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Hearing of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - Fiscal Year 2009 Budget for the Department of Justice

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - Fiscal Year 2009 Budget for the Department of Justice

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. RODNEY FRELINGHUYSEN (R-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Attorney General, I join Chairman Obey in welcoming you this morning for your first appearance before our committee to discuss your 2009 budget.

First, I want to recognize and extend my sincere appreciation to the men and women of the Justice Department who ably carry out their responsibilities to protect our country from terrorism and crime each and every day. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

I'd also like to recognize your public service career, not only as an attorney within the Justice Department but your service on the federal bench.

As the chairman has said, for 2009 you're seeking discretionary appropriations totaling $22.85 billion for the department, a reduction of $514 million, or 2.2 percent from the fiscal year 2000 level. While the request includes large and critically needed enhancements in national security and counterterrorism money for those programs, especially at the FBI, and increased investments for criminal justice programs on our Southwest border, the budget also contains very deep and damaging cuts to existing programs for state and local law enforcement; indeed, our partners and your partners in some very important efforts.

In addition, the committee will act soon on the administration's pending supplemental request, so I'll have some questions about the department's pending supplemental request of $146.7 million for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror. As you're aware, that request was formulated, I think, about 18 months ago. And I'm sure there are some updates you can provide us. We're operating on the latest and most current information.

Again, like the chairman, I welcome you here for your testimony this morning. Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Attorney General, you and I come from a part of the country, the New York/New Jersey region, where we view September 11th, 2001 perhaps a little bit differently than other parts of the country. And so when we talk about in your budget -- in the centerpiece of your budget is counterterrorism and intelligence. I don't think anyone views it in the abstract.

I've said in a number of hearings, 700 New Jerseyians died on that day. I don't forget it. And I know that your main mission is to make sure that it never happens again. You're working hard to prevent it, apprehend those responsible for it, and I know doing whatever you can to prosecute those that we find to be responsible for those acts.

You're proposing $493 million in new investments. The vast majority of that is in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI. You mentioned in your fuller testimony the National Intelligence Estimate and the renewed threat of an al Qaeda capability and their intention to carry out attacks.

What, to your mind, are the most critical areas in which the department intends to focus the resources you're seeking to prevent further such attacks?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: The money that you mentioned is focused, as you mentioned, principally on the FBI, which is that agency within the Department of Justice that's charged with intelligence-gathering. And I should add that that is a relatively new mission of the FBI that was begun really or gotten certainly more robust after September 11th. And we've also, as I mentioned, stood up a new National Security Division within the Department of Justice.

The money that you mentioned, almost $493 million, will be used, among other things, to hire 280 agents at the Bureau, 271 intelligence analysts, as well as resources for DEA, the Office of the Inspector General and law enforcement wireless communications, which are the radios that are necessary to ensure interoperable communication.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Director Mueller told the committee that his top priority was more people. You've mentioned the numbers. Is our best investment against terrorism more of these skilled agents and analysts? How do you view their work?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: We are -- there are enormous resources, as you know, from the various agencies across the intelligence community in gathering information. What's necessary is people who can gather information in ways other than are gathered by those intelligence agencies, and also people who can evaluate the information. If the information piles up unevaluated, it doesn't do us any good.

So we need to get both people who can gather information, to a certain extent domestically, as well as people who can evaluate the information that's coming from other partners in the intelligence community, as well as information that's gathered domestically, and help integrate it with all the other information that we're gathering that's coming in from CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other agencies, and put it into a coherent picture.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: This is not necessarily a parenthetical, but, you know, we're going to go hire new agents and analysts, but we don't appear to have enough training facilities for them. One of the missing links here is the needed money for a new FBI academy.

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: I believe that the director testified here yesterday. I'm not certain precisely which funds would be used for the academy, but I believe that the FBI can train and has trained and will continue to train and also rely on having some of its agents pass through other intelligence-gathering agencies so that there would be folks who would go through the CIA and so on. So there'd be some training that goes on as part of that process.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Well, not only do they train their own people. They also work pretty closely with local law enforcement. And I think we can all verify here, in a bipartisan fashion, that I think we need more money for construction. It would be good to have your endorsement, because we want the best-skilled people that are out there.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

REP. OBEY: Would the gentleman yield?

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Yes, I'd be happy to.

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REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In the time remaining, I'd like to get from you, Mr. Attorney General, what you really need in this budget. I know you've highlighted some areas. I've raised the issue of supplementals. It's been awhile since your submission -- I think what -- 18 months ago? And I think you were looking for $146.6 million to support a variety of needs.

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: I think what we need principally is for the '08 spending plan to be fully funded. That would go a long way toward making sure that we can do what we need to do, be assured that the money is going to be there, and spend it in an intelligent way rather than, you know, having to go helter-skelter toward the end. I would deeply appreciate the funding of the '08 spending plan.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: And the money is focused, I think, on Iraq, Afghanistan --

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: As far as the 147 million (dollars) that -- the '08 supplemental that you requested -- it's for FBI, U.S. Marshalls, (CRIM ?), DEA, for agents, attorneys and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I was over in Iraq. I saw what our people are doing over there and it's in cooperation, I should add, with State. I mean, they're really helping us with that and sponsoring it. But our people are doing terrific things toward helping their courts function and putting the law into the law and order formulation over there. And (anything ?) that might help.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: It doubles the 2007 supplemental, but it's absolutely essential for your DOJ people -- DEA, FBI?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: It is absolutely essential for them, because they are literally putting their lives on the line. I mean, I spoke the other day with five FBI agents who were injured over there who were really -- they're really putting their lives on the line.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: So the dollar amount you're seeking here would be that amount?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: One-hundred-forty-seven million dollars.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: All right. So you're not asking anything in addition to that.

Could you give the committee -- and you highlight it in your testimony -- the work of the relatively new National Security Division. You're basically looking for maintaining the same staffing level.

What can you say about the coordinating role that division is playing with counterterrorism and how it interacts with the FBI? I know there are certain things you can't talk about. You've mentioned some -- at least one success -- but how is that effort of coordination and then your action -- how well is it occurring?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: The National Security Division coordinates all our activities with regard to FISA applications, all our activities with regard to prosecutions in counterterrorism. I guess one of the best pieces of evidence I can give is that the assistant attorney general in charge of the National Security Division has been now asked to go over to the White House to replace Fran Townsend. Compliments don't come much more concretely than that.

We've taken a number of otherwise independently functioning portions of the Justice Department, put them in that division and stood it up within a relatively short period of time. And the person that did that and is principally responsible for it is Ken Wainstein. He's now been asked to serve over in the White House and we're going to have somebody new put in charge of it. But it's functioning to do all the coordinating, all our relationships with FISA courts, which are very important; as well as our counterterrorism prosecutions.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: I want to talk first --

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: And evaluation of the intel that comes in as well. So it's the nerve center.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: One of your other nerve centers -- another key to addressing counterterrorism is this integrated wireless network. I looked over the inspector general's report, and my God, 79 percent of the Department of Justice radios are airwave -- not airwave compliant; 95 percent lacked mandated security; 73 (percent) are obsolete.

In the overall scheme of things, you're not asking for a lot of money. Some of it's sort of a repair job, and then you're putting about half the 43 million (dollars) into new technologies.

Maybe -- we're obviously interested in supporting this effort. We know the need for interoperability, but some of those IG statistics and reports were pretty disturbing.

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: We need to -- look, to put it very succinctly, we need to be able to talk to one another. We need to be able to talk to the state and locals. If we can't do that, then our efforts are necessarily helter-skelter.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Well, my gut feeling as a layperson, you're not asking for enough money. And what's going to be the lifecycle cost of what we're talking about here?

ATTY GEN. MUKASEY: I'm going to have to get back to you with regard to that specific number. I mean, I was a liberal arts major myself, and I can't get in -- get as far into the technology as I'd like. I would be happy to respond afterwards to the precise number that you've asked for -- the lifecycle.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: We're supportive for the reasons that I stated. We want to give you the tools that you need. And the thought that you would somehow be, you know, unable to meet all the things that you need to meet because of the lack of assets is quite disturbing.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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