President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposes $27.1 billion in discretionary spending for the Justice Department, a slight decrease of 0.4 percent from the previous year.
More than $700 million is proposed to combat financial, mortgage and other fraud, an increase of $55 million over the previous budget. The proposed funding would go toward more FBI agents, criminal prosecutors, civil litigators, in-house investigators and forensic accountants to investigate and prosecute financial fraud.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the budget would “strengthen critical efforts to combat financial and mortgage fraud.”
The budget also includes a $31.8 million increase for programs to target human trafficking, hate crimes, police misconduct, voting rights enforcement and cybersecurity threats. A $141.2 million increase is requested for prison and detention efforts. Federal officials said Monday that they expect to open four new prisons in Alabama, New Hampshire, Mississippi and West Virginia, adding nearly 2,500 new prison beds. A total of $8.6 billion — or 32 percent of the Justice budge — will go toward prisons and detention.
An increase of $71.7 million is proposed for a total of $294.5 million for the expansion and increased staffing of Medicare fraud strike forces. The Justice budget allots $4 billion for national security, including investigations of drug trafficking organizations with ties to terrorist groups and the expansion of anti-terrorism training to state and local law enforcement agencies.
The budget proposes more than $1 billion in cuts from “efficiencies, offsets, redirections of grant program funding and recisions.” Task forces with similar missions would be considered for consolidation or elimination, and gang and drug intelligence and operations would be streamlined, reduced or eliminated.
For example, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pa., will be shut down, eliminating 87 of the 144 positions. The remaining 57 positions will go to other Drug Enforcement Administration locations. The budget proposes to merge the detention functions performed now by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee into the U.S. Marshals Service.
The ATF, which has been battered this year with allegations of “gunwalking” to Mexico in a botched firearms operation out of its Phoenix division, would have its funding cut by $12 million. ATF officials and agents have long complained about a lack of resources.
Justice Department officials cite “an alarming rise in intellectual property crimes” as the reason behind $40 million devoted to identifying and defeating intellectual property criminals, an increase of $5 million over the 2012 budget. Federal officials have already shut down 350 Web sites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works, such as the recent shutdown of the popular Megaupload Web site.
The increase in funding for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes comes one week after the historic $25 billion settlement between federal and state officials and five of the nation’s largest banks to provide relief to distressed homeowners in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. It also comes weeks after Obama announced the creation of a task force aimed at investigating the shoddy mortgage-lending practices that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008.
The total budget, including mandatory outlays, for the Justice Department is estimated at $36.5 billion. Last year, the total was $34.5 billion.