Budget takes aim at Justice earmarks

President Bush’s $22.7 billion fiscal 2009 budget proposal for the Justice Department aims to consolidate the department's state and local law enforcement assistance grants and includes boosts for FBI, counterterrorism activities and border security.

Overall, the budget represents a $350 million decrease from fiscal 2008. In addition, the Bush administration is requesting $931 million compared with $855 million for information-sharing technology that was included in the 2008 omnibus budget.

Department officials said in a press release that they hoped to replace $675 million worth of earmarks in the fiscal 2008 budget for state and local assistance with four new competitive grant programs. Officials say the new programs will total $1 billion in discretionary grants and the Office of Management and Budget’s DOJ budget summary states that these grants would consolidate more than 70 state and local law enforcement assistance programs that are worth more than $2 billion in spending.

The four new consolidated grant programs are:

• Violent Crime Reduction Partnership, worth $200 million.
• Byrne Public Safety and Protection Program, worth $200 million.
• Violence Against Women Program, worth $280 million.
• Child Safety and Juvenile Justice Program, worth $185 million.

The budget significantly decreases the funding for grants to state and local governments compared with the 2008 budget. For example, according to DOJ numbers, Congress allocated $2.4 billion to DOJ for state and local discretionary spending in 2008, while Bush is asking for just $800 million for fiscal 2009.

The administration is requesting $7.1 billion for the FBI -- including $235.5 million for operations that include efforts to tackle cybercrime -- about $450 million more than the bureau got in fiscal 2008 from Congress. Under the proposed budget, the FBI would also get an additional $28.4 million to update technology, central records management, field facility infrastructure and information technology disaster recovery.

The administration is also asking for nearly $50 million more than Congress gave Justice for fiscal 2008 to implement a nationwide Integrated Wireless Network — an upgrade that officials say is vital to national security.

The budget proposal calls for a 6 percent increase in spending on the department’s law enforcement and prosecution programs, including $492.7 million to improve DOJ’s counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities.

Bush seeks an additional $100 million in new resources to create the Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative, which will focus DOJ efforts on the needs of that region.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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