Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft

(Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates from Prepared Remarks)
Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce
Justice and State
February 26, 2002

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

    I am honored to once again appear before this Subcommittee to present the President's budget request for the Department of Justice. The first and overriding priority of this budget, and of the Department of Justice, is to protect America against acts of terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice.

    Since my last appearance before you, America and the world have been awakened to a new threat from an old evil -- terrorism. I appear before you today acknowledging that September 11 alerted us to a danger that a number of you on this subcommittee have labored long and hard to mitigate and to prevent. To the degree that we find ourselves in a position to respond effectively to the challenges posed by terrorism, it is because of your foresight. I appreciate the leadership of the members of this subcommittee in providing to the Department of Justice the necessary resources to meet the terrorist threat and to improve the nation's border security. Your direction to develop an inter-agency counterterrorism plan, conduct preparedness exercises, train and equip the nation's first responders, and maintain a counterterrorism fund for emergency circumstances has made this a safer nation. The fiscal year 2003 budget request that I present to you today builds upon your support and seeks to enhance further the Department's ability to prevent and combat terrorism.

    And even as the men and women of the Department of Justice go about the urgent task of protecting America from terrorism, we do so within a framework of justice that upholds other goals as well. Indeed, our dedication to identifying, disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks will help ensure the fair and vigorous enforcement of the law in other areas. We remain committed to reducing the demand and supply of illegal drugs, enforcing gun laws, and protecting civil rights. We recognize, however, the need to prioritize our commitments and husband our resources. Today, more than ever, lives depend upon the careful understanding of our responsibilities, and the exemplary performance of our duties.

    For the fiscal year 2003, the President's budget requests $30.2 billion for the Department of Justice -- $23.1 billion in discretionary funding and $7.1 billion for the Department's mandatory and fee-funded accounts. Federal law enforcement programs increase by 13% over the funding enacted in the FY02 Department of Justice Appropriations Act.

    The Department's FY 2003 budget seeks $2 billion for program improvements and for ongoing activities funded in the FY 2002 Counterterrorism Supplemental. Resources are also requested for improving immigration enforcement and services; enhancing federal detention and incarceration capacity; reducing the availability of illegal drugs and supporting proven programs aimed at reducing drug use; providing services for the nation's crime victims; protecting civil rights; ending trafficking in human beings; providing streamlined resources to support state and local law enforcement; and defending the interests of the United States in legal matters.

    To help secure our nation's borders, we are proposing program improvements totaling $856 million, including $51.9 million from fee funding, for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Of this amount, $734 million is dedicated to improving border security:

    As a result of the attacks of September 11, the FBI, with the cooperation of other federal, state, local and international law enforcement, is conducting the largest criminal investigation in the history of the United States. In the 2002 Counterterrorism Supplemental, this Subcommittee led Congress in providing much needed assistance to the FBI in responding to and investigating the terrorist attacks, and we are deeply grateful for your leadership. Our 2003 budget builds on this assistance with a request of $411.6 million, including:

    The establishment of the Joint Terrorism Task Force program has enhanced the FBI's ability to promote coordinated terrorism investigations among FBI field offices and their respective counterparts in Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Our budget seeks $15.7 million to support a total of 56 Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout the country . one for each FBI field office.

    As accused terrorists are brought to justice in the federal court system, there is an increased need for enhanced security measures. To support the heightened security required by the United States Marshals Service at federal courthouses, our budget seeks $34.7 million to close security gaps at courthouse facilities with the greatest physical security deficiencies; purchase security equipment for new courthouses and those undergoing significant renovation; provide additional security personnel for terrorist-related court proceedings; and provide security staffing to keep pace with the opening of new courthouses and the creation of new judgeships.

    Another critical element in our battle against the terrorist threat is working to develop and enhance interoperable databases and telecommunications systems for the Department's law enforcement activities. Our budget seeks $60 million to continue narrowband investment in radio infrastructure for key areas such as New York and along the northern and southwestern borders.

    As I mentioned earlier, our efforts to combat terrorism enhance enforcement of the law across the board. The heightened vigilance of law enforcement and the increased awareness and sense of responsibility of citizens spills over into more effective enforcement of the law in all areas.

    We are working to reduce both the demand for and availability of illegal drugs. Drugs not only weaken the fabric of our society, but also threaten our national security.

    The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program is the centerpiece of the Department's drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs. OCDETF combines the talent of experienced federal agents and prosecutors with support from state and local law enforcement, thereby uniquely positioning OCDETF to conduct multiple coordinated investigations across the country to root out and eliminate all pieces of a drug organization. For FY 2003, our budget seeks $14.8 million through OCDETF to provide field support for DEA's Special Operations Division coordinated investigations.

    The Department's FY 2003 budget also seeks $13 million for drug abuse and crime prevention programs under the Office of Justice Programs. Our budget includes $52 million for the Drug Courts Program and $77 million for the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program, a 10 percent increase in funding over FY 2002.

    Essential to our republic is the freedom and privilege of every citizen to vote. The federal government has become an active participant in establishing rules for the conduct of elections on matters ranging from voter registration to protection against discrimination. In FY 2003, the Department requests $400 million for a new three-year program (totaling $1.2 billion) for states to improve state and local jurisdiction's voting technologies and administration, including voting machines, registration systems, voter education and poll worker training. This new program will provide states with matching grants for election reform.

    The Department of Justice is charged with protecting the civil rights of all Americans. Our FY 2003 budget seeks $3 million for the Office of the Inspector General to address a statutory requirement in the USA PATRIOT Act for the review of complaints alleging abuses of civil rights and liberties, and to provide audit oversight for the Department's counterterrorism programs. Further, we request $2.8 million to promote effective investigation, prosecution, and response to hate crimes.

    We are committed to building and strengthening an immigration services system that is effective, ensures integrity, and promotes a culture of respect. We currently are making good progress toward achieving President Bush's goal of a 6-month average processing time for all applications. To help ensure additional progress, our budget request seeks $40 million to begin implementation of the Administration's comprehensive restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

    The Department of Justice is charged with the safe, secure, and humane confinement of detained persons awaiting trial, sentencing, or immigration proceedings. The need for federal detention bed space has more than doubled in the last five years, from 32,000 detainees in 1996 to 67,000 detainees in 2001. To enhance coordination, manage the rising detainee population and exercise financial control in federal detention operations . which are currently the responsibility of the INS, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons . the Office of Detention Trustee was created by Congress last year. As you recommended in the FY 2002 Conference Report, our budget proposes to consolidate $1.4 billion under the Detention Trustee to provide bed space for the anticipated detainee population in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and the INS. For the Bureau of Prisons, our FY 2003 budget seeks $348.3 million for additional prison activations and the completion of construction previously authorized by Congress.

    Finally, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation establishing the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. The value of approved claims through the fund is estimated at $5.4 billion through 2004. Our FY 2003 budget reflects $2.7 billion in estimated Victim Compensation payments. In addition, the Department's budget includes a total of $41 million for the administrative costs of the Fund's Special Master.

    Mr. Chairman, as you well know, September 11, 2001, changed our nation and redefined the mission of the Department of Justice. Defending our nation and its citizens against terrorist attacks is our top priority. To fulfill this mission, we are devoting all resources necessary to eliminate terrorist networks, prevent terrorist attacks, and bring to justice all those who kill Americans in the name of murderous ideologies.

    Chairman Hollings, Senator Gregg, Members of the Subcommittee, what I have outlined for you is the principal focus of President Bush's Fiscal Year 2003 budget request for the Department of Justice. Our request builds upon the firm foundation laid down by Congress in the days and weeks following September 11 . a foundation of resolve backed by resources, and American strength married to American purpose. I thank you for the leadership of this subcommittee, both in providing the Department critical additional funds in the wake of the terrorist attacks and in supporting the work that lies ahead. And I thank the members of your staff . those for whom we so rarely pause to offer a public expression of our gratitude. Lila Helms, Jill Shapiro-Long, and Dereck Orr of the majority staff, and Jim Morhard, Kevin Linskey, and Katherine Hennessey of the minority staff all work on an on-going basis with Justice officials and staff to enhance the safety and security of our nation. Thank you for your facilitation of this hearing, and for your service to the people of the United States of America. I look forward to working with you on this budget proposal and other issues.

    Now, Mr. Chairman, I would be pleased to answer any questions.