Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. Chairman [Richard] Shelby, Vice Chairwoman [Barbara] Mikulski and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee – it is an honor to appear before you for the first time as Attorney General. I look forward to working collaboratively with you – today and in the days ahead – as we seek to protect and serve the American people together. I want to extend a special thank you to Senator Mikulski for your leadership in the United States Senate over the last three decades; for your support of the Department of Justice and its employees; and for the extraordinary example of public service you have provided to all Americans – and especially to women. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with you during your final two years in office.
As we approach National Police Week, it is fitting that we take a moment to consider the contributions and the needs, of our law enforcement officers across the country. This is a difficult profession, but a noble one. Over the course of my career– as a federal prosecutor and as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York – I have been privileged to work closely with truly outstanding public safety officials and I have seen, up close, the dangers that they face every day. Earlier this week, Officer Brian Moore, a 25-year-old New York City police officer, died after being shot while trying to question a man in Queens. And just two days ago, Sergeant Greg Moore of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was tragically gunned down, also while interacting with a suspicious individual. The tragic loss of these brave individuals serves as a devastating reminder that our nation’s public safety officials put their lives on the line every day to protect people they have often never met.
Their exemplary work is the foundation of the trust that must exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. And that is why, when there are allegations of wrongdoing made against individual officers and police departments, the Department of Justice has a responsibility to examine the evidence and, if necessary, implement changes. While I was in Baltimore on Tuesday, I met with the mayor, law enforcement officials and community, faith and youth leaders. I spoke with an officer who had been injured amidst the violence. And I heard a number of ideas regarding ways in which the Justice Department can continue assisting Baltimore as they work to recover from recent unrest. Although the city has made significant strides in their collaborative reform efforts with the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, I have not ruled out the possibility that more may need to be done. We are listening to all voices. We’re currently in the process of considering the request from city officials and community leaders for an investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of civil rights violations and I intend to have a decision in the coming days.
The situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice – not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place. Going forward, your support of the department, and of our funding in the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request, will enable us to build on our successes and make further progress in the mission with which we are entrusted. I am pleased to say that this budget request is in line with my highest priorities as Attorney General: safeguarding our national security; defending the most vulnerable among us; and strengthening relationships of trust and collaboration between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve.
Of course, our most important objective must continue to be protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security. Under my predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice engaged in essential efforts to counter violent extremism and domestic radicalization; to strengthen counterterrorism measures; to promote information-sharing and collaboration with the intelligence community; and to provide training and technical assistance to our foreign partners. We must advance this progress on all fronts; we must prepare to meet new and emerging threats and vigorously defend American citizens, at home and abroad.
The President’s budget request will strengthen our national security efforts by investing a total of $4.6 billion in the department’s cutting-edge counterterrorism and national security programs. This total includes $775 million – an increase of $27 million – for addressing cybercrimes and enhancing the security of information networks. In an age in which criminals have the ability to threaten our national security and economic wellbeing from far beyond our borders, it is critical that we expand our focus and strengthen our defenses to protect all Americans from exploitation and abuse. I firmly believe that cybersecurity must be among the top priorities for the Department of Justice. This important funding will allow us to build on the outstanding work of the department in identifying new threats, thwarting attempted intrusions, and bringing perpetrators of wrongdoing to justice.
As the department works to safeguard American security, we are equally committed to upholding American values, including the protection of our most vulnerable populations. The Fiscal Year 2016 Budget would provide $103 million in new civil rights investments to address hate crimes, sexual violence and human trafficking – an area that warrants our renewed focus and redoubled effort. It would allocate $124 million to improve the efficiency of our immigration court system by supporting additional Immigration Judge Teams and Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys, by expanding the successful Legal Orientation Program and by allowing for additional legal representation for unaccompanied children. And it would deliver $247 million in program increases for the Smart on Crime initiative, which was designed to address America’s overreliance on incarceration while reducing recidivism and deploying law enforcement resources more effectively. By all available evidence, this program has been a major success, as well as an area of bipartisan cooperation and agreement. The requested funds in this year’s budget will allow us to extend its critical work and to amplify our shared commitment to a fair, efficient and effective criminal justice system.
The department has made clear that this innovative approach does not in any way lessen our resolve to combat violent crime, drug trafficking and other violations of federal law. We remain determined to vigorously investigate and prosecute criminal activity. The President’s budget request supports our goals in that regard by appropriating an additional $43 million for us to investigate and hold accountable those who break federal laws and harm innocent citizens, from illegal firearm and drug traffickers to perpetrators of health care scams and financial fraud.
In all of our efforts, we intend to work closely not only with this distinguished body, but also with our law enforcement partners on the front lines across the country. That’s why the President’s request allocates an additional $154 million to support our state, local and tribal partners in their own efforts to counter violent extremism, hire and retain officers, serve victims of crime, research best practices, improve indigent defense and expand re-entry programs. This appropriation includes nearly $95.5 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program, $35 million for Tribal Law Enforcement, and $20 million for the Collaborative Reform Initiative, a recently developed program that facilitates collaborations between the COPS Office and law enforcement agencies seeking assistance on a wide variety of criminal justice issues – from use-of-force practices and the deployment of crisis intervention teams, to building trust with members of their communities. As we have seen even in recent days, programs that establish trust and improve collaboration are essential to carrying out our law enforcement duties effectively and to the overall safety of the American people. In the days ahead, I hope – and fully intend – to bolster our efforts in that area.
I am eager to work with this Subcommittee, and with Congress, to build on the many achievements of the Department of Justice – and to secure the timely passage of the President’s budget request, which provides a total of $28.7 billion in discretionary resources for the department, including $26.3 billion for vital federal programs and $2.4 billion for state, local and tribal assistance programs. As a former United States Attorney who saw firsthand the unsustainability of sequester, I can tell you that this level of support is necessary to ensure that we can continue to protect the American people and effectively serve the priorities of the United States of America.
I thank you, once again, for the opportunity to discuss this work with you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.