President Donald Trump budget proposed moving two programs out of the White House Monday, which former drug czar officials said will be detrimental to those highly-successful anti-drug efforts.
The president’s budget proposal suggests moving the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and the Drug Free Communities programs out of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and into agencies within the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, respectively.
“To further enhance the department’s efforts to concentrate law enforcement resources on drug traffickers in the most critical regions, the budget proposes to transfer the [HIDTA] program from [ONDCP] to the [Drug Enforcement Administration],” Trump’s budget proposal said.
“Consolidating anti-drug law enforcement efforts in the DEA would better focus resources on the most dangerous, complex, and interjurisdictional drug trafficking organizations in the United States,” it continued.
But former ONDCP officials told The Daily Caller News Foundation that moving the programs would be extremely damaging. The shuffle also confirms a 95 percent cut to ONDCP’s budget that Politico first reported in January.
“I’d worry about the programs being changed or administered differently … to the detriment of the effectiveness of those programs,” John Carnevale, a former senior ONDCP official, told TheDCNF earlier in February.
Another former senior ONDCP official, Kevin Sabet, added: “I think it’d be damaging if ONDCP lost those programs. It allows them to synchronize programs and policy.”
HIDTA, for example, is governed by a board comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement. Moving the program into the Drug Enforcement Administration would give the federal agency more power and would harm the localized effort, according to the officials.
“The current make-up of ONDCP is so critically important,” National HIDTA Directors’ Association congressional affairs liaison David Kelley previously told TheDCNF. “To separate out these programs at this juncture is not in keeping with the priorities and objectives of implementing a national drug control strategy.”
HIDTA disrupted or dismantled nearly 2,700 drug trafficking organizations in 2016, 63 of which were part of international or multi-state groups, according to the program’s annual summary. Middle schoolers living Drug Free Communities-funded areas reported a 24 percent decrease in alcohol use, a 29 percent decrease in tobacco use and a 15 percent decrease in marijuana use, according to the President Barack Obama-era White House website.
Congress and advocacy groups alike pushed against the 95 percent budget cut to ONDCP after Politico’s reporting. The White House similarly proposed the same cut last year, but said the office’s programs were duplicative and suggested eliminating them entirely.
“We saw what [OMB] wanted to do last year and it was silly,” Carnevale previously told TheDCNF. “It blew up in their face. The public pressure was so much they had to give in.”
Carnevale stressed ONDCP’s importance given the opioid epidemic, which killed about 64,000 people in 2016.
Trump’s budget also requests more than $30 billion in drug control funding for 2019, approximately $7 billion of which will combat the opioid crisis.
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