Barrasso: The Security of U.S. Territories is More Important Now Than Ever

February 9, 2023

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered opening remarks at a full committee hearing to discuss the state of the U.S. Territories. 

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Albert Bryan, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Honorable Lourdes Leon Guerrero, governor of Guam; the Honorable Lemanu P.S. Mauga, governor of American Samoa; the Honorable Arnold I. Palacios, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and the Honorable Pedro R. Pierluisi, governor of Puerto Rico. 

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thank you to all the governors for being here with us today. 

“It gives us a great opportunity to discuss the importance of the territories. 

“Our territories in the Pacific are on the frontlines of Chinese aggression. 

“As I have said before, Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific is a serious and growing threat.

“Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa are not only vital to our national security interests, they are also home to American citizens and nationals. 

“Their security is more important now than ever. 

“Guam is also home to several U.S. military installations. 

“It is key to maintaining our military power in the region. 

“Over time, China has ramped up its military threats against Guam. 

“It has conducted drills near the territory and has developed missiles that are capable of reaching the island. 

“The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is home to thousands of Americans. 

“This chain of islands, known for its rich history and beautiful beaches, is also important to our national security because of its proximity to East Asia. 

“Our partnership with Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands benefits not only the people of the territories but also the nation as a whole. 

“During a time when China is working to expand its economic and military influence, we must maintain a strong presence in the region. 

“China’s illegal global fishing operation has also impacted our territories in the Pacific. 

“The people of American Samoa regularly face this illegal assault. 

“They have suffered serious economic setbacks as a result of China’s fishing practices. 

“I look forward to hearing how they are responding to these illegal activities. 

“I am also interested to hear about the effectiveness of the U.S. Coast Guard, which now regularly patrol the waters of the western Pacific.

“The Freely Associated States, and the corresponding Compacts of Free Association, are also integral to the security of our territories and our strategic interests in the region. 

“These agreements are a central part of preserving international maritime security, maintaining geo-political stability, and countering Chinese hostility. 

“A number of the compacts will expire this year. 

“Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and other members of this committee on that issue going forward. 

“It is important to acknowledge that the governors before us today represent territories that are home to patriotic Americans, who enlist in our armed services at very high rates and serve with distinction. 

“We owe them a debt of gratitude. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all the governors for being here to testify.”