Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, I’m very pleased to be here to discuss the President’s 2012 budget request for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
I’d like to begin by thanking the Subcommittee for its leadership in addressing the public safety concerns of the American people. And I particularly want to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership in helping our nation work toward creating a smarter, more effective criminal justice system.
Mr. Chairman, I believe we’re at a critical moment for public safety in the United States. Crime rates, as you know, have fallen in recent years thanks to innovative criminal justice approaches and visionary police leadership. At the same time, state, local and tribal public safety agencies across the country are facing significant budget-related challenges that threaten their ability to do their jobs. I think we have a responsibility at the federal level to see that they have the tools and knowledge they need to fight crime in the most effective way possible.
OJP’s mission is to help reduce crime and improve the administration of justice by promoting innovation, supporting research, and providing strategically targeted assistance. The President’s FY 2012 request reflects three central themes: enhancing partnerships; strengthening science and evidence-based programming; and ensuring effective stewardship of federal funds.
Our first step is to build on partnerships we’ve already established with the field to make sure basic criminal and juvenile justice needs are being met. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program epitomizes the federal-state-local partnership in public safety. I view it as our flagship program. Since 2009, we’ve placed a heightened emphasis on supporting evidence-based projects under Byrne JAG. The President’s budget request for FY 2012 includes $519 million for this program, the same amount enacted in FY 2010 and requested by the President for FY 2011.
The request also includes $100 million under the Second Chance Act. Inmate reentry is arguably the most significant criminal justice problem in America today – I know you are well aware of this, Mr. Chairman – and addressing it is a major domestic priority of the Obama Administration. Funding in FY 2012 would continue support of both adult and juvenile reentry partnerships across the country.
The President’s budget also reflects a strong commitment to strengthening our base of knowledge about “what works” in preventing and controlling crime. In my view, there is no more central federal role in public safety. To that end, the Attorney General appointed an 18-member Science Advisory Board last fall to guide the efforts of OJP in developing evidence-based policies and programs.
The President’s budget proposal reflects a systemic commitment to science by including a three-percent set-aside of all OJP grant and reimbursement funds for research, evaluation and statistical purposes. At OJP, I have put a strong emphasis on improving our understanding of what works in reducing and preventing crime and using that information to fight crime more effectively. In line with that, the President’s budget request proposes an online “what works” clearinghouse and a diagnostic center to help jurisdictions develop and then implement evidence-based strategies.
Finally, the President’s budget request reflects a strong and sincere effort to maximize federal resources and be sure we are as effective as possible. This is an area I really care about. In spite of a heightened workload resulting from grants under the Recovery Act – of which more than 3,300 continue to be administered – salaries and related expenses represent only 7 percent of the total budget request for OJP. And our total request represents a net decrease of some $125 million from the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution level.
Since my return to OJP in January 2009, I’ve really focused aggressively on ensuring strict accountability of federal funds. So we’ve established policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure sound stewardship, strong programmatic and financial management, and effective monitoring and oversight of OJP’s grant programs.
We’ve worked closely with the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to strengthen our monitoring and oversight functions. In FY 2010, OJP closed 151 of the 288 open single and OIG grant audit reports. This represents a return of $3.3 million to the federal government for unallowable or unsupported costs.
In oversight testimony before this Subcommittee in February, the Acting Inspector General noted the “positive steps” the Department had taken to improve its grant management practices, and she called our efforts to implement the Recovery Act “extraordinary.” We’ll continue to work closely with the IG to make sure OJP’s grant administration process is fair, transparent, and effective.
In concluding, Mr. Chairman, with this budget, OJP looks forward to working with you, this Subcommittee, and Congress to ensure that funds appropriated to OJP are used wisely and effectively to support states and localities and to promote smart-on-crime approaches. Thank you so much, and I’m now happy to answer your questions.