CHAMBLISS RENEWS CALL FOR CRITICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT GRANT FUNDING
Testifies before Judiciary subcommittee, highlighting importance of program to Georgia
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today delivered the following remarks before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. The hearing, Chaired by U.S. Senator Joe Biden, D-Delaware, focused on the importance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance (JAG) Grant Program, which helps pay for drug task forces, courts and treatment programs, police salaries, innovative technologies and gang prevention strategies.
Chambliss was invited to highlight the importance of this program to Georgia's law enforcement community. In January, Chambliss called for Congress to provide robust funding for the Byrne/JAG program, which was severely cut last year in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman:
I want to talk about this program for two main reasons: first because it is the program for which I have strongly advocated since arriving in the Senate and second because it is the program that received the most staggering cuts in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that Congress passed at the end of last year.
The Byrne/JAG program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions - and the funding supports all components of the criminal justice system - from multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces to community crime prevention programs to substance abuse programs, prosecution initiatives, domestic violence programs, and information sharing initiatives. And I will tell you that our law enforcement officials - our sheriffs, our prosecutors, our drug court professionals, and many other public servants in the law enforcement community rely on this funding to make our communities safer.
The results they get with this Byrne/JAG funding are tangible and real. In my home state of Georgia the Byrne/JAG funding program has been essential to fighting crime, drugs, and gangs across the state. I'd like to highlight a few of the successes in Georgia from the Byrne/JAG Program during the 2006-2007 grant period:
* multi-jurisdictional task forces were able to make 5,600 drug arrests and seize almost $50 million in drugs;
* 2,500 law enforcement officers were trained in more than 100 different classes offered by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center through its Drug Enforcement Training Program;
* The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's State Drug Task Force led a cooperative investigation resulting with an inter-state drug enforcement effort with Alabama that received national recognition;
* The Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center is Georgia's Homeland Security state-level fusion intelligence center. The Center expanded its "Southern Shield" initiative and widened the focus for intelligence integration in the region by coordinating with 12 other states within the southeast on intelligence collection and dissemination.
* Nine drug court programs were supported as was a Mental Health Court Diversion Program.
During fiscal year 2007 when the national funding level was at $520 million, the State of Georgia received $12.4 million in Byrne/JAG funding. If we cannot restore the funding that was cut in the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus, Georgia is projected to receive just $4.6 million. This difference of $8 million will make a huge difference in Georgia. Sheriff John Cary Bittick from Monroe County, Georgia was recently in Washington, D.C. to urge that Congress find a way to restore this cut in funding. Sheriff Bittick is former president of the National Sheriffs' Association and has been very active on this issue over the years. When we met he told me that without restoration of these funds, 60% of the drug task forces would disappear.
These cuts are of the scope that the drug task forces that rely on them cannot bridge the gap until we complete the fiscal year 2009 appropriations process. And I'm afraid that our rural areas will be most affected. My hometown is in a rural part of Georgia, down in the southwest part of the state, so I know firsthand the challenges that small town police chiefs and sheriffs face from a funding perspective. One great thing about the Byrne/JAG program is that the money is allocated so that 40% of the funding is distributed to local governments. In many cases, grants from the Byrne/JAG program are the only source of federal funding for sheriffs and police in smaller communities.
Immediate action is needed and I am pleased to join with so many of my colleagues to try to do just that in the supplemental appropriations bill that Congress is expected to take up this spring. I'm sure each and every member of this Senate has heard from law enforcement officials in their state about the importance of the Byrne/JAG program to helping them fight methamphetamine and other drug trafficking as well as gang violence and other crime.
I think this program enjoys such widespread bipartisan support here in the Senate because we know of the good results it produces and we know that for so many localities that this is where the rubber hits the road in terms of ability to tackle the critical tasks they face. Particularly in light of the new security environment in which we live in the post-9/11 world, as we call on state and local law enforcement to do more, we have to provide them with the resources they need to carry out their duties.
I thank the Chairman for allowing me the opportunity to put in the record the critical importance of Byrne/JAG funding for my home state of Georgia and I look forward to working with him and our other colleagues to ensure we provide the necessary support to our law enforcement officials.
Background on Chambliss Action:
In 2006, Chambliss and Senator Mark Dayton, D-Ohio, offered an amendment to restore $900 million in funding to the Byrne/JAG program as part of the Senate-passed budget. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the Senate. Upon Dayton's retirement from the Senate, Chambliss partnered with Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca., to introduce the legislation. Last year, Chambliss and Feinstein pushed to authorize more than $1 billion in much-needed support to state and local law enforcement task forces and other agencies each year through Fiscal Year 2012. The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Chambliss offered an amendment to the 2007 Senate Budget Resolution to provide $900 million in formula funding for the Byrne/JAG Program. The amendment was accepted by Unanimous Consent. With the Budget Committee's decision to also provide $191 million in Byrne discretionary funds, the amendment provided room in the budget for the Byrne/JAG program to be funded at or near its full $1.095 billion authorized level.
On June 18, 2007, Chambliss and Feinstein sent a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Byrne/JAG program. 32 Senators signed onto the letter.
For more than 20 years, grants from the Byrne/JAG program and its predecessor programs have funded state and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs. The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne/JAG Program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties. The program was named after New York Police officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.