U.S. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy was on Capitol Hill Tuesday in front of the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to testify about his agency's budget for the fiscal year 2016. However, the line of questioning he faced ultimately focused on an alleged drunken driving incident involving two Secret Service agents. The March 4 episode was the latest in a series of high-profile embarrassments for the department.
Aside from the agency's budgetary needs, Clancy also indicated that the Secret Service would benefit from building a replica of the White House, telling the committee that the structure would allow his agency to improve upon its existing training regimen and enhance its methods of response to threats at the real White House.
Citing several examples of current training exercises -- including a lack of “bushes” and “fountain” and disproportionate “fences” -- that do not mirror conditions of the White House grounds, Clancy suggested those differences could provide for certain impediments in potential emergency responses.
"Even our K-9s, they're responding on hard surfaces rather than grass. So we think it's important to have a true replica of what the White House is so we can do a better job of this integrated training between our uniformed division officers, our agents and out tactical teams," Clancy said. The replica would cost $8 million to build at a proposed location in Beltsville, Maryland, a nearby suburb of Washington, D.C.
In response to the most recent apparent lapse of judgment by Secret Service agents, Clancy’s testimony Tuesday also included the concession that drinking liquor can at times be a coping mechanism for Secret Service agents, who deal with high stress situations on a daily basis. “There is an element within our agency that copes with stress by using alcohol,” he said in part.
The subcommittee told Clancy that he needed to be more assertive in managing his agents. "Dude, you don't have to earn their trust. You're their boss. They're supposed to earn your trust," Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told Clancy, according to Fox News.
Clancy was named to his post permanently Feb. 18 after serving in an interim role since October 2014, when his predecessor, Julia Pierson, resigned after coming under intense scrutiny for past Secret Service blunders, including when a Iraq War veteran armed with a knife managed to jump over the White House’s fence and enter the East Room, eluding Secret Service agents before finally being captured.
You can see Clancy's entire testimony in the video below: