The number “2023” is getting talked about more as the date approaches. This is the last year for grant funding under the Compact of Free Association. It is also the year that RMI access to some US federal programs ends or changes.
The recently issued US Government Accountability Office report on the RMI and FSM transition from Compact funding to reliance on trust fund revenues included a 13-page review of which US programs and services will continue and which end. The report shows the heavy reliance of the Marshall Islands on US federally funded programs in many areas of government service provision.
The GAO report points out that while Compact sector and audit grants are scheduled to end in 2023, funding under the RMI military use and operating rights agreement (MUORA) will continue as long as the agreement for use of Kwajalein is in place. This means that the RMI will continue receiving $7.2 million, partially adjusted for inflation, every year for special needs at Ebeye and Kwajalein Atoll. In addition, rental payments for Kwajalein landowners will continue. The US government estimates the annual rental payment will be $23.6 million in 2023. The MUORA continues until 2066 and can be extended by the US to 2086.
The GAO reviewed the RMI’s ongoing eligibility for dozens of US programs. Some programs will continue or change in level of service, while others will end.
Supplemental Education Grant: After 2023, the RMI is no longer eligible for many programs that were replaced by the Supplemental Grant (SEG). Programs ending include:
• US Department of Education grants under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Action of 1965 for improving basic programs operated by local educational agencies; Title I of the Carl D. Perkins Vocation and Technical Education Act of 1998; and Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 for adult education and literacy programs.
• US Department of Health and Human Services Head Start Act including early childhood education, health and nutrition services for low-income children.
• US Department of Labor Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
SEG-related programs for which the RMI will have continued eligibility include:
• Department of Education Subpart 3 of Part A of Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants) and Part C of the same law (Federal Work-Study Programs).
Among other key federal programs that will change status, though still providing certain services:
• Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under the Compact, FEMA provides the US Agency for International Development (USAID) with funds to support disaster relief. After 2023, FEMA will not have authority to provide assistance directly to the FSM and RMI or to provide funding to USAID for disaster response.
• US Postal Service. The USPS is recommending to the US government that the RMI and FSM be treated as international destinations after 2023 because of its financial losses in providing mail service since the second Compact agreement started in 2003 (USPS estimates it has lost over $70 million providing mail service since 2003). But the USPS said continuation of service to the islands depends on RMI and FSM securing membership in the Universal Postal Union. USPS told GAO it has offered to assist but has not received requests from either country. “Of they do not become members of the Universal Postal Union, then the Postal Service will need to negotiate beneficial bilateral arrangements with the countries,” said GAO.
• Federal Aviation Administration. Assistance with airport navigational aids and safety devices, and other technical service can still be provided, but FAA would be required to seek reimbursement for these services after 2023.
• Telecommunications services. Officials at the Departments of State and Interior told GAO that frequency spectrum management and US government operation of telecommunications services may continue “if the RMI or FSM provides appropriate authorization to the US to provide these services.”
• National Weather Service. The Secretary of Commerce may continue funding for the service that funds operations at Majuro’s National Weather Service Station and throughout the FSM if the Secretary “determines that maintaining service at these locations is essential to proper execution of Commerce Department duties.”
Programs that will end after 2023. Funding for Enewetak and judicial training is scheduled to end:
• Agricultural Program on Enewetak Atoll. The Compact has provided $1.3 million annually for this work. Program will end unless Congress authorizes and appropriates additional funds.
• Judicial training grants. The US has provided $300,000 annually for training judges and judiciary officials under the Compact. Grants will end unless Congress authorizes and appropriates additional funds.
Read more about this in the July 6, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.