Federal marshals are protecting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a cost to her agency of nearly $8 million over nearly eight months, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Education Department has agreed to reimburse the marshals $7.78 million for their services from mid-February to the end of September, said a marshals spokeswoman — an average of about $1 million per month.
Marshals will continue providing security for the education secretary for the next four years, or until either agency decides to terminate the arrangement, under an agreement signed last week. There was no information immediately available about what that would cost beyond September.
While the department is spending the additional money on DeVos’s security, members of the in-house security team that guarded previous secretaries remain on the payroll. But they are not guarding DeVos and have not been assigned new duties, said a department employee who was not authorized to speak to a reporter and asked for anonymity.
A department spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he could not comment on personnel decisions. He said the agency deferred to the federal marshals’ threat assessment and determination about what would be necessary to keep the secretary safe and able to do her job.
The spokesman disputed the $1 million estimate for a monthly average, saying that the contract with the marshals includes one-time fixed costs. Recurring monthly costs are lower, he said, without giving more specifics. The spokesman also said that the $7.78 million is a projected maximum reimbursement and that the final cost could be less.
The new outlay is a tiny fraction of the department’s budget, but comes as the Trump administration has proposed slashing the spending plan by $9 billion, or 13.5 percent.
DeVos is the only Cabinet secretary under the protection of the marshals, law enforcement officers who are generally responsible for protecting federal judges, transporting prisoners, apprehending fugitives and protecting witnesses. They also guard the deputy attorney general and Supreme Court justices when they travel.
The last Cabinet member protected by marshals was a director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which ceased to be a Cabinet-level position in 2009, said marshals spokeswoman Lynzey Donahue.
Previous education secretaries have been protected by a team of department employees, many of whom were Secret Service veterans. That team was replaced by marshals on Feb. 13, a few days after DeVos encountered protesters who briefly blocked her from entering a D.C. middle school.
DeVos was narrowly confirmed after a bruising confirmation process, during which she morphed from a quietly powerful Republican donor and school voucher advocate into a polarizing household name. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that she had received more threats than previous education secretaries.
The Marshals Service is hiring nearly two dozen people to guard her, according to a person briefed on the arrangements, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The jobs include 20 positions at the GS-13 level ($95,000-$123,000 annual salary, depending on experience), and 2 positions at the GS-14 level ($112,000 to $146,000 annual salary).
Donahue declined to say how many people are guarding DeVos and whether they are protecting her around the clock, citing concern for operational security. The agency said it has determined that a threat to DeVos’s safety exists, but declined to describe the nature or intensity of that threat.