The nation’s top federal law enforcement agency is overwhelmingly white, and its top officials acknowledge that’s “a huge operational risk.”

For the FBI, the longstanding failure to diversify its ranks is nothing short of “a huge operational risk,” according to one senior official, something that compromises the agency’s ability to understand communities at risk, penetrate criminal enterprises, and identify emerging national security threats.

Indeed, 10 months before being fired as director of the FBI by President Trump, James Comey called the situation a “crisis.”

“Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,” Comey said in a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Daytona Beach, Florida. “I’ve got nothing against white people — especially tall, awkward, male white people — but that is a crisis for reasons that you get, and that I’ve worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands.”

It’s a charged moment for the FBI, one in which diversifying the force might not strike everyone as the most pressing issue.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the bureau’s competence and integrity. Many Democrats blame Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Comey’s decision to announce that the bureau was reopening its inquiry into her emails days before the election. Republicans, echoing Trump’s attacks, have alleged that the FBI’s investigation of the president’s ties to Russia is a politically motivated abuse of power.

With some 35,000 employees and an annual budget around $9 billion, the FBI has an array of hiring problems, of which diversity is but one. It needs first-rate linguists and technologists to fight terrorism, and now, with ever greater urgency, cyber-crimes, yet starting pay for an agent in, say, Chicago is only around $63,600. In 2015, a human resources official told the bureau’s inspector general’s office that the agency attracted 2,000 eligible candidates to a recruiting event for its Next Gen Cyber Initiative, but only managed to hire two of them.


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Big Sky Connection


Eric Tegethoff

March 14, 2018

MARTINSDALE, Mont. - A proposed project in central Montana would create a huge battery for renewable energy sources out of the natural landscape. 

The Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project is a closed-loop hydroelectric facility created from two reservoirs - one at the bottom of the ridge and the other 1,000 feet above it. 

Sources such as wind and solar would pump water to the upper reservoir to create stored potential energy. When the wind stops blowing or the sun isn't shining, energy could be released. 

Carl Borgquist, president and CEO of Absaroka Energy, the company heading the project, says it would make renewables more reliable and that the battery itself would be environmentally friendly.

"The first maintenance cycle on this facility is at year 27," he states. "So this is a 100-year battery. It doesn't really wear out, ever. It can be cycled back and forth from complete discharge, let's say, back to full storage without creating any degradation."

The facility would be located near Martinsdale. It's already received a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is seeking financing for its $900 million construction. 

Absaroka is banking on the Pacific Northwest, where energy consumption is large and there is growing interest in powering the grid through renewables.

Borgquist says the project may cost more to build than other batteries but that it is inexpensive to operate and cleaner, since it only uses water and not typical battery chemicals such as lithium. 

The project would also be situated near transmission lines that stretch from Colstrip in eastern Montana to the Northwest. 

Colstrip will be hurting as energy companies shut down two of its coal-fired plants in the next four years. 

Borgquist hopes some of those workers will help operate the Gordon Butte project.

"It may not be a one-to-one evolution out of coal into different things - gas and wind and solar as a replacement - but we are aware of and excited and encouraged about trying to create jobs, and create opportunity and tax base, and benefit for our state," he states.

Borgquist says he hopes to wrap up contracts with utilities this year and begin construction in 2019.



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