Pubdate: Sun, 16 Feb 2003
Source: Journal Gazette, The (IN)
Copyright: 2003 The Journal Gazette
Author: Sylvia A. Smith, Washington editor
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)
Note: Rep. Mark Souder is an aggressive drug warrior responsible for the
Higher Education Act anti-drug provisions and encouragement of the current
series of attacks on medical cannabis in California.  Read more at ,
(Higher Education Act) , and .


White House Study Questions Programs' Value

WASHINGTON - It's questionable whether taxpayers are getting good value from
a series of anti-drug efforts, according to a new White House analysis of
several hundred federal programs, including drug courts and TV commercials
aimed at teens.

One, the safe and drug-free school program, was judged a failure. Although
the Bush administration said the assessments were not linked to its budget
proposals for 2004, it has proposed cutting the schools program by $50

It's not a bad idea to examine the effectiveness of programs Uncle Sam pays
for, said Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd. But he thinks this approach is too
simplistic when it comes to fighting illegal drugs.

Souder heads the subcommittee that oversees anti-drug programs. The ones
included in the administration's analysis spend nearly $4 billion a year.

But Bush administration budget chief Mitch Daniels said looking at the
results produced by government programs - rather than by how much money they
spent - is long overdue.

Besides, he said, President Bush proposed spending more money on anti-drug
programs next year - keeping pace with a 4 percent inflation rate - than he
did for this year, although not as much as Congress allocated.

Daniels said Bush wants to put more money in some areas, such as new program
to give vouchers to treatment-seeking drug addicts so they could enroll in
religious-sponsored programs. The voucher system would get $200 million
under Bush's budget.

"Only in Washington would it seem radical to identify what works and what
doesn't," Daniels said.

For the first time, the White House assessed the management and performance
of federal programs. This year, 20 percent of the government - 234 programs
and agencies - were critiqued. Each year, the same percentage will be
evaluated until the whole federal government has come under scrutiny.

Daniels said the questions were the same for every agency and program, an
attempt to be fair and weed out any ideological bias.

The "grade" each agency gets ranges from effective (6 percent of all
programs) to ineffective (5 percent). Fifty percent were judged "results not
demonstrated," one step above ineffective.

The grim evaluations were cause for celebration among some who oppose the
government's anti-drug strategy.

"It is not surprising that the (Drug Enforcement Administration) is facing
criticism from the Bush administration, the most stalwart supporters of the
war on drugs. Instead of working toward any meaningful goals, for the past
few years the DEA has been focused on arresting medical marijuana patients
who were not violating state laws and seeking to ban the lawful consumption
and sale of hemp food through interpretative rules," said Shawn Heller,
director of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.

Of the anti-drug programs examined this year, the budget agency said:

*  Drug Enforcement Administration: Results not demonstrated.

The Office of Management and Budget said the $1.5 billion agency "is unable
to demonstrate its progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in
the U.S. . . . DEA managers are not held accountable for achieving results."

Fort Wayne has a small DEA office.

"I'm a big supporter of DEA, but they can use cost pressures, too," Souder

*  Drug courts: Results not demonstrated.

OMB said the program's finances are well-managed, and independent analyses
say they provide "an effective intervention to substance abusers who might
not otherwise receive treatment." Nevertheless, the budget agency said the
drug courts program needs to do a better job of tracking participants after
they leave the program.

The local drug court, launched in 1997 by Superior Court Judge Kenneth
Scheibenberger, received federal financing for its first three years.

*  Safe and drug-free schools: Ineffective.

The program provides nearly $5.6 million to Hoosier schools, including
$308,000 to the four public school systems in Allen County, to reduce youth
crime and drug abuse. OMB said the program is spread too thin to be

This year Fort Wayne Community Schools is using its $244,000 for a program
to prevent bullying, encourage responsible thinking classes for elementary
students and parents, and promote staff development.

Souder said he opposes Bush's $50 million cut. But he said he agreed that
some schools are using their grants for programs that are not related to
reducing drug use and that Congress should tighten the rules.

*  Substance abuse treatment programs of regional and national significance:

The program, which Bush wants to boost by $200 million to include vouchers
for drug treatment at religious-based programs, awards grants for drug

*  Drug interdiction by the Coast Guard: Results not demonstrated.

OMB said the program is well managed but has weak strategic planning.

*  Weed and Seed: Results not demonstrated.

The program is designed to reduce violent and drug-related crime in
high-crime areas and provides grants to local communities that target drug
markets and offer after-school activities for at-risk children, for

OMB said even though the program is 11 years old, only a few Weed and Seed
sites have been independently evaluated. It said part of the problem is that
the Justice Department "has been adverse to setting goals implying that any
level of crime is 'successful.' "

*  High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area: Results not demonstrated.

The program provides money to establish multiagency drug task forces in
areas that have a lot of drug use and sales and drug-related crime.

The program "seems to have lost its focus," OMB's evaluators said. The first
five areas designated met the criteria set by Congress, OMB said, but 23
additional areas have been added since 1995 and "are now located in 41 of
the 50 states."

"The magnitude of this expansion shows a disregard for the clear intent of
the statute to focus on the nation's very worst areas," the evaluation says.

Indiana's only High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, in Lake County, was
created in 1997 and has received $18 million in federal grants.

*  Residential substance abuse treatment: Results not demonstrated.

The grants are used to try to reduce drug abuse among prisoners as a way of
reducing reducing repeat offenders. OMB said half the grant recipients
didn't report their results.

*  Anti-drug TV commercials aimed at youth: Results not demonstrated.

"There is no evidence of direct effect on youth behavior," OMB said of the
program that remains contentious in Congress.

The White House said if it doesn't see results, it will kill the program in

Souder noted that the TV commercial campaign is one of only two major
drug-prevention programs the federal government pays for. He said the OMB
report doesn't take into account how much drug use among teens would
increase without the ads they see on television several times a week.

"We've seen three straight years, in most places, of a drop in drug abuse.
If that's a measure, all these programs are working," Souder said.

Souder said if the same sort of evaluation were done in a private business,
all OMB's questions would be asked, but the final question would be: What
are the things that can't be controlled that affect the outcome?

"Let's say I sell mattresses at a furniture store. I didn't reach my quota.
But three of our four competitors had sales that were lower prices than
ours, and we had two blizzards that month. Everyone can come up with
excuses, but you look at that and ask whether the explanations were helpful
in further defining the goal," he said.

Souder said there are extenuating circumstances that a cut-and-dried
evaluation can't consider.

For instance, he said, if 3,500 Fort Wayne-area people are released from
prison in the next few years and crime goes up, "does that mean that all of
a sudden the drug court program, the Weed and Seed, the treatment programs
and drug-free schools aren't working as well? Or does it mean we released
them out of prison?"

Nevertheless, Souder said, many of the questions OMB raised are worth

But, he said, "the whole point of the evaluation is basically, in program
after program, to say no increase. OMB's got to be the hit guys. It's their
job to control the budget."

It's an assessment others share.

Ellen Taylor, an analyst for OMB Watch, a liberal-leaning think tank,
likened the assessment program to "the grade-school sticker method used to
reward good work or punish bad work. Its very simplicity, however, makes it
a potentially powerful method to justify budget cuts or increases."

Not so, Daniels said.

"The principal purpose is diagnostic," he said. "To find out what's wrong
and what's missing."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk