McCaleb tries to explain state of shutdown
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Leaving out some details about his department's handling of the debacle, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb on Thursday tried to assure concerned tribal leaders that making royalty payments to Indian Country was a top priority.

In a letter addressed to tribes, McCaleb said the department was making a "dedicated effort" to get checks out to tribes and individual Indians. "I share your frustration and regret that your tribes and its members are confronted with this situation," he wrote.

"The department placed its highest priority on seeking concurrence to use those systems necessary for processing payments to tribes and individual Indians," he continued.

Regarding the status of the Integrated Records Management System (IRMS), which process trust fund payments, McCaleb said the department has submitted a proposal to turn the system back on to special master Alan Balaran. He said the plan provides for "additional assurances of security."

While McCaleb noted that a request to restart the system was first made on December 17, he didn't point out that the department asked for a permanent reconnect, a more difficult task to complete. Department officials this week acknowledged they waited until last week to ask for a temporary solution.

McCaleb also didn't tell tribal leaders that attorneys for Secretary Gale Norton asked U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth for an emergency hearing two days after the court-ordered December 5 shutdown. At the time, the Department of Justice's civil division said nothing about the emergency nature of disbursing funds to Indian Country and only asked for permission to restore access to fire and earthquake systems.

Only the Social Services Automated System (SSAS), which processes general assistance checks, and the Trust Funds Accounting System (TFAS), which contains trust account data, have been reconnected, McCaleb said. But TFAS can't work without IRMS and the Minerals Revenue Management (MRM) system, he said.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton launches contempt defense (1/11)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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