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Congressional News from D.C.

Last week Congresswoman Aumua Amata notified the territory of three grant awards, voiced her support for Veteran’s legislation and congratulated a son of American Samoa on his military promotion.  All information is based on media releases from the congresswoman’s office.




Amata extended her sincere congratulations to Son of American Samoa, Panapa R. Willis, Command Sergeant Major, US Army Intelligence and Security Command, Fort Belvoir, VA. on his selection as the Sergeant Major, HQ Department of the Army - G2, Pentagon.


CSM Willis (Pago Pago) first joined the U.S. Army in 1985, attending Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MS. and AIT at Ft. Huachuca, AZ where he graduated as a 35F-Intelligence Analyst in 1986.  During his service, CSM Willis has served at multiple duty stations around the globe, including stints in Germany, the United Kingdom and North Carolina.


The list of awards and decorations that CSM Willis has received during his long and illustrious career is long and distinguished, and includes the Legion of Merit. CSM Willis has also distinguished himself with a vast military education and has attended all levels of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System.  CSM Willis also holds several degrees, including an Associate of Arts Degree from the University of Maryland.


 “I want to congratulate CSM Willis, his wife Tonya and their three children on his recent selection as the Sergeant Major, HQ Department of the Army - G2, Pentagon,” said Amata.  “I am always excited whenever one of our own achieves such success and I could not be more proud that one of our Sons of American Samoa has reached the pinnacle of achievement in his career in service to our nation,” concluded Amata.




Last week Tuesday Amata participated in a House Veterans Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing. During the hearing, which focused mainly on several bills that would assist veteran’s access to higher education and business opportunities, Amata spoke on H.R. 1382, the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act; a bill for which she is a Lead Cosponsor.


 “This bill will allow the VA to consider the percentage of veterans employed by a prospective contractor when awarding contracts.  The fact that this isn’t already a stipulation for the VA to consider when awarding contracts is shocking to say the least,” said Amata.  “I encourage my colleagues to join Representative Rice and my fellow cosponsors on this common sense legislation that will further the committee’s goal of eliminating the underemployment of our veterans,” stated Amata.


Amata also questioned Dr. Joseph Wescott, President of the National Association of State Approving Agencies on the VA’s wasteful practice of compliance visits at institutions of higher education.


 “…in your estimation are these compliance visits necessary or are they un-needed exercises in paperwork shuffling?” asked Amata.  Dr. Wescott agreed with the Congresswoman, stating that the schools who have demonstrated in the past that they are in compliance should be granted a waiver.




Also on Tuesday, Amata informed the territory of three grants for American Samoa.


Two of the grants awarded to American Samoa are from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The first is in the amount of $272,200 and will go to the American Samoa Office of Highway Safety.  These funds awarded under the State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program, provide grants to states and territories to improve driver behavior and reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicle-related crashes.


The second grant is in the amount of $47,506 and will also go to the American Samoa Office of Highway Safety.  These funds awarded under the State Traffic Safety Information System Improvements Program encourage states and territories to improve the timeliness, accuracy, completeness, uniformity, integration and accessibility of safety information; encourages linkage of data systems; and improve the compatibility of state, territory and national data.


“I want to thank Fred Scanlan and the hard working people at the American Samoa Office of Highway Safety for their diligence in securing these funds.  Even on our tiny island, the importance of traffic safety cannot be underestimated,” said Amata.


The Department of Health and Human Services also awarded a grant to American Samoa in the amount of $58,238 for the American Samoa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS program was designed to collect data on actual behaviors, rather than on attitudes or knowledge, that would be especially useful for planning, initiating, supporting, and evaluating health promotion and disease prevention programs.


 “These grants are essential in getting American Samoa the support it needs to properly serve the people.  I want to thank the American Samoa Department of Health, especially Mr. I’ugafono Sunia and those individuals who put in the hard work to make sure that American Samoa received these critical funds,” stated Amata.


More details on the highway safety grants in a future issue.