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Obama Tells FBI Leaders He’ll Press Congress to Lift Budget Cuts

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama said resources for the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been trimmed by the automatic cuts known as sequestration even as the agency's mission has been expanding to confront the threat of terrorism. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Barack Obama said he will keep pressing Congress to lift across-the-board budget cuts to ease the limits they have placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other critical agencies.

At the formal installation ceremony for James Comey as the seventh director of the FBI, Obama said resources for the agency have been trimmed by the automatic cuts known as sequestration even as the the FBI’s mission has been expanding to confront the threat of terrorism.

“The least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town,” Obama said.

A congressional committee will meet this week to come up with a plan for taxes and spending to replace the automatic spending cuts approved in 2011. Comey said in a speech in Philadelphia last week that the budget limits mean that as many as 3,500 positions will be cut and agents will be furloughed, radio station KYW reported.

Comey, the former No. 2 official at the U.S. Justice Department under President George W. Bush, began his duties on Sept. 4 and has a 10-year term. He replaced Robert Mueller as the first new head of the FBI since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Obama called Comey “a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution.” He cited the FBI’s motto of “fidelity, bravery, integrity,” and said Comey is “one who lives those principles out every single day.”

Comey, 52, is leading a law-enforcement agency that has shifted its focus since the Sept. 11 attacks to one that concentrates on domestic terrorism, intelligence gathering and, more recently, increased threats posed by computer hackers.

FBI Changes

Changes in the crime-fighting agency come amid heightened public concerns over the reach and scope of classified surveillance programs disclosed by a former intelligence contractor.

The agency has defended itself on the use of drones, the unmanned aerial vehicles used to conduct domestic criminal and national security cases.

Comey was the Justice Department official who refused in the dramatic hospital-room confrontation of ailing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-authorize a warrantless eavesdropping program amid pressure from top Bush administration officials.

Changes in that program, still classified, were eventually made.

Comey left government service in 2005, becoming general counsel to Lockheed Martin Corp. and to hedge fund Bridgewater Associates LP. Before rejoining government service, he was nonexecutive director on the board of London-based bank HSBC Holdings Plc.

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