Johnstown drug intelligence center to close in summer
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, championed by the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, will close this summer.
While supporters lauded it as an important weapon in the war on drugs, critics charged it was only kept alive through Murtha's political clout.
The center, which began operations in 1993, duplicates tasks performed by other law-enforcement agencies, the Justice Department said.
Dr. Dennis Giever, a criminology professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who has collaborated on NDIC projects, said its work was impressive, but the center owed its survival to Murtha.
"It (the closing) leaves a hole, but it's a hole that is easily filled," he said. "His power was the reason it stood up. Once he passed, most of us realized that Murtha projects would slowly disappear."
Employees were informed Thursday of the shutdown.
The center's peak employment of 300 has slowly been reduced. Some of the remaining 87 employees will be offered work in Washington.
"I'm disheartened by this decision, and I hope that going forward the Department of Justice realizes that keeping critical counterdrug and intelligence functions in Johnstown will save money and minimize disruptions," said U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, the Johnstown Democrat who replaced Murtha.
Sen. Robert Casey, a Scranton Democrat, called the shutdown "a critical mistake."
"NDIC plays a crucial role in fighting drug trafficking and gang violence in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation," Casey said.
Sen Pat Toomey, a Republican from Zionsville, said it "makes sense for the taxpayer that its work remains in Johnstown rather than move it somewhere else."
John Skiavo, executive director of the Economic Growth Connection in Greensburg who worked for more than eight years as head of Johnstown Area Regional Industries, said closing the center would cause "an unfortunate loss."
"They did very important work," said Skiavo. "It's a shame. .. There's no question because of John Murtha that the facility was there. It wasn't pork barrel. They operated very efficiently and very effectively."
The NDIC issued annual threat-assessment reports detailing the effects of various illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
It published studies on gang violence and money laundering and analyzed documents and other information for law enforcement agencies.
Politicians from both parties have tried to close the drug center.
President George W. Bush wanted to cut its funding, according to his 2005 budget proposal.
Last February, the Obama administration proposed cutting its budget from $44 million to $25 million. Since it opened, the center has spent more than $500 million.
Before he died in 2010, Murtha announced the center would take over control of the government's secret no-fly list -- a claim quickly denied by the Justice Department and House Intelligence Committee member Mike Rogers, R-Michigan.
In 2006, Murtha fought off attempts by the House Government Reform Committee to close the facility and shift operations to the El Paso Intelligence Center.
In 2007 and 2009, he threatened to block funding for two GOP congressmen who voted to cut the center's funding.
In 2009, Murtha landed a $23 million earmark to keep the center operating.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins score 1st win in San Jose in 18 years
- Pirates showing interest in starting pitcher Masterson
- Yough girls working to improve after winless campaign last season
- Overhaul mental health care
- Pittsburgh attorney cites Pa. AG’s suspension in dismissal attempt
- Boras: Alvarez’s power is too valuable for Pirates to let him leave
- Web-savvy terrorists have success luring U.S. recruits with social media
- Stylish, inexpensive dress takes television newsrooms by storm
- North Side toymaker Digital Dream Labs starts strong in 1st holiday season
- Pitt’s surge goes for naught as No. 11 Purdue prevails at Pete
- Authorities recover rifle used to kill Westmoreland police officer