WASHINGTON — The Secret Service is an “insular” agency that needs a new director hired from the outside, according to former government officials tasked with examining the embattled agency after a man with a knife stormed the White House.
An executive summary of the review released Thursday by the Homeland Security Department also concluded that the Secret Service needs more uniformed officers and plain clothes agents, better fencing at the White House and more training for officers.
“The next director will have to make difficult choices, identifying clear priorities for the organization and holding management accountable for any failure to achieve those priorities,” the group wrote after interviewing 50 Secret Service employees. “Only a director from outside the (Secret) Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that the recommendations are “astute, thorough and fair.”
Many of the proposed changes have been recommended before, including some that date to the Warren Commission Report, which detailed the government investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Johnson said Thursday the recommendations can’t fall by the wayside this time.
The panelists were former Obama administration Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, who served during Bush’s term; Danielle Gray, a former assistant to the president for President Barack Obama; and Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff for operations during the Bush administration.
This was the second critical report of the agency and its operations in as many months following the Sept. 19 incident, in which a Texas Army veteran armed with a small knife was able to climb over a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued. In November, an internal review concluded that training, poor staffing and a series of missteps contributed to the breach.
Among the mistakes made were that officers had believed that thick shrubbery would stop the intruder from making into the building.
Julia Pierson was forced to resign as director a day after testifying about the White House breach. Retired Secret Service Agent Joseph Clancy has been acting director since shortly after Pierson’s ouster.
The independent panel also concluded that training and lack of staffing was also a serious problem for presidential security. The panel recommended hiring at least 85 agents and 200 uniformed officers. They also recommended that uniformed officers should spend at least 10 percent of their time training. Current staffing levels only allowed for about 25 minutes of training in 2013, the panel said.
The panel also suggested replacing the 7 ½-foot fence around the 18-acre White House complex, although they declined “to say precisely what the optimal new fence should look like.”
The panel made more than 19 recommendations, though many of those directly related to security were deemed classified and not included in the summary.