According to sources cited by CBS News, more than 50 senators have been supplied with satellite phones to address the growing apprehensions regarding security risks faced by members of Congress. The Senate Sergeant at Arms, who assumed the position following the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has reportedly offered these devices as part of several new security measures being provided to senators.
The outlet said that the offer of satellite phones has been made available to all 100 senators. As per CBS News, at least 50 senators have opted to accept these phones, following the recommendation of Senate administrative staff to keep the devices easily accessible, especially during travel.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee in last month, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson said satellite communication is being provided “to ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event.”
Gibson clarified that the satellite phones are intended to act as a security backup in scenarios where emergencies cause disruptions to communication infrastructure in specific regions of the country. CBS News reported that the costs for the satellite airtime necessary to utilize these phones will be covered by federal funds, adding:
A Department of Homeland Security advisory said satellite phones are a tool for responding to and coordinating government services in the case of a “man-made” or natural disaster that wipes out communication.
Gibson has also opened an office “demonstration space” in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building to offer senators and staff an exhibition of new home state office security upgrades. The demonstration room offers exhibitions of “duress buttons,” mail screening devices and safety glass to reduce the risk of attacks.
“Our team provided initial physical security enhancements for 31 offices and improved existing security for 52 others in 2022,” Gibson noted in her April testimony. “Maintaining security systems in good working order is a priority, and to support this effort, our team conducted over 622 service calls to maintain, repair, and or test and inspect state office physical security systems in 2022.”
Interestingly, Senate administrators have also offered to provide “stop the bleed” training for lawmakers and staffers to quickly treat injuries and wounds.
In an April briefing, House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland provided legislators with an update on a program designed to enhance the security of residential properties belonging to House members. McFarland informed the legislators that there has been significant participation in this program, indicating a strong commitment to improving security measures.
Additionally, McFarland emphasized that House administrators are actively working in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies to safeguard the well-being of members of Congress during events conducted in their respective home states. Furthermore, efforts are being made to enhance security measures for their residences, thereby prioritizing the safety of lawmakers.
But the expectation of increased violence against lawmakers is definitely a real thing.
“The new satellite phone system is one part of a new security program that includes hardening lawmaker offices and homes and seems geared towards domestic unrest that could threaten other communications networks like cell service,” said a private domestic intelligence firm Forward Observer in its daily subscriber brief on Monday.
In late 2022, Congress passed a spending measure that authorized additional funds for hometown security initiatives focused on protecting members of Congress. The legislation outlined the requirement for security administrators to strengthen member protection, which includes the implementation of a security program for Congressional Leadership, the expansion of services provided by the Dignitary Protection Division, and the establishment of more USCP field offices.
This expansion aims to extend Capitol Police protection beyond Washington, D.C., encompassing cities in other locations as well, CBS News reported.