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ISG Workshop Sets the Stage for the Wisconsin State Partnership Program with Papua New Guinea

Posted: June 16, 2021
ISG Staff

The Institute for Security Governance (ISG) conducted the state partnership program workshop for the Wisconsin National Guard (WING) and their partner, the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces (PNGDF), at the National Guard Headquarters, Madison, Wisconsin from 25-27 May 2021. The workshop aimed to enhance WING’s understanding of the historical and socio-political context of their partner, provide guidance on US and international partner priorities for the country, and establish a framework for working with the Papua New Guinea (PNG), setting the stage for a review and discussion of potential areas of cooperation between state and country.

The workshop was executed as a hybrid event, with some participants attending the event in person and others attending virtually. WING and ISG facilitated and brought together a diverse group of subject matter experts from academia, the Marine Corps University, the Australian Defense Force, Border Patrol and the Nevada National Guard (partnered with Fiji) to dialogue with the participants.

The Wisconsin National Guard was selected to begin a new partnership with Papua New Guinea in July of 2020. The partnership brings together the country and state to interact in a broad range of cooperative engagements on various topics including homeland defense, disaster response, crisis management and inter-agency cooperation. In addition to defense security, a partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard has the potential to assist Papua New Guinea in security operation activities such as emergency management and disaster response, border and port security and natural resource protection. The Wisconsin National Guard maintains an existing state partnership with Nicaragua, which began in 2003. The State has a unique history with Papua New Guinea and the 32nd Infantry Division during the Second World War.

Maj Gen Knapp provided opening remarks on the US-only session on 25 May 2021. Dr. Eric Y. Shibuya, Professor of Strategic Studies Command and Staff College Marine Corps University, provided the overall context to Indo-Pacific Command’s structure, related problem sets, and considerations for cooperation and engagement with PNG. Dr. Robert Foster, one of the few anthropologists working on Papua New Guinea, highlighted the diversity of the country, the cultural context to working with the PNGDF counterparts and the social and security challenges that the country faces. Mr. Michael Kibuni, presenting from PNG, provided an overview of how the Papua New Guinea’s economy was structured, and reviewed the changing political landscape in Papua New Guinea. The Nevada National Guard shared their gap analysis process and the lessons learned from their state partnership with Fiji, highlighting the importance of the regional approach. Ms. Blaire Harms, INDOPACOM Regional Lead and Country Integrator at ISG reviewed the Significant Security Cooperation Initiatives (SSCIs) & Institution Capacity Building (ICB) priorities. Colonel James (Billy) Kid, Defence Advisor, Australian High Commission joined virtually to provide very useful guidance on the working with the PNGDF.

Maj Gen Knapp welcomed the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces (PNGDF), who joined virtually for the sessions on the 26th and 27th May, and Major General Gilbert Toropo, Commander, PNGDF, followed with his opening remarks. WING and PNGDF alternated briefing their capabilities and challenges, followed by panel discussions on domestic operations, defense professionalization, COVID-19 response, Engineering and Medical support throughout the course of the workshop. The US Embassy, Port Moresby, and NGB-IA provided reviews of their priorities. The workshop included a briefing by El Paso Sector Border Patrol Executive Officers Lorenzo Sandoval and Maria Guzman-Rojas on the procedures, associated technology used, and challenges of patrolling the US border, per the PNGDF request, as they grappled with their own challenges on the border.

The workshop set the stage for WING to leverage interagency relationships as they begin to think through their significant security cooperation initiatives and potential areas of cooperation. ISG has been conducting orientations for newly established state partnerships each year since 2004, under the direction of the National Guard Bureau, and look forward to years of partnership as both Papua New Guinea and WING learn from each other.