The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee called Thursday for an independent, top-to-bottom review of the Secret Service in the wake of several serious security lapses involving protection of the White House and President Obama.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) said he was introducing legislation Thursday that would create an external advisory board to review the agency’s leadership, budget, culture, security training and more. He said the panel would have the authority to hold hearings, issue subpoenas and request administrative items. It would be required to file an interim report in nine months and make a final report to Congress within 18 months.
“Several high-profile incidents have caused Americans to question the leadership and management of the U.S. Secret Service,” McCaul said in a statement the committee released. “The men and women of the Secret Service deserve an organization that is efficient and effective, and the American people deserve confidence that the Service can effectively perform its vital missions. My legislation will create a panel to conduct a truly independent, bipartisan, top-to-bottom review.”
Secret Service director Julia Pierson resigned Oct. 1, amid revelations of several security breaches by the agency. That included a troubled veteran who jumped the White House fence on Sept. 19 and was able to get far deeper into the mansion than the Secret Service had initially suggested. A Washington Post article also revealed the service’s failure to discover for several days that bullets had been shot at the White House residence in a November 2011 incident. And in September, The Post and Washington Examiner reported that an armed security guard had been able to board an elevator with the president on an Atlanta trip without being screened.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson appointed a review panel shortly after Pierson’s resignation, calling for it to focus on the Sept. 19 fence-jumping breach. Johnson said he would consider a broader review based on his panel’s findings.
“I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority,” Johnson said.
McCaul said his committee wanted a deeper and more thorough look at the Secret Service than what it anticipated from the Homeland Security review.
“Rather than investigating one specific incident,” McCaul said, “this independent panel will take a hard look at the Secret Service as a whole, and make specific recommendations to ensure the Secret Service has the best possible leadership structure, internal policies, tools, and resources to meet its mission.”
The makeup of the eight-member panel McCaul proposes would be a shared responsibility, with two members chosen by the speaker of the House, two by the Senate majority leader and two by the president. The House minority leader and the Senate minority leader would each get to chose one member.
Also, the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold an oversight hearing into the Secret Service on Wednesday. Acting Secret Service Director Joseph P. Clancy is the only witness scheduled to testify.