Amid rising threats, Democrats ask if DHS is doing enough to ensure federal employees are safe.
Some top Democrats are asking the Biden administration if it is taking sufficient steps to protect the federal workforce in light of an uptick in threats against employees, requesting a briefing on the current environment and the government’s response.
Pointing to sharpened and, at times, violent rhetoric at various parts of the federal workforce following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who respectively chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee and its national security panel, asked the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Protective Service if it had adequate resources to ramp up its security efforts. The lawmakers suggested they would push for more funding if necessary, rather than requiring FPS to rely solely on the “basic security fee” agencies pay to the DHS component.
“The committee is extremely concerned that this volatile threat environment puts federal employees in grave danger and at risk of violence,” Maloney and Lynch wrote in their letter on Tuesday to FPS Director L. Eric Patterson. “As the primary federal agency charged with providing physical security and law enforcement services to protect approximately 9,000 federal facilities, and the employees and visitors who use them, FPS is in a critical position to assess threats against government personnel and ensure all employees are protected from violence and threats of violence.”
Specifically, the lawmakers said FPS may have insufficient funds for investigative and facility security functions given the “current heightened threats against federal employees.” They asked for written answers and a briefing on how FPS monitors threads against feds and their facilities, how the agency communicates those threats and whether it has seen an increase recently. They also requested information on whether FPS has updated its security assessments at any facility, what happens when it updates the security level at a location and how much that costs. The lawmakers asked FPS to assess if they have sufficient resources and what else it may require.
They posted an FPS bulletin from last month that instructed federal law enforcement to “remain at a heightened state of vigilance.” It reminded agency leaders to ensure federal facilities are “properly monitored and secured.”
Several agencies in recent weeks have taken steps to warn employees of threats they have received or observed, including the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency and National Archives and Records Administration. The Internal Revenue Service, which has come under fire from Republican lawmakers and other conservative figures after President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act and its provision to boost IRS funding and hiring, has launched a comprehensive review of the agency's safety measures. In their letter on Tuesday, Maloney and Lynch cited rhetoric from Republican lawmakers that new IRS employees were “coming for you,” would be involved in shootings and could potentially kill Americans as contributing to the threats the workforce now faces.
The EPA and IRS warnings followed a joint bulletin from DHS and the Justice Department that warned of "an increase in threats and acts of violence, including armed encounters, against law enforcement, judiciary and government personnel, in reaction to the FBI's recent executive of a court-authorized search" of President Trump's home and social club in Florida. An armed man was fatally shot last month after attempting to breach an FBI building in Cincinnati.
Maloney, who recently lost her bid for re-election, and Lynch, who is running to replace her as the oversight chair, called the recent statements denegrating federal employees and their work were “both dangerous and false.” They asked FPS whether EPA, IRS or NARA has requested an update to its security level and what other steps it has taken to help those agencies specifically.
“We are alarmed that leaders in the Republican Party have promoted false conspiracy theories and fueled violent threats against federal workers, putting the lives of law enforcement officials and other patriotic public servants at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.
They asked for a response and briefing from FPS by Sept. 28. DHS did not respond to an inquiry into what steps it has taken to ramp up security at federal facilities.