Apr 19 2007

CJS Hearing on DEA, USMS, and ATF Budget

Shelby Addresses Virginia Tech Massacre, Alabama Church Arsonists’ Conviction, and Making Huntsville Federal Explosive Capital during Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

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 Subcommittee’s hearing to examine the proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2008 for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).

Senator Shelby’s opening statement, as prepared:

“Thank you all for joining us to discuss the FY 2008 budget for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the United States Marshals Service.”

“The total Department of Justice budget request for FY 2008 is $20.181 billion.  This is a $771 million decrease below the FY 2007 Joint Resolution funding level.” 

“The Department faces a $500 million shortfall in the FY 2008 budget. Just as I said last year, the budget constraints placed upon us by the War on Terror and the recent hurricane seasons will once again force us all to make tough decisions.”  

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tragedy that took place on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning. My heartfelt thoughts go out to everyone who was affected by this horrible event.” 

“The ATF has been one of the lead investigative agencies in this horrible disaster and has done an outstanding job thus far.  ATF agents quickly identified ballistic evidence linking a weapon used in the first shooting to the second shooting.”

“Acting Director Sullivan, I commend your personnel in the labs and on the ground for their quick and professional response. This somber day will be one mourned and remembered for many years to come.”

“Also, I once again commend the ATF for its contributions to the quick capture and conviction of the Alabama church arsonists that were sentenced to prison last week.”

“The ATF’s FY 2008 request is $1.013 billion. The request is $29.8 million over the FY 2007 Joint Resolution total.” 

“The ATF is the premier agency for gun crimes, gang activity, arson, and explosive-related crimes.  I am committed to ensuring that you have the tools and training facilities you require to fulfill your explosives mission.”

“The National Center for Explosives Research will be a world-class addition to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, which is already home of the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School.”

“I am working collaboratively to expand the federal government’s explosive infrastructure and expertise in Huntsville. This will assist us in our number one priority: terrorism prevention and a safe homeland. Redstone Arsenal should and will be the law enforcement capital of explosives research and training.”

“Acting Director Sullivan, I would like to offer you congratulations on your nomination to be the permanent Director of ATF.  Your experience as a U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts will serve the ATF and the country well.”

“Administrator Tandy, thank you for coming today.  The Drug Enforcement Administration’s budget request for FY 2008 is $1.8 billion, a $57.6 million increase over the FY 2007 Joint Resolution total.  The role of the DEA has shifted from being solely focused on narcotics to include an intelligence mission and a position on the front line of the War on Terror.”

“As former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I know all too well the link between global drug trafficking and terrorism.”  

“I understand the detrimental impact a hiring freeze has on DEA’s ability to carry out its mission. Senator Mikulski and I will be working together in the FY 2008 process to see to it that you have the manpower you need to carry out your mission.”

“By the same token, as we address the budget shortfalls and hiring freeze, I received a disturbing letter from the Department of Justice on March 6 stating that the cost of the Clandestine Laboratory Training Facility has doubled from $8 million to $16 million.” 

“This letter, combined with the disastrous cost escalations, poor estimations and project management of DEA’s Information Technology Center that jumped from $7.1 million to $38 million, show a disturbing and unacceptable trend we must correct.” 

“I will reserve any further judgment on this matter until we hear the recommendations of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office."

“Methamphetamine use continues to poison our nation, knowing no boundaries of age, gender, class, or race.  The majority of this drug is shipped into our country from Mexico.”

“I commend DEA and the Department of Justice in the recent success of “Operation Imperial Emperor” where more than 400 individuals were arrested, and $45 million in U.S. currency and 18 tons of illegal drugs were seized from a Mexican drug cartel.” 

“Violent Mexican drug cartels have turned our Southwest Border into a battle-zone, where our DEA agents put their lives on the line every day.  These cartels have their own advanced telecommunications towers and encrypted radios making their communications systems virtually impenetrable with our current surveillance equipment.”

“I hope that you will explain this problem to the subcommittee and let us know how we can put cutting edge technology in our agents’ hands to infiltrate their systems and cut off this drug pipeline.

“Director Clark, the United States Marshals Service budget request for FY 2008 is $899.8 million.  This is an $80 million increase above the FY 2007 Joint Resolution total.”

“The core responsibilities of the Marshals Service include providing judicial and courthouse security, safeguarding witnesses, transporting prisoners for court proceedings, seizing forfeited property, and apprehending fugitives.”

“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that there are over 600,000 sex offenders in the U.S.  More than 100,000 of them have failed to register. The Adam Walsh Act tasks Marshals with the removal those unregistered offenders from our streets.”

“Last year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency received funding to hire an additional 2,000 Border Patrol agents.  Marshals bear the primary burden of transporting illegal alien prisoners taken into custody by Border Patrol Agents, meaning there will be fewer Marshals removing unregistered sexual offenders from our neighborhoods and streets.  This is a problem we must address.”

“The Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 authorized the permanent creation of Fugitive Apprehension Task Forces which are comprised of Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in designated regions.”

“Through this Act, the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, was created.”

“Last May 31, at approximately 8:00 a.m., a young female lawyer was kidnapped at gunpoint in a parking lot just a few blocks from my office in downtown Birmingham. Some of you might remember seeing video of this as it was captured on a security camera and shown on network news channels all over the nation.” 

“Through the efforts of the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the kidnapper was captured and the woman returned to her family without serious bodily injury nine hours later.”

“This is just one example of an exceptional job in a high-profile case where these task forces have produced rapid, life-saving results because of their coordination with law enforcement agencies at all levels.”

“Finally, the reprehensible working conditions and inadequate security resources our Marshals endure in the District of Columbia Superior Court building have recently been brought to my attention.  Stale ventilation, flooding hallways, poor plumbing, malfunctioning lights that are needed to illuminate prisoner traffic areas monitored by security cameras, an archaic prisoner tracking system, and antiquated prisoner scanning devices are conditions that are not acceptable.”

“Director Clark, I understand you visited this facility last Friday. I look forward to hearing about your visit and what we can do together to resolve this very serious matter.”

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women who work at the Justice Department and I deeply express my appreciation for all they do to keep America safe.”