December 14, 2004
Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
The partnership forged by the men and women of the Department of Justice with the American people has not only seen our nation through the worst terrorist attack in its history, but has also ushered in an historic era of safety and security. Violent crime is at its lowest rate in three decades. Gun crime prosecutions are at an all-time record high and violent crimes committed with guns are at an all-time record low. Drug use among the nation's youth is declining. Civil rights laws are being vigorously enforced, and the Department has set new records for prosecuting human traffickers. Corporate criminals are facing justice, and integrity has been restored to the nation's marketplace. With the help of our partners in state and local law enforcement and our fellow Americans, we have done what so many said could not be done:
We have safeguarded both the security and liberty of our fellow Americans in a time of war.
While we are grateful for these accomplishments, we understand that in the war on terror and our other critical responsibilities, complacency breeds failure. With vigilance in pursuit of our mission and an unwavering dedication to integrity, we must learn from our accomplishments and translate the results achieved into a framework for future success. Continuous improvement is our goal, and excellence is our standard.
To that end, the Department has worked closely with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to improve our efforts to protect and serve the American people, and it is therefore my pleasure to present this Semiannual Management Report to Congress (Semiannual Report) filed by the OIG for the Department of Justice. Specifically, the Management Report and my remarks document the Department's most significant undertakings to identify and correct activities and operations that the OIG characterized, over the last half of the fiscal year 2004, as needing improvement. For example, the OIG suggested certain changes and the Department used the recommendations to affect management improvements: The Department redeployed personnel and more effectively carried out critical missions, shifted priorities and increased funding for counterterrorism, and took significant steps that improved the efficiency and security of our computerized systems.
The Department has continued to enhance its capability to prevent terrorist incidents by restructuring our organizations and setting new priorities that allow us to better accomplish our mission. The FBI realigned its assets and established the prevention of terrorism as the FBI's highest priority. Rather than concentrate on terrorists crimes after they occur, the FBI now focuses on disrupting terrorists before they strike. I am pleased that the OIG reviewed the changes in the FBI's allocation of personnel resources and determined that the reallocation reflects the counterterrorism and counterintelligence priorities at the FBI. In fiscal 2003, the FBI allocated more than 560 field agents to terrorism-related matters and opened more cases related to counterterrorism and counterintelligence than before.
The FBI continued, during the reporting period, to reorganize and improve its operations based on observations and recommendations the OIG made earlier in the year. Since the September 11 attacks against America, the FBI has worked vigorously and continuously to improve information sharing among all levels of law enforcement while continuing to protect classified information. The FBI enhanced its integration and coordination efforts with its partners in the United States and international law enforcement and those in the intelligence community by expanding the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and implementing new vehicles for sharing information, such as the FBI Intelligence Bulletin; the Alert System; and the Terrorist Screening Center. To improve coordination with other federal agencies and the intelligence community, the FBI collaborated with other federal entities and established the Terrorist Threat Integration Center that coordinates strategic analysis of threats based on intelligence from federal agencies. Coordination with our foreign partners is more critical than ever. Consequently, the FBI increased its overseas presence and routinely deployed agents and experts to investigate overseas attacks and to conduct investigations of terrorist attacks in foreign countries. Recognizing that a prerequisite for any operational coordination is the complete exchange of information, the FBI started establishing agency-wide policies for information and intelligence sharing within and outside the FBI, with the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and with foreign governments.
I commend the FBI Director and join him in the commitment to increase the effectiveness of the FBI and maintaining its stature as this nation's leading, intelligence-driven law enforcement agency.
As we have worked to preserve lives and liberties and combat terrorism, we have pursued critical management goals to improve the Department's efficiency and effectiveness. Over the past three years, the Department worked diligently to earn unqualified opinions on its consolidated financial statement, an achievement first earned under this Administration. Since the issuance of the OIG's Semi Annual Report, the Department issued its fiscal year 2004 Performance and Accountability Report. In that Report, eight of the ten Department components that produce financial statements received unqualified opinions. Difficulties in reporting certain grant-related financial activity and associated weaknesses in grant-related systems resulted in a disclaimed opinion for one component and, in turn, for the Department's consolidated statements. A second component's opinion was qualified due to a reporting issue with accounts payable. I believe it is our commitment to the taxpayers to give a full and accurate accounting for our financial activity. Consequently, we have already started the work necessary to correct and fairly present our grant and payables activity for fiscal 2004 and to obtain audit opinions on those corrected financial reports.
This commitment carries over into our efforts to fully address those OIG recommendations that may lead to improvements in our financial systems, management controls, and financial reporting capabilities. Also, the Department is bolstering its efforts to adequately secure its computer systems used to process our financial and other secure information and overseeing the development and implementation of major Department systems. In addition, the Department expects to improve its systems by implementing recommendations contained in reports the OIG issued pursuant to the Federal Information Security Management Act and its predecessor the Government Information Security Reform Act.
The United States Marshals Service's (USMS) already made improvements to its Prisoner Tracking System (PTS) and initiated efforts to replace the system based on recommendations the OIG made when it audited the system. The Semi Annual Report identified major weaknesses in the select general system controls, application controls, and the integrity of the data within the system. Rather than risking unauthorized use, modification, and possibly loss of the data within the PTS, the USMS took immediate action to rectify weaknesses related to security program planning and management, access controls, application software development and change control, system software, and the segregation of duties and service continuity controls.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) underwent its first major OIG review this year. The efforts the ATF made to increase the effectiveness of its operations both during and after the review demonstrates a solid commitment to improvement. During its review of the ATF's program for inspecting Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) and as soon as shortcomings were seen, the ATF undertook significant corrective steps to improve its inspection program. The ATF is committed to improving its inspection program to ensure compliance with firearms law and will continue to work diligently to implement the OIG's recommendations.
As we move forward into the new year, the Department of Justice will remain focused intensely on the task at hand, relentless in our efforts to safeguard the lives and liberties of all Americans. As President Bush said recently, "We are fighting a continuing war on terror, and every American has a stake in the outcome of this war. ... We will persevere until the enemy is defeated. We will stay strong and resolute. We have a duty, a solemn duty to protect the American people, and we will."