Obama to name Julia Pierson as new Secret Service director

Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Julia Pierson would be named CIA director, not Secret Service director. The article also described that her predecessor, Mark Sullivan, announced his resignation last month after apologizing for the agency’s prostitution scandal. Sullivan’s retirement last month came nine months after he apologized last May for agents’ behavior on a presidential trip to Colombia. This version has been corrected.

President Obama will appoint Julia Pierson, a veteran U.S. Secret Service agent and senior official, as the first female director of the agency, White House officials said Tuesday.

Pierson, 53, began her career in the Secret Service as an agent in Miami three decades ago. She serves as the service’s chief of staff.

She does not need Senate confirmation for the post, which White House officials said would be announced Tuesday afternoon.

Obama’s selection of Pierson comes after an extraordinarily difficult year at the service, and amid calls that the next director make internal changes at the agency whose masculine culture was exposed during an overseas trip last year.

In April, in preparing for Obama’s visit to Cartagena, Colombia, for a summit of the hemisphere’s leaders, several Secret Service agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms, where an argument ensued.

Julia Pierson. (COURTESY OF SECRET SERVICE)

In all, 13 agents and officers were involved in a scandal that shadowed the president's summit and exposed a culture within the service of macho behavior while on the road with the president’s protective detail.

The Secret Service’s principal responsibilities are protecting the president and investigating counterfeiting and fraud.

The service’s director for most of the past seven years, Mark Sullivan, announced his retirement in February, nine months after he apologized for the scandal.

In a statement Tuesday about Pierson’s impending appointment, Sullivan said:

“I have known and worked with Julie for close to thirty years. She was an excellent Assistant Director and Chief of Staff, demonstrating sound judgment, leadership, character, and commitment to our Country, the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service and those we serve and protect. This is a historic and exciting time for the Secret Service and I know Julie will do an outstanding job.”

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Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.

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