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Secret Service review urges "top-to-bottom" overhaul of agency

A report summary released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security concluded that the Secret Service needs more money, more staff, more training, and an outsider at the helm, among other necessary changes, to adequately fulfill its core mission of protecting the president.

The investigation that produced the report, conducted by a team of outside experts, was commissioned in the wake of a security breach at the White House on September 19, when a man jumped the fence and made it all the way into the executive mansion before he was apprehended by agents. That incident, coupled with earlier missteps by the agency, prompted the resignation of then-Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.

Report details Secret Service flaws in fence jumper case

While much of the report will remain classified, the executive summary released Thursday faulted the agency for being too "insular" and concluded that it was "starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence."

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, in a statement, deemed the report's findings "astute, thorough and fair."

"It is now up to the leadership of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all the recommendations are carefully considered," he said. "In fact, some of the panel's recommendations are similar to others made in past agency reviews, many of which were never implemented. This time must be different. The Secret Service itself must commit to change."

Perhaps the simplest recommendation in the report involved raising the fence around the White House, which currently stands 7.5 feet tall.

"[T]he fence must be taller; even an increase of four or five feet would be materially helpful," the report stated. "Horizontal bars, where climbers can easily place feet or hands, should be eliminated or placed where they provide little assistance. The top of the fence can also be manipulated in certain ways -- such as including curvature outward at the top of the fence -- to make scaling it much more difficult for most."

Beyond any material changes to the White House perimeter, the report also outlined a number of administrative changes the agency must undergo to improve its ability to execute its mission.

Contrary to a long-standing practice of selecting a leader from within the ranks of the agency, the review suggested the next director of the Secret Service should be an outsider who can bring accountability - and a fresh pair of eyes - to the beleaguered agency.

"Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require," the report said.

Is the Secret Service stretched too thin?

The report also faulted the Secret Service's training regimen, which it said had "diminished far 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," the report stated. "We believe that the Secret Service should be staffed at a level that enables it to provide a true Fourth Shift for training to its Presidential Protective Division and Vice-Presidential Protective Division special agents, and to ensure that Uniformed Division officers are in training for no less than 10 percent of their time."

To facilitate the additional training, the report argued, the agency will also require more agents and more money.

"The President and other protectees cannot receive the best possible protection when agents and officers are deployed for longer and longer hours with fewer and fewer days off," the report explained. "For years, the Service has taken on additional missions -- in both its protective and investigative roles -- but has not matched its request for additional resources to those expanded missions." The report called for the appropriations necessary to hire 85 more special agents and 200 additional personnel for the agency's uniformed division.

The report also suggested that the Secret Service might want to reconsider the scope of its mission, which has expanded in recent years to include investigative and other functions that may not be directly related to the protection of the president and the first family.

"We think that a new director should give serious consideration to whether there are collateral or non-essential missions that can be shed, though we believe the Service's investigative mission provides benefits to its protective mission," the report stated.

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