Capitol Police request more funds for FY12 after previous shortfalls

The Capitol Police department is seeking a budget increase of 12 percent more than the previous year’s request, after facing a nearly $20 million shortfall in fiscal 2010.

In testimony last week before the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee on proposed fiscal 2012 funding, Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse said the department will request $380 million, up from $340 million the year prior.

The FY12 budget request supports the current authorized staffing level of 2,243 positions, according to Morse. The department has also factored in about $36 million in projected overtime to support political conventions and pre-inauguration security planning.

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Anticipating such contingencies has proved vital for the force, after it experienced a severe budget shortfall in 2010 stemming from its failure to account for issues such as attrition and weekend hours.

Capitol Police told lawmakers last year that they did not have the money to pay for 2010 salaries. In February, the department was given a $12.5 million increase in funding under the fiscal 2011 continuing resolution — the only funding boost to any congressional support agency — to bridge the gap.

In his testimony, Morse thanked the committee and Congress “for providing the necessary salaries and general expenses funding for 2011 to support our personnel and operations.”

According to Morse, the additional funding requested over the previous year is mostly for seven new security initiatives, including enhancements for an alternate computer facility and updates to security systems within House and Senate parking garages.

During the hearing, subcommittee chairman Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) asked Morse about the status of the Capitol Police’s radio modernization project.

The project aims to update the department’s more-than-20-year-old radio system, something Morse told House appropriators was his No. 1 priority back in 2008 when he requested $35 million for the endeavor.

According to Morse, the department is currently in a combined phase three and four — including acquisition, procurement and testing — of the five-phased project.

When asked by Nelson if he believed the $7.2 million requested in the budget represented the last installment of the project, Morse said “we were on a diet in our general expenses” in the 2011 appropriation.

“By enabling us to not change the enacted general expense from the previous year, we'll be able to derive the $7.2 million from that general expense, and, therefore, we'll rescind that from our 2012 budget request,” he added.

When questioned by ranking subcommittee member Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) as to how he plans to balance the need for security — particularly following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January — with more cost savings, Morse said he looked at threats and risk when formulating the new budget.

The department has scrubbed vacant civilian positions and unneeded programs, reallocated staff for new missions and utilized information technology, he said.

“We will continue to do those scrubs of programs and operations to find savings both in how we do what we do and the number of people that we need to do it with,” Morse concluded.