Our government-to-government relationship is a two-way street, and we are eager to hear what in particular we can be doing better in partnership with you. We also want to work with you to provide services in ways that reflect the President’s vision for our country: for a more effective and less burdensome federal government, for a country in which all Americans have the opportunity to reach their potential.
As Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you all for coming here to Washington for the 25th meeting of the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee.
Congratulations on the beginning of a new term this year. I’d like to offer a special thank you to your chairman and vice chairman: Chester Antone of the Tohono O’odham Nation and your newly elected vice chairman, Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation.
This third meeting of the STAC with this administration follows up on what I’m told were two excellent meetings under Secretary [Thomas] Price.
You’ve all come to Washington today, but as you know, the second meeting of President Trump’s term was in Cherokee Nation.
Holding the first-ever STAC meeting in Indian Country, I believe, speaks to the deep level of commitment this administration has to our government-to-government relationship and to listening to you as representatives of the tribes, who understand issues on the ground in a way we often cannot from Washington.
Although this is my first STAC, I want to emphasize that tribal issues are not new to me, either, as someone who served at HHS in the Bush Administration, including as acting deputy secretary.
Both our nominee to be the next HHS secretary, Alex Azar, and I have traveled to Indian Country, and earlier last year, I represented the Trump Administration transition team at the National Congress of American Indians conference.
So we look forward to hitting the ground running when it comes to working with tribes to address the healthcare and public health challenges faced by American Indians and Alaska Natives.
To help lay a little groundwork for that, I would encourage you all to think about particular priorities that you would like this administration to address, whether it has to do with the Indian Health Service or other programs or with particular challenges like the opioid crisis.
Our government-to-government relationship is a two-way street, and we are eager to hear what in particular we can be doing better in partnership with you.
We also want to work with you to provide services in ways that reflect the President’s vision for our country: for a more effective and less burdensome federal government, for a country in which all Americans have the opportunity to reach their potential.
We have already set some goals for ourselves here at the Department on general management issues, as part of efforts to rethink all the work that we do through a process called ReImagine HHS.
The goal of ReImagine HHS is to examine how we can do our work for the American people, and for tribal members, better and in a more efficient way than we do today.
We have now identified 10 specific initiatives for ReImagine HHS, and a number of them will intersect with our work in Indian Country and with the Indian Health Service: reinventing grants management, for instance; revolutionizing how we do acquisitions; aiming for personal and family independence in our human services programs; and the like.
As we develop concrete proposals within each of these initiatives, we look forward to feedback from the STAC and from tribal leaders in other forums.
Moreover, we hope that ReImagine HHS will be an inspiration to operating divisions within HHS, including IHS, to consider how they can look at their organizations and optimize the way they serve the American people. I know Rear Admiral [Michael] Weahkee has expressed interest in this idea, and we look forward to the innovations we could see in the services IHS provides.
As this will likely be my only STAC meeting as acting secretary, I want to close by emphasizing the special privilege I consider it to work on tribal issues here at HHS and I look forward to continuing that work as deputy secretary of the department.
This meeting is a special opportunity for us, so I don’t want to take any more time away from our opportunity to listen to you and discuss issues that are important to all of you. So let’s now take some questions and have a discussion.