The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Capitol security review identifies deficiencies as Congress debates upgrades

Members of the National Guard work at the Capitol on Monday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A review of security at the U.S. Capitol commissioned after the deadly riot on Jan. 6 found that Capitol Police are too “understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” — and woefully lacking in intelligence capabilities — to protect Congress from a similar future attack.

The 15-page draft report from retired Army Lt. Gen Russel Honoré, whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tasked last month with leading the security review, outlines recommendations to address the identified shortfalls in physical and operational security. But it is unclear whether a divided Congress will heed the guidance or whether the report, a copy of which was obtained Monday by The Washington Post, will become the latest flash point in an increasingly partisan debate over how thoroughly lawmakers should enhance the Capitol’s fortifications — and how much money they should spend.

Read the report: Task Force 1-6 Capitol Security Review

Honoré’s recommendations call for an additional 854 positions in the Capitol Police ranks, on top of 233 positions that are open now. In Honoré’s proposal, which was co-signed by 15 other members of the task force conducting the security review, the new positions would include 424 hires for specialized operations, such as intelligence gathering, operational planning and protection of dignitaries, plus 350 employees to ease the overreliance on overtime.

Capitol Police were unable to stop a breach of the Capitol. Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig and a former Senate Sergeant at Arms describe the events. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Luis Velarde/The Washington Post, Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post)

“Not only is this model unsustainable, it leaves the force with no ability to pull officers from the line to train at the individual, leader, or collective level or to prepare for evolving threats,” the report reads. It also notes a lack of inherent intelligence capabilities, which has left the Capitol Police “not postured to track, assess, plan against or respond to this plethora of threats.”

Acting chief Yogananda D. Pittman has already requested a 21 percent increase to the Capitol Police budget in fiscal 2022, to implement changes that she testified last week would “directly align” with Honoré’s findings. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has questioned the trustworthiness of Honoré’s review, accusing him of “bias” for suggesting that members of the Capitol Police and some Republican lawmakers might have been complicit in the Jan. 6 attack led by supporters of President Donald Trump, and accusing Pelosi of using Honoré’s report as justification for “turning the Capitol into a fortress.”

Authorities have estimated that more than 10,000 people — a pro-Trump mob — swarmed the Capitol grounds, and that about 800 individuals overwhelmed law enforcement and forced their way inside in a failed bid to prevent lawmakers from certifying the presidential election results. Approximately 300 people have been charged in connection with the riot.

Capitol Police chief seeks significant funding increase to expand security after riot

Honoré and his team spent Monday briefing rank-and-file House lawmakers about the report’s contents. According to their findings, threats to lawmakers have increased fourfold since a year ago, both within D.C. and in members’ home states. Honoré’s team thus recommended an approach to member security that includes not only regional coordination, but travel and home district protections as well — including an expansion of the force’s dignitary protection division, to ensure security details can be made available not just to congressional leaders but to members facing unique threats.

Within the Capitol complex, the report calls for rapid-response units to be on duty when Congress is in session, additional bomb-sniffing dogs on campus, and a revival of a mounted police force, to act as “moving walls” that can break up crowds.

The report also calls for stepped-up background checks and screening procedures, as well as an investment in mobile fencing and “retractable fencing” around the Capitol and its office buildings. Such an approach would allow the public regular access to the Capitol grounds but allow law enforcement to quickly shut down the area.

The task force recommends that the police chief be able to call in reinforcements from the National Guard and other partner agencies without first seeking permission from the Capitol Police Board, which governs much of the force’s strategic planning. That recommendation appears to be in response to delays that former police chief Steven A. Sund said resulted when he sought approval from the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms to call in the National Guard in the days and hours before the Capitol breach.

Former sergeants-at-arms Paul Irving and Michael Stenger have denied that Sund made such requests.

Former Capitol security officials blame intelligence lapses for deadly Jan. 6 riot

Democrats emerging from Monday’s briefings welcomed the task force’s recommendations as common-sense responses to safeguard against threats of domestic terrorism. But some openly wondered whether they would adequately address the problem.

“The underbelly of this is about race in this country. . . . It’s not just security,” Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) said after a briefing Monday afternoon.

“It’s about a mind-set that we have to overcome as a nation,” he said, expressing frustration that some colleagues were “still spewing lies” about certain domestic terrorist groups “and putting some of us at risk in doing so.”

Horsford, who is Black, is not alone in that assessment. Last month, Sund and acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee told senators that the intelligence community writ large had a blind spot when it came to identifying and properly responding to white supremacist threats, encouraging them to not to lose sight of that broader problem as they explored the causes and security failures of the riot.

Last week, Pittman told members of the House Appropriations Committee that some of the delays in recruiting qualified candidates could be attributed to “vigorous” vetting procedures, aimed at ensuring that no extremist sympathizers join the ranks. Last month, Capitol Police announced that six officers had been suspended without pay and an additional 35 were under investigation, suspected of connections to the riot.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.