Watch CBS News

Secret Service director Kimberly Cheatle addresses controversies, challenges facing the agency

Secret Service head gives exclusive interview
Kim Cheatle, new head of the Secret Service, gives exclusive interview 05:26

In her first network television interview since becoming director of the Secret Service eight months ago, Kimberly Cheatle addressed  controversies and challenges the agency is facing — including recruitment and what she says is the need for a suitable place for training.  

Currently, officers train to protect the president using bike racks that represent a White House fence. Using their imaginations, they navigate a field of trees at the Secret Service's training center in Laurel, Maryland, as if they were the inside the White House.  

Cheatle argues that a White House replica is needed for proper training.

"You wouldn't ask your Super Bowl champs to go out and train in a parking lot," Cheatle said. 

To further explore the concept, the agency visited Tyler Perry's production studios in Atlanta, where a replica White House has been built.  Cheatle wants Congress to fund a similar replica for training. 

Having served in the Secret Service for 28 years, Cheatle was involved in the evacuation of Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 11, 2001, and served on then-Vice President Biden's protective detail. She was appointed director last year, amid a swirl of controversy the agency faced over deleting most of its text messages from Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in 2021. The agency attributed it to a data migration. 

Cheatle defended the agency, saying, "Our integrity is everything. And there was nothing nefarious attached to that."

Its integrity, however, has been questioned amid scrutiny over other incidents. There are now questions over how an intruder managed to enter the home of national security adviser Jake Sullivan in April without being detected by his security detail. 

Misconduct over the years — such as off-duty agents hiring sex workers in Colombia before one of former President Obama's trips, and a drunken altercation in South Korea — has also put the agency's integrity into question. 

Cheatle said she has made sure "the workforce knows that misconduct won't be tolerated." Full investigations also take place whenever there is an allegation, she said. 

"If we need to put a person on admin leave or revoke their security clearance, we'll do that," she said. 

Recruitment and retention are other challenges. The Secret Service's departure rate was 48% last year due in part to the job's high demands. 

The need for a full workforce will be pivotal in the 2024 campaign season, which will feature former President Trump, who already has lifetime protection. 

In an effort to diversify the agency, Cheatle aims to have 30% female recruits by 2030. Part of that effort has included allowing YouTube influencer Michelle Khare to train with agents. 

"I'm very conscious as I sit in this chair now, of making sure that we need to attract diverse candidates and ensure that we are developing and giving opportunities to everybody in our workforce, and particularly women," Cheatle said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.