After rising threats against federal employees, House Democrats voiced concerns about the ability of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service to effectively protect the federal workforce.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, said the recent rise in threatening rhetoric came after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
In a Sept. 14 letter addressed to FPS Director L. Eric Patterson, the lawmakers asked for more information from FPS on how it’s ensuring the safety of the federal workforce. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, FPS is tasked with protecting federal facilities and safeguarding millions of employees and visitors to government buildings.
“The committee is extremely concerned that this volatile threat environment puts federal employees in grave danger and at risk of violence. 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,” the letter stated.
In the wake of the threats, the lawmakers said multiple agencies started taking steps to protect their workforce from potential acts of violence, including the Internal Revenue Service, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI.
“For example, on Aug. 23, 2022, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig reportedly warned IRS staff of ‘an abundance of misinformation and false social media postings’ about implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which have included ‘threats directed at the IRS and its employees,’” Maloney and Lynch wrote.
The two Democrats asked FPS if it had received any recent requests from the IRS, EPA, NARA or other agencies to update security levels.
The National Treasury Employees Union also recently asked all agencies it represents, including IRS, to review security protocols at their worksites.
“The employees we represent are concerned about their own safety. In some cases, they are afraid to identify themselves as government workers and hiding their agency identification badges when they leave the worksite,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon wrote in an email to Federal News Network. “We believe the security reviews will lead to improved protocols, including stricter building access, more security professionals on site and a greater sharing of intelligence among law enforcement agencies about potential threats.”
The lawmakers also raised concerns about current funding for FPS, which they said “may not be sufficient” to address the rising level of threats against federal employees. Historically, agencies finance FPS’ investigative and facility security work through congressionally appropriated funds, the letter explained.
The letter specifically asked Patterson to share if FPS has the appropriate funding it needs “to meet the current and growing threat environment,” and if not, to detail the additional funding that the service would require.
The lawmakers pointed to false rhetoric from some Republican lawmakers, in one instance suggesting that “thousands of new IRS agents were being hired to target and even kill Americans,” the letter stated. The lawmakers called the language “dangerous and false.”
The top Democrats asked for information on how FPS monitors threats against federal employees and agencies, how it works with social media companies to identify potential threats, and if FPS recorded a recent rise in threats against federal workers. They additionally requested information on the associated costs for heightening agency security, and the actions FPS plans to take to ensure federal employees’ safety in the “current threat environment.”
Maloney and Lynch asked FPS to provide written responses and a briefing to the committee by Sept. 28. DHS did not immediately respond to Federal News Network’s request for comment.