FROM THE ARCHIVE

Interior won't detail 'transition' costs

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MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2002

Although Secretary of Interior Gale Norton has backed off plans to create an Indian trust agency and says no funds are being used to implement it, her department won't detail how much money is being spent in transition costs, officials said.

Citing privacy and personnel issues, department officials are declining to release information associated with the Office of Indian Trust Transition. Norton created the office last November and put former Assistant Secretary Ross Swimmer in charge.

At the time, Swimmer's major duty was to pave the way for the Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management (BITAM). But while those plans are on held pending consultation with Indian Country, he has taken up a number of other duties and has been assigned department personnel.

According to court documents, Swimmer has oversight of the $40 million Trust Accounting and Asset Management System (TAAMS), a related TAAMS subproject and probate. The three projects are being managed by Donna Erwin, an employee of the Office of the Special Trustee (OST).

Swimmer's other duty is to create a "strategic plan" for trust reform. Under a 1994 law, the Special Trustee is responsible for the plan but Norton has assigned Swimmer to the task.

Congress has refused to "reprogram" $200 million in Bureau of Indian Affairs funds and $100 million in OST funds to a new trust agency. Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week that the department intended to transfer money from other bureaus, offices and agencies had Congress not stepped in.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton in full damage control mode (3/4)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://130.94.214.68/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

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