The Trump administration is asking Congress for 71 percent more money for the Justice Department’s antitrust division in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 — an increase that would allow the agency to hire 87 additional staffers.
The increase — the biggest increase sought for antitrust in recent memory, according to DOJ officials — is another indicator that the agency is serious about its pending investigations into tech giants like Google and Facebook.
The DOJ’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal seeks $53 million in appropriations for the antitrust division, up from $31 million this fiscal year.
The antitrust division is also funded by fees collected from pre-merger notifications, which are split equally between DOJ and its sister agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The proposal estimates a total budget authority of $189 million between the appropriations and merger fees.
The proposed increase comes as the Justice Department is conducting an inquiry into technology markets that has so far focused on Google and Facebook. Attorney General William Barr has said the probe is “a top priority” for DOJ, which is also working with state attorneys general to examine conduct and prior acquisitions by the companies.
The antitrust division’s headcount has fallen since the beginning of the Trump administration as staff left the agency but weren’t replaced because of a hiring freeze.
Justice officials said the antitrust division’s authorized staffing would jump by 87 positions to 782 under the proposed budget. Current staffing is about 600, with almost 100 positions unfilled at the moment.