As president of the FBI Agents Association, I speak for many active and retired FBI agents when discussing the profound impact that 9/11 had on our lives, the bureau and this country. Neither I nor any other agent who sifted through the rubble at Ground Zero, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pa., fails to understand how the mission of today’s FBI has changed. And yet, the qualities of fidelity, bravery and integrity that have well-served the FBI since its founding in 1908 remain just as relevant today.
In the wake of 9/11, there was a concerted effort to transfer the bureau’s domestic, intelligence-gathering responsibilities to a proposed intelligence agency similar to the British MI5. Fortunately, our leaders in Washington recognized the unique role the bureau plays in ensuring security, encompassing criminal investigative principles and experience, intelligence gathering and analysis, and counterterrorism efforts.
The bureau faces a continuing struggle to balance its law enforcement mission and requirements with prioritizing intelligence and counterterrorism operations. This dichotomy is ongoing, and balancing those missions will be critical to defining the soul of the organization in the next decade.
While priorities may change, agents today are as essential to the bureau’s mission of protecting our country as they are to combating a wide array of crimes ranging from street gangs to mortgage fraud.
Many agents have forsaken more lucrative jobs in the private sector to serve their country and society, with many inspired to serve because of 9/11. On this anniversary, those in Washington debating federal spending cuts and who may target agents’ pensions need to be reminded of the essential role the men and women of the FBI play in national security.
Jeopardizing the recruitment and retention efforts of the FBI and other law enforcement and counterterrorism organizations through pay freezes and pension cuts could end up costing our nation far more in lives and money than it saves.
Motyka is president of the FBI Agents Association, a professional association of nearly 12,000 active and retired FBI agents |nationwide.