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We'll now call the second panel, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.
Good morning, gentlemen. Thanks very much for being here.
Secretary Steinberg, I appreciate your presence. I know that the secretary herself is actually in Mexico today. So we thank you for being here and we would welcome your testimony at this time.
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
It's a great pleasure to be here with you, Senator McCain, Senator Burris, to talk about the issues that you've raised this morning about violence, organized crime and the threat that drug trafficking poses to the United States and to Mexico, and our common efforts to address the challenges that we face along our shared border.
And I'm particularly delighted to be here with my colleagues from the Justice Department and Secretary Napolitano. I think it's important that we're all here together to represent the common effort that we're all engaged in, in partnership with Mexico, to address this challenge. I have a more extensive statement for the record, but I'd just like to summarize a few points for you this morning.
And as you noted, we are appearing at an important moment, as the secretary is just on her way, at this very moment, down to Mexico City to meet with her Mexican counterparts and President Calderon to talk about the shared challenge. Her trip, as well as President Obama's upcoming trip in April, and the trips of the secretary of DHS and the attorney general, highlight the importance that the Obama administration places on the issue before us, and the great opportunity that we have to build a stronger relationship with Mexico, one that could advance a wide range of shared interests and better position both of our societies for lasting success.
It's important, as we address the specific issue today, that we don't lose sight of the bigger and bolder promise in the relationship between the United States and Mexico that will allow us to work together to address the global economic crisis, energy and environmental issues, and regional cooperation. But, I do want to focus my remarks today on the urgent challenges we face in addressing the threat of drug trafficking and violence.
As you yourself noted, Mr. Chairman, President Calderon has taken courageous and decisive actions against transnational criminal organizations, conducting counternarcotics operations throughout his country and initiating large-scale police and judicial reform. The Mexican government's offensive, and inter-inter-cartel feuds over access to prime trafficking routes to the United States, have drive the number of drug-related assassinations and kidnappings to unprecedented levels. The cartels have become increasingly brazen, targeting police, the military and other security personnel, as well as journalists.
It's against this backdrop that our two governments jointly developed the Merida Initiative, a strategic approach that recognizes the nature and magnitude of our shared challenge and expands or cooperation and work together in unprecedented and collaborative fashion. I think it's appropriate to express our appreciation to you, in the Congress, -- (inaudible) -- strong bipartisan support, for the Merida Initiative. Congress appropriated $465 million for the first phase of the initiative in the FY 2008 supplemental, allocating $400 million for Mexico, and $65 million for Central America and the Caribbean. An additional $410 million was recently appropriated in the Omnibus Appropriation Act, with approximately $300 million for Mexico and $105 (million) for Central America.
The State Department has been charged with overseeing the largest portion of Merida funding through implementing these foreign assistance funds in a collaborative and interagency effort. The State Department is working closely with USAID, the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, both in Washington and at or embassies in the region, as well as with our host-nation partners, and as we enter the phase of concrete collaboration and implementation, our collaboration will accelerate.
There are two critical areas in which the Merida Initiative will make an important difference: interdiction and border security, and judicial reform. Interdiction and border security funding, including support for the Mexican counterparts of our federal law enforcement agency, focuses on support for enhanced information systems, purchasing special investigative equipment, vehicles and computers for the new Mexican police corps, and assessing security and installing equipment at Mexico's largest seaports.
We're also providing inspection equipment and associated training to support the inspection capabilities of police, Customs and Immigration, and facilitating the real-time exchange of information related to potential targets. An expansion of e-Trace, a weapons tracing program, will enable increased arms trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Additional transport and light aircraft will improve interoperability and give security agencies the capability to rapidly reinforce law enforcement operations nation wide.
Judicial reform efforts are equally critical. Merida includes efforts to improve crime prevention, modernize Mexican police forces, strengthen institution-building and the rule of law. Through case management software, technical assistance programs and equipments, we will support Mexico's judicial and police reforms by enhancing their ability to investigate, convict, sentence and securely detain those who commit crimes. Training programs will support the development offices of professional responsibility, and new institutions to receive and act on citizen complaints.
Initial projects under the Initiative have begun to roll out, including a bilateral workshop on strategies on prevention and prosecution of arms trafficking; the implementation of an anti- trafficking (in-person ?) systems for the AG's office this month; the opening of three immigration control sites along the Mexico-Guatemala border that will issue biometric credentials to frequent Guatemala border crossers; and a "Train the Trainer" program for the Mexican secretary of public security's correction officers. We're also working with the Defense Department to accelerate the procurement and deliver of much needed helicopters. This effort requires that we act swiftly and closely with our Mexican and interagency partners to respond to urgent needs.
To conclude, I want to emphasize that every party in the Merida Initiative recognizes that we share common objectives and responsibilities, and a true partnership is required to provide our cities in the safety and security they deserve. The government of Mexico has clearly demonstrated a willingness to take strong and decisive action. While the Merida Initiative was born out of crisis, this provides us with a strategic opportunity to reshape our cooperation and expand dialogue with our partners both in Mexico and throughout the Hemisphere on critical security and law enforcement issues.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Secretary Steinberg, for an excellent statement.
(Laughs.) Ron Burris and I are former attorneys general at the state level, and we always -- we agree that we -- one thing that we missed coming to the Senate is being called "General." (Laughter by witnesses.) So, I don't know whether, as deputy attorney general, you're -- (inaudible) -- get that title too.
But anyway, Deputy Attorney General Ogden, thanks for being here.
MR. OGDEN: Thank you very much, Chairman Lieberman, Senator McCain, Senator Burris. (Supposedly, ?) I'm the "deputy general," I don't know.
I appreciate very much the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Justice Department's role in addressing the alarming rise of violence perpetrated in Mexico by warring Mexican drug trafficking organizations and the effects of that violence on the United States, particularly along the southwest border.
I want to share with you our strategy, systematically, to dismantle the cartels which currently threaten the national security of our Mexican neighbors, pose an organized crime threat to the United States, as has been discussed, and are responsible for the scourge of illicit drugs in accompanying violence in both countries.
Although the drug-related violence in Mexico has existed over the years, as Secretary Napolitano indicated, the bloodshed has escalated in recent months to unprecedented levels as the cartels try to use violence as a tool to undermine public support for the government's vigorous counter-drug efforts.
A significant portion of this increase in violence actually reflects progress -- counterintuitively, by the governments of Mexico and the United States in disrupting the activities of these drug cartels since President Felipe Calderon and Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora took office in 2006. At the Justice Department, our federal agency partners have worked with the Mexican authorities to disrupt and dismantle successive iterations of leadership of these cartels. Their successes have escalated the fighting among themselves for control of the lucrative smuggling corridors along the southwest border.
This explosion of violence along the southwest border is caused by a limited number of large, sophisticated and vicious criminal organizations, not by individual drug traffickers acting in isolation. Indeed, the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center has identified the Mexican drug cartels, as has been mentioned this morning, as the greatest organized crime threat facing the United States today.
That insight drives our response. There is much to do and much to improve. But the Department's strategy means to confront the Mexican cartels as criminal organizations, rather than simply responding to individual criminal acts. For more than a quarter century the principal law enforcement agencies in this country have recognized that the best way to fight the most sophisticated and powerful criminal organizations is to through intelligence-based, prosecutor-led task forces that leverage the strength, resources and expertise of the full spectrum of federal, state, local and international investigative and prosecutorial agencies.
It was this approach, for example, that fueled the groundbreaking Mafia prosecutions in the United States and Italy in the late '80s and '90s, and that really brought down La Cosa Nostra. The Department is applying these same intelligence-driven tactics that broke the back of the Mob to fighting the Mexican drug cartels.
Our strategy to identify, disrupt and dismantle the cartels has five key elements:
First, it employs extensive and coordinated intelligence capabilities. We pool information generated by our law enforcement agencies, and federal, state and local government partners, and our Mexican and our foreign counterparts, and then uses that product systematically to direct operations in the United States and to support the efforts of Mexican authorities to attack the cartels and the corruption that facilitates their operations.
I want to -- I want to entirely endorse Secretary Napolitano's comments in response to the questions from the panel concerning the issue of coordination. It's essential that we have full and complete cooperation between our Departments. I know the attorney general and I have a long working relationship with the secretary, the highest regard, mutually, between us, and we will solve any problems that exist there because it's essential to our success that there be full and complete cooperation among all of the elements of both departments.
The second element is that, led by experienced prosecutors, the Department focuses its efforts on investigation, extradition, prosecution and punishment of key cartel leaders.
As the Department has demonstrated in attacking other major criminal enterprises, destroying the leadership and the financial assets of the cartels will undermine the entire organizations.
Third, the Department pursues investigations and prosecutions related to the smuggling of guns, cash and contraband for drug making facilities from the U.S. into Mexico. This is the southbound element that the Chairman was discussing. The violence and corruption in Mexico are fueled by these resources that come from our side of the border.
Fourth, the Department uses traditional law enforcement approaches to address spillover effects into the United States of cartel operations in Mexico and that of course includes spillover violence, it also includes attacking drug violations in the United States.
And fifth, in that regard, the Department prosecutes criminals responsible for the smuggling, kidnapping and violence in federal courts. The ultimate goals of these operations are to neutralize the cartels and bring the criminals to justice.
Attorney General Holder and I are committed to taking advantage of all resources in this fight. Last month, the Attorney General announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals on narcotics related charges under Operation Xccelerator which Senator Burris mentioned. That was a multi-agency, multi-national effort that began in May 2007 and targeted the Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Sinaloa Cartel.
Through Operation Xccelerator federal law enforcement agencies along with law enforcement officials from the governments of Mexico and Canada and state and local authorities in the U.S. delivered a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel by seizing over $59 million in U.S. currency, more than 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 1.3 million Ecstasy pills, other illegal drugs, and weapons, aircraft and vessels. An equally sweeping initiative against the Gulf Cartel announced in September 2008 called Project Reckoning produced similar dramatic results.
Now Operation Xccelerator and Project Reckoning were tremendous successes in the battle and showed the strength of the approach, but there is much more work to do. The cartels remain extremely powerful. Drugs are coming into the United States, guns and cash are moving south. So the Attorney General is taking the following steps in conjunction with the administration's overall initiative.
DOJ's Drug Enforcement Administration which already has the largest U.S. drug enforcement presence in Mexico with 11 offices there is placing 16 new positions in southwest border field division specifically to attack Mexican trafficking operations and violence. DEA is also deploying 40 mobile enforcement teams with 32 new personnel to specifically target Mexican methamphetamine distribution and organizations along the border and in Atlanta and Chicago which are key distribution nodes.
DOJ's bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is redeploying 100 employees, including 72 agents, under its project Gunrunner. That is a major plus up effort, really a surge effectively of new personnel into the southwest border, constituting essentially a 67 percent augmentation of the team there. The FY 2009 budget and recovery act includes critical new funding for project Gunrunner as well, which will be used to hire 37 additional employees to open, staff and equip new teams. And we will be assigning new personnel to consulates in Juarez and Tijuana to provide direct support to Mexican officials on firearms trafficking issues.
Our organized crime drug enforcement task forces program is expanding to create new strike forces along the border, and the FBI is creating a southwest intelligence group which will serve as a clearing house of all FBI activities concerning Mexico and increase the focus on these key problems, -- extortion, corruption, kidnapping -- that we're seeing and integrate that effort with the overall effort of the other law enforcement agencies working the border. We've also increased the presence of the marshal service in the border area and our Office of Justice Programs is investing 30 million (dollars) in stimulus dollars to support state and local law enforcement to combat narcotics activity along the border, and state and local law enforcement may also apply for their share of the $3 billion in COPS and Burn Justice Assistance grants provided for those programs.
All of this will be added to our effort to dismantle the cartels and I do want to conclude with a brief mention of the Merida Initiative that Secretary Steinberg so ably described. The Department strongly supports that initiative which provides an unprecedented opportunity for a highly coordinated, effective bilateral response to criminal activity. We're actively involved in the planning and implementation of the initiative, both at interagency and with the Mexican government.
One of the first programs in Mexico is a ministerial level strategy session on arms trafficking funded by the government of Mexico and the State Department and developed by the Justice Department with DHS and the U.S. Embassy. It's going to be held April 1 and 2, and that's the program that the Attorney General and the Secretary will be attending on the second day. It will provide important support for our joint efforts with Mexico which have rightly focused on the development of intelligence based targeting and prosecutor led multi agency task forces.
Thank you for your interest in this important issue. I think working together we can rise to this challenge and I'll be happy to answer your questions.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Mr. Ogden. I want to start with you and I want to highlight something I quoted from the predecessor, previous administration statement of the Justice Department in December and you've repeated it here today, which is that Mexican drug cartels are the number one organized crime threat in the United States today. That would, people who are focused on the Mexican drug cartels primarily in terms of the actual and greater potential for spillover of violence into the U.S. But you said something else that is really as broad as the country is and I just wanted to ask you if you want to back that up a bit, that this is quite significant. This is the number one organized crime threat in America today.
MR. OGDEN: Yes, Chairman Lieberman, it is and I think to understand the dimension of it, first you have to recognize the centrality of these drug cartels and the distribution of illegal drugs in the United States. Cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, a substantial majority of the drug trafficking in those drugs is controlled by the Mexican drug cartel as has been described, they have operations in over 250 jurisdictions in the United States. It's been estimated that between 17 and $38 billion worth of drug proceeds are controlled annually by the cartels --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: That's a department estimate, between 17 and $38 billion a year?
MR. OGDEN: That's correct.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: So to say the least, these people have the money to buy very sophisticated weaponry and also of course to compromise law enforcement if it's so inclined.
Let me ask you if you could just explain a little bit more for the record about what it means to say that the Mexican drug cartels are operating in as many as 250 cities or metropolitan areas in the U.S. today. What kind of presence do they have there?
MR. OGDEN: Well they have distribution networks in which they have essentially distributors and in certain communities enforces essentially that distribute the drug product, that collect their revenues, and that enforce the payment obligations.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Are these people that they have sent in from Mexico or are these people who are essentially soldiers in their organized crime families that are American?
MR. OGDEN: My understanding is that it is a combination of the two. We have a presence of individuals from Mexico but there are also U.S. persons who are involved in the operation.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Do you have any evidence that you want to share with the committee at this point about the American arms of the Mexican drug cartels compromising law enforcement in this country?
MR. OGDEN: Well it certainly the case that a large percentage of the weapons in the hands of the drug cartels have a U.S. based origin and our Mexican counterparts deal with that and it's a major challenge for them and obviously spill over violence is supported by that as well.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Let me ask you a couple of questions about that. Some of the numbers here are really quite startling, this project Gunrunner which is the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms strategy for disrupting the flow of firearms to Mexico from the U.S. has referred for prosecution, this is numbers from fiscal year 2004 to February 17th of this year, 795 cases involving 1,658 defendants, 382 firearms trafficking cases, those including 1,035 defendants. In the last two years alone the Mexican government has seized more than 33,000 firearms from the drugs cartels and estimates that hundreds of thousands of firearms enter Mexico from the U.S. each year. I've seen the number and I want to ask you to comment on it, we have a category called federal firearms licensees, those are people who are licensed to sell guns under the federal law. I have read that ATF estimates that approximately 6,700 of those federal firearms licensees are located along the southwest border. Are you familiar with that number? And if you are, just try to develop it a little bit. Are they really on the border or is it within, you know, 25, 50 miles from the Mexican border?
MR. OGDEN: I can't speak to the specific number, that number sounds familiar --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah.
MR. OGDEN: -- been described to me and I believe that what we're talking about are the border district that the federal government basically the federal districts along the border. But I can get the specifics for you Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Why don't you do that for the record.
I've heard recent reports that ATF is sending over 200 agents redeploying to the border to work on firearm trafficking investigations. I want to ask you the same question I asked Secretary Napolitano, and I didn't make a recommendation on behalf of this committee to the Budget Committee because only Homeland Security is under our jurisdiction. We're concerned that the redeployment of Department of Justice personnel to the border may compromise law enforcement in other parts of the country and wonder whether you're planning to submit a modification, or the department is, of the fiscal year 2010 budget to beef up your activities, both these and prosecutorial activities, the whole range o activities that you described to combat the Mexican drug cartels as an organized crime threat to the U.S.
MR. OGDEN: Two parts to the response. First, we don't believe that we're compromising law enforcement in the short term. We've taken agents we believe that we can move, and the 100 that are being moved, it is, at the moment, a three-to-six-month deployment for a surge to really try to make an impact. Thirty-seven additional are new, which are being hired and brought in through stimulus. We'll assess the situation and see at the end of that short-term period how to respond.
As to the longer-term picture, we are looking at the FY '10 budget and considering this issue quite centrally in our thinking about what the needs are.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I appreciate that. We'd like to work with you on that. You've used a word that resonates with Senator McCain and me. We have an inherent tendency to want to support surges, particularly when we think they protect the security.
MR. OGDEN: (Laughs.) That wasn't the tactic -- (inaudible).
SEN. LIEBERMAN: (Laughs.) Thank you.
SEN. MCCAIN: Mr. Ogden, you stated that it was between 16 (billion dollars) and $30 billion in proceeds from drug trafficking. How do they get that money back to the suppliers of the drugs and the transporters? I would imaging it goes all the way back to Colombia. How does that kind of money move from the consumer in the United States of America all the way through to the layers of the pipeline that comes to the United States of America?
MR. OGDEN: Senator McCain, the estimate is slightly larger than that. It's 17 (billion dollars) to 38 billion (dollars) is the estimate that I've seen. And how it moves is in a number of different ways. Bulk cash movements are a big part of this. Literally, large quantities of cash are put together and smuggled across the border south. There are various ways in which this is accomplished, and we are quite focused on identifying those cash flows through intelligence, trying to identify the vehicles that are moving it and trying to interdict them, working together with the DHS. And it's a major challenge. There are other ways. There are these added stored- value cards that are used. And there are likely other ways. But bulk cash is a big contributor.
SEN. MCCAIN: What about wire transfers?
MR. OGDEN: There may be some of that, although I think it is less typical than these cash transfers which are harder to trace.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, whenever, obviously, we've gone after crime, we follow the money. And obviously, it's been true with the mafia, et cetera. So are we doing enough to go after the money?
MR. OGDEN: Senator, I think that's an extremely important question that we're looking hard at. We are adding to each of our organized crime strike force teams at the border a financial analyst. That's one of the steps that we're taking with this specific initiative is to add financial analysts to each of our strike force teams to be looking at those aspects of the fight in the very focused way. And as I say, we're working hard with Treasury and the other agencies on the bulk cash issue.
SEN. MCCAIN: I think you can also see manifestations of this money in the lifestyle that some people enjoy -- large mansions on both sides of the border, ostentatious displays of wealth. Is there ways of tracking that as well?
MR. OGDEN: It may be that that's an element that people look at, unexplained concentrations of wealth. I don't know specifically. I'll get back and see what we're doing about that particular aspect and report back to you, Senator.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I've seen some of it myself. And so I would hope that sometime we can at least identify the inhabitants and the people that are flying private jets, et cetera, and try to devise ways of going after in that fashion.
Are you seeing some of these activities still being run from prisons in Mexico as well? Drug cartels sometimes run from prisons in Mexico. Are you seeing that in the United States as well?
MR. OGDEN: I'm not aware of that specifically, Senator. But again, I'll inquire and see if there's information that we can share about that.
SEN. MCCAIN: We all know that there are prison gangs that have Central American and Mexican connections.
MR. OGDEN: That's correct.
SEN. MCCAIN: So it would seem to me that drug trafficking might be part of that. But I guess I'm trying to -- we need to sit down and game this situation and try to think outside of the box. It's up to $38 billion a year. We ought to try attacking this issue from some new directions. And some of that may require legislation, as it did when we took on corruption as far as the mafia is concerned. How concerned are you, I guess, Secretary Steinberg, how concerned are you about corruption at the highest levels in Mexico?
MR. STEINBERG: Senator McCain, it's a very important issue. And I think one of the marks of President Calderon's seriousness in this is the efforts he's made against corruption. The Mexican government has instituted a program, Operation Clean House, which has identified a number of very senior officials associated with law enforcement with significant corruption problems. And I think the fact that he's taken this on and been willing to take the risks associated with exposing those individuals and trying to bring them to justice reflects the determination that he has. As you said, once you have the magnitude of money involved here, the potential for corruption is enormous. And it is a true challenge to the state to be able to combat that kind of money which is being liberally used by the cartels to try to corrupt government officials, law enforcement officials and the like. So we've seen a really vigorous effort on the part of the Mexican government, the attorney general's office and others to take this on. But it's going to be an ongoing challenge.
SEN. MCCAIN: It seems to me, Secretary Ogden, we've now got illegal immigration and the coyotes and drug smuggling and kidnapping all mixed up together. Do you agree?
MR. OGDEN: I do. And that's why, Senator, I think that's a critical insight here is that this is an either organized criminal enterprises, they are committing crimes in both directions and in our communities and in Mexico. That's why it requires a coordinated attack that attacks them as organizations in the way that we're going about. You know, we have much to do to improve on it, but we have a strategy, and I think we're working hard on it.
SEN. MCCAIN: In the now kidnapping capital of America, the same people that are smuggling illegal immigrants, the same people are smuggling the drugs, the same people that are having illegal immigrants call up their relatives and pay ransom.
MR. OGDEN: I think that is likely true. Certainly, the enforcement side that we see with the home invasions and the kidnappings is entirely related to the drug trade in the way that you described. And that's why what we're trying to do and what I think we're effectively doing and trying to improve upon is to bring together all the law enforcement agencies, federal at both our department and Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement, tribal law enforcement and working with our courageous counterparts in Mexico to bring this intelligence together, look at this thing as an overall organization and attack it as an organization.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I'd like you to also to continue to look at the use of UAVs. There are areas along our border that are basically trackless. And it takes a long time once someone gets across the border to get into any kind of populated area if they're on foot or even sometimes in vehicles. And I really believe the technology. And we've had a number of cases of failed technology along the border, as you know. But I think it's pretty clear that the UAVs can be very effective, particularly given the state of technology today. If you agree we are in a, quote, "war on drugs," we use that term too loosely, but the fact is if we're in a struggle that poses an existential threat to the country of Mexico, then I think we ought to look at at least the technological aspects of work there to increase our ability to surveil and interdict. So I hope you'll be looking at that.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Senator McCain. Your last line of questioning reminds me that a short time ago, General Renuart, who's the head of our Northern Command which is responsible for the Pentagon's role in homeland defense, testified briefly about what his command is beginning to do with regard to the spillover of violence from Mexico and to be a support to the Mexican military as well. And he might be a good witness to bring before us at a future hearing on this subject because we are really beginning to mobilize our resources here, including at Defense.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Steinberg, could you repeat -- in your testimony, you were saying that coordination between Justice and State is to the point of assisting the Mexican law enforcement and the Mexican judges. Could you explain that again how you're working with the judges and the Mexican law enforcement, along with Justice, in coordinating those efforts?
MR. STEINBERG: Certainly, Senator. As I said, one of the most important parts of President Calderon's effort is to deal with the justice system. He has, along with the Mexican legislature, adopted a very ambitious set of legal reforms, really transformed the legal system in Mexico to be more like our own system of oral advocacy and away from the judicial inquiry mold that they had had before.
So there's a very broad range of federal reforms that they are now engaged in, as well as efforts to deal with corruption in the judicial system, to provide training for prosecutors and judicial personnel, to reform the corrections system and corrections facilities and train corrections officers there.
So it's really a systematic effort really to get at the whole system from all of its aspects, from prosecutions through corrections, to make the system more responsive, more insulated from corruption and the impact of cartels and to prove that the state really is on top of these things.
Here, although we have a responsibility for coordinating assistance, we draw on the capabilities and strengths of all the different parts of our government, USAID and Justice in particular, on these reform efforts.
SEN. BURRIS: Deputy Ogden, I raised a question with Secretary Napolitano about the local use of drugs. How are you all coordinating with local law enforcement? Because it is my fervent belief that if there is no demand, there can be no supply. And this is the major -- especially in inner-city Chicago, where I come from, the major industry is drug usage and turf battles and turf spraying with AK-47s.
I know that there's a drug czar and we have these joint efforts, but are we looking forward to putting more resources too into local law enforcement and into treatment to stop the demand of these individuals who may find themselves being addicted to drugs so that we can cut down on the flow of the dollars going into this drug trade -- (inaudible) -- shipped out to Mexico, which is used to build these big cartels? It's coming from the $10 and $15 that's given right on the street. So if we cut that out, wouldn't that cut the head of the snake off?
MR. OGDEN: Senator, that's true. I mean, clearly the violence and the entire industry is fueled largely with dollars that flow south from the United States in exactly the fashion that you described. And the effort of ONDCP -- I believe there is a new commitment, a renewed commitment to addressing the demand problem there; certainly the drug courts that Secretary Napolitano spoke about, which are funded through programs of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, to increase those important elements in the fight; and then, as you say, coordination with state and local law enforcement.
The new stimulus package has $3 billion worth of Byrne Justice Assistance grants and grants under the COPS program to increase state and local and to help and support state and local law enforcement. And we plan to work very closely together with them on these initiatives.
In addition, state and local law enforcement, as I mentioned, are integrated into the enforcement, intelligence-sharing and prosecution teams that I was discussing earlier.
SEN. BURRIS: Is anyone dealing with the educational piece of it, the treatment piece, to treat those individuals who are addicted to drugs so that we can cut down on the demand? I know that doesn't fall under Justice's bailiwick. It's probably some other department. But in this coordinated effort that we're talking about here, my whole thing is that we -- Mr. Chairman, I don't know whether or not we have funds that we can in some kind of way find where we can get down to that ultimate user who's paying that $5, $10, $15 and $20 that really ends up going back to Mexico in these big bundles that fuel these cartels. And we must get at the source of it, and that's in my community and all of those small towns across America.
These drugs have inundated our youth. They're in small communities where law enforcement do not have the resources to go after them. And then they end up eventually in the criminal justice system or in the health care system some kind of way that even brings a whole drain on our economy. We must get at the root cause, and that is the user of the drugs, and education, treatment of the sources that I keep saying that we must do. Can you comment on that, gentlemen, or do you agree with me?
MR. OGDEN: Certainly agree with you that education and treatment are critically important. I think our drug courts try to incorporate treatment. But there's a lot that needs to be done.
MR. STEINBERG: If I could just add, Senator, one of the aspects of our program that doesn't get as much attention is we're also working on demand reduction in Mexico as well. But that's another piece of this, just as we need to deal with the demand side here is we need to help Mexico deal with its demand side, because they have their own drug problem, which also feeds the cartels.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Burris.
Senator Pryor. We now have three former state attorneys general on the committee.
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Right. Three against one.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: We're a tight group. (Inaudible) -- that you're a lawbreaker, Senator Tester.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Just here to offer a level of common sense, Mr. Chairman. (Laughter.)
SEN. LIEBERMAN: As usual, he gets the last -- (laughter) --
SEN. PRYOR: Mr. Ogden, let me start with you, if I may, and that is, in December the Department of Justice Drug Intelligence Center released a report that identified 230 cities in the U.S., three of those being in Arkansas, with a Mexican drug trafficking organization presence in the city.
My question for you is, how is the federal government reaching out to those cities and those states, local law enforcement, governors, fusion centers, whatever the case may be? How are you reaching out and trying to work with different levels of government to try to make that situation better?
MR. OGDEN: It's critically important, Senator, exactly as you say, to have both coordination and mutual support with state and local law enforcement in dealing with this problem. These are enormous organizations. Their tentacles reach into our communities across the country.
And so, through our intelligence-sharing facilities that are essentially chaired by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which brings in all federal law enforcement, state and local law enforcement, and to a significant degree our foreign counterparts, to share that information, the information is shared with our state and local counterparts and partners.
There is an effort at the prosecutorial level to coordinate enforcement of drug offenses. And so, both with the DEA's outreach to individual communities that have particular problems with the mobile enforcement teams, with our OCEDEF task forces that incorporate state and local law enforcement, and with the coordination as I described at the DEA intelligence-sharing facilities, there's really a concerted effort to work together with state and local authorities on this problem.
SEN. PRYOR: And you've been talking mostly about information- sharing. But are you also targeting tools and resources to those cities and those areas?
MR. OGDEN: We are. And thank you for reminding me to address that part of it. We are -- there are $30 million in the stimulus that are specifically going to the border -- state and local law enforcement to support border issues. Beyond that, there are $3 billion of grants under the Byrne Justice Assistance Program and the COPS program, which are available for state and local law enforcement to apply for support from the Justice Department and to work with us on developing the most effective programs for law enforcement generally, but obviously this problem is a central and important one that would receive priority.
SEN. PRYOR: And no portion of those money (pots ?) that you're talking about are designated specifically for this, but you're saying they're available generally, and I guess they're somehow prioritized within DOJ.
MR. OGDEN: Well, certainly there's an effort to have those programs address the urgent law enforcement needs that exist across the country. And so those monies are to provide that kind of support, and then we have the coordination operations that I was describing on the operational side to make sure people are working together.
SEN. PRYOR: With the report that came out in December, it said 230 cities in the U.S. Is that number about the same today?
MR. OGDEN: I believe so. I mean, that's, I think, the most current intelligence that we have on that question.
SEN. PRYOR: And when it says a Mexican drug trafficking organization presence in a city, does that mean it's usually done with Mexican nationals?
MR. OGDEN: Well, essentially I believe -- and we can -- I'll get back with whatever detail that we can provide more specifically -- but it is, I think, a combination of Mexican nationals and U.S. persons who are involved in that.
SEN. PRYOR: Let me ask, if I may, Mr. Steinberg, a question about -- is it pronounced the Merida Initiative?
MR. STEINBERG: Merida, sir. (Corrects pronunciation.)
SEN. PRYOR: Merida. Could you tell the committee what that is and how that's going?
MR. STEINBERG: Yes, sir. The Merida Initiative was started last year. It was a multiyear initiative that began with funding in the FY 2008 appropriations bill. We've now had, between the FY 2008 appropriations, about $400 million in that, $300 million in the omnibus.
It's a comprehensive effort that involves a number of federal agencies as well as our counterparts in Mexico to address a full range of the issues involved in helping Mexico strengthen its efforts against the cartels and against counternarcotics and violence.
It focuses on efforts like providing the Mexican government with non-intrusive inspection equipment so that it can detect flows of firearms and funds going south. It provides support for judicial reform, support for corrections reform, support for training officials, support for additional mobility and intelligence and information sharing among law enforcement officials at the federal and local level in Mexico and with their counterparts. So it's really quite a comprehensive effort dealing with the full range of issues that allows the Mexican government to take on this very strong challenge. And it will require a multi-year effort, working together and involving a broad range of agencies in the United States -- the State Department, Justice Department, DHS, Treasury, USAID and others -- working with their Mexican counterparts to address this problem.
SEN. PRYOR: Can you tell yet if it's going to be successful or if it's headed in the right direction?
MR. STEINBERG: We're in the early days. As I say, the first tranche of funding just became available at the end of last year. We've already begun to implement a number of programs particularly with a focus on some of the training programs that Deputy Attorney General Ogden again and I have mentioned but also in getting this equipment to them that they need, this non-intrusive inspection equipment, which is a very high, early priority as well as some of these training programs in addition to some of the things that are sort of the big ticket items. It is increasing our ability to exchange information and ideas on tactics and operations. And a very high priority is getting them the mobility they need to be able to respond quickly when we have information and to support their own efforts as they try to strengthen particularly the federal police as a key element of their effort against the cartels.
SEN. PRYOR: And you know, we did this last year. Is it your impression that this administration will continue to prioritize this and continue to seek the type of funding and continue the program?
MR. STEINBERG: Senator, as you know, we have not yet finalized the 2010 budget yet, but we see this as a multi-year commitment. And I'm confident that, without discussing specific amounts yet, that this is a priority we intend to continue.
SEN. PRYOR: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Senator Pryor, for your questions.
Next we go to Christopher Carper's father, Senator Tom Carper. We're honored to have both the senator and his offspring here this morning.
SEN. THOMAS CARPER (D-DE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (Inaudible) -- if the audience tried to look for the folks behind me to figure out which one of them might be my son, Christopher. Thanks very much.
Our thanks for each of you for being with us today. I apologize for being late. One of the responsibilities of this committee is not just to be concerned about the security of our borders and the security of our homeland but also a responsibility is to make sure that we count every 10 years how many people live in this country, in the Census. And that starts in about a year, and we had a big session today with a lot of the Latino organizations that are anxious to make sure we count the folks that are here, hopefully legal, some may be, some who are not. So I apologize for being delayed and having missed your testimony, Madame, my former governor colleague, Janet Napolitano. But we appreciate your presence. We appreciate your work.
I caught just a little bit of Senator Burris' comments when I was coming in and out. And I asked my staff about this. Is this the right picture? Do I have this right? We in this country consume enormous amounts of illegal drugs and a lot of those come out of Mexico. And we as a country, we pay a lot of money for those illegal drugs, and a lot of that money ends up down in Mexico. And the folks down in Mexico use a portion of that money to come back into the United States and buy weapons from us. And they send people that don't have a criminal record into the gun stores to buy a number of weapons legally. They simply pull into gun shows where they can buy weapons legally, and they can buy assault weapons legally now because the ban on that has dropped.
I'm a guy who believes in the right to bear arms. But I also have concerns about the way this seems to be working to me. And the question I have is -- I read in the newspaper -- I took the train down here this morning from Delaware -- and I read in the local paper this initiative that's just been launched by the administration. I said, it sounds good. I understand Governor Napolitano discussed it today. But just if the two of you could just take a couple of minutes and talk to me, please, talk to us about how this new initiative reduces some of the demand for illegal drugs in our country. And secondly, how this initiative will reduce the ability of folks to come into this country and to buy weapons here that will go back and be used as part of the violence, not just on the border but into this country and certainly well into Mexico. So if you all could take a shot at that, I'd be grateful.
MR. OGDEN: Certainly, Senator. Well, I think the basic picture that you paint of large criminal organizations which are selling drugs in the United States for large amounts of money, buying weapons in the United States, taking the money and the weapons back to Mexico and using them to further the criminal enterprise --
SEN. CARPER: (Inaudible) -- strong economy, we're trying to stimulate our economy and pass stimulus bills and so forth. It seems like this part of the economy is going too well and we need to figure out how to deflate this problem.
MR. OGDEN: It's a very insidious economy, and it's one that has these terrible ramifications for our border communities and for our partners and friends in Mexico. And it's something that we're very serious about attacking. We think that it's critically important to attack these organized criminal enterprises as organizations and to take them on through prosecutor-led task forces, intelligence sharing among the relevant law enforcement agencies, working with state and locals and, most important, partnering with the Mexican government which is so courageously taking on this problem on their side of the border.
And what we're trying to do with these new resources is to support that centrally driven, prosecutor-led strategy to bring these people to justice and dismantle these organizations. On the demand side, we've talked today I think that it is a very important thing to do. We need to address the distribution here, and we need to do everything we can to address addiction and address the problems that bring that about. Fundamentally, this problem, the cartels, we need to address that in the way we took on the mafia in the '80s and '90s and try to take them down that way.
MR. STEINBERG: (Inaudible) -- Senator. Obviously, this is a priority for the Mexican government. It's a deep concern to them that it's fueling the violence on the other side of the border. And we're talking not just about small firearms but in many cases actually things that are approaching heavy weaponry. So this is not just a question, although we are concerned about, individual weapons, but we're starting to see the kinds of weapons that are really used in military warfare. So this is a very serious problem, and it is contributing to this remarkable outbreak of violence on the Mexican (side ?).
SEN. CARPER: The folks that are using those weapons, Mr. Steinberg, where are they buying those heavier weapons?
MR. STEINBERG: I think there are a variety of sources. And one of the things that we're working with the Justice Department is to understand better where they are, including efforts not only to detect them going across the border through non-intrusive inspection equipment but also through the e-Trace program which tries to identify the sources and then work back to the sources. And then working with Treasury and Justice to identify where they may be coming from.
SEN. CARPER: Right. I understand that a fair amount of this hearing today has focused on the southern border. And I want to take just a minute. I don't know if anyone has discussed the northern border with you or not. But we do have a northern border that's pretty big. And it's worth a little bit of attention.
I would ask, and this is probably more for Secretary Steinberg, but how long do you think it will take to fully implement the State Department's Merida Initiative? And do you feel the money that the Congress appropriated was enough to provide concrete improvements to the Mexican government's counternarcotic and anti-cartel efforts?
MR. STEINBERG: Senator, this is a multi-year effort, and we're off to a good start. As I indicated, the Congress has now provided about $700 million to Mexico. And one thing we haven't talked as much about this morning but I just to want to emphasize is that some of the funding has gone to Central America and to Haiti and the Dominican Republic because we have to see this in a regional context. It's very important, and the Mexican government is very concerned as well about its southern borders. So seeing this as a regional effort is quite important.
That's a significant start on a program that will take several years. And clearly, again without specifying what we'll be looking for in the 2010 budget precisely, we are going to need continued funding. This is going to be a multi-year effort. The good news is we really now have the framework under way. We've got the letters of agreement with the government of Mexico. We've got the interagency understandings mostly in place at this point that allow us to be effective. I think we're going to see an acceleration of the program as we go forward. So sustaining that going forward is going to be quite important. And obviously, we'll be talking to you about that as the 2010 budget comes up.
SEN. CARPER: Now I want to go back to the northern border. The kind of concerns that we see everyday along the border with Mexico are riveting, and they demand our attention. When we look to the northern border, can you all describe for us any current or future efforts to bolster security along the Canadian border? Are we seeing suspicious illegal immigration activities or trends that our intelligence folks or law enforcement people feel compose a national security risk?
MR. STEINBERG: Senator, we work very closely with our Canadian counterparts as well. It's a very strong relationship that we have with the security officials, with the RCMP in Canada to have a joint effort and to coordinate our effort there.
SEN. CARPER: RCMP -- Royal Canadian --
MR. STEINBERG: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- yes, sir. Still there and doing a very, very fine job. The president was just in Canada visiting with his counterparts, and we had a chance to talk about this. The border there is critically important to our economic well-being, the ability to both on the one hand make sure that people and commerce and goods can move expeditiously, to have the kind of just-in-time, integrated economy that is so critical to our well- being, and we depend so closely on working with Canada on those things.
But at the same time to deal with security and to see this as a shared space so that it's not just the border as the part of how we deal with security problems, which not just involve illegal immigration but obviously concerns about potential terrorist threats and the like. But that's something that we've seen increased collaboration and cooperation between our two countries. We need to continue to build the infrastructure around the northern border as well to address these concerns.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Kirk. Thanks for being here. It's been a very productive hearing so far.
Senator Tester, thank you.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for not being in on the first panel, and I apologize for not hearing your testimony. But I nonetheless think this is a very, very important hearing. And I want to thank you, Mr. Ogden and Mr. Steinberg, for being here today. I come from a border state as Senator Carper talked about. It's a northern border state. We've got different issues as you pointed out, Mr. Steinberg. But it certainly has its challenges, and I look forward to working with you in the future on meeting those challenges.
But whether it's northern border or southern border, porous borders mean that the potential for drugs going into communities all over the country is real. And it's everybody's problem. We do need as Senator Burris has pointed out when I first came in, we need to acknowledge that there is a clear demand problem here in the United States. I think that's critically important that we get a handle on that.
And I want to be clear about one other thing. Some have used this latest outbreak in Mexico to argue for tighter gun control restrictions in the United States. I don't agree that's the right answer either. I think that the right answer is really cooperation, which I'm hearing at all levels of government, and smarter intelligence, more eyes and ears on the border, getting tougher on criminals that are smuggling the weapons and drugs. And as I said earlier, demand here at home.
And one other thing that I would throw in and that is trade policies that work in Mexico as well as here in this country. I think anytime you get a situation where people are struggling to make a living, they will almost do anything to feed their family.
Mr. Ogden, I want to make sure that you have the resources to address gun crimes. And rather than ask for new guns laws, I am glad to see, like the Project Gunrunner is being discussed. I'm glad to see that you're working to find folks that smuggle drugs. I think that's critically important -- smuggle weapons I think is critically important. I'm a firm believer in getting the biggest value for the buck that we spend when it comes to taxpayer dollars. But I think there's a lot of folks in my state that think that's money well spent to go get the bad guys.
MR. OGDEN: Thank you, Senator. We certainly agree that aggressive enforcement of the gun laws that are on the books, getting at this smuggling through the e-trade system which is the ATFE system for identifying where an illegal gun, a gun that's been used illegally, a gun that's in Mexico that's seized, how it was sold, tracking down that process to try to find the gun smugglers, the gun- runners. Critically important.
SEN. TESTER: I appreciate that. I appreciate that a lot, for a lot of different reasons. I think it was you, Mr. Ogden, that said that there's $30 million in the Jobs Recovery Stimulus Bill, whatever you want to call it, that go directly to the border.
MR. OGDEN: There are, Senator, there are $30 million in the Stimulus for the Office of Justice Programs to provide grants to state and local law enforcement directly connected with the border and the critical communities that are suffering from drug --
SEN. TESTER: Is that the southern border only, or is that both borders?
MR. OGDEN: It's focused on the southern border and on the communities that are directly affected by that problem. The larger package in the Stimulus, there are $3 billion worth of grants under Burns and Cox that are available nationwide.
SEN. TESTER: Do you know how much of that is going to the northern border? I know this isn't the northern border hearing, but --
MR. OGDEN: I think that essentially remains to be seen. We are open for business to receive applications, and I think we'll try to process them according to appropriate criteria.
SEN. TESTER: And the $30 million you talked about is used to develop relationships with local entities on the border?
MR. OGDEN: To support them and support our relationship; that's right.
SEN. TESTER: And how is that going? Is that money getting out when you dissipate that money to get out? When do you anticipate those relationships to be developed so you can send that money out?
MR. OGDEN: Well, the relationships exist, and we're working hard on them every day. We work side by side with state and local law enforcement in this battle. The money is as you can appreciate there are processes: people need to apply. We're ready to receive those applications and to move that money out as soon as possible. A precise timeline I think depends on the applications on how fast we can move them.
MR. TESTER: Well, I would just say from my perspective, I appreciate those efforts working with local law enforcement, working with, in the northern borders case and I'm much more familiar with that than the southern -- working with people who own land, who farm and ranch along that border. I think you can get a lot of bang for the buck, and I think that those relationships really need to be developed if we're going to really get a firm grip on tightening up the border. And I speak mainly from a northern border perspective, but if it applies to the southern border then so be it, and so do it. And so I thank you for those efforts.
You had mentioned that you feel that it's important to attack the organizations that are the cartels, treat them as an organization, attack the organization. Part of being able to do that is communication between, not only those local entities that are on the American side of the border with Homeland Security, but also the Mexican side of things. And I didn't hear your statement, and you may have addressed this already. But what kind of communication do you have, because timeliness is critically important here, what kind of communication do you have with local agencies, local law enforcement, and Mexican law enforcement at all levels?
MR. OGDEN: Communicate -- it's a critically important question. And there's no way to understand this problem and how we're going to solve it without understanding what you've just said, which is that we need to have the most productive partnership with our Mexican counterparts that we possibly can have. And we have a very, very strong and good relationship. The Merida Initiative in which we are side by side--our prosecutorial and investigative experts working with theirs to build infrastructure, to build bridges and to make ourselves more coordinated--is a critical, critical piece of this; the work that the State Department's doing, that the Attorney General and Secretary Napolitano are to build up those bridges.
We are sharing information to a very significant degree. We are working to build vetted units within the Mexican law enforcement structure of agents who have been vetted by the DEA and by the United States as being people who are not corrupt and can be trusted with our intelligence. And all of this effort which is underway, has been underway, which we are trying to accelerate as the Deputy Secretary said, is critically important to winning this fight.
SEN. TESTER: One last one. I know my time is out, but my last one is that if there's one area that needs to be addressed -- I won't call it a weakness but if there's one area you'd say we really need to focus on to really be able to secure the border, stop the gun-running, stop the illegal drugs coming in the other direction -- what would it be?
MR. OGDEN: Well, I think the critical thing is to have the strengthening of our working relationship with the Mexican government, to strengthening the institutions on both sides, and the coordination on both sides.
SEN. TESTER: Thank you very much. I appreciate you both being here.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Tester. Thanks for those questions. Senator Akaka, welcome. Thanks for being here.
SEN. DANIEL K. AKAKA (D-HI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good to be here. Let me apologize for being late to this hearing. But I was conducting another hearing before this.
But I'm very interested in what's happening there in the southern border as well as the northern border and I'd like to direct this question to Secretary Steinberg and bring in the Merida Initiative which is an assistance package to Mexico and Central America to combat drug trafficking and organized crime with an objective to maximize the effectiveness of efforts against drug, human and weapons trafficking.
The Merida Initiative provides also funding to support a variety of programs in Mexico. The large amount of funding and broad scope of the initiative makes oversight particularly challenging. I would like you to address you are monitoring progress on this. What performance metrics do you have in place to measure the progress of the Merida Initiative in meeting its goals?
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you, Senator. I think you raise a very important point because obviously the test of the program in the long term is going to be how effective we are in partnership with Mexico in helping the government of Mexico to get control of its streets to deal with this very serious organized threat to the very public security of its own citizens.
And so we have a set of short-term measures that we're going to be focusing on as we go forward, looking at issues like: increased arrest of drug traffickers and gang members, the dismantling of organized crime syndicates, increased interdiction of illegal drugs and weapons, improved effectiveness of the national judicial systems, reduction of criminal case backlogs, reduction of the average length of trails, increased public confidence in the courts, improved law enforcement cooperation both between us and the Mexicans and between the federal level in Mexico and the local authorities; and the ability to deal with the cross-border issues, not just between the United States and Mexico but also into Central America.
So there are a number of things that we're going to be working on over the long term to see a reduction in violence, to see a reduction in these flows of the drugs north, and the money and the arms to the south. These are early days, but I think we've already seen -- the very fact of this increased violence to some extent is a reflection of the determination on the part of the Mexican government to take this on.
And the cartels are fighting back, they're seeing their existing roots be disrupted, they're fighting over territory. So we're seeing in some respects a kind of intensity of fighting reflecting the determination of both sides, the United States and Mexico, to take this on.
But we're going to need to stay at this for awhile. The cartels are well organized and well-funded, they're fighting for their lives and the Mexican government is going to be doing what it needs to get that done. So we'll have to stay on top of this; oversight is very important, These are significant resources. We have mechanisms in place. These are largely situations where we're not transferring funds to Mexico so much as providing technical assistance, training and equipment that we're working on together so we have a good ability to make sure that it's being used for the purposes that Congress intended.
SEN. AKAKA: You mentioned training and -- particularly and specifically how is the training going? As I can recall, that training was to begin April 2008. And since then -- then my question would be how long is the training program and what kind of metrics are you using to check on that?
MR. STEINBERG: Well Senator, the initial appropriation for the Merida Initiative was enacted in June of last year. So we've been operating on funding that just become available starting last summer and we've been working with committee staff here up on the Hill in the initial days. To agree on a plan going forward, we had to reach some letters of agreement with the Mexican government on how these programs should go forward.
So the reality is that the programs have actually begun in the last four or five months, and we're beginning to see these programs take place, training to correction staff, working with judicial officials, and as I said, a significant effort focused on the procurement of equipment, particularly non-intrusive detection equipment which, is a major part of the actual overall amount of spending.
But these efforts now I think are accelerating. We have the framework in place and we need to keep at it.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you. Attorney General Ogden, there were already a number of initiatives addressing the violence associated with the drug cartels near the Southwest border. In order to meet these initiatives, your department must coordinate, and my question is really on your coordination -- coordinate with DHS, the State Department and the state and local governments as well. My question to you then is how are you ensuring that your department's counternarcotics efforts are complimenting rather than duplicating efforts of other agencies involved?
MR. OGDEN: Thank you, Senator. I think you put your finger on a critically important aspect of the response here which is we do need to be extremely well coordinated. The Drug Enforcement Administration was established to be the drug enforcement entity, the central drug enforcement entity for the United States, and DEA has established intelligence centers, the Special Operations Center, the SOD, and the EPIC, the El Paso Intelligence Center which bring in all of the critical agencies to share intelligence and to share information that's a critical aspect of the coordination of this effort is that effort that the DEA does. And then the DEA works to make sure we're deconflicted, that we don't have conflicts among agencies pursuing these cases and work together with the prosecutors in their own task forces of which DEA and the other agencies are a part to put together these major initiatives that are designed to take down the cartels such as Xccelerator, such as the one against the Gulf Cartel.
So we are pursuing coordination through those mechanisms and I think continuing to look for ways to improve our coordination.
SEN. AKAKA: Yes. And as was pointed out, you've been working with groups -- can you tell me how many different groups there are that you are working on with on this problem?
MR. OGDEN: The groups that we're working with on our side of the problem you mean?
SEN. AKAKA: To deal with this problem.
MR. OGDEN: Well certainly, you know within it's a large number, I'm not sure I could quantify it. I mean we have on in the Justice Department there's the DEA; the ATF; the FBI is an important part of this, the Marshal Service and our federal prosecutors in the criminal division and in the U.S. Attorney's Office; DHS; you know, ICE, the border patrol components, the rest of the critical aspect of DHS who work on this. Obviously our partners at the State Department, in working with the Mexican authorities are critical; the Treasury Department with respect to the aspects of this that affect the cash flow's another critical partner; state and local law enforcement; tribal law enforcement; and then far from least, our Mexican colleagues and counterparts who are so bravely taking this battle to the cartels in their own backyard. That relationship is critical. And I probably left out someone who will be annoyed with me. But it's a large group that we're bringing together.
SEN. AKAKA: I see. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, my time has expired.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Senator Akaka. I just have one more question or two for you Mr. Steinberg about the Merida Initiative. Incidentally I appreciated what you said a short while ago about the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. It's a long standing relationship, it's been through difficult times. This seems to be one of the better times -- I mean, we always ought to have a pro-American government in Mexico and a pro-Mexican government in America. That doesn't always happen. We have it now and in regard to this specific crisis, we have an extraordinarily courageous administration in Mexico City that we want to work with and we are working with. So I appreciate the way you said that as a matter of our foreign policy if you will in addition to domestic law enforcement.
I want to ask you just this question about the Merida Initiative. First, I understand that we're in the budget process so you can't tell us how much you're going to ask for for Merida, but I appreciate that you've made a commitment on behalf of the Department to continue this as a multi-year program. And you tell me if you're willing to answer this question. I assume that we will put at least as much into the program as is going in on an annual basis now. Is that fair to conclude?
MR. STEINBERG: Senator, again, without getting the specifics, when the program was initially envisioned, we were talking about a three-year, $1.4 billion program. Now, obviously, we want to look at it in terms of individual year allocations, how we can best use the money, we don't want to get more money than the system can appropriate. So I can't give an absolute number --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
MR. STEINBERG: -- but I do think the fact that it's a multi-year thing and some sense of the scale that was initially envisioned gives you some sense about the kind of role that we saw going forward.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. In the first two years, FY '08 and '09 Congress actually appropriated less money than was requested. There was 950 million (dollars) requested and 700 million (dollars), still a considerable amount, of course, was appropriated. One of the reasons given here in Congress for the reduction in funding was a concern about the slowness with which the Merida money had been dispersed to- date. I understand this is not a problem of your creation, that you found this, but I gather that a relatively small fraction of the funding appropriated in FY'08 as Senator Akaka indicated for Mexican law enforcement agencies has actually been expended to-date, not obligated but actually expended.
So I wanted to ask you if you agree with that observation that this is moving slowly? And if so, why do you think it is and what are you doing with the secretary to expedite the disbursement of the remaining FY 2008 Merida funding?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, Senator, I think -- everyone always wants the money to get out the door as fast as possible, and I think we could talk about the details about what happened last year. I think there was a period of time that is important for the Department and Congress and key members of your staffs to have a joint understanding about what we're going to do because it's a long term program and getting it off on the right footing was important. So there was a period of time associated with that. And once we had an agreement here in the United States about how to spend the money, we needed to work with that Mexicans.
By the end of calendar 2008, I would say we had the mechanisms in place, and now we are ready, and fortunately coinciding with the beginning of this administration, to really begin to be aggressive about this. And as I said one of the things that we're going to see although a relatively small amount of money has been obligated at this point that a significant amount of funding, particularly for this non- intrusive detection equipment is really ready to go.
We're also -- a very important additional part I hope will be moving very quickly which is the helicopters for the Mexican military. The Congress was good enough to waive the informal notification requirements under the FMF, the formal notification expires on April 13th, which means we'll be in a position after April 13th to finally negotiate those contracts for the helicopters which are critically important to provide the mobility and the speed of responsiveness.
So as we get some of these larger programs out the door, we'll see that in terms of the percentage of funds allocated that will go up very dramatically. And as I said, we have now the letters of agreement in place with the government of Mexico that facilitates the expenditure of the funds that are handled under our international narcotics law enforcement accounts.
And so I think that we're now -- sort of the pipeline is well established, the relationships are well established, both within the United States and between the United States and Mexico that we can see an acceleration of the implementation of the program.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. That's very encouraging. And we'll obviously keep in touch with you on that.
Just a final kind of in-house question. Although the Merida funding is appropriated to the Department of State for an assistant account -- obviously the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are important partners with you. This is in the form of open group family therapy -- (scattered laughter) -- we've heard grumbling -- not, of course, from Mr. Ogden -- that folks at DHS and DOJ feel that they have -- and again this may be going more back to the previous administration -- but they have not been fully involved in the budget priority formulation process. And I wanted to ask you if you intend to include them early on as best you can in that process?
MR. STEINBERG: Absolutely, Senator. I think it is critically important as you've heard from today both from Secretary Napolitano and my colleague here. This is a multi-agency effort and many of the expertise and capacities obviously lie outside the State Department. So we can't develop and implement these programs without the work of these other agencies. And while we provide kind of a convenient framework, the secretary chairs the high level group that involves both the agencies in the United States and our counterparts in Mexico that we need to work very effectively. And I've been encouraged in the short time we've all been together -- particularly, my colleague has been in office just for a very short period of time -- of the very collaborative spirit that we all approach this with.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, thanks very much. I thank both of you for your testimony. I thank you for what you're doing every day on this challenge to our security and to our neighbor's security. My impression from this morning is that our government is really mobilized now on this. But it's going to be a longer term fight, and we want to help you in every way we can in it.
As a formal matter, we're going to keep the record of the hearing open for 15 days. If you or Secretary Napolitano want to add to your testimony, there maybe some members of the committee who were not here or some who were who want to submit additional questions which we'll ask you to fill out. But thank you very much for being here. Thank you for what you're doing. The hearing is adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you.