New FBI boss: Job No. 1 is to fight budget cuts

Attorney General Eric Holder, left, hands over credentials to newly sworn in FBI Director James Comey, right, at the Justice Department in Washington on Sept. 4. Susan Walsh / AP

The new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is making it clear that his first priority is to push back against budget cuts required by the congressionally imposed sequester.

James Comey, in his first public appearance since taking the job, said the cuts mandated at the FBI would have "a huge impact on our ability to accomplish our mission, and I'm very worried about it.

"Not only am I having to lose 3,000 positions, but there's a very real prospect, unless something is done, that I'm going to have to send home for two weeks without pay the good men and women who are charged with protecting the American people. That makes no sense at all to me," Comey said in remarks earlier this week in Richmond, Va., where he was a federal prosecutor more than a decade ago. 

Furloughs for the FBI's 36,000 employees could begin as early as next month and would involve the entire workforce, everyone except Comey himself, under the terms of the sequester. 

The former director, Robert Mueller, said just before retiring that sequestration has already forced the FBI to reduce its help to local law enforcement, cut back on officer training, and trim its plans for expanding the teams devoted to fighting cyberterrorism.

FBI officials say sequestration will require the Bureau to cut roughly $700 million from its $8 billion budget. While some of that will come from reductions in travel, contracting, and other operational costs, the officials say, the cuts cannot be achieved without cutting pay.

More than half the FBI's budget -- over 60 percent -- is devoted to personnel costs.