In an unprecedented move, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of expanding the number of security personnel dedicated to protecting agency chief Scott Pruitt by 12, increasing the administrator’s total security detail to 30 guards, as members of Congress are asking if the costs are a “potential waste or abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Salaries alone for the full team that works in shifts to provide Pruitt around-the-clock protection will cost taxpayers at least $2 million per year, according to figures compiled by CNN from public documents. The figures do not include costs such as training, equipment, and travel.
The 24/7 security detail is something unheard of for Pruitt’s predecessors. Two prior administrators were guarded when getting transported to meetings or on trips, according to ThinkProgress.
During the first three months of Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA, the government spent more than $800,000 on security for him, almost twice the cost of security for each of his two predecessors — Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson — over similar time periods.
The EPA’s security spending increase comes as the Trump administration has laid out plans to gut the agency’s budget by 30%, including major cuts to the agency’s enforcement work and staffing as well as the elimination of some programs.
In June, Pruitt told Congress that the EPA “can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management.”
The EPA’s inspector general’s office, which investigates threats against employees, says Pruitt has received more death threats than any of his predecessors. The agency says that their office has launched more than 70 investigations into threats against Pruitt and others.
“We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. McCarthy,” said assistant inspector general Patrick Sullivan, referring to Gina McCarthy, who held the post under President Barack Obama.
According to CNN:
The positions on Pruitt’s detail pay between $103,000 and nearly $162,000, according to the job posting and a source familiar with the positions, who described how the role is called criminal investigator or agent, and said it qualifies for a 25% bonus paid to federal law enforcement officers, who work unusual hours. The position of criminal investigator at the EPA that usually involves investigating environmental crimes involving pollution or waste dumping.
But an online posting for the jobs described the responsibilities as including “assisting with conducting of advances, motorcade logistics, physical security, site security, and conducting or coordinating investigations of individuals or groups who may present a physical danger to the protectee.”
In addition, the cost of the team goes well beyond their salaries. The number of government vehicles used by Pruitt’s security detail will also grow, allowing each agent his or her own vehicle.
Reps. Peter DeFazio and Grace Napolitano have written a letter to the EPA inspector general asking him to investigate their concerns that “taxpayer funds are being misused.”
They state that Pruitt’s security costs “during his first quarter as EPA administrator is nearly double what the two previous administrators spent on security over that same timeframe.” The letter was issued before the new agents were hired.
They charge that Pruitt’s spending on travel, security and the soundproof room is “symptomatic of a troubling culture that appears to have swept through this administration,” the Democrats wrote.
“This culture, which is reflected in travel and lifestyle choices from the President on down, seems to embolden senior, politically appointed officials of the Trump administration to undertake lavish spending of taxpayer dollars for their sole and personal benefit, and not for the benefit of Americans paying the tab,” they added.