Secret Service chief Clancy stresses training, hiring amid security lapses |

Secret Service chief Clancy stresses training, hiring amid security lapses

Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on 'Oversight of the United States Secret Service'? on Capitol Hill in Washington November 19, 2014. Clancy came out of retirement after Director Julia Pierson resigned following a high profile security lapse at the White House. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service has renewed its emphasis on training and hiring, including a more stringent candidate selection process, in the wake of high-profile security failures at the White House, acting agency chief Joseph Clancy told lawmakers Wednesday.

With little more than 40 days in the position, Clancy told the House Judiciary Committee that he has identified areas for improvement after a series of lapses that included a fence-jumping White House intruder in September, shots being fired at the building in 2011 and a prostitution scandal involving agents on an overseas visit to Colombia in 2012.

“Failure can be an integral part of success, whether that refers to an agency or an individual,” said Clancy.

He replaced previous agency director Julia Pierson, who resigned amid a series of revelations about the fence jumper and other security failures.

Clancy’s testimony follows a Department of Homeland Security review this month that was critical of the agency’s performance in the security breach in September, during which, authorities say, Omar Gonzalez, 42, ran into the White House before being tackled by agents.

Since then, Clancy said, the Secret Service has pushed for further training, adding that officers now complete White House intruder scenarios at the agency’s Maryland training facility.

“If we can get our folks trained, they are going to feel more confident in their actions every day,” he said.

Clancy said hiring had been improved to ensure higher-quality candidates. More than 40,000 people applied for the most recent Secret Service class, Clancy said, but few passed the hiring process.

Clancy said that more than 200 people have been hired to the Service in 2014, with more scheduled for 2015. This was after a “severe drop-off” in personnel from a high of more than 7,000 staffers in 2011, he said, linked to federal budget cuts.

But the hiring process for a new agent can take up to a year, and training is difficult when officers are overscheduled, he noted.

“When we are understaffed, it’s very difficult to get them to training,” he said. “When we’re not properly trained, we fail.”

Clancy was careful to note that he did not believe budget cuts led to the errors in the September fence-jumping.

Lawmakers emphasized the need for a higher standard for agents in light of the prostitution scandal and a case involving drunken agents during a visit to the Netherlands earlier this year.

“When I hear reports of alcohol abuse when you’re on the job or about to go on the job, and when I hear reports of sexual harassment of female colleagues . that is not a training issue. That’s a moral issue,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Among the issues that plagued agents in September, according to the Homeland Security report, were garbled radio traffic that made tracking Gonzalez difficult, personnel who were unfamiliar with the White House floor plan, and a canine officer taking a call on his personal cellphone at the time, according to the report.

A lack of sufficient training for uniformed Secret Service officers, overworked agents, and confusion over reporting up the chain of command contributed to the day’s failures, the report concluded.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a vocal critic of the Secret Service, challenged Clancy over misleading information the agency released about the lapses, including stating that the fence-jumper was unarmed. Agents recovered a small pocketknife after apprehending the suspect.

“Until you actually live by your own codes and hold people responsible and accountable, you’re going to continue to have these problems,” Chaffetz said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.