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Rep. Case urges congress to pass amendment renewing COFA, military rights in Western Pacific : Maui Now


Ed Case. PC: Courtesy

A letter urging the immediate inclusion of the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation unanimously recommended for House approval by the Committee on Natural Resources on Nov. 8, 2023, was signed by US Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-1) and 47 other members of congress on Wednesday.

The Compacts of Free Association (COFA) include non-expiring provisions securing US military rights in strategic areas of the Pacific in exchange for direct grant assistance and federal services to the three Freely Associated States (FAS), according to the letter.

The COFA Amendments Act of 2023 recommended by Rep. Case would update and extend COFA provisions for 20 years.


Under the COFA, Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) grant the United States basing rights, operational control, and the right to deny military access by third nations to the FAS. The US is also responsible for these nations’ national defense.

These security and defense right give the US control of an area of ocean in the Western Pacific as large as the continental United States. In return, the US provides direct grant assistance payments and certain federal services without requirement of reimbursement.

The economic assistance provisions of the Compact for RMI and FSM expired at the end of fiscal year 2023, last September, after the previous 20-year agreement. Palau is funded at a reduced level until the end of FY24.


After negotiations under two administrations, all three nations signed agreements to renew the Compacts for 20 additional years, starting from FY24. Total funding for all three agreements is expected to be $7.1B paid over 20 years ($889 million – Palau, $3.3 billion – FSM, $2.3 billion – RMI and a $634 million US Postal Service offset to continue domestic rate mail service), according to the proposal’s funding breakdown last year.

“Pacific Island nations understandably view these agreements as litmus tests for United States partnership,” stated the letter. “Each day that we do not pass this legislation into law is an opportunity missed, and an opening for our enemies to sow doubt about our viability as a partner and our strength as an ally.”

The COFA Amendments Acts of 2023 – recommended for House approval by the Committee on Natural Resources as H.J. Res. 96 last year – now awaits passage by the US House and Senate.


“Congress must approve the recently renegotiated Compacts of Free Association as soon as possible,” said Rep. Case. “The Compacts are central not only to our longstanding relationships with Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, but to our country’s standing in the broader Pacific. The delay in providing Congressional approval is being used to sow doubt as to whether we can be trusted to stand by our commitments to our Pacific partners. The necessary legislative measure is fully vetted and ready for final approval in the House and should be approved now.”

Source: Maui News

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