Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today highlighted the dysfunction of the U.S. Capitol Police Board during a hearing with the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) Inspector General (IG). The AOC IG’s recent report found that the AOC, while a voting member of the board, is not involved in security planning decisions. The committee is scheduled to hear from the full board next Wednesday. This will be the first time the full board has appeared at an oversight hearing before Congress since 1945.
Text of Davis’s opening remarks:
The Architect of the Capitol Inspector General is examining the events of January 6th because the Architect of the Capitol, as an agency, is in charge of preparing the U.S. Capitol grounds prior to major events and during an emergency. It’s because of this incredibly important role that the AOC is a voting member of the Capitol Police Board, along with the House Sergeant at Arms and Senate Sergeant at Arms.
I know everyone serving on this committee and those who have been covering it have heard me talk about the issues with the structure and scope of the Capitol Police Board again and again, but I strongly believe that if we want to make significant improvement to security operations on Capitol Hill – which I think we all do – we need to reform the entity making those decisions. And I believe the IG’s reports we’re examining today, clearly highlight a number of the major issues with the board that I have been talking about.
In his report, the IG found that despite the AOC being responsible for the physical security of the Capitol Complex, the other members of the Capitol Police Board generally permit the AOC little to no role in developing the security plan for major events at the Capitol. Even worse, those other Capitol Police Board members generally meet privately—outside of the Board structure—to approve any security plan without the AOC. These reportsalso, disturbingly, more broadly note that recommendations and suggestions made by the AOC are largely ignored or dismissed by the Board, including decisions and plans surrounding January 6th. This is consistent with emails my office has reviewed as part of our preservation and document production requests made in our oversight capacity. In one email chain, the AOC was directed, not consulted, by the Sergeant at Arms to remove 500 bike racks, despite the AOC’s concerns that this would remove a zone of defense. The lack of coordination between members of the Board in developing and executing a security plan is incredibly concerning.
I’m also concerned that the IG found that the AOC’s Office of the Chief Security Officer (OCSO) has been in a customer support role to the Board and USCP, instead of a contributing role involved with the communication, coordination, and collaboration to secure the Capitol campus.
Taxpayers are paying for experts in civil engineering readiness, anti-terrorism/force protection, critical infrastructure risk management, homeland security, and law enforcement to staff the OCSO, but they’re not even involved in the security planning for major events at the U.S. Capitol. Where is the sense in that?
I continue to be troubled by the intelligence provided to, but then dismissed by, the USCP. It appears the Chief Security Officer within the AOC also provided intel to the USCP that social media chatter was showing threats of violence and that groups bringing weapons and ammunition to the Capitol was possible. However, these serious red flags were dismissed by the USCP.
I can only help but wonder that if the AOC’s role on the Board was respected and the AOC’s Chief Security Officer was routinely brought in and consulted before these major events if their concerns would have been taken more seriously and our security posture would have been different.
But our job needs to be moving forward and fixing our security vulnerabilities. I believe from these reports and our previous hearings, there is a serious and immediate need to reform the Capitol Police Board. It seems there were laws enacted in the 1990s, referenced by the IG, that weakened the AOC and transferred some of its critical security responsibilities to the Board. I look forward to discussing these issues with the IG, but I think this committee needs to further examine those laws as well as hear from the entire Board. I appreciate Chairperson Lofgren’s commitment on Monday to holding a hearing with the full Boardand I hope we can get that scheduled in the near future. It’s clear from the IG’s report that the Board is not operating how it was intended to and it’s lacking in transparency and accountability. As the IG says in his report, there is a culture where the AOC operates in a supporting capacity and has no authority to contribute to the design and/or preparation of a security plan unless directed by the Board. This is something that needs to change.
Beyond the Board, I believe there are other issues that have left our campus more vulnerable than it would be because of COVID-19 decisions. Just as COVID-19 and government decisions have impacted the workforce across the country, the Capitol Hill workforce has changed as well. I will touch on this as it relates to security preparedness during my questions here today but this committee needs to hold oversight hearings of those agencies thatwe oversee to understand how these offices handled COVID-19 decisions overall and their progress towards reopening. These offices received tens of millions in taxpayer funds to handle COVID-19 and we should be overseeing how these funds are spent. Yet, we have not held a single hearing on this since the pandemic began or as we work to reopen the campus.
These decisions are all connected to how this our seat of government is run and how prepared it is during an emergency.
With that, I look forward to discussing these issues with the IG and I yield back.
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