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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Secret Service Safety Issues Pose Immediate, Potential Danger to Agents, IG Finds

Secret Service Safety Issues Pose Immediate, Potential Danger to Agents, IG Finds Homeland Security TodayDuring an audit of US Secret Service radio communications by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth, he informed Congress this week in a previously “For Official Use Only” Management Alert that his office “identified officer safety issues that pose an immediate or potential danger to US Secret Service officers and those whom they protect.”

Roth said “we recently toured several protected facilities in the company of Secret Service personnel,” and that, “While doing so, we observed two officers sleeping at their posts.”

Roth concluded that the incidents were due to, “Fatigue from travel, overtime shifts and long hours contributed to these incidents.”

Both Secret Service offers were “referred … for disciplinary action.

“We interviewed the officers and the supervisors on duty on the dates of the incidents and we also reviewed officer schedules to determine whether external factors contributed to them sleeping on duty,” Roth’s report stated, emphasizing that, “We found that one officer worked almost 60 hours of overtime in the pay period prior to the incident. Secret Service personnel described that officer’s overtime schedule as ‘minimal’ compared to schedules of other officers in the unit. The officer indicated that long hours, travel and illness contributed to his fatigue.”

“In at least one instance,” the Management Alert stated, “the officer traveled from Kenya to Washington DC for a protective assignment and recorded a 36-hour shift, which included operational preparations for travel on a military aircraft. Even after the incident, records confirm that the officer traveled on three separate occasions for protective assignments over an 18-day period.”

Continuing, the alert stated, “The other officer did not work as much overtime, but routinely worked 12-hour days, rotating between indoor and outdoor posts. The officer indicated that working in a hot environment and lack of water contributed to the fatigue. A week after we learned of officer concerns, we conducted temperature readings at posts on site. Temperatures inside the posts ranged from 70–86 degrees on a 94 degree summer day, and only 4 out of indoor posts contained water. Secret Service informed us that officers are allowed to carry water from post to post. Additionally, Secret Service said that water is available to all personnel located at exterior and interior posts, which can be obtained from the breakroom, water fountains and other areas. Officers may request relief from their supervisors as necessary.”

“Immediately after the incident,” the Management Alert stated, “the Secret Service temporarily reassigned the officer to a different schedule. However, returning to the normal schedule meant that the officer had less than 8 hours between shifts. Not only was the officer ‘short changed’ by receiving less than 8 hours between shifts, Secret Service could have avoided this had the officer’s schedule returned to normal over the weekend.”

In December 2014, the Secret Service Protective Mission Panel had issued a report on protection of the White House compound that noted, “the most common refrain … heard from all sources within the Service, from line agents and officers to the director, from special agents to Uniformed Division officers, is that the Service is overstretched, with personnel working far too many hours. The result, according to all, is an exhausted work force with low morale.”

The IG concluded in its Management Alert that, “We are concerned that the Secret Service’s staffing and scheduling process does not ensure that officers receive adequate breaks while on duty and time off between shifts … as these issues impact officer safety and the agency’s ability to meet its mission.”

The IG said his “office is conducting a broader review of the Secret Service that will address officer workloads and underlying management issues that contribute to low morale and officer concerns about their work environment.”

“Now that the Inspector General’s investigation has concluded, we will proceed expeditiously in determining accountability for those who violated any laws or policies of” DHS, said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson upon receipt of the IG’s report.

Johnson stated that, “In light of the matters reflected in the report and addendum, and in order to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest, the director of the Secret Service and I both agree that all decisions concerning accountability for these matters will be made by me.”

Johnson said he plans “to make these decisions in the coming weeks.”

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss), the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said, "The issuance of this urgent management advisory by the Inspector General is an extraordinary act aimed at getting the Secret Service, at the highest levels, to recognize that the agency’s scheduling and staffingprocesses not only undermine performance but also negatively impact safety. Unable to recognize the gravity of these problems, the Secret Service subjected officers to disciplinary action for their fatigue, rather than address the root cause and adjust procedures.”

“This is emblematic of an agency that just doesn’t get it,” Johnson said.

“It is time for the Secret Service, with its zero-fail mission, to realize the magnitude of these problems and put in place the meaningful reforms necessary to enhance operations and overhaul the agency’s culture and morale,” Johnson concluded.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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