The FBI may shut down offices around the country for as many as 10 days spread over the next fiscal year to manage the effects of federal spending cuts, according to two officials briefed on the matter.
The decision, which is not final, comes as the Federal Bureau of Investigation welcomes its new director, James B. Comey, and after months of back and forth among senior officials over how to handle the automatic cuts, known as sequestration.
“I was surprised to learn about the impact that sequestration is having on the FBI,” Comey said yesterday at a press conference in Richmond.
The FBI is planning as Congress continues to fight over how to fund the government in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. With the deadline approaching, lawmakers have not yet voted on the annual legislation that authorizes federal spending.
Comey, in Richmond, said he didn’t think the general public grasped what harm the cuts would have on law enforcement and he would continue making the case for more funds in the weeks ahead.
The FBI was forced to impose a hiring freeze and has also cut back spending on travel, information technology and lower-priority investigations in an effort to avoid furloughs in the current fiscal year.
With the new year approaching and little movement to restore the funding scheduled to be cut, even those efforts will fall short. The result will be the 10 days of closures of offices around the country and FBI headquarters in the next fiscal year, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The FBI plan was first reported by the New York Times.
“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,” Comey said as he stood in front of the FBI’s Richmond office.
Comey, deputy attorney general under former President George W. Bush, was sworn into office on Sept. 4. His predecessor, Robert Mueller, warned that budget cuts would be among the most difficult issues Comey would face.
“The budget, making hard choices, I think that’s going to be the biggest hurdle he faces at this juncture,” Mueller told a group of reporters during and August interview before his departure.