FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on Wednesday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on Wednesday. Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP

FBI Director Makes the Case for Increased Staffing

He touts the bureau’s low attrition rate and high number of applicants. 

On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the Biden administration’s requested fiscal 2022 budget boost for additional staffing to better address pressing cyber, terrorism and foreign threats. 

Wray said before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies he is “extremely proud” of the “men and women who tackle these threats and challenges every day.” Therefore, he said he “would like to express my appreciation for the support you have given them in the past, ask for your continued support in the future and pledge to be the best possible stewards of the resources you provide.” 

In President Biden’s budget request, there is an overall decrease in the FBI’s total budget ($10.276 billion compared to $10.494 billion in the fiscal 2021 enacted level), which “is due to construction funding and the COVID-19 supplemental funding,” the FBI told Government Executive in a statement. However, “the annual salaries and expenses portion of the FY 2022 president’s budget proposes $10.214 billion for the FBI, an increase from $9.749 billion in FY 2021.” 

The budget proposal seeks 34,619 full-time equivalent employees, which is 272 more than the fiscal 2021 level. The extra employees would fall in the following areas: countering domestic terrorism, cyber operations, counterintelligence and cybersecurity. 

Wray said the top domestic violent extremist threat is racially or ethnically motivated (largely individuals advocating for white supremacy), but “it is important to note that we have also recently seen an increase in fatal [domestic violent extremist] attacks perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists.” Three of the four “lethal” domestic extremist attacks in 2020 fell into this category. Therefore, the FBI needs more staffing in this area to handle incoming tips, share information with law enforcement partners and detect threats.  

In making the case for more cyber-focused positions, Wray said over the past year the agency “has seen a wider-than-ever range of cyber actors threaten Americans’ safety, security, and confidence in our digitally connected world;” however, “these threats will not disappear when the pandemic ends.” 

In the past year, the FBI has also faced the Colonial Pipeline attack and SolarWinds breach, and is opening a new China-related counterintelligence investigation every 10 to 12 hours. 

When asked about concerns of loss of trust and politicization in the agency over the last five years, the director said, “A lot of the press coverage and discussion has been based on essentially two investigations over about an 18-month period involving a small number of people and we’re an organization of 37,000 people.” He said what he hears and sees from the American people directly is a deep appreciation for the FBI.

After the challenges of the last year––the attack on the U.S. Capitol and subsequent investigations, a rise in hate crimes, COVID-19 fraud related, major cyber attacks and the rise in terrorist violence–– “I am immensely proud of their dedication to protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution,” Wray said in his prepared statement. 

He also noted during the hearing that the FBI’s attrition rate is 0.4% (he didn’t specify the time period) and it would be hard to find a public or private institution with a rate that low. According to Business.com, organizations should try for a 10% turnover rate, but many fall within the 12% to 20% range. 

Wray also said that the number of Americans applying to be special agents has tripled from when he came into the job (he was sworn in on August 2, 2017). “To me, that speaks volumes to what Americans everywhere think of the FBI,” he said.