WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration on Thursday claimed major successes in reducing illegal drug use among teens, but lawmakers from both parties criticized its proposed budget that would cut several anti-drug programs.
White House drug czar John Walters told a House of Representatives panel that there had been a 17 percent reduction in drug use among teens in the past three years.
"Pursuing a strategy focusing on prevention and treatment as well as law enforcement and international programs, there are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001," Walters said.
In its 2006 budget submitted to Congress on Monday, the Bush administration proposed a restructuring of its anti-drug efforts with more money for overseas programs to curb supply.
At the same time, the budget would substantially cut funding for domestic programs aimed at reducing demand, putting more of the onus on state and local governments.
In total, the administration proposed spending $12.4 billion -- 2.2 percent above the $12.2 billion appropriated for fiscal 2005. The percentage allocated to domestic drug prevention would fall from 45 to 39 percent of this total.
Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican who chairs the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources, said he was troubled by some of the White House proposals.
"These cuts would certainly have a very dramatic impact on drug enforcement at the state and local level, at least in the short term," Souder said. "I am also concerned that the damage to federal, state and local law enforcement cooperation would be even more long lasting."
COCAINE AND HEROIN
Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings said the consequences of Bush's drug budget cuts would be felt in classrooms across the nation, especially in poor neighborhoods.
He also questioned the data showing falling drug use among teens, saying the same surveys showed an increase in cocaine and heroin use.
"The data allows the President to claim victory ... but there is a disturbing trend going on in cocaine and heroin," Cummings said.
Surveys of high school students have shown a big decline in use of marijuana, the drug most commonly taken by teens.
Among the suggested program cuts were a 60 percent reduction in a program called "methamphetamine hot spots" which funds law enforcement, prosecution and environmental clean-up. The use of methamphetamine is soaring in rural America.
It would also eliminate the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, leaving state and local governments to fund school-based drug prevention programs.
Walters said the programs being eliminated were ineffective. He said the administration was increasing funding in many areas, including a $15 percent boost in funds for drugs testing in schools.