To appreciate why the FBI so inept at catching terrorists during these years, one has to understand the transformative changes Mueller inflicted on the Bureau. In law enforcement, experience is key. One would expect it to be encouraged. But Mueller took the opposite tack, instituting a policy that required all FBI employees in any type of supervisory position for five years to either move to Washington to sit at a desk, or else leave the FBI.
The policy drew a stinging rebuke from the FBI Agents Association, which said the program hobbled local field offices by forcing out seasoned agents. The numbers bear that out. In the first nine months of 2007 alone, according to NPR, some “576 agents found themselves in the five-and-out pool. Less than half of them – just 286 – opted to go to headquarters; 150 decided to take a pay cut and a lesser job to stay put; 135 retired; and five resigned outright.” Overall, Mueller’s “Five and Out Policy” devastated the FBI ranks.
For surrounding himself with an army of “yes men,” however, Mueller’s personnel practices were a smashing success. It was so much so that at the end of his stint, Mueller managed to talk his way into a two-year extension to his original ten-year term.