Legislative History

Funding the Byrne JAG Program

Under current law, Congress is authorized to spend up to $1.095 billion per year for the Byrne JAG grant program. In practice, however, annual funding has not reached that level in over a decade. In FY02 and FY03, Byrne and LLEBG funding together totaled $900 million. In FY05, the first year of the combined Byrne JAG program, funding dropped to $536 million (after subtracting unrelated carve-outs). In FY06, funding dipped further to $322 million and then rose again to $520 million in FY07. In FY08, although both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had recommended significantly increased funding in their committee-passed bills, funding in the final conference report was cut by two-thirds to $170 million.

In the aftermath of the cut in FY08, it became clear that Members of Congress and the wider stakeholder were not aware of the breadth or importance of Byrne JAG’s impact on state and local criminal justice systems. NCJA helped build a large coalition of stakeholder organizations that worked for two years to educate Members of Congress and the stakeholder community about Byrne JAG’s role in testing and replicating evidence-based and evidence-generating programs.

Congress restored funding in the regular FY09 appropriations bill to $512 million and provided one-time funding of $2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or Recovery Act). Funding remained level at $511 million in FY10 but then dropped again in FY11 and FY12 as Congress sought to reduce the federal deficit through cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. Byrne JAG was funded at $424 million in FY11 and $352 million in FY12.

In FY13, the justice assistance grant programs and all other projects and programs funded by the defense and non-defense discretionary portions of the budget were subject to automatic across the board cuts, called sequestration, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The final FY13 appropriations bill increased funding for the Byrne JAG formula program by 5 percent, from $352 million to $371 million, which was then reduced by the sequester to $352 million. Therefore, final FY13 funding for Byrne JAG was funded at the FY12 level.

Tracking Funding for Justice Assistance Grants Programs

NCJA's Justice Assistance Table* tracks funding for the state and local justice assistance, homeland security, and substance abuse treatment grant programs. The table is updated throughout the annual federal funding cycle, beginning with the release of the President’s budget request in late January or early February, action by the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees and full committees, floor debate and conference committee.

*The Justice Assistance Table is available only to NCJA members.

Reauthorizing the Byrne JAG Program

The federal budget process occurs in two stages: appropriations, which set overall spending limits by agency or program, and authorizations, which direct how federal funds should (or should not) be used. Appropriation and authorization provisions are typically made for single fiscal years. A reauthorization bill renews the authorizations of an expiring law.

This is the case with the Byrne JAG Program (wand most other justice assistance grant programs. Byrne JAG expired at the end of the 112th Congress. Most of the other grant programs have been expired for far longer. In nearly every case, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to fund expired programs in the annual appropriations bills.

The House passed a Byrne JAG reauthorization bill in the 112th Congress but it never advanced in the Senate. The bill, H.R. 6062, by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), would have extended the Byrne JAG program for five years, through FY17, at a maximum authorized level of $800 million annually. Although this would have been a drop from the current authorization of $1.095 billion, it is significantly above the most recent annual appropriated level of $347 million in FY16. House rules make it virtually impossible to reauthorize any grant programs. The so-called “pay-go” and “cut-go” rules require any spending above current appropriated and authorized levels to be offset by other, current spending. Finding an offset of even several million dollars can be difficult; finding an offset for tens or hundreds of million dollars is nearly impossible.

The stakeholder community stands ready to work on a Byrne JAG reauthorization bill whenever appropriate. NCJA coordinated a stakeholder letter of support in 2012 for reauthorizing the Byrne JAG program that was signed by 39 national criminal justice stakeholder groups. See our archive of House and Senate stakeholder letters.

NCJA has long supported several adjustments to the Byrne JAG program whenever it is reauthorized. One of those changes was included in the Justice for All Act reauthorization bill, which passed Congress in November 2016. The bill requires state administering agencies (SAAs) to conduct statewide strategic planning using a community engagement model involving the broadest range of stakeholders in the states. Another change to Byrne JAG supported by NCJA includes raising the threshold for the BJA direct awards from $10,000 to $50,000 or higher to ease the administrative burden on the federal agency and improve coordination with the state’s Byrne JAG formula grant awards.