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Senate subcommittee addresses Justice Department budget

Opening Statement of Chairman Richard Shelby

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee (CJS), today held a hearing of the Subcommittee to examine the proposed Department of Justice budget for fiscal year 2007. 

The following is Shelby’s opening statement, as prepared:

“Good afternoon.  We will now convene the fiscal year 2007 budget hearing for the Department of Justice.  I want to welcome Attorney General Alberto Gonzales;  Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller;  Drug Enforcement Agency Director Karen Tandy;  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Director Carl Truscott; and United States Marshals Service Director John Clark. Thank you for appearing before the Committee today.” 

“In reviewing the Justice Department’s budget request and anticipating the budget constraints weighing upon us due to the war on terror and the natural disasters that devastated the Gulf Coast, I believe it will take your unified leadership to make the tough choices regarding the allocation of scarce resources in this bill.”

“The fiscal year 2007 budget request for the Department of Justice is $20.8 billion and represents a 0.5 percent decrease over the fiscal year 2006 enacted level.  While this request proposes increases for the FBI, the United States Attorneys, and the United States Marshals Service, it proposes unacceptable cuts to local law enforcement assistance programs and other critical areas.  In particular, it recommends a $1.6 billion decrease for State and local law enforcement programs; it proposes to rescind $142 million for the construction of two new Federal prisons; and includes the same failed $120 million mandatory fee on explosives manufacturers to fund the day to day operations of critical law enforcement activities.  When taken in total, it is difficult for me to understand how you expect to carry out your collective missions when you have proposed a budget which cripples current services.” 

“The budget request for the FBI provides $6 billion, an increase of 6 percent over the fiscal year 2006 enacted level. As the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know firsthand the challenges facing the Bureau’s new National Security Branch which is responsible for coordinating intelligence activities with the Director of National Intelligence.  The Bureau’s budget request seeks to permanently realign 300 Special Agent positions from criminal investigations to counterterrorism to support the work of the NSB.  This shift in resources signals the importance of reprioritizing funding and personnel toward the threat of terrorism.  However, this realignment may not go far enough, as the budget request only adds one new agent position for this upcoming year.  Instead, the FBI budget funds a variety of technological improvements for Intelligence Infrastructure, Information Technology Management, Information Technology Infrastructure, and the next generation of the much maligned Trilogy program.”

“This Subcommittee and the Bureau share the difficult task of targeting these resources in a manner that safeguards taxpayer dollars while preserving public safety.” 

“The FBI’s former $537 million technology initiative, Trilogy, while providing primitive functionality, was hardly a sound investment of taxpayer dollars. I was disappointed to learn that after spending in excess of $170 million Trilogy’s Virtual Case File System, was a complete failure.  This represents a devastating blow to the information technology needs of the Bureau. The 2006 Government Accountability Office Trilogy report raises serious questions about the FBI’s ability to oversee and build any type of information technology system.” 

“The FBI’s new technology initiative, Sentinel, like Trilogy, promises to bring the FBI into the 21st century.  This new technology is critically important, but I remain concerned that the FBI does not possess the necessary project management expertise, nor do I feel that the FBI has applied lessons learned from past Trilogy mistakes.”

“While I support and realize the importance of information technology to the FBI’s mission, I cannot support unlimited and unchecked resources.  I will not tolerate broken promises for results that are never realized nor delivered, such as Trilogy.  Given one failed attempt, I believe, it is imperative that you proceed with caution to ensure that the FBI does not make the same mistakes. I expect results and I will do everything I can to ensure that there is thorough Congressional oversight for this program.”

“The budget request for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives imposes a $120 million tax on explosives manufacturers.  I want to point out that even if Congress passed this proposal today, it would take the Department two years to begin collecting the fee.  If this is true, I do not understand how the Department of Justice proposes to use the receipts from this fee to offset the fiscal year 2007 ATF budget.  This $120 million hole is just one example of many contained in this request.  These shortfalls force the Committee to make some extremely difficult choices that undermine our ability to fund critical budget increases for hard working DOJ law enforcement agencies.”

“While we believe that your new initiatives are extremely important, it will be difficult to give them consideration when the Committee must weigh this request with the numerous proposed rescissions, cuts and eliminations of local law enforcement programs.  State and local law enforcement agencies are the foundation for our nation’s law enforcement community.  These proposed cuts have the potential to significantly weaken the ability of these agencies to protect our communities from traditional acts of crime, to maintain vigilance in the war on terror, and to prepare for catastrophic disasters.  Continually proposing major reductions for local law enforcement assistance programs will cripple the police and sheriff’s departments which are fixtures in our communities, hindering their ability to carry out their duty to protect our citizens on the local level.”

“For the second year in a row, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has disregarded explicit Congressional direction to construct new prisons in McDowell, West Virginia, and Berlin, New Hampshire.  This year’s proposed $142 million rescission combined with last year’s $314 million rescission totals $456 million in previously appropriated funding for the construction of additional correctional institutions.”  

“Not only are we facing significant prison overcrowding, but the Bureau of Prisons projects approximately 8,500 new prisoners will enter the federal prison system this year alone. These already crowded facilities will be almost 60 percent over capacity by 2010.  This is unacceptable.”

“I look forward to hearing from each of you about your vision for your agency and the challenges you foresee in the coming fiscal year.  Also, I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women who work at the Justice Department and express my appreciation for all they do to keep America safe.”

“I would now like to turn to my distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Mikulski, for her opening statement.”