Chairman Hatch, Senator Leahy and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the 1998 National Drug Control Strategy. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) appreciates your longstanding support, as well as the guidance and leadership of the Committee. The Strategy before you, developed in close consultation with the members of this Committee and the Congress as a whole, reflects the strength of our enduring bipartisan commitment to focus our efforts to diminish America's drug problem on realistic results. We appreciate your good counsel on setting our sights on aggressive, but achievable, targets.
Much of our current progress results from the fact that you have enabled us to reinvigorate the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Chairman Hatch and Senator Biden, I want to particularly thank each of you for your wise counsel over the year and tireless efforts in this regard. Chairman Hatch, your support on the Warshaw and Umberg nominations will soon provide us with two outstanding public servants who will play important roles as we move ahead implementing this Strategy. Similarly, Senator Biden, thank you for your work on our pending reauthorization bill. We now have an Office of National Drug Control Policy that is ready for the task ahead.
The importance of your bipartisan support in the success of this effort is evident from two of the most significant programs we launched in 1997: the Drug-Free Communities Act and the National Anti-Drug Youth Media Campaign. Senator Grassley, ONDCP appreciates your efforts in helping pass the Drug Free Communities Act, which will help us establish 10,000 new community coalitions, and strengthen the existing 4,000 coalitions, across the country. Senator Kohl, your efforts to ensure the success of the National Youth Media Campaign are now paying off; in twelve pilot cities we are reaching out to our young people with a simple, yet vital message: "drugs are wrong, and they can kill you and your dreams." Absent the support of these members and this committee, neither of these programs would exist today.
Our common efforts have had a direct and substantial impact on the success America has enjoyed in reducing drug use. Over the past seventeen years, this bipartisan partnership has contributed to a 50 percent overall reduction in the number of Americans using drugs and a 70 percent reduction in the number of Americans using cocaine. But we can -- indeed we must -- do more. If unchecked, America's drug abuse problem will kill 140,000 Americans and cost our society $700 billion over the coming decade. Our progress must be steady; we cannot afford to lose a moment's time or spare any effort in significantly reducing the threats of drug use in America.
When you considered my appointment in February 1996, I pledged to forge a coherent counter-drug strategy that would substantially reduce illegal drug use and protect our youth and our society. The 1998 National Drug Control Strategy reflects ONDCP's ongoing commitment to this goal. This Strategy is a ten-year plan to reduce drug use in America by half -- to the lowest levels in the past thirty years. The following table offers examples of the progress that will be attained if this plan is fully implemented by all sectors of American society:
Measure Current Figure 10-Year Goals 30-Year Lows/Highs Current drug use
6.1 percent 3 percent 5.8 percent (low) Marijuana initiates 2.37 million 1.18 million 1.37 million (low) Age of initiation
16.7 years 20 years 20.1 years (high) Current use of illicit drugs
(among 12-17 year olds)
9.0 percent 4.5 percent 5.3 percent (low)
Let us be clear on this: never before has America had so solid a commitment to a long-term counter-drug strategy, one that is determined to achieve so ambitious a goal in fighting drugs, and backed by so straightforward a means by which this Congress and the American people can hold us accountable toward these ends. However, whether the issue is balancing the budget, defeating Nazi Germany, or ensuring civil rights to our citizens, we have triumphed as a nation only when we have worked together without regard to party or politics. If we lose the bipartisan momentum we currently have it could take us up to five additional years to meet our goals. It is up to all of us -- the administration, members of Congress, parents, police officers, teachers, coaches, doctors, scientists, and Americans of all walks of life. The plan is sound; our task is to work together to successfully implement it.