By Robert Brodsky
Interesting moment this morning at the administration's Tribal Nations conference at the Department of Interior.
President Obama was questioned, possibly for the first time, on potential changes to the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development contracting program. The 8(a) program carves out several unique contracting exceptions for Indian tribes, Alaska Native Corporations and Native Hawaiian Organizations. But, those procurement advantages have come under close scrutiny recently by Senate lawmakers.
The final question to Obama was posed by Leslie Lohse of the Paskenta Nomlaki tribe in California, who asked about potential changes to the 8(a) program.
"And another thing that I'd like to ask you to do is to take care of our 8(a) program because those of us -- those that are landless out there can develop economic development opportunities through the 8(a) contracting program, and that may ease some of the burdens that some of the landless tribes are, because you don't need to have land to operate that," Lohse said. "And there is an attack on our 8(a) program -- I perceive it as an attack -- because it is limiting. We just barely started three years ago with ours, and we're starting to get rolling, and now they want to change the rules. So I ask that you pay mind to that -- that we not inhibit our growth in that way so that we can purchase some of our lands back and grow from that, instead of being dependent on gaming."
Obama did not directly respond to comment, but directed conference participants to speak directly with departmental and agency leaders that are in attendance.
"Present to them your concerns, your specific recommendations," Obama said. "They are here to listen and to learn and to advise."