Alaska Natives Focus on Controversial 8(a) Issue

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaska Natives gathering in Fairbanks are discussing the thorny issue of 8(a) government contracts allowed American Indian and Alaska and Hawaiian Native businesses.  Recently, some in Congress have pointed to abuses within the program and others have called for the program’s discontinuation.  But Sarah Lukin, executive director of the Native American Contractors’ Association,  pointed to the program’s successes.  She said since the formation of the Alaska Native Corporations, household incomes of Alaska Native households have risen, as have graduation rates.

Lukin said to cut the program is absolutely wrong.  She said Natives have faced previous attempts to reform the program and now some government agencies, the Navy and the Air Force are imposing their own restrictions on 8(a) contracts

Lukin blamed a Washington Post series on 8(a)’s as misleading readers into believing the program is riddled with abuses. NACA is calling for transparency in 8(a) contract dealings, and branded current reform legislation as designed to address perceptions, not reality.

She said it would be irresponsible for Congress to undertake reform of 8(a) without letting recent changes be implemented.

Lukin called Senator McCaskill’s efforts to exclude Alaska Natives from government contracts comparable to keeping Natives on welfare

Meanwhile, Greg Razo, with Cook Inlet Region, Inc., told convention goers that CIRI, Arctic Slope Region and Doyon are working on presenting their own slate of 8(a) reforms to Congress.

Razo said CIRI, ASRC and Doyon are making efforts to change the current program to allow for more competition, accountability and enforcement.

The corporations’ plan was submitted to the Small Business Administration last month.

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