Secret Service Director Resigns
An inevitable outcome for the head of a once proud agency.
In the wake of a series of revelations about serious security breaches that culminated with yesterday’s news that an armed man with a criminal record had shared an elevator with the President during a visit to Atlanta, the Director of the Secret Service has resigned:
WASHINGTON — Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches, according to administration officials.
The resignation came less than a day after lawmakers from both parties assailed Ms. Pierson’s leadership and said they feared for the lives of the president and others in the protection of the agency.
A 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson was supposed to have been the one to repair the agency’s reputation after scandals that raised questions about a culture that gave rise to incidents involving drinking and prostitution during overseas trips.
But her tenure has been rocked by more serious allegations that her agents and officers have not been performing their primary job competently. Under intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Ms. Pierson admitted that those charged with securing the White House failed to follow numerous security protocols, allowing a man armedwith a knife to penetrate deep inside the mansion.
And late Tuesday, the agency acknowledged that just days before the White House breach, an armed man was allowed to ride in an elevator with the president during an event at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
After yesterday’s hearing before the Government Oversight Committee, in which Pierson was questioned sharply by members on both sides of the aisle who were clearly upset both with the security breaches themselves and with the agency’s transparency about the events that have been made public, it became clear that Pierson’s days in office were likely numbered. The final nail in the coffin may have come this morning when the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who said that he was no longer comfortable with Pierson as the head of the Secret Service based on what has come out about the security breaches. If nothing else that was a sign that Democrats on Capitol Hill would end up being as vocal as Republicans about the need for change at an agency that has obviously lost its way.
As with the resignation of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs earlier this year, this change at the top, while necessary, is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be done to address the problems at the agency. Beyond this, there need to be further investigations, both public and classified, about what may have gone wrong at an agency that was once known as the best security force in the world. Among the issues that should be examined are the question of what role, if any, budgetary issues may have played in the current state of the Secret Service, which is an argument that some raised at yesterday’s hearing. In that regard, The Washington Post notes that Congress actually has ended up funding the agency at a higher level than was requested by the White House in the years since sequestration went into effect. At the same time, though, and for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, there has been an overall decline in the number of people employed by the Secret Service, although it’s not at all clear that these personnel cuts had any impact at all on the Presidential Protective Detail or the uniformed and plain clothes officers assigned to protect the White House. Additionally, it may also be time a good time to reexamine the decision to roll the Secret Service into the Department of Homeland Security when that agency was established. According to some accounts, the culture change that occurred when the agency was separated from its long-standing home at the Treasury Department may have had a bigger impact on the culture of the agency than anticipated. Whatever the answers may be, it’s worth noting that this seems to be one issue on which both sides on Capitol Hill are united, and that at least is something refreshing if only because you don’t see it very often.