Remarks of the Vice President and Chief Kerlikowske on his Nomination as the new Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for being here — a lot of familiar faces. Please sit down, I’m only the Vice President — (laughter) — but thank you. A lot of — I see a lot of familiar faces with whom I’ve worked a long time in both the treatment community and the enforcement side of the ledger. And I’m delighted you’re here, and I hope you’re as delighted about what I’m about to announce as I am.
Today I’m pleased to announce that President Obama has nominated as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — our nation’s drug czar — Gil Kerlikowske, who is the Chief out in Seattle, and many of you in this room know him well.
Chief, the position you’re nominated for, as you know, not only me, but a lot of people in this room fought to create back some years ago when we found out we had 32 agencies dealing with the drug problem and not a lot of coordination. And I should say — note parenthetically, I’ve been a little disappointed the last eight years it hasn’t gotten the attention that it should have gotten. But that’s about to change.
I believe that we needed a drug czar, someone who could lead at a White House level, coordinating all our nation’s drug policy, and I still believe that today.
Substance abuse is one of our nation’s most pervasive problems, as all of you in this room know. An addiction is a disease — as Pat Moynihan used to say, disease of the brain, that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, gender, socioeconomic standing, or status, race, or creed. And as all of you know, it wreaks havoc on all of our communities: urban, rural and suburban.
And the correlation between crime and substance abuse was established undeniably clearly back in the ’70s, as you know, Director. And it is something that if we could wave a wand and do anything to deal with violent crime in America, if you had said to eliminate drug abuse, you would eliminate a significant portion of the violent crime in America. So the correlation between violence and drugs is well established.
And all of this carries a very, very heavy price tag, both in terms of personal and emotional terms, and in terms of cost to the American taxpayer. Just the health and economic cost alone from drug and alcohol abuse amounts to over $350 billion a year — just those costs, $350 billion a year; an even bigger cost in human suffering, the lives lost, the lost dreams that result from the pain and destruction that abuse brings to not only the abuser, but to the family and everyone surrounding, everyone who loves that person.
And there’s no one more qualified to take on this job than the Chief. I’ve worked with him for years. He has 36 years of law enforcement experience. He’s