Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Welcome and thank you for your interest in the FY 2021 President’s Budget Request for the Department of Justice.
Our FY 2021 budget builds on three years of progress – progress in reducing violent crime, driving down opioid abuse, strengthening national security, and helping the vulnerable among us. However, there is more work to be done, and I’m pleased this budget request will help us with our work ahead.
During the last two years of the prior administration, violent crime increased throughout the country. Under President Trump, DOJ made prosecuting violent crime a priority, and in the first three years of this administration, we reversed the prior trend and succeeded in reducing violent crime each year. For the most current year for which we have data, the number of violent crimes declined by 3.3 percent, and the violent crime rate nationally decreased by nearly four percent.
We accomplished this in significant part through the reinvigoration of key programs such as Project Safe Neighborhood, as well as our addition of new law enforcement agents, and more prosecutors. The budget resources allocated during this administration let us set records in the number of prosecutions for violent crimes, with another 8.4 percent increase in 2019 over the record level of federal prosecutions we set the year before.
These resources made another difference as well, in that one of our major priorities in fighting crime has been the effort to reduce opioid and other drug-related fatalities. Last month the Center for Disease Control reported that the incidence of opioid-related deaths in America has at long last begun to decline. In 2018, just over 67,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, including 47,000 who died from opioids. While any loss of life to this senseless epidemic is too great, it is welcome news that overdose deaths actually declined by over four percent from 2017.
I am highlighting these among the many notable achievements of the men and women of the Department of Justice because the budget we are presenting for FY 2021 builds off the success of the investments made to date. As we continue our work, it is exciting that the administration is now presenting a $31.7 billion budget for the Department of Justice that makes good on the president’s and the attorney general’s commitments for major efforts to:
- Continue to drive down violent crime, and drugs and weapons trafficking, especially in the hardest-hit locations;
- Take firm action against horrible incidents of mass violence;
- Expand the fight against opioid trafficking and transnational criminal organizations;
- Combat foreign espionage and cyber threats;
- Improve our immigration hearings process, and enforce the laws that protect our border;
- Fully implement the First Step Act of 2018, the most significant, bipartisan criminal justice reform in the 21st century;
- Prevent human trafficking and the online sexual exploitation of children; and
- Strengthen our commitment to underserved rural communities and the elderly.
Let me mention just a few of our key budget priorities today:
Violent crime and mass violence remain unacceptably high.
Because of this, the attorney general is surging DOJ resources to address the most significant violent crime threats. In November 2019, Attorney General Barr announced Project Guardian, to reduce gun violence, allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crime and those who traffic in them. Also in November, the attorney general celebrated the success of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Operation Triple Beam, which focuses on apprehending the most violent fugitives. One month later, Attorney General Barr announced Operation Relentless Pursuit, which targets violent crime in America’s seven most violent cities, with a surge of more law enforcement resources and personnel.
To further this intense focus, our budget requests $942 million in new law enforcement resources and grants to combat violent crime. While violent crime has declined nationally, it remains unacceptably high in numerous cities, and targeted mass violence incidents such as tragedies in El Paso, Dayton, Midland and others threaten the fabric of our society. Within our $942 million violent crime request is $639 million specifically to combat mass violence. We invest also $122 million in the FBI to combat crime and corruption, shore up our data and technical tool capabilities, and improve background check processes.
Protecting our National Security remains the department’s most essential priority.
Our budget requests $123 million in new investments for the department to respond to evolving national security and cyber threats, including efforts to prevent insider threats from bad actors that threaten our national security and our nation’s economy. These threats are continually evolving, requiring the department to be agile in developing new means for protecting America. Terrorists seek to gain entry to the United States, and foreign powers seek to influence us through a variety of techniques, from foreign ownership of key infrastructures, to espionage. This budget provides additional resources to protect against all those threats.
Next, with this budget, we are also further implementing the president’s promise to secure our borders and restore a lawful immigration system.
While the department has been robust in tackling the problem of restoring the proper application of the law to our immigration system, much remains to be done. This budget includes $143.1 million to enhance our immigration courts and address case backlogs, fill 100 Immigration Judge jobs, improve the automated case management systems at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and increase the Civil Division’s capacity to handle its immigration-related workload.
Our budget robustly supports the criminal justice reforms of the First Step Act.
The department’s success in fighting violent crime and successful prosecutions of those crimes has allowed our society to focus on the rehabilitation of the offenders as well. President Trump promoted this reform legislation, which passed with bipartisan support in December 2018 and it reduces some criminal penalties and the risk of former inmates committing fresh crimes. Thus far, the act has resulted in more than 4,000 inmates being released from federal prisons. Moreover, the department has been successful in meeting the statutory deadlines identified in the Act. So in 2021, the President’s Budget includes more than $400 million for First Step Act programs, including major investments in the Bureau of Prisons.
This budget renews our continued commitment to thwart opioid misuse and heroin abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 67,300 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2018, and over two-thirds of these overdose deaths were caused by heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids. On March 18, 2018, the administration released the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, and while the number of fatalities declined last year for the first time in more than 25 years, much work remains to be done: the department remains committed to doing its part to protect the American people from the impact of drugs and drug-related crime nationwide.
For FY 2021, we have requested $379.6 million to help us combat the opioid epidemic.
Overall, the department’s FY 2021 Budget builds on three years of making great strides in reducing violent crime, driving down the plague of opioid abuse, and protecting the public from the afflictions of hate crimes, human trafficking, elder fraud, and many other wrongs. But our work is not over. As we build on our successes to date, existing and new initiatives require additional resources — ones that the president is proud to support in his budget for the department for FY 2021.
With that, I will turn the presentation over to Lee Lofthus, our Assistant Attorney General for Administration, and Jolene Lauria, the department’s Controller. They will walk you through more details of the department’s fiscal year 2021 request, and after that we’ll be happy to take some questions.