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Expanding ISDEAA to the Department of Transportation increases transportation infrastructure investment

NCAI 2011 (National Congress of American Indians, “SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS HEARING: Oversight hearing on tribal transportation: Paving the way for Jobs, Infrastructure, and Safety in Native Communities,” Sep 15,

Since the implementation of the Indian Self Determination Act and Educational Assistance Act in 1975, infrastructure needs for many tribes have grown. Tribes opted to contract their own services in health, government and education, capital-intensive programs, it has spurred infrastructure development. New local jobs became available and many professional tribal members returned back to their tribal communities. Because of the diversity of tribal operations that were created as result of building local capacity, tribal governments were elevated to full-time operations.

Under the past few reauthorizations, Congress has sought to extend greater authority to tribes to carry out the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program under ISDEAA agreements with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration. As a result, tribes have succeeded in reducing transaction costs and eliminating counterproductive bureaucratic practices in order to maximize federal investment in roads infrastructure and to put more people to work.

Still, conflicting grant conditions and contract requirements arising from other federal transportation programs continue to obstruct the efficient and cost-effective transportation infrastructure development Congress has envisioned for Indian Country. Few tribal governments have the staff or resources for negotiations to conform these extensive conditions and requirements to tribal-specific legal and policy considerations or to establish duplicative administrations for managing disparate contract and grant requirements – and they should not have to. In other agencies, tribal implementation of federal programs under the ISDEAA has allowed tribes to adopt uniform and more cost-effective accounting, management, procurement and reporting systems. Under ISDEAA, tribes spend less on program administration and more on program services and activities.

NCAI recommends the ISDEAA be extended to all Department of Transportation (DOT) programs serving tribes, including programs administered by the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), FHWA-Federal Lands Highway, Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other federal transportation agencies. Extending the ISDEAA to the DOT and its modal administrations will streamline the negotiation, execution and implementation of grant, contract and funding agreements and more effectively direct program dollars to enhancing our nation's transportation infrastructure system.

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