The professional organization representing the country’s FBI agents on Thursday called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the current lapse in funds is unsustainable and could ultimately compromise national security.
The FBI Agents Association, which represents nearly all active duty FBI agents, urged lawmakers in a letter to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, noting that FBI agents, like over half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown.
The letter argues that “financial security is a matter of national security,” outlining three primary reasons to restore funding for the DOJ.
The partial shutdown, now in its 20th day, shows no signs of ending anytime soon as negotiations between Democrats and the White House over the issue of funding for border security remain at an impasse. While House Democrats aim to pass individual spending bills that would reopen parts of the government — including DOJ — Republicans have largely stood with President Donald Trump in opposition to a piecemeal approach without concessions from Democrats.
The letter from the FBI agent group, however, undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists.
FBI agents, the letter says, must live up to security standards that require “rigorous and routine financial background checks to ensure that Agents are financially stable and responsible,” a status that is jeopardized if agents miss payments on any debts. Not only could the shutdown delay new or renewed security clearances, it could keep some agents out of active duty, the letter says.
There’s also risk of a brain drain. The FBI has historically struggled to retain experienced cyber investigators, who often leave the bureau for more lucrative and less stressful jobs in the private sector. The partial government shutdown that began in late December has only heightened anxieties about exoduses from the federal cyber workforce.
The FBIAA letter goes on to warn that resources for FBI investigations are running thin, even though “FBI leadership is doing all it can to fund FBI operations with increasingly limited resources.”
“This situation is not sustainable,” the agents write. “The important work done by the Bureau needs to be funded immediately.”
Finally, the agents argue, the financial uncertainty caused by the possibility of future shutdowns could affect the agency in the long run by deterring prospective agents from joining or causing current agents to seek employment in the private sector.
“We are confident that our leaders share this commitment to protecting our country and will find a path forward to fund the DOJ and the FBI,” they write. But “as those on the frontlines in the fight against criminals and terrorists, we urge expediency before financial insecurity compromises national security.”
Eric Geller contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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