Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Calls for FBI to Absorb Drug and Alcohol Agencies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Calls for FBI to Absorb Drug and Alcohol Agencies

Article excerpt

TWO FEDERAL agencies charged with leading the government's fight against illegal drugs and guns would be merged into the FBI under a plan being circulated inside President Bill Clinton's administration.

The proposal to merge the Drug Enforcement Administration and the law enforcement responsibilities of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into the FBI seeks to end "fragmentation and jurisdictional overlap," a draft administration document says. It "will result in a more unified, comprehensive and coordinated attack on criminal enterprises through the consolidated jurisdiction and resources made available to the FBI."

The realignment is described in papers prepared for the National Performance Review, the "reinventing government" task force led by Vice President Al Gore.

But the proposal already has drawn fire inside the drug and alcohol agencies and points up the difficulties Gore will face as he attempts to streamline government.

Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen is opposed to the alcohol agency's merger, and Attorney General Janet Reno has reservations, a source said Wednesday, adding that if a merger did occur, it most likely would involve the drug agency and the FBI. Bentsen and Reno will outline their concerns in separate, private meetings with Gore, the source said.

The drug agency and the FBI have long been viewed as rivals, operating in distinct bureaucratic cultures. The draft paper acknowledges that previous attorneys general had considered merging the two and that "obviously, the DEA and FBI viewpoints on this solution differ."

The alcohol agency has faced proposals to dismantle it before and came under renewed criticism earlier this year for its handling of the confrontation with Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

"This went far beyond what was initially discussed in terms of streamlining," an alcohol agency official said. "All of a sudden, this took on a life of its own."

The proposal will probably undergo scrutiny on Capitol Hill if included in Gore's final package of recommendations. …

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