Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Watchdog: Scott Pruitt's 24/7, $3.5 Million Security Detail Was Unjustified

Is anyone surprised?



The 24/7 protection that Scott Pruitt received during his tenure running the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was unjustified, according to an EPA Office of Inspector General report released today.

A security detail gave Pruitt round-the-clock protection starting on his first day in February 2017. Former White House adviser Don Benton requested the extensive protection as a precautionary measure, citing possible threats against Pruitt.

That extra security came at a steep price. From the start of Pruitt's tenure until the end of the 2017 calendar year, the EPA spent $3.5 million protecting the boss. For comparison's sake, that's more than double the $1.6 million incurred by the agency's Protective Service Detail over the same period in 2016.

The fact that Pruitt's security detail cost $3.5 million isn't exactly news—the inspector general revealed that information in May. What is news, even if it's completely unsurprising, is that the inspector general found no "documented justification" for the "increased costs," which it deemed an "inefficient use of agency resources."

The EPA likely wasted so much money protecting Pruitt because it has no idea how to assess threats. "We found that the [agency] has no final, approved standard operating procedures that address the level of protection required for the Administrator or how those services are to be provided," the inspector general's report says. "The failure to have effective and current standard operating procedures can result in the organization having unclear lines of authority, inconsistent practices, inappropriate or inadequate staffing, and excessive or unnecessary costs."

It's not even clear if the EPA has the legal authorization to protect its administrator. The Government Accountability Office has said that only the Secret Service and Department of State can protect Cabinet officials. But according to the EPA's Office of Legal Counsel (OGC), the EPA can provide protection. The inspector general report "does not take any position on the merits of the OGC analysis."

The report doesn't make Pruitt look great, but that's nothing new for the former administrator. Pruitt resigned in March following months of scandals—and not just his 24/7 security detail or his taxpayer-funded first-class air travel, which he also used security concerns to justify. Pruitt also faced investigations for renting a posh D.C. condo from a Washington lobbyist at a cost far below the market rate and installing a $43,000 soundproofed telephone booth in his office.

That last accusation in particular screams government waste. Pruitt said he needed the phone booth to conduct "confidential communications," specifically with the White House. He ended up using it to call the White House exactly once.