WASHINGTON, D.C (September 10, 2009) — The Office of Insular Affairs joins with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in lauding the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Tony Babauta as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas.
“A native of Guam and a Capitol Hill veteran, Tony brings experience and familiarity with the people and the policies of the U.S. insular areas and the freely associated states,” Secretary Salazar said. “The Department looks forward to the outstanding leadership that he will provide.”
As Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas, Babauta will coordinate with other Executive Branch agencies Federal policy for Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. He also has the responsibility to administer and to oversee Federal assistance provided to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.
“We are very pleased that Tony has been confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas. We look forward to working with him in coordinating Federal policies and addressing the concerns of the U.S. territories and freely associated states,” said Nikolao Pula, Director of the Office of Insular Affairs. “It is wonderful to have another fellow islander who is familiar with and understands the islands.”
Babauta was a senior advisor to Secretary Salazar and previously served as majority staff director for the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the latter position he advised the full committee on policies affecting Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.
Babauta was instrumental in advancing the amended Compact with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam war claims legislation and the political status of Puerto Rico. He also oversaw the subcommittee’s jurisdiction and responsibilities toward the Department of the Interior. Babauta has maintained close working relationships with insular Governors and freely associated state Presidents and Ambassadors and will continue to do so in his new capacity.
Babauta joined the House Committee on Natural Resources in 1998 as a professional staff member under its then Ranking Minority Member, Congressman George Miller (Dem.-Calif.). His service to the committee continued under the later Ranking Minority Member and now Chairman, Congressman Nick Rahall (Dem.-W.Va.).
President Obama re-established the position at the Assistant Secretary’s level for the first time since 1995. This is the first time that an individual from a U.S. insular area has been named an Assistant Secretary of the Interior.