VIDEO: Watch Reed’s questioning at today’s CJS Appropriations hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – As Congressional Republicans continue targeting the budgets of federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), today questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram about the real-world impacts of these proposed budget cuts.

Reed particularly focused on efforts to stop the flow of fentanyl, an illicit drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine, can kill unsuspecting users quickly, and is responsible for a surge of accidental overdose deaths in the United States.  Senator Reed assailed the House-passed Republican bill that would likely mean 22 percent cuts to the FBI, DEA, and Customs and Border Protection.

Director Wray stated: “So, a cut of that magnitude would be disastrous not just for the really hardworking public servants, career law enforcement professionals of the FBI, but more importantly, in many ways, on the American people that they are sworn to protect. It is not uncommon for me to get briefed on single seizures, from probably every state represented on this subcommittee, single seizures of enough fentanyl to wipe out an entire state. One operation, one seizure, by one squad, in one field office. So, a cut of that magnitude would mean countless seizures that would not happen and countless more fentanyl pills affecting neighborhoods all over this country.”

Reed also noted that the Republican cuts would inhibit the FBI’s ability to grow its cybersecurity force.

Director Wray responded by noting: “We need more resources for cyber, which is why our enhancement asked for that, not less. And a cut would mean scores more attacks on American critical infrastructure, American hospitals, American schools, American 9-1-1 call centers, from nation states and cybercriminals alike. So, again, it would be the American people who would be hurt the most.”

Senator Reed thanked the FBI Director for such candid responses and concurred that the proposed House Republican cuts would seriously endanger and erode significant progress by federal law enforcement.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram shared a similar view about the negative impacts of the budget cuts, stating: “Yes, Senator, cuts like that would be devastating for our work. We are already about 600 agents down. And so, we are running 8 classes this year. That kind of a cut would mean we could not on-board any of the more than 400 agents we are scheduled to bring on board. It also would set us back dramatically in the work that we are doing across the world, to map the cartels, and to be able to put the right tools and technology into the men and women of the DEA’s hands. We have a technology in the data system that's over 20 years old, and it is well past time that we are updating it. So, we are building an entire mission operating system that will allow us to break silos, share information across DEA and also really manage the agency more effectively. So, for many reasons, it would be devastating for our work.”

During the hearing, DEA Administrator Milgram noted that the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are hiding fentanyl in fake pills that look like oxycodone, Xanax, and Percocet.  The cartels are also mixing fentanyl powder in with cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.  As a result, people poisoned by fentanyl often had no idea they were even taking it.  The head of the DEA also noted that cartels and their members and associates are using social media applications—including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat—and encrypted platforms—including WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal—to market and sell fentanyl pills and powders that are advertised as something else but actually contain fentanyl.

“The disgraceful Republican budget cuts to law enforcement and public safety would be a boon for criminals, cartels, and fentanyl traffickers and make the American people less safe,” Senator Reed stated after the hearing.  “Congress should work together to enact bipartisan proposals to stop the flow of fentanyl and bolster law enforcement, not cut their funding.”