Hoeven Holds Hearing on Secret Service

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees funding for the United States Secret Service (USSS), held a hearing today on problems at the agency highlighted by recent incidents involving security mishaps and issues of misconduct.

The USSS has the vital mission of protecting the president and first family as well as the vice president and other prominent U.S. officials, and is also charged with overseeing security at high-profile national special security events like the upcoming visit by Pope Francis. Recently appointed Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testified and took questions about security lapses.

The agency’s most recent incident occurred on March 4 when two agents drove through an active suspicious-package investigation at the White House. The agents had allegedly been drinking at an office-related party, but the incident is still under investigation. The incident wasn’t reported to the director until five days afterwards outside the chain of command.  By that time, what should have been extensive surveillance video was no longer available – the Service only retains such data for 72 hours. Hoeven asked Director Clancy to report back to the subcommittee with a reevaluation of how long surveillance tapes should be retained.

The second was an incident on September 19, 2014, when an individual scaled the White House perimeter fence and made his way as far as the interior of the residence before being apprehended.

“The Secret Service’s task of protecting the White House and special events is among the agency’s signature missions and must be conducted with the utmost care and conscientiousness because of its importance. There is clearly work to be done here. We need to make sure they have the manpower, training and command and control in place to make sure these problems are addressed.”

In the aftermath of the September 19th incident, a special panel of experts and an after action report by the agency both pointed to three major challenges at the agency:

  • Personnel challenges in the Uniform Division generally and in the Special Agent detail protecting the president.
  • A lack of adequate staffing that doesn’t allow time for appropriate training.
  • A command and control structure that has not been adequately tested and proved ineffective in supporting communications between and among agents and officers in recent incidents.

Hoeven is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Department of Homeland Security Subcommittee and Senator Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire (D) is the Ranking Member. They held today’s meeting to hear from Director Clancy as to the steps that he is taking to address these issues and to determine resource needs for fully addressing them.