Pacific Executive Leaders Program workshop focuses on the coronavirus pandemic

Group photo of the PELP 2002 workshop participants in Hilo, HI.

Another stimulating and timely session of The Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Pacific Executive Leaders Program (PELP) was conducted the week of March 2nd in Hilo, Hawaii, at the Imiloa Astronomy Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, Hilo.

While the focus of PELP the session was on leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and communications, the backdrop of the developing Coronavirus situation added a heightened sense of reality to the discussions.

PELP is a partnership between FEMA’s National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA Region IX, and CHDS to build collaboration, capabilities, and resilience in the US Pacific Territories and the Hawaiian Islands.

Each session utilizes a combination of presentations, facilitated discussions, and group activities between faculty, participants, and subject matter experts. Topics include strategy, policy, complex problem solving, resiliency, capacity building, critical infrastructure, crisis communications, and emerging homeland security issues, with an eye towards how they impact the Pacific. Participants represent a cross section of government officials, Non-Government Organizations and relevant private sector organizations from the US Pacific Territories, Hawaiian Islands and or have significant responsibilities in the US Pacific jurisdictions.  Prior topic-specific PELP sessions have addressed Port Reconstruction and Resilience, Power Restoration, and Post Disaster Housing.

The faculty included CHDS Subject Matter Experts; Tom Bossert, ABC News National Security Analyst and former White House Homeland Security Advisor, Donalyn Dela Cruz, Senior Vice President of Strategies 360, Jim Featherstone, Executive Director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy and Bill Carwile, former FEMA Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery.

The emerging real-world challenge provided an opportunity to compare and contrast the discussions with what was playing out or projected to play out in the near future. David Fukutomi, Deputy Associate Director, Executive Education Program, credited the experience and skills of the team to quickly adapt to incorporate relevant aspects of the Coronavirus into each discussion. “You don’t get very many opportunities to discuss leadership challenges and engage in a learning environment, while an actual threat is emerging.  It added a lot of relevance to the topics each of the faculty addressed and helped ground the lessons and discussions for each participant.”

This session included 24 attendees representing the State of Hawaii, Saipan, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), American Samoa, and Guam. Some of the notable participants included Michael Dahilig, Kauai County Managing Director, Lynn Araki-Regan, Deputy Director, Administration, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, Jeff Grimes, Commanding Officer at Navy Base Guam, Todd Raybuck, Kauai County Chief of Police, Lydia Mertyris from Hawaiian Electric Company and representatives from US Army Pacific, US Coast Guard, Matson and the American Red Cross, Pacific Island Region.