Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Scott, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to be here today. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the priorities and work of the Office of Justice Programs.
Before I begin, Mr. Chairman, I really want to commend your leadership over the years in your efforts to protect our nation’s young people – through the Adam Walsh Act, the PROTECT Act, and strengthening AMBER Alert. In my work at OJP, I see the difference this has made.
OJP’s mission is to increase public safety and improve the fair administration of justice across America through innovative leadership and programs. The resources OJP provides are critically important to our state, local, and tribal partners, especially in challenging economic times when public safety professionals face shrinking budgets.
When I was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General two years ago, I announced three goals: first, to support state, local, and tribal criminal and juvenile justice practitioners through innovative partnerships; second, to expand our base of knowledge about “what works” and better communicate that knowledge to the field; and third, to fulfill our obligations as stewards of federal funds. I can report on progress in each area.
Tight budgets at every level of government have made it harder for jurisdictions to tackle their crime problems alone. Since returning to OJP, I’ve sought to expand partnerships with our stakeholders.
Our work has paid off. For example, yesterday we concluded the third meeting of our National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. This is a cooperative effort across levels of government and across federal agencies to address youth and gang violence. The investment of federal funds in the Forum is modest. It isn’t about new spending; it’s about leveraging existing resources and making those public dollars go further.
Representative Scott, I want to thank you for having joined us for several Forum meetings in the past – this is a real reflection of your longstanding commitment to juvenile justice over the years.
I’m also proud of the progress we’re making building our base of evidence and getting information about “what works” out to the field. Last November, the Attorney General appointed an 18-member Science Advisory Board to help guide these efforts. In 2009, I launched an OJP-wide Evidence Integration Initiative to improve our knowledge about effective practices and, just as important, get that information out to practitioners on the front lines.
As part of that Initiative, in June I announced a new Web site called CrimeSolutions.gov that has more than 150 programs with information from research assessing their effectiveness. And next year, we’ll be opening a State and Local Help Desk and Diagnostic Center to serve as a one-stop shop to help those implementing evidence-based approaches.
Finally, we’re working hard to fulfill the trust the American taxpayer has placed in us to manage public funds.
During my confirmation hearing, I said guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse would be a top priority. As an agency, we have been actively working to strengthen internal controls.
OJP currently manages almost 14,000 active grants totaling almost $10 billion, yet we consistently exceed our statutory monitoring requirements. Last year, we monitored more than twice the amount required by law. The Department ‘s Inspector General has pointed out the positive steps we’ve taken to improve our grant management practices – and even called our work to implement the Recovery Act “extraordinary.”
We’ve also found ways to minimize costs. In Fiscal Year 2011, we cut staff travel expenses by 39% from the prior year and saved $2 million through freezes on hiring, promotions, and staff training. And we reassessed our IT contracts, saving an additional $5 million.
We’ve specifically taken a number of steps to limit costs related to training and conferences for the field. Even before the IG issued its September report on conference costs, we had already taken measures to limit spending in this area. And we’ve taken additional steps since then, including a new policy I announced October 21st prohibiting all food and beverage costs under OJP grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, except in extraordinary circumstances.
While we’ve acted aggressively to reduce these costs, it’s important to remember that training conferences are indispensable in meeting OJP’s mission of sharing information and providing essential assistance to the criminal and juvenile justice field.
Mr. Chairman, OJP’s effectiveness – and credibility – depend on our ability to account for the dollars we administer. I take that responsibility very seriously, and I look forward to working with the Subcommittee to ensure our programs meet the high standards you expect, and the American people deserve.
Thank you, and I’m happy to answer your questions.