Chairwoman Mikulski Spotlights Community Safety, National Security, and Accountability at FY15 DOJ Budget Hearing

Date: April 3, 2014

Contact: Vince Morris (202) 224-1010

Video of Opening Statement

Video of Q&A

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,  Science and Related Agencies (CJS), held an annual oversight and budget hearing for the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). The program included testimony from Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., and DoJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. In addition to focusing on community safety, national security and accountability for taxpayer funds, Chairwoman Mikulski highlighted the Justice Department’s role in stopping cyber criminals and call on the DoJ to ensure the safety of the officers and agents who protect America.

Chairwoman Mikulski’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:  

“The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee is meeting to examine the 2015 budget request for the Department of Justice. Attorney General Eric Holder will testify about Justice Department’s budget and priorities for fiscal year 2015, and the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify about top management and accountability issues.

“This is one of 60 hearings the Appropriations Committee will hold in six weeks. We are doing our due diligence, but we are also doing our work to get the job done. Our goal is to enact all 12 Appropriations bills before October 1. For the first time since 1996, we are restoring certainty and reliability to the Appropriations process

“We count on the Justice Department to keep the American public safe. I want to thank the more than 112,000 hardworking men and women of the Justice Department, including more than  25,000 Federal agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and U.S. Marshals Service, roughly 18,000 correctional officers and staff, and nearly 13,000 prosecutors, investigators, and legal experts.

“Together, they’ve had an amazing year. The Deputy U.S. Marshals arrested more than 11,000 fugitive sex offenders. The DEA put 3,400 drug trafficking organizations out of business. The FBI dismantled 421 criminal enterprises involved in white collar crimes. U.S. Attorneys charged more than 83,000 defendants in criminal court. These are the guardians of our Justice system who are often overlooked and undervalued. The CJS Subcommittee knows and appreciates what they do every day to keep America safe, secure and free.

“In fiscal year 2013, Justice agencies were working hard in Maryland. The FBI made 404 arrests. The Marshals Service arrested 1,860 fugitives. The DEA disrupted 24 major drug trafficking organizations. ATF traced 9,309 recovered firearms. The U.S. Attorney’s Office collected $143 million in civil and criminal debts which created funds that helped my home state.

“From the Crime Victims Fund, Maryland received $7.9 million in victim assistance funds, helping 42,445 crime victims recover.  The Crime Victims Fund supports services and programs like the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, providing treatment and counseling for children who experience sexual abuse.

“Justice Department grant funding helped Maryland invest in vital equipment, juvenile justice grants, Violence Against Women Act programs to shelter and protect domestic violence victims, and hiring awards for 14 new police officers.

“I’ve seen the scope and scale of the Justice Department in my own state of Maryland and throughout the nation. The Justice Department needs a robust budget to meet the scope of its mission. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Justice Department totals $27.4 billion, about $122 million above the 2014 level. The request is flat for core Federal law enforcement functions and grants.

“As Chairwoman of CJS, I have three priorities when examining the budget for the Justice Department. First is community security. How does the budget support the mission of keeping our communities safe? Second is national security. What resources are needed to keep America safe from terrorism? Third is oversight and accountability. Are tax dollars being spent wisely? I want to make sure DOJ has what it needs to uphold the rule of law and protect civil liberties while protecting this country from predatory attacks.

“Strong, vibrant communities are safe communities. I want to know how the budget request keeps Americans safe here at home. The request has $2.2 billion for State and local law enforcement grants that put cops on the beat, provide women with support to leave violent abusers, put away child abusers and molesters, break up child pornography and prostitution rings, help victims of sex and labor trafficking, and process rape kits for use as evidence in trials. The CJS Subcommittee is committed to making sure our police are not redlined or walking a thin blue line while they put their lives on the line. We want to provide the tools to protect them while they protect us.

“We know the Justice Department’s job isn’t over when they catch and prosecute criminals. The Department is also responsible for housing around 215,000 convicted prisoners. The request to fund the Federal Bureau of Prisons is $6.9 billion, which must cover food, healthcare and utilities for a growing inmate population. Obligatory prison costs are literally eating the Justice Department’s lunch.  Prison costs account for about 25 percent of the Department’s budget and are increasing year after year. I am glad that Attorney General Holder is focusing on how to reduce the growing prison population.  I hope the Justice Department will also focus on the need to protect those who protect us. We cannot forget that correctional officer Eric Williams was murdered at US Penitentiary Canaan on February 25, 2013. I want to know, how is DOJ keeping its guards safe? What do we need to make sure guards have training, secure communications and safety equipment—like pepper spray – that they need.

“After 9/11, the Justice Department took on a new national security mission to disrupt terrorist plots by identifying, tracking and defeating terrorist cells, finding nexus between organized crime and nation states, and dismantling weapons of mass destruction on U.S. soil. We’re coming up on the one-year mark of the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings. This work is needed now more than ever.

“The request is $4 billion for core national security functions of our Federal law enforcement agencies. Most of this request pays salaries and operations for nearly 16,000 employees working on national security, including those at the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and National Security Division as well as U.S. Attorneys. I want to know if the funds requested are sufficient to keep Federal law enforcement ahead of the bad guys. I also want to be sure our intelligence is coordinated so no threats slip through the cracks.

“Our nation also faces a growing threat in cyberspace from hackers, cyber spies, and cyber terrorists. I want to be clear – cybersecurity is not surveillance. Cybersecurity means understanding and protecting us from criminals out to steal credit card information, personal identities, and companies’ trade secrets.

“The request includes $722 million Department-wide for cybersecurity, which is $19 million, or 2.5 percent, cut from fiscal year 2014. I want to know if the request is sufficient to protect us from theft of our most important information.

“During frugal times the Justice Department needs oversight and accountability to get value for taxpayer dollars. The Subcommittee has taken steps to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, prohibit funds for lavish banquets, control cost overruns, and require Inspectors General to do random audits of grantees.

“The Justice Department’s Inspector General has identified top management challenges for the Department, including the growing crisis in the prison system; safeguarding national security while being consistent with civil liberties; sound fiscal management; and cybersecurity. What concrete steps have been taken to put the Subcommittee’s and IG’s guidelines into practice and make sure they are followed? We will hear Inspector General Horowitz evaluate the Justice Department’s progress.

“Every day we count on the Justice Department to fulfill its vital mission. The men and women of the Justice Department should be able to count on us to ensure they have the resources needed to protect the lives of 317 million Americans.  We also must ensure the Justice Department is a good steward of taxpayer dollars, making sure each dollar we spend to keep our nation safe is a dollar well spent.

“I thank Attorney General Holder for his leadership and the very positive relationship this Subcommittee has with his Department. He has brought to the Justice Department the experience of a career prosecutor dedicated to protecting the American people from terrorism and violent crime. I look forward to continuing our work together making a safer, stronger America.�