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FBI: Spending cuts will hamper counterintelligence, investigations

Speaker Johnson touted funding reduction to law enforcement agencies in the latest appropriations package

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., conducts a news conference with members of the House Republican Conference in the Cannon House Office Building on Wednesday.
Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., conducts a news conference with members of the House Republican Conference in the Cannon House Office Building on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The FBI warned that funding cuts in a fiscal 2024 spending package would hamper counterintelligence activities and the ability to investigate human trafficking and crimes against children, as House Republicans this week touted funding reductions for federal law enforcement agencies.

House conservatives now have something to show in their monthslong push to slash funding at the FBI, Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, citing political bias within the agencies and criticism of policies.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., pointed to a 6 percent cut for the FBI at a news conference Wednesday, indicating the FBI and other entities are “really overreaching” and “have been turned in some ways against the American people.”

House Republicans created a subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government based on a wide mix of complaints. Conservatives have raised grievances with a DOJ memo they say targeted parents, condemned the way the FBI has handled certain politically sensitive investigations and accused the agency of pressuring companies to censor social media.

Johnson said the spending package cuts 3 percent from the Justice Department and 7 percent from the ATF. “And that’s just a start,” Johnson said. “We have a lot more priorities and things that we need to advance.”

But those cuts were not as deep as House Republicans sought in their version of the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, where the FBI would have seen a more than $400 million cut to their salaries and expenses account.

Instead, the negotiated funding package would cut $32 million from that line item. Funding for that item would be $680 million less than the Biden administration had requested.

FBI response

The FBI in a statement this week lambasted the cuts as a “win for China” because of reduced funding for counterintelligence activities.

The reductions will also “degrade” the agency’s capacity to investigate human trafficking and crimes against children, while also reducing the FBI’s ability to fight drugs, gangs and violent crime, the agency said.

The FBI also said the legislation “completely eliminates funding to maintain facilities” at the FBI Academy and the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va.

The budget agreement “does not allow the FBI to sustain current operations needed to protect the American people,” the statement said.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said the funding cuts are expected to hurt efforts to fight crime, as federal authorities work closely with state and local law enforcement nationwide.

“To say you support law enforcement and then withhold funding for law enforcement is at variance with common sense,” Pasco said when asked about Republican messaging.

The cuts that House Republicans touted this week for the FBI are largely construction funds.

The fiscal 2024 package passed by the House earlier this week and being considered by the Senate would fund the FBI at $10.7 billion, or $654 million less than the fiscal 2023 enacted level, according to a House Republican summary.

A construction account would get $621 million less than in fiscal 2023, according to an explanatory statement. The Biden administration asked for $62 million for construction but would get $30 million under the bill.

Congress in recent fiscal years heavily funded the FBI construction account, as former Sen. Richard C. Shelby, an influential appropriator, took credit for funneling money back to his state of Alabama.

For fiscal 2022, Shelby highlighted that he secured $570 million in funding for FBI construction at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. And for fiscal 2023, he said the bill included $652 million for FBI construction at Redstone Arsenal.

But with Shelby gone, a reduction in construction spending could appear like a big cut.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the FBI cut was not a real reduction for the agency.

“It was a new building that was a Shelby earmark and he’s no longer here to defend it, so it’s not actual cuts,” Roy said.

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