BIA launches tribal lands net

BIA launches tribal lands net

TAAMS will replace 25-year-old systems

By Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff

After three years of design and development, the Bureau of Indian Affairs last week began using a system that will manage more than 56 million acres of American Indian title land.

Employees in BIA's Billings, Mont., office on Sept. 7 started training on the Trust Assets Accounting Management System. TAAMS will replace two land title records systems that the Interior Department agency has used for 25 years, said Dom Nessi, TAAMS project manager.

"This has been a massive undertaking," Nessi said. "It took a lot of guts to take the job on, but Interior showed the ability that it could get the job done."

To build TAAMS, BIA modified ArtesiaLand, a land management accounting program for oil and gas companies from Applied Terra Vision Inc. of Dallas. The modifications included changing the user interface to match agency business processes and upgrading the software's land title records function, Nessi said.

BIA employees in Billings, using Pentium PCs, will connect via frame relay to two IBM AS/400 servers at Applied Terra Vision's Artesia systems group service bureau, which hosts TAAMS. They can then access American Indian land title records, he said.

TAAMS replaces the Land Record Information System and the Integrated Records Management System, two legacy Cobol applications. LRIS, written in Cobol to System 2000, runs on an IBM 3090; IRMS, written in Cobol 74, runs on a ClearPath NX server from Unisys Corp., Nessi said.

The two BIA systems keep track of 170,000 active American Indian leases, 350,000 landowners and 2 million owner interests. The agency will retire LRIS and IRMS when it gets TAAMS up and running at 86 agency and 120 tribal offices around the country, but that will take about two years, Nessi said.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt cited the need for TAAMS in a 1998 departmentwide recommendations plan. Although BIA had discussed for years the need to upgrade the land records systems, the Babbitt directive put TAAMS on the fast track, Nessi said.

"A decision was made to find the most expeditious way to find a system in the private sector that performed land management modified to BIA's needs," Nessi said. "By doing this, we thought we'd save management, development and budget costs."

After some management and development time, BIA in August 1998 released a request for proposals that detailed present and future requirements for TAAMS. Four months later, the agency awarded a five-year contract worth about $20 million to Applied Terra Vision. The contract covers development, service bureau and license costs, Nessi said.

From January to March 1998, BIA and its contractor laid out TAAMS' business processes and modification designs. From March to May 1998, the team worked on the system's interface, Nessi said.

Personal foul

The General Accounting Office blind-sided BIA in April when it released a report, Interior Lacks Assurance that Implementation Plan will be Effective, that criticized TAAMS. GAO said the project lacked management, was risky and needed further analysis.

"The GAO report served as a valuable reminder that a number of project management functions needed to be done better," Nessi said, although he pointed out that GAO completed its study before BIA had a TAAMS project management team in place.

TAAMS went through its first system test in June when Babbitt hit the switch in Billings that officially started the pilot.

"This is the first step toward a trust management system that works for tribes and for individuals across Indian country," Babbitt said.

For the next two weeks, 90 BIA employees in Billings will go through three training sessions. They probably will start using the system fully on Sept. 20, Nessi said.

BIA will run TAAMS and the Land Title Records systems in parallel. Also, GAO has initiated another study on TAAMS but will not release its report until BIA completes the Billings test, Nessi said.

BIA plans to roll out TAAMS next in November at eight BIA land title centers. It will also make enhancements to the system, such as expanding asset management and adding reporting of appraisals, Nessi said.

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