Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Alaska connection?

With the Veep Sweeps approaching, Guambat decided to follow up on a matter that had been bubbling in the back of his mass-challenged mind. All he has done, though, is turn up more information and less understanding.

So, being the helpful critter he is, Guambat has decided to lumber you with the stuff to see if you find anything in it of analytical import.

What kicked this off for Guambat was the reports of arrival, on faraway bitty Guam, of Alaska Native corporations, looking to tap into the billions of dollars of US and Japanese government money that is expected to be spent here over the next few years to sharpen America's Pacific Tip of the Spear.

From what Guambat heard, those "Natives" looked more
Haole than Eskimo.

Then, Guambat recalled that Alaska's Kingmaking Senator, Ted Stevens, was gettin old and in the way.

Ted Stevens was the poster boy behind the corporatization of Native Alaskan tribes under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
In 1968, the Atlantic-Richfield Company discovered oil at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast, catapulting the issue of land ownership into headlines.

In order to lessen the difficulty of drilling at such a remote location and transporting the oil to the lower 48 states, the best solution seemed to be building a pipeline to carry the oil across Alaska to the port of Valdez, built on the ruins of the previous town. At Valdez, the oil would be loaded onto tanker ships and sent by water to the contiguous states.

The plan was approved, but a permit to construct the pipeline, which would cross lands involved in the native dispute, could not be granted until the Native claims had been settled.

With major petroleum dollars on the line, there was a new urgency for an agreement, and, in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by the U.S. President, under which the Natives relinquished aboriginal claims to their lands.

In return, they received access to 44 million acres (180,000 km²) of land and were paid $963 million. The land and money were divided among regional, urban, and village corporations. Some handled their funds wisely and others did not, leaving some Natives land rich and cash poor.

The settlement compensated the Natives for the invasion of their lands and opened the way for all Alaskans to profit from oil, one of the state's largest natural resources.
This land claims settlement remains a work in progress. Only this week, it was reported:
"Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced Senate Bill 3651 Monday that would enable Sealaska Corporation, the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, to satisfy its remaining land entitlement under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act."
According to that report, Ted Stevens was joyed:
"The bill would allow Sealaska to continue its significant contributions to the economy of the area and efforts to help keep the timber industry ­ which continues to be hard hit by federal timber policy and constant litigation over timber sales in the Tongass ­ alive. The bill would benefit Alaska Natives statewide through 7(i) revenue sharing principles...."
Suddenly, the choice of Governor Palin didn't seem like such a spontaneous or "left field" VP choice for a Presidential candidate to make.

For all the best of purposes, and not doubting for a minute the needs of real Native Alaskans, Guambat wonders if perhaps the Alaskan Indians weren't dealt the same kind of deal the Dutch settlers on Manhattan struck with those Indians.

Alaska Native Regional Corporations have become big business, or at least the front for big business.

For instance, Sealaska is one of them. Its Native claims and interests are in Southeastern Alaska.

Its website describes it as
a diverse company with investments in forest products, construction aggregates, machining and prototyping, environmental remediation, plastics injection molding and manufacturing, and financial markets.

Our status as a Minority Business Enterprise and Small Disadvantaged Business add to our strength as a government contractor and commercial diversity supplier.
It is the "majority" owner of a Colorado business, Managed Business Solutions. Sealaska describes this subsidiary as:
delivering national and global solutions in North and South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Under federal law, Sealaska is deemed to be a “minority and economically disadvantaged business enterprise.” This includes all majority-owned subsidiaries, including MBS, joint ventures and partnerships [43 USC 1626(e)]. Additionally, MBS is minority-certified by the National Minority Supplier Development Council and recently received certification under the U.S. Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.
This status as a Native Alaska corporation gives it an inside track on US government spending programs. It has set-asides that allow such corporations (not "picking on" any one of them) to obtain preferential Federal procurement contracts with or without competitive bidding, much of the time by "sole source" contracting.

The way they are showing up on Guam gives the impression that they follow the scent of US government money around the world, with the seemingly enhanced ability to track down and bring home significant contracts.

Again, as an example only, the Sealaska MBS subsidiary promotes itself as follows:
As an Alaska Native-owned company and 8(a) certified, Managed Business Solutions (MBS) offers significant advantages not only in service delivery but also in procurement contracting.
Under federal law, Sealaska and its subsidiaries, joint ventures and partnerships are designated "minority and economically disadvantaged business enterprises."
The advantage granted to Alaska Native Corporations has drawn a little criticism, though Guambat suspects not much attention has been paid to this matter outside Alaska.

For instance, The US Government Accountability Office reported on its investigation to Congress in 2006:
Increased Use of Alaska Native Corporations’ Special 8(a) Provisions Calls for Tailored Oversight

While representing a small amount of total federal procurement spending,8(a) obligations to firms owned by ANCs increased from $265 million in fiscal year 2000 to $1.1 billion in 2004. In fiscal year 2004, obligations to ANC firms represented 13 percent of total 8(a) dollars.

Sole-source awards represented about 77 percent of 8(a) ANC obligations for the six procuring agencies that accounted for the vast majority of total ANC obligations over the 5-year period.
These sole-source contracts can represent a broad range of services, as illustrated in GAO’s contract file sample, which included contracts for construction in Brazil, training of security guards in Iraq, and information technology services in Washington, D.C.
In general, acquisition officials at the agencies reviewed told GAO that the option of using ANC firms under the 8(a) program allows them to quickly, easily, and legally award contracts for any value.
In reviewing selected large, sole-source 8(a) contracts awarded to ANC firms, GAO found that contracting officials had not always complied with certain requirements, such as notifying SBA of contract modifications and monitoring the percent of work that is subcontracted.

GAO found that some ANCs have increasingly made use of the congressionally authorized advantages afforded to them. One of the key practices is the creation of multiple 8(a) subsidiaries, sometimes in highly diversified lines of business. From fiscal year 1988 to 2005, ANC 8(a) subsidiaries increased from one subsidiary owned by one ANC to 154 subsidiaries owned by 49 ANCs.

SBA, which is responsible for implementing the 8(a) program, has not tailored its policies and practices to account for ANCs’ unique status and growth in the 8(a) program, even though SBA officials recognize that ANCs enter into more complex business relationships than other 8(a) participants.

Areas where SBA’s oversight has fallen short include: determining whether more than one subsidiary of the same ANC is generating a majority of its revenue in the same primary industry, consistently determining whether awards to 8(a) ANC firms have resulted in other small businesses losing contract opportunities, and ensuring that the partnerships between 8(a) ANC firms and large firms are functioning in the way they were intended.

The reach of this Alaskan influence is illustrated in this item:
Contract awarded: EL PASO -- Alutiiq International Solutions LLC was awarded a $19,499,371 firm fixed price contract earlier this week for construction of a physical fitness center and brigade combat team community center at Fort Bliss, the Department of Defense reported.

The contract has an estimated completion date of Jan. 22, 2010. Three companies bid on the project. Alutiiq International is a subsidiary of Afognak Native Corp., an Alaska Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, according to the company's Web site.

Todd Palin, whose mother is a quarter Yup'ik, is a union member who worked in the North Slope oil fields of Alaska for 18 years and also works as a commercial salmon fisherman at Bristol Bay, close to the site of the proposed Pebble mine.

The Associated Press has run a very detailed study of the Palin finances, and there is nothing in that report that suggests any link to any Native Alaskan corporation interest. Indeed, it makes them seem pretty much like ordinary folk; ambitious enough, but hard-working, opportunistic maybe, not silver-tailed.

Still, Guambat wonders if there are any Palin-Skins behind the selection of McCain's "mystery" pick?

Mystery solved? Or, conspiracy theory launched??


Judge Could Dismiss Stevens's Indictment or Declare Mistrial
A federal judge this morning scolded lawyers prosecuting Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) on ethics charges for waiting until the last minute to disclose potentially exculpatory material and said he would hear arguments today from defense attorneys about whether to dismiss the indictment or declare a mistrial.

The potentially exculpatory material involves remarks by the executive, Bill Allen, a key prosecution witness, who said he believed Stevens would have paid for the renovations if Allen had ever billed him. Attorneys for the government did not disclose those remarks until late yesterday.


Thanks to a search hit on Guambat's hit-o-meter, Guambat came across this interesting description of Native American procurement benefits, again, not to take anything away from Native Americans as such. It's the camp-followers that irritate.


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