As individuals, we regularly examine our priorities to make decisions as we manage our checkbooks. As citizens, we expect our elected leaders to do the same with our government checkbook. The effects of sequestration are dramatic and far reaching across all sectors of government. Some are inconsequential, some are cause for concern, and a few are downright dangerous.
The drastic budgetary cuts that face the FBI pose a clear and present danger to national security and to the citizens of the United States. If these cuts remain in place it will not be a question of if, but rather when disaster will occur.
Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has been at the forefront of protecting us from terrorist attacks including the interdiction of plots to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Bank; a Portland, Oregon public park; a Cleveland, Ohio bridge; a Bronx, NY, Jewish Community Center; the U.S. Capitol building; the Chicago Sears Tower; the Ft. Dix, NJ, military base; jet fuel tanks at New York’s Kennedy airport and scores of other critical targets. At the same time, the FBI has continued to address its other responsibilities including detecting espionage; investigating public corruption; protecting us from cyber attacks; addressing civil-rights violations; and investigating major criminal matters.
FBI Director James Comey recently assumed office with the promise of a continued, vigorous commitment to the bureau’s responsibilities. But how can he fulfill that promise with one hand tied behind his back?
Sequestration has cut $700 million from the FBI budget necessitating the furlough of 36,000 employees; reducing the FBI’s workforce by 3,500; imposing a hiring freeze until at least 2015; cancelling inter-agency, law enforcement training; eliminating on-board employee training; and imposing countless other restrictions which impede and degrade the FBI’s ability to address its responsibilities.
Although the general public may not yet fully appreciate the danger it faces from FBI budget cuts, law enforcement professionals do. Police leaders attending a recent International Chiefs of Police Conference emphatically deplored the budgetary problems confronting the FBI as, “A body blow to law enforcement.”
Do something for your country and those you care about. Now is the time to tell your elected representatives to reexamine their priorities and restore funding to the FBI. Tell them we are not content to wait until the next disaster occurs.
Ellen Glasser is president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. She served for 24 years as a special agent and supervisory special agent with the FBI.