White House announces nominee for Ambassador to Palau
Joel Ehrendreich “a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of counselor, currently serves as Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State,” and is the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Palau, according to a March 20 release from the White House.
Previously, Ehrendreich served as director of Regional and Security Policy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. His career also included an appointment as consul general at the U.S. Consulate General in Okinawa. He also served in the Peace Corps in Niger. Originally from Nebraska, Ehrendreich speaks Japanese, and holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, according to the White House.
Other U.S. embassies still without an Ambassador and with a chargé d’affaires (an interim appointment) include the U.S. Embassy to the Marshall Islands and the U.S. Embassy to the Federated States of Micronesia.
In other news from the region, Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command; visited Pohnpei, according to the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia. Aquilino and U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires Alissa Bibb met with President David W. Panuelo and Vice President Aren B. Palik “to discuss future challenges, shared goals and security commitments,” the U.S. Embassy said on March 20
Hensel Phelps Construction Co. was awarded a $94.72 million firm-fixed-price task order for construction services to renovate Building 51 at Radio Barrigada, Guam. The work provides for renovation of existing spaces, construction of site infrastructure and staging/assembly areas, installation of 13-meter and 24-meter antennas, and other specified services to support antenna and radome* integration. The task order also contains five unexercised options, which if exercised, would increase the cumulative contract value to $135.37 million. Work is expected to be completed by September 2025. The award was made by Naval Facilities Engineering and Systems Command Marianas, with three bids received.
*Radome equipment is a dome protecting radar or other equipment.
The Office of Compact Management and the Department of Transportation, Communications, & Infrastructure of the Federated States of Micronesia received news March 28 of three infrastructure grants through the FSM’s Compact of Free Association with the U.S., totaling $64.59 million.
They are $41.53 million for the Kosrae State Hospital Project, $12.51 million for the Yap Public Services Corp.’s Water Treatment Plant, and $10.54 million for the Yap Public Services Corp.’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The Office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, advised April 1 of the following grants for the Northern Mariana Islands from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs:
US military in Guam could take a hit to allowances
According to a March 29 release, James C. Moylan, Guam’s delegate to Congress; said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State Lloyd J. Austin III regarding the news that Guam (and Hawaii) cost of living allowances would be slashed. Austin said one of his assistant secretaries is reviewing the waiver request submitted by Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson, which would take the OCOLA levels back to the amounts provided prior to March 15. Moylan spoke with Austin at a House Armed Service Committee hearing on the fiscal 2024 Department of Defense budget.
U.S. military personnel in Guam and Hawaii were told they may lose more than half of their cost-of-living allowances — hundreds of dollars per month in many cases.
The Defense Travel Management Office says on its website that “Living Pattern surveys are “used to measure shopping patterns of Uniformed Service members stationed in the continental United States.
Most importantly, the office says that “Data collected will assist in the determination of Overseas and CONUS Cost of Living Allowances (COLA). Participation is voluntary, but strongly encouraged to ensure aggregate data accurately represents the shopping patterns of Service members in CONUS.”
The Defense Travel Management Office is a “directorate of the Defense Support Services Center, under the Defense Human Resources Activity.”
According to the office, the most recent survey closed on March 31, 2021. The next survey opens Jan. 1, 2024.
According to the Stars and Stripes, which broke the story DoD “conducted a living-pattern survey in Hawaii from February through mid-March in 2022 and collected data for the Retail Price Schedule from March through June 2022.
“Unit commanders in Hawaii were briefed in early fall on proposed cuts to cost-of-living allowances based on the survey’s findings.
“In November, the Defense Department announced it would conduct a second “do-over” survey. According to a Feb. 15 Defense Department memo, the results of the second survey changed little from the original one,” according to the Stars and Stripes.
Joint Region Marianas in Guam, said in a Facebook post on March 20 that it was “working closely with Indo-Pacific Command to advocate for an appeal of the new Overseas Cost of Living Allowance (OCOLA) Adjustment Policy for Guam.”
Active-duty personnel in Guam are faced with a 66% decrease, and the regional command said in the Facebook post that “we strongly encourage service members and their families to prepare for an OCOLA decrease, which is anticipated to reflect in the April 1 pay.
“The change in pay will take effect on March 16, 2023,” the post said.
The U.S. military provides a helpful tool for its personnel to calculate what their Overseas COLA will be – based on locality, years of service and pay grade.
The current level of pay may affect the willingness of staff to seek or accept “overseas” assignments where their pay would be drastically less than they would earn in the continental U.S., or indeed to remain in the military.
According to Journal files, military personnel in government-owned, government-leased or privately leased housing were asked to take part in an annual voluntary survey to gauge satisfaction, according to a Nov. 30, 2020, release from the U.S. Department of Defense.
An “independent third party” conducted the survey across all service branches.
Military personnel have complained about the condition of housing across the nation, to include Guam. Personnel have also sued with allegations that range from mold to pest infestation.
The U.S. Army survey released in July 2019 showed a drop in satisfaction in all housing categories.
From March 1 to 25, of a total of 50,756 visitors to Guam, the island saw 30,705 visitors from Korea, 8,761 from Japan, 6,835 from the U.S./Hawaii, and 1,428 from the Northern Mariana Islands, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau.
For February 2023, visitor arrivals to Palau (excluding residents, students, employments, flight crews and transits) totaled 2,415, with 928 visitors from Taiwan, 634 from the USA/Canada and 331 from Japan.
And also …
Guam Community College will hold public meetings on April 6 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on April 7 at the same times at Room 3108 of GCC’s Allied Health Building, to allow for questions and comments regarding the required GED Testing Service LLC fee increase for the administration of GED testing through the college. The current fee rate has remained unchanged since Sept. 8, 2015, according to GCC.
To attend virtually go to: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83703207982?pwd=aWhXaWlicHp5WDFtTDNJODZsTzZSZz09
Southern Airways withdraws as operator of Marianas Southern Airways
Citing the unwillingness of Gov. Arnold I. Palacios to honor the contract signed by the previous administration of the Northern Mariana Islands, Southern Airways ceased operating Marianas Southern flights on April 1. The airlines began doing business in the NMI and Guam in August 2022. Palacios was unwilling to meet with airline officials, a release said, to see if the relationship could be salvaged. Employees will be offered relocations or jobs at the Southern Airways call center, the release said. mbj