Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Lawmakers Are Trying Again to Move the Secret Service Back to the Treasury Department

The Secret Service was moved to the Homeland Security Department in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

Republican lawmakers are reviving efforts to move the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department. 

The Secret Service, established in 1865, was originally under the Treasury Department. It was then moved to the Homeland Security Department after that department was created in 2003 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But Reps. Roger Williams, R-Texas, and David Kustoff, R-Tenn., would like to see it moved back, and introduced a bill last week that would facilitate the transfer. This is not the first time House and Senate lawmakers (including Williams) have introduced this bill. 

“The Department of the Treasury is a better fit for the Secret Service, as the main responsibility of the agency is to combat financial crimes and counter critical criminal threats to the U.S. financial systems,” Kustoff said in a press release on Tuesday. “Returning the Secret Service to the U.S. Treasury will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its investigations and bolster its capability to combat illicit finance and cybercrime.” 

Williams told Government Executive in a statement that, "Transferring them from the Department of Homeland security  to the Treasury Department would help fulfill their mission of protecting our nation from the ever-changing threats to our financial system." Moreover, "this strategic realignment will bolster coordination between the two agencies and increase their capabilities to investigate and combat financial crimes.”

He added that the bill would “further strengthen the agency’s mission and ensure our agents have the necessary tools to protect the U.S. financial system and keep our country safe.” 

The Secret Service did not have any comment on the pending legislation, the Treasury Department declined to comment and the Homeland Security Department did not respond by the time of this article’s publication. President Biden’s budget request for fiscal 2023 does not mention moving the agency. 

The New York Times reported in June 2019 that then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wanted to move the law enforcement agency back under the Treasury and was lobbying President Trump to support such a move. Secret Service Director James Murray also recommended the move, according to the Times

Trump then requested the transition in his fiscal 2021 budget proposal, which was released in February 2020. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced legislation in May 2020 for the move, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as the lead co-sponsor. Then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Mnuchin came out in support of it. Williams and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., introduced a companion version of the bill in June 2020. 

“I’m pleased the bill includes a requirement that the Secret Service report its expenditures, including payments to private entities,” Feinstein said at the time. 

“Moving the Secret Service from the Department of Homeland Security back to the Treasury will greatly aid in combating cybercrime and counterfeit currency to protect our nation,” Williams said upon introducing his version. “Not only has the move received bipartisan support in Congress, it has received full support from the administration as it will allow our agencies to partner more seamlessly.” 

Despite the bipartisan support, not all lawmakers were in favor of it, such as Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, arguing it would not improve safety. 

Also “it could hurt DHS operations,” he said in a statement. “In fact, according to a transfer feasibility assessment from the administration, the loss of the Secret Service, ‘could open up DHS to additional reforms or reorganizations, perhaps even some involving the transfer or dismantling of other [DHS] components, further weakening the department at a critical time in its development.’” 

Two former DHS secretaries––Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, and Jeh Johnson, who served under President Obama, wrote an opinion article for The Hill in July 2020 that also argued the Secret Service should stay within DHS. 

“It appears to be motivated by the politics of the moment,” they wrote of the effort to transfer the agency. Additionally, “the Secret Service’s cybercrime mission fits well within DHS, given that DHS also includes the newly-created Cybersecruity and Infrastructure Security Agency.” A final reason to keep the agency where it is is because of “National Special Security Events,” which are large, high security events designated by DHS, wrote Chertoff and Johnson. The Secret Service is the lead agency to coordinate security for those events. 

There is no Senate companion version of the new bill yet.  

This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Roger Williams.