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FBI Budget Cuts Risk U.S. Anti-Terror Operations, Mueller Says

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reduced training and travel, delayed information-technology upgrades and faces the equivalent of 2,200 vacancies due to the budget cuts that went into place March 1, Director Robert Mueller said.

Mueller, who has led the FBI since 2001, told a House Appropriations subcommittee today that the reductions will result in around $550 million in cuts to the bureau’s budget and may result in furloughs.

“We have planned for the possibility of furloughs,” Mueller told the lawmakers. “Any furlough would pose a risk to FBI operations, particularly in the areas of counter-terrorism and cyber.”

U.S. lawmakers are considering spending bills that may give the FBI more flexibility with its funds or, in the case of a House measure, restore some of the funds.

Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the panel, said he would be willing to approve FBI requests to move funds within the bureau if needed. Lawmakers, who provide funds for the agencies tied to specific purposes, are generally required to sign off on any efforts to move those funds elsewhere.

Congress mandated $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts over nine years, including $85 billion over the next seven months, as part of a 2011 deal to increase the U.S. debt limit.

Mueller predicted the more than 2,000 vacancies estimated to occur because of the budget cuts would set FBI personnel back almost two years.

“It’s going to hurt tremendously,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at pmattingly@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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