Lott Pans Cops’ Supplemental Spending Request

Posted February 17, 2005 at 11:14am

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) privately admonished the Capitol Police for requesting nearly $60 million in supplemental funding this week, and he is advising the Appropriations Committee against granting the additional funds.

The Mississippi lawmaker, whose panel has oversight of the Capitol Police, voiced his disapproval in a Feb. 14 letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

“I am writing to express my strong opposition to the $59.5 million supplemental funding request submitted to you by the Police Board,” Lott wrote. “At a time when Congress should be reigning in federal spending, there is no basis to justify the Police Board’s request to increase spending by 26 percent.”

According to a request submitted by Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer to the Office of Management and Budget in late January, the agency is seeking an additional $36 million for salaries, including overtime and hazardous duty pay, and $23 million for the department’s general fund to cover “related emergency expenses.” The department received $232 million in fiscal 2005.

In his letter, Lott asserts the police could use $7.4 million in its existing funds to cover at least a portion of its supplemental request.

Those appropriations included $6.1 million provided to the department through the Emergency Response Fund — a $40 billion account created by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for counter-terrorism and national security measures — as well as another $1.3 million in “no-year” account balances.

“These funds can surely be used to reduce the current salary shortfall and thereby reduce the supplemental request,” Lott wrote. The Senator noted the department faces a $10.57 million “salary shortfall” due to overtime requirements.

The police previously used $9.6 million from the Emergency Response Fund to cover overtime costs incurred by a traffic checkpoint program the department instituted for several months in the fall of 2004.

Capitol Police officials had not received a copy of the letter, but a department spokesman said: “Capitol Police are working with the Senators and the Sergeant-at-Arms to address their concerns.”

In his letter, Lott also questioned the department’s request to add more than 250 additional police officers to its current force of more than 1,600 officers.

According to Lott, Capitol Police officials are seeking $11.85 million in the supplemental request to employ another 132 sworn personnel, in addition to a proposal in the department’s fiscal 2006 budget for 122 new officers.

“I am not convinced such an increase is warranted especially since some of the additional personnel are designated to the Capitol Visitors Center which is not likely to have substantial operations for much of the 2006 calendar year,” Lott wrote.

Lott similarly panned the law enforcement agency’s request for a $15 million fund to serve as a reserve for future overtime costs.

“In my view, if, in the future, there is an emergency that requires additional overtime to be paid, I am sure that your committee will view such a request favorably. However, I do not believe such a request should be granted at this time,” Lott wrote.

The chairman also voiced objection to a provision in the department’s $290 million fiscal 2006 request that would dole out $8.3 million to purchase new “quick masks,” the emergency hoods stored around the Capitol complex in case of a toxic or biological emergency.

“Many of the quick masks were purchased and distributed very recently and it is not clear that they require replacement,” Lott wrote.

In addition, Lott questioned the need for a $3.4 million command center to be installed at the Alternate Computing Facility, an emergency facility run by the Architect of the Capitol that allows Congressional agencies to store data in an undisclosed facility outside of the District of Columbia.

A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee confirmed representatives of the panel have met with Capitol Police official in recent days, but declined to divulge how the agency’s request has been received by the chamber’s lawmakers.