Funding Outlook for Fiscal Year 2008
August 7, 2007 — We are pleased to report that committees in both chambers of the U.S. Congress have recommended increased funding for three critical programs in the coming fiscal year: the Sexual Assault Services Program, or “SASP,” the DNA Backlog Reduction Program, and the Rape Prevention and Education Program. RAINN, joined by several allied organizations, played a key role in efforts to build congressional support for funding these programs.
In June, an appropriations subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives recommended that the federal government provide a $10 million appropriation for SASP in fiscal year 2008. This panel (led by U.S. Reps. Mollohan, D-WV, Kennedy, D-RI, and Frelinghuysen, R-NJ) also proposed providing $151 million “for reducing and eliminating the backlog of DNA samples and for increasing State and local DNA laboratory capacity.” In July 2007, the full U.S. House of Representatives approved this same level of funding for SASP and DNA analysis.
A U.S. Senate appropriations panel followed suit in late June, also approving $10 million for SASP as well as $169 million in funding “to strengthen and improve the current Federal and State DNA collection and analysis systems that can be used to accelerate the prosecution of the guilty while simultaneously protecting the innocent from wrongful prosecution.” U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who lead the U.S. Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over SASP and DNA, deserve much of the credit for the approval of this funding by the full U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.
The House and Senate legislation containing the proposed funding for SASP and DNA Backlog Reduction is known as the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations, or “CJS,” Act for fiscal year 2008 (H.R. 3093/S. 1745). Fiscal year 2008 commences on October 1, 2007 and runs through September 30, 2008. The next step, before the President can sign the CJS bill into law, is for the full U.S. House and
U.S Senate to resolve the differences between their competing versions of the CJS funding bill.
As of this writing, the funding outlook for the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) Program, which is under the oversight of different congressional committees than SASP and DNA, appears similarly promising. RPE is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(while SASP and DNA Backlog Reduction activities are under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice). Earlier this year, Senate appropriators recommended a slight increase for the RPE program in the coming fiscal year, while House appropriators recommended the same level of RPE funding as the program received last year.
While the funding for such programs is not yet a reality, we have reason to applaud these recent developments, both because there is so little extra money available to fund all the discretionary programs that Congress has enacted to date, and because these three programs must compete with many other domestic programs for annual funding. (In the case of SASP, the inclusion of $10 million in a congressional appropriations bill is exciting,too, because it is such a new program and the President recommended no funding for it in his budget proposal to Congress.) RAINN will continue its efforts to make sure that Congress retains at least this level of funding for the SASP, DNA, and RPE programs.
SASP is a federal program that provides funding for a wide
range of direct services to victims of sexual violence. It is authorized at $50 million annually, but has yet to be funded at that level.
The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program makes federal grants
available to states and local authorities to eliminate the backlog of untested rape evidence kits from crime scenes. It also provides funding so that crime laboratories can promptly analyze the backlog of untested DNA samples from convicted criminals, and it provides grants for training law enforcement, judges, and medical personnel on the use of DNA analysis in sexual assault cases.
Through this program, states and territories receive formula
grants to be used for rape prevention and education programs conducted by rape crisis centers and state sexual assault coalitions.