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In in ’10 but what about ’11?

Written by Gary Cooper

While not as tardy as last year, the Federal government was still late in finishing the business of funding its own operations for FY 2010. As a result, thousands of state and local justice and public safety agencies had to put their planning efforts on hold waiting to see if the all-important federal grant programs would survive the rigors of the tumultuous appropriations process. They did. The appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was signed into law by President Obama on Oct. 28 while he had to wait until Dec. 16 to sign the appropriations bill containing the Department of Justice (DOJ) grant programs. By rule, the appropriations process is supposed to conclude by Sept. 30, the end of the Federal fiscal year, but rarely does. The process in now complete, however, and the DHS and DOJ grant programs, in terms of funding levels, look very much like they did in fiscal years 2008 and 2009; excepting of course the insertion of the “one time” Stimulus Bill grant monies in FY 2009.

The following tables set out funding levels for selected DHS and DOJ grant programs and show funding trends during a three-year period. They also reveal to what degree the Congress responded to the Budget Request from the President. (Every year in February, the President through his budget request seeks funding from the Congress to support the operations of all federal programs. The Congress then responds via the appropriations process.) The programs listed in the tables represent a subset of the many grant programs administered by the DHS and the DOJ. They were selected because, in general, they are funded at significant levels and they are programs that can be used by justice and public safety agencies to procure either information, identification or communications technologies and related consulting. They are programs that can be used for multiple purposes including the procurement of technology to fight crime and terrorism and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

The data in Table 1 show that the DOJ appropriations levels for FY 2010 are almost identical to those of FY 2009 and have grown considerably since FY 2008. The growth is primarily due to increased funding to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG). The Byrne JAG program has a history that can be traced back approximately three decades and is DOJ’s largest grant program. Each state receives an allocation based upon an algorithm that factors in crime rates, anti-crime expenditures and population. In FY 2010 funding for the selected programs total approximately $1 billion, an increase of $13 million from FY 2009. Interestingly, the Congress appropriated more than a 68% increase over that which the President requested. The bulk of that increase is tied to the more than 900 Congressional earmarks found in the Byrne Discretionary and COPS Law Enforcement Technology and Interoperability Grant Programs.

In particular, Table 2 demonstrates the strength and stability of the two banner grant programs administered by DHS. The State Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative have been very steady during the last three years. In addition, the other large and very successful Firefighters Assistance Grant Program managed to grow and received an appropriation of $200 million more than the President requested. Overall, the appropriation levels for the DHS grant programs have fluctuated very little since FY 2008.

It is no surprise then, that Table 3 shows a growth in the DOJ and DHS programs combined of $400 million since FY 2008 and that is due primarily to the increased funding of the JAG program administered by the DOJ. Have these grant programs weathered the transition from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration without effect? That appears to be the case. The question now is will they survive the economic tsunamis that might be lurking in the future?

According to a recent 44-state survey by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, “Overall state tax revenues fell by 10.7% in the third quarter of 2009, compared to the same quarter a year earlier, based on preliminary data.”

USA Today reported that, “After $787 billion in stimulus spending and $700 billion in bank bailouts, 2010 is fast shaping up to be the year of the federal budget diet. Bipartisan support is growing in Congress for action to stabilize the nation’s bulging debt, which is now $12.1 trillion.”

On the other hand, the National Criminal Justice Association reports that, “Before adjourning for the holiday recess last month, the House passed a follow-on stimulus bill intended to further spur the creation of new jobs and support the economic recovery. Included in the bill is $1.18 billion for the hiring and retention of 5,500 law enforcement personnel under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. It would also direct $500 million to retain, rehire and hire firefighters across the country.” The National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) says that “Republican caucus members and a number of Democrats have expressed concern about enacting another costly economic stimulus bill, particularly after raising the federal debt ceiling and voting on a health care reform bill.” The summary of the bill published by the House Appropriations Committee, however, makes no mention that other DOJ or DHS grant programs would receive funding. The bill is called Jobs For Main Street Act of 2010.

While the impact of all of this on the FY 2011 appropriations is yet unknown, it can’t be good. The justice and public safety community is in for a street fight if it wants to keep these federal grant programs in place and funded at sufficient levels. Soon Congress will begin holding hearings regarding FY 2011 appropriations. To keep these programs, strong senior voices (practitioners) from state and local justice and public safety agencies need to be heard at these hearings. Maybe they should be heard even sooner.

Gary R. Cooper is a Partner at CJIS GROUP. CJIS GROUP is a market intelligence organization currently focused solely on state and local justice and public safety agencies procuring and employing information and identification technologies to improve the administration of justice and support the war on terror. He can be reached at gary@cjisgroup.com.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2010

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