Mikulski Questions Department of Justice Priorities at Gonzales Hearing - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski Questions Department of Justice Priorities at Gonzales Hearing


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today criticized vital cuts to the Department of Justice's budget in President Bush's FY 2007 budget proposal. At a subcommittee hearing today, Senator Mikulski asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales how he plans to carry out the department's initiatives in light of massive cuts, particularly to local law enforcement.

"The Justice Department plays a key role in the American dream because you keep America safe. I think there is a lot of agreement on priorities for the department," said Senator Mikulski. "Where we disagree is on the investment it takes to get us to where we want to be - a safer, stronger America."

Among Senator Mikulski's chief concerns is the impact of the President's budget on local law enforcement. The FY 2007 budget for the Department of Justice totals $20.8 billion. This includes a total of $100 million in proposed budget cuts and a massive $1.2 billion cut to state and local law enforcement programs.

"The President's budget shortchanges local law enforcement. We must protect our protectors and communities through robust funding of local law enforcement," said Senator Mikulski. "Local law enforcement is a partner in all of your initiatives, missions and operations. How would the $1.2 billion in proposed cuts to local law enforcement affect your operations?"

Attorney General Gonzales announced a new initiative - Project Safe Childhood - on February 15, 2006. This project combats internet-based sexual exploitation crimes against children (i.e. child pornography and enticement). Each U.S. Attorney office will lead partnerships between federal, state and local law enforcement, and will create a Project Safe Childhood task force focused on increased investigations and prosecutions of child pornography and training for law enforcement at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"The internet is being used by criminals to exploit children. We must be vigilant in protecting children in the virtual playground," said Senator Mikulski. "One of the crucial elements in catching sexual predators is cooperation with local law enforcement. What will cuts to local law enforcement in the President's budget proposal mean for these investigations?"

Senator Mikulski also commended Attorney General Gonzalez for his emphasis on gang prevention and intervention programs. The Senator recently announced she has secured $2 million in federal funds to support the creation of a statewide anti-gang initiative in Maryland.

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