On Nov. 25, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick announced the formal establishment of the Corps of Engineers Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise located in Albuquerque District.
“The selection of the Albuquerque District reflects the district’s demonstrated capability and expertise in the specialized area of tribal relations with the nation’s federally recognized tribal communities,” Bostick said.
USACE recognizes its unique relationship to federally recognized tribes, which is different than the relationship with state and local governments. This relationship has its foundations in the U.S. Constitution, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, administrative rules and regulations, and judicial decisions.
“Each and every Corps employee must uphold our trust obligations to Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiian organizations,” Bostick said. “And the creation of the dedicated TNTCX demonstrates the USACE commitment to meeting our trust obligations.”
Establishing the TNTCX is a natural progression in the evolution of USACE’s Tribal Nations Program, which is fairly young in comparison to other USACE programs. Corps of Engineers Tribal Policy Principles were developed in 1998 and the senior tribal liaison position was established at Headquarters in 2003, formalizing USACE’s Tribal Nations Program. USACE’s Tribal Consultation Policy was issued in 2012, consistent with Executive Order 13175, Tribal Consultation.
Districts will remain the foundation of mission execution. The TNTCX will provide assistance in closing gaps when there is limited capability, support to the USACE Tribal Nations Program, and reimbursable work for others, including other federal agencies.
USACE’s Tribal Consultation Policy recognizes its unique legal and political relationship with tribal governments that recognizes self-government and self-determination. More and more, tribes are coming to USACE as project partners, seeking technical services from USACE’s international and interagency services authorities, collaborating on environmental issues and consulting on USACE projects. One of the goals of the TNTCX is to ensure effective delivery of critically needed resources, such as ecosystem restoration and construction of infrastructure that USACE is uniquely positioned to provide while fulfilling Tribal trust responsibilities.
The TNTCX will provide support to the senior tribal liaison and the Tribal Nations Program to improve capabilities and management, reduce redundancies, optimize the use of specialized expertise and resources, enhance USACE-wide consistency, facilitate technology transfer, help maintain institutional knowledge and improve service to customers.
The TNTCX will work closely with the senior tribal liaison on the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide Tribal Tracker Program, which is different from how USACE has managed the Tribal Nations Program in the past. This Web-based program, already implemented in Albuquerque District, is used to capture institutional knowledge, track interaction with Tribes, provide metrics on tribal interactions, and track critical documents relating to each individual tribe.
Once fully implemented, the Tribal Tracker Program will track enterprise-wide statistics for business process analysis and for reporting on Executive Order 13175. This program was presented at the Tribal Nations Advanced Training and Community of Practice meetings in January 2014 and again in November 2014 to USACE tribal liaisons.
The TNTCX will be managed by Ronald Kneebone, who has served as an archaeologist, project manager and tribal liaison in the Albuquerque District since 1991. Kneebone brings more than three decades of experience to the TNTCX and has been a leader in the Tribal Nations Program, providing support to other Corps districts nationwide on a consistent basis. Kneebone said he and his team in Albuquerque are enthusiastic about being selected to serve as the host district for the TNTCX and are ready to serve USACE and others as needed.