Wasserman Schultz grills AoC on security for House chamber

House appropriators yesterday criticized acting Architect of the Capitol (AoC) Stephen Ayers on his agency’s long-term priorities.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” panel House Appropriations legislative branch subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told Ayers, “but I’m concerned and confused about how you arrived at the prioritizing process.”

Wasserman Schultz noted that secured storage for the Library of Congress had a higher priority for the AoC than security requirements for the House chamber.

“I think the people of the chamber should be a higher priority than the stuff,” she said.

The panel called upon Ayers yesterday to testify on the AoC’s long-range facilities-planning initiatives. The AoC is responsible for 15 million square feet of buildings and nearly 400 acres of land.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) questioned Ayers about the AoC’s inability to “think outside the box.” He also wondered why the addition of more parking facilities had never been considered for the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) project.

Other panel members questioned Ayers on the parking situation on Capitol Hill. Several noted that the Capitol Police have warned them about the deterioration of the parking garages. Still others raised concerns about the lack of cell-phone service in various areas around the Hill, renewable energy and the cost efficiency of the Capitol Power Plant.

“The AoC team is committed to fulfilling our stewardship responsibilities of the Capitol complex over the long term, although it seems that at times we have to make tough choices with regard to prioritizing projects and investing in our infrastructure,” Ayers said.