Mueller (Getty Images)
FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers last week he expects the sequester’s budget cuts will force him to furlough agents in fiscal 2014.
In addition, the FBI’s ongoing hiring freeze will leave it with 220 vacancies by the end of fiscal 2013 and an additional 1,200 vacancies the following year, Mueller said at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, science and related agencies. The FBI had 36,000 employees as of December.
Furloughs would have a chilling effect on his agents’ morale, Mueller said, and they would only be used if he is unable to find the required budget cuts elsewhere. He asked the subcommittee to help the FBI lessen the sequester’s effects.
“The impact of sequestration on the FBI’s ability to protect the nation from terrorism and crime will be significant,” Mueller said. “There is nothing more demoralizing [than] when you are faced with furloughs.”
The sequester cut the FBI’s 2013 budget from about $8.1 billion to $7.5 billion, subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said. President Obama has proposed nearly $8.3 billion in funding for the FBI in 2014. But Mikulski said that if the sequester continues into next year, the FBI would likely lose another $700 million in funding.
“This is a stunning amount of money, particularly when you look at the incredible things that the FBI needs to do,” Mikulski said.
Mueller also said the sequester will leave the FBI unable to procure up-to-date surveillance technology necessary to stay ahead of criminals, terrorists and other targets.
And budget cuts will force the FBI to disband its National Gang Intelligence Center, which was created in 2005 to help the FBI and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies share information on violent criminal gangs such as MS-13. When that center is shuttered, Mueller said, the FBI will have to try to find personnel in its headquarters who can try to replicate those information-sharing abilities.
Mueller said the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group, which focuses on crisis negotiation and hostage rescue operations, will lose several million dollars. That group was recently involved in the FBI’s efforts to catch the Boston Marathon bombers, and to rescue a boy who was kidnapped from a school bus in Alabama and held in an underground bunker for several days in February.
Mikulski expressed her concern about the cuts’ potential impact, and said the threats faced by the FBI will not go away even though it has fewer resources. She said Congress must find a way to cancel the sequester.
“This is not like deferring maintenance on a dorm somewhere,” Mikulski said. “This is personnel, and personnel needs the most up-to-date IT. This is a self-inflicted wound.” ■