Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Testifies Before U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations
Washington, DC United States ~ Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Testimony as prepared for delivery
Good morning, Chairman [John] Culberson, Ranking Member [Mike] Honda and distinguished members of the committee. It is an honor to appear before you today. I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget for the Department of Justice, which reflects our enduring commitment to creating the stronger nation and more empowered communities that every American deserves.
In the last year, thanks to the thousands of dedicated men and women who serve the Department of Justice – and thanks to the ongoing support of this distinguished committee – we’ve taken tremendous steps toward that goal. We’ve prosecuted violent extremists and dangerous criminals. We’ve defended the integrity of our markets and the beauty of our natural resources. We’ve worked to end human trafficking, to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs and weapons and to eradicate international corruption. And we’ve created new opportunities for second chances in our justice system and new foundations of trust in our cities and towns. These are real and meaningful achievements and the requests set forth in the President’s FY 2017 Budget Request will allow us to build upon our encouraging progress.
As always, the Justice Department’s first priority is the safety and security of the American people. The President’s budget would invest an additional $781 million in our national security capabilities – including in critical measures to address evolving challenges like homegrown extremism, online radicalization and increasingly sophisticated encryption. Among other items, that request contains funds for a new, state-of-the-art FBI headquarters, which would reduce inefficiencies, streamline internal communications and significantly boost our ability to thwart emerging criminal and terrorist threats. It devotes an increase of $63 million to reinforcing our intelligence-sharing capabilities, allowing us to more rapidly coordinate with both our federal partners and our counterparts overseas. And it directs $38 million toward developing the tools we need to lawfully access encrypted data and communications – so that we can successfully investigate and prosecute criminals and terrorists who attempt to hide the evidence of their crimes.
As we have seen recently, this is not a theoretical issue. As we’ve made clear, the Going Dark problem is a very real threat to law enforcement’s mission to protect public safety and ensure that criminals are caught and held accountable. It’s a long-standing principle in our justice system that if an independent judge finds reason to believe that a certain item contains evidence of a crime, then that judge can authorize the government to conduct a limited search for that evidence. And if the government needs the assistance of third parties to ensure that search is actually conducted, judges all over the country and on the Supreme Court have said that those parties must assist if it is reasonably within their power to do so. That’s all we’re asking and we owe it to the victims and the public whose safety we must protect to ensure we have done everything under the law to fully investigate terrorist attacks on American soil.
As technology continues to evolve, we are also focused on stepping up our work against those who attempt to use the Internet to attack America’s infrastructure, steal trade secrets and jeopardize the privacy and property of everyday citizens. Accordingly, the Fiscal Year 2017 budget would dedicate $121 million in additional resources to investigating cybercrimes and fortifying the Justice Department’s vital information networks. The majority of those resources – $85 million – will be used to enhance the FBI’s capacity to collect and analyze digital evidence and to increase the overall number of cyber investigations. Together, this important funding will allow us to keep pace with the fast-changing landscape of cybercrime.
Our commitment to protecting the American people is matched by our dedication to ensuring that they benefit from a criminal justice system that is fair, efficient and responsive. The FY 2017 budget requests an increase of $247 million for one of our most successful and groundbreaking undertakings in that area: the Smart on Crime initiative, which encourages alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenders, eases overcrowding in correctional facilities and frees precious resources for the prevention and deterrence of the most serious crimes. Of that total Smart on Crime request, $184 million will go to the Bureau of Prisons’ reentry, rehabilitation and mental health programming, which are all essential components of our work to help formerly-incarcerated individuals make the most of their second chance while ensuring that our communities are strong and safe.
Those are the kinds of communities we seek for every American – and they require bonds of trust and respect between law enforcement officers and the people we serve. Helping to repair those bonds where they have frayed is one of my top priorities as Attorney General and the President’s request reflects that focus with an increase of $25 million in a number of programs designed to foster collaboration between residents and law enforcement – including racial reconciliation and restorative justice initiatives, as well as improved data collection. It includes additional funds for the department’s Smart Policing Program, which encourages local jurisdictions to improve police-citizen interactions while developing cost-effective solutions to crime in their communities. And it enlarges our investment in the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program, which extends funding to state and local departments to hire or retain officers, so that they can continue to meet the full range of their constituents’ needs.
Those of us who work in law enforcement have a special responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us – and few crimes prey more savagely on the vulnerable than human trafficking, which destroys families, weakens communities and erodes our society’s basic foundations of decency and security. The FY 2017 budget sets aside $89.3 million for the department’s efforts to combat this scourge – including $45 million for efforts to help victims of trafficking rebuild their lives and reclaim their futures. We’re also resolved that each and every one of our young people should grow up in safety and security, which is why the budget includes a net increase of over $64 million for Office of Justice Program grants focused on juvenile justice and at-risk youth – including an increase of $25 million for the Delinquency Prevention Program, which seeks to prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system by providing assistance and guidance as early as possible.
I look forward to working with this committee – and with Congress – to secure the timely passage of the President’s budget, which asks for a total of $29 billion in discretionary funding for the department, including $27 billion for federal programs and $2 billion for state, local and tribal assistance programs. This level of funding will ensure that the outstanding men and women of the Department of Justice – whom I am proud to lead – can continue their tireless work to protect America’s citizens, defend America’s values and strengthen America’s communities in the months and years ahead.
Thank you once again for the chance to appear before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions.