WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is nearly doubling the money in its budget to gird for more bank failures, with regulators expecting the number of at-risk banks to climb in 2010.

The agency unveiled a $4.0 billion operating budget on Tuesday, $2.5 billion of which is to deal with funding the takeover of failed banks. The agency's entire corporate operating budget for 2009 was roughly $2.6 billion.

"It will ensure that we are prepared to handle an even larger number of bank failures next year, if that becomes necessary, and to provide regulatory oversight for an even larger number of troubled institutions," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a statement.

The agency, which for years had reduced staff because of dwindling or nonexistent bank failures, said it is seeking to add more than 1,600 staffers.

Roughly 950 of those new staffers will be tasked with dealing with the takeover and fallout from the expected increase in failures, including managing and selling off assets the FDIC holds onto after a collapse.

The FDIC has had to take a greater role in managing bank failures beyond initially putting them into receivership. More than 130 banks have failed this year, and the agency's inventory of assets in liquidation has more than doubled to $36.8 billion through the end of November. The FDIC also oversees more than 80 loss-share agreements with institutions representing $108 billion in additional assets.

The budget paints a grim picture of the banking industry, which is still struggling to deal with the economic malaise, tumult in the residential housing market and growing problems in the commercial real estate sector.

In addition to expecting bank failures to increase, the FDIC said it expects the number of at-risk banks to rise in 2010.

"The number of 3-, 4- and 5-rated institutions has increased by over 80% thus far during 2009 and is expected to continue to increase next year," an agency statement said, referring to the five-point scale regulators use to judge a bank's risk profile. Banks with a "one" rating are considered the safest.

The forecast could mean further increases to the FDIC's "problem list" of troubled banks, which stood at 552 at the end of the third quarter.

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