EDS facing another Indian trust task
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Third in a series of articles about the state of trust reform.

The management consulting firm which recommended Secretary of Interior Gale Norton appoint a single person to be in charge of Indian trust, thereby setting forth a reorganization proposal roundly rejected by tribes, is on board for yet another project.

EDS Corporation will be hired by the department to "compile and analyze" the documents the department relies upon to fulfill its obligations to tribes and individual Indians, Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason has told a federal court. This effort will help the department develop an overall business strategy, he says.

Cason gives no timetable or dollar amount for the project in the eight quarterly report provided to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth. But the task will mark, for perhaps the first time, the department has ever tried to get a handle of its obligations to Indian Country -- duties which fall among numerous agencies often in conflict with one another.

The planned hiring also represents a shift in attitude regarding trust at the department, largely brought on by outside criticism leveled by a court appointed officer in the ongoing Individual Indian Money (IIM) lawsuit. Although previous administrations -- whose remmants remain in the form of many top career officials and senior management -- have been hammered for years on trust, it took the appointment of court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III and a series of critical reports by him and special master Alan Balaran to bring about change.

At the same time, the department's response hasn't been embraced by Indian Country. Tribal leaders, most notably Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Greg Bourland, who sits on an inter-tribal trust group, and National Congress of American Indians President Tex Hall, have criticized the Interior for relying on firms like EDS while not seeking Indian input.

"Tribes clearly feel that we were not dealt up front here in terms of the consultation process and the EDS report," said Hall.

Hired in the summer of 2001, EDS was first tasked with looking at the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS) and a related subproject. Since then, the company has been paid nearly $3 million to assess trust reform, a contract culminating in the expected publication tomorrow of a "roadmap" to implementing hundreds of recommendations the company believes will put the failing effort back on track.

Among the suggestions accepted include the decision to defer TAAMS, which has cost $40 million so far, and examine other third-party alternatives. A senior manager from Applied Terravision, a Texas firm developing TAAMS, testified on behalf of the government this month that she opposed this move.

The status of other recommendations won't be known until the timeline is published. Many are far-reaching and include more reliance on private trust standards, a strategy suggested by the Interior's first Special Trustee, Paul Homan, four years ago.

The current trustee, Tom Slonaker, is supporting the push. He wants to staff any new Indian trust organization with persons experience in private trust management. Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles also writes that the department's "major goal" is "blending private trust standards with the guiding principle that tribes have a government-to-government relationship with the United States."

Today on Indianz.Com:
Computer security finally a concern (1/23)

Other Trust Reform Updates:
Intro (1/22) | Secretary's Observations | Special Trustee Observations | Trust Transition Observations | Departmental Organization | Historical Accounting

Get the Report:
Status Report to the Court Number Eight (1/16)

Relevant Links:
EDS Corporation -
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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