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Budget Cuts Left FBI Short on Ammo, Freeh Says


WASHINGTON — FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, in an unusually frank assessment of the bureau's shortcomings, Thursday issued a report condemning "make-work" practices that he inherited at the agency and branding as "sheer lunacy" budget cutbacks that left agents without ammunition for target practice.

In a 69-page report sent to all FBI field offices, Freeh outlined efforts to resolve these problems and described an array of fundamental changes that he has introduced since becoming director in September, 1993.

The report is unprecedented because previous FBI directors have not openly discussed bureau problems or detailed their efforts to obtain millions of dollars more for the organization than the Administration sought during an intense budget crunch.

"It was long FBI policy to simply transfer to a make-work job or backwater those who did not have the ability to lead or to carry out the heavy responsibilities borne by each FBI employee," Freeh said in the message, a copy of which was provided to The Times. "No more."

"The FBI is not going to have a broken-wing brigade of people who won't do their jobs--thus pushing even more work on the vast majority of FBI employees who are dedicated and productive," Freeh said.

Shortly after taking over the FBI, Freeh said, Clinton Administration officials proposed a budget that would have cut 540 agents from the bureau's work force. But, he said, the officials later realized that the reductions would have been "a dire step . . . that would have sharply reduced the FBI's effectiveness in fighting crime."

Even though those funds were restored, the Administration's fiscal 1995 budget did not provide for hiring any new agents.

Describing the situation as intolerable, Freeh said that he had gone to "members of Congress time and time again to plead the FBI's case for more resources. I also reminded them that Congress itself had given the FBI the responsibility for enforcement against a range of new federal offenses."

In the end, Congress budgeted $2.204 billion for the FBI in fiscal 1995, some $75.8 million more than the Administration had requested.

Freeh said that the additional funds will allow the FBI to add 640 agents by fiscal 1996, returning the agency to the peak strength level it reached in 1992 of 10,475 agents.

Noting that he has been asked "why I strayed from Administration requests and sought more funding for the FBI," Freeh cited two additional "shocking reasons." He said that agents did not have adequate body armor or enough ammunition to conduct target practice.

"Every citizen--to say nothing of public officials--should try to imagine the dangers, the sheer lunacy, of FBI agents not even having enough bullets," Freeh wrote. "That is intolerable and will not be allowed to recur."

Ammunition for target practice has since been increased 25%, to 1,000 rounds a year for each agent, Freeh noted. And planning has begun to develop a body armor system with enhanced protection for daily use.

In commenting on his first year of command, Freeh used blunt terms to condemn an incident that took place shortly before he took over: The attempt by Associate White House Counsel William H. Kennedy III to call the FBI directly to start an investigation of alleged wrongdoing by employees of the White House travel office.

Kennedy, a former law partner of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was reprimanded last year after an internal White House review concluded that he had improperly pressured the FBI.

"It was an unfortunate incident and an example of matters that we will avoid at all costs," Freeh said.

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