(CNSNews.com) - Following sharp declines in violent crime in the U.S. between the mid-1990s and 2004, the trend has begun to reverse and a former official with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) places the blame on the Bush administration's budget cutting efforts.
"The current administration's overall anti-drug budget has been slashed by over one-third from $19.2 billion in 2001 to $12.7 billion for 2007," stated Robert Weiner, former spokesman and director of public affairs at the ONDCP during the Clinton administration. Weiner's op-ed on the subject was published Thursday on a website called commercialappeal.com, based in Memphis, Tenn.
"This reduced budget ... is a genuine threat to our national security," Weiner wrote.
But a current spokesman for the government agency, which is commonly known as the drug czar's office, insisted that there have been no budget cuts. "There's no spin here involved in this. That's what it is," ONDCP Deputy Press Secretary Rafael E. Lemaitre told Cybercast News Service.
FBI statistics released on June 12 show that the incidence of violent crime increased by 2.5 percent last year, following dramatic decreases in the previous decade. Justice Department statistics show that the incidence of violent crime dropped in every year between 1994 and 2004 except one - 2003. Violent crime incidents in the U.S. totaled 4,190,000 in 1993, but only 1,648,100 in 2004, a 154 percent decline.
Despite the increase in violent crime in 2005, Lemaitre said Weiner's premise is false. "It's completely bizarre and flat out wrong," he said.
Not only are the cuts false but the anti-drug budget has actually increased, according to Lemaitre. "The anti-drug budget has gone up every year. The drop that's stated there --between $19 billion and $12 billion -- that was because we stopped counting programs that did not have a full anti-drug nexus within our budget."
The Bush administration has also "asked for increased funding in the national youth anti-drug campaign," Lemaitre said. "The [Weiner op/ed] states that we've slashed it ... [however] Congress has continuously decreased the amount of funding for it. We're very enthusiastic about it and we want to increase funding for it but Congress hasn't given us the money."
Weiner told Cybercast News Service that he anticipated the ONDCP's reaction to his op/ed. "I knew they would say that because the figures that we've quoted are proposed ... through testimony and so they're going to say how Congress has restored this and that funding. No thanks to them."
The Bush ONDCP "tried to cut the programs and slash them and disintegrate them and so they cannot take credit for final figures when they tried to keep them low," Weiner argued.
He concluded that while the ONDCP may claim to have asked for more funding, this is not really the case and is "disingenuous and unfair to the nation's fight against drugs."
According to the ONDCP website, the anti-drug media campaign focused on America's youth will receive an increase of $21 million in Fiscal Year 2007, for a total of $120 million.
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