The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) serves as an advisory body to the NIH, helping to ensure that Tribes and AI/AN (American Indian/Alaska Native) people have meaningful and timely input in the development of relevant NIH policies, programs, and priorities. The TAC supports, but does not supplant, other government-to-government consultation activities that the NIH undertakes. Tribal representatives and NIH staff exchange information about NIH research policies, programs, priorities, and other activities that affect AI/AN populations. As an advisory committee, the NIH TAC provides recommendations on these matters to the NIH and the NIH Director, including advice on the NIH tribal consultation process.
Pursuant to Presidential Executive Order No. 13175, November 6, 2000, and the Presidential memoranda of September 23, 2004, and November 5, 2009, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted a Tribal Consultation Policy that applies to all HHS operating and staff divisions, including the NIH. The HHS Tribal Consultation Policy directs divisions to establish a process to ensure accountable, meaningful, and timely input by Tribal officials in the development of policies that have Tribal implications.
Consistent with the HHS Tribal Consultation Policy, the NIH established the NIH TAC as one method of enhancing communications with Tribes. The TAC Charter complies with an exemption within the “Unfunded Mandates Reform Act” (P.L. 104-4) to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that promotes the free communication between the Federal Government and Tribal governments. Pursuant to this exemption, the NIH TAC facilitates the exchange of views, information, or advice between Federal officials and elected officers of tribal governments (or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf) acting in their official capacities.
It is the NIH policy that before any action is taken that will significantly affect Indian Tribes that, to the extent practicable and permitted by law, consultation with Indian Tribes will occur. Such actions refer to policies that:
- Have Tribal implications, and
- Have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian Tribes, or
- On the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes, or
- On the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes.
It is important for the NIH TAC to build relationships with AI/AN populations by performing the following, with respect for each sovereign nation’s cultural/traditional values:
- Propose clarifications and other recommendations, and solutions to address issues raised at Tribal, regional, and national levels;
- Serve as a forum for Tribes and NIH to discuss proposals for changes to NIH policies, regulations, and procedures, including research priorities.
- Explore opportunities for participation in other NIH committees and/or working groups;
- Respond to NIH on cultural and technical issues regarding grants and contract policies and their impact on Tribes; and
- Raise pertinent issues to the attention of Tribal leaders. This information can be shared and disseminated in various national, regional/area tribal forums, to facilitate timely feedback, and to share information regarding listening sessions, town halls, and Tribal consultations.
The NIH TAC is composed of 17 primary members (and alternates). Membership includes representation from each of the twelve geographic Areas served by the Indian Health Service (IHS). These Areas currently include the following: Alaska, Albuquerque, Bemidji, Billings, California, Great Plains, Nashville, Navajo, Oklahoma, Phoenix, Portland, and Tucson. In addition, to achieve the broadest coverage of NIH-related national perspectives and views, the TAC includes one representative (and designated alternate) for each of the five National At-Large Members (NALMs) positions. No more than one NALM representative from each region may serve on the committee at any time. A designated alternate may participate in NIH TAC meetings on behalf of the primary member when that member cannot attend. If the designated alternate is also not available, the primary member is permitted to designate a second alternate in writing prior to the NIH TAC meeting.
NIH encourages members who have experience or interest relevant to research in general and/or NIH activities. Nominations for the TAC primary member and alternate from each of the twelve Area Offices of the IHS are submitted to NIH’s Office of the Director via an official letter from the Tribe or a Tribal resolution. NIH staff select and finalize the body of members based on the submitted curriculum vitae and letter(s) of support from regional Tribal organizations.
Each Area representative should be an elected official or a representative who is designated to act on the behalf of a Tribal leader and is qualified to represent the views of the Indian Tribes in the area for which the member is being nominated. Similarly, a NALM should be an elected official or eligible designated representative who is qualified to and has authority to represent the views of Tribes from a national, collective perspective.
Nominations are considered for selection in the priority order listed below:
- Tribal President/Chairperson/Governor
- Tribal Vice-President/Vice-Chairperson/Lt. Governor
- Elected or Appointed Tribal Official
- Designated Tribal Official
A Chair is selected by and from the TAC members for a one calendar-year term of service. The Chair will be an elected or appointed tribal leader. The number of terms is not limited.
The Co-Chair is selected by and from the TAC members for a one calendar-year term of service. The Co-Chair will be an elected or appointed tribal leader. The number of terms is not limited.
The Designated Federal Official/Executive Secretary serves as the lead point of contact for the TAC. In addition, this individual provides programmatic guidance, technical assistance, and administrative support. Unless otherwise designated by the NIH, the Designated Federal Official/Executive Secretary will be Director of the NIH Tribal Health Research Office.
The Chair and Co-Chair may be re-elected by the TAC for a one calendar-year term. Elections are held annually, at which time the seated membership of the TAC shall call for nominations for an election. TAC members may reconfirm the Chair/Co-Chair or vote on a new Chair/Co-Chair.
Period of Service
Terms for the TAC are two calendar years and are staggered. The NIH initially used a lottery method to assign one-year terms to half of the Area representatives and two of the NALMs initially appointed to the TAC and two-year terms to the remaining half of the Area representatives and three of the NALMs. A member may serve successive, consecutive terms if nominated again when the member’s term expires.
When a vacancy occurs, the Executive Secretary of the TAC notifies the Indian Tribes in the respective area and ask them to nominate a replacement. Tribal leaders provide to the NIH the name and contact information of the new nominee in writing and within forty-five (45) days after the NIH is notified of a vacancy. In the event the NIH receives no nominations, the NIH, through the HHS Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, shall seek a new appointee. The designated alternate may attend meetings until the vacancy is officially filled.
If a member or the member’s designated alternate does not participate in a meeting or teleconference (when meant as an official meeting) on four successive occasions, the Executive Secretary of the TAC will notify Indian Tribes in the respective area and ask them to nominate a replacement. The NIH may also request removal if a designated member fails to meet the requirements for TAC membership (e.g., loss of election).
When there is a vacancy in a member’s position (due to removal or for other reasons) for which a designated alternate is currently serving, the Executive Secretary will notify the designated alternate and request that the alternate perform the duties of the TAC member to the extent the designated alternate would be eligible to serve as a member on the TAC. The criteria and process for selecting a replacement following a vacancy or removal will follow the Selection Process described above. The designated alternate will serve the remainder of the unexpired term of the original member and if nominated again may serve successive, consecutive terms.
Each TAC member is allowed to bring one technical advisor to the meeting to assist in the performance of the member’s duties and responsibilities as a member of the TAC. The advisor's role is limited to assisting the member, and the advisor cannot participate in the TAC meetings unless the primary member has designated the advisor to act on behalf of the member at the meeting. Ideally, advisors have expertise in health research and/or experience and knowledge of the NIH to fulfill their responsibility of advising the TAC member with respect to NIH policies, programs, priorities, and other activities. TAC members or their respective Tribes submit the name, curriculum vitae, resume, and/or credentials of the proposed technical advisor to the NIH.
The NIH seeks to convene two face-to-face TAC meetings on a fiscal year basis, depending on the availability of funds. An NIH official serves as Designated Federal Officer; this person develops a Rules of Order document with the TAC, sets meeting agendas, and attends all TAC meetings. The NIH convenes TAC conference calls as needed and additional meetings may be scheduled depending on need and availability of funds. Pursuant to Section 204 (b) of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. §1534 (b)), members of the public may be present at committee meetings, i.e., in the audience as observers, but since members of the public are not allowed on the committee, they may not participate in any committee discussions or any other committee business during meetings.
The NIH TAC operates by consensus and when a consensus cannot be reached, the NIH TAC votes to resolve any differences. Each NIH TAC member (or designated alternate) is allowed one vote.
A quorum is established with 50 percent plus one of the filled TAC seats. In the event the NIH TAC is not able to establish a quorum for a meeting, then the Chairperson and Co-Chair in their discretion can arrange to poll members via conference call or another manner. Informational sessions may occur in the absence of a quorum.
Each primary TAC member (or the designated alternate, if the primary member is unable to attend) who is not a Federal employee will have travel expenses paid by the NIH for the two face-to-face TAC meetings in accordance with Standard Government Travel Regulations (e.g., two week minimum advance airline reservations, unless prior approval otherwise). The NIH will also pay the travel expenses of the TAC member’s technical advisor (who is not a Federal employee) to attend the two face-to-face TAC meetings.
NIH’s Tribal Health Research Office in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives ensures that reports of all NIH TAC meetings and recommended actions are made available to NIH leadership. The Office posts minutes and reports to the NIH website and is responsible for archiving all NIH TAC documentation.
The Tribal Health Research Office provides meeting coordination for all NIH TAC meetings.
This NIH TAC charter is in effect as long as the NIH Tribal Consultation Guidance on the Implementation of the HHS Tribal Consultation Policy is in effect, and the charter may be amended as needed.