Murkowski Requests Indian Affairs Hearing on 8(a) Contracting Preferences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold a hearing this fall on the Native American 8(a) program. Murkowski is a member and former vice-chair of the panel.
In a letter to Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-ND, and Vice Chairman John Barrasso, R-WY, Murkowski referenced a July 16, 2009, hearing chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, on “Contracting Preferences for Alaska Native Corporations.” McCaskill chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
“The Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight hearing was a hostile environment for the Native Corporations and I believe the Indian Affairs panel would provide a fair and impartial environment for Indian tribes, Native corporations and Native Hawaiians to tell their story,” Murkowski said.” 
Murkowski explained that any review of the 8(a) program should first be examined by the congressional committees with jurisdiction over this issue, in consultation with stakeholders, especially Indian tribes, Alaska Native Corporations and Native Hawaiians who benefit directly from the program.
Last week, Sens. McCaskill and Susan Collins, R-ME, attempted to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Reauthorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 to reform the 8(a) program. While the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee has jurisdiction over the 8(a) business development program, the Indian Affairs committee shares jurisdiction over contracting preferences for Indian tribes as a matter of federal Indian Policy. Because McCaskill did not consult with all the committees of jurisdiction, Murkowski objected to the amendment with the committees of jurisdiction, providing obstacles to its consideration.
“While appropriate reforms may be required to ensure the integrity and accountability of the Native American 8(a) program, the contracting preferences are achieving important economic development objectives and are well worth preserving as a matter of federal Indian policy” Murkowski said. “Recognizing the unique relationship that exists with our Nation’s first peoples, Indian tribes, Alaska Native corporations, and Native Hawaiians need to be consulted before any further legislative action is pursued.”
Murkowski concluded her letter, “The Native American 8(a) program is a federal program that has provided meaningful economic development within our Native communities. It has worked well particularly in places were Indian gaming has not provided economic opportunity.”
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