Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2010) – Demonstrating his continued commitment to the US insular areas, President Obama signed an Executive Order that reestablishes the White House as Co-Chair of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA).
“We plan to use the Interagency Group as the means for extensive consultation with the island Governors and Members of Congress to coordinate significant decisions, and to advocate a collaborative approach to the Federal Government’s responsibilities to insular areas,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.
The IGIA was first established in 1999 as mechanism for improving coordination of federal policy in American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Implementation of the Executive Order establishes the Secretary of the Interior as the IGIA Co-Chair along with the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Major issues before the IGIA include coordinating with the Department of Defense on the relocation of U.S. military forces from Okinawa to Guam; extension of U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; improving access to quality healthcare in the insular areas; mitigating impacts of changes in minimum wage laws; and improving island economies and overall quality of life.
At annual IGIA meetings, the Governors and Delegates of the insular areas meet and submit a list of priority concerns, working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and other federal agencies to address and follow-up on these priorities. Implementation of the Executive Order is expected to bolster and optimize IGIA proceedings with reinstatement of White House participation.
“The President’s Executive Order reinstating White House involvement in the IGIA elucidates this Administration’s commitment and efforts to ensuring our insular area concerns and priorities are elevated and addressed,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas, Anthony Babauta. “The IGIA was established to yield policy improvements to positively impact life on our islands. With White House involvement, my belief is that the IGIA is not only fortified but greatly enhanced. The IGIA was established as a constructive forum to address insular area concerns, my hope now, as we move forward, is that we will be even better-equipped to tackle the pressing matters facing our islands.”
The signing of the Executive Order is the Administration’s response to island leaders, Governors and Members of Congress who had requested the President to reestablish the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas position and reinstates White House participation to the IGIA.