Today the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a bipartisan report documenting the Secret Service as an “agency in crisis.”
Back in my old public administration graduate days, two of the agencies most praised by my professors for their professionalism were the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service. They were led by the best career experts in the field rather than by partisan political appointees.
The Secret Service professionals have the enormous responsibility of protecting the president. But they are distracted by numerous other duties, and like a bit of fun too. In 2012 a dozen officers were caught with prostitutes while advancing a President Obama visit to Columbia.
More seriously, a year earlier, R. Ortega-Hernandez was able to get close enough to fire at least seven bullets from a semiautomatic rifle from his car window into the Obama White House family quarters.
It took the Secret Service professionals four days to realize that gunfire hit the residence, discovered not by its professional agents but by a housekeeper who noticed broken glass and cement on the floor.
In 2014, Omar Gonzalez, carrying a knife, jumped the security fence, ran into the White House past the guard immediately inside the door. Gonzalez ran up a half-flight to the family living quarters, and then to the East Room.
The alarm near the front entrance rang too softly to be heard, the agent within did not lock the door as required and did not immediately alert others. A few days before, President Obama was allowed on an elevator in Atlanta with a contractor who the agents did not realize was armed.
This year, two top Secret Service agents drove to the White House after spending five hours at a bar and crashed into a barrier within inches of a suspicious package. Inspectors concluded the agents were "more likely than not" impaired by alcohol at the time.
The committee discovered a total of 143 serious security breaches over the past 10 years.
How did these professionals react when questioned earlier by the House committee? They leaked information to the media about its chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz. “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” said Assistant Director Edward Lowery.
Inspectors later found that 45 agents had searched Chaffetz’ confidential file and 18 high bureaucrats, including assistant directors, the deputy director and the chief of staff, were aware of its contents, leading to numerous negative media reports.
Chaffez explained “It was a tactic to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly it is intimidating.” Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings said he was “deeply troubled” by the actions.
Bureaucracy out of control is not limited to one agency, however. The IRS made its headlines when Exempt Organizations Unit professional Lois Lerner was caught delaying conservative applications for exempt status necessary to conduct business until after the 2012 election.
The Department of Justice concluded there was “no evidence to support a criminal prosecution.” Yet, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik did concede that, “The IRS mishandled the processing of tax-exempt applications in a manner that disproportionately impacted applicants affiliated with the tea party and similar groups, leaving the appearance that the IRS’ conduct was motivated by political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motive,” adding “ineffective management is not a crime.”
But it is inefficient bureaucratic management, and probably worse. Meanwhile, bureaucrat Lerner, who referred to conservatives in emails as “crazies’ and “a-holes,” was awarded $129,300 in bonuses by her bureaucracy before the inefficiencies became public.
Treasury’s Inspector General reported that 1,500 IRS tax agents willfully violated tax law over the last decade and only 39 percent were fired.
The professional brought in to fix the inefficiencies, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, arrived in December 2013 to face a congressional subpoena searching for backed-up copies of Lerner’s emails.
In spite of the subpoena, 400 backup tapes were erased and 20,000 Lerner emails were destroyed somewhere within the bureaucracy. Koskinen told Congress no other backups were recoverable but the inspector general later recovered 700 tapes and a thousand Lerner emails.
This Oct. 27, Chaffetz and 18 committee members introduced a resolution to initiate impeachment against IRS’ Koskinen for ignoring the subpoena, destroying documents and misleading Congress and the public. Today’s committee report disclosed six additional serious Secret Service security breaches previously unreported by its bureaucracy.
It is time to go back and redo the whole career bureaucracy as President Jimmy Carter did in 1978. For a short time thereafter under his successor the bureaucracy came under proper political management but today it is back under the control of its isolated internal bureaucratic culture.
This time reform must go all the way by cutting its size so it can focus efficiently upon a few missions and returning whatever is not in the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8 back to the states.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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