Salazar to Murkowski: Mission is to “Bring the Whole of Government” to Alaska Native Issues

Senator Asks Secretary of Interior about “Severely Underfunded” Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today asked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar if he could do more to see that funding for the Indian Health Service keeps up with costs and comparable levels within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “The budget for contract support costs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs is estimated to be at full funding to cover the costs and I thank you for that,” said Murkowski. “But the same account for the Indian Health Service – which provides for the administrative costs to health care – is severely underfunded.”

Salazar opened by pointing out he works with Attorney General Eric Holder on law enforcement, and with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on health concerns facing Alaska Natives.

“Our approach has been to bring the whole of government to deal with some of the most significant issues that are facing Indian country,” answered Salazar, whose Department oversees the issues surrounding Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.  “And certainly the health care issue that is faced almost on every Indian reservation is one of the biggest challenges we face, so it’s important we have the whole of government behind it.”

She had the opportunity to ask the question during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies – where she is the ranking Republican.