May 24 2005

SHELBY CHAIRS HEARING ON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BUDGET

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, today heard testimony from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller. The hearing included an overview of the FY 2006 budget for the Department of Justice. Senator Shelby's opening statement, as prepared, is included here:

"Good Morning. I want to welcome Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller. Thank you both for appearing before the Committee this morning. This is your first appearance before the newly created Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. Previously, in my capacity as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we had the opportunity to work together, and I hope to continue that relationship."

"I want to thank the Full Committee Chairman, Senator Cochran for being here today and express my appreciation for his leadership and guidance moving this Committee forward."

"I look forward to hearing from each of you about your vision of the Justice Department and the FBI, respectively, and the challenges each of you see in the coming fiscal year. In particular, I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women who work at the Justice Department and all they do to keep America safe."

"Based on my review of your budget request and the constraints of the subcommittee, I believe it will take your leadership to make the tough choices regarding the allocation of resources given the budget constraints we are facing."

"The fiscal year 2006 budget request for the Department of Justice is $20.3 billion and represents an increase of one percent over the FY 2005 enacted funding level. While the budget proposes increases for the FBI, the United States Attorneys, the United States Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, this budget proposes severe cuts to other important programs. In particular, it proposes to cut $1.4 billion to State and local law enforcement programs; it rescinds $314 million in funds for the construction of new prisons, and proposes $123 million in new fees to fund base operations for critical law enforcement activities. This budget also proposes to rescind $1.3 billion held in trust for victims of crime to offset costs elsewhere. With that proposed offset, the Justice Department's request is actually $19.1 billion and represents a five percent decrease from the fiscal year 2005 level. Quite honestly, I find these cuts to be unacceptable and irresponsible - particularly as they relate to the rescission of important funds and the proposal of new fees."

"I want to be supportive of this request but these reductions and budget maneuvers concern me. For example, the budget proposes to increase a fee on the explosives industry to generate revenue of $120 million in offsetting collections in FY 2006. I want to point out that even if Congress passed this proposal today, I am told it would take the Department two years to even begin collecting the fee. If that is true, I do not understand how the Department of Justice proposes to use the receipts from this fee to offset fiscal year 2006 law enforcement operations. This $120 million hole is just one example of many contained in this request. These shortfalls will force the Committee to make some extremely difficult choices."

"Another offset that concerns me is the proposal to rescind funding previously provided by this Committee for new prison construction. This just doesn't add up. Not only are we facing significant overcrowding at federal prison facilities, but you are projecting the addition of approximately 8,000 new prisoners each year to those already-crowded facilities. Yet, the budget proposes to rescind $314 million for funding already provided to build two medium security facilities. Without construction and activation of these two facilities, projected medium security crowding, which is already fifty percent over capacity, will be ten percent higher by FY 2009."

"As for increases, Mr. Attorney General, your budget request proposes that $2.7 billion be spent on information technology (IT). While I am a big proponent of technology, I also expect there to be some direct oversight by you of the disparate systems being developed by the Department and its bureaus. The fact that the Department's CIO has control of less than ten percent of the IT resources and the employees who build, run, and maintain these systems explains why there is no universal plan for systems development in the Department. Given the current budgetary constraints, there are not sufficient resources to continue building these stovepipe systems that fail to deliver the results promised to the taxpayers and the users."

"I am especially interested in hearing what specific oversight the Department is conducting with respect to the FBI's Virtual Case File (VCF). I was extremely disappointed to learn of VCF's failure, and the significant loss of funds associated with it. While I wholeheartedly support bringing the FBI into the twenty-first century and realize the importance of information technology to the FBI's mission, I cannot support unlimited and unchecked resources and will not tolerate broken promises for results that are never realized or delivered. I believe, given one failed attempt, it is imperative that you proceed with caution to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes twice. I expect results, and I will do everything I can to ensure that there is Congressional oversight for this program; however, someone must be accountable for the success or failure of VCF and all of the Department's programs."

"There are many other issues that I anticipate discussing during this hearing including the FBI's use of resources on priority missions, the relationship of the FBI Director and the new Director of National Intelligence and the funding implications of that relationship, and the critical human resource issues the FBI is now confronting."

"Mr. Attorney General and Mr. Director, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Justice Department's budget request, and I look forward to working with you on these and other important issues facing our Nation," Shelby concluded.

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