News about the Secret Service has been pretty bad lately. A fence jumper running into the White House certainly does nothing to enhance the agency’s reputation.
But in one way, the Secret Service has received a bit of a bad rap.
A panel appointed to examine the agency in the wake of the September fence-jumping episode produced a strong report that called for new leadership, increased staffing and better training for Presidential Protective Division (PPD) agents and officers in the Uniformed Division (UD).
One widely cited part of the December report issued by the U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel said “training for the Uniformed Division has also fallen below acceptable levels. In FY 2013, Service data shows that the Uniformed Division as a whole received 576 hours of training, or about 25 minutes for each of over 1300 Uniformed Division officers.”
That 25 minutes was repeatedly deplored during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Thursday with the panel members.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.): “I hope the committee hears this — 25 minutes a year. Is that what you said?”
Panel member Danielle Gray: “That’s for the Uniformed Division.”
Later in the hearing, Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) said, “I think all of us are just taken aback by the 25 minutes of average training.”
One problem — 25 minutes as a standalone figure is misleading, as Russell, a freshman, revealed with his line of questioning:
“As a former combat infantrymen, that’s just astounding when you are entrusted with so many things where you may have to protect somebody’s life. That just seems totally inadequate. Did any of that 25 minutes of training include sustaining the accurate employment of firearms?”
Gray: “So the data that we were given from the Secret Service did not include the time spent on firearms or qualifications and the like. And so the numbers that we provided in our report, 42 hours of training in fiscal year ’13 for PPD, and 25 minutes on average for the Uniform Division, that was apart from firearms or qualification.”
Accounting for firearms, that means the officers received more than 25 minutes of training. UD officers apparently still received too-little training, just not as little the panel’s language indicates. Panel members could not be reached for comment.
The Secret Service declined to say how much instruction in firearms the officers received. The agency was jolted, however, into increasing overall training after being embarrassed by the September fence jumper.
According to the Secret Service:
●As of Jan. 31, all White House UD officers have received emergency action/building defense training.
•A mock up of the White House grounds was established at the Secret Service training facility to better prepare officers.
•The fiscal year 2016 Secret Service budget request includes an additional $86.7 million for construction of a permanent mock White House training facility.
•All Emergency Response Team members have gone through the White House to improve their knowledge of the layout.
After years of trying, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers will be eligible for new job classifications, which would mean pay raises.
Thousands of ICE officers “who have been paid at a lower pay scale than their colleagues will be reclassified at the correct level,” said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr.
“These officers and agents have been performing tremendously important work at a very high level of complexity for ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations [ERO]for years,” he added. “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] acknowledged that the national security and public safety responsibilities assigned to these agents deserved a higher classification.”
Immigration enforcement agents reach a journeyman position at the GS-9 level, according to DHS. The single career path would increase that to GS-12, which is the compensation level for deportation officers. General Schedule (GS) pay ranges from $55,116 for GS-9 to $79,936 for GS-12 at the top step in each of those grades.
“I recognize that pay reform is needed for the men and women of ERO,” DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a message to employees earlier this month. “You have my full support.”
In November, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued an internal memorandum that called for “a recalibration of ICE ERO’s workforce and personnel pay structure.”
A review, Johnson said, must “determine what changes may be required to compensate ICE employees adequately and equitably for the work they perform.”
Said Cox: “This is a victory that has been six years in the making.”
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.