Apr 10 2008

CJS Hearing on DOJ Budget Opening Statement of Ranking Member Richard Shelby

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee (CJS), today made the following opening statement at the hearing of the Subcommittee to examine the proposed Department of Justice budget for fiscal year 2009. 

Senator Shelby’s opening statement, as prepared:

“Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.  And thank you Attorney General Mukasey, for joining us to discuss the fiscal year 2009 budget for the Department of Justice.    

The total Department of Justice budget for fiscal year 2009 is $22.9 billion.  This is a $500 million, or a two percent decrease, below the fiscal year 2008 level. 

While the Department of Homeland Security request from the Administration has grown seven to 10 percent each year since its inception, the Justice Department request continues to shrink by two to three percent each year. The chairwoman and I are concerned about the Justice Department continuing to be the world’s premier law enforcement entity with these continually decreasing budgets.

Just as I have said in the past, the budget constraints placed upon us will once again force us to make tough decisions.  The chairwoman has covered most of the budget in her opening statement so I will not repeat them, but I do have a number of issues I wish to address.  

First, I want to recognize and extend my appreciation to the men and women of the Justice Department who protect this country from terrorism and crime each and every day. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

As in past years, the Administration continues to propose eliminating state and local law enforcement programs.  These programs are the lifeblood of police departments throughout the nation.  I will join the chairwoman in rejecting this proposal.

The U.S. Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Forces track down and apprehend the dangerous fugitives on our streets.  These fugitives are the “worst of the worst,” usually averaging more than four prior arrests per fugitive.  The six regional task forces arrested approximately 95,000 felony fugitives last year.  These task forces are a proven force multiplier. 

The Marshals Service may be the smallest federal law enforcement agency, but they have arrested more fugitives than all other federal agencies combined, yet there are no new resources for their efforts in the budget.     

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that there are currently more than 100,000 sex offenders who have failed to register as required under the Adam Walsh Act.  These predators are working, attending school, and living in proximity to our children unbeknownst to parents and law enforcement officials. 

The Marshal Service is the lead agency in the enforcement of the Adam Walsh Act.  The Congressional Budget Office conservatively estimates it would cost $220 million over a five year period for the Marshals Service to hire 350 new Deputy Marshals, as required by the law, to locate and hunt down these unregistered sex offenders. 

My friend John Walsh said the following after the signing of the Act, “Legislation without the resources to back it up is nothing more than a photo-op.”  And yet, the Department is requesting no new resources in FY 2009 to reduce the number of sex offenders from our streets.

Is this giving sex offenders a free ride?  What kind of message does this budget send?  

The Administration also proposes to task the ATF with additional southwest border responsibilities, highlighting cross-border arms trafficking.  Yet only a paltry $948,000 out of $100 million is requested to carry out this mission.   This means ATF agents investigating violent crime, arson, and gang-related activities will be relocated to the border. 

The baseline request in this budget does not even support the existing missions of the law enforcement agencies in DOJ.

There is no doubt we have a crisis on the southwest border. To fund the Southwest Border enhancements at the levels requested will remove DEA, ATF, FBI and U.S. Marshals from our communities.  These communities are already stressed in dealing with increased crime and receive less fiscal support from the Department of Justice. 

Mr. Attorney General, it has been brought to my attention that individuals at the National Institute of Justice have attempted to derail Fiscal Year 2006 report language that I requested, directing the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent forensics study.  Once completed, this study will produce an unbiased and independent assessment of the present and future needs of the forensics community, providing a roadmap for best practices.

Current and former employees at NIJ, along with lobbyists and contractors, have attempted to undermine and influence the National Academies study.  On December 17 and 18th of this past year, the Deputy Director of NIJ even convened a counterproductive forensics summit here in Washington.  Many of the attendees deemed the summit a huge waste of more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds. 

Also, while investigating this matter, my staff discovered potential conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, and a serious void of transparency where lobbyists, including former DOJ employees, were contracted by NIJ to conduct policy forming studies and surveys.  These same lobbyists, while writing these unbiased policies for the Department of Justice, are also representing clients whose business success depends on the results of the studies and surveys their lobbyist conducted.

I am not so sure the seriousness of this matter has the full attention of the leadership at DOJ.  I placed language in the fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill directing the inspector general to investigate this matter.  I encourage you to also check into this matter. 

I would be remiss if I did not express my dismay at the Department’s position, or lack thereof, on the recent passage of the Second Chance Act.  In what will be a year of tough budget decisions, numerous re-entry, recidivism prevention, and prisoner education studies and programs were created.  Most of the programs and studies already exist, yet the Department was silent throughout the process.  I am mostly troubled by Section 231 related to prisoner re-entry procedures that “ensure that priority is given to the re-entry needs of high-risk populations, such as sex offenders and career criminals.” 

To a degree, I believe in re-entry and anti-recidivism programs, but in a tight budget year when we have to make choices, I must prioritize and ensure that the needs of victims and law enforcement officers are supported before giving any consideration whatsoever to the welfare of criminals.

There are currently more than 70 grant programs at DOJ.  Each program has its own constituency. The creation of a new slate of duplicative grants unnecessarily adds more programs to compete for funding -- funding that the budget request has already trimmed by more than $1.6 billion.  

This legislation provides more social welfare and career counseling to pedophiles and career criminals in our bill, than we give to victims and most of our children.   Sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, yet this bill would give them priority in receiving federal taxpayer assistance to reintegrate into our neighborhoods. 

The Department should be extremely proud of its personnel stationed overseas.  The ATF, FBI, DEA, Marshals Service, and U.S. Attorneys all play vital roles in protecting our country. Whether it be counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, I.E.D. training, fugitive extradition, or drug interdiction, these are the troops of DOJ.  These are your troops, Mr. Attorney General.  They all do yeoman’s work with minimal staff and resources while their counterparts in other agencies receive more pay and better incentives to remain in service.  I would ask that DOJ examine the retirement contributions, danger pay, overtime and other incentives that other agencies provide to retain their best and brightest overseas.  

I understand the chairwoman has endorsed the effort to provide additional Byrne state and local law enforcement funding in the upcoming emergency supplemental bill. Senator Mikulski, you have my support and I appreciate you taking the lead on this.

Attorney General Mukasey, you left a lifetime appointment as a federal judge to return to the Department of Justice.  Since your arrival, morale has risen and we are seeing signs that you are having success in righting the ship.  I commend you for your efforts and commitment.  Thank you for appearing before us today and I look forward to hearing your statement and working with you.”