Congress is expected to enact a “security supplemental” appropriations bill to address the aftermath of the Trump insurrection on January 6. In advance of that legislation, we compiled recommendations for items to include in the supplemental. They are informed by our experiences studying Legislative branch operations over the last decade, including several years of research into the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
The recommendations were formulated in light of three major current threats to Capitol security. The first threat arises from the current political climate, in which insurrections sacked the Capitol and white supremacists are threatening the lives of Members of Congress and staff. The second relates to continuity of congressional operations concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. And the third threat arises from the danger of espionage, with a particular focus on cybersecurity in connection with foreign efforts to affect the 2016 and 2020 elections.
While some may suggest that funding is a key issue for the USCP, we believe the failures with respect to the Capitol Police are more closely tied to how the force is organized, managed, led, and overseen. Indeed, funding for the Capitol Police has increased from FY 2000 to FY 2021 from $127 million to $515 million (in constant dollars), with a commensurate significant increase in staffing. An examination of the $1.2 billion increase in the 302b allocation for the Legislative branch from 1995 to present shows that two-thirds of the increase — the lion’s share — has gone to the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol. This has exerted significant downward pressure on funding for congressional policymaking and operations, and we must stay mindful that sustaining any increase in funding for the Capitol Police in future years will further weaken the policymaking and oversight capacity of the Legislative branch unless it is balanced by commensurately larger increases in allocations to the Legislative branch.
We will not recapitulate here our findings about the many potential issues we have found with Capitol Police operations, as a summary of our findings are available here and you can watch a video briefing on that topic here.