A hiring freeze has hit two federal crime fighting agencies and a third has slowed recruitment efforts because of congressional budget delays that could threaten efforts to combat terrorism and violent crime, reports the Associated Press. The hiring crunch is largely the result of Congress’ failure to approve the Justice Department’s 2007 spending request. Lawmakers who oversee spending bills are now negotiating how much – if at all – to increase government spending. In the meantime, the agencies are being funded under last year’s budget levels.
A hiring freeze at the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to last through 2007. Although more than 400 agents and support staff will quit or retire this year, DEA might have to furlough 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 is not hiring. ATF says it needs $71 million more than last year just to sustain its workforce of 4,900 employees. FBI recruiting and hiring has slowed since the budget year began on Oct. 1. Without a budget in place, “the FBI and DOJ will not be able to maintain the operations tempo they’ve achieved since Sept. 11,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations panel that oversees Justice Department spending. She blamed Republicans for the funding delays. Prof. Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said “it’s hard for things to get better if you have fewer agents” pursuing crime.