Federal law enforcement agencies that keep Americans safe are starting to feel the strain of the partial U.S. government shutdown, in its 21st day, with agents working for no pay and investigations delayed, according to law enforcement officials, Reuters reports.
Earlier, the association representing agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that a prolonged shutdown was threatening to compromise national security.
The FBI Agents Association called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the lapse in funds is unsustainable, and urged Congress to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, Politico reports.
FBI agents, along with more than half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. The group sent a letter arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”
“As this moves forward, it’s only going to get worse,” Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, told CBS. “People are nervous, they’re upset and they’re worried about when is the next paycheck going to come in.”
There are similar concerns within other federal law enforcement agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sources tell CBS News morale is “horrible.” Commanders are having to weigh financial constraints before approving certain sensitive undercover operations.
“You know the old adage, ‘crime doesn’t pay’ … and neither does the federal government. That’s not right,” O’Connor said.
“We still have a responsibility for going after those who might be using this time to flood the streets” with drugs, a DEA field agent told Reuters, asking not to be identified by name.
The partial shutdown shows no signs of ending any time soon as negotiations between Democrats and the White House over the issue of funding for border security remain at an impasse.
While House Democrats aim to pass individual spending bills that would reopen more of the government, Republicans have largely stood with President Trump in opposition to a piecemeal approach without concessions from Democrats.
The letter from the FBI agent group undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists.
The agents warn that resources for FBI investigations are running thin. Financial uncertainty caused by the possibility of future shutdowns could affect the agency in the long run by deterring prospective agents from joining or causing current agents to seek employment in the private sector.