CC_Flickr: Hey Paul
The congressional Super Committee's deadline of Nov. 23, has come and gone, and now federal law enforcement may face the harmful impact of sequestration and "across the board" budget cuts. Unfortunately, there is also a negative derivative impact that the American public may have to endure: a reduction in their protection.
Prior to the Nov. 23 deadline, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) released an illustration to members of the Super Committee to depict the dire consequences of "across the board" cuts. Specifically, any reduction in the federal law enforcement ranks would result in an increase in criminal activity, including terrorism. Criminals thrive on a sense of rational opportunity and will fully exploit any reduction in law enforcement personnel and resources. Federal law enforcement has already been weakened by hiring freezes and increasing rates of attrition. So dangerous criminals will not take pause to accommodate an uncompromising Congress.
While certain members of Congress hope to furlough government workers as a remedy for the deficit, they continue to ignore the societal cost of ignoring dangerous criminals. The same failed logic has impacted state and local law enforcement as well. Police officers are being laid off due to the short-sightedness of many local and state elected officials.
The platform for our democracy is built on the unwavering foundation provided by law enforcement officers. When politicians chisel away at that foundation, they jeopardize the safety and sanctity of everything it supports. Federal law enforcement officers cannot protect our citizens from suspected terrorists, drug trafficking cartel members, and sex predator fugitives if they're placed on furlough.
In addition to the essential protections federal law enforcement officers provide, they also bring in a substantial amount of funds via their respective asset-forfeiture or recovery programs. Concurrent with the money federal law enforcement officers bring back to our government, they cost the government less than 1% of the overall budget. Yet somehow, by way of their baffling budget debate, the Super Committee spent a lot time focusing on the cost of the government workforce. While certain members of Congress continue to blame the deficit on the cost of the government workforce, federal law enforcement has been reduced to an anonymous feather on the back of a duck treading water in a shrinking barrel.
This year the Department of Justice law enforcement components seized criminal assets that resulted in the government recouping $1.6 billion in forfeiture money. The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General recovered $15.5 billion from both criminal and civil investigations. Investigations conducted by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service yielded over $20 billion in recovered funds for the government. Unfortunately, the congressional budget debates have not recognized the value of these accomplishments.
Another casualty of this shameful budget debate is the multi-agency task force(s), arguably the most effective law enforcement concept for combating terrorism and organized crime. When Congress reduces funding for federal law enforcement, it is severing the means for task forces to fund state and local participation. This can cause irreparable harm to task forces' ability to pursue dangerous criminals. Any member of Congress who defines task force money as "waste, fraud, and abuse" should be institutionalized.
Irrespective of the Super Committee's failure to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts, Congress continues to appropriate billions of dollars in foreign aid. This includes billions to train foreign law enforcement personnel, when federal law enforcement endures a drought in training funding. Given the unrefuted principle that protecting our citizens and institutions is our government's top priority, how does Congress justify this spending?
Absent any legislative chicanery, the Super Committee's failure will result in the automatic "across the board" cuts going into effect in January 2013. In spite of that dire forecast, FLEOA will continue to advocate for a legislative "carve-out" to protect federal law enforcement funding.
In the future, Super Committee members should consider the following: When children swing blindly at a beehive hoping for honey, all they walk away with are bee stings.