As with the rest of government, federal law enforcement may face the harmful impact of severe across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration. Those hurt will not only be the officers themselves, but the public that relies on them for protection.
The 2011 Budget Control Act called for a bi-partisan congressional supercommittee to hammer out a long-term debt-reduction deal, but that committee failed to reach a deal by a Nov. 23 deadline. Prior to that deadline, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) informed members of the supercommittee that sequestration cuts would lead to more crime. Federal law enforcement has already been weakened by hiring freezes and increasing attrition. Dangerous criminals will not pause to accommodate an uncompromising Congress.
While certain Congress members hope to furlough government workers as a remedy for the deficit, they continue to ignore the societal cost of ignoring dangerous criminals. The same failed logic has hurt state and local law enforcement components.
Across the country, police officers are being laid off due to the shortsightedness of local and state elected officials. Our democracy is built on the foundation provided by law enforcement officers. When politicians chisel away at that foundation, they jeopardize the safety and sanctity of everything it supports.
Federal law enforcement officers cannot protect citizens from suspected terrorists, drug trafficking cartel members and sex predator fugitives if they’re placed on furlough. The protections they provide are essential and cannot be compromised by overzealous budget cuts.
In addition to the protections federal law enforcement officers provide, they also bring in funds via asset forfeiture or recovery programs. Concurrent with the money they bring back to our government, they cost the government less than 1 percent of the overall budget. Yet somehow, the supercommittee focused on the cost of the government workforce.
While certain Congress members continue to blame the deficit on the cost of the government workforce, federal law enforcement has been reduced to an anonymous feather on the back of a duck treading water in a shrinking barrel.
Last year, Justice Department law enforcement components seized $1.6 billion in criminal-forfeiture monies, according to the 2011 U.S. Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report. Also last year, the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general’s office recovered $4.6 billion from both criminal and civil investigations, and Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigations yielded $1.8 billion in recovered funds (and $20 billion total since DCIS was created in 1981).
Unfortunately, the congressional budget debates have not recognized the value of these accomplishments.
Another casualty of this shameful budget debate are multiagency task forces. Arguably the most effective law enforcement concept for combating terrorism and organized crime, combined task forces rely on federal funding to operate efficiently. A funding shortfall can cause irreparable harm to task forces that pursue dangerous criminals 24/7.
Regardless of the supercommittee’s failure to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts, Congress continues to appropriate billions of dollars in foreign aid. How does Congress justify allocating more funding to foreign law enforcement and military components than our domestic Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program? Absent any legislative chicanery, the supercommittee’s failure will result in the sequestration cuts taking effect in January. FLEOA will continue to advocate for a legislative “carve-out” to protect federal law enforcement funding.
Jon Adler is national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.