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Why Must Lower-Level BIA Employees Be Furloughed?

Jay Daniels
4/23/13

BIA is proposing to furlough employees for one day each pay period through the remainder of the fiscal year through September 30, 2013 to offset funding shortages supposedly created under the sequestration bill. BIA has suspended all travel and training, and frozen vacant positions meaning that all vacancies can't be filled. This seems a little extreme. Common sense says that if you suspend travel and training plus filling vacant positions, why would you need to furlough current employees? Travel and training costs amount to approximately 30 percent of overall BIA expenses. Furloughing employees maybe will save approximately $9.6 million, but freezing travel and training will save almost that much along with savings from current vacancies.

Vacant positions are a common issue as many BIA positions constantly are vacant. They usually cover these vacancies by detailing other BIA staff into these positions because they deem these positions critical. The detail means that someone is promoted with a temporary pay increase into the position and are provided travel costs, per diem and lodging paid for by the BIA. High priced costs to send someone into a location to temporarily cover a position which is vacant.

Presently, the Special Assistant to the BIA director is an employee detailed for the past two or three years into a position that didn't exist before in Washington, D.C. and he is allowed to travel back and forth to his home. A ghost position but you would be surprised how many "Special Assistant" positions exist in D.C. You would think that a "Special Assistant" wouldn't need an "Assistant" because that's why they are "Special Assistants." But they have the authority to detail folks in to help them do what they were detailed in to do. How much does that cost? If you terminated all of these details and shut off the costs for per diem and lodging, plus airfare for these Special Assistant's travel, wouldn’t there be significant savings?

But yet BIA has decided to take your local agency young mothers and fathers out of the office for one day every pay period and furlough them. This is a tremendous hardship on those young tribal members who barely make it now because usually they are entry level employees meaning they are at the low end of the pay scale. They are forcing furloughs on the local employees while upper level management continues to stroll the hallways of the D.C. Central Office and probably won't have to worry about furloughs. President Obama is committing to surrender 5% of his monthly pay for the sequestration and he should require all of his agency heads and management to do so as well so that the lower level employees can feel like "it's not just me, it's everyone." 

I was recently approached by the U.S. General Accounting Office, more commonly referred to as the GAO, to provide information about things happening in the field. During this time, Indian folks will be suffering from the furlough and other actions. I believe that tribal consultation should have been conducted once the final plan was developed and question why these employees are being furloughed while there are still funds out there. The decision has been made without true final consultation from tribes. But, it always takes someone to step up to the plate and take a swing. There, I've taken my swing. Now it's up to tribes to step up and take a swing. 

Now, if every employee is furloughed one day each pay period for twenty pay periods, covering the time period through September 2013, that would equate to about $9.6 mil in cost recovery. But what is that going to cost Indian country? You as land and mineral owners will have to wait even longer for service and for your leases and rights-of-way to be processed. Did BIA consult with tribes as required by Presidential Executive Order 13175 in their final decision to furlough employees? Initially BIA did advise of the potential impacts on Indian country for the reduced funding anticipated. But once the sequestration became reality and was implemented, there was no true tribal consultation as to how it would impact Indian country. The furlough of BIA employees will impact local reservations because employees will be gone one day each pay period. It will be hard to get things done. Tribes must stand up and demand that these employees be allowed to work so that your work is met timely. Here is the official memorandum issued to all employees.

Why aren't the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Office of Special Trustee, and other DOI agencies, implementing a furlough on their employees? The reason is that these Departments implemented the Voluntary Early Retirement Act (VERA) in a timely manner and was able to avert furloughs. BIA planned poorly. Tribes need to take BIA to task on this issue because it will create a hardship on your tribal membership.

Jay Daniels has 30 years of experience working in Indian Country, managing trust lands and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. You can find resources and information at RoundhouseTalk.com.
 

 

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Anonymous's picture
Why, you ask, they are the empire, they can victimize you anytime they want, especially the hang around the fort indian's! And also, your a state funded IRA and BIA corporation, under their corrupt, unjust order of systematic political oppression, repression and genocide of authentic traditional divine sovereign independent red indigenous nationhood's and our traditional govts and representatives! Basically, most IRA Tribal People have become the Oppressor of they're own kind, history, cultural, spirituality, red hope, red love, red faith, belief and RED POWER! If you don't know really why this is happening to your own kind then again you white education has not served your people or you,, Once when you were free as a authentic and spiritual human being, with the most honorable, respectful, loving, caring, compassionate, brave, courageous, destine all powerful red human being with a history, truthful diplomacy, and honest humility from all the knowledge of all of Red Life upon this continent, Earth, that those in the struggle for a more fuller humanity in authentic, and reasonable democracy, as free men and women, who starts to come to understand what (Turtle Island) "means"; to the Creator of all Creation and all Living Thing's in relationship with a divine plan and destiny as spiritual and authentic sovereign red traditional independent nationhood's. All born again from a common Creator and Mother we call Earth! With a new birth of understanding what red inter-tribal-ancient indigenous nationhood's, must come to understand and means for the liberation of earth, all living things and mankind himself, with in a heal sacred hoop of life! We are all connected to free will, to choose our intellect and red destiny, as traditional minded that is root from the compassion's, to inspiration's and creativity and all RED REALITY that is a living God and a Living Spirit of Healing that is unparalleled in the history of human kind! It is our own kind of IRA and BIA political manipulation, to take advantage, gain and control of our consecrated red ancient land's. Homelands, and Resources! We must get honest, my relative's to our common fate, as a persecuted indigenous people's and authentic traditional and national red govts. This is the end because IRA, BIA, TREATY Activists, and our Spiritual leadership's will not love and accept each other unconditional in God's love, as a persecuted people under the domination and spiritual, biological, political and economical destruction of our ordained, divine, intrinsic, sovereign, consecrated by God; indigenous sovereign homeland's and all resources. For 500 year's these lost white souls, looking for a homeland, and when we shared ours', they killed us, and are still killing us, to steal more lands, title's and all resources give to us by God, not by Empire! America and it's American Taxpayer's are "war monger's. The for 500 yrs America and American's are in denial and are historical coveter's of what their own God, the Christ established long ago before man even was a thought of. Forthcoming, the Spiritual and Merciful Emancipation of all Authentic, Free, Red Sovereign, Traditional Nationhood, People, Children and Homeland's, from the terror of imperialist tyranny, the war against God and the Poor of Earth, the destruction of red life and domination and the globalization of humanity in the old world of the final world war with the Creator and the Free World with c completed annihilation and destruction of all living thing's, who were born free in an authentic democratic society! Wanbli 2014
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
If you're asking me to feel sympathy for the BIA and tribes, I don't. This problem is our own fault (at least where I'm from). We have the worst run organizations, and so many of the problems with the BIA are due to the political whims of tribal councils and chairmen. From what I see from our locals tribes is a lot of wasteful spending and unaccountability. So many BIA and tribal members employees perform from a sense of entitlement, and the service standards are low. Until tribes and the BIA start making improvements with what they have and holding all their employees accountable, they shouldn't have any more money. There is too much mismanagement here with funds, yet no one is held accountable. This is the tribe and the BIA's fault. I'm starting to believe our people don't want to get better - it's too profitable not to.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
The BIA is the most useless government agency ever created and should be shut down. Tribes already have a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States Government and don't need a useless middleman like the BIA
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Only problem with removing the BIA is that there are quite a few tribes that are as incompetent as the BIA, some more so.
Anonymous
nokomis's picture
BIA = Bossing Indians Around!
nokomis
Anonymous's picture
Amen Mr. Daniels. I was offered the VERA/VSIP in April and was denied. No rationale. I have 35 years with the Government and will meet the minimum age requirement for retirement this summer. BIA would rather keep paying my salary and benefits rather than let me retire, makes no sense. You are exactly right, 2 years ago other DOI agencies offered their employees VERA/VSIP to PREPARE for budget cuts, not BIA, like always unorganized and slow to comprehend. Cheers to you for speaking up.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
The Obama administration, by there own admission, want to create as much pain as possible for the sequester. Do not look for logic and sense here, only political manuevering.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Why? Because President Obama can do anything he wants to do. Have you noticed how often he and his family go on vacation to Hawaii on Air Force One? Have you noticed how he ends up going all over the USA talking at all the memorials for the tragic things that have happened to Americans every time they happen, or Mrs. Obama or Vice President Biden goes? That costs millions upon millions of dollars in security, much of the costs are imposed on the local law enforcement officers that have plenty else to take care of. I've never seen a family in the White House take as many vacations as they have or have such elaborate parties. As long as it doesn't affect him personally, why should he care what happens to everyone else. Why else?! What about all the politicians and their "pork barrel" projects. Heaven forbid should they not get their millions of dollars for someone to examine why butterflies have a certain color, or why there is air, or some other ridiculous thing. Politicians care about themselves and their agendas. That's just the way it is. It has always been this way. What scares me to death, however, is how gutted our military might has become. A Russian once said, when you strike someone with a sword and strike steel, you don't strike again, but when you strike mush, you can strike over and over again. Look what is happening in the Middle East over Seria's people being gassed. It's always, we need more proof. What about our reaction to North Korea. They should have been made a glass parking lot a long time ago. What about the Russians getting away with having subs in the Gulf of Mexico and our not knowing about it until they left and were discovered then? What the hell is happening to our great country? And, not the least, when has the government really sincerely given a crap about Native Americans? It's pathetic that the Native peoples of Turtle Island have been treated as enemies for so many years and things have improved over wanting every Indian a dead Indian, but treaties are still being broken and conditions between the BIA and the government have always been corrupt. It seems like politics=corruption in this country. It's so sad and not what our servicemen and women have fought and died for. It's just a sad state of being.
Anonymous