State and local drug enforcement partnerships, heavily reliant on federal grants that have been shrinking for years, were teetering on the brink of extinction even before the recent round of automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Now the latest cuts are threatening to push them over the cliff, reports Stateline. A prime example is the Ocmulgee, Ga., drug task force, based in a small town of 17,000.
Supported by the Byrne justice assistance grant program, the regional task force budget makes up just one-ten-thousandth of the $448 million that was distributed to all 50 states. The task force is the only law enforcement entity that investigates drug trafficking in the three counties it serves, 90 miles southeast of Atlanta. Nationwide, the Byrne grants have been cut 40 percent since 2009. Faced with yet another year of budget reductions and the looming mandatory 5 percent federal cuts, there's not a lot of optimism that the Ocmulgee task force will survive much longer. “We're just holding our breath,” said Wesley Nunn, the commander. For law enforcement agencies all over the U.S., the federal budget cut put in place under the sequester could spell disaster. Because of partisan gridlock in Washington, these Byrne grants, which states may use to pay for law enforcement, courts, crime prevention, corrections and substance abuse treatment, could be cut by at least 5 percent this year and by an additional 5 percent in each of the next nine years. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warns those cuts may even be deeper to keep federal prisons open and FBI agents on the job.