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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1860

Location: Washington, DC

PAGE S14811
Nov. 12, 2003

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1860

By Mr. HATCH (for himself, Mr. BIDEN, and Mr. GRASSLEY):

S. 1860. A bill to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation to reauthorize the so-called "Drug Czar's" office with Senator Hatch, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Senator Grassley, the Chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

This bipartisan legislation will, I hope, result in speedy action to reauthorize the drug director's office for 5 years. No matter what perspective any of us have on a specific drug policy, this legislation is about whether we will have a drug director and a drug office to be responsible for developing, coordinating and enacting a national drug policy.

Some twenty years ago I began fighting to create the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) because I believed then, as I believe now, that we needed a Cabinet-level official who would coordinate Federal drug policy. I argued that Cabinet-level status was necessary because this individual needed to have the clout to stop interagency feuding, fight for necessary budgetary resources and decertify inadequate agency drug budgets. But just as important, I believed that the public needed to have one high profile person to hold accountable for developing and implementing an effective national strategy.

In 1982 my bill creating a national drug director passed as part of a larger crime bill, but the President vetoed it. He, like all Presidents-both Democrats and Republicans did not like the idea of being held accountable for what was seen as an intractable problem. But I kept at it and six years later the bill became law.

Before we had a drug czar's office there was no official in charge of the Administration's drug effort. And because there was no one Cabinet official in charge, other members of the President's Cabinet could duck responsibility to talk about tough drug policy issues. And that meant no Administration talked enough or did enough about the drug problem and no Administration was held accountable on drug policy. I'm glad that those days are behind us.

As the person responsible for coordinating Federal drug policy, the drug czar deals with almost every federal agency, from the Department of Justice on drug courts to the Department of Homeland Security on interdiction issues to the State Department and the Department of Defense on Plan Colombia to the Department of Health and Human Services on groundbreaking research on how drug use changes brain chemistry. It is the drug director's job to make sure that all of these wide ranging issues are addressed in the annual drug strategy so that our national policy is a balanced one, giving proper attention to drug enforcement, drug treatment, drug prevention and research.

That is why the bill that Senator Hatch, Senator Grassley and I are introducing today retains the provision in current law requiring the Drug Director to submit to Congress an annual drug strategy, detailing how he proposes to address all aspects of our national drug problem. We also ask him to reach out to state and local officials not only to get their input but also to get their support to advance the national goals on the local level.

And just as with my original drug czar legislation, the reauthorization bill retains as its central goal holding every Administration and every President accountable on the drug issue by requiring ONDCP to evaluate the effectiveness of drug policy and programs and develop specific performance measurements and goals.

The bill also includes a number of changes to strengthen current drug control policies and programs. In the area of law enforcement, the bill reauthorizes and increases the funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program which helps to coordinate federal, state and local efforts to reduce drug trafficking and production in designated areas. The bill also requires an evaluation of each individual HIDTA to monitor the program's effectiveness and requires ONDCP to report to Congress on intelligence sharing among HIDTAs and other law enforcement entities.

In terms of prevention and treatment efforts, the legislation includes a number of important provisions. First, it reauthorizes the National Youth Anti Drug Media Campaign and modifies the program so that it will be more accountable. Second, it includes a number of provisions that the Senate passed unanimously last Congress as part of the Drug Abuse Education, Prevention and Treatment Act to expand drug treatment for rural states, economically depressed communities, juveniles and women with children as well as to create a demonstration project to fund drug treatment alternatives to prison programs administered by state and local prosecutors. And finally, the bill amends the Higher Education Act to clarify that those convicted of drug offenses are not prohibited from receiving federal student aid unless they commit a drug felony while they are receiving the grant, loan or work assistance.

I want to thank Senator Hatch and Senator Grassley for their cooperation in crafting a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Both Senators have been leaders on drug policy issues and I am glad to work with them on this important matter. I hope that the rest of my colleagues will support this legislation and that we can pass it without delay.

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I rise today to add my comments to those of Senator HATCH and Senator BIDEN on the re-authorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Drug use in America may not be on the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post, but remains a deep concern for many people in small towns and local neighborhoods where the effects of drug abuse are painfully felt. Drugs pose an immediate threat to their lives, and the lives of their children.

The re-authorization of ONDCP is about the leadership role we expect the Federal government to play in confronting the issue. I want to take a moment to highlight a few revisions we have proposed in an effort to strengthen the leadership role that ONDCP should play.

The legislation we are introducing today will improve the capacities of the Office to coordinate our Federal efforts against drug use. We have strengthened the role of the Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs, because we recognize that the coordination of activities, information sharing, and resource allocations between Federal, State, and local law enforcement is increasingly critical.

As everyone is this body knows, there isn't enough money to go around to fully fund all of the worthy causes that are out there, and part of our job is making these tough choices. By increasing the coordination between resources that are already deployed, we can increase the effectiveness of these efforts without having to reinvent how business gets done. ONDCP is an ideal place to play broker over these efforts and move this forward.

We have also included provisions clarifying the authorities and responsibilities of the offices of Demand Reduction and Supply Reduction. Much of ONDCP's responsibilities involves coordinating the activities and focus of other Departments. There is no one simple solution to our drug problem, and ONDCP has a responsibility to ensure that Federal prevention, law enforcement, treatment, and interdiction initiatives cover the full spectrum of opportunities available. Accordingly, our bill clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the various Deputies at ONDCP to strengthen their ability to coordinate the counterdrug activities both within ONDCP and those of other Departments.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy also has responsibility for the execution and effectiveness of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, or HIDTA program. The HIDTA program has proven to be an effective mechanism for getting multiple law enforcement agencies from multiple levels of government to work together. For a relatively modest amount, participating law enforcement agencies have benefited tremendously from the increased information sharing and coordination that HIDTAs generate.

[Page S14815]

However, there was legitimate concern over the lack of performance measures for the HIDTA program. In addition, there seemed to be some confusion over what the overall purpose of a HIDTA designation was. finally, funding for the HIDTA program has been stifled because of a fear that ONDCP may cut the amount for one particular HIDTA in favor of another. Our legislation addresses these concerns in ways we believe will improve the effectiveness, accountability, and transparency of the program.

First, this legislation establishes that the purpose of the HIDTA program is fourfold: facilitating cooperation among Federal, State, and local law enforcement; enhancing intelligence sharing; providing reliable intelligence to law enforcement agencies for the design of effective enforcement strategies and operations; and supporting coordinated strategies designed to reduce the supply of illegal drugs within a designated area. By focusing the purpose of a HIDTA on improving the capabilities and capacities of those within the HIDTA, we will strengthen the effectiveness of these designated areas to go after drugs.

Second, the legislation creates an evaluation mechanism which requires ONDCP to first establish specific purposes and measures for each HIDTA, and then evaluate the performance of each HIDTA based on the purposes and measures that were established. Because threats each HIDTA faces are unique, the performance of each HIDTA will be evaluated against the goals which are established for that particular HIDTA, rather than an undefined National standard. Not only should this give Congress a better understanding of the performance of this program, but it should give ONDCP a mechanism to better evaluate and support the particular needs of individual HIDTAs.

Third, this legislation requires ONDCP to itemize how much it believes each HIDTA should be funded when the budget request is submitted, rather than waiting until after the appropriations process is complete. Combined with the previous two changes, these changes will combine to give ONDCP the flexibility it needs and the HIDTA program the credibility it needs to expand its leadership and funding for the coordination of law enforcement counterdrug operations.

The final section of this legislation that I would like to mention is the National Media Campaign. I will be honest: I am still not convinced that this program makes the best possible use of drug prevention dollars. But I am in the minority here. Almost everyone I've talked to believes our prevention efforts will be better with the campaign than without it-even if the evidence that the campaign makes a difference is questionable, at best. If the campaign is going to continue, and this legislation does extend the Campaign, I think it's important that it get back to the parameters that were established when it was initially pitched to and authorized by congress.

I think what we have here is a good start in this direction, and I appreciate my colleagues' willingness to take my concerns into consideration. The legislation we have drafted refocuses the campaign toward its initial, buy-one-get-one-free hypothesis. We've proposed enhancing the capacity of the campaign to measure its effectiveness, in an effort to move beyond the 6-month time lag that has hampered past measurements of performance. We have also included a clearer outline of what should, and should not, be paid for by the campaign. And we have created a clear role for the Partnership for a Drug Free America, who has been working on this effort for much longer than Congress has funded it.

All in all, I think we have a good bill. Not a perfect bill, but a good bill. I look forward to continue working with the Committee, our colleagues in the House, and the Administration with the hope that we can re-authorize ONDCP expeditiously.

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