The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance (JAG) Grant Program (42 U.S.C. 3751 (a)) is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. The Byrne JAG Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and was created in 2005 by merging the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program (Byrne) with the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program (LLEBG). Byrne JAG funding can be used to support a broad range of state and local government projects, including those designed to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.
To ensure that each state and territory receives an appropriate share of JAG funds, allocation to state and local governments is based on a formula using population and crime statistics in combination with a minimum allocation. Funds are split 60/40 between state and local recipients within states. Learn more about BJS calculations for state and local Byrne JAG allocations.
Byrne JAG’s strength is in its flexibility. The original 1968 Act established 26 purposes for which the Byrne Formula funding could be used. Those were later expanded to 29 categories, then collapsed into the current seven purpose areas:
Prosecution and Courts
Crime Prevention and Education
Corrections and Community Corrections
Drug Treatment and Enforcement
Planning, Evaluation, and Technology Improvement
Crime Victim and Witness Programs (Other Than Compensation)
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) administers the JAG program, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) calculates the JAG formula-based award amounts using specifications outlined in the legislation.
Sixty percent of the total Byrne JAG funds are allocated to the SAAs, who in turn pass a designated percentage through to local governments and, through them, to other organizations, including nonprofit service providers. The SAAs are highly encouraged to develop statewide strategic plans to guide those funding decisions. The remaining 40 percent goes directly from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance to local criminal justice agencies including law enforcement.
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.
View the 2014 BJS report on the Byrne JAG Program.