U.S. Secret Service

Secret Service, Stretched Too Thin, Needs More Agents, Report Says
New York Times, 2014-12-19

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service “is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits” and needs to hire 85 agents and 200 uniformed officers to sufficiently perform its mission, according to a report released on Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security.

The report also said that the fence surrounding the White House must be “changed as soon as possible” and made at least four feet taller. The horizontal bars on it — which make it much easier to surmount — should be replaced with vertical ones.

The agency is “starved” for strong leaders, and its next director must be an outsider who would be “removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships” and “will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom assessment this will require,” the report said.

The report was completed by four former senior White House and federal law enforcement officials for Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He ordered the review in September after the Secret Service failed to stop a man who climbed over the fence and made his way through the front door of the White House before he was apprehended. The incident led to widespread criticism of the agency and ultimately led to the resignation of its director, Julia Pierson.


Panel calls for deep changes at the Secret Service
By Jerry Markon and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post, 2014-12-19

An independent panel on Thursday recommended sweeping changes at the Secret Service, saying the elite protective agency is “starved for leadership” and calling for an outsider as director, hundreds of new agents and officers, and a higher fence around the White House.

The panel, created in October after a series of highly publicized security failures, said the fence protecting the executive mansion should be raised at least four feet to make it less vulnerable to jumpers. Panel members were reacting to a Sept. 19 incident in which a man scaled the fence and ran far into the White House through an unlocked front door.

The four-member body also urged expanded and intensified training for agents, saying the service should run crisis response scenarios that possibly use a mock White House. The report especially targeted the Secret Service’s highly insular culture, calling for new leadership from outside to shake up the agency — a suggestion sure to rankle some in the service’s old guard.


Critical decisions after 9/11 led to slow, steady decline in quality for Secret Service
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post, 2014-12-28

The Secret Service began struggling to carry out its most basic duties after Congress and the George W. Bush administration expanded the elite law enforcement agency’s mission in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

According to government documents and interviews with dozens of current and former officials, the recent string of security lapses at the White House resulted from a combination of tight budgets, bureaucratic battles and rapidly growing demands on the agency that have persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations in the 13 years since the attacks. At the same time, the Secret Service was hit by a wave of early retirements that eliminated a generation of experienced staff members and left the agency in a weakened state just as its duties were growing.

The agency assumed new responsibilities monitoring crowds at an increasing number of major sporting events and other large gatherings seen as potential targets for terrorists. A new anti-terrorism law gave the agency a leading role in tracking cyberthreats against U.S. financial systems. And Bush expanded the circle of people granted round-the-clock protection to include the president’s and vice president’s extended family and some White House aides — an expansion that has been largely maintained under President Obama.

Where the Secret Service had been a gem of the Treasury Department for more than a century, its post-9/11 transfer to the sprawling new Department of Homeland Security suddenly forced it to compete for money and attention with bigger and higher-profile agencies focused on immigration and airport security.

The changes set in motion during that critical period after 2001 led to a slow, steady slide in quality, leaving an agency that, according to a DHS report released on Dec. 18, is “stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits.”

“We are not the Super Bowl team we once were,” Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service supervisor, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.

[The Post seems to have a very high respect
for the opinions of Mr. Emmett.
Not only is he the first person to be quoted by name in this article,
but they have run not one but two opinion pieces by him,
giving his views on what were the causes of the security glitches so highly cited by some,
in their Sunday Outlook section and elsewhere:
2014-03-28: "Alcohol isn’t the Secret Service’s problem.
Lousy leadership is."
2014-09-26: "The Secret Service isn’t up to the job.
It’s time to give them help from the military."
When I was a young man on one of my first jobs,
a more experienced coworker said to me:
"Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one."
Something to bear in mind.]

When the attacks came in 2001,
the Secret Service was seen as a model organization,
revered for its aura of invincibility.
Its stoic agents with their earpieces and dark sunglasses
were immortalized in Hollywood movies,
while the agency boasted a zero-error rate
after the lessons learned from
the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963
and the shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.


Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff
[during part of the Bush-43 administration],
said he intervened several times
to fight off proposed cuts to the Secret Service’s budget.
But Congress and DHS officials
did not always view some of the agency’s initiatives as a top priority,
he said.

“They’d say, ‘We need X millions of dollars to address this threat,’ ”
Card recalled,
“Somebody asks, ‘What’s the chance of that happening?’
The answer is maybe 2 percent.

To the Secret Service agent, it doesn’t matter. . . .
If it happens, it’s 100 percent.”

[If you want to maintain a zero-defect, zero-failure success record,
you need to prevent even threats that have only a 2 percent chance of materializing.
The Secret Service cannot be 100 percent successful in its mission
unless even low probability threats are addressed.
The problems of the SS are not necessarily in its culture,
but most certainly are in such penny-wise, pound-foolish attitudes
as just mentioned.]



Four top Secret Service executives told to leave their posts in agency shake-up
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post, 2015-01-15

The Secret Service is forcing out four of its most senior officials
while two others are retiring —
the biggest management shake-up at the troubled agency
since its director resigned in October after a string of security lapses.

The departures will gut much of the Secret Service’s upper management,
which has been criticized in recent months by lawmakers and administration officials who say
it has fostered a culture of distrust
between agency leaders and its rank-and-file
and made poor decisions
that helped erode the quality of this once elite agency.

Acting director Joseph P. Clancy on Tuesday informed
the four assistant directors who oversee
the Secret Service’s core missions of
protection, investigations, technology and public affairs
that they must leave their leadership positions.

If they do not resign or retire, they can report for a new assignment with the Secret Service or its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, according to people familiar with the discussions.

“Change is necessary to gain a fresh perspective on how we conduct business,” Clancy said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I am certain any of our senior executives will be productive and valued assets either in other positions at the Secret Service or the department.”

The departures of six out of the agency’s eight assistant directors follows a scathing report last month by a DHS-appointed panel that concluded the agency is suffering from low morale among the rank-and-file and is “starved for leadership.”

Clancy cited the DHS review, as well as “my own assessments,” in making his decision this week.

Yet he stopped short of a total house cleaning. The agency’s longtime second-in-command, Deputy Director Alvin T. Smith, who has been a central decision-maker under the past three directors, remained in his post. Smith oversaw budget decisions and agency priorities during a time that many officials now say overlapped with the Secret Service’s slow and steady decline.

And while the DHS panel urged that the White House choose an outsider to be the agency’s next permanent director, Clancy, the former head of President Obama’s protective detail, has indicated to colleagues that he is willing to stay on if Obama wants him to do so.

Clancy, who assumed his current job after the October resignation of Director Julia Pierson, declined to respond to questions about his plans for the agency or how he will fill the vacant leadership posts.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a vocal critic of Secret Service managers, said Wednesday that the changes were not enough.

“It’s a good start, but they are by no means done,” Chaffetz said. “There are more senior staff that need to be reviewed and probably changed.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was pleased that Clancy “took a hard look at the leadership of the agency and is taking the necessary steps to improve.” McCaul urged the Secret Service to “bring in leaders from outside the agency with strong management experience” and said his committee would make oversight of the Secret Service a priority.

Lawmakers and administration officials lost confidence in the Secret Service’s top management amid a series of embarrassing lapses and revelations last year. In September, a knife-wielding man scaled the White House fence and ran through much of the mansion’s main floor. Also that month, an armed private security contractor in Atlanta was able to board an elevator with Obama. Lawmakers were also outraged over a series of revelations in a Post report about the agency’s bungled response after a gunman shot at the White House in 2011.

Clancy told lawmakers in November that a desire for management to win back the trust of agents and officers was “an integral part of why I agreed to return.”

On Wednesday, former Secret Service officials said the changes were momentous and, in large measure, a necessary step toward restoring the Secret Service’s reputation.

Bill Pickle, a former deputy assistant director, said Clancy was in a difficult position.

“He is being pressured to take action by DHS, and these assistant directors are his friends,” Pickle said. “But he knows that it’s for the good of the organization that these people move on. It’s not a happy moment, but it’s time to retire.”

Agents and officers have complained for years that the Secret Service’s upper management was insular and more interested in shielding itself from problems than rewarding good work. By creating so many vacancies, some officials said, Clancy could be making room for younger people to move up in the ranks and bring a fresh perspective.

“Let’s start bringing in and grooming the lower level,” Pickle said. “They have a very strong bench internally.”

The four assistant directors who were told to leave are Dale A. Pupillo, a former head of Vice President Biden’s protective detail who oversees protective operations; Paul S. Morrissey, who oversees investigative operations; Jane P. Murphy, who leads governmental and public affairs; and Mark Copanzzi, who oversees technology and the tools for mission support.

Victor Erevia, who headed Obama’s detail and was named assistant director for training in 2014, announced that he would retire this year in the wake of the panel’s findings. An official familiar with his departure said he had been seeking a job in the private sector for some months.

Gregory A. Marchio, the assistant director for the Office of Professional Responsibility, also announced last month he was retiring after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 57. Senior executives have typically been granted a waiver if they wish to remain in the agency.

The Post reached out to each of the assistant directors, and all but one declined to comment.