Washington in Brief

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UPDATED ANA COMES BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE

WASHINGTON -- The Administration for Native Americans brought its
restructured grant-making processes before the Senate Committee on Indian
Affairs June 8 in a bid for reauthorization of the Native American Programs
Act of 1974, which ANA administers.

The $45 million program is the only remaining discretionary grant-making
program of the federal government for Native peoples -- that is, its grants
are not already dedicated to specific program areas, such as education,
health or social welfare. At ANA's discretion, grants can be made with
great flexibility within the program areas of strategic social and economic
development, environmental regulation, and language preservation and
maintenance.

The Bush administration supports the reauthorization of each program,
according to Quanah Crossland Stamps, the ANA commissioner.

Stamps has overhauled ANA in her brief tenure, focusing on accountability
and measurable results, as called for by the administration across many
federal agencies. Program competitions have been consolidated in order to
get grants into the field early in the fiscal year, so that grantees have
more time to produce results from an ANA grant -- and more time to absorb
technical assistance and other training as appropriate. The ability of
non-profit organizations to apply for grants has also been enhanced, Stamps
said. Receipt and review of grant applications has been automated and
streamlined.

"In addition, the new program announcements now require ANA applicants to
identify performance indicators to be used to evaluate the success of a
funded project. ANA has never consistently collected quantitative data to
track the success of grantees. The new performance indicators will allow
ANA to document consistently the number of people trained; the number of
jobs created and maintained; the number of children, youth and families
served; the amount of non-government investment in each project; the
transference of language and fluency; the number of businesses retained or
expanded; the dollars invested in community infrastructure; and the number
and type of new tribal codes and ordinances developed and implemented."

ANA funding focuses on community-based, community-determined, and
community-implemented projects among American Indians, Alaska Natives,
Native Hawaiians and other Native American Pacific Islanders, Stamps added.

Inevitably, the sweeping changes at ANA have brought concern from some
quarters of Indian country, and some of that surfaced at the June 8
hearing. John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights
Fund, praised ANA for most of his testimony, noting its continuous support
over 30 years (and more, counting its predecessor agency, the Office of
Indian Economic Development). But he closed by noting three changes that
have effected NARF "severely" -- a ceiling on single grant size of $500,000
annually, down from $1 million; and a restriction against grants to
projects that have been previously funded in whole or in part, meaning that
multi-part projects extended over more than three years are now ruled out.

"These two changes mean that ANA ... limits the flexibility of tribes and
Native American communities and requires smaller grants and smaller
projects."

The bill to reauthorize the Native American Programs Act is S. 2436 in the
Senate.

BOARD APPLIES FEDERAL LABOR LAW TO TRIBES

WASHINGTON -- The National Labor Relations Board overthrew a decades-old
position that sovereign tribal governments are not accountable to federal
labor law, ruling June 3 that it does indeed apply to tribes and their
on-reservation enterprises.

The 3-1 majority gave tribal prosperity as the reason for the
jurisdictional shift -- business success engages tribes in interstate
commerce, in competition with other businesses, and in relationships with
many non-Indians, they wrote.

The decision went against the San Manuel Band in California and the Yukon
Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Alaska.

The California press reports that San Manuel, a casino tribe, plans to
appeal the decision in court.

BIA, IHS BUDGETS GET GOOD NEWS IN HOUSE

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives subcommittee on Interior and
Related Agencies began an anticipated tough year for the federal budgeting
process by restoring funds to the BIA and IHS that President Bush had left
out of his budget request.

Under the subcommittee "mark up" of June 3, the subcommittee assigned $3
billion to IHS, $112 million above the president's request; $1.9 billion to
BIA programs, $42 million above the Bush request; and $645 million to BIA
education, $4 million above the president's request.

Among the highlights was a restoration of $66 million to the BIA
construction budget, bringing it back to the $349 million level.

The increases in the BIA, IHS and other items came out of projects proposed
by Bush.

These numbers are a long way from being final in the federal budget for
fiscal year 2005, given what is expected to be a politically contentious
budgeting process. The subcommittee proposals must pass with the powerful
parent committee, House Appropriations, then with the full House and the
Senate, before they can be enacted into law by the president's signature.
But a close observer considers the vote significant for what it says about
congressional members -- they are going to put their own priorities into
the budget, not necessarily bowing to those of the president.

BUSH, CHENEY PREPARE TO FACE SPY TRIBUNAL

WASHINGTON -- A grand jury investigation into the exposure of an undercover
CIA agent has reached the topmost tier of the Bush administration.

President George W. Bush has taken council with an attorney in case he
needs representation, the Washington Post reported on June 3, following a
CBS News telecast. On June 6, the same newspaper reported that Vice
President Richard Cheney has answered grand jury questions.

Little more is known of the grand jury proceedings, which take place in
secret. But the latest developments involving Bush and Cheney suggest "the
grand jury probe is in a highly active phase," according to the Post, which
credited its information to officials within the administration.

Under a 1982 law, it is a federal crime for authorized personnel to
knowingly expose a covert CIA agent. Since the current exposure became
known, Bush has described it as a serious matter, several times stating
that he wants to get to the bottom of it.

The incident reaches all the way to the White House because the exposed
agent, Valerie Plame, is the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Wilson was a career ambassador, considered especially credible on North
African matters, at the time of his 1998 retirement. In the build-up to
making war on Iraq, the Bush administration recruited Wilson to visit the
African nation Niger in March 2002. His task was to check out intelligence
reports that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium and nuclear materiel from
Niger. The assertion had already made the varsity cut for inclusion in the
president's State of the Union address that January, as he shaped the case
for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as an imminent threat justifying war.
But Wilson discredited the information coming from Niger.

By all accounts, Wilson's report was unwelcome in the White House, more so
when he published an op-ed accusing the administration of misrepresenting
the facts on the ground in Niger, and by extension Iraq. Wilson has
maintained that as the administration worked to keep America on a war
footing, it moved to discredit his buzz-killing report on the Iraq-Niger
nuclear connection. In the process, Plame's name made it into print under
Post columnist Robert Novak's byline as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass
destruction."

Days later, in October, President Bush termed the disclosure a criminal
matter. The Department of Justice launched an investigation that eventually
led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and FBI involvement.

Wilson has since published a memoir, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the
Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity." It reaches no
conclusions as to who identified his wife, but accuses Bush senior adviser
Karl Rove of advocating Plame's exposure.

Plame associates and her husband say the exposure has jeopardized her
person and canceled her career.

NEW DRAFT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE BILL NEARS READINESS

WASHINGTON -- Democratic staff of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
have put together a revised draft of S. 2301, the Native American Fish and
Wildlife Management Act.

The act came before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs April 29, to
generally good appraisals but with a caution from the Native American Fish
and Wildlife Society that it tried to accomplish too much. That message has
been taken to heart, as the new bill abandons attempts to address Alaska
Native needs and omits specific mention of buffalo. In comments filed with
the committee May 29, Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian
Fisheries Commission, explained the bill's new position on Alaska Native
fishing and buffalo tribe provisions: "It has already been determined, for
political and other reasons, that the section on Alaska will be cut from
this particular bill -- possibly to become the subject of separate
legislation. We continue to defer to the judgment of those tribes, assuming
any resulting legislation does not impact the tribal programs and funding
in our region. We understand the section affecting buffalo tribes is a work
in progress. Our position regarding this is the same as for Alaska."

The bill retains incentives to improve relationships between tribal
departments and federal agencies, as well as sections on marketing
assistance for tribes and public education as to tribal resource
management.

In light of the memorial activities in Washington for former President
Ronald Reagan, it was unclear at press time when the revised bill might
come before the committee again, for official adoption of the latest
version. The committee has rescheduled a business meeting for June 16.