The Bush 2003 Drug Budget: More of the Same, More for Colombia, More for the DEA 2/8/02

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The Bush administration this week presented its proposed 2003 drug budget as part of its overall 2003 budget proposal. While some programs saw increases in funding and some saw decreases, anti-drug spending by the federal government will be essentially unchanged from this year, if the budget proposal passes intact. Overall federal drug control funding will total $19.2 billion in the 2003 budget, a 2% increase over the current year. That increase, which barely keeps up with the rate of inflation, is in line with budget growth in other federal government spending.

"This is the drug war on autopilot," said Kevin Zeese, executive director of Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org), a Washington-based drug reform group. "With new drug czar John Walters, I thought we might see some change -- not necessarily for the better -- but I guess not," he told DRCNet.

While the federal drug control profile remains essentially unchanged, there are some programmatic winners and some losers. President Bush's war in Colombia, funded as the Andean Regional Initiative, will see spending increase 17% to $731 million in 2003. And with the president's new-found commitment to volunteerism in the wake of September 11, funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service will see a 53% increase, to $14 million. Similarly, Bush's community policing initiative will see a 53% increase, to $653 million.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the federal drug war's lead agency, also will get more money, with the $1.7 billion budgeted for 2003 representing a 6% increase over this year. And the US Coast Guard, whose drug interdiction efforts have been hampered by other priorities since September 11, will see a 16% increase.

One of the most surprising budgetary losers is HIDTA, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which was set up to help law enforcement agencies zero in on areas designated by the drug czar's office as "centers" of major drug production or trafficking. But the HIDTA program has grown from five HIDTAs in 1990 to 28 HIDTAs today, including such hotbeds of major drug trafficking as South Dakota. The inclusion of places like South Dakota in HIDTAs is probably more related to the position of South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle as Senate majority leader than to extremely high levels of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program seems to have become a new form of pork barrel politics, with standard boilerplate justifications that the presence of a highway, a railroad, an airport, or a seaport represents "a possible drug trafficking route."

Even the drug czar's office hints at agreement. "Much of the increase in the HIDTA program is a result of congressional direction of funds to specific HIDTAs," it wrote in its introduction to the drug budget. "However, there are questions about whether some of these areas deserve to be designated as HIDTAs. No systematic evaluation of the HIDTA program has been conducted and no credible performance measures have been developed."

The 2003 drug budget will cut HIDTA spending by 9%, for a total next year of $206 million.

Other losers in the 2003 drug budget are bureaucratic coordinating mechanisms, such as the Intelligence Community Management Account, down 20%, and the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, down a whopping 68% from nearly a billion dollars this year to only $309 million next year.

Drug treatment will see a funding boost, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Targeted Capacity Expansion program getting an additional $110 million and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program, which provides funding for state prevention and treatment services, getting a $60 million dollar increase.

But, in the words of the budget introduction, "the majority of those who need treatment do not seek it voluntarily," so the Bush drug budget includes $77 million for grants to states for prison-based drug treatment programs and $52 million for the Drug Courts program, which it lauds as "forcing abstinence from drugs and altering behavior with escalating sanctions, mandatory drug testing, treatment, and strong aftercare programs."

"This is a significant increase, but it doesn't affect the overall posture of the budget," said Bill McColl, legislative analyst for Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org -- formerly The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation). "The amount of money going to law enforcement and source country interdiction remains at about 70% of the drug budget, while treatment and prevention remain at about 30%," he told DRCNet. "This is the same old policy we've seen for the last 30 years."

And the amount of treatment funding ending up as coerced treatment could be even higher than the budget indicates, McColl added. "These guys are really into coerced treatment, and some of the block grants to the states could well end up going to coerced treatment programs," he said.

CDSP's Zeese also criticized the treatment spending. "It is a real increase, but much of it is tied to coercion -- treatment by police choice -- and it is also very much faith-based. Both of these will hurt treatment by making it less professional and less effective," he said.

Finally, the 2003 federal drug budget anticipates significant increases in funds derived from asset forfeitures. The Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture Fund, for example, is looking forward to seizing $430 million dollars during the coming budget year, a 19% increase from this year.

"I've heard of a few towns in California trying to write projected seizure profits into their budgets," said McColl. "Here we have the federal government leading by example."

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Issue #223, 2/8/02 Editorial: Hate Mongering | DEA Backs Off a Bit on Hemp Foods, Extends "Grace Period" Before Ban for 40 Days | The Bush 2003 Drug Budget: More of the Same, More for Colombia, More for the DEA | DRCNet Interview: Noam Chomsky | Bush Administration Seeks to Widen Colombian Intervention as Human Rights Groups Denounce Abuses | Federal Judge Throws Out Glow Stick, Pacifier Ban in New Orleans Rave Case | Cincinnati Again Asks Federal Courts to Revive Drug Exclusion Zone | Backlash Emerges as Texas Drug Task Forces Run Amok | Seismic Shift in Sentencing Policies Underway: Declining Crime Rates, Budget Woes Cited | Media Scan: Alan Bock, Arianna Huffington, Foreign Policy in Focus, ABC News on Hemp Foods | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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