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With Secret Service director out, what's next for the troubled agency?

After high-profile lapses in security around the president, Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday as director of the Secret Service
Secret Service director resigns amid security lapses 02:25

After a series of security breaches that put President Obama and the first family potentially at risk, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned on Wednesday. Yet replacing Pierson, some say, is merely the first step the agency must make to ensure it can carry out its mission to protect the president.

"We need a full top-to-bottom review of the Secret Service," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement following Pierson's resignation.

McCaul announced he will introduce legislation to establish an independent panel to do just that. The panel, he said, will recommend specific reforms that will ensure the agency has the appropriate leadership structure, culture, protocols, training, tools and resources.

"I am hopeful this will be the beginning of a new chapter for the dedicated men and women of the Secret Service. However, the growing list of failures from USSS seems to be more pervasive than just its leadership," McCaul said.

Meet the acting Secret Service chief 01:12

In the meantime, Joseph Clancy will serve as the interim Acting Director of the Secret Service. Clancy retired from the agency in 2011 after serving as Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division. He will oversee the agency, housed within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that's tasked both with protecting the nation's leaders and their families as well as investigating financial crimes like currency counterfeiting.

As Obama administration officials seek out a new, permanent director for the agency, they should consider someone "from the outside, who's going to shake things up and change the culture," journalist Ronald Kessler, who has written two books about the Secret Service, told CBS News.

CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett reported Wednesday that President Obama could do just that, underscoring how much confidence he and his advisers have lost in the Secret Service.

Aside from changing leadership, there are simple tactical changes the Secret Service could make to improve security.

White House: New leadership "required" at Secret Service 02:05

For one thing, Pierson noted that there were no automated locks on the White House doors when Omar J. Gonzalez jumped the White House fence last month and ran into the White House. That capability "has since been installed and is effective today," she told the House Oversight Committee this week.

Pierson said the agency has made a number of other tactical reforms in the past five years, such upgrading perimeter cameras and vehicle gates.

But there is still a laundry list of unanswered questions from the Gonzalez incident, one former high-level Secret Service agent pointed out to CBS News: Were there agents on the roof at the time, and if not, why? Who made the decision to keep the front door unlocked? Did the alarm system trigger properly when Gonzalez jumped the fence, and if so, was procedure followed properly once the alarms went off?

And moving forward, clearly, there's still room for improvement.

For instance, Kessler said the Secret Service could benefit from more magnetometers.

"When people are going to events where President Obama speaks, the agents will sometimes just stop magnetometer screening and let people in without metal detection screening... this is under pressure from White House staffs or also campaign staffs," he said. "They just want to have everybody in before the event starts, the Secret Service hasn't provided enough magnetometers, and so management will say, 'Just let them in, let them in.'"

After it came to light that a security contractor with an arrest record rode in an elevator with Mr. Obama last month while carrying a gun, the New York Times reported that the contractor was not screened by a magnetometer as he should have been.

In addition to changes in protocol and equipment, there have been calls for a change in the culture at the Secret Service.

In this week's House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said the "competency and culture" of the agency has come into question after revelations about an incident in 2011 in which a gunman fired at the White House. It took the Secret Service four days to realize what happened, in part because some agents were hesitant to confront their superiors about the matter, according to the Washington Post.

"Ladies and gentlemen, something is awfully wrong with that picture," Cummings said.

Kessler told CBS News, "The Secret Service has a management culture that punishes agents who point out deficiencies or even potential threats and rewards agents who go along, cover up, and really put the life of the president in jeopardy."

That culture has contributed to a sinking morale in the agency, current and former employees say. According to the 2013 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, the Secret Service ranks 226th out of 300 federal agencies, dropping significantly over the past decade.

Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, noted in the Oversight hearing that Pierson had asked for his help implementing two reforms that could improve the personnel in the agency, and subsequently, its culture. Both reforms, Mica said, are still pending.

"One was to improve the standards for the agents. I know there had been a lack of academy training," Mica said. "And then also, the ability to hire and fire. We saw in the V.A. scandal the hands tied to hire and fire."

CBS News' Walt Cronkite contributed to this report.

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