Capitol Police request for dramatic budget boost met with skepticism on Hill

The department is understaffed, and officers are overworked

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman arrives at the Capitol for Wednesday’s hearing. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman arrives at the Capitol for Wednesday’s hearing. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 21, 2021 at 6:04pm

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wants a budget increase of more than $100 million as the force works to address rising member threats and bolster staffing while overworked officers continue to grapple with the trauma they endured defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Pittman told the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday that the department needs $619.2 million for fiscal 2022, a dramatic jump from the previous year’s budget of $515.5 million.

The request comes at a time of unprecedented hardship for the department that includes the armed insurrection, three officer deaths and a recent announcement that it is undertaking a national search for its chief.

Over the first four months of 2021, threats against members of Congress have increased by 64 percent over the same time frame in 2020, Pittman told the panel.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy questioned whether the Capitol Police force was suffering from a lack of resources, given that his panel has met the department’s funding requests.

“In February, I asked the former chief and sergeants-at-arms if the Appropriations Committee, and ultimately the Congress, had met their request for salaries and operating expenses in every fiscal year. The response was a firm yes,” the Vermont Democrat said. “So it leads me to believe that the failures we saw on Jan. 6 were the result of a failure of leadership to either deploy officers, to equip them properly or to provide them with needed intelligence that a mob was on its way to the Capitol — not a lack of resources.”

The department — currently at 1,843 sworn officers — is understaffed, resulting in officers working forced overtime to the point of exhaustion. Pittman’s budget seeks to add 212 officers and 47 civilian positions. She stressed the need to have a dedicated standby force of 80 officers.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré led a recent review of Capitol security and found the department has 233 officer vacancies and that officers worked almost 720,000 overtime hours in fiscal 2020. That review suggested the Capitol Police add 854 total positions.

A security supplemental funding bill to boost security resources at the Capitol complex in response to Jan. 6 is circulating among lawmakers. Leahy said before the hearing that he wants to get more specifics on the security issues and how the additional money would be spent before advancing a supplemental.

“I told everybody, step back and let’s see exactly what we need. If we need money, of course, the money will be there,” Leahy said. “But let’s not just spend the money and then ask what we do with it.”

Katherine Tully-McManus and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.