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A window of opportunity that makes perfect sense

By Gary Aldrich
web posted August 20, 2001

Seems that there is only one way to approach issues in Washington, DC: Throw money at the problems and hope they go away. That's considered positive for lawmakers on Capitol Hill since they know taxpayers have a hard time making connections between what Congress does, and the impact laws have on their daily lives.

With the recent increase of concern and questions about federal law enforcement in America, and especially the FBI, what taxpayers need to do is review a few obvious facts, which would reveal cutting the budget and downsizing the FBI makes perfect sense. They would quickly realize that Congress is not doing their jobs properly, and here's why:

We have all read about the decline in federal crime rates. This week, the US Justice Department released new statistics that reveal a significant decrease in the number of local and state crimes, with a resulting decrease in the number of inmates housed in our nation's prisons.

This is great news, but how does it square with the increasing budget and growth of the FBI? In recent years the FBI has added 3,000 new agents, a whopping 30 per cent increase over the stable number of 10,000 agents that in past years were able to get the job done nicely.

What accounts for this kind of increase? It's certainly not rising crime rates or Cold Wars. The Cold War ended in 1989, but eleven years later the FBI is staffed as if it still goes on.

And, who can dispute the tremendous advances in technology that enables law enforcement agencies to find records and persons with a rapidity that would make Sherlock Holmes' head spin? Laboratory advances including DNA testing and new wiretap and fingerprint technology has assured more convictions and pleas, saving law enforcement time, and resources.

Moreover, new federal agents are selected from a huge pool of highly qualified, intelligent, motivated and experienced applicants; then trained with the best instructors money can buy, in first-class academies, equipped with the latest information and high-tech classrooms.

Out in society where agents do their real work, things have also changed for the better. Not only are there fewer criminals to chase, the prosecutors are also highly trained, highly educated graduates from our finest law schools. Add to that Juries who are better educated and informed. How can I make this claim? It's simply impossible in today's world to escape the constant media barrage that educates the average person, whether they like it or not.

Add to that the speed in which we can process and transport information. One can send facsimiles, emails, and overnight mail to just about anywhere in the world. Society is also equipped with faster and safer forms of transportation, not to mention wireless technology. Where is the evidence that its harder to catch crooks today?

Sure, federal agents will tell you that it's easier to catch crooks if they have more time for individual cases. They will argue that more agents mean less workload per agent. But, where is the evidence that they are not already producing very satisfactory results? Who is complaining that the FBI takes too much time to solve cases?

Where the public finds a real problem with today's FBI is in the unavailing way the agents are managed, as well as the magnitude of mistakes being made. They want assurance that the FBI can find and dispose of spies quickly, so that a future Robert Hanssen does not escape detection.

Do you fix the FBI's problems by adding buildings, more agents and more managers to an already bloated agency? If anyone can come up with sound reasoning that a bigger FBI is better, perhaps that person has a good future selling oceanfront property in Nevada.

The answer to the FBI's problems has already been asked, and answered by corporate America. In the 80's and 90's, a 40 per cent downsizing of unneeded, inefficient personnel - deadwood, really - resulted in a very healthy economy indeed. It was painful at first, but even the "dead-woods" cast free were able to benefit from a good swift kick in their wrinkled pants. Many went on to be high achievers once again, and proud owners of their own businesses. Meanwhile, modernized corporations began to excel and profit again, which after all, is the American way!

When will the federal government modernize and downsize? What are bureaucrats afraid of?

Modernize the FBI because it makes perfect sense. Once you have trimmed the FBI to a manageable size, prepare for renewed excellence. A new President, Attorney General and FBI Director have the perfect window of opportunity to improve America's premier law enforcement agency. ESR

Gary Aldrich is the president and founder of the Patrick Henry Center, nonprofit, non-partisan educational and charitable foundation. He is also the author of the bestseller, Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House.

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