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Report: Secret Service stretched ‘beyond limits’

The Secret Service is stretched “beyond its limits” and needs more training, more staff and a director from outside its ranks — and the White House needs a better fence — an independent review has found.

An eight-page executive summary of the report, produced by a panel of four outside experts appointed by the Department of Homeland Security, was released Thursday.

The report said the congressional budget process has left Secret Service directors guessing how much more they might be able to squeeze out of appropriators each year and building their plans around that — without looking at “how much the mission, done right, actually costs.”

It said the Secret Service likely needs a funding bump, and that its handling of its budgetary process has led to fewer and fewer hours for training.

The average special agent on the President’s protective detail received just 42 hours of training in 2013, while its Uniformed Division officers got an average of just about 25 minutes of training each, the report said.

“Providing more time for training requires increased staffing, but the Secret Service needs more agents and officers even beyond the levels required to allow for in-service training,” the report said. “The President and other protectees cannot receive the best possible protection when agents and officers are deployed for longer and longer hours with fewer and fewer days off.”

The White House also needs a new fence, the panel said. It recommended that the 7.5-foot fence be at least four or five feet taller, without horizontal bars that make for easy hand and footholds and with its top curved outward.

“Any of these adjustments, the panel is certain, can be made without diminishing the aesthetic beauty or historic character of the White House grounds,” the report said.

More important, the panel said, is the Secret Service’s leadership. It recommended that the director “come from outside the service” who is “removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships” can make the kind of top-to-bottom overhaul of the group that the panel said is necessary.

The panel said it heard from both the 50 Secret Service members and 120 outside officials it interviewed that the service is too “insular” today.

“From agents to officers to supervisors, we heard a common desire: More resources would help, but what we really need is leadership,” the report said.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had tapped the panel to conduct a broad review of the Secret Service after a Sept. 19 incident in which a man climbed the fence, ran across the north lawn and ran into the White House before agents stopped him.

The review was conducted by Tom Perrelli, a former associate attorney general; Mark Filip, a former deputy attorney general; Danielle Gray, a former cabinet affairs secretary; and Joseph Hagin, the former White House deputy chief of staff for operations.

Johnson called the panel’s recommendations — detailed in an executive summary made public on Thursday — “astute, thorough and fair.”

“It is now up to the leadership of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all the recommendations are carefully considered,” Johnson said in a statement.

“In fact, some of the panel’s recommendations are similar to others made in past agency reviews, many of which were never implemented,” he said. “This time must be different.”

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