ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL LAURIE ROBINSON TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES
WASHINGTON - Chairman Mollohan, Ranking Member Wolf, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, I'm pleased to have this opportunity to be here to talk about the President's budget request for [the Office of Justice Programs] OJP.
As you know, I had the privilege of coming before this Subcommittee many times when I served as Assistant Attorney General in the nineties – and again, as a private citizen three years ago. I’m pleased to be back at OJP, and very honored, Mr. Chairman, to appear before you today.
OJP's mission, as you know, is to help reduce crime and improve the administration of justice at the state and local level through innovation, research, and programs. The President's FY 2011 request includes almost $3.1 billion to support OJP activities. The request reflects four themes that I view as central: Strengthening partnerships with our state, local, and tribal stakeholders; Restoring the role of research in criminal and juvenile justice policy and practice; Promoting evidence-based approaches to crime and violence; and Ensuring fairness, transparency, and effectiveness in grant administration.
One of the reasons I was willing to return to OJP was to help the Department reestablish strong relationships with its state, local, and tribal partners. I view outreach by OJP to the field as crucial, and very early in my tenure last year I held a series of "listening sessions" with our constituents to hear from them what we were doing well and what we should be doing differently.
The centerpiece of our commitment to states and communities on the funding front is, in my view, the Byrne JAG Program, a vital source of funding for state and local law enforcement operations. The President's budget request for FY 2011 includes $519 million for this critical program, the same amount appropriated in FY 2010.
A second of my goals in returning to OJP was to help restore the role of science in our work in criminal and juvenile justice. In an era of limited financial resources, we've got to employ smart-on-crime approaches. This means learning as much as we can about what factors contribute to crime and what programs WORK in reducing crime. In short, we need a robust research program.
To support that research, the President's budget calls for a three percent, $55.8 million set-aside of all OJP grant and reimbursement funds, in addition to funds requested for OJP's Research, Evaluation, and Demonstration Program and its Criminal Justice Statistics Program. All told, $189.1 million is requested for research, evaluation, and statistical activities in FY 2011.
Third, a corollary to OJP's role in providing basic social science research is helping our state and local partners put into place crime-fighting strategies that work – that are based on evidence of effectiveness. This, in my view, is key.
The President's budget request thus dedicates funding to an evidence integration initiative that would assess our understanding about what works in reducing and preventing crime. It would also help us determine how to use that information to fight crime more effectively. Two important elements of that effort would be an online "what works" clearinghouse – you may remember, Mr. Chairman, I suggested this back in 2007 – and a diagnostic center to help jurisdictions access OJP resources, technical assistance, and training and implement evidence-based approaches.
The President's budget also proposes a number of programs that would promote evidence-based practices. These include funds for smart policing and smart probation initiatives that link research to practice. $37 million would go toward a comprehensive initiative to address children exposed to violence. A substantial portion of these funds would provide funding for evidence-based demonstration and seed projects. Also, $12 million is proposed for a Gang and Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention Initiative to promote evidence-based anti-gang strategies.
Finally, as we work to support our state, local, and tribal partners, we have a crucial responsibility to be good stewards of federal funds. I take this responsibility very seriously.
Last year, OJP made almost 3,900 awards under the Recovery Act. I'm proud that the Justice Department was the Cabinet agency with the fastest rate of Recovery Act awards – we got out 99 percent of our funds were out the door in 7 months.
In spite of that significant increase in grant activity, OJP has improved its processes for ensuring open and fair competition. I take that very, very seriously. In addition, I have insisted that we post information about all our grant awards on the Web, and we are providing more guidance and training to grant recipients on implementation and reporting.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, with this budget, OJP looks forward to working with Congress and this Subcommittee to ensure that public funds are used effectively and transparently to promote smart-on-crime approaches. Tough choices needed to be made in the budget process in a tight year, and I know that there is not agreement on all the offsets proposed in the budget, but I am pleased to have the chance to be here to talk with you. And I’m now happy, of course, to answer your questions.
Assistant Attorney General Robinson’s full written testimony can be found here: http://www.ojp.gov/newsroom/newsroom.htm.