Washington D.C. – President Obama’s decision this week to name Eileen Sobeck as Interior Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs is more than a mere formality, according to Interior officials.
On its face, the announcement by the White House was seen as a “difference without a distinction.”
HEAR Matt Kaye’s report HERE>>>3-21 sobeckasstsec.mp3
Sobeck had already been running the office of Insular Affairs, as an Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, ever since Guam native Tony Babauta resigned February 1st.
But Sobeck did not have a Presidential designation until now, as an Acting Assistant Secretary, a designation that can only come from the President.
She was brought over to OIA by outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar from her post as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a post she still retains.
The Presidential designation at OIA may have more to do with the position and less to do with Sobeck, reflecting the White House’s commitment to keep the Assistant Secretary post at OIA the flagship federal agency for the islands.
OIA Director Nik Pula told island leaders gathered here last month, that was the Administration’s intention after Babauta’s resignation.
Babauta’s departure had raised island concerns the lead post might be returned to Deputy Assistant Secretary status, last held by David Cohen in the Bush Administration.
And Pula expects Sobeck to return to her Fish and Wildlife post full-time, once the President names a permanent replacement for Babauta, and that person’s confirmed by the Senate.
All of that though, is likely to have to await Senate confirmation of Recreational Equipment CEO Sally Jewell as the next Interior Secretary.
Jewell’s Senate confirmation hearing was set for late this week.