Friday, June 10, 2011

FBI Director Mueller Takes Part in Senate Judiciary Hearing on Extension of Term

On June 8, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill that would allow for a two-year extension of his term. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) introduced legislation last month that would give Mueller a one-time, two-year extension after President Barack Obama made the extension request.

Mueller, 66, currently faces mandatory retirement on Sept. 4 under a law that caps the service of FBI directors at 10 years. The 10-year limit was set after J. Edgar Hoover served 48 years as head of the bureau. Since that time, no director has served the full 10-year term.
Others witnesses for the hearing included former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, William & Mary Law School Professor William W. Van Alystne and University of Virginia School of Law Professor John C. Harrison.

While Mueller's prepared remarks did not directly push for an extension, he did say he would be honored to serve an additional two years. Additionally, Mueller noted that he spoke to individuals inside and outside of the FBI before deciding that he would stay if Congress allows him to do so.

Leahy said he believes the proposed legislation will pass and many Capitol Hill staffers expect lawmakers to approve the extension quickly and quietly before they leave for August recess.
However, Grassley has shown concern about extending the FBI Director's term. "We should proceed cautiously in setting a precedent that a 10-year term can be extended," he said. "If we are going to extend Director Mueller's term, we should establish a precedent that doing so will be difficult and that unique circumstances necessitating it exist as those are circumstances at this particular time."

Additionally, Grassley asked about criticisms from FBI agents in management who feel it is unfair that Mueller may get an extension when they are not allowed to stay in their management role. The policy that requires FBI supervisors to move on after seven years and compete for another managerial position, retire or get demoted at the same field office with a pay decrease has been controversial. On Wednesday, Mueller said it was difficult to make the decision to implement the policy and it has led to the agency losing some good people, but it has also helped develop a pool of strong managers.

Comey, who had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the FBI director position, said he supported the current 10-year limit, but particularly dangerous circumstances call for an exception and he supports the extension of Mueller's term. He called Mueller "one of the finest public servants this nation has ever seen."

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