On Thursday, a report from a bipartisan investigation of the United States Secret Service (USSS) will be released. The report accuses the agency of laxity and incompetence in recent years, ascribing the problem to mismanagement and low morale.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report states, “The agency’s recent public failures are not a series of isolated events, but the product of an insular culture that has historically been resistant to change,” adding that the agency has a staffing crisis, as its staff dipped from 6,367 full-time employees at the end of September 2014 to 6,315 in September 2015, the lowest total in ten years. The decline occurred despite Director Joseph P. Clancy’s informing legislators there were “no greater priorities” for him than the proper number of employees.
The report claims that the staffing crisis is “perhaps the greatest threat” to the agency; its budget cuts and “systemic mismanagement” are also cited for the agency’s poor performance. The report claims that Clancy and his staff have failed to correct the systemic problems at the agency, stating that the Secret Service “cannot repair itself without first restoring the trust of its employees and increasing personnel dramatically. Whether from missteps at the executive level or at the field office supervisor level, it is clear many of the rank-and-file have lost confidence in USSS’s current leadership.”
Low morale is attributed to attrition in the ranks, as the report asserts, “The high attrition rate means that the personnel who remain are significantly overworked, and morale is at an all-time low.” Another warning: the agency’s new hiring system “overburdens USSS with low quality applicants.”
Numerous agency lapses are listed, including:
- On Sept. 27, 2014, at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s awards dinner in Washington man posed as Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) and walked backstage past a Secret Service staffer, then was taken to meet Obama, where they spoke.
- An unvetted woman managed to go backstage at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s gala Obama attended.
- An ex-soldier with a small knife scaled a fence, sprinted across the White House lawn, and entered the White house before being arrested.
- An employee who had not been screened entered a Los Angeles hotel where Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett were staying.
- Two people passed a Secret Service checkpoint into the first layer of the White House grounds.
- The agency acted slowly after a November 2011 shooting at the White House, taking four days to notice that bullets struck the White House residence. The agency’s inspection team waited until October 2014 to open a file on the case.
- In April 2013, four people fished on a small lake in the backyard of Vice President Biden’s Delaware home; neighbors alerted the Secret Service.
- An armed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contractor who had an arrest record and was carrying a gun got into an elevator with Obama.
The report cited numerous allegations of Secret Service members soliciting prostitutes.
The report concluded:
The Committee believed — and still does — that new senior leadership from outside the agency would be best positioned to enact the reforms that the agency desperately needs. USSS leadership needs to honestly acknowledge the problems plaguing the agency … because only then can the agency truly set about moving in the right direction.
Secret Service spokesman David Iacovetti said:
The Secret Service recognizes that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is legislatively mandated to exact oversight on the Secret Service. We are reviewing the report at this time and will carefully assess any recommendations made by the committee.