Breach of Congress Could Put Taxpayers on the Hook for Costly Repairs and Security Enhancements

Vandalism perpetrated by the crowd that breached the Capitol during the January 6th joint session of Congress did extensive damage throughout the building. A price tag for repairs is unknown at this time, but it seems likely that millions in additional funding will be required from taxpayers to restore the facilities to their previous state.

The Capitol and its grounds are maintained by the Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bill provided the AOC $35 million for the maintenance, care, and operation of the Capitol building. The AOC uses its own staff, including its Construction Division, and occasionally employs private contractors to perform maintenance and repairs.

The Capitol Building account does include approximately $5 million for minor construction funds, a reserve for emergent projects, such as unforeseen and necessary maintenance operations. These funds could likely be tapped for the immediate work, but that would also mean supplemental funding may be necessary later in the fiscal year for any emergent projects.

A more significant cost may follow from a review of the security of the building and the operation of the United States Capitol Police (USCP), who were overwhelmed and seemingly ill-prepared for the large crowd while Congress was meeting in a joint session.

The FY 2021 budget provides $424 million for the salaries of USCP’s employees and $91 million for general expenses, which includes equipment, vehicles, weapons, supplies, training, and other costs. For some context, the USCP’s total budget of $515 million is just shy of the $545.7 million budget afforded to the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department, which has responsibility for maintaining public safety for the district’s 700,000 residents.

The AOC is also responsible for supporting the USCP and “providing security functions around the Capitol campus.” The FY 2021 appropriations provided $46 million for “all necessary expenses for the maintenance, care and operation of buildings, grounds and security enhancements of the United States Capitol Police, wherever located, the Alternate Computing Facility, and Architect of the Capitol security operations.”

The USCP’s budget has been dramatically increased since September 11, 2001 and subsequent threats and risks. It was also not that long ago that Congress spent $621 million to build the Capitol Visitor Center ($360 million above its initial cost estimate) which was intended to improve security. Undoubtedly there will be hearings and reports over the year to evaluate the adequacy of existing budgetary resources provided for protection of the U.S. Capitol and other governmental buildings, but taxpayers should keep an eye on these budget line items to help determine the ultimate cost of yesterday’s destructive acts.