The U.S. Secret Service is struggling to balance demands with staff levels, and faces increased scrutiny in the face of high-profile scandals and White House breaches.
Joseph P. Clancy, who became the interim director of the Secret Service when the former director suddenly resigned last September, told a House Judiciary Committee that budget cuts were to blame for agency scandals, including highly publicized encounters with prostitutes and the failure to stop an intruder who hoped over fences at the White House. In September an armed private security contractor who had a criminal record rode on an elevator with President Obama, which is not allowed under agency protocol.
Now the agency is asking to increase funding from $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2014 to 1.6 billion in 2015, according to the recent U.S. Secret Service Protection Fact Sheet, which was provided to Congress. This includes financing for “obligations for protective missions”, budget authority for the U.S. mission activities and personnel. The fact sheet does not list the number of full time employees the agency seeks, but lists 289 additional positions at the agency. Overall the agency seeks to maintain 6,667 positions for 2015, up from 6,378 in 2014.
Clancy wisely denied budget cuts were an excuse for Secret Service agents who failed to follow procedures in recent scandals. But he said budget cuts forced the agency to reduce the number of agents below 7,000, which he feels is needed for the Secret Service to function appropriately.
While the agency’s workload has increased, its staff levels have stagnated and its funding increases have not keep pace with overall federal spending over the past decade. The Secret Service suffers from low morale, poor leadership and a culture of covering up mistakes, which began when the agency was moved from the Department of Treasury to the Department of Homeland Security, sources told Reuters. While under DHS, the Secret Service faces competition from other security agencies for funds and staffing.
While often associated with being the department that protects the president, the Secret Service’s mission has expanded in recent years to include investigations of cyber theft, credit-card fraud and computer-based attacks on financial, banking and telecommunications infrastructure.
“Are the two missions of the Service compatible and how should they be prioritized?” the Congressional Research Service asked in a report released last June.