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In his first full week on the job, new FBI Director Jim Comey is already expressing "intense concern" about budget cuts hitting the bureau as part of sequestration.
Comey used his first visits to FBI field offices in Virginia and New York, where he once served as a federal prosecutor, to sound an alarm about the ability to fulfill the agency's mission in a time of belt tightening.
"I was very surprised to learn about the impacts that sequestration is having on the FBI," Comey told reporters Monday outside an FBI building in Richmond, Va. "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 and who are charged with protecting the American people. That makes no sense at all to me."
In remarks captured by WWBT-TV NBC 12 in Richmond, Comey vowed to keep engaging Congress and the public about budget woes.
"I'm not sure that the effects of sequestration on this great institution that's charged with protecting the American people, that those effects are known well enough yet, and it's something I intend to talk about," Comey said.
He repeated those concerns in another session with FBI agents in New York City on Sept. 11.
Comey's predecessor, Robert Mueller III, told NPR earlier this year that operating with diminishing resources means the bureau would have to stop investigating many violent crime and white-collar business frauds, because national security and cyberthreats take precedence. Mueller moved money around last year to avoid furloughs of active-duty FBI agents, but he said those were one-time-only steps that would not forestall unpaid leave for thousands of FBI workers in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.