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American Indians and Alaska Natives generally face worse economic conditions than the rest of the U.S. population. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) within the Department of Commerce provides grants to distressed communities, including to American Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities, to generate employment and stimulate economic growth. Because data on how these EDA grants helped tribes was not publicly available, GAO analyzed all EDA grants made to Indian tribes from 1993-2002 and determined what economic development resulted. Tribes also enter into self-governance and other contracting arrangements with two federal agencies--the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service--to assume the management of individual services, including law enforcement, education, social services, and road maintenance. GAO also analyzed the relationship between changes in tribes' economic profile and the extent to which they had self-governance or contracting arrangements to perform their own services. BIA and EDA provided comments on a draft of this report. BIA generally agreed with GAO's conclusions. EDA took issue with GAO's characterization of the relative success of EDA grant programs.

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