After the U.S. Secret Service allowed a mentally disturbed man armed with a knife to enter the Executive Mansion, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson requested two former Justice Department officials and two former White House aides to review the department’s practices and policies. Now, the classified report has found shortcomings with the beleaguered agency’s readiness and training capabilities, and has a few practical suggestions.
Namely, the classified report’s executive summary suggests the White House fence be raised immediately.
“We recognize all of the competing considerations that may go into questions regarding the fence, but believe that protection of the President and the White House must be the higher priority,” states the report. “As the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Service itself have all recognized, the fence must be addressed immediately.”
Specifically, raising the fence by at least “four or five feet would be materially helpful,” the report states. It also suggests that any horizontal bars be eliminated, and the top be curved outward so that would-be fence-climbers are deterred. This would in turn also give officers more time to respond to any impending threat. The report suggests that this redesigned fence be placed around the entire 18-acre complex, and not just along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The report also cites other security shortfalls, as well. Namely, it finds fault with Secret Service department’s training and scheduling practices. The Presidential Protective Division’s so-called “fourth shift,” which is supposed to allow the specialized agents in charge of guarding the president to spend two weeks of training for every eight weeks of duty, has “diminished far below acceptable levels.” The report also details staffing troubles, saying that White House agents and officers have been assigned long duty tours and extended overtime shifts, stretching its team far beyond its limits.
“Rather than invest in systems to manage the organization more effectively and accurately predict its needs, the Service simply adds more overtime for existing personnel,” states the report. “Rather than sending its agents and officers to training, it keeps them at their posts.”
Now, Congress and the Executive Branch are being called upon to free up money for the addition of 85 special agents and 200 Uniformed Division officers to unburden the overworked security staff, and provide opportunities for current staff members to get the necessary training.
Whether or not these changes will be made, however, is yet to be seen.