Capitol Police are asking for an additional $3.8 million in next year’s general expenses budget to fund security efforts at next summer’s Democratic and Republican national conventions in Milwaukee and Charlotte.
That’s up from the fiscal 2019 general expenses budget, which totaled $81.6 million. The Architect of the Capitol also asked for $7 million in more funding to begin preparations for the 2021 inauguration.
Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa told lawmakers earlier this month the department plans to have a large footprint for the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, despite a number of other law enforcement and security agencies that are also involved.
“No one is focusing on Congress like we are. We don’t want to rely on others to do that,” Verderosa told the House Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee.
The Secret Service leads the way in securing the official convention event sites, because they are designated as a national special security event. But lawmakers will be all across Milwaukee and Charlotte at fundraisers, dinners and other events outside the secured perimeter.
Local law enforcement is typically focused on demonstrations and protests, and the larger metro area. That means Capitol Police personnel focus specifically on keeping lawmakers are safe.
“We look at it from the perspective that it’s half, it’s basically half the Congress is going to one place. Our ability to reconstitute the members that are off campus at the convention and be able to relocate those members if necessary,” Verderosa said.
The Capitol Police Chief is talking about the worst case scenario. If a catastrophic attack or disaster were to impact a large portion of lawmakers, the remaining members would have to reconstitute the legislature and potentially work through a national crisis.
Verderosa says the department brings the assets usually available on the Capitol campus to the conventions. Those include teams and technology to detect and mitigate suspicious packages, SWAT teams and K9 units, which sweep areas where members of Congress may gather outside the perimeter.
“Our goal is to provide a safe environment for you to operate and we want to be able to reconstitute if we have to and with that, sometimes comes a footprint,” Verderosa told appropriators.
Capitol Police are making plans for the security challenges posed by the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, and appropriators are making calculations of how to fund the efforts, while they await fiscal 2020 subcommittee allocations.
The total USCP budget for fiscal year 2019 is $456.3 million.
Much of the $3.8 million requested would fund Capitol Police overtime needs for the conventions, travel and protective services for Charlotte and Milwaukee.
Some would also support “pre-planning and preparation for the 2021 Presidential Inauguration ceremony.”
Planning for the 2021 event began the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, said Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon.
The AOC requested $7 million more for fiscal year 2020, bringing the agency’s total request to $832 million. The extra funds are specifically for inauguration preparations, including the construction and teardown of the staging.
“We say what can we do better? What worked and what didn’t work? Or what technology is changing or what security aspects are changing after the last inauguration?” Merdon told lawmakers earlier this month.
The AOC is finalizing design plans for the 2021 inauguration and construction of the stands and stage are expected to begin in September of 2020, two full months before election day.
“It is quite an endeavor,” she said.