Houston Police Chief Hurtt's Response to Federal
Budget Cut of HIDTA Funding
March 23, 2005 -- Without consulting
state and local law enforcement leaders, the Office of National
Drug Control Policy has recommended reducing funding for the High
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program by almost 60 percent
in FY2006, and moving it to the Department of Justices' Organized
Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. This is unilateral,
shortsighted and a dangerous policy recommendation. The Administration
has not decided how or where it will spend the newly pared down
funding or how OCDETF will administer the program. As the chief
executive of an agency responsible for designing and implementing
the most effective counter-drug strategy for the citizens of Houston,
and as president of the Major Cities' Chiefs organization, I will
fight this. That is the only option that I have.
The HIDTA program, which began in 1990, has been
and continues to be one of the most successful partnerships among
federal, state, and local government, as well as a successful
national drug enforcement program. The Houston HIDTA region, which
Congress officially designated in 1990, is still one of the Nation's
primary distribution and transshipment hubs for regional, national,
and international drug trafficking organizations. Though we've
made great progress, we're not done yet. However, the Houston
region is at risk of losing its $8.1M in HIDTA funding with the
Administration's cuts, and so much more.
The primary reason for the HIDTA program's success
is that each region's decision-making executive board provides
an equal partnership among federal, state, and local law enforcement
leaders, with a strategy tailored for a regional approach and
goals, yet tied to the national drug control mission. Moving what
is left of the HIDTA program to OCDETF with no guarantee of an
equal voice for all participants will destroy the partnership
and collaboration that makes the HIDTA program so successful.
Most disturbingly, by eviscerating the HIDTA program and moving
the remaining funds to OCDETF, we risk returning to the days when
cooperation among law enforcement was episodic rather than systematic,
delivered on a case-by-case basis, and found to be generally ineffective
at disrupting drug trafficking on our streets and in our neighborhoods.
If the Houston HIDTA loses its funding, we'll
lose our opportunity to provide input into and have partial ownership
of the federal drug law enforcement strategy for our own city.
Moreover, the Houston Police Department will lose approximately
$2.9M and 14 positions, the Houston County Sheriff's Office will
lose almost $1M and 15 positions, and Sam Houston State University
will lose 12 positions. I concur with the recent congressional
testimony of Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers'
Associations' Coalition, which reads, "HIDTA initiatives
provide avenues of cooperation, information sharing, deconfliction,
and local and regional intelligence analysis that state and local
agencies are not able to perform themselves, and that federal
agencies are inadequately focused and equipped to perform."
This is why the HIDTAs across the Nation are vital-and why we
cannot afford to lose our funding.
ONDCP director John Walters claims that the recommendation
for reduced HIDTA funding came after the U.S. Office of Management
and Budget's (OMB) evaluation, known as "PART-Program Assessment
Rating Tool" found that the HIDTA program "did not demonstrate
results." However, ONDCP only provided OMB budget summaries
and anecdotal information.
The following recent cases exemplify undeniably
demonstrable results, by any measure. In 2003, the Houston HIDTA's
Major Drug Squad 6 (MDS) dismantled a Houston-based organization
that had trafficked methamphetamine, Ecstacy, and marijuana. The
organization's leader was tied to a Chinese smuggling group responsible
for the smuggling and distribution in excess of 500 pounds of
crystal methamphetamine. The MDS arrested 31 defendants, and seized
over $2M in assets. The dismantling of this organization has significantly
influenced the availability of crystal methamphetamine in our
area. In addition, an investigation of associates of the Gulf
Cartel implemented by members of the Houston HIDTA's Houston Money
Laundering Initiative has resulted in 42 indictments, and the
seizure of 851 kilograms of cocaine, 1,377 pounds of marijuana,
eleven vehicles, and $6.5M in U.S. currency.
The HIDTA program is the nucleus of the synergy
among federal, state, and local drug law enforcement agencies.
Losing this influential and successful program will unnecessarily
weaken and compromise our sustained attack on the supply of drugs
to Houston and the rest of our great nation. It's time we all
stood up for our citizens, for our officers, and for ourselves-this
is an inappropriate cut, and the wrong move, and we will fight
Director Walters' proposals vehemently. After all, our children's
futures are at stake, and the criminals are watching.
For additional information, please
contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.