Administrative policies often directly effect Self-Governance Tribes and the programs they choose to manage. Many of the policy priorities identified in the National Tribal Self-Governance 2017-2019 Strategic Plan & Priorities are critical to efficiently manage programs and leverage external opportunities to improve Tribal programs.

There are many competing policy goals for Self-Governance Tribes, however those listed below have momentum or support outside of Self-Governance Tribes.  To see the full list of policy priorities, download the full version of the National Tribal Self-Governance 2017-2019 Strategic Plan & Priorities.

Implement the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act (ITARA).

Title II of ITARA provides for the establishment of Tribal Demonstration Projects for Tribes and the Secretary of the Interior to jointly develop resource management plans. Self-Governance has proven that when Federal agencies and Tribes form partnerships in the management of trust assets, Tribal conflicts and disagreements are significantly reduced. Therefore, we encourage DOI to work with Tribes to expeditiously implement Title II.  Additionally, DOI conducted consultation to implement ITARA’s Title III. Self-Governance Tribes made many recommendations to protect compactable functions and programs within the Office of Special Trustee (OST). This Administration should take action to secure these compactable OST functions and programs and maximize the opportunity to expand Self-Governance activities.

Expand Tribal Consultation on allocation and formula distribution of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funding.

In 2012, Self-Governance Tribes published the Program Formulas Matrix Report, which identifies areas the formulas and methodologies currently used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) can be improved, as well as, provides recommendations for eleven programs. Action on these recommendations has stalled in the last several years.  However, as DOI seeks to move funding to one-time grants, the Formula Matrix Report recommendations are increasingly important. Continued consultation and discussion with BIA officials and Tribes is needed to implement changes recommended in the report.

Foster greater transparency announcing new DOI funding opportunities.

Access to program and initiative funding is critical as Tribes work to meet the needs of their citizens locally. As such, Self-Governance Tribes encourage DOI agencies to streamline their grant and funding announcements so that all Tribes have equal opportunity for one-time funding and support.

Previously, DOI has failed to notify the Office of Self-Governance (OSG) when individual departments receive program increases or develop special projects and initiatives. This breakdown has resulted in loss of funding opportunities for Self-Governance Tribes. OSG should be treated as a centralized location to relay information to Self-Governance Tribes. In general, DOI should strive for greater transparency throughout the Department regarding funding formulas, funding distribution, and steps taken to ensure better coordination and communication internally and externally to ensure the timely and equitable distribution of funding.

Ensure the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program (TTSGP) is implemented in accordance to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and Self-Governance Principles.

The FAST Act, passed in December 2015, marked the first ever Self-Governance expansion outside DOI and HHS. Due to the historic nature of this expansion and the rigorous work of the TTSGP Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, Self-Governance Tribes urge this Administration to complete regulation development within the timeline defined by the FAST Act.

Improve coordination of care between Veterans Administration (VA) and Indian health systems and utilize the National VA-IHS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide care to non-Native veterans.

As VA, IHS, and Tribes work to build greater partnerships, we must address issues with regard to coordination of care. Failing to adequately coordinate care is magnified by VA’s unwillingness to reimburse referral services. For example, if a Native veteran goes to an IHS or Tribal facility for service and needs a referral, the same patient must then be seen within the VA system before a referral can be secured. This is a not an efficient use of Federal funding, nor is it navigable for Native veterans. Self-Governance Tribes wish to see greater coordination and cooperation from VA to provide the best services to our veterans.

In a related issue, Self-Governance Tribes are often one of few, if any, health providers in rural areas. With great coordination, Tribes could become a provider for non-Native veterans in these areas. Tribes assert that IHCIA Section 405(c) provides the authority for Tribes to receive reimbursement for services provided to non-Native veterans. Together, we should strive to ensure that options available are leveraged to increase health care access for all veterans.

Include Purchase/Referred Care in all VA-IHS reimbursement agreements.

When IHS and VA negotiated the first national agreement, the agencies only included reimbursement for direct care – meaning the agreement does not adequately address specialty care the Indian Health System provides to eligible veterans. Meanwhile, this agreement has become the model for Tribal programs in negotiating with local VA facilities leaving IHS and Tribes to use limited PRC funding to provide care to Native veterans. Self-Governance Tribes would like the parties to revisit the reimbursement agreement and include specialty care.

Assign a High Level Tribal-Federal Task Force to provide recommendations for the redesign of IHS.

Several IHS areas have experienced high Agency Lead Negotiator (ALN) turnover, resulting in many Tribes from various areas reporting that previously acceptable changes during negotiations were no longer acceptable. A successful transition plan may ensure streamlined determinations on similar issues between areas and further develop the skill set needed to adequately perform the duties of an ALN.

Implement a Self-Governance Demonstration Project within the Department of Health and Human Services.

As shared above in the legislative priorities section, Self-Governance Tribes and HHS worked collaboratively to develop a report to implement a Self-Governance Demonstration Project across HHS.  However, the report recommendations were never implemented. A Demonstration Project should be established in order to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of operating additional HHS programs under Self-Governance, as identified in the report.

Develop a streamlined vehicle for Tribes to maximize cross-cutting funding.

OMB previously shared information with Tribes that identified nearly $19 billion in federal funding that support government services for American Indians and Alaska Natives. However, only a small portion of that funding goes directly to Tribes – while the vast majority goes to state governments. Self-Governance Tribes urge that all Federal agencies identify and make available budget and program information to assist Tribes in addressing social, economic, and resource management issues. We also urge DOI to initiate work in developing a streamlined Tribal contract vehicle, to implement the cross-cutting budgets and programs, that is consistent with the government-to-government relationship.