Reduce Funding for Certain Department of Justice Grants

The Department of Justice (DOJ) carries out law enforcement activities directly, but it also has five grant programs that assist nonprofit community organizations and state and local law enforcement agencies, each of which is funded in a separate account in the federal budget. The programs are as follows: State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance, Justice Assistance, Juvenile Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and Violence Against Women.

Funding for those programs totaled about $2.5 billion annually over the 2006-2008 period; nearly $7 billion in 2009, including $4.0 billion provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5); and $3.3 billion in 2010. In its baseline projection, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that spending will be $4.2 billion in 2011 if full-year funding is equal to the appropriation for the first several months annualized. This option would reduce financial assistance from the five grant programs by 25 percent relative to CBO's baseline projection for the next 5 years, reducing spending by almost $3 billion between 2012 and 2016 and by about $7 billion over 10 years.

Grant recipients currently use these funds for an array of activities, including the purchase of body armor and other equipment for law enforcement officers and the improvement of DNA analysis and other forensic activities conducted by state and local police agencies. Other supported activities include substance abuse treatment programs for prisoners; funding for Boys and Girls Clubs; research, development, and evaluation of state justice programs; and the collection and analysis of statistics and information on the judiciary. For some grants, recipients must contribute funds toward the total cost of the program. Under this option, those activities would be scaled back or funded in other ways.

An argument in favor of the option is that the five grant programs address law enforcement issues that are primarily local, and therefore funding at the local level would lead to a more efficient allocation of resources. Another argument is that resources provided by these programs in the past may have been used inefficiently and that future financial assistance could be scaled back substantially with few consequences for the nation's law enforcement capabilities. For example, the Government Accountability Office has reported that grants awarded through the COPS program made only a modest contribution to declines in crime in the 1990s.

An argument against the option is that given the financial constraints facing state and local governments, it would be difficult for them to compensate for the loss of federal funds. The problems the grant programs address have national elements, and state and local governments might neglect such problems because of the scarcity of resources. Therefore, some people argue, such federal assistance helps make many communities safer.