Washington, DC – Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released the first details of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Request to Congress, which contains historic policy and funding proposals for Indian Country. These proposals represent a dramatic shift in federal Indian policy and the delivery of trust and treaty obligations—for which USET SPF has consistently and passionately advocated. For the very first time, an Administration has issued a Budget Request that calls for mandatory, as well as substantially increased and predictable, funding for an agency charged with fulfilling sacred promises to Tribal Nations.
The Request would shift funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) from the discretionary to the mandatory side of the federal budget, a move that stabilizes the agency and is more representative of perpetual trust and treaty obligations. Further, a substantial request of $9.1 billion for IHS in FY 2023 includes a 10-year plan to close funding gaps, increasing IHS funding to $36.7 billion in FY 2032—a 296% increase over this period—and exempting agency funds from sequestration. This change makes meaningful inroads in the chronic underfunding of the IHS, while responding to the dangerous instability the Indian Health System faces during continuing resolutions and government shutdowns. Year after year, USET SPF has urged multiple Administrations and Congresses to request and enact budgets that honor the unique, Nation-to-Nation relationship between Tribal Nations and the United States, including providing full and mandatory funding. The Biden Administration has taken an unprecedented step forward in its proposal for the IHS.
“The President’s FY 2023 Budget Request lays the foundation for revolutionary and transformational change in the diplomatic relationship between Tribal Nations and the United States,” said USET SPF President, Kirk Francis. “USET SPF has long called for mandatory and full funding for all federal Indian programs, including the Indian Health Service, and the Biden Administration is the first to heed this call by issuing proposals that would move us closer to realizing this necessary change. We view each President’s Budget Request as an indication of that Administration’s respect and reverence for its sacred trust and treaty obligations. With this Request, the Biden Administration is showing us that it intends to honor federal promises.”
The Request also contains $2.8 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and $1.6 billion for the Bureau of Indian Education. For both agencies, Contract Support Costs and 105(l) Lease funding would also move to the mandatory side of the federal budget.
The chronic underfunding of federal Indian programs continues to have disastrous impacts upon Tribal governments and Native peoples. Native peoples experience some of the greatest disparities among all populations in this country, which have been brought into sharp relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these systemic issues have existed for decades, across numerous Administrations and Congresses. Indeed, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Broken Promises report (and the Quiet Crisis report
before that) found deep failures in the delivery of federal trust and treaty obligations, concluding that federal funding to Indian Country remains “grossly inadequate” and a “barely perceptible and decreasing percentage of agency budgets.” The Commission recommended that Congress provide “steady, equitable, non-discretionary funding” to Tribal Nations.
“Because of our history and unique relationship with the United States, the trust obligation of the federal government to Tribal Nations, as reflected in the federal budget, is fundamentally different from ordinary discretionary spending and should be considered mandatory in nature,” added USET SPF Executive Director, Kitcki Carroll. “USET SPF celebrates the FY 2023 President’s Budget Request as a meaningful first step in ensuring federal funding to Tribal Nations exemplifies this solemn charge. We now call upon Congress to work with Tribal Nations and the Administration to fulfill its responsibilities and work to ensure that these proposals are included in any final FY 2023 appropriations legislation. Congressional support for President Biden’s FY2023 proposal will move the United States closer to honoring and fulfilling the sacred promises made to Tribal Nations.”
USET SPF strongly supports proposals in the FY 2023 President’s Budget Request that would provide mandatory and increased funding for IHS and other federal Indian budget lines. We are fully committed to working with the Administration and our allies on Capitol Hill to make this a reality, and look forward to fully evaluating the FY 2023 Request when further details are available.
For more information on the President’s FY 2023 Budget Request:
For more information on USET SPF’s Advocacy for Full and Mandatory Funding