Secret Service Pressing Ahead with Hiring Spree

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy Molly Riley/AP

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, tasked with righting an agency under fire over the past year for security omissions and agent misbehavior, has embarked on a multi-year hiring spree, though the precise numbers are in dispute.

Reuters news service on Friday cited unnamed sources saying the service planned an unusual 17 percent staff increase -- 700 new officers and 400 new agents over five years.

The Secret Service employs about 3,200 special agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division officers, and more than 2,000 other technical, professional and administrative support personnel, the agency’s website says.

But agency spokesman Brian Leary declined to confirm or comment on the Reuters numbers. “The Secret Service is conducting an aggressive hiring initiative over the next few years,” said his statement describing Clancy’s strategic human capital plan for new hiring and training. “This hiring campaign is the result of attrition, anticipated growth, and in response to recommendations set forth by the Protective Mission Panel in December 2014. We plan to accomplish this goal through coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget and our Capitol Hill appropriations committees.”

Congress may be sympathetic toward a funding boost in the wake of harsh criticism of the agency’s past leadership. The House in late July passed a bill (H.R. 1656) requiring the agency to immediately hire 285 officers and agents, a 5 percent boost. That bill is now at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The House Appropriations Committee on July 8 approved $1.9 billion for the Secret Service – an increase of $239.8 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level – including additional funding for increased costs related to the 2016 presidential election. President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget for the Homeland Security Department requested $86.7 million to augment White House security.

The hiring spree will not address all the agency’s problems, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler, who has written two books on the Secret Service. “Given the increasing turnover because of poor morale, this increase will barely keep pace with attrition and is typical of the agency's attempts to make itself look good with misleading information,” he said in an email to Government Executive. “The chief problem is that President Obama decided to ignore all advice and instead of choosing an individual from outside the agency such as a former FBI official to head it, named veteran Secret Service agent Joseph Clancy as the new director. Clancy comes from the same management culture of covering up and laxness that has led to all the problems.” 

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