Posted: 1:55 pm Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
It’s nothing new to see members of Congress put an Executive Branch official on the hot seat in a hearing, but for lawmakers in both parties, the latest embarrassing episode at the Secret Service was a last straw, as they hammered that agency’s director, demanding major change in the culture there.
“It’s not working right, Mr. Director,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said sternly. “We’ve got to have some changes.”
While lawmakers repeatedly expressed their hope that Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy can make needed reforms, they were flabbergasted by his decision to let the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security investigate the behavior of two agents, who got into trouble after drinking at a retirement party.
“I don’t get why it would take time to change the culture,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who implored Clancy to act now to make an example of these agents and ask questions later.
“This should take five minutes,” an aggravated Lowey said.
At a hearing that was supposed to be on his agency’s budget, Clancy spent most of him time taking verbal shots from lawmakers, as he offered few details about two senior agents who had been drinking, and then nudged into a barricade upon their return to the White House.
“This conduct should not be tolerated,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX).
Maybe what made lawmakers the most angry was how the Secret Service chief didn’t even know about the March 4 incident until the following Monday – five days later – and only because of an anonymous email, not from his staff.
“We had a good, stern talk about that,” Clancy said.
Secret Service aims to build fake White House
While most of Tuesday’s hearing centered on recent troubles at the Secret Service, the Director did get a chance to pitch some ideas at the Congress to improve training for agents, especially when it comes to protecting the White House.
One idea – spending $8 million to build a ‘fake’ White House at a Secret Service training facility outside of Washington, D.C., and using that to better prepare agents for their work.
“Right now we train on a parking lot, basically,” the Secret Service chief told lawmakers.
“We think it’s important to have a true replica of what the White House is, so we can do a better job of integrated training,” Clancy added.
While the idea didn’t produce any immediate negative reaction, it wasn’t clear if it was something that lawmakers would agree to fund in next year’s budget.
“We would like to have a good mock up of the White House where we can train more efficiently,” Clancy argued.