“We understand the desire for stability,’’ said Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association, which is renewing its call for an end to the term-limit policy. “But people are saying, ‘What about my stability?’ It’s ironic that this desire for stability did not apply to supervisors within the FBI.’’
The FBI’s policy, which is unusual among law enforcement agencies, was adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Known as “up or out,’’ it requires FBI supervisors to leave their posts after seven years and compete for other managerial jobs, retire or accept a demotion in the same field office with lower pay.
FBI officials say the term limits have brought strong managers into hundreds of positions created in the years after Sept. 11. But the plan to retain Mueller has revived long-simmering tensions over the policy, which some say has robbed the bureau of veteran supervisors who retired because they did not get promoted.
Some agents, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, expressed anger at the thought of Mueller staying when others have left.
“People are up in arms about this,’’ said one agent, who likened the news to “a shot in the kneecaps.’’
“We have lost valuable experience,’’ the agent said. “I’ve seen people, some really significant contributors to this organization and to this country, who are questioning their self-worth now and who are basically bitter.’’
White House officials declined to comment beyond Obama’s statement last week. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, citing the pending request to extend Mueller’s tenure. No significant opposition to the proposal has emerged in Congress, where Mueller generally enjoys bipartisan support.
The request has drawn strong support from congressional Democrats, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the FBI Intelligence Analysts Association, which on Wednesday called Mueller “a tremendous catalyst and leader.’’
Justice Department officials and former FBI officials say Mueller, who took over the post a week before the 2001 attacks, has a strong record and has successfully led the effort to prevent another terrorist strike in the United States. They say the dispute reflects resistance to change at the tradition-bound agency, which has added nearly 3,000 agents since the attacks, has tripled the number of analysts and is transforming into an intelligence agency focused on preventing terrorist strikes.
“Any organization which underwent such dramatic change will always produce a small group of detractors,’’ said Neil H. MacBride, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, who has worked extensively with Mueller and said his initiatives have been “transformative.’’