~ Video of Senator Hirono’s opening remarks and full question line are available to download here ~
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, introduced Admiral Samuel J. Paparo, Jr. at a full Committee hearing considering his nomination to serve as the next Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). As Commander of INDOPACOM, Admiral Paparo would be responsible for all military operations in the Pacific, a priority theater with great—and growing—strategic importance for the U.S and our partners and allies.
“This area of responsibility is one of the most critical to our national defense,” said Senator Hirono during her remarks. “In this role, Admiral Paparo would also be in charge of overseeing the military’s presence in Hawaii, which is home to all branches of the military with 14 key military installations and more than 55,000 active duty service members and their families.”
Senator Hirono also highlighted the crucial role that Admiral Paparo would serve in ensuring the successful permanent closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and facilitating transparent, open communications with the community.
“I continue to hear from families impacted by Red Hill and the continuing impacts they face—underscoring the need for an INDOPACOM Commander familiar with this issue and the work that lies ahead to permanently, safely close Red Hill and remediate the area while protecting our communities,” continued Senator Hirono.
During the hearing, Senator Hirono also pressed Admiral Paparo on several priorities, including the importance of supporting the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) negotiations, addressing infrastructure challenges in military facilities in Hawaii and across the country, and restoring trust between the people of Hawaii and the U.S. military.
The Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on Admiral Paparo’s nomination in the weeks ahead before his nomination is sent to the full Senate for final confirmation.
The full transcript of Senator Hirono’s opening remarks is below. Video of Senator Hirono’s opening remarks and question line are available to download here.
Mr. Chairman, I’m here today to introduce Admiral Samuel Paparo, President Biden’s nomination for the next Commander of U.S. INDOPACOM, and as the Chairman noted, this area of responsibility is one of the most critical to our national defense. As Commander of INDOPACOM, Admiral Paparo would be responsible for all military operations in the Pacific, a priority theater with great—and growing—strategic importance for the U.S. and our partners and allies.
If confirmed, Admiral Paparo will be responsible for operations in the Pacific and integrating multiple components including U.S. Forces in Korea and Japan, U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, U.S. Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Army Pacific. He will continue protecting 65% of the world’s oceans—this is why the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility is so important because it is geographically the largest combatant command. So, in addition to 65% of the world’s oceans that you have to oversee, you will be overseeing 66 significant defense sites, which are home to 375,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel serving in the region. In this role, Admiral Paparo would also be in charge of overseeing the military’s presence in Hawaii, which is home to all branches of the military with 14 key military installations and more than 55,000 active duty service members and their families.
Hawaii’s central Pacific location has been a significant military location since Pearl Harbor was established in 1899 and continues to be invaluable for strategic defense in the Pacific. As the senior military officer on island, I will look to Admiral Paparo to lead on all issues in Hawaii, including the successful permanent closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu and transparent, open communications with the community. While we have made great progress in safely defueling Red Hill just this week, new reports have emerged regarding tap water and air quality issues from Navy water system users near Red Hill, leading to testing of the water.
I continue to hear from families impacted by Red Hill and the continuing impacts they face—underscoring the need for an INDOPACOM Commander familiar with this issue and the work that lies ahead to permanently, safely close Red Hill and remediate the area while protecting our communities. I have shared these concerns with Admiral Paparo and my expectations for him if he is confirmed. INDOPACOM command is a critical role, especially as we work to counter threats across the region from Russia, China, North Korea, and others. And that’s why it’s important we have a Commander who understands the region, the threats we face, and the communities in which our troops serve.
Mr. Chairman, Admiral Paparo has dedicated his adult life to serving our nation, with more than 37 years of service in the Navy. And as U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander based in Hawaii, he currently oversees all naval operations in the Pacific. Before becoming PACFLEET Commander, Admiral Paparo served on numerous operational and staff tours around the world, and was also a TOPGUN fighter pilot. I know he will speak more about his background in his remarks, but suffice it to say his experience is extensive. That experience informs his leadership mentality—to quote him, “never ready enough”—which I appreciate as Chair of the Readiness Subcommittee. That mentality will serve him well, if confirmed. As the next INDOPACOM Commander, he will have his work cut out for him.
In addition to ensuring the readiness and operational capabilities of troops in our priority theater, the next INDOPACOM commander will face many issues with wide impacts on the State of Hawaii. In addition to Red Hill’s closure, Admiral Paparo will also play an important role in the renegotiation of land-leases between the Department and the State of Hawaii for several critical training areas, including Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. These negotiations will significantly impact the way that training is conducted in the State and could put at risk the continued training of land forces in Hawaii, if not successfully and mutually concluded.
An understanding of and appreciation for Hawaii’s unique culture and history are vital to any INDOPACOM Commander’s success. Having lived and worked in Hawaii for several years, Admiral Paparo has shared with me his interest in developing Hawaii’s defense industrial workforce and collaborating more closely with Hawaii’s universities and institutions. I’ve appreciated having strong working relationships with Admiral Aquilino and his predecessors at INDOPACOM and, if confirmed, I look forward to working with Admiral Paparo to support our troops, our communities, and our national security. Thank you.