WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren cut tribal red tape on Wednesday.
With the signing of his first executive order of 2023, the president ended the “off-reservation” travel restriction for executive branch employees and a requirement that certain strategic planning sessions, group meetings and conferences have the president’s or chief of staff’s signature.
“This executive order balances efficiency and accountability,” President Nygren said. “At the end of the day, Navajo Nation employees undergo a lengthy approval process for any of their official travel that must be enforced. It is no longer necessary for these types of travel requests to hit my desk.”
As a cost-saving measure and to encourage the use of Navajo owned and operated venues, in 2004 Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., issued an executive order that required executive branch departments and programs to host their conferences, workshops and training sessions on the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly rescinded that order with his own in 2012 and required the president’s or his designee’s signature to approve off-reservation travel for division directors.
With the spread of COVID-19, in 2021 Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez ordered that travel restrictions remain in place in and around the Navajo Nation and restricted all Navajo Nation employees from off-reservation travel.
Last month, the Navajo Department of Health and Office of Environmental Health and Protection Program lifted the indoor mask mandate for the general public and businesses on the Navajo Nation when they determined the risk of COVID-19 transmission was low.
Consequently, the president determined that both the off-reservation travel restriction and event approval are no longer necessary.
President Nygren’s executive order states: “I hereby direct the Division Directors to ensure governmental operations remain efficient and cost-effective, and that strategic planning sessions and group meetings/conferences be conducted in such a manner that does not impede services to the Navajo People.”
Travel outside the territorial boundaries of the Navajo Nation for official business was complicated by the previous orders. In some cases, on-reservation routes resulted in extreme travel times. This included travel from the Torreon/Star Lake Chapter to the Nageezi Chapter on the eastern side of the Navajo Nation and travel from Cameron Chapter to Leupp Chapter on the western side, as well as other cases. Enforcement often fell to the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller’s staff, who process all executive branch official travel payments and reimbursements.
In issuing the executive order, the president’s primary concern was to reduce administrative overhead caused by the previous executive orders.
The executive order applies to Navajo Nation executive branch employees and went into effect immediately upon signing.