Anti-Drug Spending Would Decline Under Bush Budget, Analysts Say

Join Together reports that the President’s new budget calls for increases in spending on law enforcement and interdiction at the expense of treatment and prevention.

For the first time in about 20 years, spending on federal anti-drug programs would actually decline on a year-over-year basis if the Bush administration’s 2008 drug budget is adopted, according to an analysis by Carnevale Associates.

The administration’s proposed $12.961 billion drug-control budget not only represents a $166.7-million decline from 2007 spending levels, it also cuts prevention spending while continuing to increase funding for overseas and interdiction programs — a puzzling strategy when major drugs of abuse — prescription drugs and marijuana — are mostly domestically produced,” noted the Carnevale Associates policy brief.

“Perhaps most puzzling, however, the FY 2008 budget trend goes against well-established principles of effective drug-control policy, including the need for a comprehensive balanced approach between interdiction, law enforcement, overseas programs, and prevention and treatment programming,” the report says. “Specifically, the FY 2008 budget request continues the Bush administration’s long-term trend of shifting resources away from demand reduction … toward supply reduction.”

Since 2002, supply reduction has gone from 55 percent of the federal drug budget to a proposed 64 percent in 2008, according to Carnevale’s analysis. Over this time span, funding for drug interdiction programs rose 72 percent, domestic law-enforcement funding rose 27 percent, and overall supply-reduction efforts received 42 percent more federal funding.

Meanwhile, the administration’s FY2008 request — if approved by Congress — highlights the far less generous trends in funding for demand-reduction activities. While treatment funding rose a modest 9 percent from 2002 to the proposed 2008 funding levels, prevention will have declined by 3 percent from FY2002 to FY2008. “The decline in demand reduction is driven entirely by a reduction for substance-abuse prevention,” which would receive 21 percent less federal funding in 2008 than it did in 2002 under the administration’s proposal, according to the Carnevale report. Cuts to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program and the budget of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention account for most of the funding decline.

According to Carnevale, the FY2008 budget flies in the face of a series of campaign promises made by President Bush in 2001, including big spending increases for addiction treatment for teenagers (entirely unfunded to date), drug courts (down to $7 million in 2007 from $50 million in 2002), drug-free schools (cut drastically in recent years), and drug-free workplaces (unfunded).

“Had ONDCP followed through on these promises for treatment, education, drug-free communities, and drug courts, the share of the budget devoted to demand reduction would have been approximately 42 percent in FY 2008, rather than the 36 percent currently budgeted,” Carnevale noted.