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Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2009 -- Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009--Continued -- (Senate - March 12, 2008)

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I rise to discuss and support amendment No. 4230 which has been filed by Senator Feinstein and myself. While this amendment is identical to amendments Senator Feinstein and I have offered previously to budget resolutions and that have been adopted by unanimous consent, Senator Feinstein has been an excellent partner and colleague in developing this amendment. She has been a strong supporter not just of this particular provision but of law enforcement in general. It has been a pleasure to work with her.

What this amendment does is to provide for an increase in the funding level for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which we commonly refer to as the Byrne/JAG provision, to a total of $906 million. This amendment is fully offset, and I am pleased to say that the following Senators have asked to be added as cosponsors in addition to myself and Senator Feinstein: Senators Bond, Harkin, Cantwell, Biden, Inhofe, Brown, Coleman, Clinton, Bingaman, Obama, Collins, Durbin, Isakson, Kerry, Burr, Lincoln, Feingold, and Dole.

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--multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse programs, prosecution initiatives, domestic violence programs, and information-sharing initiatives. Our law enforcement officials, our sheriffs, prosecutors, and drug court professionals, and many other public servants in the law enforcement community, rely on these particular grants to fight the drug issue in their particular jurisdictions. They are making their communities safer because of the awarding of these grants over the years.

According to a survey conducted by the Iowa Governor's Office of Drug Policy, in the 2004 grant year, multijurisdictional drug enforcement task forces, funded by the Byrne/JAG program, made more than 221,000 drug arrests. Almost 18,000 kilograms of cocaine was seized, with an estimated consumer street value of $1.6 billion. Almost 5,500 kilograms of methamphetamine was seized, with an estimated street value of $518 million. The total value of drugs seized was over $12 billion, representing $63 in seized drugs for every $1 spent on drug task forces.

I know the results our law enforcement community gets with Byrne/JAG funding are tangible and real. In my State of Georgia, we have used this program extensively. It has been essential to fighting crime, drugs, and gangs across the State. Last year in Georgia, with Byrne/JAG funding, the following successes were achieved: Multijurisdictional 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 in an interstate 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.

One great thing about this Byrne/JAG program is that the money is allocated so that 40 percent 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. I hope all of my colleagues will join me in supporting this amendment.

The former president of the National Sheriffs Association happens to be a good friend and constituent of mine, Sheriff John Cary Bittick in Forsyth County, GA. Sheriff Bittick was here recently when Senator Feinstein, Senator Harkin, Senator Biden and I, along with Senator Bond, talked about the Byrne/JAG program. During that conversation, my friend Sheriff Bittick related the fact that there are a number of joint programs in our State that, due to the decrease in the funding last year in the omnibus bill, were having to eliminate their programs. If we eliminate these programs in small rural communities around my home State and the other 49 States, what we are going to see is certainly an increase in drug and illegal trafficking activities in those rural areas. This program is essential to fighting the drug problem in rural America.

Our amendment is supported by the following organizations: the National Criminal Justice Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the American Correctional Association, the American Probation and Patrol Association, the National Narcotic Officers' Coalition, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the National Association of Police Organizations, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs' Association, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Association of Counties, International Community Corrections Association, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

It is pretty obvious that this program is very popular in the law enforcement community. The reason is because it works. Lives are being saved. More drugs are being confiscated. More bad guys who are manufacturing and distributing drugs around America are being locked up and put away because of this program.

I urge my colleagues to support amendment No. 4230 sponsored initially by Senator Feinstein and myself.

I yield the floor.

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