen the bonds of friendship that undergird our entire relationship with the FSM. I would also like to ensure that U.S. assistance is visible and complementary to other regional donors.

In closing, if confirmed, I pledge to promote and protect U.S. interests in the Federated States of Micronesia and to lead our talented American and Micronesian staff at the U.S. Embassy with dedication. I believe that coordination between the U.S. executive and legislative branches will be important to this endeavor, and if confirmed, I will be sure to work with the Committee and the Congress. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and would be pleased to answer your questions.