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NEW FBI CHIEF NEEDS MORE HELP

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Unless some surprises surface, Judge Louis Freeh can expect smooth sailing through Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination as new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Freeh had better enjoy the pleasant trip while he can. After he takes over the helm at the bureau, the new director had better brace himself for many months and possibly years of rough water.Though his appointment alone should do much to repair the low morale and other damage inflicted on the FBI during the long battle to oust previous director William Sessions, plenty of scars remain to be healed.

One of the first orders of business for the new director will be to make the many policy decisions that have been pending while Sessions' fate was being decided.

Next on the agenda is the challenge of reducing the bureau from 10,000 to 9,000 agents in three years in response to budget constraints at a time when Congress keeps handing the FBI new assignments in a rapidly changing law enforcement environment.

When Freeh was a special agent from 1975 to 1981, the FBI had three national priorities: white-collar crime, organized crime and foreign counterintelligence. Since then, three have been added: violent crime, terrorism and illegal drugs.

The FBI's job would be eased if Congress would eliminate some of the duplication of law enforcement effort in such fields as narcotics, where literally dozens of agencies are stumbling over each other and wasting much money and manpower in the process.

Some image repair also is in order. Despite Sessions' efforts to hire more women and minorities, the FBI is still overwhelmingly dominated by white males.

On all counts, there are sharp limits to how much Freeh can be expected to accomplish without more help from Congress. The FBI is getting spread too thin. Only Capitol Hill can provide the resources the agency needs to handle its growing responsibilities.