U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today organized a bipartisan effort to prevent the closure the National Counterdrug Training Center (NCTC) located at Fort Indiantown Gap and a total of thirteen state plans and four additional regional counterdrug training centers around the country. Senator Casey was joined by 12 other bipartisan senators in sending a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee calling for adequate funding for the current fiscal year and beyond to continue counterdrug activities.
"Law enforcement officials across the country continue to support this program, and have raised concerns because they understand the acute effect that closure of these facilities will have on their communities," wrote the senators. "As in previous years, the funding requested in the President's Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 budget submission would not allow these programs to be sustained. According to the National Guard Bureau, without an increase in funding, the thirteen state plans and the five regional counterdrug training centers will be forced to close."
Senator Casey had secured $2,800,000 for the Pennsylvania National Guard's Northeast Counterdrug Training Center's education and training programs for the current fiscal year. However, this funding was stripped from the bill when objections were raised on the inclusion of earmarks.
Earlier this month, Senator Casey and Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA) were able to secure a commitment from the Department of Defense that funding would be provided to the National Guard Bureau and subsequently to the PA National Guard to continue operations through March 4th when the current Continuing Resolution expires.
Senator Casey and Congressman Holden continue to work with the Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau and the PA National Guard to work out a solution to keep the NCTC open and to protect the jobs of the National Guard members serving there.
Senator Casey's letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Mark Begich (D-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Chairman and Ranking Member:
For more than a decade, the National Guard Bureau in coordination with state governors have provided vital no-cost investigative support, drug demand reduction, narco-terrorism, and officer safety training to thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officials, community-based prevention professionals, and first responders through regional counterdrug training centers and state plans. However, these plans and centers are now in jeopardy because of the uncertainty of the Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations process.
In the words of one local police chief, "no other facility provides the level of physical sophistication and expert training personnel" as do the National Guard members who operate this program. Law enforcement officials across the country continue to support this program, and have raised concerns because they understand the acute effect that closure of these facilities will have on their communities.
Historically, Congress has appropriated adequate resources to support these activities. Much of this funding was requested in Presidential budget submissions. Every year over the course of the past decade, the President has requested funding for the regional counterdrug centers and state counterdrug plans. As you are aware, however, the President's budget request is not infallible. To ensure that these programs were able to fulfill their missions, Congress has wisely provided additional annual funding to the National Guard to fill financial gaps incurred by the operation and maintenance of the program and its facilities.
As in previous years, the funding requested in the President's Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 budget submission would not allow these programs to be sustained. According to the National Guard Bureau, without an increase in funding, the thirteen state plans and the five regional counterdrug training centers will be forced to close. Currently, there is a budget shortfall of nearly $50 million between what was provided to the National Guard to implement these programs in Fiscal Year 2010 versus what was requested in the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
As the 112th Congress continues to examine the Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 budget, we respectfully request that the Committee consider consolidating the funding for these activities. Furthermore, understanding the increased fiscal constraints under which the Appropriations Committee and the Congress must currently operate, we also respectfully request that you provide as much funding as possible for National Guard counterdrug activities.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of any assistance.
Senator Bob Casey
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Mark Begich
Senator Christopher A. Coons
Senator Chuck Grassley
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Bernard Sanders
Senator Roger F. Wicker
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Robert Menendez