Demonstrates Administration’s Commitment to the Territories and Freely Associated States
WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech has released a list of significant 2019 accomplishments and events impacting the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the three freely associated states (FAS) of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau.
“Significant activities and accomplishments have occurred over the last twelve months under President Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s leadership supporting both the U.S. territories and the freely associated states,” said Domenech. “We have touched the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and those living in the FAS or who are from the FAS living in the United States. Our goal at the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs is simple: to promote freedom and prosperity in the insular areas and to support the people of these island communities.
Noteworthy accomplishments and events in 2019 include:
President Donald J. Trump hosted a historic first-ever meeting at the White House with the Presidents of the three freely associated states (FAS). In addition, Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt held separate bi-lateral one-on-one meetings with each of the FAS Presidents.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt led the U.S. delegation to the 31st Pacific Islands Forum Partners Dialogue in Tuvalu to promote the President’s free and open Indo-Pacific Strategy. The delegation included high level representatives from the National Security Council, NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the State Department.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pohnpei, FSM, where he announced the United States’ intent to begin negotiations on expiring provisions of the Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. In addition, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Sarah Jorgenson participated together with the State Department and the Department of Defense in the Compact Listening Tour with the three FAS.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt signed an MOU with Vietnam to combat wildlife trafficking and held bilateral meetings and calls with Australia on critical minerals.
Interior Secretary Bernhardt co-chaired the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) annual Senior Plenary Session at the White House. As called for under Executive Order 13537, the meeting brings together territorial Governors and Representatives to discuss issues of concern. Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Douglas Hoelscher serves as the other IGIA co-chair. More information on the IGIA is available on the OIA website.
The Department of the Interior filled the vacant position of Associate Justice of the High Court in American Samoa, a permanent, career-service position. At the request of the American Samoa Government, the Secretary continues to appoint both the Chief Justice and the Associate Justice of American Samoa, a responsibility Interior once carried out for all the territories.
Assistant Secretary Domenech co-chaired U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meetings in Washington, DC, and Palau with Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of NOAA, Tim Gallaudet, where FEMA was added to the list of USCRTF members.
Contracted with Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate and engage the FAS on hydropower, operating efficiency, and drought resiliency through smart water management, and funded an EPA water quality circuit rider agreement for the FAS.
Provided funding to Palau to support the 7th Our Ocean Conference, which President Tommy E. Remengesau will host in the Republic of Palau in August 2020.
Assistant Secretary Domenech led the U.S. Delegation, with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Pacific Air Forces Commander CQ Brown, Jr., to the 75th Commemoration of Operation Hailstone, which took place in Chuuk Lagoon (formerly Truk Lagoon) in the FSM. Domenech also led the U.S. Delegation to the Micronesian Island Forum also held in Chuuk last year.
In addition to managing $1.2 billion in Trust Funds for the FSM and the RMI and supporting a $5 million tax and trade payment to the RMI, Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs provided $894 million in grant funding and fiscal payments to the insular areas, including $101 million in health-related funding and $117 million in education-related funding. This funding also included:
Assistant Secretary Domenech participated in the 68th Operation Christmas Drop, the world's longest running humanitarian airdrop training mission operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, which provides critical supplies to 56 remote Micronesian islands impacting approximately 20,000 people across 1.8 million square nautical miles of the Western Pacific.
Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs provided 60 training opportunities on government accountability, project management, auditing, budgeting, powerline training, and leadership development reaching 4,376 professionals in the insular areas.
DOI’s International Technical Assistance Program sent 44 subject matter experts from across the Department to 21 countries to provide technical assistance in wildlife trafficking, water management, dam safety, linear infrastructure, and oil and gas development. It also held the first ever joint U.S.- Central America counter wildlife trafficking operation in El Salvador.
Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs completed and submitted:
All three reports are available on the OIA website.
In his role as co-chair of the Ocean Resource Subcommittee and DOI representative on the Ocean Policy Committee, Assistant Secretary Domenech helped finalize the "White House Ocean Resource Management Implementation Plan to Increase Public Access to Marine Data and Information" and the "White House Recommendations for Implementation of Agency R&T Needs."
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.