In a fairly unprecedented move, the United States Marshals Service is providing a rare level of security for Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education. This security reportedly comes at a cost of approximately $1 million per month and is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, CNN reported.
A spokesman for the department anonymously argued with The Washington Post that the cost wasn't that high because the department's contracts with marshals involves "one-time fixed costs." He claimed that as the months go on, the cost per month decreases, but didn't provide any more details.
According to CNN, the U.S. Marshals Service began protecting DeVos in early February, following an incident where she was blocked from entering a public school in Washington, D.C. by several protesters. U.S. Marshals Service protection for Cabinet officials is exceedingly rare though. According to the Houston Chronicle, traditionally, marshals are responsible for protecting federal judges and witnesses as well as for transporting prisoners. They are also tasked with guarding Supreme Court justices when they are traveling. The last Cabinet official for whom the U.S. Marshals provided protection was the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has not been a Cabinet-level position since 1996.
According to CNN, the marshals are protecting DeVos because a determination has been made that "a threat to the secretary's safety exists," though no further detail has been provided on the nature of the threat. U.S. Marshals are currently slotted to protect DeVos until at least the end of September, which constitutes the end of the government's fiscal year. As previously mentioned, the Department of Education is responsible for reimbursing the U.S. Marshals for their service, which, according to CNN, amounts to a cost of approximately $7.78 million this fiscal year, or $34,000 per day. The same anonymous spokesman told The Washington Post that $7.78 was an estimated maximum cost.
News of DeVos' protection structure has been controversial due to its high cost as well as the fact that the U.S. Department of Education employees typically tasked with protecting the secretary are still on the Department's payroll, but their services are not being utilized. Furthermore, the revelation of the high costs of DeVos' protection comes amidst a Trump administration proposal that plans to cut the Department of Education's spending by $9 billion, or 13.5 percent. While the cost of DeVos' protection is a small percentage of the Department's overall budget, the announcement about its cost has not sat well with some social media users.
Indeed, some users have referred to the Secretary's security as "excessive," while others insisted that DeVos pay for the protection herself, citing her vast personal fortune. Furthermore, others expressed concern that protection in general, for the Trump family, DeVos, and others, was costing an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money, as recent reports have found that it is costing a "fortune" to protect the Trumps.
Overall, DeVos' costly security protection is proving controversial with the American public, particularly in light of announcements about Department spending cuts. It would serve the Trump administration well to address this issue more fully if it plans to move ahead with the proposed budget cuts.