Questions and Responses regarding provisions of the Model Tribal System Final Rule


QUESTION 1: How did the Model Tribal System (MTS) project come about?

RESPONSE 1: The MTS project began in 2002 after release of interim tribal program regulations at 45 CFR 309. The Tribal Systems Work Group was convened in the summer of 2002, tasked to study the feasibility of automating tribal IV-D programs. The work group included the nine original tribal grantees. These grantees were: the Chickasaw Nation; the Forest County Potawatomi; the Lac du Flambeau Tribe; the Lummi Nation; the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin; the Navajo Nation; the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe; the Puyallup Tribe; and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation.

The work group met four times each in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2007 for a week at a time. These meetings were used to identify organizational, operational, technical, financial, regulatory, and legal issues with automated systems in Indian country. The work group also developed the following documents defining how a model tribal child support system might work:

In late 2006, OCSE began a study to consider the feasibility of building the system now known as the Model Tribal System, or MTS. OCSE developed the feasibility study, which included a market survey and a cost-benefit analysis, to determine the cost reasonableness and justify system development of the MTS. In November 2007, OCSE received approval to build the MTS. Software development began shortly thereafter and the MTS was piloted in 2009-2010.

QUESTION 2: What were the cost considerations in building the MTS?

RESPONSE 2: The intent in designing the MTS was to provide an affordable alternative that would meet the majority of the tribes’ automation needs. OCSE undertook this effort because of growing concern that the cost of automating separate tribal child support programs would be prohibitively expensive to both the tribes and the federal government. OCSE agreed to fund the design, development, and testing of the MTS. The $7.5 million cost to develop the MTS is significantly less than the cumulative costs to tribes to build their own systems.

QUESTION 3: How will we know if the MTS works?

RESPONSE 3: OCSE has developed a web-based National MTS Sandbox - a full version of the MTS - that can be used by tribal grantees to observe and explore MTS capabilities. This web-based MTS Sandbox is available for interested tribes to assess whether the MTS functionality addresses their automation needs. Registered users will be able to enter dummy child support case and financial data to examine the MTScapabilities. (See TDCL-10-05 for further detail.)

QUESTION 4: Is OCSE responsible for correcting any errors or problems with the system?

RESPONSE 4: OCSE will provide MTS code maintenance at least through July of 2011, while continuing to explore opportunities for MTS support beyond that date. Tribes opting to use the MTS will be instructed on the process to report problems or needed revisions to the MTS code. OCSE will work with tribes to prioritize user requests distinguishing design defects from future enhancements.

Automation Assessment

QUESTION 5: What are the options for tribal automation?

RESPONSE 5: As specified in the regulation at §310.5, there are five options for tribal automation that are eligible for Federal Financial Participation (FFP):

  1. Model Tribal System
  2. Intergovernmental Service Agreement with a state
  3. Intergovernmental Service Agreement with another tribe (including tribal consortia)
  4. Office Automation
  5. System developed with 100 percent tribal funding (an alternative to computerized tribal IV-D systems and office automation), which is eligible for FFP for ongoing maintenance and operation.

QUESTION 6: Is a tribal Advance Planning Document (APD) required for each automation option?

RESPONSE 6: See below for each option:

QUESTION 7: Is there a deadline for selecting an automation option? Will funding be reduced if the tribe defers making a selection until all options are assessed?

RESPONSE 7: There is no deadline for submitting an automation option. Tribes are encouraged to explore the various automation options and take advantage of offers from states using state systems, tribes using office automation, and tribes currently using the MTS, as well as using the MTS Sandbox. The 90 percent FFP for installation of the MTS does not expire.

QUESTION 8: What is the potential cost of each automation option?

RESPONSE 8: Tribal IV-D programs should consider potential costs in all the following areas:

OCSE cannot provide cost estimates for an intergovernmental agreement since each agreement is different. Each tribe should determine if the intergovernmental agreement with the tribe or state covers the areas noted above.

Estimated costs of equipment and software for office automation options range from $8,000 to $25,000. The high end would include costs for a server that could be used for the MTS.

For more detail regarding the installation costs of the MTS, please see the questions in the Model Tribal System section below.

QUESTION 9: What type of interim hardware/software does OCSE recommend for future use of the MTS?

RESPONSE 9: Hardware and software needs will depend on the tribe’s current caseload and anticipated growth. Basic computers and printers tend to be refreshed every 3 years, servers every 5-7 years. If a tribe anticipates a caseload that will require the MTS in the next few years, it should consider the hardware/software specifications posted on the tribal systems workplace. OCSE will keep these specifications updated.

OCSE suggests that servers and operating software specifically intended to support the MTS be purchased no earlier than 90 days prior to initiating an MTS installation.

QUESTION 10: Can tribal IV-D programs use an automated method for converting cases to MTS? Will OCSE test the case conversion between tribal databases and the MTS?

RESPONSE 10: Tribes may use automated methods of converting existing data to MTS. Testing case conversion between a tribal database and the MTS will depend on available resources.

Model Tribal System

QUESTION 11: What functions does the MTS perform?

RESPONSE 11: The MTS handles all tribal child support case processing functions as defined in the regulation and also provides a number of important functions not specifically cited by regulation, but which are deemed necessary for efficient case management, including: calendaring, worker “to-do” lists, case event histories, and case notes. The MTS will support the areas described below.

QUESTION 12: Will the MTS generate the federal reports required by regulation?

RESPONSE 12: Yes, with one exception. The MTS will not produce the Standard Form (SF) 269, Application for Federal Assistance, as the MTS is not designed to handle administrative program and grant management activities, such as budgets, expenditures, and claims documentation. It will, however, have reports to reproduce for the tribe, totals of various client charges, and fees collected that need to be accumulated and reported as program income on the SF 269.

QUESTION 13: Who can get a copy of the MTS when it is released?

RESPONSE 13: The MTS is ready for nationwide rollout, and it is freely available to any tribal IV-D program. While start-up tribes may receive a copy of the MTS, no FFP is available for costs associated with MTS until a tribe becomes a comprehensive tribal IV-D program.

QUESTION 14: How does a tribal IV-D program obtain a copy of the MTS?

RESPONSE 14: OCSE will send out a notice announcing the availability of the MTS. This notice will contain the necessary telephone, address, and email contact information to request a copy of the MTS. The notice will also contain the appropriate OCSE contact information for questions about the MTS.

QUESTION 15: What is the cost to tribal IV-D programs for the MTS software?

RESPONSE 15: There is no cost associated with obtaining a copy of the MTS. The software is free, including the application software, all documentation, user and operating manuals, developer tools and utilities. In addition, the MTS was built entirely with “free and open source” software that carries no licensing fees or other costs of ownership. OCSE will distribute the MTS on CD-ROM free to any tribal IV-D program that requests a copy. Each tribal IV-D program that installs the system will own their copy of the MTS. The federal government will retain right-in-license to all copies of the MTS for purposes of making the software available to any future tribal entities wanting to use the system for government purposes.

QUESTION 16: What are the installation costs of the MTS?

RESPONSE 16: Installation costs can vary greatly depending on the power and capability of a tribe’s existing computing environment, the size of a tribe’s IV-D program, staffing levels, and other variables. Our estimate is that first year installation costs for the MTS are likely to be between $80,000 and $100,000. Of that total cost, the tribal share would be $8,000 to $10,000.

Following is a breakout of estimated installation costs based on a 7-person tribal staff office with 500 cases:

The estimated costs are $81,200 total or $8,120 tribal share.

One of the major cost variables is case conversion. For example, it could cost from $25 to $40 per case in staff time to perform the data entry necessary to manually load the tribe’s entire caseload onto the MTS. This additional cost will depend on whether the tribe can manage its caseload while installing the MTS without hiring additional staff. OCSE based its estimates on 30-45 minutes of staff data entry time per case, though during the pilot phase staff were soon able to enter and set up cases on the MTS in as little as 10 minutes.

A tribe with 500 cases might incur additional costs to include a separate computer server to run the MTS, which could cost $10,000 or more. In addition, using licensing fee-based computer operating systems and databases (versus the free and open-source versions included with the MTS) can add one-time and annual costs. Total typical estimated installation, training, and data conversion costs to set up a copy of the MTS in a relatively average-size tribal IV-D program are estimated to be about $45,000 per installation, which works out to about an $80 acquisition cost per case. Given that tribes installing the MTS are eligible for 90 percent FFP for costs incurred, this would work out to approximately $4,500 in costs to the tribe. Tribal costs may be partially or completely paid in-kind; for example, by using tribal agency IT staff time for installation services or another tribal agency’s support staff for MTS data entry without federal compensation.

QUESTION 17: How does a tribal IV-D program seek enhancements to the MTS?

RESPONSE 17: During the first year OCSE will maintain the MTS source code. In order to seek an enhancement (such as adding an interface) to the MTS, the tribal IV-D program must submit a tribal APD that provides schedules, a narrative on how this work will be accomplished, and cost information for the enhancements. Please note that the cost of the enhancements sought in that fiscal year cannot exceed the tribal grant for that year.

QUESTION 18: Who is the OCSE point of contact for MTS code and/or functionality concerns?

RESPONSE 18: OCSE has committed to maintaining the MTS code for the first year. OCSE has established a system for reporting and tracking issues related to the MTS code. Please contact your respective OCSE/DSTS analyst for instruction on how to report MTS issues.

QUESTION 19: What level of MTS help desk support may tribal IV-D programs expect once the MTS has been installed?

RESPONSE 19: At the current time OCSE does not have the resources to provide help desk support for MTS. If a tribe does not have in-house IT staff, we strongly encourage them to contract for help desk services, both for end-user and technical support.

QUESTION 20: Will OCSE provide training for tribal IV-D programs that opt to use the MTS?

RESPONSE 20: Yes. OCSE-sponsored training will be held in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) headquarters building in Washington DC. Tribal IV-D programs should plan on having up to two tribal IT staff attend training for the first week (4 days) and two tribal program staff the second week (5 days). Dates for the training will be determined when a sufficient number of tribes have completed their tribal APD for MTS installation and are ready to move forward.

QUESTION 21: How does a tribal IV-D program register for OCSE-sponsored MTS training?

RESPONSE 21: A prerequisite for OCSE-sponsored MTS training is the submittal of a tribal APD, and preferably, the acquisition/installation of the hardware and software needed for an MTS installation. After OCSE receives the tribal APD indicating selection of the MTS, federal program staff will assist the tribal IV-D program in registering for MTS training.

QUESTION 22: What hardware is needed for the MTS?

RESPONSE 22: This data is posted on the tribal systems workplace and is updated periodically. For ease of reference it is replicated below:

Recommended Configuration for a Standard System Server (Up to 2,500 cases)

March 2010

Component Recommendation


Dual Core Intel Xeon 5000 Series or AMD Opteron 200 Series
Memory 4 GB DDR2 SDRAM with expansion room for up to 8GB
Hard Disk Dual 500 GB Hard Drive with RAID 1 controller
Network Connectivity 2 x 100/1000 MB Ethernet (Separate network for backup)
Peripherals Keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers connected via USB or standard connectors, with a minimum of 7 USB connectors total
Optical Drive CD-RW/DVD±RW
Backup 72GB Tape/Remote NAS
UPS 1500 VA with shutdown software
Display 1280x1024 resolution monitor with 128 kilobyte graphics memory
  • Windows 2003 Server R2 or Red Hat Linux or SUSE Linux (64 bit versions)
  • Symantec Backup Exec or CommVault Galaxy Express or Yosemite Backup or Acronis or similarly capable solution
  • Apache HTTP Server
  • JBoss Application Server
  • Application
  • Norton Internet Security or McAfee Internet Security or PC-Cillin Internet Security or similarly capable antivirus solution
  • Internet Explorer or Firefox or Netscape or Google Chrome
  • Adobe Flash Player (Web browser plug-in)

Note: The development environment should not be run on the application server

QUESTION 23: What customizations are available within the MTS without seeking FFP for enhancements?

RESPONSE 23: Changes to the system accomplished as part of system maintenance are deemed allowable without need of a Tribal APD for funding approval. However, two caveats apply to this condition:

  1. The software changes must meet the definition of maintenance under OCSE’s Action Transmittal AT-06-03, issued on August 11, 2006. (

    The following is an excerpt from AT-06-03 on what constitutes maintenance:

    “Generally, routine software maintenance include activities such as: revising/creating new reports, making limited data element/data base changes, table changes, making minor data presentation changes or altering data input on display screens, and software bug and error corrections.”

    “What are not considered maintenance are the more substantive development activities, such as: significant application software changes like the redesign of a child support system’s enforcement module or document generation module. Similarly, substantive redesign or replacement efforts include: new electronic interfaces; development of a graphical user interface (UI) to replace a character-based UI; rewriting a set of underlying business rules in system logic; installation of a document imaging component to the system; and application system migration from a mainframe-based to a client-server architecture, etc.”

  2. The total cost of all maintenance fixes or changes (including any supplementary enhancements to the system) cannot collectively exceed the simplified acquisition threshold of $100,000 under the regulation.

    For example, if a tribe contracts with a firm for 5 years at a cost of $30,000 per year to maintain their system, this cost ($150,000) would exceed the simplified acquisition threshold, requiring a tribal APD to be submitted along with the respective contract for federal review and approval (as opposed to including these costs in the tribal annual grant submission).

QUESTION 24: Will the MTS allow interfacing with a state SDU? Will the MTS allow an interface to a state’s child support system case management and financial modules?

RESPONSE 24: Yes, the MTS can support extensive electronic interfaces capable of passing comprehensive amounts of program and financial case data. However, OCSE will not be responsible for building interfaces for any tribal IV-D programs (regardless of whether the interface is internal between a tribal IV-D program’s copy of the MTS and another tribal agency, or external between the tribal IV-D program’s copy of the MTS and a state child support enforcement agency’s automated system). In order to build such an interface, the tribe will need to contract with a software firm (or do it in-house with its qualified technical staff). FFP for building an interface is at the 80 percent match rate, and is available under an approvable APD.

Consortia Questions

QUESTION 25: Does the MTS support a tribal program consortium?

RESPONSE 25: Yes, a modification to MTS was made during the pilot that provides enhanced reporting capability to define caseloads, collections, and other statistics by consortium members, as well as improved tracking of clients across consortium members.

QUESTION 26: If a tribal IV-D program joins a tribal MTS systems consortium, should this joining tribe submit a tribal APD?

RESPONSE 26: No, only the lead tribe in a consortium submits the tribal APD. Members of a tribal consortium submit the fees charged by the consortium as a line item in their annual tribal funding application to receive their applicable match. The lead tribal IV-D program in the consortium submits a tribal APD for the MTS, addressing all costs to install, operate, maintain, and enhance its MTS, as well as all funds received from consortium members, thereby reflecting the actual costs eligible for FFP.

Intergovernmental Agreements with States

QUESTION 27: May a tribal IV-D program use the MTS and at the same time continue an intergovernmental agreement with a state for certain services?

RESPONSE 27: Yes, if the intergovernmental agreement is for functionality missing in the MTS such as access to the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS), State Parent Locator Service (SPLS) or federal tax refund offset. It is acceptable to have “view only” capability to a statewide child support system, but a tribe opting for MTS cannot have an intergovernmental agreement that also provides case management functionality. This would be a duplication of services and does not meet the sole system effort requirement. Please see PIQT 10-01, issued on May 27, 2010 for information on tribal access to the FPLS for federal tax refund offset services.

QUESTION 28: If a tribe that chooses to install and use the MTS has access to a state system currently, can it continue to access that system?

RESPONSE 28: It depends on the level of access. Under the new regulations issued at 45 CFR 310, FFP for a comprehensive tribal IV-D system is limited to a single system. In order to receive FFP for installation of the MTS, the tribe would have to commit to using the MTS as its sole system. However, maintaining an intergovernmental agreement with the state to continue a view-only access capability for locate purposes and refer cases to the state for purposes of submitting to the FPLS for federal tax refund offset is considered an acceptable use of a state system.

QUESTION 29: Does a tribal IV-D program that has an intergovernmental agreement for use of a state system need to submit an APD?

RESPONSE 29: If a new intergovernmental agreement (executed after the publication of the systems regulation) is only to use functionality missing in the MTS such as FPLS, SPLS, federal tax refund offset or “view only” access to a statewide child support system, an APD is not required. However, if the intent of the new intergovernmental agreement is to install and use the state’s child support system to perform case and/or financial management services, an APD is required.

QUESTION 30: If a tribal IV-D program has “view only” access to a state system, does that impact the tribe’s ability to use the MTS or another automation option?

RESPONSE 30: No, “view only” access to a state system does not impact the tribe’s ability to use the MTS or another automation option because functionality is not provided; therefore, there is no demonstrable impact on the sole systems requirement. The tribal IV-D program may have “view only” access to a state system and still opt for the MTS or another automation solution.

QUESTION 31: Does the MTS have a guidelines calculator? If no, can a tribal IV-D program have an intergovernmental agreement with a state to provide guidelines function without violating the sole systems effort rule for the MTS?

RESPONSE 31: The MTS does not have a guidelines calculator because guidelines are unique to each tribe. It would be difficult to use just the guidelines calculation functionality of a state system without first actually transferring the entire case onto the state system. One option may be to access a state guidelines calculator via state child support enforcement website. Several states have made their guidelines calculators available to the public. A tribe that opts to apply the same guidelines as a state may wish to use the publicly accessible online guidelines calculator, eliminating the need for an intergovernmental agreement. The other option is for a tribe to develop a guidelines calculator on its copy of the MTS.

QUESTION 32: If a state provides fee-for-service system support to a tribal IV-D program through an intergovernmental agreement paid by state funds, should the state or the tribal IV-D program submit the APD?

RESPONSE 32: This depends on the date of the intergovernmental agreement. If the use of a state system by a tribe (to include having all tribal cases loaded to the state’s system), pre-dates the publication of the regulation (February 26, 2010), then the state system is already installed and operational and no APD is needed. The tribe submits its ongoing operational chargeback from the state (the fee-for-service costs) as a budget line item in its annual program grant budget request.

If the initial installation of the state’s system is done subsequent to the publication of the tribal systems regulation, both the state and tribe are required to submit APDs to receive FFP for their respective costs of that installation.

Tribal Advance Planning Document

QUESTION 33: Is technical assistance on preparing an APD available to tribal IV-D programs?

RESPONSE 33: Yes. OCSE developed a tribal APD template and disseminated it at meetings in Dallas, Texas in March 2010 and at webinars on March 26 and April 27, 2010. The APD template is also posted on the tribal systems workplace. Division of State and Tribal Systems (DSTS) staff is available to discuss, review, and comment on tribal APDs. We recommend scheduling a teleconference with the DSTS analyst assigned to your tribe to get answers to your questions about the APD process.

QUESTION 34: What training or guidance is available for development of an approvable tribal APD?

RESPONSE 34: There will be ongoing sessions at national and regional conferences, as well as teleconferences and/or net-conferences sponsored periodically by OCSE. Information will be issued on an as-needed basis concerning those opportunities. Also, there is a tribal APD template available on the tribal systems workplace.

QUESTION 35: Is there a contact list for technical assistance with APDs and other tribal automation issues?

RESPONSE 35: Yes, a contact list is posted on the tribal systems workplace. The analysts in DSTS are available to provide technical assistance and answer questions about automation issues. The DSTS analysts and their assigned regions are:

QUESTION 36: When does a tribal IV-D program submit a tribal APD?

RESPONSE 36: The APD is necessary and must be submitted when:

QUESTION 37: When is a tribal IV-D program exempt from submitting a tribal APD?

RESPONSE 37: A tribal IV-D program is exempt from submitting a tribal APD when:

QUESTION 38: What MTS installation activities are eligible for FFP at the 90 percent matching rate?

RESPONSE 38: The following installation activities are eligible for 90 percent federal match:

QUESTION 39: What enhancements are eligible for FFP?

RESPONSE 39: An eligible enhancement to a computerized tribal IV-D system would either improve the MTS or improve a state system for tribal use under an intergovernmental agreement. For enhancements to either system, the following are eligible at the applicable tribal FFP rate:

QUESTION 40: If a tribal IV-D program selects automation through the MTS, can it later change to a consortia or an intergovernmental agreement with a state or another tribal IV-D program?

RESPONSE 40: Yes, however there is an expectation that a tribal IV-D program that opts for the MTS will use that system for a period of time commensurate with the investment to install the MTS. The expectation is that you will use the original option long enough to justify the FFP match investment in installation, operation, maintenance, and enhancement.

As an example, states are required to commit a specified number of years to the statewide system before that system is replaced; usually a minimum of 7 years.

When a tribe opts for the MTS, the up-front investment for equipment and installation costs as well as ongoing expenses for operations, maintenance and enhancement is considerably smaller, as is the timeframe for its respective return-on-investment (ROI). However, we do not believe it is in a tribe’s best interest to be tied to a specific time period. Therefore, requests to change options will be handled on a case-by-case basis.