A report by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed that there were 143 breaches or attempted breaches at facilities guarded by the Secret Service in the last 10 years. The report criticized the agency for failure in leadership and the cuts in its budgets.
The committee, headed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called the Secret Service an "agency in crisis" as it has been scrutinized for various issues, including a South American prostitution scandal in 2012, breaches in security at the White House and concerning President Barack Obama, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Amid such incidents, several officials have been fired, transferred or disciplined at the Secret Service while three directors have headed the agency in the last three years.
"This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis," Chaffetz said, according to AP, adding: "Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist. Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systemic mismanagement within the agency and to restore it to its former prestige."
David Iacovetti, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said, according to the Washington Post, that the agency received the report from the committee late Wednesday and that it could not comment on it until it was reviewed properly. “The Secret Service recognizes that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is legislatively mandated to exact oversight on the Secret Service,” he said, adding: “We are reviewing the report at this time and will carefully assess any recommendations made by the committee.”
One of the main reasons for the “staffing crisis,” which began in 2011, is believed to be the massive budget cuts by the Congress against which Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, talked about, according to AP.
Cummings said, according to AP, that the Congress "cannot make some of the biggest budget cuts in the history of the Secret Service and expect no repercussions to the agency's staffing and its critical mission. Reversing these problematic trends will require bipartisan and creative work by both the agency and Congress to ensure that the Secret Service is the lean, effective, and respected organization we know it must be."
The committee’s 438-page report also blamed the staffing crunch on "significant (budget) cuts ... systemic mismanagement at (the Secret Service) that has been unable to correct these shortfalls and declining employee morale leading to attrition," the AP reported.
Several other incidents, including the Colombia prostitution case, were discussed in the report by the committee, which also found several emails sent among 13 agents in 2012, discussing their plans to enjoy their time in the country and their references to drinking and indulging in prostitution before the president’s arrival there. The report added that the openness of the employees in the emails seemed like they “did not believe their misconduct would be punished,” the Post reported.
The committee also found that the agents were not properly screened before being hired. In one of the incidents mentioned, Obama was said to have been in an elevator in Atlanta with an agent from the Secret Service, who was not properly evaluated. Julia Pierson, who was director of the Secret Service at the time, had to resign from her post after the details of the incident were published last October.
“The situation is getting worse not better,” Chaffetz said, according to the Post, urging for faster action after the report’s release. He added: “The president is in jeopardy, and he better personally get involved in fixing this.”
The report said that Director Joseph P. Clancy, who was announced director of the Secret Service in February this year, promised to encourage staff to step forward with their complaints. However, there has been no big change so far, the report added.
The report also said, according to the Post, that the agency “cannot repair itself without first restoring the trust of its employees and increasing personnel dramatically,” adding: “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 (Secret Service) current leadership.”
“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,” the report said, according to the Post, adding: “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.”