NCAI, Tribal Nations Eagerly Await Government-Wide MOA for Federal Agencies’ Full Implementation of Landmark Tribal Workforce Development Law

Published on Dec 10, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. | On December 18, 2017, President Trump signed into law the first Indian Country-based law of his Administration: the Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017. This landmark legislation seeks to build on the extraordinary success of Public Law 102-477 (passed in 1992; hereafter “477”), which has enhanced the quality and accessibility of workforce development services for Native people and made existing federal programs significantly more effective in supporting tribal nations and Native organizations as they work to meet their employment, training, education, and welfare reform needs.


Among other key components, the 2017 legislation (1) makes the 477 demonstration program permanent; (2) increases the number of federal agencies statutorily required to participate in the 477 program from four to 12; (3) streamlines and clarifies the process by which the federal government reviews and approves tribal 477 Plans; and (4) designates four types of funding (including competitive and discretionary funding for which tribal nations and Native organizations qualify solely or in part due to their status as Indians under federal law) that tribal nations and organizations can choose to include in their 477 Plans based on their particular needs and priorities.


Importantly, the expanded law also gave the 12 federal agencies a deadline of one calendar year (December 18, 2018) to finalize and sign a government-wide Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) establishing how they will work together to properly uphold and administer the law. Specifically, the MOA will set forth the process by which the Department of the Interior – the law’s lead federal agency and ultimate arbiter – will use to review and approve each new or modified tribal 477 Plan, and how it will ensure full compliance by other federal agencies named in each plan.


NCAI passed a resolution at its recent Annual Convention sharing Indian Country’s priorities for the implementation of this critical legislation, and it has been working closely with the Workforce Development (477) Tribal Workgroup to inform the White House and federal agencies about what full implementation of the law needs to entail.


“We are confident this MOA will live up to the full spirit and explicit intent of the law,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “The legislation is crystal clear: it is up to tribal nations and Native organizations – and not any single federal agency – to determine which federal programs should be included in 477 Plans presuming they meet the statutory criteria. That is what tribal self-determination means, and that is what this law requires.”


“This legislation broadly expands on the proven workforce development successes made possible by the original 477 law within the framework of tribal self-determination. We are hopeful from our discussions with the White House Domestic Policy Council that the MOA to be released later this month willadvance that same purpose and prove to be a hallmark of this Administration’s signature legislation for Indian Country,” said 477 Tribal Workgroup Co-Chairs Holly Snowball Morales and Margaret Zientek in a joint statement. “The 12 impacted federal agencies clearly understand the importance of tribal self-determination and self-governance codified in the 477 law, the importance of honoring tribal nation decision-making regarding programs best suited for inclusion in their 477 Plans, and the importance of honoring the Department of Interior’s leadership role in making sure the 477 law achieves its intended potential. We look forward to working with all 12 agencies to make the new and permanent 477 law a success across Indian Country.”


For more information about the Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017 and the forthcoming government-wide MOA, please contact NCAI’s Ian Record at


About the 477 Program


The 477 Program enables tribal nations and Native organizations to combine certain federal funds made available for employment, training, and related services programs into one holistic employment and training 477 Plan that they administer following approval by the Department of the Interior. Once plans are approved, participating tribal nations and Native organizations must submit just one federal report each year that demonstrates it is utilizing the federal funds integrated in their 477 Plans in accordance with the stated objectives of those plans. Operating a 477 Plan allows for one client intake form, one client file, one annual report to the federal government, and one budget. This greatly reduces administrative burdens and costs, enabling tribal nations and Native organizations to provide more and better quality services to their clients. It also helps to break down programmatic silos, empowering tribal nations and Native organizations to design comprehensive, client-centered approaches to workforce development.


About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit

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