ongress has approved the conference report for the fiscal year 2006 Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill (H.R. 2862). The bill now goes to President Bush for his expected signature. The conference report, which reconciles differences between the House and Senate versions, contains significant cuts to critical state and local law enforcement assistance programs.
Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which was established last year by combining the Byrne grant program and the Local Law Enforcement Block grant program, will receive $416.5 million. This represents a 34 percent decrease from last year's funding level of $634 million, and a 53 percent cut from fiscal year 2004. The Senate had voted to increase funding significantly for this critical program to $900 million, which the program received in fiscal year 2003. However, the House bill provided just $370 million. President Bush had proposed eliminating the JAG program. In addition, the bill further lowers the amount available to law enforcement under this program by earmarking $85 million (almost 20 percent of the total funding) for Boys and Girls Clubs.
In addition, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was significantly cut. The bill will provide $478.3 million, down from $606 million in fiscal year2005, a 21 percent decrease. This represents a cut of 55 percent from four years ago. The bill provides no funding for the COPS hiring program.
In fiscal year 2005, these two primary law enforcement assistance programs received $1.24 billion. In fiscal year 2006, they will receive $894.8 million, a 27.8 percent decrease.
The 2006 appropriations bill continues a steady decline in funding levels for these programs in recent years. The funding levels for these programs have declined more than $1.584 billion since fiscal year 2002.
More specifically, the bill would provide $50 million for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program, down from $55 million in fiscal year 2005. It would also provide $405 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which assists state and local governments with the costs of jailing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes not related to their immigration status. This program received $305 million in fiscal 2005.
Funding for grants under the Violence Against Women programs remains fairly constant at $386 million. In addition, the bill would provide $10 million for victims services programs for victims of human trafficking; $10 million for drug courts; $18 million for prison rape prevention and prosecution programs; $10 million to improve state and local law enforcement intelligence capabilities, including antiterrorism training; and $22 million in assistance to Indian tribes.
The COPS funding includes $30 million for the bulletproof vest matching grant program; $63.5 million for initiatives to combat methamphetamine production and trafficking; $129 million for law enforcement technologies and interoperable communications; $10 million to upgrade criminal records; $5 million for offender re-entry programs; $126.5 million for DNA analysis and upgrades; $40 million to reduce gang violence; and $15 million for Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Department of Homeland Security
The cuts to state and local law enforcement assistance programs in the C-J-S appropriations bill follow cuts in the fiscal year 2006 Department of Homeland Security bill (H.R. 2360), which President Bush signed into law on October 18. It includes $1.715 billion for the three primary assistance programs from which law enforcement agencies are eligible to obtain funds: the State Homeland Security Grant (SHSG) program, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention program (LETPP), and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). This is down almost more than 28 percent from fiscal year 2005, and 44 percent from fiscal year 2004.
Specifically, the bill provides for a 50 percent cut in funding for the SHSG program, which is distributed to the states on a formula basis, 80 percent of which must be passed on to local governments. These funds are not designated solely for law enforcement use but can be used to fund a wide range of other public safety agencies such as fire and EMS departments that have responsibilities related to preparing for or responding to a terrorist attack. It provides just $550 million for the program, down from $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2005 and $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2006 .
The bill also contains a 13 percent cut in funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative, from $885 million in fiscal year 2005 to $765 million in fiscal year 2006. This program allocates funds to urban areas selected by the Department of Homeland Security based on a formula that takes into account factors such as critical infrastructure, population density, and credible threat information. Most law enforcement agencies are not eligible to receive funds under the UASI grant program and will have to compete for funding assistance.
Combined DOJ/DHS Funding
When combined, the fiscal year 2006 funding level for Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security assistance programs is $2.610 billion. This is a reduction of $1.015 billion or 28 percent from the combined fiscal year 2005 level of $3.625 billion. It represents a decrease in $2.1 billion or 45 percent from fiscal year 2004. ■