The frozen, northernmost reaches of the United States are home to the Inupiat people, more commonly known as Ekimos. They subsist on fishing and the hunting of seals, walrus and whales. They also run a successful defense contracting firm providing services to the U.S. intelligence community. To that, they owe a debt to Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.
TKC Communications LLC of Anchorage, Alaska, does work for the Department of Justice, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Center, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, and the National Security Agency, according to its Website. The company also contracts with all four branches of the military, including for work in Iraq, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State (which is sometimes a wink-wink way of saying the CIA).
TKC Communications is one of more than 150 Alaskan native-owned companies doing government work. Others include Alutiiq Management Services LLC which is renovating State Department offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Ahtna Technical Services Inc. is hiring cooks for a federal jail in Texas.
Government contractors like these companies because they are a quick, easy and legal method of awarding contracts of any value, and in 2004, the Alaskan native companies received more than $1 billion worth of government work, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Profits from these ventures are returned in the form of shares to the Inupiat.
Their special status allows them to receive contracts without any competition, so-called “sole source” contracts. There have been numerous problems with some of these sole-source contracts, which is how I came across this subject. TKC Communications’ $100 million, 10-year contract to provide office space for CIFA in Arlington, Va., not only cost too much but also may have violated the law. But that’s more the fault of the boobs at CIFA, who when told the contracts might violate the law, refused to halt them.
The Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 created the Alaskan native companies as a way of settling the Inupiat’s aboriginal land claims. The act divided nearly $1 billion and 44 million acres amongst Alaskan native peoples, and allowed construction of the Alaskan pipeline. The bill was introduced by Ted Stevens, then in his first term, and was subsequently ratified by the Inupiat. Stevens, now one of the Senate’s old bulls, had his home searched earlier this week in a widening criminal bribery probe.
In 2003, shortly before his 80th birthday, Stevens told a gathering of Alaskan natives:
“I have long been concerned about what will happen when I can no longer deliver the funds you need. I want to ensure, to the best of my ability, that we have built programs for the Native community that are sustainable well into the future. I have been working toward that end. “
That’s a worthy goal. Stevens may or may not be corrupt. He may be out-of-touch likening the Internet to “a series of tubes.” But he deserves our praise for giving the Inupiat a seat at the rich government contracting feast. There is no way that a group of walrus-hunters could have gotten there without help from the man who represents them. Compare that to Duke Cunningham, who gave favors away to people like Mitch Wade who couldn’t even vote for him.
Instead of ruining their Native lands by plopping a casino-resort in the middle of it (casinos aren’t allowed in Alaska), the Inupiat are creating a business venture and acquiring the skills that come with to the benefit of future generations. There’s the old saw about teaching a man to fish vs. giving him one. I suspect the Inupiat know all about that.