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Indian Times: Oklahoman Named Director of Indian Affairs Budget Office (Jul 28, 2012)

Earlier this month,  Donald “Del” Laverdure, acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, announced the appointment of Thomas D. Thompson as Director of the Indian Affairs Office of Budget Management, this  according to a U.S. Department of the Interior press release. Thompson, a member of the Cherokee  Nation of Oklahoma, was previously a senior advisor for Indian Health Service (IHS) in Phoenix, Arizona before taking this position in Washington, D.C.Laverdure said, “The director of budget management for Indian Affairs plays a vital role in our effort to streamline the Indian Affairs organization to deliver efficient and cost-effective services to Indian country,”. He went on to say  that “Thomas Thompson is an experienced federal financial manager who has developed and deployed strategies that have increased efficiency, lowered costs, and raised productivity in federal programs. “Thompson said he was “ very grateful for this opportunity to return to the Interior Department to work with Acting Assistant Secretary Laverdure as part of his financial management leadership team.”  Thompson said he wanted to make improvements to the Indian Affairs’ service delivery process and systems to increase their overall effectiveness for Indian Affairs employees and the tribes served.  Thompson  brings 14 years of federal service experience, his positions have included  finance director for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Toxicological Research a nd chief financial officer and director of the Office of Finance and Accounting in IHS’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.Before his federal career began, Thompson ,A certified public accountant, was executive director of tribal operations for the Cherokee Nation for 18 years, serving under Chiefs W.W. Keeler, Ross Swimmer and Wilma Mankiller.  Mankiller said Thompson was one of the most dedicated, productive and innovative members" of her staff when she was chief and that it “was Thompson's entrepreneurial spirit that led to the development of the three original Cherokee Nation gaming facilities at Roland, Siloam Springs and Catoosa. He levered a HUD grant and a loan approved by the Tribal Council to build the first facility at Roland and then used the revenue from Roland to help finance the other two facilities. Those businesses have generated thousands of jobs and millions of dollars for the Cherokee Nation." Thompson holds an associate’s degree in accounting from the Oklahoma State University School of Technical Training in Okmulgee and has licenses in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Montana as a Certified Public Accountant.


This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2362, the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011. Introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and the only Native American member of Congress,  Cole had the full backing of major tribal groups and strong bipartisan support.  58% (222) of the members present voted in favor of the bill. Though it did not meet the two-thirds majority required to pass the legislation under suspension vote, a process reserved for non-controversial bills, it did receive enough votes to obtain a simple majority on the full House.  H.R. 2362 sought to reduce restrictive and archaic leasing system requirements on tribal land. These restrictions often stand in the way of economic growth and discourage investments, domestic and foreign.     At the last Reservation Economic  Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair held in February of this year in Las Vegas, only one country sent representatives to meet with Native Americans and that was Turkey.  For many years Turkey and Turkish-Americans have worked to build bridges with Native Americans.  This is also the first time the Turkish American community took the initiative to create positive change through substantive legislation in Congress. G. Lincoln McCurdy, President of the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), a US-based non-profit organization which advocates on behalf of the legislation said  "This success brought together Democrats and Republicans for the sole purpose of helping Native Americans, the most impoverished people in our country.   McCurdy also said that the "TCA remains committed to, and fully intends, to pursue all avenues to help strengthen commercial and cultural ties between Turkey and Indian Country." During floor debate prior to the vote, six members of Congress rose to support the bill and thank Turkey for being a key supporter of spurring economic growth on tribal lands. In his remarks, Rep. Cole praised Turkey as a key ally of the United States and urged his colleagues to use the opportunity to strengthen the alliance through increased trade. In arguing for stronger U.S.-Turkey ties, Rep. Moran (D-Va.) highlighted Turkey's long and deep relationship with Israel.
Opposition to H.R. 2362 came from Armenian and Greek American communities, who raised the Cyprus issue and World War I-era grievances against Turkey.
Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, voiced his strong opposition to the bill. Citing various reasons, including Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide and “illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus,” Representative Pallone urged his colleagues to vote against it. He said, “To put it quite simply, there is no good reason for passage of this legislation. In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why this legislation should fail today.” Hellenic Caucus co-chair Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, called the bill “unnecessary,” given that Congress had already adopted a more comprehensive measure, the Hearth Act. She also noted opposition by ranking members of the House Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs Committees, Representatives Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Howard Berman, a Democrat from California, who both raised concerns about “Turkey’s human rights record and restrictions on religious freedom.”
Representative  Cole said "This legislation has nothing to do with ancient or current disputes between Turkey and Armenia or Greece, this bill is about helping American Indians. We ought to put aside the disputes of the old world and focus on helping the original inhabitants of the new world, which is exactly what this legislation would do."


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