Casey goes to bat for NDIC

By Mike Faher, Tribune-Democrat

Johnstown’s National Drug Intelligence Center is a vital agency that “plays an important role in combating terrorism worldwide,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Wednesday.

The legislator’s remarks in Washington, D.C., came as the Senate debated an amendment that would eliminate funding for NDIC.

Casey urged his colleagues to rally against that measure. No vote was taken.
“(NDIC) provides federal, state and local law-enforcement and national-security agencies with crucial information about the structure, membership, finances, communications and activities of drug-trafficking organizations,” Casey said.

NDIC has become a frequent target in Washington in recent years, with some officials arguing it is a wasteful agency with redundant duties.

For three straight years, President Bush has proposed closing the center. But each year, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, has secured funding for NDIC.

In August, Murtha inserted $39 million for NDIC into a fiscal 2008 defense-appropriations bill that passed the House.

But that is the kind of “earmark” Sen. Tom Coburn has railed against.

The Oklahoma Republican’s amendment, which spurred Wednesday’s debate, advocates closing the center permanently and relocating “activities performed at NDIC deemed necessary or essential by the Secretary of Defense.”

Casey, though, contends NDIC “performs a unique role by providing independent information” about drug abuse and trafficking.

Casey also said NDIC’s work is important to national security “given the role that drug trafficking plays in financing international terrorism.”