Indian Country Budget Request

Fiscal Year 2018 Indian Country Budget Request
Investing in Indian Country for a Stronger America

Since the 1970s with the passage of federal policies reinforcing Indian self-determination and self-government, tribal leaders have dramatically improved conditions throughout Indian Country in terms of health, education, entrepreneurship, income, and numerous aspects of physical infrastructure and human capital. However, considerable potential for economic growth remains because much of the economic and infrastructure improvement has stalled since 2010 (Akee and Taylor, 2014 and HUD 2017). Fulfilling the federal trust responsibility is essential to realizing the economic potential of Indian Country. This FY 2018 Tribal Budget Request presents numerous opportunities for public investment in Indian Country by our partners in Congress and the Administration.

For Indian Country to make continued and sustained economic progress, federal and tribal governments have important responsibilities, including crafting broad public investment portfolios. Public investment is spending that provides benefits in the future and can fund core infrastructure, such as new highways or fund non-core investments, such as better-educated children. Tribes currently face decades of underinvestment in physical infrastructure as well as ongoing disparities in public and social services.

While the federal treaty and trust relationship calls for federal funding of education, healthcare, and other government services, upholding Indian treaty and trust obligations is also an important component of tribal and surrounding regional economies. Economists have found that tribal economic growth leads to economic growth in surrounding regions. When underutilized tribal land, infrastructure, and other capital are put to better use, such development adds to gross state product. Tribal economic activity produces regional multiplier impacts for the off-reservation economy (Croman and Taylor, 2016).

Well-functioning governments are essential to market economies. Governments provide local and national public and quasi-public goods that the private sector would otherwise under provide, such as public safety and justice – essential for conducting business on reservations and tribal lands (Hackbart, 2002). Public investments in core infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water and sanitation systems provide high economic rates of return (Bivens, 2016). Such core infrastructure in Indian Country has faced insufficient public investment for decades. Additionally, governments must not neglect noncore public investments, such as early childhood education, early childcare, health care, and a range of human services, which provide at least as much of a near-term economic boost as core infrastructure.

Federal funding that meets federal Indian treaty and trust obligations also provide significant contributions to the economy. In just the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) “contribute substantially to economic growth in tribal areas through advances in infrastructure, strategic planning, improved practices of governance, and the development of human capital” (DOI, 2013). In FY 2012, Indian Affairs “contributed over $14 billion in value added, $18 billion in economic activity and supported nearly 93,000 jobs” (DOI, 2013). Value added is the contribution of an activity to overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Modernizing Indian Country infrastructure and sustainably managing natural resources while ensuring the quality of human services, public safety, and education systems are all critical to strengthening tribal and the surrounding, often rural, economies. Indian Country has faced insufficient public investment for decades in housing, roads, education, criminal justice systems, water and sanitation systems, and human services. Now is the time to address this historic underinvestment in Indian Country. 

Download the entire FY 2018 document (PDF 3.3 MB) or individual sections below (PDF versions).

Table of Contents
Executive Summary 
Support for Tribal Governments 
Public Safety & Justice 
Homeland Security & Emergency Management 
Human Services 
Economic & Workforce Development
Agriculture & Rural Development 
Environmental Protection 
Natural Resources 
Historic & Cultural Preservation

Suggested Citation: National Congress of American Indians. (January 2017). Fiscal Year 2018 Indian Country Budget Requests: Investing in Indian Country for a Stronger America. Washington, DC: Author.


Akee, R. K., & Taylor, J. B. (2014). Social and economic change on American Indian reservations: A databook of the US Censuses and American Community Survey, 1990–2010. Sarasota, FL: Taylor Policy Group. Retrieved December, 28, 2014.

Bivens, J. and Blair H. (2016). A public investment agenda that delivers the goods for American workers needs to be long-lived, broad, and subject to democratic oversight

Croman, K. S., & Taylor, J. B. (2016). “Why beggar thy Indian neighbor? The case for tribal primacy in taxation in Indian country.” Joint Occasional Papers on Native Affairs (JOPNA 2016-1). Tucson, AZ and Cambridge, MA: Native Nations Institute and Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Hackbart, M., & Ramsey, J. R. (2002). The theory of the public sector budget: An economic perspective. Budget Theory in the Public Sector, 172.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Economic Report, FY 2012, July 29, 2013