Some of the most intense scrutiny of Alaska Native firms' participation in federal contracting has been in Congress.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who runs a federal contracting oversight subcommittee, opposes the legal provision that allows Alaska Native and tribally owned firms to obtain federal contracts of any size without bidding. She has said repeatedly that she will seek reforms. The Daily News asked this year's Alaska candidates for U.S. House and Senate to share their opinions about Native contracting. All of the candidates except U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller responded.
The candidates were all asked the same questions:
• Are you in favor of the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program and its provisions that allow Alaska Native and tribally owned companies to obtain contracts of any size without bidding?
• What do you think of the 8(a) reform package from CIRI, Doyon and Arctic Slope?
• Do you support the continued ability of Native corporations to obtain federal contracts designated for companies which are deemed disadvantaged?
Their responses are below, edited for length:
I support the 8(a) program and believe it is an important economic development tool for Alaska Native corporations. This program has enabled (them) to diversify their economic portfolios and provide stable income for their corporations, especially at a time of diminishing opportunities on Native-owned land.
I am interested in learning more about the three firms' proposal. I have met with many Alaska Native corporations and understand there is a larger dialogue happening in the Native community. This proposal is just one part of that dialogue and I believe that any changes should have a thorough vetting from all participants in the program.
This is one of the most successful economic development tools for Alaska Natives and should be protected.
Did not respond.
I support the 8(a) program and the Native American enhancements to the program, provided that the government pays a fair price for the goods or services it procures noncompetitively, the 8(a) participant performs the contract effectively, delivers the government what is promised, and the profits generated from a contract provide meaningful benefits to the socially and economically disadvantaged community.
The three CEOs have stepped forward to provide a vision for reform, and their proposal will certainly be part of the discussion. Improving the integrity and accountability of the program is necessary to ensure the long-term success of the program.
I am concerned about reports that some Native corporation 8(a) entities are not in compliance with applicable federal regulations. I also think that Alaska Native corporations bear the burden of demonstrating to Congress that these contracts provide meaningful benefits to Native corporation shareholders.
Federal agencies consistently tell us that they do get good value and strong performance from Indian 8(a) contractors, including Alaska Native corporations. Perhaps a cap on noncompetitive contracts, which still allows 8(a)s to compete with each other, would improve Congress' confidence in the program. I think that's what the three CEOs are driving at.
Ted Stevens saw a problem and devised a solution ... to help the newcomers break into the business world so that they could stand independently and profitably on their own. The 8(a) program has been fairly successful but its work is not done yet.
The CEOs have proposed modifications and I believe that they are on the right track. I supported the program and believe that with modifications it should continue. I would like to know more about other aspects of modifications beyond the cap and no-bid provisions.
I would like to hear a review on an ongoing basis how the corporations are doing and their ability to compete in the marketplace without the advantages. I expect that at some point they will make that transition, but I want to be sure that we don't pull the rug out from under them prematurely.
The congressman supports SBA's 8(a) program and its no-cap, sole-source contracts for Alaska Native corporations. ANCs provide economic development for communities in Alaska and benefits for shareholders, which are among the poorest in the nation. Critics of the program say ANCs shouldn't receive no-bid contracts or should have a cap. ANCs should not be compared to individually owned, disadvantaged small businesses, as ANCs represent thousands of disadvantaged minorities. Sole-source contracts are needed, especially by the military, to get projects completed quickly. (Recently) it was announced that Boeing received a sole-source contract at almost $12 billion. Why are ANCs continually singled out while defense contracting giants escape scrutiny? Congressman Young will support whatever the village and regional ANCs collectively decide to do. Where reforms are needed, the SBA has been undergoing a rule-making process for a year. We should allow that process to play out.
By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK