- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s $2.4 billion budget request for fiscal 2008 will allow the agency to “sharpen and expand” enforcement efforts that DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy told a House subcommittee yesterday have eroded because of budget shortfalls.

“As our base budget has gradually eroded over time due to pay raise absorptions, rescissions and program reductions, we have been unable to maintain adequately our infrastructure or agent and support staffing at their previous levels,” Mrs. Tandy told the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies.

“This has put us at an enforcement disadvantage,” she said. “We must regain our financial footing. We must have the ability to sharpen and expand the enforcement tools and techniques that have helped us establish our drug-enforcement leadership role.”

For fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, the DEA wants $110 million more than President Bush’s fiscal 2007 budget. The agency, with 10,239 employees, including 4,811 agents, enforces federal drug laws.

The DEA is among several Justice Department agencies hard hit by hiring freezes, pending retirements and recruitment difficulties, due mainly to congressional budget delays some officials have said threaten efforts to combat terrorism and violent crime. The DEA’s 2008 budget request represents about a .045 percent increase.

Included in that request is $40 million to enhance security along the Southwest border, upgrade counterterrorism and intelligence efforts, and target Internet-friendly drug dealers.

Mrs. Tandy described the DEA as an “active participant” in the Southwest Border Initiative, a cooperative effort begun in 1994 by federal law-enforcement agencies to combat the threat posed by Mexico-based trafficking groups.

She told the subcommittee DEA activity in the area is critical since the region is the principal arrival zone for most illicit drugs smuggled into the United States, as well as the predominant staging area for the distribution nationwide.

Increased funding for the initiative, about $30 million, would help the DEA step up the fight on both sides of the border through increases in aviation assets, and improvements in surveillance and communications systems and data collection and analysis capabilities, she said.

Mrs. Tandy noted that in 2006, after a 25-year hiatus, DEA’s Office of National Security Intelligence was designated a member of the Intelligence Community (IC) and while the designation did not grant new authorities, it did formalize a long-standing relationship between DEA and the IC and allow DEA and other IC members to work national security issues in an integrated fashion.

She said upgrades to counterterrorism and intelligence activities through the IC, a federation of agencies and organizations that conduct national security intelligence activities, would cost $7 million.

Other upgrades, amounting to $3 million, would develop intercept solutions to counter drug traffickers who use electronic mail accounts, Internet communications and wireless hand-held devices.

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