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5 APRIL 2000

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for your invitation to appear before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to provide the Administration's views with respect to S. 612 - Indian Needs Assessment and Program Evaluation Act of 2000. We appreciate the opportunity to share our views on the legislation.


Administration Actions to Address Indian Country Needs

The relationship between the U.S. Government and Native Americans is a historical one founded on a trust responsibility. The Administration continues to honor its government-to- government relationship with Tribes by supporting critical programs serving Indian reservations, developing executive orders specific to Native Americans, and bringing together Tribal leaders and resources across the government to address priority Tribal concerns.


In 1994, the President held the first ever historic meeting with over 300 Tribal leaders at the White House to highlight progress on improving the government-to-government relationship and to highlight community development needs in Indian Country. A similar, smaller meeting was held in 1996. In August 1998, the President held a White House Conference on Economic Development where agencies were directed to develop a strategic plan for coordinating existing economic development activities for Native Americans and Alaska Natives and Tribal leaders were able to showcase accomplishments. Also in August 1998, the President signed an executive order directing agencies to coordinate to develop a strategic plan on improving elementary and secondary education in Indian Country. In May 1999, the President met with Tribal leaders from the Northern Plains (ND, SD, MT) to discuss education, health care, and housing needs in Indian Country. The culmination of these Presidential events lead to a multi-agency coo rdinated effort to improve the quality of life in Indian Country, which is reflected in the FY 2001 Budget request.


Funding for Indian Country in the FY 2001 Budget

Since 1994, the Domestic Policy Council Interagency Working Group for Indians and Alaskan Natives, chaired by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, has met quarterly on policy areas related to Native Americans. This group functions as a forum for information exchange, needs assessment, and coordination of policy. For example, the Working Group did significant work with tribes on Y2K issues and has reached out to Indians to encourage participation in the census. This White House working group has been active in encouraging agencies to coordinate programs that assist Indians. The Economic Development Conference, along with other initiatives, came out of the interagency working group.


In addition, the White House Working Group worked closely with the agencies and OMB to develop the President's Native American initiative that is a key part of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget. This initiative is one of the top Administration priorities. It is a coordinated, multi-agency government-wide initiative that focuses Federal resources on critical programs serving Native Americans. The President's FY 2001 Budget includes $9.4 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion or 14 percent over FY 2000, to address critical needs including health care, education, economic development, infrastructure, and other basic needs.


This initiative includes significant increases for the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and numerous other agencies. Such increases are intended to target high priority, high impact areas and to address critical health, life and safety needs. The Working Group will coordinate agency efforts to implement the initiative. We believe that if enacted, this initiative will make a significant difference in the quality of life of Native Americans.


Indian Needs Assessment

The FY 2001 Budget presents a comprehensive way to fund critical needs and is intended to challenge leaders to achieve consensus on these specific areas. S. 612 also attempts to address areas of need in Indian Country. S. 612 is intended to overcome the Congressional concerns regarding the availability of detailed and reliable information about Indian Country needs. While the Administration shares these concerns, we do not believe that S. 612 addresses this issue in an effective and efficient manner nor does it indicate the importance of measuring program results. The Administration has and will continue to work with the agencies as they continue to develop and reform performance indicators and provide detailed information on program performance pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1994.


For example, the Indian Health Service has developed a GPRA performance plan aimed at using a cost-effective public health approach to reduce the health disparities in Native Americans. This performance plan plays an important role in the development of IHS budgets and operating plans. IHS' GPRA plan includes goals to improve the overall health status of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, including measures to increase glycemic control efforts as a means to reduce diabetic complications, to provide additional home-based well-child visits, and to improve water fluoridation compliance to reduce the prevalence of dental decay.


The proposed legislation would require the following reports to Congress:


  1. Indian Needs Assessments - after the Secretary of the Interior develops a uniform method, each Federal agency must identify the actual needs of Indian tribes and Indians eligible for Federal programs and services. Reports are due every five years.
  2. Annual Indian Program Evaluations - each Federal agency must report on annual expenditures for Federal programs and services for which Indians are eligible, including information on those tribes that receive services and those that applied but did not receive services.
  3. Annual Listing of Tribal Eligible Programs - each agency must publish in the Federal Register a list of all programs and services available to Indian tribes or their members.
  4. Strategic Plan - within 18 months the Secretary of the Interior must file a plan for improving coordination of Federal assistance for Indians.

OMB asked Federal departments and agencies to review and comment on the proposed bill's requirements. To date, we have received comments from nearly a dozen organizations with Indian programs totaling $8.6 billion, or 92 percent, of the Native American initiative. These organizations provide a wide-range of assistance programs and services to tribal governments and tribal members. Many expressed similar concerns that the proposed legislation is too broad in scope, burdensome and expensive to administer, and duplicates current GPRA planning and reporting requirements.


The testimony of Interior's Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Gover covers the many technical, schedule, and methodological problems that are shared by these other departments and agencies.



Funding and successful implementation of programs that assist Native Americans remain a priority for the Administration. The Administration stands ready to work with the Committee to address this issue and will, pursuant to GPRA, continue to work with Federal agencies administering programs serving Native Americans to ensure that their programs are efficient and effective.