Nation’s Enforcement Agencies Prep for Shutdown, Most Employees Considered ‘Essential’

ATF Agents

Like the rest of the federal government, the two departments that oversee most of the country’s federal law enforcement agencies are preparing for a “shutdown,” due to kick in midnight Friday.

Unlike many other sectors of the federal bureaucracy, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will see their operations only minimally interrupted, with the vast majority of their employees being considered “essential” and therefore “excepted” from furlough.

Federal departments issue contingency plans for appropriations eventualities like government shutdowns. The most frequent rationale used in these plans to except DHS and DOJ employees is that that are “employees necessary to protect life and property.”

DHS, which oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will be shielded from the brunt of the “shutdown,” with more than 90 percent of its employees excepted. As DHS spokesperson informed Breitbart News:

The dedicated men and women of DHS are fully prepared to protect the homeland and keep Americans safe should a lapse in government funding occur. Nearly ninety percent of all DHS personnel are considered essential staff and will continue to perform their duties in the event of a government shutdown. We urge Congress to fully fund DHS in order to pay the federal employees on the front lines defending our nation.

DOJ is similarly protected, with 83 percent of its 114,647 employees not subject to furlough, according to that department’s contingency plan.

This is especially true of its big ticket law enforcement agencies, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and U.S. Marshals Service, all of which will see more than 80 percent of their work force, and virtually all field personnel, “excepted.” For example, the contingency plan specifies:

[T]he FBI must be able to continue existing investigations, open new investigations, and respond to all contingencies which might arise during a lapse of appropriations. Accordingly, all FBI agents and support personnel in the field are considered excepted from furlough.

Some non-field personnel would, however, be affected. In the ATF’s case:

Excepted employees involved in the protection of life and property include … all agents in ATF ’s field divisions, who conduct the full range of criminal investigations … Headquarters support will be maintained only to the extent necessary to support excepted operations.

DOJ components that would suffer a much more serious slowdown included the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which supervises the immigration courts, and the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) – the group conducting the investigation into FBI Agent Peter Strozk and lawyer Lisa Page’s virulently anti-Trump texts and their connection to the “Russia investigation” – would lose 56 and 67 percent of their staff respectively.

The Special Counsel’s Office, overseeing Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, however, will be entirely unaffected by a shutdown. It is funded by a “permanent indefinite appropriation.”