Budget 2012: Justice Department
The Justice Department is mostly spared the knife under President Obama's proposed 2012 budget, with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies slated for spending increases that average about 2 percent.
But the budget blueprint proposes some cuts, including a $194 million decrease in federal payments to local and state governments to help defray the costs of detaining illegal immigrants with criminal records. The proposal could prove controversial among some state officials and Republicans, who have criticized the administration over border security issues.
Overall, the budget proposes $28.2 billion for the Justice Department, a 2 percent increase over 2010 levels. The FBI would get a 4 percent increase, with smaller spending hikes slated for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. attorney's offices nationwide. The budget would hike spending by about 10 percent to help relieve crowding in the nation's federal prisons.
The spending blueprint reflects the administration's law enforcement and political priorities, with continuing funding for a crackdown on financial fraud, civil rights enforcement and the criminal and civil investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Law enforcement efforts against hate crimes, which have recently been stepped up, would see further increases.
In an effort to balance spending hikes with budget realities, the blueprint proposes certain cuts, including directing resources away from duplicative law enforcement task forces, which have been criticized by the Justice Department's inspector general.
It also would reduce grants to state and local entities by $588 million, including the $194 million cut in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program payments to local governments over criminal illegal immigrants. Budget documents said the remaining $136 million in the 2012 budget would better target funding for the program by limiting payments to cover inmates who can be definitely verified as illegal immigrants. Much of the money now goes to cover prisoners whose immigration status is unknown, the documents said.
Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus said at a budget briefing Monday that the proposed cut resulted from "just plain tough choices that the department had to face in an austere environment.''