Norton views broken trust fund system
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In June 1999, then-Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt sent out a press release proudly proclaiming that a $40 million software system designed to bring the trust fund into the 21st century was "working."

On a visit to Billings, Montana, this past Saturday, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton saw that system.

It's not working.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs agency in Billings has been the site of numerous tests of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System. All have pretty much failed -- most recently this past fall when data from a new component corrupted existing data.

A court monitor overseeing the department subsequently charted the numerous failures of TAAMS in two reports.

"Every effort has been made to show progress and positive events and suppress negative results when in actuality the system was repeatedly failing in major areas that clearly would set back trust reform by many months if not years," wrote Kieffer in August.

Despite the problems, Norton and President Bush have called for more drilling on federal and Indian lands. Norton, however, cannot guarantee any individual Indian will get proper compensation for use of his or her lands.

The government's record on providing adequate royalties to tribes is equally poor and the Interior is being sued by a number of tribes for mismanaging trust assets.

Get the Story:
U.S. must use its own oil, Norton says (The Billings Gazette 10/28)
Bush Uses Attacks to Push Energy Plan (The Washington Post 10/27)

Relevant Links:
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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Trust fund progress testing 'credibility' (10/11)
Trust fund fix risking 'failure' (10/10)
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In The Hoop: Interior Bungling (10/10)
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