HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Delay In Naming Drug Policy Director Raises Concerns
Pubdate: Thu, 29 Mar 2001
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: Ken Guggenheim, Associated Press Writer


While the Bush administration proposes $730 million to stop drugs
abroad and promotes character education to help stop them at home, an
important player is missing from the fight: a drug policy director.

Lawmakers from both parties as well as former director Barry McCaffrey
are expressing concern that more than two months into the Bush
presidency, no one has been nominated to head the Office of National
Drug Control Policy.

Some Democrats say it is a sign that Bush is not making drugs a
priority. Republicans say the delay reflects the careful search for a
director. One GOP lawmaker said the administration has had a hard time
filling the slot.

The White House says it is pushing ahead with the drug fight under the
acting director, Edward Jurith, but McCaffrey said the office urgently
needs a Bush appointee with political clout.

The drug policy office coordinates the work of dozens of agencies and
oversees more than $19 billion in anti-drug programs.

Without the leadership of an influential director, the office has been
left without a voice as the agencies prepare the budgets, McCaffrey

"It's bad," he said. "There's nothing happening. They're out of the

In a separate matter, a study funded by the drug policy office and
released Thursday found drug prevention efforts are hampered by a lack
of information about their effectiveness.

The study by National Research Council said less than 1 percent of the
money spent on drug enforcement is allocated to research. It
recommended that work begin to find better ways of acquiring reliable
data on drug consumption and the costs of illegal drugs.

The council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, is an
independent organization that advises the government.

One of the most outspoken Republicans on drug issues, Rep. John Mica,
said Bush has had difficulties finding a suitable candidate to head
the drug policy office.

Mica, R-Fla., said he spoke with Bush last week and the president
"expressed dismay in not being able to have someone accept at this

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said no one has been offered the
job, though several candidates have been interviewed.

Among the names mentioned as possible candidates are former Rep. Bill
McCollum, R-Fla.; Florida drug policy coordinator James McDonough;
Boise, Idaho, Mayor Brent Coles; and Rick Romley, the county attorney
in Maricopa County, Ariz.

Some Republicans say the timing of the appointment is not particularly
late, noting that President Clinton took three months to name his
first director, Lee Brown. And some say the wait is necessary to
choose the right person.

"Although I would like to have someone in place, I like the fact that
they are taking their time and trying to find the right person," said
Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

McClellan said Bush has made drugs a priority, addressing the problem
by promoting character education in schools, seeking to strengthen
border controls in the Southwest and working with Mexico to stop

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the administration will
propose $730 million in counterdrug aid for the Andean region as a
follow-up to last year's $ 1.3 billion Colombian aid package.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he finds it puzzling that Bush chose
Mexico for his first foreign trip and had President Andres Pastrana of
Colombia as one of his first foreign visitors, "yet he hasn't even
talked about the idea of who the drug czar will be."

Colombia is the biggest producer of cocaine; Mexico is the main
transit country for drugs entering the United States.

Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the
administration appears to be keeping drugs low profile so it will not
be held accountable if its policies do not work.

"It seems to me that we're going into another era of benign neglect on
this subject," he said.

Biden, who helped create the drug policy position in the 1980s, said
he is also concerned about expectations that the director will not be
in the Cabinet, as McCaffrey had been.

He said that will leave director with little power to fight budget
battles. "You can't have a sub-Cabinet officer in effect overruling a
Cabinet officer."

The White House has not said if the director will be in the Cabinet,
but some Republicans are also concerned. Mica was among six Republican
congressmen who wrote Bush in January urging that the director remain
in the Cabinet.

"Downgrading the drug czar position would send a confusing message to
our nation's young people and a troubling message to our international
allies in our fight against drugs," they said.
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