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EPA Spent An Extra $2 Million To Give Scott Pruitt Security

Then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt at a Cabinet meeting in June.
Evan Vucci
Then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt at a Cabinet meeting in June.

The costs of protecting the Environmental Protection Agency chief more than doubled under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency's inspector general said in an audit report released Tuesday.

The budget shot up as Pruitt's security detail was expanded, said the report from EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. Six agents provided door-to-door protection for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in the Obama administration. Under Pruitt, who lost his job two months ago, security was increased to 19 agents providing round-the-clock protection.

Security costs totaled $1.6 million for the last 11 months of McCarthy's tenure at EPA, but $3.5 million for the first 11 months after Pruitt took over, according to the report.

The IG's report said it wasn't clear that the protective service detail had the legal authority to give Pruitt 24-hour coverage. It found there were no standard procedures for the expanded coverage, so the spending behind the budget spike went undocumented.

It also found that the protective service detail never conducted a threat analysis, to evaluate what was needed to keep Pruitt safe.

EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in an email that the agency disagreed with the report's judgment on the threat analysis. He said potential assailants often make no threats, citing "real-life scenarios such as the recent attack on the Republican Congressional baseball team and the shooting of Representative [Gabby] Giffords."

Pruitt left office with investigations still underway by the inspector general, other agencies and Congress. Several issues involved security. Besides expanding the size and duties of the protective service detail, Pruitt flew first-class as an ostensible security measure, but only on taxpayer-funded trips; used agents to run personal errands; had them use sirens and flashing lights to move him through Washington traffic jams; and had the agency spend money on extra locks and a soundproof phone booth for his office.

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Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.