Tester pushes to eliminate unnecessary hurdles for Native American companies

Government report finds that a Defense Department provision has negatively impacted Native American contractors

(U.S. SENATE)-Senator Jon Tester is urging Defense Secretary Ash Carter to complete a study identifying the negative impacts of a recent provision on Native American contractors.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that a Defense Department provision led to an unnecessary reduction in the number of contracts awarded to Native American contractors and that some Native American owned companies reported the provisions have been used to avoid working with them all together out of fear of political scrutiny.

Section 811 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act requires a justification and approval for all contract awards greater than $20 million through the Small Business Administration’s Business Development Program to Native American contractors.

“Native contracting is a win-win. We’re creating jobs in tribal communities and the federal government is receiving essential goods and services it needs to support our troops. But folks in Indian Country are being negatively impacted by unnecessary hurdles,” Tester said after sending the letter. “It’s important that we identify what’s keeping the agency from awarding contracts to Native American owned businesses fix it as soon as possible. Obtaining a government contract should be transparent and predictable, and right now neither seem to be the case.”

The 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act included a requirement for the Defense Department study of the impacts of Section 811, but that study has failed to produce any results yet.

The GAO report also indicated that Section 811 has led to arbitrary caps on the value of contracts the agency will award and requires a significantly higher approval than is otherwise required under federal acquisition rules.

The letter was signed by Senators Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Moran (R-Kan.), Murkowski (R-Alaska), Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Sullivan (R-Alaska).

Tester’s letter to Secretary Ash Carter is available online HERE.