OST continues a downward trend with latest budget request

The Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians is once again slated for a cut under the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal that President Barack Obama released today.

The Bush administration rapidly expanded OST while slowly paring back the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The move led to widespread grumbling in Indian Country.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has been gradually scaling back OST's budget. In 2013, the agency will see $146 million, down from $152 million in 2012 and down from $161 million in 2011.

As further comparison, the Bush administration requested nearly $193 million for OST in 2008.

Obama also has left OST without a leader for more than three years. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said the White House won't nominate someone to lead the office until the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement is finalized.

That process dragged out first on Capitol Hill and is now tied up in the federal courts.

Even when the settlement is complete, Obama is anticipating even further reductions at OST. As part of the National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform, a group of tribal leaders and members will make recommendations on the future of trust reform at the Interior Department.

"In addition, with the impending finalization of a settlement of a 16-year old class action lawsuit on behalf of individual Indian beneficiaries, DOI will be undergoing an evaluation of the future management of the trust funds," the OMB said in a budget document.

More details will be released this afternoon when the Interior Department budget is posted online at around 1:30pm.

The OMB documents can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

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