U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger attends his first House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Capitol Police's Fiscal Year 2023 budget request at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- The chief of the Capitol Police asked Congress Wednesday for an additional $105.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year in order to increase its ranks and enact a gradual reopening of the Capitol.
Additional funds would help the department deal with its severe understaffing issues, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee. His request would bump up the force's annual budget by 17.5%.
The public's access to the Capitol has been restricted for more than a year amid persistent security concerns. A phased reopening process began Monday.
Manger told lawmakers that his department wants the Capitol facility "opened as much as anybody, and I regret that we're the choke point, we're the problem, in terms of getting it reopened fully."
Manger said the force has struggled to fill open positions and retain officers since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of officers also resulted in the existing staff being overworked, he added.
Manger asked for a total budget of $708 million in the 2023 fiscal year. Subcommittee members appeared receptive to his request.
"We are here to fund the police," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the full appropriations committee. She added that the department needs more funding for staff, increased overtime pay and a better culture of work-life balance for its employees.
The Capitol Police force lost approximately 150 officers in the year after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, which is around double the department's typical attrition rate. The department is currently around 300 officers short -- 14% of its full budgeted payroll.
"There's no magic wand here that we could just waive and all of a sudden there's 300 new officers. This is clearly a process," subcommittee chairman Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said. "These are very difficult times and we have to be united as we move forward to try to do this, and that the American people want to get back here."