Thank you, Chairman Serrano, Ranking Member Aderholt, and other Members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to present to you the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the Department of Justice.
I am joined here today by the Department’s Chief Financial Officer: Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus.
We look forward to discussing how our requested appropriations will help protect the safety and the rights of your constituents.
For two fiscal years in a row, the Department has broken records for prosecuting violent crime. The Department has also significantly increased prosecutions of firearms offenses, and in Fiscal Year 2018 prosecuted more firearm defendants than ever before.
As prosecutions have gone up, crime has gone down. In 2017—after two years of increases under the previous administration—violent crime and homicide rates went down nationwide.
The FBI’s preliminary data for the first six months of 2018 show a 4.3 percent decline in violent crime overall, a 6.7 percent decline in murders, and a 12 percent decline in robbery and burglary compared to the first six months of 2017.
In order to continue this momentum, President Trump has requested an additional $137.9 million for violent crime and transnational organized crime prosecutions, as well as $100 million for Project Safe Neighborhoods grants to state and local law enforcement. The Department also requests $5.8 million to enhance violent crime and firearms prosecutions.
Over the first two years of the Trump Administration, we have also gained ground against the opioid epidemic, which is, by far, the deadliest drug crisis that this country has ever faced.
The Department of Justice increased the number of defendants charged with federal opioid-related crimes by 28 percent from Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018.
Prescriptions for the seven most frequently abused prescription opioids are down more than 23 percent since 2016, to the lowest level in at least a decade. Over the same period, the DEA has lowered the legal limits on production of the active ingredients in these opioids by 47 percent.
More importantly, drug overdose deaths may have finally stopped rising. According to preliminary data from the CDC, overdose deaths decreased slightly from September 2017 to August 2018.
But there is a lot more work to be done.
That is why the President’s budget provides for $295 million to combat the opioid epidemic, including $18.2 million for the FBI’s Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement initiative, or J-CODE, which is a team of agents that works to disrupt and dismantle the sale of synthetic opioids on the darknet.
The President requests $11.1 million for five new heroin enforcement groups that will be deployed to DEA Field Divisions that have identified heroin as the first or second greatest threat to their area.
The President’s request also includes $2 million in operational funds for the National Opioid Initiative of our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, or OCDETF.
The President’s budget also proposes to permanently transfer $254 million from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to the DEA for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program. This change will eliminate redundancies by placing this program under the agency that leads our drug enforcement efforts.
We know that most of the illicit drugs in this country came across our Southern Border. In the fight against an unprecedented drug crisis, border security is imperative.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the Department charged more defendants with illegal entry into this country than in any year before. At the same time, the Department increased the number of felony illegal re-entry prosecutions by more than 38 percent.
Our immigration courts—which are under the Department of Justice—have also become more productive under the Trump administration.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Department has conducted an unprecedented surge in hiring immigration judges. The Department has hired more immigration judges under President Trump than in the previous seven years combined. We now employ the largest number of immigration judges in history, with 46 percent more immigration judges than just three years ago.
That is having an impact on immigration cases. After eight consecutive years of declining or stagnant productivity between Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2016, our immigration judges have increased case completions two years in a row. In Fiscal Year 2018, immigration judges completed the most cases in seven years.
This year, they are on pace to be even more productive. At the end of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2019, our immigration courts were on track to complete more cases than at any time since Fiscal Year 2006.
In order to continue this progress, the Department requests $71.1 million for 100 new immigration judges and additional support staff in Fiscal Year 2020. This would bring the number of authorized immigration judges to 634, which would be more than double the number of immigration judges on board in Fiscal Year 2016. Given the fact that these judges face a record-breaking 860,000-case backlog, this investment is more than warranted.
And with the crisis on our Southwest border, the Department requests $6 million for the Southwest Border Rural Law Enforcement Violence Crime Reduction Initiative, which will help law enforcement agencies serving rural jurisdictions along or near the border to fight violent crime.
The Department also plays a critical role in protecting our national security and in combating terrorism and cybercrime.
That is why the President requests an additional $70.5 million to enhance the FBI’s cyber information-sharing abilities and cyber tools and capabilities, as well as $16.6 million for the National Vetting Center, which vets those seeking to enter or remain within the United States.
The President requests an additional $18.3 million for the FBI to address counterintelligence threats, particularly cyberattacks and threats from hostile foreign intelligence services.
This is in addition to $5 million requested for our National Security Division’s efforts to prevent foreign intelligence services from accessing sensitive information and technology—funds that would also help support the work of the Committee on Foreign Investment in United States, or CFIUS.
Mr. Chairman, there are many other issues facing law enforcement that we could talk about today. But the bottom line is this: the more than 112,000 men and women of the Department of Justice are doing important work that deserves your support.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to testify on their behalf today and thank you for your support for the Department of Justice.