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Another sequester means FBI furloughs, agents group warns

Dec. 4, 2013 - 08:46PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Critical FBI operations face disruption if another wave of across-the-board spending reductions takes effect in fiscal 2014, leaders of an organization representing much of the bureau’s workforce said Wednesday.

With agent furloughs of 10 to 15 days likely, “we believe this will have a drastic impact on active investigations going [on] around the country, around the world,” Reynaldo Tariche, president of the FBI Agents Association, said at a news conference. After the first round of reductions carved hundreds of millions of dollars out of its fiscal 2013 budget, the bureau is already under a hiring freeze, even as retirements have ticked up, Tariche said.

A 2014 sequester would leave the FBI’s budget $700 million below its almost $8.4 billion request, according to Tariche. A House-Senate conference committee has a mid-December deadline to hammer out a deal on a full-year spending bill that could find a way around the cuts. Tariche expressed hope that lawmakers will strike a compromise “so that we can do our job, which is to keep the American people safe.”

In an email, FBI spokeswoman Allison Mahan said the bureau anticipates furloughing agents in the event of another sequester, but offered no details. Between the hiring freeze and attrition, the FBI expects to cut about 3,500 positions — or 10 percent of its workforce — to reach an “affordable level” by early 2015, she said. The bureau is also permanently cutting more than $350 million for physical surveillance, hostage rescue team training and other “non-personnel” expenses.

The annual sequesters are required under the 2011 Budget Control Act because lawmakers failed to agree on a path for reducing long-tem deficits by $1.2 trillion. Unless Congress and the Obama administration come up with a different strategy, the cuts will continue through 2021.

As part of its campaign to highlight the effects, the FBI Agents Association on Wednesday released an updated report summarizing anecdotal accounts from field agents. In the report, the agents, who are not named, said that the reductions are keeping them from opening cases, costing them confidential informants and impeding surveillance.

“Everything’s suffering,” John Fagan, a Baltimore-based special agent and regional representative for the association, said at the news conference. “It just goes straight on across the board.”

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