- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Justice Department's top priority in its proposed $30.2 billion budget is to "protect America against acts of terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice," Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday told a Senate subcommittee.
"Since my last appearance before you, America and the world have been awakened to a new threat from an old evil: terrorism," Mr. Ashcroft told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department's budget.
"As a result of the attacks of September the 11th, the FBI, with the cooperation of other federal, state, local and international law enforcement, is conducting the largest criminal investigation in history," he said.
Some subcommittee members questioned department proposals to cut programs aimed at assisting state and local law enforcement officials as the federal agency shifts its emphasis to terrorists and the prevention of new attacks.
Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat and subcommittee chairman, targeted reductions in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which spent $385 million last year to hire new police officers nationwide.
Mr. Hollings called proposed cuts in the COPS progam "a non-starter as far as the subcommittee is concerned," adding that the proposed funding reduction "decimates local law enforcement, decimates cops on the beat. We don't mess with something that's working."
The Bush administration, in exchange for the cuts, has offered to create an $800 million grant program for state and local police for various spending on projects, although Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said he was "not convinced this is going to help law enforcement."
In defending the proposed budget, Mr. Ashcroft told the subcommittee that the proposal calls for 263 new FBI agents, increases border and courthouse security, and creates 56 joint terrorism task forces throughout the country one in every FBI field ofice.
He also said the department remained committed to reducing the demand and supply of illegal drugs, to the enforcement of gun laws and to the protection of civil rights.
He said the budget seeks increases for federal detention and incarceration capacities and funding designed to end the trafficking in human beings.
The Justice Department, in the wake of attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000 people, faced challenges that were both "complex and unprecedented," Mr. Ashcroft said.
The proposed budget requests $23.1 billion in discretionary funding and $7.1 billion for the department's mandatory and fee-funded accounts. He said federal law enforcement programs would increase by 13 percent, that the budget was designed to streamlined resources available to support state and local law enforcement and to defend U.S. interests.
"To help secure our nation's borders, we are proposing program improvements totaling $856 million, including $59.1 million from fee-funding for the Immigration and Naturalization Service," he said. "Of this amount, $734 million is dedicated to improving border security."
Mr. Ashcroft also said the department was requesting $362 million to begin a multiyear effort to provide a comprehensive, land, sea and air entry/exit system for the United States; and $372 million to hire 570 new Border Patrol agents and additional immigration inspectors.
He said the budget also requests $223 million for increased intelligence, surveillance and response capabilities; $109 million for information technology projects; and $78 million for enhanced personnel and information security.
The attorney general told the subcommittee the proposed budget requests $400 million to begin a new three-year program for states to improve state and local jurisdictions' voting technologies and administration, including voting machines, registration systems, voter education and worker training.


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