Details on the DOJ Budget Blueprint: Hints of New IT Investment

Posted by Christine Fritsch on March 28, 2017

Finance

The request for $27.7B for the Department of Justice, illustrated in the President’s Budget Blueprint released on March 16, 2017, reflects a $1.1B decrease in funds for the agency. However, these numbers exclude DOJ changes in mandatory programs (CHIMPs), also known as “scorekeeping credits.” This refers to certain changes in mandatory spending in an appropriation bill whose savings can be used to offset increases in discretionary spending, a majority of these changes in DOJ is related to funding within the Crime Victims Fund, the Asset Forfeiture Fund and the Working Capital Fund. Taking CHIMPs into consideration with a decrease of $11.5B, the bottom-line discretionary budget for Justice Department comes to $16.2B.

While the Blueprint does not delve deeply into specific budgetary numbers, it does provide the picture of the administration’s expectations with DoJ. This includes “significant targeted increases” within the agency’s budget toward public safety, law enforcement and combatting illegal immigration.

Information technology mentions are few in the FY2018 Blueprint but there are a handful of IT priorities specifically under the FBI budget that pave the way for cybersecurity, big data and biometric solution investments:

  • $61M increase in funding to fight terrorism and combat foreign intelligence and cyber threats
  • $35M dedicated to gathering and sharing intelligence data with DoD partners, particularly in biometric identity resolution, and research and development efforts
  • $9M increase to provide more efficient firearms purchase background checks and develop and refine evidence and data to target violent crime

In total, the FBI’s budget sees a 3% increase with a total of $8.3B for FY2018.

In line with the administration’s goals for public justice and its recent executive orders pertaining to the Justice Department, additional funds are requested to increase support and protection of law enforcement:

  • $175M to target and combat criminal organizations and drug trafficking
  • $171M for additional short-term detention space for federal detainees
  • Unwavering funds for federal grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement and programs protecting all law enforcement

As well as additional personnel to combat illegal entry and presence in the U.S.:

  • 70 immigration judge teams to boost removal proceedings
  • 60 border enforcement prosecutors
  • 40 deputy U.S. Marshals for the deportation of criminal aliens
  • 20 attorneys for land and holdings to secure the U.S. southwest border
  • 20 attorneys and staff for immigration litigation

Keeping this in mind, the administration does not provide any additional funds to the Justice Department in the FY2017 Budget Supplement Request, part of which, increases spending to DHS for U.S. border protection and immigration enforcement.

With these increases in funding and personnel across the DOJ, where are the cuts that make up the almost 4% decrease in the department’s FY2018 budget?

The budget cites $700M is being eliminated from programs throughout the agency that “either have met their goal or have exceeded their usefulness.” This includes the termination of the $210M State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states the cost of certain illegal criminal alien incarcerations.

Moreover, $1B savings is anticipated from new federal prison construction spending; a budget program that was not funded in FY2017 either. The Attorney General’s recent announcement to reinstate the use of private prison contracts adds to the lack of need for new prisons. The good news for AEC contactors, however, is that $113M is still being provided within the budget for the repair and modernization of outdated prisons, matching FY2017 requests.

Again, the Budget Blueprint is just as its name suggests – an outline of priorities and numbers from the administration and its plans for agencies in the coming fiscal year. The actual budget with full figures and categorized line items is anticipated to be released in May. However, looking at the road ahead, it is already clear to see that the administration’s goals of “America First” are deeply rooted in national security, law enforcement and illegal immigration priorities in this “first look” document for the Department of Justice. 

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