Sunday, January 14, 2007

Budget delays hamstring hiring at Justice Dept.

Crime-fighting agencies pinched

By Lara Jakes Jordan
Associated Press
January 13, 2007
The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- A hiring freeze has hit two federal crime-fighting agencies and a third has slowed its recruitment efforts because of congressional budget delays that some officials say threaten efforts to combat terrorism and violent crime.

Congress has yet to approve the Justice Department's 2007 spending request. Lawmakers are now negotiating how much -- if at all -- to increase government spending. In the meantime, the agencies are being funded according to last year's budget levels.

Agencies feeling the squeeze :

The Drug Enforcement Administration. Although more than 400 agents and support staff are expected to quit or retire this year, chief financial officer Frank Kalder said, the DEA might have to lose additional employees if Congress does not give it about $95 million more than it did in 2006.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF says it needs $71 million more than last year just to sustain its workforce of 4,900 employees.

The FBI. Recruiting and hiring has slowed since the budget year began on Oct. 1. The agency has stopped advertising for job openings on its website. Assistant Director John Miller said the bureau still is hiring agents, linguists, analysts, and other high-priority employees. The FBI employs about 12,600 agents and 18,000 support staff.