Sequestration has already had devastating effects on the poor, private and public sector hiring, GDP growth, scientific research and development, and education. But now it threatens national security. Faced with mandatory budget cuts, senior F.B.I. officials have decided they will shut down its headquarters and offices around the country for 10 business days over the next year.
Only a skeleton crew will remain on hand during the time the bureau is shut down. While they have plans for their employees to return to work in the event of an emergency, this shut down could still greatly hinder the F.B.I.'s ability to effectively respond to crime.
It was decided that shutting down for 10 days was the most convenient way to furlough workers, whose salaries account for roughly 60% of the bureau's budget. It costs the F.B.I. about $16 million a day to pay all of its employees, and it's a lot more effective to have everyone stay home at the same time rather than give them the option to choose which days they want off. The dates have not been set yet, but are likely to be around the holiday season, when many people have off of work anyway or extended weekends where the bureau would save more money by turning off some of the power. Of course, this amounts to about two weeks of lost salary for F.B.I. employees.
In addition to that, the F.B.I. also has a hiring freeze, where they are expected to have nearly 2,200 vacant positions by the end of the month and 3,500 by this time next year due to budget cuts.
F.B.I. director James Comey has expressed concern about the sequestration's adverse effects on the bureau's operations. Senior officials have said that the budget cuts will likely hinder the bureau's domestic intelligence gathering capabilities, especially on those investigating things like financial fraud.
Mistakes will likely be made down the road that can be traced in part back to these cuts. And these cuts are the result of elected representatives in Washington being not unable, but unwilling to compromise. Sequestration might not seem so big in relation to the federal government's budget, but it has real consequences.
When we forgo our ability to compromise, we are hindering our ability to invest in and educate our children, we are hindering our ability to find revolutionary cures for diseases, and we are failing in our responsibility to provide a social safety net for those who need it most. Local directors of Meals on Wheels have been forced to decide which elderly and disabled folks are less worthy of their services because they've had to cut back due to budget cuts. Federal workers have been laid off and seen their wages frozen or cut. And now our country's domestic intelligence apparatus has been hit with potentially devastating budget cuts.
All because Washington D.C. is the only city in the country where "compromise" is a four-letter word.