NACA: Senator McCaskill Poised to Break Congressional Promise to Alaska Native People

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Proposed Legislation Would Devastate Alaska Native Communities, Repeal Core Aspect of Federal Indian Policy

Senator McCaskill’s position against ANCs -- Congressionally formed organizations providing real value to Native people who desperately need it -- raises serious questions regarding her motivations and intentions

Proposed legislation by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to restrict Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) participation in a critical business development program would sever a long-standing Congressional promise to promote economic self-sufficiency for Alaska Native people, the Native American Contractors Association (NACA) announced today.

In 1971, Alaska Natives forfeited their aboriginal title to 88% of their traditional lands worth trillions in untapped oil when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed. In exchange, Congress designated Alaska Natives owners (or “shareholders”) of community-owned corporations and promised them economic development opportunities to help them succeed, including ANC participation in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program. Native 8(a) is core to Federal Indian Policy and honors the government’s commitment to bring economic self-reliance to Alaska’s indigenous people.

The facts show that ANCs have responsibly answered the call, providing benefits to roughly 20 percent of the state’s population. Since the formation of ANCs, the Alaska Native high school graduation rate has tripled, inflation-adjusted household income has risen by 50 percent and the proportion of Alaska Native people living below the poverty line decreased by roughly 50 percent. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the SBA Inspector General have each issued reports that provably show Alaska Natives are receiving benefits from ANCs. Additionally, academic studies by UCLA, the Institute of Social and Economic Research (University of Alaska) and Harvard professor Jonathan Taylor further demonstrate the positive impact of ANCs on Alaska Native communities.

Senator McCaskill’s proposed legislation would deny impoverished Alaska Native villages essential benefits from meaningful 8(a) contracts. Limiting the opportunity for ANCs to succeed in Native 8(a) would disable them from returning critical value to Alaska Native shareholders. Moreover, it would contradict the fundamental purpose of ANCSA and Federal Indian agreements. Such attempts make Native leaders question if some in Congress seek to revert to the Termination Indian policy Congress held in the mid-1900s.

ANCs provide strong value for Alaska Native communities and U.S. taxpayers. SBA Associate Administrator Joseph Jordon stated before Senator McCaskill’s very own Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight in June 2009 that it is “a misnomer to say there is no competition when it comes to 8(a) ANCs.” Mr. Jordon noted that in 2008 “over $650 million was through 8(a) competition.” Regarding sole-source contracts, Mr. Jordon stated that contracting officers “must certify that the government got fair and reasonable value.” Mr. Jordon also added “to say that the government did not get the best value because [an ANC contract] was sole sourced is, or should be, inaccurate.”

Friday’s announcement of Senator McCaskill’s proposed legislation to restrict ANC contracting and hurt Native shareholders coincides with news that Missouri-based Boeing received a single sole-source contract totaling $11.9 Billion – more than twice what ANCs collectively received last year.

“Native people have many supporters in Congress from both parties who respect the special trust relationship Native people share with the federal government,” stated Sarah Lukin, Executive Director of the Native American Contractors Association. “We have many Democratic supporters who embody the political party’s platform of helping Native people achieve economic self-sufficiency through hard work and self-determination. Senator McCaskill’s position against ANCs -- Congressionally formed organizations providing real value to Native people who desperately need it -- raises serious questions regarding her motivations and intentions.”

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