Apr 03 2014

Shelby: DoJ Budget Prioritizes Obama Admin. Pet Projects over National Security, Law Enforcement

Blasts AG Holder for Not Providing Unfettered Access to Inspector General

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, today at a budget oversight hearing blasted Attorney General Eric Holder for the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) failure to prioritize national security and law enforcement over Obama Administration pet projects in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal: 

“The 2015 budget request for the Department of Justice totals $27.4 billion,” Shelby said to Holder.  “I am concerned, however, that while the Department’s 2015 budget purports to ‘recognize the multifaceted nature of the Department’s work,’ it fails to truly prioritize anything but the Administration’s pet projects.  Programs such as Smart on Crime, Now is the Time, and nearly 12 new grant programs take center stage.  Meanwhile, law enforcement and national security priorities -- the main mission of the Department -- take a back seat.” 

Shelby also sharply criticized Holder for not providing unfettered access to documents requested by DoJ’s Inspector General in conducting oversight and investigations at the department.  Shelby’s comments follow a joint letter that he and Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski recently sent to Holder requesting a full explanation of the Attorney General’s legal basis for not doing so: 

“I also want to touch briefly on a topic of concern that directly impacts the Inspector General’s ability to conduct much needed oversight of the Department of Justice.  Since arriving in 2012, Mr. Horowitz has worked diligently to investigate a myriad of trouble spots.  Throughout the course of those investigations however, the IG encountered a significant roadblock.  Specifically, he has not been provided unfettered access to materials essential to ongoing investigations and audits unless the Attorney General approves it.  I strongly believe that the work of the Inspector General is essential to any well-functioning government agency.  Moreover, they are independent and as such should not be encumbered by individuals in positions of power, such as the Attorney General.”

The full text of Shelby’s opening statement from today’s hearing is provided below. 

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Opening Statement of Vice Chairman Richard Shelby

Hearing on the Department of Justice’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Today we will hear from Attorney General Holder about the Department of Justice’s 2015 budget request.  Michael Horowitz, the Department’s Inspector General will also testify about his work and the difficulties he has encountered in executing his oversight responsibilities.  I welcome you both.

The 2015 budget request for the Department of Justice totals $27.4 billion.  I am concerned, however, that while the Department’s 2015 budget purports to “recognize the multifaceted nature of the Department’s work,” it fails to truly prioritize anything but the Administration’s pet projects.

Programs such as Smart on Crime, Now is the Time, and nearly 12 new grant programs take center stage.  Meanwhile, law enforcement and national security priorities -- the main mission of the Department -- take a back seat.

This approach is evident in the indiscriminate cuts required of nearly every component within the Department of Justice.  In fact, the 2015 budget requires cuts totaling more than $500 million.  These cuts are characterized as “Miscellaneous Program and Administrative Reductions” and will be identified once funds are appropriated.  In short, it is the Department’s own version of an arbitrary sequester. 

Mr. Attorney General, Congress made a conscious decision to return to regular order, in part, to put a stop to the indiscriminate cuts that your budget requires.  A budget proposal that uses smoke and mirrors does not provide a stable foundation to safeguard national security, reduce violent crime, prosecute criminals, or support our state and local partners.  In fact, it calls into question the Department’s commitment to those requirements.   

I do not support the approach this budget has taken and I look forward to working with you, Madam Chair, to ensure that the Department of Justice is appropriately funded to carry out its important mission. 

I also want to touch briefly on a topic of concern that directly impacts the Inspector General’s ability to conduct much needed oversight of the Department of Justice.  Since arriving in 2012, Mr. Horowitz has worked diligently to investigate a myriad of trouble spots.  Throughout the course of those investigations however, the IG encountered a significant roadblock.

Specifically, he has not been provided unfettered access to materials essential to ongoing investigations and audits unless the Attorney General approves it.

I strongly believe that the work of the Inspector General is essential to any well-functioning government agency.  Moreover, they are independent and as such should not be encumbered by individuals in positions of power, such as the Attorney General.

Mr. Attorney General, yesterday the Chair and I sent you a letter on this matter.  We expect that you will move swiftly to address our questions and resolve this controversy.  Without an independent Office of Inspector General that can truly carryout its oversight responsibilities, I am concerned that the honesty and integrity of the whole Department could be called into question.

Madam Chair, thank you for the time and I look forward to hearing more from the Attorney General and from the Inspector General.

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