(Much of this article may come as a shock, so links are being inserted. Last updated: June 8, 2018)
Secretly, quietly, away from the public eye, The Secret Service (USSS) has been tip-toeing towards repeating absolute disaster. Only just recently, there is hope in the newly appointed director and a new internal memo (exclusively revealed here first) that shines a light on course correction of one of the world’s most vital law enforcement and protection agencies.
By the 45th president Donald Trump first received protection, this was the desperate state of the vital US Secret Service:
> Of all federal law enforcement agencies, The Secret Service has the lowest morale in all of federal government.
[Screenshot from BestPlacesToWork.org. http://bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/rankings/detail/HS14]
> As of 2016, of the 1300 Uniformed Division Officers— these are the men and women in uniform that protect and control the White House and other key Executive Branch facilities; they run the Secret Service K-9, metal detection, counter sniper, and other special weapons units— 1,100 are eligible for retirement! That’s 84% of the workforce that fields critical components of the security for our Executive Branch, President Obama, and now President Trump. [Source: House Oversight Report: The Secret Service: An Agency In Crisis, 2015. Link to the full House Oversight Report.]
> Despite being created in 1865 by President Lincoln, The Secret Service’s accounting of its rapidly growing 2.2 Billion dollar budget (a conservative estimate) has been so atrocious, if not non-existent, that it was forced to hire its first ever team of forensic accountants as late as 2016! It was the job of these accountants to figure out where the “ballpark” budget was actually being spent!
[Source that USSS didn't know how its money was being spent: House Oversight Report: The Secret Service: An Agency In Crisis, 2015. Link to the full House Oversight Report.]
But a bright light has come in the form of the agency’s new Director, Randolph Alles, who was appointed by President Trump. Director Alles was part of the president’s promise to “drain the swamp” but more importantly the decision was a surprising follow-through on a 2014 recommendation by a Department of Homeland Security report dubbed the Secret Service Protective Mission Panel (USSS-PMP) following a series of embarrassing White House breaches by “fence jumpers,” a problem that has been escalating for decades without solution. That report publicly stated the Secret Service could only be saved if the tired leadership was rebuked by placing someone from outside the agency in charge.
[Source: United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel - https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/14_1218_usss_pmp.pdf]
Few realize the Secret Service is a most serious swamp culprit. Historically, The Secret Service has had three aces up its sleeve that saved it from reform: the media is literally embedded with the Secret Service and has a quid-pro-quo relationship exchanging access for fluff propaganda pieces (I know this firsthand having worked the press lobby). The Secret Service has always had the closest ear to the president which gives them immense political favoritism inside the DC beltway. Worse still, instead of firing horrible employees that have committed horrible crimes (losing firearms, hiring prostitutes, drunk driving, spousal abuse) the agency often promotes those employees into the ATF, TSA, Federal Air Marshal Service, DHS, DEA, and more.
[Source: House Oversight Report: The Secret Service: An Agency In Crisis, 2015. Link to the full House Oversight Report
and Reveal News' Air marshals say a party-hearty attitude prevails at the agency]
Inside the Secret Service “swamp” there has been a deepening rift between it’s two halves: the Agent Division and the Uniformed Division. Heiring from “operatives” after the time of Abraham Lincoln, agents investigated federal counterfeit and financial fraud. After two presidents were gunned down, the Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department won the responsibility it lobbied for: presidential protection. Agents provided strategic planning and area protection around the protectee but simultaneously, the Uniformed Division filled the other side of the coin: “area protection,” using policing, counter-sniper, metal detection, K-9, and more.
The Uniformed Division and Agent Division were supposed to work together to ensure the Executive Branch and the President were safe. But, due to extreme egos the job naturally attracts, the Secret Service Agents and Officers have have been at each other’s throats decades with the agents vying for superiority. As a result, protection has deteriorated resulting in major security blunders endangering the president, First Family, and others. The lengths senior agents were willing to go was abhorrent, even omitting the “Officer” from Officer Leslie Coffelt from Secret Service history on multiple occasions, if not Leslie entirely from agency lore. But presidents and congress have constantly reaffirmed their commitment to the Uniformed Division and power hungry agents have continued to become more nefarious in trying to take control of the the Uniformed Division. After decades, the result is a Secret Service swamp on the edge of catastrophe.
In 1998, President of the Fraternal Order of Police D.C. Lodge #1, explained the dire situation to Under Secretary of the Enforcement in the Department of the Treasury regarding Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti’s “Master Plan” (that was the plan’s actual name):
“The proposed restricting will place Secret Service agents in operational control over Uniformed Division units… You will have a situation where supervisors (Special Agents) who do not have the legal authority to enforce D.C. Code, directing police action and initiating policies for D.C. Code responses. This has been a problem in the past and will become an even bigger problem if this restructuring plan is enacted… Special Agents are not trained or experienced in managing the operational needs of a large uniformed police force. They do not have experience in uniformed police tactics, posts, patrols, scheduling, space and equipment needs, and the organizational command and control needs of a large police force… The radical restructuring proposed by the Secret Service will dismantle an established and proven effective Chain-of-Command that is operational in police departments throughout the country. It will circumvent the intent of Congress, and will create both legal and operational conflicts.” (Link to Full Memo, EXCLUSIVE)
Sixteen years later, a litany of incredible Secret Service scandals involving prostitution on missions, losing copious amounts of specialized equipment, losing firearms, covering up assassination attempts, publicly known and extremely ridiculous security breaches and more, and this 1998 memo has been proven more than correct in hindsight.
We’ve seen the Secret Service get so bad that U.S. Representative John Mica (R-FL) sarcastically recommend to agency Director Julia Pierson that the agency be dissolved and the White House should hired home alarm monitoring company ADT instead, suggesting it would be cheaper and better for everyone. In 2015, the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released its long and thorough report, “United States Secret Service: An Agency in Crisis,” detailing many of the agency’s scandals and mafia-like culture. In short, it disclosed how the Secret Service had become a swamp.
But today, there is hope in a new memo (Exclusive) revealing the hopeful course correction. Morale is already rising according to sources inside the agency.
Despite no one inside the agency believing it possible, President Trump appointed Randolph Tex Alles, a former Marine 2-star general who had headed the TSA. No one inside the agency knew what to expect.
But then Director Alles sent an internal memo to the Uniformed Division Retirement Association. The subject line read: “Memo from Director SS; Command and Control” and it blew everyone off their chairs.
The memo reads in part, “First, the Secret Service needs to operate as one organization and not as three separate parts (i.e., special agents, Uniformed Division Officers and APTs [Administrative, Professional and Technical Personnel]). Second, create opportunities for leadership that are more evenly distributed throughout the organization.” Then the director acknowledged that while agents were in charge of Officers and APT’s, “However, Uniformed Division Officers (no matter their grade or position) are never in charge of offices that contain special agents. Third, when a Secret Service employee is put in charge of an office, I intend for that individual to have operational command for all personnel assigned to that office or division (e.g., Special Operations Division). He then made it clear that he intended to have the most qualified of any Secret Service employee to compete to fulfill any leadership position inside the agency, regardless of whether they were an agent, officer, or APT. This was absolutely, in the agency’s over 100 year history, unprecedented. He then went on to cement that the Uniformed Division should be in charge of itself— and this part is great— and “and reduce potential complications created by parallel leadership structures.” In other words, he intends to eliminate redundant leadership positions where agents and officers were in charge where only an officer position was required. In the past, this duplication in management had caused poor reaction timings to security threats that demanded immediate responses. [Link to Full Memo Here]
Protecting the president is harder than ever. The quantity of threats is off the charts; the technological means for assassination evolve rapidly; the propensity to commit violence from domestic and foreign sources grows exponentially every election cycle from foreign and domestic threats, including rogue government actors and state-sponsored terror.
Creating hope, the outsider director ended his memo with this:
“We will become one Secret Service - united in mission and purpose. My goal is to be second to none in executing our protective and investigative operations. We will constantly strive for operational improvements and elevate those who exemplify the strength to propel us forward. These changes will empower a culture of leaders who are responsive not only to the mission but also to the men and women who fulfill that mission.
R.D. ‘Tex’ Alles, Director”
The mainstream media is focused the spin. They overlook incredible stories, especially good news of hope and promises fulfilled. Regardless of any one’s personal political disposition towards the “drain the swamp,” everyone can be happy that the Secret Service seems— and this is the hope— to be getting back towards fulfilling its mission and not repeating the worst of its history, our history.
It seems like a small victory, a light at the end of a long tunnel ahead but a step in the right direction still. The Secret Service still has major strategic issues set to collapse the agency including incredible manpower shortages, counter-productive employees, a brain drain, an ego-driven culture, and far more, but many in the Uniformed Division needed this morale booster.
If Director Alles actually follows through on his promise, it could very well be the beginning of saving the Secret Service, future presidents, and future of the United States.
But why is this happening? Why now when decades of warnings from the media, official reports, and insiders speaking out, even predating President Kennedy's assassination, are solutions forthcoming? What's the sudden variable? Here are the words of a former colleague (who wished to remain anonymous), the source of the director's memo, “… Gary I wrote something like this up about 22 years ago and submitted it. I’m quite sure I was not the only one. Your book [Secrets of the Secret Service] was what has pushed it over. Thank you brother! The beginning of dignity with the UD [Uniformed Division] ranks is basically because of you!”
My heart was so heavy but a weight had also been lifted. I wrote Secrets of the Secret Service to spur change. I didn't reveal everything, just enough. Word inside the wire is that the book is circulating. Many are ruminating. I and the book are akin to Voldemort or persona-non-grata for airing the dirty laundry in public, but after testifying during the Ken Starr investigation, it was nothing new to me. Secrets of the Secret Service was the last resort to bring dignity and competency to the mission I loved and we all worked for and sacrificed so much to, especially since Crisis of Character didn't get the reform I had hoped. I really don't want to write a third book exposing more of what I know. If you read the books for yourself, you can see where the systemic issues all began. It's true that "Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior," but hopefully now we have the tools of transparency to bring about reform and create the best for the men and women of the Secret Service and, most importantly, their protectees.
- Gary Byrne,
Fmr Uniformed Division Officer
Author of Crisis of Character and Secrets of the Secret Service