Cantwell Continues to Push for JAG Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 55 bipartisan senators in sending a letter to Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) of the Senate Committee on Appropriations seeking $489.6 million in this year’s supplemental appropriations bill for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program. The additional funding would restore Byrne/JAG funding for the current fiscal year to $660 million, the same level that the Senate originally provided for in the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill that passed last year.

"Byrne funding is critical to combating meth in our communities, supporting law enforcement information sharing, and gang prevention programs,"
said Cantwell. "We must restore the program’s funding to fulfill our commitment to the sheriffs and police officers who are saving lives and preventing crime not only in Washington state, but nationwide."

The Omnibus Appropriations bill that was signed into law by the President last year funded Byrne/JAG grants at $170 million. This funding level represents a more than two-thirds drop from the program’s 2007 levels, and is down from nearly $900 million in 2002.

The Byrne Grant Program, named after a police officer killed by a violent drug gang twenty years ago, is the only source of federal funding for multi-jurisdictional efforts to prevent and fight crime. Byrne funding is critical to creating regional cooperation to fight the manufacture, distribution, and use of narcotics, including methamphetamine. Byrne Grants also help pay for police training, technology and crime prevention programs. The grant program has resulted in major innovations in crime control, including drug courts, gang prevention strategies and prisoner re-entry programs.

[The text of the letter follows below]

April 7, 2008

The Honorable Robert Byrd
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Byrd and Senator Cochran:

Restoration of severe cuts made to the Edward Byrne Justice Grant (Byrne/JAG) program through last year’s omnibus appropriations bill is vital to avoid law enforcement layoffs and suspension of hundreds of anti-drug, gang and violent offender efforts across the country. Therefore, we respectfully request that you provide $489.6 million for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program in any Supplemental Appropriations bill that comes before the Senate. This addition would restore Byrne/JAG funding to the same level previously approved by the Senate in the Commerce-Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 (FY 2008).

The Byrne Formula Grant Program is a tried and tested program that has served us well for more than two decades. The program’s broad-based support was verified in the Senate’s passage last year of S.231, the Feinstein-Chambliss Byrne/JAG Reauthorization Act, which would extend this $1.095 bill authorization through 2012. The bill received 52 co-sponsors and passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

As you know, the Senate-approved CJS Appropriations bill for FY2008 would have funded Byrne/JAG at $660 million. Following a veto threat, however, difficult choices had to be made in conference, and in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that ultimately passed, Byrne/JAG funding for FY2008 was reduced to only $170.4 million. This figure represented more than a 2/3 drop from Byrne/Jag’s actual appropriated levels in FY2007.

In the wake of these drastic cuts, various law enforcement agencies, as well as numerous police and sheriff’s offices, have notified us that these FY2008 Byrne/JAG cuts will have a devastating effect on law enforcement, forcing them to possibly close multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, and negatively affecting a variety of other crime control programs. Particularly at a time when a risk of adverse economic conditions may lead to increased crime, it is vitally important that we support our nation’s finest in their efforts on the front lines, where they risk their lives daily keeping Americans safe.

Unless these Byrne/JAG funds are restored promptly, law enforcement agencies may be forced to dismantle multi- jurisdiction task forces that often took years to create and develop. And individual officers serving on those task force members will face a loss of income or even their jobs, some of which have been held for years. Each year, Byrne/JAG dollars fund over 4,000 police officers and prosecutors working on over 750 drug enforcement task forces in al 50 states across hundreds of urban and rural countries and cities. On an annual basis, Byrne/JAG funding leads to over 220,000 arrests, 54,000 weapons seized, the seizure of 5.5 million grams of methamphetamine, and the breakup of almost 9,000 methamphetamine labs. These successes show that we need to continue what we are doing, not cut back.

Funding for Byrne/JAG, at its $1.095 billion authorized level, has long been supported by America’s leading law enforcement organizations, including the National Narcotic Officers` Associations` Coalition, National Sheriffs` Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Legal Action Center, National District Attorneys` Association, National HIDTA Directors Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs Association, National Criminal Justice Association, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, Major City Chiefs Association, National Troopers Coalition, State Association of Addiction Services, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Fraternal Order of Police.

There is strong bipartisan support for the Byrne/JAG Program, and we urge you to provide this critically needed funding in any supplemental appropriations bill that comes before the Senate this year.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Joe Biden (D-DE), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barack Obama (D-IL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
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