FBI Agents Worry Criminals Will Have It Easier if Sequestration Continues

FBI Director James Comey FBI Director James Comey Susan Walsh/AP

Looming furloughs, an ongoing hiring freeze and a suspension of training will leave the FBI less capable of preventing and responding to terrorist attacks and other criminal activities, according to a group representing the federal law enforcement officials.

While the Justice Department avoided furloughs entirely in fiscal 2013, the FBI Agents Association -- which represents 12,000 active and former Special Agents -- said at a press briefing Wednesday that cuts last year were so deep unpaid leave would be unavoidable if sequestration goes through as scheduled in 2014. Reynaldo Tariche, president of the FBIAA, said he expects 10 to15 furlough days in fiscal 2014. FBI Director James Comey has predicted 10 furlough days at the agency.

While agents in furlough status would likely be recalled if a major event occurred, furloughs would hamper investigations to prevent such an event and organizing employees to come back onto the job would likely prove difficult, FBIAA officials said.

“Terrorists don’t get furloughed,” Tariche said. “Cyber hackers don’t get furloughed. Gang leaders are not furloughed and it’s not an acceptable thing to furlough active FBI agents because of the risks posed from both terrorist and criminal threats.”

With the exception of an emergency situation, agents would be prohibited from conducting day-to-day activities while on furlough. Therefore, some agents noted, if a source called a furloughed agent to inform him or her of a development in a case or a major movement of drugs, for example, the agent could not respond to or pursue the lead.

In addition to furloughs, sequestration budget caps -- which are set to cut $700 million from the FBI’s budget this fiscal year -- would severely reduce both internal training at the bureau and programs for other law enforcement entities. Training facilities at FBI’s academy in Quantico, Va., are already empty, and agents are not fostering relationships with local police forces. The longer these cuts drag on, FBIAA officials said, the more significant the impact will be down the road.

“The time to introduce yourself is not at a 9/11 or a Navy Yard event,” said Thomas O’Connor, FBIAA vice president an active agent in the Washington, D.C., field office. “You should already know the people you’re working with, have trained with them. I think that’s something very important we may be missing in the future with these cuts.”

O’Connor added even after the sequestration dust settles, the damage of the ongoing hiring freeze would mean the FBI will be missing the mid-range employee corps needed to take over leadership positions when more senior members retire.  The FBI has about 3,000 fewer employees than its normal force due to the freeze. 

FBIAA officials said the group has taken its message to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been receptive to pleas to restore full funding to the agency. Even in the event Congress fails to strike a broad deal to offset sequestration cuts, the organization will advocate targeted legislative action to ensure a full FBI budget of about $8.3 billion.

Despite the cuts and the imminent possibility of significantly more severe reductions, the agents said the workforce is staying positive and morale remains high.

“We’re used to dealing with obstacles on a daily basis, and we look at this as just another obstacle,” said John Fagan, an agent in the Baltimore field office. “It definitely doesn’t make it any easier for us, but we’re used to these obstacles and it’s something we deal with. We’re going to be there no matter what.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.