Lawmakers move bill to help law enforcement agency move past litany of scandals.
The beleaguered Secret Service could soon hire 285 more employees to help plug the security holes that have plagued the agency in recent years, marking a nearly 5 percent boost of its workforce.
The House on Monday passed the 2015 Secret Service Improvements Act, which would require the agency to hire at least 200 Uniformed Division officers and 85 special agents. It would also require more training for Secret Service personnel, something an independent panel found severely lacking in a report last year.
The bill passed 365-16, winning wide bipartisan support. It adopted many of the recommendations made by the independent panel, which was formed in response to a series of scandals at the agency. If approved by the Senate, where the legislation will now head, it would overhaul in particular the Secret Service’s protection of the White House. The agency would have to report on new technologies it could use to better protect the president’s residence and create entirely new procedures for evaluating threats, including those posed by drones and explosives.
The Secret Service would evaluate the need for new lethal and non-lethal weapons for personnel if the bill is signed into law. The measure would require the Secret Service director to be confirmed by the Senate and would give the agency higher priority when evaluating potential changes to White House security measures. It would also clarify that it is a federal crime to knowingly cause any object to enter restricted buildings or grounds.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said on the House floor Monday the bill would shift the blame away from “overworked” Secret Service workers and agents and give the embattled agency the tools it needs to implement improvements.
The recent string of scandals, which began when Secret Service agents were to found to have solicited prostitutes during a presidential trip to Colombia in 2012, caused the agency’s director and deputy director to leave. Members of the independent review panel said at a congressional hearing in February the 285 new hires would mark a “down payment” on the total the agency would eventually need.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who authored the bill, has said the Secret Service has “many outstanding men and women who do excellent work every day.”
“However,” he added, “after a series of embarrassing security failures and instances of poor judgment and wild behavior, the American people have lost confidence in the Secret Service’s ability to protect the president from threats from outside entities and from within the agency itself.” He said his bill would reform the agency and “restore it as a sterling law enforcement agency.”