Secret Service: Report hints at ways to restore integrity of 'agency in crisis'

A combination of poor leadership and underfunding have greatly compromised the capabilities of the Secret Service, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found.

Vanessa Pena/AP
A man jumps a fence at the White House on Nov. 26, 2015, in Washington. Numerous security breaches at the White House and several scandals involving agents prompted members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to declear the Secret Service an 'agency in crisis' on Thursday.

A new report released on Thursday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform cast the Secret Service as an “agency in crisis,” and exposed more than 143 security breaches at facilities supervised by the agency.

The report outlines several key areas where the integrity of the agency has been compromised and where targeted reforms could lead to improvements, from understaffing and underfunding to insufficient screening of applicants and contractors. 

Numerous security breaches around the White House have prompted concerns about the agency's ability to protect the president. The report found that shortcomings in leadership combined with budget cuts imposed by Congress contributed to the lapses. The committee also identified instances when the Secret Service failed to adequately examine the history of armed agents and suggested that the roots of the problem could be traced to staffing shortages.

The committee's ranking Democratic member, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said in lieu of the findings Congress should rethink recent funding cuts.

The Secret Service also has been dogged by a series of scandals in recent years, beginning with the 2012 prostitution scandal in South America involving several agents. Most recently, the US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that a federal grand jury had indicted agent Lee Robert Moore for sending naked pictures of himself to an undercover police officer posing as a minor.

Some actions taken by the Secret Service since the 2012 prostitution scandal may indicate the agency is beginning to make changes to its internal practices.

Despite those efforts, "the Secret Service is in crisis," said Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R), who began an investigation into the agency in 2012.

"Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist," he said. "Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systemic mismanagement within the agency and to restore it to its former prestige."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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