Budget documents describe the drug war spending as “a 21st Century approach to drug policy that outlines innovative policies and programs and recognizes that substance use disorders are not just a criminal justice issue, but also a major public health concern” and calls for “an evidence-based plan for real drug policy reform, spanning the spectrum of prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery support, criminal justice reform, effective law enforcement, and international cooperation.”
But the Obama rhetoric does not match up with the spending proposals.
Instead, the decades old, roughly 60:40 split in favor of law enforcement over prevention and treatment continues. While the Department of Health and Human Services would get more than $10-B for treatment and prevention programs (more than $6-B of it for Medicaid and Medicare), drug law enforcement spending in the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, as well as the drug czar’s office would total more than $14.5-B.
Justice Department drug war spending would increase from $7.79-B this fiscal year to $8.14-B next year under the president’s proposal. That includes nearly $3.7-B for the Bureau of Prisons (up $187-M), $2.46-B for the DEA (up $90-M), $519-B for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (up $12-M), and $293-M for the Office of Justice Programs (up $50-M).
That last line item, the Office of Justice Programs is where the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which typically fund multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, are found. It would see a rather substantial 20% funding increase despite congressional efforts in recent years to cut it back.
That means more drug task forces, more drug busts, and more back-end costs associated with them (see the Bureau of Prisons line item).
While Mr. Obama’s overall federal drug budget is up to $27.57-B (from $26.34-B last year), there are decreases in some line items.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP — the drug czar’s office) would be cut from $375-M this year to $307-M next year, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program would be cut from $245-M to $193-M, and Defense Department drug war spending would be cut from $1.307-B to $1.267-B.
There are no huge increases in the Obama drug war budget, but neither are there significant decreases. This is very much an Obama drug war budget on cruise control. And this is, of course, only Mr. Obama’s proposed budget. What the Congress will do with it remains to be seen.
If everyone agrees the drug war is a failure, someone forgot to tell Mr. Obama and his White House senior aids..