December 2, 2005
The Honorable John Walters
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Washington, DC 20006
Dear Director Walters:
Thank you for your reply and materials in response to our recent letter regarding the Drug Free
Communities (DFC) application process. Unfortunately your response and that of the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) did not alleviate our grave
concerns that the DFC application process was flawed and handled inappropriately. Therefore,
we are now writing to request that you implement an appeals process for the 63 coalitions that
were unfairly "terminated."
An analysis of the materials provided to us reveals that all applicants were not screened in a
consistent manner and held to identical standards. Your response, dated October 28, 2005, stated
that due to time constraints only those applicants that "appeared" to be out of compliance were
subjected to further scrutiny. This is patently unfair to the 63 de-funded coalitions as their
applications were clearly held to a different standard than the other applicants who ultimately
received continuation funding. An examination of the peer review scores shows definitively that
the small review group acted in an arbitrary manner. The materials you provided indicate that an
applicant had to receive a score of at least 40 in order to be considered for continuation funds.
However, of the 63 de-funded continuations, 52 received a peer review score of 40 or better and
37 received a score of 70 or better. In addition, of those that received continuation funding, there
were 7 coalitions that had peer review scores below the cut off score of 40.
You also state that the determination to fund or not fund a continuation application was made
irrespective of whether or not they were in compliance with the newly imposed 20% rule
regarding direct services. However, upon reviewing the scores of all of the continuation
applicants provided to us by SAMHSA, this does not appear to be the case. It became abundantly
clear that the 20% rule did in fact playa role in determining which continuation applications
would be funded; particularly as you stated that one of the criteria that might indicate an
increased probability of non-compliance (and therefore should be re-screened) included "those
whose budgets show a high level of expenditures on direct services." In fact, 51 of the 63 that
were de-funded were not in compliance with the 20% rule, yet 37 received a score of70 or
higher, and several applications received a score of90 or better and still were de-funded. Upon
further examination, it also became apparent that all 449 of the continuation applications that
received funding for FY 2005 were in compliance with the 20% rule, even though many had
lower peer review scores than those that were de-funded and in some cases were below the cut
off score of 40.
Finally, based upon our interpretation of the DFC Act, it is clear that the 63 de-funded coalitions
were denied due process. It appears that your Office performed de facto grant suspensions by not
continuing the 63 de-funded grants. Under the DFC Act, those continuation grantees were in fact
suspended, and should have been notified in writing and had the opportunity to appeal. Your
Office's decision not to call this action a suspension, but a termination, is simply an attempt to
circumvent the law which clearly delineates that a notification and appeals process must be in
place. Due process was further denied to the de-funded grantees as they were subjected to a
higher level of scrutiny and held to different standards than those who ultimately received
Based on the materials that both you and SAMSHA provided to us, it is now clear that the FY
2005 DFC grant application process was not handled in fair or transparent manner. In many
instances, de-funded coalitions received higher peer review scores than those who received
continuation funding; all continuation applicants were not held to the same standards; the 20%
rule clearly was a determining factor as to whether or not an applicant was deemed worthy of
continuation funding; and despite the fact that it is required by law, neither your Office nor
SAMHSA notified those grantees who were de-funded that they were not in compliance with the
grant requirements nor were they given an opportunity to appeal. For these reasons, we are
requesting that you immediately instate an appeals process for the 63 coalitions whose funding
was terminated without due process.
Please provide to us no later than December 9, 2005, an outline ofthe parameters by which the
appeals process will be guided. Included in these parameters should be: where the money will
come from; who will administer the review; and a date by which we can expect final decisions.
We thank you for your attention in this important matter.
Charles E. Grassley
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.