Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s security detail cost $6.24 million for the past budget year and is expected to rise to $7.87 million for the year that started Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service said Wednesday. News of the costs prompted a caustic response on Twitter from Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s education secretary for seven years — and the Education Department quickly accused him of “victim-blaming.”

The Marshals Service, which is based in the Justice Department, started providing a protective detail to DeVos on Feb. 13, 2017. She became the first education secretary to receive protection from marshals, who more typically guard judges and witnesses, and catch fugitives. The Marshals Service said it “regularly conducts threat assessments on Ms. DeVos to determine threats to the secretary’s safety."

DeVos, whose confirmation by the Senate was secured only when Vice President Pence broke the tie (the first time in U.S. history), has been a lightning rod for criticism and, officials said, she became the target of threats and protesters at public appearances. Initially, she was provided security by a department security team. That changed after she visited Jefferson Middle School Academy in the District on Feb. 10, 2017, where she was met by protesters who attempted to block the entrance.

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On Wednesday, Duncan, a vocal DeVos critic, published a critical tweet about the security costs, saying, “That money could sure buy a lot of books for kids,” and it included a link to a Politico story about DeVos’s protection detail.

The office of Education Department press secretary Elizabeth Hill pushed back with this tweet: “It is baffling that Arne Duncan would find fault with the person who is being threatened, instead of blaming the people who are doing the threatening. Victim-blaming comments like this inflame heated rhetoric and part of the problem, not the solution.”

The Marshals Service said Wednesday that a new reimbursement agreement between the agency and the Education Department had been reached that anticipated security costs could reach $7.87 million from Tuesday through Sept. 30, 2020. It was first reported by Politico.

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Last year, the service projected spending $7.7 million on DeVos’s security from Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, but an agency representative said Wednesday that $6.24 million was spent. Security costs from Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, were $6.79 million. The service said the reimbursement agreement for 2020 was adjusted primarily for cost-of-living increases and anticipated increases in travel and per diem costs.

Here is what the Marshals Service said in an email response to an inquiry about the education secretary’s security detail:

Official Statement:
By order of the Attorney General, the U.S. Marshals Service started providing a protective detail for U.S. Secretary of Education Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos on Feb. 13, 2017. USMS regularly conducts threat assessments on Ms. DeVos to determine threats to the secretary’s safety. A signed Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Marshals Service exists for protective services for Ms. DeVos. The purpose of the MOU is to establish roles, responsibilities and terms between the agencies to monitor and mitigate threats against the secretary. The MOU is valid up to four years, subject to the availability of funds and current threat assessments, but can be terminated by either agency with a 60-day notice. A new reimbursement agreement for Fiscal Year 2020 was executed between the agencies for $7.87 million through Sept. 30, 2020. The number of USMS personnel assigned to the detail is commensurate with the existing threat and based on USMS protective service requirements, experience and methodology. For reasons of operational security, we will not disclose the number of employees providing protection or the nature of threats against the secretary.
Additional information:
• A reimbursement agreement has been executed between the agencies for $7.87 million for FY 2020, beginning October 1, 2019.
• The final RA amount was $6.79 million, through September 30, 2018 (end of FY 2018).
• The final RA amount was $6.24 million, through September 30, 2019 (end of FY 2019).
• The new RA was adjusted primarily for cost of living increases and anticipated increases in travel and per diem costs.
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