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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
sources. However, we view these enhancements of data and research as neither impossible to accomplish nor prohibitive in cost. It is worth keeping in mind how little is currently spent on drug data and research relative to the country’s expenditure implementing its drug policy. The federal government, according to the ONDCP, currently invests approximately $780 million each year to monitor illegal drug use and conduct research on drug policy, but less than 15 percent of this amount goes for research on enforcement. Funding for research on enforcement policy is minimal, particularly when compared with the amount spent on carrying out enforcement policy. In 1999, only $1 was spent on enforcement research for every $107 spent on enforcement itself. Moreover, in any given year, the greater part of enforcement research funds go to support criminal justice system operations (i.e., crop eradication research, crime analysis for investigations, analysis of case-loads in the federal courts) technology development, and drug testing, rather than data collection and social science research (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2000).
The committee has concluded that effective research on enforcement policy requires not only the necessary funding but also creation of the appropriate research infrastructure. Other government examples are relevant here. The Department of Labor is called on to make sophisticated projections regarding the economy and employment. In order to do so, it created the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS is a statistical agency separate from the operational programs of the department, a circumstance that enables it to concentrate on its charge and command the services of the relevant academic researchers. In the drug treatment research arena, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) serves a similar purpose. In the committee’s view, creating an infrastructure to support enforcement research is essential to the design of sound data collection systems and to the development of an integrated research program. Yet we understand the difficulty of creating a new agency to perform even this very important work.
Therefore, in order to facilitate collection of better drug enforcement data and the implementation of a strong research program, the committee recommends that the National Institute of Justice, the National Science Foundation, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics should be assigned joint responsibility and given the necessary funding to build the scientific infrastructure for research on illegal drug markets and the effects of drug control interventions.
The suggested organization takes advantage of the specific expertise of the National Institute of Justice in law enforcement research, the statistical expertise of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and of the specific expertise of the National Science Foundation in economic research. In our judgment, Congress should provide new funds for this effort. While