Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper provides the keynote address during the Daniel K. Inouye Speaker Series event which also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu Aug. 26.

Director, Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) Pete Gumataotao welcomed Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper as the keynote speaker in the 3rd DKI Speaker Series at the Center in Honolulu Aug. 26. The series is co-hosted by the DKI APCSS, the Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and the Daniel K. Inouye Institute (DKII).

“Tonight we’re very proud to have the U.S. Secretary of Defense… the Honorable Dr. Mark Esper… as our speaker,” said Director Gumataotao. “He has not only taken the time to be our keynote speaker tonight, but is here in Hawaii to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Ending of World War II. He also graciously agreed to join us at the center to help celebrate our 25th anniversary. We’re so pleased that you could be with us tonight to share your perspectives on our complex security environment and the value of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Secretary Esper’s remarks highlighted the vital role DKI APCSS plays in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. He also detailed the major challenges in the region and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) initiatives to meet those challenges, among which he emphasized the aggressive behavior of the Chinese Communist Party and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Secy. Esper answers questions from DKI APCSS Director Pete Gumataotao, during the DKI Speaker Series event Aug. 26. The questions were submitted by alumni and security partners from the Indo-Pacific region.

“For decades, APCSS has leveraged it’s unique position in the region as part of the Dept. of Defense to enhance our mission of forging lasting security partnerships across the Indo-Pacific, and advancing the security interests of the United States and it’s allies,” said Secy. Esper. “The vision that the late Senator Inouye had for this institution upon it’s founding is more relevant than ever in this era of great power competition.”

“The importance he placed on strengthening partnerships and cultivating new relationships has never been more pronounced,” Secy. Esper continued. “Indeed, our robust network of allies and partners remains the enduring asymmetric advantage we have over near-peer rivals – namely China, that attempt to undermine and subvert the rules-based order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others.

“In light of this challenge, the National Defense Strategy guides us, as we enhance our lethality, strengthen those alliances, build partnerships and reform the department to align our resources with our highest priorities. I’ve tasked the military services to make the PRC the pacing threat in all of our schools, our programs and our training.

”Thanks to our largest research and development budget in the department’s history, we are prioritizing the development and deployment of game-changing technologies, such as hypersonic weapons, 5G and artificial intelligence,” he said. ”We are also investing in platforms critical to the future of a free and open Indo-Pacific, such as submarines, B-21 stealth bombers, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, unmanned underwater and surface vehicles, long-range precision munitions, integrated air and missile defense, and a new class of frigates.

“APCSS will remain an important part of that effort by encouraging candid and open exchanges on regional security issues, and strengthening the intellectual interoperability we need to be successful,” Esper concluded.

At the end of Sec. Esper’s remarks, Director Gumataotao posed questions submitted by alumni and security practitioners from around the Region when they registered for the event webinar.

Co-hosts APCSS Foundation President Gerald Sumida and DKII Director Jennifer Sabas also participated in the livestream and thanked Sec. Esper for being the featured speaker for this special DKI Speaker event, which also celebrated the Center’s 25th Anniversary.

Like many other organizations on Oahu and around the U.S., DKI APCSS has been conducting business virtually and following strict HPCON guidelines since the end of March to protect Center staff and faculty from the COVID-19 virus, so only required support personnel were present to execute the event in Maluhia Hall.

“I want to thank everyone for joining us today,” said Director Gumataotao. “This speaker series is both a celebration of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s legacy, as well as to highlight 25th Anniversary of the Center that bears his name.

Secretary Esper and Director Gumataotao pose for photos in front of the Center for media photographer

“I want to especially call out this awesome team that we have here at our Center, that have planned and executed this first-class Speaker Series,” praised Director Gumataotao. “If I were to ask any of them, they would say, ‘It’s a team effort, director,’ and that’s true, but it takes every individual’s commitment to excellence to strive for something greater than self which results in phenomenal accomplishments I see from them, day-in and day-out.”

The theme for the 25th Anniversary was “Hindsight, Insight and Foresight,” was derived from the name of DKI APCSS’ new publication “Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight: Thinking about Security in the Indo-Pacific,” a book written by DKI APCSS faculty and edited by Dr. Alexander Vuving. It’s 21 chapters cover important issues in the region … how they evolved … and how they can be shaped in the future to promote new opportunities for collaboration. The book will be available in September on the DKI APCSS website at

The event was also aired via livestream on Facebook, and to almost 700 alumni and partners in the Region via a 75-minute virtual webinar. DKI APCSS’ social media presence sprang to life with well-wishes and congratulations for the Center’s anniversary and to hear Secy. Esper’s perspective on the Region.

Alumnae Smita Sharma (India) tweeted that it was” Lovely to see many familiar faces at the 25th anniversary virtual celebrations of @APCSS this morning with @EsperDoD delivering the keynote address. Congratulations to the Ohana (family)

Alumnus Shafqat Munir tweeted: As @APCSS celebrates its 25th anniversary, I would like to pay a personal tribute to this amazing institution. For a quarter century DKI APCSS has nurtured leaders, built networks and created a community of security practitioners across the #IndoPacific I am indeed privileged to be an alumnus of @APCSS and be a part of this outstanding ohana! Together we will work for a prosperous, free and secure #IndoPacific Here’s to the next 25 years and more!