Justice News

Testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder Before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science
Washington, DC
United States
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good morning, Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah, and distinguished members of the subcommittee. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for the Department of Justice and to provide an update on the Department's progress and priorities.

Today, I come to you 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. Above all, I come to you on behalf of my fellow citizens.

As our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, protecting the safety of the American people is my most important obligation. At every level of the Department, this is our primary focus.

As you know, in recent years, our nation has 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. Since 9/11, there have been hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related violations in federal court. And, during 2009 and 2010, the Justice Department charged more defendants in federal court with the most serious terror-related offenses than in any similar period since September 11th.

Just last week – in Chairman Wolf’s District – 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 the work of law enforcement.

Also last week, FBI agents arrested an individual in Texas for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Thanks to the around-the-clock work of hundreds of FBI agents, analysts and federal prosecutors, this alleged plot was thwarted.

Beyond our critical national security efforts, the Department has made extraordinary progress in fulfilling the pledge that I made before this subcommittee nearly two years ago – that we would restore integrity and transparency at every level of our work and 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’m also proud to report that that the Department has taken meaningful steps to safeguard civil rights in our workplaces, housing markets, voting booths, and border areas; to protect our environment; and to bring 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 historic actions – to combat gangs, and both national and international organized crime networks. We have harnessed the new tools and authorities that Congress made available to us to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. And we have responded to – and must continue to respond to – the recent nationwide surge in law enforcement shootings by ensuring that law enforcement officers have the tools, training, and protective equipment that they need and deserve. This is of particular concern to me. This is a very real concern of mine.

That is why, today, I am here to ask for your support of the President’s FY 2012 Budget for the Department of Justice.

Among the priorities identified in this budget are strengthening national security; preventing and combating crime; maintaining safe prison and detention facilities; supporting effective intervention and reentry programs; and assisting our state, local and tribal law enforcement partners.

The budget proposal also places a premium on achieving new savings and efficiencies –and reflects the hard choices – such as program reductions – that we’ve made in order to focus our resources on our highest priority programs, to respond to current fiscal realities, and to act as sound stewards of taxpayer dollars.

The FY 2011 Continuing Resolution has presented significant budget challenges for the Department – given that the current cost of operations and staffing is considerably higher than it was last year. I have announced financial restrictions that I considered difficult but necessary, including ordering a temporary hiring freeze and curtailing non-essential spending. My hope is that these measures will preempt more severe measures in the future.

Even with these directives in place, I submit to you that the Department’s FY 2012 budget request – which itself reflects many more tough decisions – is essential to our national security and law enforcement work, among other priorities that matter deeply to the American people. With these investments – and with your support and steadfast partnership – I am confident that we can continue to build on our past successes and make good on our core promises: ensuring safety, opportunity, and justice for all.

I am now happy to answer any questions you may have.