The U.S. Senate on June 26 confirmed Esther Puakela Kia’aina as Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas. Born in Guam to Native Hawaiian parents, Kia’aina has strong connections to Pacific islands and extensive experience on Capitol Hill, said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
“Esther will bring considerable expertise to the issues facing the U.S. territories and the freely associated states, and I am pleased the Senate has voted to confirm her to this important leadership post at the Interior Department,” said Jewel. Kia’aina currently serves as the first deputy director of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources. Prior to her current position, Kia’aina served as chief advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which seeks to improve the conditions of Native Hawaiians.
In 2009, President Obama re-established the position of Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas for the first time since 1995. In 2010, Obama also re-established the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA), which includes representatives from key federal departments and agencies, consults regularly with Insular leaders, develops initiatives that address territorial needs, and makes recommendations to the president for improving federal policies concerning Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. (end)