DOJ Budget Calls for DEA Cuts Despite Identifying Drug Cartels As ‘Greatest Organized Crime Threat’ to U.S.

By Penny Starr | February 22, 2011 | 4:23 AM EST

A Tijuana police honor guard stands by as the hearse carrying state investigator Jose Miguel Guerra's remains leaves the Baja California attorney general's office after funeral services in Tijuana, Mexico, on Monday Jan. 10, 2011. Guerra was murdered by unknown gunmen outside his Tijuana home on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

( – In its budget request for Fiscal Year 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) cuts funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) by $38 million while asking for steep increases for other departments in the agency. In 2009, the Obama administration described Mexican drug cartels as the “greatest organized crime threat to the United States.”

Funding for the DEA would drop from $2,050,000,000 to $2,012,000,000 for FY 2012.

Increased funding for DOJ departments would include the Detention Trustee department – tasked, in part, with cost savings and efficiency of the federal detention system – getting a $156 million increase, if the budget is approved as is. The federal prison system would see a $606 million increase, and a $138 million increase is requested for the “general legal activities” of the DOJ.

Funding for DOJ’s National Security Division, with a stated mission “to carry out the Department’s highest priority: to combat terrorism and other threats to national security,” would remain at the FY 2011 level of $88 billion.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in March, 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that Mexican drug cartels are known to be operating in 230 U.S. cities and that the DOJ had described the cartels as the “greatest organized crime threat to the United States.”

“Mexican drug cartels maintain drug-distribution networks, or supply drugs to distributors, in at least 230 American cities, leading the Justice Department to call Mexican drug cartels the ‘greatest organized crime threat to the United States,” Napolitano said.

According the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 there are 276 cities in the United States with populations ranging from 100,000 to one million or more.

The DOJ “funding highlights” of the budget request states that a $28.2 billion increase – or two percent increase – from Fiscal Year 2010 “reflects strong funding for federal law enforcement efforts, including FBI operations, corrections officers, and prosecution.”

The budget requests a $3 billion increase in DOJ’s “litigation components” to “support litigation efforts to protect civil rights, consumers, intellectual property and the environment.”

The budget proposal would cut $588 million in local and state grants, including $194 million for communications in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.