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The Rise of Tribes and the Fall of Federal Indian Law
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BIA programs barely survive White House test
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

When Dave Anderson, the new head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, spoke to tribal leaders last week, he urged them not to be so rough on an agency that employs thousands of Native Americans.

"We can't be beating up Native people and expect them to do good jobs," Anderson told attendees of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) meeting.

Most people in the audience couldn't help but laugh at the request. Indian Country is the source of much of the criticism leveled at the BIA.

"We'll cooperate with you and we will not bash you, but there's going to have to be results," said Keller George, a member of the Oneida Nation who serves as president of USET, summing up the feelings of many.

Tribes aren't the only one putting the BIA to the test. In the fiscal year 2005 budget that was released last Monday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rated six programs operated by the agency, finding only one of them effective, two adequate and the rest not up to par.

The evaluation was done through the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), an initiative that President Bush brought with him to the White House. Every year, dozens of programs at dozens of federal agencies are subjected to a four-part analysis to determine not just if they are complying with the law but if they are being managed efficiently and effectively.

Each of the four parts -- purpose and design; planning; results; management and results -- are weighted differently. Results has the highest weight (50 percent) to ensure programs are meeting their goals.

At the BIA, the forestry, law enforcement, school construction, school operations, tribal courts and tribal land consolidation were analyzed. Three of the programs -- school construction, school operations and tribal land consolidation -- had also been tested in the 2004 budget.

According to OMB, the forestry program showed results that were "adequate." The program scored perfect (100 percent) under purpose and design, and results. The program scored well (88 percent) under management but poor (33 percent) under results.

The school operations was also rated "adequate" by OMB, receiving a percent score under purpose and design, a good score (86 percent) in planning, an average (71 percent) in management and poor (20 percent) in results.

School construction didn't fare as well, garnering a "results not demonstrated" rating from OMB. The program's scores were 80 percent in purpose and design, 56 percent in planning, 80 percent in management and just 28 percent in results.

Law enforcement was rated equally poor, receiving a 0 percent for results. This was mostly due to the fact that violent offenses in Indian Country have risen in recent years. But it was also because there have been no yearly evaluations or comparisons to similar programs.

Tribal courts also got a "results not demonstrated" evaluation. Scores in the four PART areas were all very low, with a 0 percent in results.

One BIA program did show success but was only "moderately effective," according to OMB. Tribal land consolidation received a 75 percent for purpose and design, a 50 percent for planning, a 70 percent for management and a 75 percent for results.

The PART analysis has led to changes in how BIA carries out its programs. For school construction, the BIA no longer provides estimates on the cost of a project up front. For land consolidation, the budget was increased dramatically for 2004 and 2005 in order to expand nationally.

As for Anderson, he said he would bring "higher standards" to the BIA. "I expect our staff to set a new standard of excellence for themselves," he told USET last week. "We need to start putting the bureau in a whole new light than it has been before."

PART Assesments for 2005:
Department of Interior | All Agencies

PART Assessments for 2004:
School Construction | School Operations | Tribal Land Consolidation

DOI FY2005 Budget:
Fiscal Year 2005 Budget in Brief | Unified Trust Budget | Serving Tribal Communities | BIA Highlights | Departmental Offices [for Office of Special Trustee]

Relevant Links:
Program Assessment Rating Tool, White House OMB - http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/part

Related Stories:
Ariz. tribe to receive land consolidation funds (2/6)
Bush cuts funds, again, for N.D. tribal college (2/4)
BIA budget staying the same under Bush request (2/3)
NCAI president uses speech to lobby for funding (01/22)
Effects of trust budget on Indian programs debated (05/28)
Swimmer: Tex Hall's testimony 'was not true' (05/23)
Congress hacks Bush's accounting funds (7/16)
Tribes oppose OST expansion into Indian County (5/22)
Bush scoring tool impacts Indian programs (03/07)

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