October 18, 2005
The Honorable John Walters
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Washington, DC 20006
Dear Director Walters:
As two of the principle co-sponsors of the Drug Free Communities Act (the Act) we are writing
to express our grave concern over how the Fiscal Year 2005 Drug Free Communities (DFC)
grantee selection process was conducted by your office. Not only were at least 63 community
anti-drug coalitions de-funded without any prior notice, but an additional 88 coalitions were
placed on probation for reasons neither specified by nor intended by the Act. Weare asking the
Government Accountability Office to conduct a thorough review of the process of awarding
grants for Fiscal Year 2005. We anticipate your full cooperation as this process moves forward.
Our findings thus far indicate the actions taken by your office were not fair, impartial or in
accordance with the Act. We are shocked and dismayed that the Office of National Drug Control
Policy (ONDCP) would de-fund more than 60 coalitions and place 88 more on probation based
on arbitrary reasons and without a transparent, fair process. While we have no complaint about
ONDCP de-funding inadequate or unworthy programs, we have a real concern that a great
number of hard working coalitions with impressive track records of results and solid peer review
scores were de-funded in the process this year.
When ONDCP decided to shift the management of the DFC program from the Department of
Justice to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) last year,
there were repeated assurances to Capitol Hill and to DFC grantees that this would be a seamless
transition. Instead, the transfer was wrought with confusion and many of the grantees were left
with no conflicting guidance from ONDCP. The fact that more than 60 coalitions were defunded
without ever being notified that their grants were in jeopardy is extremely troublesome.
Many of these coalitions had received recent site visits and were given positive evaluations just
months, weeks, and in some cases, days prior to learning that they would no longer be funded. If
these coalitions were not in compliance with the grant requirements, they should have been told
this in their reviews and given time to come into compliance.
It is unclear how the grant review panel evaluated the applications. It seems that the process
relied more on qualitative and subjective data than it did on the peer review scores that have
guided the decision making process in past years. Further, it seems that the review panel placed
extraordinary emphasis on ONDCP's new mandate that no coalition spend more than 20 percent
of its budget on direct services and, in fact, placed 88 coalitions on probation for violating this
policy. Nowhere in the Act does it specify that coalitions are only permitted to use 20 percent of
their DFC funds on direct services. We feel that this is an arbitrary rule that ONDCP decided to
impose this year with the ultimate objective of reducing the number of grantees eligible for
Because we are the principle Senate co-sponsors of the DFC program and members of the
Committee which has oversight over your office, we are concerned about the grant making
process and feel that it is our obligation to understand exactly how the decisions were made.
Accordingly, please provide us with the following information:
1. All peer review scores for the entire competition including: (1) those that applied for new
grants, and were either awarded or denied funding; (2) those that applied for continuation
grants (who were within their first five years of funding) and were either funded or defunded;
and (3) those continuation grantees placed on high-risk status.
2. All criteria used in addition to or in lieu of the peer review scores, to determine whether
or not to fund new grantees.
3. All criteria used in addition to or in lieu of the peer review scores to determine whether or
not to fund continuation grants.
4. All criteria used in addition to or in lieu of the peer review scores, to put continuation
grantees on high-risk status.
5. Copies of all the specific data sheets and analysis for all continuation applicants that were
funded or de-funded, indicating the specific reasons for the decision to fund or not to fund
6. Copies of all prior notices sent to de-funded coalitions, indicating they were out of
compliance with one or more the requirements of the program preceding their funding
7. A copy of any written notice to existing grantees of the newly imposed requirement that a
maximum of20 percent of the grant funds could be used for direct services.
8. The definition of "direct services" that was provided to the applicants.
9. Any written correspondence with Congress notifying them of the new 20 percent cap on
direct services and that the application of this new requirement would be used to deny
funding to new applicants, and to place continuations on high risk status with only 30
days to come into compliance.
10. The exact review criteria used by all reviewers, including peer reviewers and the panel
that reviewed the continuations.
11. The names, titles, employment status and specific qualifications in community-based
prevention or anti-drug coalitions of the panel that reviewed the continuations after they
had already been peer reviewed.
12. The basis on which the decision was made to hold the continuation grantees to different
criteria for funding than the new applicants.
13. The exact process used to determine which new applicants and continuations were over
the 20 percent limit set for direct services.
14. The exact criteria used in the screening and grant review process to determine which
continuations and new applicants were over the 20 percent limit.
15. The names and qualifications of the review team that determined which coalitions were
within the 20 percent limit on direct services and which were not.
We look forward to receiving your responses to these important questions by October 28,2005.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Charles E. Grassley
Joseph R. Biden Jr.