- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday he’s authorized new hiring and is ready to order resumption of training new agents following last month’s passage of a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill.

The spending measure passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama also scaled back automatic spending cuts that had led the FBI to eliminate more than 2,000 positions through attrition and buyouts, institute a hiring freeze and suspend training of new agents at its academy at Quantico, Va.

In a visit Tuesday to the FBI’s Omaha field office, which covers Nebraska and Iowa, Comey said he has already signed off on opening 700 positions within the agency’s field offices across the country, and he plans to authorize more hiring.

“We’re going to be doing more of that in the form of agents, intelligence analysts and support personnel,” he said during a brief news conference. “We’re trying to figure out now where those should go, based on where the need is and the highest unaddressed risk is. That was actually part of my conversations here today with the (local) leadership - what are their needs and what are their gaps where they might use more resources.”

Comey, who took over the FBI in September, has traversed the country in recent weeks in his quest to visit all of the agency’s 56 field offices.

“I’m here, because this is where the FBI is,” he said. “I work in Washington, but I can’t see the FBI from Washington, because mine is a deployed army.”

Besides reversing the cutbacks forced on the agency last year, Comey said he has no immediate plans to revamp the agency, saying the FBI’s priorities make sense.

The agency’s top priority remains counterterrorism, he said.

“It’s something I wake up worrying about every morning and go to bed worrying about every night,” he said.

A close second, he said, would be counterintelligence, “to protect the nation’s secrets.” And the FBI is leading the fight against cyber-crime, which includes not only Internet theft, but online trading of child pornography and human trafficking, he said.