House Sergeant at Arms: Legislative and Administrative Duties
House Sergeant at Arms: Legislative and
Lorraine H. Tong
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
The Sergeant at Arms is an officer of the House with law enforcement, protocol, and
administrative responsibilities (House Rule II). The Sergeant at Arms is elected at the
beginning of each Congress by the membership of the chamber. The duties of the
Sergeant at Arms are mandated in law, House rules, custom, and policies determined by
the House Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on House Administration in
the exercise of their oversight roles. This report will be updated as events warrant. See
[http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml] for more information on
Protection, Security, and Decorum Responsibilities
As the chief law enforcement officer of the House, the Sergeant at Arms is
responsible for security in the House wing of the Capitol, the House office buildings, and
on adjacent grounds. Under the direction of the Speaker of the House or other presiding
officer, the Sergeant at Arms plays an integral role in maintaining order and decorum in
the House chamber. The Sergeant at Arms is authorized to hold up the mace, the symbol
of the Sergeant at Arms’ authority, before unruly Members, and to carry the mace down
the aisles of the House chamber to subdue disorderly conduct. The Sergeant at Arms may
be directed to compel absent Members to attend House sessions in order to achieve the
necessary quorum by escorting them to the chamber (House Rule XX). Both practices
have been rare, particularly in recent years. The Sergeant at Arms or his assistant attends
all floor sessions.
The Sergeant at Arms is also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of
Members of Congress, congressional staff, visiting national and foreign dignitaries, and
tourists. Toward this mission, the Sergeant at Arms works in concert with the Senate
Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. These three officials comprise the
Capitol Police Board.
Through custom and precedent, the Sergeant at Arms performs a number of protocol
and ceremonial duties. Among these duties are to lead formal processions at ceremonial
events such as presidential inaugurations, joint sessions of Congress, and formal addresses
to the Congress; to greet and escort visiting foreign dignitaries; and to supervise
congressional funeral arrangements.
The Sergeant at Arms performs a number of administrative services in support of
the Members, staff, and visitors associated with the security and other operations of the
House. In addition to serving on the Capitol Police Board, the Sergeant at Arms serves
with the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol on the Capitol Guide
Board. This board oversees the Capitol Guide Service, which provides tours of the
Capitol to visitors and special services to tourists. In addition, the Sergeant at Arms
serves with the Clerk of the House on the House Page Board, which sets policies for the
House rules require the Sergeant at Arms to report semiannually to the Committee
on House Administration the financial and operational status of each function under his
jurisdiction (House Rule II). The reports provide financial statements, describe current
operations, and present new and future plans. The Office of the Sergeant at Arms
comprises six divisions, which are described in the following table.
Member SupportAssists House Members and their staff with administrative
issues such as Member and spouse pins and Member tags.
Chamber SecurityOversees security, maintains order and decorum of the House
chamber; and oversees access to the House floor and
Garages & ParkingOversees the safety and security of vehicles and pedestrians
Securityin all House garages and parking areas.
Identification ServicesProvides identification cards to permanent and temporary
House staff (and other workers), and to the spouses and
immediate family of House Members.
Police ServicesCoordinates (as one of the three members of the Capitol
Police Board) the security efforts affecting the Capitol and
House office buildings; investigates threats/crimes against
House Members and staff; and provides protective details for
House Members and leaders.
Special Events/ProtocolCoordinates logistical support for all major events held in the
Capitol, House office buildings, or on the Capitol grounds;
and also coordinates House events related to the visits of
foreign dignitaries and other protected persons.
The website of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms is [http://sgtatarms.house.gov] (House