May 8, 2013
Federal Funding Update - FY 2013
In late March, a Continuing Resolution (C.R.) to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY’13 was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law. This C.R. included the results of sequestration in all spending accounts, including Department of Justice funding. All told, sequestration trimmed between 6-7% of all of DOJ’s federal grant programs—including the John R. Justice Loan Repayment program, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, Byrne Competitive Program and other programs beneficial to state and local prosecutor offices.
What remained unclear at that time was what the Department of Justice would do with its ability to reprogram funding from flexible grant programs to fund “higher priority” programs within the Department. By law, but with Congressional approval, DOJ had the ability to take up to 5% from existing programs to fund other prioritized programs to prevent layoffs and furloughs and to make sequestration as seamless as possible. It was expected that DOJ, in order to fund such programs, were going to go after state and local criminal justice assistance grant programs. However, that was not the case. The Department will not reduce funding to the grant programs to offset the impact of the sequester on other bureaus of the Department.
This was a far from certain outcome, as was stated in Attorney General’s letter to Senator Mikulski in February in which he said the Department would have to “borrow” from the more “flexible accounts” to prevent the furlough of FBI agents and other DOJ operational personnel. More recently, the Internet publication Main Justice reported on an internal memo from the AG to DOJ employees announcing there would be no furloughs. By the wording of the memo, it looked as if the grant programs would not be tapped for offset, but we couldn’t be sure. This has now been confirmed.
While an additional 5% reduction from programs like John R. Justice (funded at $4 million) may not seem like a lot, this same reduction from programs like Byrne-JAG (funded at around $350 million in FY’13) would have a very large impact for prosecutors’ offices around the country. Give credit to the Department of Justice for doing the right thing for state and local law enforcement during these lean budgetary times.
FY 2014 Efforts Underway
With efforts on the FY’14 budget delayed well into April due to ongoing FY’13 funding negotiations, the FY’14 budget season came in with a roar literally hours after the FY’13 C.R. was passed out of Congress – to the point where House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees were holding budget oversight hearings with federal agency heads before the President’s FY’14 budget request had even been submitted to Congress.
With a new budget season comes new sign-on letters for members of Congress to submit to the Appropriations Subcommittees. Per usual, with great help from Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), NDAA worked closely with NAPC, ABA and criminal defense groups to encourage Senators to sign onto our yearly John R. Justice Loan Repayment Program request letter for FY’14. Despite losing several Senators from last year’s sign-on letter and with all of your phone calls and contact made to your Senators, the JRJ letter received endorsements from 28 Senators – one more than we received in FY’13 and the most we’ve ever received on a sign-on letter for this program. I want to give a special thanks to Dan Swanson from Senator Durbin’s office for his continued hard work on JRJ and to those members of NDAA and NAPC for taking the time in your busy schedules to make calls to your Senators. Without this support, John R. Justice would not receive federal funding… plain and simple.
The other sign-on letter NDAA worked hard on was the annual Byrne-JAG letter, which was championed in the Senate by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). NDAA, along with NCJA and other criminal justice advocacy partners who benefit from Byrne-JAG, worked hard to secure 47 Senators to sign onto the request letter for this important program for FY’14.
Now that all request letters have been submitted to the Appropriations Subcommittees, Congressional staffers now have the daunting task of writing these bills for FY’14. We should expect some of these spending bills to be offered likely in June. As always, please feel free to reach out to NDAA with any questions or concerns. Thank you for your continued support.
Director of Government Affairs
National District Attorneys Association