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Letter to the Hon. Emily Murphy, Admin. of the General Services Administration - Vice Chairman Udall to GSA Administrator Murphy: Delay in Presidential Transition Endangers Tribal Health and Safety


Date: Nov. 23, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Administrator Murphy,

You are charged under law with providing Congressionally-appropriated taxpayer funds to the apparent winner of presidential elections to ensure effective continuity of government in order to protect the health and welfare of Americans and our shared national security. As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am increasingly concerned that your unexplained refusal to grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team access to critical services and facilities specified in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 poses serious risk to Native American families across the country, and compromises the ability of the federal government to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities. I write to urge you to remember your oath of office, put aside political pressure, and release transition resources immediately.

As a senior official in the federal government, you must bear in mind that the United States has specific trust and treaty obligations to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Indian Tribes. Concomitant with these obligations, the executive branch provides essential services to Native communities that are unique within the federal government, flowing through a cadre of federal programs to meet these responsibilities. The operation of Native health care systems, public safety programs, child welfare services, food security programs, and many other critical functions depend on the stable operation of numerous federal agencies. As such, preventing the Transition Team from obtaining the information and resources it needs to ensure the smooth changeover in the management of these programs will have severe consequences on the health, wellbeing, and daily lives of countless Native families.

Furthermore, Tribes, urban Indian health programs, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems depend on federal partners to provide personal protective equipment, clinical supplies, and medical personnel, as well as to coordinate access to the national COVID-19 vaccine supply once approved. Disruption of these federal supply chains will impede efforts to combat the recent surge in coronavirus infections in many Native communities. Accordingly, failure to begin transition activities threatens to amplify the disparate impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency in Indian Country.

After the Senate confirmed you to your position as Government Services Administration Administrator, you swore an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of your office and defend the Constitution, and it is past time to uphold that oath and our nation's trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations and Native communities. For these reasons, I call upon you to immediately grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team full access to the resources required under federal law and fulfill your responsibilities -- both under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and the federal government's trust and treaty obligations -- as the head of the Government Services Administration.