More than 1,400 of the U.S. Marshals Service's 3,900 operational employees were wearing expired body armor at the end of June, according to documents obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Most of the agency's employees received body armor kits, consisting of carriers, concealable vests, ballistic inserts and ceramic rifle plates, in fiscal years 2011 or 2012, according to the committee.
But those kits are set to expire after five years, meaning that much of the equipment would need to be replaced this year. So far, the Marshal Service has replaced only 1,761 ballistic inserts and vests.
Now, committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley announces reelection bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (R-Iowa) is asking the agency's acting director, David Harlow, to explain why he told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in April that he was not aware of the expired body armor, as well as why the agency's budget request fell short of the amount needed to properly replace the equipment.
The agency requested about $1.3 million from Congress to replace expired body armor. But in a letter to Harlow, Grassley said that Marshals Service leaders were told that that amount would not be enough to follow the agency's five-year replacement plan.
"This amount is also about half the annualized amount allocated under the February 2016 contract for body armor," Grassley wrote. "The plan reportedly would actually have required approximately $10 million to replace all the equipment purchased in 2011–2012."
"This suggests the agency knowingly underfunded the plan, resulting in expired armor that the agency knew had a significant failure rate," he added.
Grassley also admonished the agency for failing to reallocate funds in its lump sum appropriations for body armor replacement, until after an agency employee complained to the Judiciary Committee.
Marshals Service spokeswoman Michelle Coghill told The Washington Post that the agency has enough funding to replace all expired equipment by the end of the fiscal year. She said that employees' safety “remains our agency’s primary concern as we routinely pursue the most dangerous fugitives in the nation."
The Marshals Service is responsible for guarding the country's courts, operating the Federal Witness Protection Program and tracking down fugitives.