The U.S. Department of Justice will not need to furlough employees this fiscal year after all, thanks to some moves from Congress and cost-cutting measures, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced to the agency late Wednesday.
The budget actions the DOJ took mean that thousands of federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors and other agency employees will remain on the job despite a $1.6 billion budget cut from Congress called sequestration, Holder said in a letter to employees.
A similar budget maneuver prevented furloughs at federal prisons in March, and Congress this week provided more flexibility for the DOJ in its final 2013 budget, which funds the agency through September.
But Holder warned that "few of the extraordinary actions" the agency is now taking to avoid furloughs will be available next year, making furloughs "a distinct possibility at the beginning of next fiscal year if sequestration levels continue."
Holder alluded to the Boston Marathon bombings as a reason why the department needs its employees on the job. "As the recent events have made clear, we need Department of Justice employees on the job to respond to emergencies and safeguard the American people," Holder wrote in the memo.
In February, Holder in a letter to Congress outlined the $1.6 billion cuts from the DOJ's current funding level the agency could face under a sequestration. Holder back then estimated the department would lose more than 1,000 federal agents to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes and help ensure national security, as well as 1,300 correctional officers in federal prisons.
The $100 million that would be cut from U.S. attorney office budgets would mean 2,600 fewer cases would be pursued than last fiscal year, including 1,600 fewer civil cases and 1,000 fewer criminal cases, Holder wrote.
Holder then wrote a letter to employees February 7, saying they would be given appropriate notice if the Justice Department had to place them on temporary furlough. He also said department heads would soon be following up on how the plans will affect the DOJ's day-to-day operations.