Guam News - Guam News
Washington D.C. - The Obama Administration last week affirmed its commitment to continue the post of Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, key to the territories’ desire to have a higher profile in the Administration.
President Obama elevated the top post at the office of Insular Affairs to Assistant Secretary for Insular areas in 2009.
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The move was quickly hailed by the islands for giving enhanced status to island issues.
But the recent resignation of Guam native Tony Babauta amid an Inspector General probe into alleged contract and travel abuses, gave rise to new uncertainty about the Assistant Secretary post.
The Administration announced last week at the Annual Interagency Group on Insular Areas, it intends to keep the elevated post.
Congressman Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan spearheaded a request by the delegates and other lawmakers to the President to continue the position and fill it, quickly.
Sablan cited the role the post has played in advancing island issues, from economic and critical health needs to sustainable energy solutions and the first-time Measurement of island gross domestic products.
But filling the post will likely have to await Senate confirmation of Sally Jewell as Obama’s new Interior Secretary, to replace outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar.
Jewell, if confirmed by the Senate, is expected to play a key role in recommending to Obama, a replacement for Babauta.
Meantime, the automatic across-the-board budget sequester that President Obama implemented Friday, after he and Congress failed to agree on a way to head it off, has resulted in an immediate OIA hiring freeze and travel restrictions.
Government wide furloughs and spending restrictions may also impact OIA's work with other agencies in producing island studies, environmental reviews and other services.Separately, Congressman Sablan has formally asked Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris to extend the CNMI immigration transition period for another 5-years beyond 2014.
Sablan has asked Harris to act within the next 6-months, to alleviate uncertainties about the future availability of labor and the composition of the CNMI’s population. Uncertainties, he says are detrimental to individuals, businesses and investment.
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