Indian Affairs Expands Opportunities for Native Businesses With New Buy Indian Act Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs has announced new regulations to improve implementation of the Buy Indian Act to promote economic development opportunities in Indian Country. The final rule was developed in consultation with tribes after the department proposed revisions to the Buy Indian Act regulations last year.

“These regulations will promote economic opportunities in and near tribal communities for Native-owned businesses,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “This is a key part of our goal to make sure that Indian people have the opportunity to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives in their tribal communities.”  

The Buy Indian Act allows the Department to set aside certain opportunities for Indian-owned and controlled businesses. The revisions to the regulations will:

  • Eliminate barriers to Indian Economic Enterprises from competing on certain construction contracts
  • Expand Indian Economic Enterprises’ ability to subcontract construction work consistent with other socio-economic set-aside programs
  • Give greater preference to Indian Economic Enterprises when a deviation from the Buy Indian Act is necessary, among other updates

The update also aligns Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service regulations to facilitate more contracting opportunities for eligible entities under the Buy Indian Act. The rule supports the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2020, which requires the Indian Health Service and the Department of the Interior-Indian Affairs to harmonize Buy Indian Act procurement procedures, providing Native-owned businesses with a streamlined, consistent set of rules when doing business with the government.

The Department has prioritized supporting Indian Economic Enterprises. In Fiscal Year 2021, nearly $280 million in spending went to Native-owned businesses, which represents 59 percent of all Indian Affairs purchasing power. This is a significant increase from Fiscal Year 2018, when Buy Indian Act purchasing was $85.4 million. Over the next several years, the new regulations are expected to result in up to 65 percent of Indian Affairs purchases being set aside for Native-owned businesses, with up to $325 million flowing to Indian Country annually. 

In concert with this rule change, Indian Affairs will solicit proposals from Native-owned construction businesses for a new $1.5 billion nationwide contract that will cover a wide range of projects for bureaus across the Department of the Interior. Additional near-term opportunities available for Indian-owned businesses will include professional service contracts for program management, consultant services, business support services, dam and irrigation construction, and architect and engineering services totaling approximately $750 million dollars.