Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Oversight of Department of Justice Grant Programs.”
Chairman Goodlatte: This hearing is the fourth hearing in the Judiciary Committee’s series of hearings to review Department of Justice components, programs, and activities and identify matters at DOJ that are in need of reform and reauthorization. It is my hope that this hearing also underscores the importance of having distinct and detailed authority in place for each DOJ grant program funded by Congress.
Congress appropriates roughly 2 billion dollars annually to the Department of Justice for its grant programs. In addition, in recent years, DOJ has administered an additional 2 to 3 billion dollars annually in grant funding through the Crime Victims Fund. The valuable Crime Victims Fund’s resources are available to provide victim compensation, assistance and other services that improve communities’ responsiveness to the needs of victims.
Many of DOJ’s grant programs support critical efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute crime. For example, funding Congress provides for economic, high technology, and white collar crime prevention grants has helped the National White Collar Crime Center in Richmond, Virginia, deliver training in computer forensics, cyber and financial crime investigations, and intelligence analysis to law enforcement agencies in all 50 states. Such efforts provide critical national leadership and strengthen the nation’s law enforcement networks as a whole.
Another success story is the funding Congress has provided for regional information sharing activities, like that of the RISS program. RISS offers secure information sharing and communications capabilities, analytical and investigative support services, and event deconfliction services to enhance officer safety. It supports efforts to defeat organized and violent crime, drug activity, violent extremism, human trafficking and other national scourges, across jurisdictions and regions.
While there are many federal programs with laudable goals, the truth is that the federal government simply cannot sustain it current path of deficit spending. As such, Congress must make tough decisions among priorities at all agencies. Just seven years ago Congress appropriated 50% more funding for DOJ grants than it did in the FY 2017 Omnibus appropriations bill enacted in early May of this year.
In order to make the necessary priorities, we must have a full picture of all the grant spending. Complicating the picture for DOJ grants is a lack of specific authorization for much of the grant funding. Of the approximately 90 distinct appropriations for grant programs in fiscal year 2017, roughly 70% are not currently authorized by the Judiciary Committee. Of those, approximately 42% have never been authorized by the Judiciary Committee. It is imperative that Congress be apprised of the fundamental parameters of these programs. We need to learn who is eligible, what the grant awards look like, what percentage of appropriated funding is actually distributed to grantees and what DOJ permits the funds to be spent on. Last but not least, we need to understand the purpose of these unauthorized programs, determine whether they are achieving the established goals, and assess whether the Department’s goals align with the Judiciary Committee’s priorities. Once the Committee evaluates those programs I intend to oversee the advancement of Congressional authority for the most worthy programs.
This hearing may also review the use of the Crime Victims Fund. The Crime Victims Fund was established in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act – also known as VOCA – to provide funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. The Crime Victims Fund does not receive appropriated funding. Rather, deposits to the Crime Victims Fund come from a number of sources including criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments.
For FY 2018, $610 million – more than 30% – of the nearly $2 billion allotted under DOJ’s budget submission for discretionary grants is proposed to be supported by a transfer of mandatory budget authority from the Crime Victims Fund. I look forward to hearing DOJ’s justification for this request, which is the continuation of an effort that began under the past administration.
In the course of the Judiciary Committee’s comprehensive review of DOJ programs and components, it will be appropriate to consider whether the Crime Victims Fund’s annual allocation formula should be updated. In the meantime, I will expect DOJ to consult with this Committee, rather than merely with the Appropriations Committees, on when and if it is ever appropriate to subvert the Crime Victims Fund allocation formula in order to make up for discretionary appropriations shortfalls.
I think you for joining us today, Mr. Hanson. I look forward to your testimony.
For more on today’s hearing, click here.