FBI Director James Comey said one of his first orders of business will be to draw attention to the harmful effects of the sequestration on the bureau.
Speaking outside the Richmond, Va., field office on Monday, Comey said he was “very surprised to learn about the impact that sequestration was having on the FBI.”
“Not only am I having to lose 3,000 positions, but there’s a very real prospect, unless something is done, that I’m going to have to send home, for two weeks without pay, the good men and women who work in this building behind me,” the director added.
This was Comey’s first visit to a field office since being sworn in on Sept. 5. “There’s no better place that I have ever lived or work than Richmond, Virginia,” he said.
From 1996 through 2001, Comey was the managing assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Comey said he didn’t believe the American people knew about how the cuts would negatively impact bureau personnel like those working in Richmond.
“I’m not sure that the effects of sequestration on this great institution that’s charged with protecting the American people, that those effects are not known well enough yet,” he said, adding: “If the citizens focus on that I think they’ll have a similar reaction to me.”
In April, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would avoid all furloughs scheduled to take effect this fiscal year due to the sequestration.
The department transferred and allocated existing funds, instituted a hiring freeze and trimmed contracting costs in order to deal with the automatic budget cuts of $1.6 billion that became effective March 1, Holder said at the time.
Referencing the federal law enforcement response to the Boston Marathon bombing, Holder said that “as the recent events have made clear, we need Department of Justice employees on the job to respond to emergencies and safeguard the American people.”
To sustain two of the department’s priority agencies, DOJ has used $239,500,000 in deobligated and expired prior year funding in the FBI’s Salaries and Expenses account and $12,000,000 in deobligated and expired prior year funding in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Salaries and Expenses account.
But that decision does not address the operational cuts and furloughs that the department could face in the next fiscal year, which begins next month.