The White House needs a bigger fence, according to a panel that has been examining problems with the Secret Service.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appointed the “United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel” after several highly-publicized incidents of fence jumpers making it onto the grounds of the White House this fall. In one instance, the jumper made it inside the residence before being apprehended.
“A number of common-sense improvements should be explored,” the panel writes of the fence in a report released Thursday. “For sure, the fence must be taller; even an increase of four or five feet would be materially helpful.”
Continuing, the report states: “Horizontal bars, where climbers can easily place feet or hands, should be eliminated or placed where they provide little assistance. The top of the fence can also be manipulated in certain ways-such as including curvature outward at the top of the fence–to make scaling it much more difficult for most.”
The report acknowledged likely objections to building a new fence.
“Importantly, designers of the new fence must balance security concerns with the long and storied tradition of the White House being the ‘People’s House,’” the report states. “These historical, symbolic, and aesthetic factors deserve consideration, but ultimately they should not be permitted to delay or prevent a fence that could save lives.”
As for concerns about cost, the panel said: “We are mindful of the current budget climate and the value of taxpayer dollars, and we would not recommend spending a penny unwisely.”
The panel made other recommendations, including the suggestion that the Secret Service needs a new director from outside of the agency.
“The Panel has concluded that the Service needs strong, new leadership that can drive change within the organization,” the report states. “While we believe the right person could come from many different backgrounds and believe that leadership qualities are more important than any particular background, we think the right person should come from outside the Service.”