Office of Special Trustee budget request remains steady at $140M

Special Trustee Vince Logan speaks at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California, on October 22, 2015. Photo by Andrew Bahl for Indianz.Com

The fiscal year 2017 budget request released on Tuesday includes $140.4 million for the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

The amount is virtually the same as the current level. The agency, which is part of the Interior Department, has not seen any major increases since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

"OST continually assesses ways to improve the quality of services to beneficiaries and deliver them in the most effective and efficient manner," a justification document reads. "The FY 2017 budget requests an investment in OST’s core functions to execute our fiduciary responsibilities for the department and continued support to Indian Country."

According to the document, OST plans to spend more on investment training for tribes, appraisal services and workforce development. The agency also wants to develop new "financial empowerment tools" for Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders

The Bush administration vastly expanded OST's mission and budget, an effort that tribes felt came at the expense of other Indian programs. At one point, the Obama administration was open to discussing a "sunset" of the agency but that idea was essentially abandoned after the National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform released its final report in December 2013

Some tribes, however, continue to seek the dismantling of the OST. Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R.812, the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act, a bill that requires DOI to prepare a report for the transition of duties from the OST to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Obama administration opposes the measure.

Vince Logan, a member of the Osage Nation, serves as the Special Trustee for American Indians, a position that required Senate confirmation. He has taken several steps to improve communication with tribes and individual Indian beneficiaries and he revived the Special Trustee Advisory Board after years of dormancy.

OST oversees nearly $4.9 billion in trust funds. The money is held in about 3,300 trust accounts for more than 250 tribes and another 400,000 accounts for individual Indians.

FY2017 Interior Department Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief | OST Budget Justification | Departmental Offices [Includes OST] | Strengthening Tribal Nations and Insular Communities | Indian Affairs | DOI Fact Sheet

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