A new report from The Washington Post paints a depressing picture of the current state of the Secret Service, depicting the agency as plagued by low morale, mediocre performance and ineffective leadership since becoming a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Sunday WaPo report reveals that the Secret Service’s problems started all the way back during the aftermath of 9/11 when the agency was transferred over to the newly formed DHS. This caused the famous security detail to have to compete for money and be liable to severe cuts — leading to a decrease in quality.
Not only were there money issues, but after 9/11 the Secret Service was required to protect more individuals in the wake of the attacks. Before the terrorist attacks, the Service was tasked with protecting 18 people, which included the president, the vice president, their immediate families, and former presidents. By the end of 2003, the agency was protecting 29 people, which included then-President George W. Bush’s adult siblings and then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s grandchildren.
Today, the agency guards 27 people, including White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Vice President Joe Biden’s grandchildren. Their duties also expanded to monitoring large public events, in addition to their increased details. While they are now tasked with more assignments, the Service is operating with less funding due to competition within DHS. According to officials interviewed by the Post, this expansion of duties has stretched the Secret Service “thin.”
“We are not the Super Bowl team we once were,” a former Secret Service supervisor told the Post.
The Post also lists that there have been more threats against Barack Obama, implying it was due to his election as the first black president, and that this has required more work from agents. However, the threat claim is not true, according to both PolitiFact and a former Secret Service director.
Many agents have a “noteworthy distrust” of their superiors, with a recent survey finding that in 1 in 4 agents believe their managers are not held accountable for miscounduct and 1 in 5 believing management even tolerated misconduct. The same survey reported that agents had observed 318 incidents where colleagues engaged in behavior that could jeopardize security. Another gap between leadership and personnel can be seen in a $1 million project to “upgrade” the Service director’s office at the same time the agency was undergoing significant budget cuts.
Scrutiny of the agency assigned to protect the president has increased over the last few months due to several high-profile security lapses, including allowing a knife-wielding intruder to get well into the White House in September.