This has been a historic year for Indian Country’s relationship with the federal government.
With the seating of the first-ever Native American cabinet secretary and with a record number of Native American hires across the federal government in key roles — including multiple at the White House — Indian Country is positioned to achieve historic progress for the government-to-government relationship.
Recently, in another historic first, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice to consult with Indian Country for the first time.
The Office of Management and Budget is one of the most important components of the Office of the President in administering the president’s agenda.
The Office of Management and Budget writes the budget priorities of the president that are ultimately sent to Congress for approval. The office reviews and approves all government regulations, oversees federal procurement policy and financial management, and reviews and clears presidential directives like executive orders and memos — not to mention the review and clearance of all executive branch policy statements to Congress.
The Office of Management and Budget is small but mighty. Its budget examiner staff were the front-line strategists who crafted the historic increases in the Indian Health Service budget during the Obama-Biden Administration and they will be the staff responsible for implementing President Biden’s commitment to assess and address the federal government’s long underfunding of its obligations to Indian Country.
The Office of Management and Budget is hosting its first consultation calls with tribal leadership on April 2nd and April 5th. This is a historic opportunity for tribal leaders to opine on the work of one of the most powerful and overlooked offices in the federal government.
Issues like the Office of Management and Budget’s assessment of the agencies’ consultation protocols with tribes on all relevant actions and ensuring that the President’s budget request to Congress aligns with Indian Country priorities.
I hope tribal leaders from every region participate in these important and historic consultations with the Office of Management and Budget.
It is the opportunity to push for a stronger relationship between the Office of Management and Budget and tribes, to increase the transparency of the Office of Management and Budget’s Indian Country budget formulation process, to ensure that relevant the Office of Management and Budget circular changes are vetted with Indian Country, to ensure proper tribal consultation on all relevant regulatory proposals, and to ensure that systems of federal procurement and financial management positively impact Indian Country.
The Office of Management and Budget needs the expertise and insight of tribal leaders to make these consultations successful.
Tribal leaders have been convening for decades to develop Indian Country budget priorities through the Department of Interior’s Tribal Interior Budget Council and the HHS Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee.
Now is the opportunity for these voices to directly shape the look and feel of the Office of Management and Budget’s important work.
Raina Thiele, Dena’ina Athabascan & Yup’ik, is a former Office of Management and Budget staffer and former tribal liaison for President Obama