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Members Can Pay for Security Upgrades With Allowances

The House Administration Committee has officially given Members permission to use their representational allowance for security upgrades in their district offices. But unless Members use one preapproved company, they will need clearance from the House Sergeant-at-Arms.

Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) advised colleagues in a letter that they can spend up to $10,000 on security upgrades from ADT Security Services without prior approval. But Members must ask for permission to use another company.

“This review is necessary for the [House Sergeant-at-Arms] to ensure the qualifications and capabilities of various vendors not previously evaluated,” the letter said. Spending in excess of $10,000 must also be approved.

Only new locks, security systems, panic buttons and other physical security enhancements are qualified expenses. The letter specifies that new doorways, bulletproof glass or other permanent modifications to a building must be paid for by the property owner, but Members may pay back the cost as part of their rent.

Members have expressed concern for the safety of their district staff members and voiced their intent to upgrade security measures in the wake of the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 18 other people. Six people were killed, and Giffords is in serious condition at a hospital in Tucson, Ariz.

Though ADT is the most widely used security provider among House Members, several Members opt for Guardian Protection Services, Alliance Security Service, Per Mar Security, or other national and regional businesses, according to the most recent House statement of disbursements. Lungren, for instance, uses First Solutions Inc., which is based in his Sacramento district.

A spokeswoman for House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood said he is not showing preference for ADT because he is “precluded from endorsing any one company or product.”

“However, ADT is a nationwide company that is on the [General Services Administration] schedule,” spokeswoman Kerri Hanley said in an e-mail. “They can provide a standardized level of equipment and performance to all Members in all districts. ADT provides similar services to the Senate and courts and understands the nuances of protecting high profile clients.”

Capitol Police officers are familiar with the company’s standards, and the company can centrally monitor any alarms in all districts, she added.

ADT does not have a political action committee, but its parent company, Tyco International, donated more than $250,000 to Members of Congress in the 2010 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A spokesman for ADT did not return a request for comment.

The company has set up a special e-mail address for Members and is offering them free security assessments.

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