Bi-partisan group seeks an additional $490 million for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today US Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kit Bond (R-MO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Joe Biden (D-DE) joined a bipartisan group of 51 other Senators in sending a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations seeking $489.6 million in this year's supplemental appropriations bill for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program. The additional funding would restore Byrne/JAG funding for the current fiscal year to $660 million, the same level that the Senate originally provided for in the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill that passed last year.
While the Senate provided $660 million for Byrne/JAG grants, following a veto threat, the Omnibus Appropriations bill that ultimately passed funded the programs at only $170 million. This funding level represents a more than two-thirds drop from the 2007 level, and is down from nearly $900 million in 2002.
The Byrne Grant Program, named after a police officer killed by a violent drug gang twenty years ago, is the only source of federal funding for multi-jurisdictional efforts to prevent and fight crime. Byrne funding is critical to creating regional cooperation to fight the manufacture, distribution, and use of narcotics, including methamphetamine. Byrne Grants also help pay for police training, technology and crime prevention programs. The grant program has resulted in major innovations in crime control, including drug courts, gang prevention strategies and prisoner re-entry programs.
"Sheriffs and police officers from communities large and small have told me that Byrne Grants are essential to fighting the war on drugs," said Senator Harkin. "In Iowa, the cut will lead to layoffs and the elimination of 15 of our 21 drug task forces. We cannot continue to slash the funding for such a vital program that has proven successful in keeping drugs and criminals off the street and making our neighborhoods safer."
"Despite the critical role our drug task forces and law enforcement officials play keeping our families and neighborhoods safe, federal funding for local law enforcement has gone down, which is why I am fighting to restore funds to this critical program," said Senator Bond. "There must be a local, state and federal partnership to keep our communities safe and I will do everything I can to get local law enforcement the federal assistance they need to ensure our families are protected."
"I have heard first-hand from Georgians that this funding is critical to their efforts in keeping our citizens in both rural and urban communities safe," said Senator Chambliss. "If we're serious about protecting our communities, keeping drugs off our streets, and preventing future crime, then we must give our local law enforcement personnel the resources they need to carry out their duties."
"Fighting crime and making our communities safer takes constant attention and a steady commitment," said Senator Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. "These grant programs support the police officers and sheriffs who walk our streets; task forces that take down the worst criminals threatening our communities; community organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs that provide a safe, constructive environment for kids; and the drug courts and treatment programs that literally save lives. It's time to renew our commitment to these critical programs and restore the Byrne JAG funding."
March 31, 2008
The Honorable Robert Byrd Chairman
The Honorable Thad Cochran Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Byrd and Senator Cochran:
Restoration of severe cuts made to the Edward Byrne Justice Grant (Byrne/JAG) program through last year's omnibus appropriations bill is vital to avoid law enforcement layoffs and suspension of hundreds of anti-drug, gang and violent offender efforts across the country. Therefore, we respectfully request that you provide $489.6 million for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program in any Supplemental Appropriations bill that comes before the Senate. This addition would restore Byrne/JAG funding to the same level previously approved by the Senate in the Commerce-Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 (FY 2008).
The Byrne Formula Grant Program is a tried and tested program that has served us well for more than two decades. The program's broad-based support was verified in the Senate's passage last year of S.231, the Feinstein-Chambliss Byrne/JAG Reauthorization Act, which would extend this $1.095 bill authorization through 2012. The bill received 52 co-sponsors and passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
As you know, the Senate-approved CJS Appropriations bill for FY2008 would have funded Byrne/JAG at $660 million. Following a veto threat, however, difficult choices had to be made in conference, and in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that ultimately passed, Byrne/JAG funding for FY2008 was reduced to only $170.4 million. This figure represented more than a 2/3 drop from Byrne/JAG's actual appropriated levels in FY2007.
In the wake of these drastic cuts, various law enforcement agencies, as well as numerous police and sheriff's offices, have notified us that these FY2008 Byrne/JAG cuts will have a devastating effect on law enforcement, forcing them to possibly close multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, and negatively affecting a variety of other crime control programs. Particularly at a time when a risk of adverse economic conditions may lead to increased crime, it is vitally important that we support our nation's finest in their efforts on the front lines, where they risk their lives daily keeping Americans safe.
Unless these Byrne/JAG funds are restored promptly, law enforcement agencies may be forced to dismantle multi-jurisdiction task forces that often took years to create and develop. And individual officers serving on those task force members will face a loss of income or even their jobs, some of which have been held for years.
Each year, Byrne/JAG dollars fund over 4,000 police officers and prosecutors working on over 750 drug enforcement task forces in all 50 states across hundreds of urban and rural countries and cities. On an annual basis, Byrne/JAG funding leads to over 220,000 arrests, 54,000 weapons seized, the seizure of 5.5 million grams of methamphetamine, and the breakup of almost 9,000 methamphetamine labs. These successes show that we need to continue what we are doing, not cut back.
Funding for Byrne/JAG, at its $1.095 billion authorized level, has long been supported by America's leading law enforcement organizations, including the National Narcotic Officers' Associations' Coalition, National Sheriffs' Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Legal Action Center, National District Attorneys' Association, National HIDTA Directors Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs Association, National Criminal Justice Association, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, Major City Chiefs Association, National Troopers Coalition, State Association of Addiction Services, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Fraternal Order of Police.
There is strong bipartisan support for the Byrne/JAG Program, and we urge you to provide this critically needed funding in any supplemental appropriations bill that comes before the Senate this year.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kit Bond (R-MO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Joe Biden (D-DE), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barack Obama (D-IL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
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