[JURIST] Three US Justice Department agencies - the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) [official website], the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) [official website] and the FBI [official website] - are freezing or slowing recruitment efforts largely as a result of a lack of increased funding from Congress' failure to approve requested 2007 budget increases [San Francisco Chronicle report] for the Justice Department. The DEA and ATF have said they are freezing the hiring of new employees, even though both agencies anticipate large numbers of unfilled positions this year. The FBI has slowed its hiring but will continue to hire for positions deemed essential. As the agencies await a decision by lawmakers if, and whether, to increase funding, they will continue to operate based on their 2006 budgets. But increased costs across the board, including an imminent increase of the federal minimum wage [AP report], make working with last year's budget unreasonable.
The 2006 budget [White House website] shows that last year the FBI received $5.7 billion in federal funding while the DEA received $2.4 billion. The DEA said it would be unable to sustain employment at its current level if Congress does not allot an additional $95 million, and ATF officials say they need $71 million more in order to maintain its 4,900 employees. Observers say that the failure to approve 2007 budgets for the DOJ agencies could impede efforts to counter both violent crime and terrorism. While other agencies are feeling the burden of the lack of budget approval, Congress has already approved budgets for the military and for homeland security. AP has more.