Gainer said that for the Senate, the number of cases reported represents a “slight uptick” from previous years.
He agreed with Schneider that there’s been a shift in attitude toward taking threats seriously and suggested that the increase in threats could correlate with a new appreciation for reporting incidents as they occur.
Since the Tucson attack, which left six dead, including Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, and 13 wounded, lawmakers have been consistently better at asking for security assistance before hosting large-scale constituent events.
“They now know how to prepare for events big and small and know what to look out for, who to touch base with if they need assistance,” Gainer said. “When planning for an event in the past, the planning, I don’t think, ever included a security component, and I believe it does now.”
Gainer is optimistic that a DVD on security tips that the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms’ office is releasing in the next couple of months will also have a long-lasting effect.
The intangible nature of many of the security steps taken in the past year is part choice — better coordination is a good idea in any circumstance — and part necessity.
In fiscal 2012, Capitol Police will be flat-funded at $340 million.
Some House appropriators had hoped to provide $1 million to the Capitol Police to implement a program to strengthen security in Members’ district offices, but the provision was not included in the fiscal 2012 omnibus spending bill because Capitol Police did not have the resources to make such a program possible, according to an Appropriations Committee aide.
The bill’s conference report does include language, though, that would instruct the House Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Police to assist Members in selecting district office locations that “yield greater security with less cost.”
The House Chief Administrative Officer is charged with doing more outreach to help Members negotiate such leases.
While the House Sergeant-at-Arms received a small increase from the fiscal 2011 allocation, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms budget was trimmed by 5 percent.
Gainer said finances haven’t been much of a problem for his team, though.
Earlier this year, he hired a new assistant Sergeant-at-Arms for intelligence and protective services to oversee security for dignitaries, intelligence operations and interaction with local and state law enforcement.
“We always wish we had more rubles to do things, but we’ve been able to prioritize,” he said.