James Comey, the new director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been doing what new directors of powerful programs (and monarchs) do: touring the country checking out the field offices for the FBI.
Comey made a point of stopping in Houston last week, because Houston is a key city for the FBI, he said. Being along the water and close to the border (relatively speaking), Houston is comparable to New York City in the FBI system, he told KUHF.
If the New York comparison didn't tip you off, Comey said a lot of glowing stuff about Houston before letting the bomb drop that Houston may be on the important side, but that won't protect the office from the cuts that are likely on the horizon.
"It's a center of international commerce and arts and education. It sits very close to an international border and waterways," Comey told KUHF. "So, like New York, which is very similar in a lot of ways -- although the weather is much better here, and I'm told the barbecue is better here -- like New York, it poses all those challenges. The great part about it is, the world is here. Potentially the bad part about it is, bad actors from the world will learn of Houston and be in Houston."
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During the government shutdown, Comey said, 85 percent of the FBI employees were working without pay. If Congress doesn't replace what was taken out of the FBI budget, Comey said he's looking at cutting about 3,500 jobs and furloughing about 36,000, 600 of them in Houston.
The FBI is also not hiring for the time being or training any new agents on account of the sequestration. He made a point of noting that furloughs and layoffs will mean fewer people on hand to address violent crime, drugs, human trafficking, counterterrorism -- basically a list of things guaranteed to freak people out to the max.
President Obama picked up the song and dance pushing for more government spending when Comey was officially installed as FBI director on Monday, stating the FBI needs more money to do its job, according to Businessweek. If the budget cuts continue, the FBI budget is expected to be cut about 10 percent, which would eliminate about $800 million from the budget of more than $8 billion next year.
So there may be fewer FBI employees on duty in Houston, and it may result in some very bad things, Comey seemingly implied. It's interesting to note that NASA head Charles Bolden made similar ominous statements about what the continued sequestration could mean for Houston (in that case, more budget cuts for the Johnson Space Center) over the summer. Swinging through Houston and making scary predictions about what more federal budget cuts could mean around here seems to be a popular tactic these days.