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Special Message to the Congress on Special Revenue Sharing for Law Enforcement.

March 02, 1971

To the Congress of the United States:

Many of our State and local governments today are in serious financial difficulty. This has not diminished the growing demands on their financial resources, however: their needs continue, their populations increase and their social problems multiply. All these circumstances point to the need for outside assistance, and the Federal Government has tried to provide such assistance. But in doing so, it has frequently added to, rather than reduced, State burdens.

In the past decade, the Federal Government has turned increasingly to a complex system of grants for providing financial assistance to State and local governments. Today Federal aid programs account for one-fifth of State and local revenues. In theory this income should reduce the pressure on State and local budgets and it should free financial resources at those levels for use at those levels. In practice the reverse is commonly the case.

To qualify for Federal grants, States and local government units are frequently required to match Federal funding, often seriously restricting flexibility in the use of State and local resources. Recipients are placed in the position of having to accept Federal money with its concomitant restrictions on State funds, or receive no Federal money at all. Thus, we may find States and local governing units pursuing projects which may be of low priority to them simply because money for these projects is available, but the matching requirements for such grants may have to be met at the expense of programs of higher priority to the community.

In other cases, State and local agencies are required to maintain their financial commitment to a project in order to qualify for Federal grants to that project. The result, again, is diminished flexibility in the use of financial resources at the State and local levels.

Equally burdensome are project-by-project requirements for prior Federal approval of grants. These requirements often delay the availability of much needed funds, generate Federal, as well as State and local, bureaucratic delay, and inject needless confusion into the Federal, State and local relationship. Rigidity in adhering to exact requirements is rewarded, and new or imaginative ideas are frequently lost because they fail to fit exact bureaucratic guidelines.

Finally, Federal grants have proliferated to such a degree that simply discovering their availability is a bureaucratic chore all in itself. The processes of application frequently contribute to the difficulty, and delay the process, of obtaining grants to a degree which further aggravates the problem the money is designed to assuage. And, because the Federal Government, with all the best intentions, cannot really know the needs of the States and local governing units as well as the people who govern at those levels, these grants frequently cannot be aimed with real precision at the needs which exist at those levels.

Certain of these difficulties are most prevalent in the narrowly defined "categorical grants," and therefore I have long supported the concept of block grants which permit State and local governing units to receive financial assistance on the basis of what they know is necessary. This eliminates many of the problems of the categorical grants. The block grant does, however, retain other shortcomings: requirements for matching funds, maintenance of effort, and prior approval by the Federal Government. I believe the time has come to further reform our system of providing financial assistance, and to streamline, where we can, the system of grant aid by adopting a system of Special Revenue Sharing which provides the benefits of Federal assistance without the burdens of assistance built into the present grant programs.

The purposes of 130 of our narrowly based categorical grant programs now in existence can be reduced to six broad areas of national concern. In a series of special messages, of which this is the first, I will propose that funds be made available to States and localities to assist them in meeting their problems in the areas of law enforcement, manpower training, urban development, transportation, rural development and education, by converting these grants to Special Revenue Sharing. Funds for assistance in these areas, as I proposed in my State of the Union message, will include more than $10 billion of the money allocated for the narrow purpose grants plus $i billion of new funds. Special Revenue Sharing would require no matching funds, no maintenance of effort, no prior project approval and, within the six broad areas, recipients would have the authority to spend these funds on programs which are of the highest priority to them.

I am proposing today legislation for the first of these six Special Revenue Sharing programs. This legislation is directed to matters of primary concern in our national life: the control of crime and the improvement of this nation's system of criminal justice. Much has been accomplished in combatting these problems, but much remains to be accomplished.

Part of the marked progress of the past two years can be attributed to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). The LEAA was created by the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to aid State and local law enforcement agencies in funding programs for police, courts, corrections, control of organized crime, civil disorders, and other related crime problems. This is a national problem--but the basic responsibilities for solving this problem rest at the State and local level and the LEAA provides for Federal assistance to these levels of government.

This program is based on the assumption that those who bear responsibility at the State and local level are best qualified to identify their enforcement problems, and to set the priorities and develop the means to solve these problems. It is designed particularly to encourage and provide for experimentation and innovation in the search for more effective solutions to the crime problem. With LEAA assistance each State has developed, in partnership with local governments, a comprehensive statewide approach to improving law enforcement and reducing crime. Each State is receiving funds under this program, and is moving to execute its plans.

The program is effective. In the District of Columbia, LEAA assistance has played a role in achieving encouraging reductions in various categories of crime. With LEAA assistance, Oakland, California, has launched a unique effort against street crime using citizen-police cooperation. A feature of this effort has been more than thirty bilingual "citizen forums" in high-crime areas.

LEAA has launched the first major Federal research and development program in criminal justice. It has initiated the first nationwide computerized information system--Project SEARCH, which will help provide instant interstate information on offenders. It has funded the first national survey of crime victims, and the first national jail survey. In the six New England States a joint program is under way to collect and analyze intelligence information and plan a coordinated effort against organized crime in that area. This was funded by LEAA. LEAA assistance to the States for corrections has increased from $3 million in fiscal 1969 to over $68 million in fiscal 1970. This final year the total exceeds $100 million. In another area LEAA has initiated the first major Federal program to enable law enforcement and criminal justice personnel to continue their educations. More than nine hundred colleges are involved in this program.

I think it is clear that LEAA has assumed a vital and effective role in this area of Federal, State and local concern. But, I believe it can and must be made more effective. Therefore, I am proposing amendments to the Law Enforcement Assistance legislation which I believe would strengthen and increase its effectiveness in the war on crime by increasing both the resources of State and local enforcement and judicial agencies, as well as their freedom to use the resources at their disposal.


I propose that the requirement for matching funds be eliminated from LEAA grants being converted to Special Revenue Sharing.


I propose that requirements for maintenance of effort be eliminated as a condition for receiving Special Revenue Sharing payments.


I am recommending that State planning agencies continue to prepare comprehensive statewide law enforcement plans. These will continue to be submitted to LEAA for review and evaluation, to assist LEAA in its role of counseling State and local government agencies. I am proposing, however, that requirements for prior approval of these plans by LEAA be eliminated. Prior approval would not be required to receive Special Revenue Sharing funds.


Special Revenue Sharing would replace the present LEAA action grants and their payment would be automatic. Special Revenue Sharing for law enforcement for the first full year would be $500 million. Fifteen percent of this would be in grants which can be awarded at the discretion of LEAA, and the remainder in grants awarded automatically on the basis of population.


I urge that the protection from discrimination now provided minorities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 be expressly extended to Special Revenue Sharing.


The changes provided in the LEAA legislation are not extensive. But I believe they will have a profound effect. They are designed to improve a good program which already has many of the elements we seek to obtain in other programs. Special Revenue Sharing will permit the needed improvements. And by further freeing State and local governments, both from the restrictions of onerous Federal control, and from the administrative and fiscal restrictions which accompany or result from much of our Federal assistance, we can release the creative capacities of each level of government in these areas of national concern.


The White House

March 2, 1971

Note: On the same day, the White House released three fact sheets on the message and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.

On April 6, 1971, the White House released the transcript of a news briefing by Edwin L. Harper, Special Assistant to the President, on the hold harmless base line figures for States and localities under special revenue sharing, and a fact sheet on the figures for law enforcement special revenue sharing.

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress on Special Revenue Sharing for Law Enforcement. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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