U.S. Secret Service agents are leaving the force faster than the agency is able to replace them, potentially forcing federal officials to pull from outside government organizations to fill the vacancies, two congressmen said Tuesday.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R, Utah) and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) penned a letter to Secret Service director Joseph Clancy Tuesday expressing concern over the agency’s "historic attrition rates."
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The two recommended that the agency details qualified law enforcement officials or administrative, professional, and technical employees from other federal organizations.
The letter arrived nearly a year and a half after the oversight committee published a report finding the Secret Service in "crisis" while investigating the agency’s "ability to protect the White House and its occupants." The probe was initiated after a fence jumper in 2014 was able to elude eight secret service officers to make it into the White House.
Chaffetz and Cummings said the agency now has 47 fewer full-time employees than it did when the December 2015 report was released. The lawmakers said that attrition rates peak at seven percent for specials agents and officers and nine percent for other positions.
In a Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general published a report Tuesday, Secret Service employees told inspectors that the agency is "hemorrhaging" employees because of the "severely understaffed" force. This has led to "inadequate training, fatigue, low morale, and attrition," the inspectors wrote.
"The ability of USSS to satisfy its zero-fail mission of protecting the president and other protectees depends on its staffing health," Chaffetz and Cummings wrote in their letter. "As the demands on the agency increase, its dedicated employees bear a larger burden. Overtime work and unpredictable hours contribute to already low morale. Low morale manifests in further attrition, and the problems grow worse."
The Secret Service has faced scrutiny over the years for straining its employees and failing to block security breaches.
In October, the agency's inspector general warned the agency against overworking agents after two were found sleeping on the job. The next month, a White House fence jumper draped in an American flag made it over the barrier Thanksgiving day while the Obama's were celebrating inside.