The Environmental Protection Agency is hiring 12 new security agents to add to Administrator Scott Pruitt's already unprecedented around-the-clock security detail, CNN reported Monday night, citing "sources with knowledge of the situation" and help-wanted ads. The new agents will cost the agency at least $2 million a year in salaries, plus training, equipment, vehicles, travel, and other expenses. CNN said it has withheld details about the size of Pruitt's security detail, but Talking Points Memo says the dozen additional agents will bring his guard count to 30 agents.
No previous EPA chief has requested or received 24/7 protection, EPA assistant inspector general Patrick Sullivan told CNN, but "the EPA is a lightning rod," and Pruitt has received "four to five times the number of threats" as his predecessor, Gina McCarthy. "We get threats from both sides of the spectrum," he added. McCarthy had a total of five guards, mostly for travel outside Washington.
Pruitt is also much more secretive than former EPA chiefs, installing a soundproof phone booth ($25,000) in his office and security access card systems in and around his office ($15,780), and keeping cleaning crews out of his office during non-working hours. "It's unclear if Pruitt and his staff are guarding against outside threats, internal leakers, or both," CNN says. "EPA sources have described Pruitt as distrustful of career staffers at the agency."
Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) have asked the EPA inspector general if "taxpayer funds are being misused," noting that Pruitt's security bill "during his first quarter as EPA administrator is nearly double what the two previous administrators spent on security over that same timeframe," and that's before the new agents. Pruitt has also notched at least $58,000 in chartered and government flights, all while planning to cut the agency budget by 30 percent. Peter Weber