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Secret Service Report Urges Higher White House Fence, Stronger Leadership

A new leader for the agency should be prepared to shake things up, the United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel recommended. "Some in the Secret Service will resist and may need to move on," the panel said.

Posted on December 18, 2014, at 8:03 p.m. ET

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The Secret Service needs far-reaching changes at all levels of the organization, a report said this week.

The report by the Secret Service Protective Mission Panel was sent to the Department of Homeland Security this week, and offers a "roadmap to reform" following embarrassing security breeches at the White House.

In the short term, the panel said the White House needs a taller perimeter fence, and the agency tasked with protecting the first family needs more manpower.

In October, the agency's director stepped down, after a 42-year-old Texas man made it inside the White House after jumping the fence.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings said on Thursday they will begin an investigation into some areas of the report at the start of the new Congress.

"A serious and robust investigation must include cooperation on both sides of aisle in order to root out systemic problems and implement proper reforms," the Republican and Democrat said in a joint statement.

Though many of the specific recommendations were classified, the panel was adamant about the need for a new fence at the White House.

"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. As the Executive Branch, Congress, and the [Secret] Service itself have all recognized, the fence must be addressed immediately."

The new fence should be at least 4 to 5 feet higher than the existing 7 1/2-foot fence and more difficult to climb, the panel said, perhaps with an outward curve at its top. These relatively simple changes could give the Secret Service extra seconds to respond and determine whether to use lethal force, the report said.

"Historical, symbolic, and aesthetic factors deserve consideration, but ultimately they should not be permitted to delay or prevent a fence that could save lives," the panel said.


The service also desperately needs leadership, the panel found, and recommended a new director come from outside the agency.

"From agents to officers to supervisors, we heard a common desire: More resources would help, but what we really need is leadership."

A leader with no previous personal ties to the agency would be most likely to carry out necessary reforms, the report continued. And that person should be an experienced and efficient administrator, willing to make unpopular choices.

"Some in the Secret Service will resist and may need to move on," the report acknowledged.

Secret Service agents and uniformed officers are also not getting enough training — an issue related to a lack of staffing, the panel said.

In the past, agents assigned to protect the president trained two weeks out of every eight they worked.

Since 2013, however, they averaged only 42 hours of training each per year. For the more than 1,300 officers of the Uniformed Division, yearly training averaged just 25 minutes.

The panel said the decrease was due to a lack of resources. The Secret Service has too few employees to both carry out its mission and participate in training, the panel said.

"The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits," the report said.

A new director should consider scaling back on activities not directly related to the agency's core mission, the report suggested. Still, the panel recommended adding 85 special agents and 200 Uniformed Division officers as a first step.

"Under any scenario, the [Secret] Service has to increase significantly in size," the report said.