White House Budget-Cutting Lesson: Try Cutting 8.2 Percent from Zero

Photograph by Matt Nager/Bloomberg

Law enforcement capture marijuana being smuggled into the United States from Mexico in Tucson, Arizona, in this file photo.

This is the art, in Washington, of cutting an agency that doesn’t exist:

In all the warnings of the consequences of looming budget cuts, the White House budget office  has noted one program targeted for cuts — an office that already is history.

The Office of Management and Budget, in a September 2012 report to Congress required by law, laid out “an estimate of the funding reductions that would be required across non-exempt accounts.” Included was an estimated 8.2 percent reduction to the $20 million budget of the National Drug Intelligence Center, a Justice Department agency based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The NDIC was created to provide strategic drug-related intelligence and training assistance “in order to reduce the adverse effects of drug trafficking, drug abuse, and other drug-related criminal activity,” according to an archived Justice Department Web-site — archived because Justice shuttered the drug intelligence center in June 2012.

The magazine “Reason” first reported the closed agency’s inclusion in the report.

And there’s a reason, of course:

As required by law, an administration official says, the Sequestration Transparency Act report assumes that discretionary appropriations are funded at the level that would be provided under a continuing resolution (CR) at the same rate of operations as in fiscal year 2012. The president’s 2013 fiscal year budget did not request funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center, however, since the STA report assumes the government is operating under a CR, the STA report included the Center in its calculations.

Consider that $20 million already saved.


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