Pruitt’s security detail cost up to $3.5M

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Records released Friday by EPA show that agency spending on Administrator Scott Pruitt’s personal security detail has climbed into the millions of dollars, surpassing his predecessors.

EPA has spent roughly $3.5 million overall on payroll and travel costs for Pruitt’s security detail during his first year in office, according to the documents. The agency spent more than $2.7 million on salary for the detail and more than $760,000 for its travel expenses during that time.

The EPA records, posted online in the agency’s Freedom of Information Act library, list the security detail’s payrolland travelexpenses quarterly for every fiscal year going back to 2009.

In prior fiscal years before Pruitt’s arrival at EPA, agency spending on payroll and travel for the administrator’s security detail ranged from roughly $1.6 million to $2 million. But those expenditures spiked during Pruitt’s first full quarter in charge of the agency — fiscal 2017’s third quarter — according to records.

Reporting last year by E&E News found that Pruitt’s security costs were on the rise. Documents showed the agency had already spent close to double on Pruitt’s security detail during his first months on the job compared with past administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy (Greenwire, July 5, 2017).

Pruitt has around-the-clock security protection, requiring more manpower for his detail. In addition, Pruitt was flying first class when he traveled due to security concerns but has now said he intends to fly coach. Those security measures resulted in greater costs for the agency.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Pruitt has faced “an unprecedented amount” of threats in office. In addition, the agency now plans to release figures detailing spending on Pruitt’s security detail every quarter.

“Administrator Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him, and to provide transparency EPA will post the costs of his security detail and proactively release these numbers on a quarterly basis. Americans should all agree that members of the president’s cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats,” Wilcox said.

The EPA inspector general has opened more threat investigations related to Pruitt than it did for McCarthy. Some of those investigations, however, revealed that social media and mail sent to EPA expressing displeasure with Pruitt’s policies or mocking the administrator were often categorized as threats (Greenwire, May 8).

Pruitt’s security spending has attracted scrutiny from lawmakers as well as from EPA’s IG. Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, the career EPA special agent who led Pruitt’s security detail, retired from the agency last month.

The EPA IG has opened up an audit into agency spending on Pruitt’s security detail.

EPA IG spokeswoman Tia Elbaum told E&E News that the watchdog office expects to release that audit’s report this summer.