The first meeting of the CNMI–Department of Defense Coordinating Council has been completed.
Based upon the preferred and agreed recommendation during the 902 talks to further discuss and find resolution to outstanding issues within the CNMI-Department of Defense relationship, the council further serves to ensure due diligence of current high level and future issues are discussed and developed in a balanced manner.
According to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, maintaining dialogue on key Defense issues, especially in regards to the CNMI Joint Military Training and divert airfield plans, is crucial.
“This is a supplemental council that will oversee issues where further concerns need to be brought to a higher level with key stakeholders for resolution,” Torres said.
Peter J. Potochney, acting assistant secretary for Installations and Environment and Coordinating Council co-chair, added that open dialogue to offer recommendations that reflect the needs of the community and the priorities of both sides is a long-term process.
“The CNMI-DoD Coordinating Council will improve communication channels and long-term goals,” Potochney said.
Torres and Potochney assured that the CDCC will not replicate the 902 process.
“I have expressed to…Potochney that the CNMI’s position is this council should first be established and functioning so that informed discussions concerning DoD matters can begin,” Torres said, adding that he also informed Joint Region Marianas commander Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield and Pacific Command CJMT representatives on the initial process.
In a letter to Torres earlier this year, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said the 902 consultations represented a significant foundation for improving communication between the CNMI and Defense.
Work emphasized that the council will provide a forum for both the CNMI and DoD to have strategic-level, open, and respectful communication enabling DoD’s missions while preserving the CNMI’s culture, way of life, and economy.
Other council members are Work as co-chair, Potochney, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment and Vice Chair Rich Hartley, Director of Pacific Division (Plans, Policy and Operations) Gayle Von Eckartsberg, Maj. Gen. Kevin Fenton, Chatfield.
Torres designated the following for CNMI membership to the CDCC: legal counsel Wesley Bogdan, Matthew Adams, Senate President Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan), Tinian Mayor JP San Nicolas, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, and Northern Islands Mayor Vicente Santos as well as other key representatives on an as-need basis.
“The council will better address communication shortfalls as well as the economic, environment and workforce development interests of the CNMI. Future policies and regulations will be discussed with due diligence in a fair and consistent manner in order to ensure the CNMI’s economic stability and our way of life,” Torres said.