An independent review panel released a report Thursday citing serious flaws in the Secret Service, including a lack of leadership, training, staff and resources. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appointed the four-member panel in October to address a series of slip-ups by the elite agency, which is tasked with protecting the president and other high-ranking officials.
“The paramount mission of the United States Secret Service ... allows no tolerance for error,” the report’s executive summary stated.
The full report is highly classified, but an eight-page executive summary released Wednesday suggested the main problem is those who run the Secret Service and recommended appointing strong, new leadership from outside to head the agency. “The panel found an organization starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence and demands accountability,” the executive summary stated. “Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require.”
The panel, which met with approximately 50 agents, found the Secret Service training regimen has declined “far below acceptable levels.” On average, agents charged with protecting the president received only 42 hours of training in 2013, while officers in the Uniformed Division received just 25 minutes of training, the report stated. The panel found this to be, in part, due to the hamstrung agency’s lack of staff. "The Secret Service is stretched and, in many cases, beyond its limits," the executive summary stated.
The panel also strongly recommended one straightforward step to instantly improve security at the White House: raising the 7.5-foot perimeter fence by an extra 4 or 5 feet with outward curves at the top so it's is less easy to scale. “But the problems exposed by recent events go deeper than a new fence can fix,” the executive summary stated.
An “inexcusable” White House intrusion on Sept. 19 triggered the review, in which an Iraq War veteran managed to jump the White House fence and enter the president’s mansion with a knife before an off-duty Secret Service agent stopped him. “I openly acknowledge that a failure of this magnitude, especially in light of other recent incidents, requires immediate action and longer-term reform,” Joe Clancy, acting director of the Secret Service, said before the House Judiciary Committee last month. The agency received immense criticism and its then-director Julia Pierson resigned following the incident.
Johnson called the panel’s recommendations “astute, thorough and fair” and said Clancy has already executed some of them. However, as noted in the report, many of the panel’s recommendations are not new and echo the White House Security Review in 1995.