Good morning, Chairman Mikulski, Ranking Member Hutchison, and distinguished members of the subcommittee. I want to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for the Department of Justice. And on behalf of my colleagues – the more than 117,000 dedicated men and women who serve our nation’s Justice Department in positions and offices all around the world – I want to thank you for your support of the Department’s critical work.
As I have said often, no aspect of our work is more important – or more urgent – than protecting the safety of the American people and strengthening our national security. As Attorney General, this is my paramount obligation. And at every level of the Justice Department, this is our primary focus.
In recent years, we have confronted some of the most significant terrorist threats to the homeland since the September 11th attacks – and the Justice Department has played a vital role in combating these threats.
Just yesterday – outside Spokane, Washington – we arrested a United States citizen on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. We allege that, in January, this individual placed a bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Unity March. Had it been successful, this alleged bomb plot could have been extremely deadly. But thanks to the help of alert citizens – and the outstanding work FBI agents and their federal, state and local law enforcement partners – it was foiled. And, this morning, that individual is in custody.
On Tuesday of this week, United States citizen Jamie Paulin Ramirez pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists – and admitted to traveling overseas with the intention of participating in violent jihad.
And two weeks ago, Zachary Chesser – a resident of northern Virginia and a United States citizen – was sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, communicating threats against Americans, and encouraging violent jihadists to impede and obstruct law enforcement activities.
Despite the many forms of national security threats that we have faced, I am proud to report that – over the last two years – the Justice Department has charged more defendants in federal court with the most serious terror-related offenses than in any similar period since 9/11.
Beyond our essential national security work, the Department has made extraordinary progress in fulfilling the pledge that I made before this subcommittee nearly two years ago – that, under my leadership, every decision made and every policy implemented would be based on the facts, the law, and the best interests of the American people – regardless of political pressures or consequences.
I am proud of the work that’s been done to honor this promise – and to advance the Department’s other critical priorities. In the last two years, we have taken meaningful steps to safeguard civil rights – and to utilize the new tools and authorities that Congress provided to combat hate crimes. We have worked to protect our environment – and to respond to the largest oil spill in U.S. history by seeking justice for victims and working to make certain that American taxpayers don’t foot the bill for restoring the Gulf Coast region. We have launched historic efforts to expand access to legal services, to strengthen our corrections systems, and to combat child exploitation; human trafficking; prescription-drug abuse; and gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled violence.
The Department has collaborated with governments worldwide – not only to combat international crime networks, but also to identify and disrupt drug cartel operations, intellectual property thefts, and a broad range of cyber crimes. We have strengthened relationships with colleagues across federal, state, local, and tribal governments. And we have focused, in particular, on finding innovative, effective ways to protect the safety of our law enforcement partners. From our Bulletproof Vest Initiative to our cutting-edge training programs and information-sharing platforms – we will continue to do everything we can to ensure officer safety and to reduce the rising tide of gun violence against law enforcement that has devastated too many families and communities in recent months.
I also want to note that we have brought our nation’s fight against financial and health-care fraud to a new level. In fact, in the last year, the Department has announced the largest financial and health-care fraud takedowns on record. And in fiscal year 2010, the Department’s Civil Division secured the highest level of health-care fraud recoveries in history – $2.5 billion – as well as the second-largest annual recovery of civil fraud claims. Our Criminal Division saw similar success. In FY 2010, the Criminal Division participated in efforts, including joint enforcement actions with our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country, that secured more than $3 billion in judgments and settlements.
In addition to our work to secure these recoveries, we have made strategic investments – and taken unprecedented actions – to serve as sound stewards of precious taxpayer dollars.
The President’s FY 2012 Budget for the Department of Justice reflects our ongoing commitment to identifying savings and efficiencies. It also reflects a willingness to make difficult, but necessary, choices – such as program reductions – in order to focus resources on our highest priority programs and to respond to current fiscal realities.
Although the current cost of operations and staffing is considerably higher than it was last year, the FY 2012 budget request represents an increase of less than two percent over the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution level.
Without question, the Continuing Resolution has presented significant budget challenges for the Department – and resulted in financial restrictions, including a temporary hiring freeze and the curtailing of non-essential spending. I have had to make some tough choices. And I have asked my colleagues to do more with less. They have risen to the occasion. And they are working harder and more collaboratively than ever before.
It is on their behalf – and on behalf of the American people we are privileged to serve – that I submit to you the Department’s FY 2012 budget request.
I am now happy to answer any questions you may have.