WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's $4.4-trillion budget request to Congress includes $28 billion for the Department of Justice, the nation's chief law enforcement agency.
The proposed funding is largely in line with the department’s budget in recent years, but it reflects the Trump administration’s law enforcement priorities, including sizable increases in funding for national security programs, fighting violent crime, immigration law enforcement and combatting the opioid epidemic.
While Trump’s ambitious spending wish list stands little chance of passage, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pressing Congress to approve his department’s budget, arguing that the agency’s aggressive law enforcement activities last year led to “major successes that benefit the American people.”
“Congress should invest in these efforts, because all of us benefit from a safer America,” Sessions said in a statement.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, briefing reporters on the budget proposal, singled out a recent reduction in the violent crime rate following two years of sharp increases as one of the department's achievements under Trump.
“Reducing violent crime is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” he said.
With over 117,000 personnel, the Justice Department is the fourth largest federal government agency.
Among major investment areas proposed by the Justice Department:
— $295 million for combatting the drug epidemic, a key Trump administration priority. While the proposal includes the hiring of 50 new DEA field agents and other initiatives, the lion’s share of the proposed funding increase will result from the transfer of a $254 million grant program for law enforcement agencies operating in critical drug trafficking regions from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
— $109 million for various violent crime reduction programs, including a doubling of funding for a national initiative by the Department of Justice to reduce gun violence.
— $66 million for immigration enforcement and border security, including $40 million to add 75 new immigration judges and their support to expand their total number to 524. Last year, the department hired 75 immigration judges. $25 million will be invested in transitioning the immigration court system's transition from a paper-based system to an electronic submission and case management system.
— $13 million to reform the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty program, which allows governments to assist one another in criminal investigations.
— $10 million to expand the Bureau of Prisons' apprenticeship initiative to provide job skills development and career training programs.
The funding increase will be partly covered by the savings made from consolidating a number of department components, officials said.
Among them, the Community Relations Service, the justice department’s self-styled “peacemaker” for community conflicts, will be transferred to the Civil Rights Division, resulting in $15 million in savings.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ grant programs for local law enforcement agencies will be consolidated into the Office of Justice Programs. Since 1995, the COPS office has invested more than $15 billion in community policing. The move will “free up additional dollars for our grantees,” said Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus.