The Secret Service is taking major steps to address concerns arising from the Sept. 19 White House fence jumper incident, according to the agency's acting chief, Joseph Clancy. The debacle, in which Army veteran Omar Gonzalez was able to jump a fence, sprint across the White House lawn and enter the residence without being intercepted by officers, could have "dire consequences" for the future of the Secret Service and its operations, Clancy told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
"Instead of remaining the organization that prides itself on operating silently and courageously behind the scenes, we are now in the public spotlight,'' Clancy, who replaced Secret Service Director Julia Pierson after she resigned from the position in October, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill. "This has had detrimental effects on workforce morale and operational security, both with potentially dire consequences.''
The Secret Service has come under intense scrutiny following the failure to stop Gonzalez until after he had already entered multiple rooms inside the White House, as well as other scandals and embarrassments, including an incident that saw a federal employee fired after riding in an elevator with President Barack Obama.
Questioning during the hearing, which was titled "Oversight of the United States Secret Service,” centered largely on the Gonzalez encounter, as members of Congress inquired about the details and reprimanded the agency for its lapses.
"The Secret Service cannot make mistakes," Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, told Clancy, according to the Associated Press. "You're protecting the president and the president's family. There can't be mistakes."
Clancy admitted that the incident was badly bungled and said that findings in a report on the Secret Service's handling of it were "devastating."
"What hits me hardest is the range of shortcomings that ultimately allowed Omar Gonzalez to enter the White House practically unencumbered," Clancy said.
He promised that he would ensure that officers perform their duties better in the future, and said that though budget cuts have hindered the agency's ability to properly train officers, he would work to “restore operational excellence” at the Secret Service.