The U.S. Secret Service faces the daunting task of providing security along the presidential campaign trail and for at least six major national security events in the coming year, its director is expected to testify Wednesday.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is slated to tell House members that 2012 will be “a very demanding and challenging year” as it continues providing protection for President Obama, Vice President Biden, their families, former presidents, visiting foreign dignitaries and the Republican Party’s eventual presidential nominee.
As a result, the Secret Service is requesting $113.4 million to cover security costs for GOP candidates during the 2012 campaign — a $4 million increase from the 2008 campaign and about two-thirds more than was spent for security during the 2004 election. (Costs for protecting Obama and Biden are separate budget items.)
Sullivan’s prepared testimony for a House Homeland Security subcommittee was obtained in advance by The Federal Eye from congressional sources.
Calculating campaign security costs “is surrounded by a great deal of unknowns, such as the number of candidates that will run for the presidency, how much they will travel, and how soon the field of candidates is selected,” according to Sullivan.
Extra burdens during the 2008 campaign cycle forced the Secret Service to borrow more than 2,000 immigration and Transportation Security Administration officers to screen people attending large-scale campaign rallies, and to scale back counterfeiting and cybercrime responsibilities to pay for candidate protection. It also had to protect then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) starting in May 2007 — the earliest a candidate had ever received protection during a campaign cycle.
The number of presidential and vice presidential candidates receiving Secret Service protection peaked at 15 candidates in 1976 (after an assassination attempt on Alabama governor George Wallace) and dropped to just three in 2004, according to Sullivan. But extra protection for candidates’ spouses and children — vulnerable targets amid growing media scrutiny — is often also required.
With the 2012 presidential campaign season underway, Sullivan said, Secret Service agents began training in May to join protective details for GOP presidential candidates. Agents assigned to the campaign trail serve on 21-day shifts through the end of the campaign, or until a candidate drops out.
In addition to campaign security, the Secret Service is seeking about $19 million to provide security at six major political events in the next year — November’s APEC Summit in Hawaii, the annual State of the Union address, next Spring’s NATO summit and G-20 meetings in Chicago, and next summer’s Republican and Democratic conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.
Overall, the Secret Service is seeking a $1.69 billion budget to fund security, intelligence, counterfeiting and cybercrime missions. House and Senate appropriators are proposing roughly $20 billion less than requested; both versions would provide the money requested for campaign protection, but differ on how much to pay to secure the major events.
In the last two years, Secret Service special agents have provided 100 percent incident-free protection to dignitaries during more than 6,100 visits across the United States and about 560 overseas trips, according to Sullivan. In 2010, the agency provided security for visits by 236 foreign officials and their spouses — mostly during a nuclear security summit in Washington and United Nations meetings in New York.
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The Making of an Agent (July 26, 2009)
Campaign Puts New Strain on Secret Service (May 29, 2007)