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DOJ Funding Would Shrink Under Trump’s Fiscal 2021 Budget Ask

Feb. 10, 2020, 9:47 PM

The Trump administration is looking to slash Justice Department funding by targeting “wasteful spending,” including prison construction and payments to states for incarcerating undocumented immigrants with criminal histories.

The department would receive $730 million less than current funding under the administration’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal unveiled Monday. The $31.7 billion request reflects a 2.3% drop from DOJ’s $32.4 billion in funding for the current fiscal year, according to the White House.

Funneling resources toward efforts to stem violent crime, protect national security, enforce immigration laws, and combat the opioid crisis are among the top priorities laid out in the proposed budget.

The department seeks several categorical funding increases, including an additional $6 million to hire 10 new attorneys and support staff to boost the number of drug cases generated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It’s also seeking $361 million for “opioid-related state and local assistance,” which includes money for treatment and recovery support.

Congress, in the fiscal 2020 appropriations package it approved in December, gave DOJ about $1.6 billion more than its budget for fiscal 2019.

Among the biggest proposed cuts for fiscal 2021 are more than $500 million set aside for building an “unneeded” and costly federal prison, as well as $244 million to eliminate the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. It’s not the first time the Trump White House has suggested axing this aid package, which helps state and local law enforcement pay for jailing undocumented persons with past felony convictions.

The program “is poorly targeted and an ineffective tool to support immigration enforcement,” according to the request. At the same time , the administration wants to increase funding for the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review by almost $210 million. That money would be used to help support 100 teams of federal immigration judges and to expand the office’s electronic case management systems.

Security and Enforcement

Several of the department’s programs and functions handling federal law enforcement and national security issues are slated for a year-to-year funding increase under the budget request.

The FBI would see a $280.9 million bump, bringing its total fiscal budget to $9.75 billion. The bureau is asking for $37 million in cyber-related resources to help develop “advanced technical capabilities to thwart enemies” and bolster the so-called cyber action teams it deploys following computer hacks. Its personnel budget would also jump by $210 million.

The administration’s proposal would increase funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration by almost $120 million, with major upticks in allotments for international enforcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is requesting more than $230 million in extra cash, with $98 million dedicated toward reducing gun violence and $33.6 million for curbing violent crime.

The White House budget is once again proposing legislation to transfer to the Treasury Department jurisdiction over federal tobacco and alcohol anti-smuggling laws now overseen by the ATF.

Almost $17.5 million in additional funds would be handed to the Justice Department’s National Security Division under the budget request. Among other tasks, the division enforces foreign lobbying registration laws and helps conduct national security reviews of inbound foreign investment.

Antitrust Boost

The department’s Antitrust Division would receive a funding increase of about $22 million as it pushes ahead with probes into the nation’s largest technology companies.

The budget request seeks to boost the division’s resources for paying full-time staff by $6 million. It splits oversight responsibility with the Federal Trade Commission and reaps half of all pre-merger filing fees collected by both agencies — allowing it to offset a portion of operating costs.

A handful of DOJ divisions would divvy up more than $970 million in fiscal 2021 funding for their legal activities, including the groups that handle civil cases, civil rights matters, environmental issues, and the legal opinions offered to the president’s counsel and the attorney general. It’s an increase of more than $50 million from fiscal 2020 allowances.

The department’s Criminal Division would snag a guaranteed $193.7 million in funding under the White House budget.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacob Rund in Washington at jrund@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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