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Written testimony of USSS Director Randolph Alles for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security hearing titled “How Can the United States Secret Service Evolve to Meet the Challenges Ahead?”

Release Date: 
June 8, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center

Good morning Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Watson-Coleman, and distinguished Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to represent the outstanding men and women of the U.S. Secret Service (Secret Service). Since my swearing in as the twenty-fifth Director, I have met with many of our personnel across all jobs and mission categories and I am reassured by their professionalism and commitment to the Secret Service missions.

It is not lost on me that I am the first Secret Service Director to be named from outside the agency in over seventy years. Although I face a steep learning curve to understand this unique law enforcement agency, I believe the mission focus of the Secret Service has much in common with the ethos of my entire career. My experiences to date as a military officer with the U.S. Marine Corps and most recently as Acting Deputy Commissioner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have provided me with significant common ground with our personnel and have prepared me to successfully lead the agency.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the numerous accomplishments of the Secret Service over the past two years. In this time period, our personnel have coordinated security for eleven National Special Security Events (NSSEs), including two State of the Union addresses, the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, two United Nations General Assemblies (UNGA) (70 and 71), the visit of Pope Francis to the United States, which included Washington, DC, New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA; the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and the Presidential Inauguration. In support of these NSSEs, the Secret Service Uniformed Division and its DHS partners screened more than six million members of the public at the events. It is worthy to note that UNGA-70 and the Papal visit to New York City occurred simultaneously – never before had the agency been faced with coordinating security for two concurrent NSSEs.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the Secret Service realized a 38 percent increase in total protective stops compared to FY 2015, as well as a 32 percent increase in campaign-related stops over FY 2008 (the last presidential campaign without an incumbent). More recently, the Secret Service secured several large-scale events, to include the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group Spring Meeting, and an eleven-day Vice Presidential foreign trip throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. In addition, the Secret Service successfully secured a number of protective stops during the President’s recent eight-day foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium, and Italy.

Even as protection has been and remains our primary mission focus, the investigative mission of the Secret Service is critically important and noteworthy. We have prioritized our limited resources to effectively further the investigative mission. In FY 2016, in the midst of a demanding presidential campaign year, our field personnel closed 3,592 criminal cases resulting in 2,125 arrests. Our cyber investigations prevented $558 million in potential loss and $124.5 million in actual loss in FY 2016. The agency remains committed to advancing its capabilities to protect America’s financial infrastructure to stop cyber criminals as they develop advanced malware to compromise the computer networks of U.S. financial institutions and businesses. In fact, to better support these investigations, we have updated our training curriculum to include basic cyber training for all new incoming Special Agents.

Criminal investigations provide opportunities for Secret Service personnel to forge partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to promote support for our integrated missions. The nationwide network of Electronic and Financial Crime Task Forces (ECTF/FCTF) and the cyber forensic training available through the National Computer Forensic Institute (NCFI) allow for the sharing of investigative resources with law enforcement at all levels.

Lastly, through our international law enforcement relationships, the Secret Service partners with vetted anti-counterfeit efforts in South America to reduce the production, sale and distribution of counterfeit U.S. currency within Colombia and Peru and its export to other countries. The latest effort, termed Project South America, seized $22.9 million in counterfeit notes, arrested 102 individuals and suppressed one counterfeit operation in FY 2016.

I want to stress the above-mentioned accomplishments have been borne by a workforce that continues to be significantly understaffed to meet current and emergent operational demands. This has caused an undue burden on the existing workforce and has contributed to an attrition rate that is far too high. Leadership, morale, hiring, retention, and securing adequate resources are my top priorities for the agency. I am fully focused on these problems and we are implementing solutions.

Human Capital (Hiring and Retention)

The Secret Service remains dedicated to our human capital and we realize, as with any elite organization, that our people are our most important asset. A healthy, robust workforce benefits all involved and allows us to achieve excellence in our integrated mission. Increased staffing is the key to enabling improved quality of life and to providing training opportunities for our employees. In 2015, the Secret Service hired 207 Special Agents, 151 Uniformed Division Officers and 125 Administrative, Professional and Technical (APT) staff members. In 2016, amidst the extraordinary protective tempo of the Presidential Campaign, the agency hired 327 Special Agents, 309 Uniformed Division officers, and 194 APT staff members, giving us the highest total employee population we have had since 2012. In addition, the Office of Human Resources has been able to reduce applicant processing time for Special Agents and Uniformed Division Officers from approximately 15 months to 4 months.

Hiring and reducing attrition is critical to the agency’s success. The men and women of the Secret Service are among the most highly skilled in the federal workforce. Their skillsets and professionalism make them highly desirable across government and the private sector. It is clear that increasing staffing to healthier levels will have a positive effect on attrition and retention – contributing to a better work/life balance and increased training opportunities. There is no quick fix when it comes to increasing staffing levels. Although the agency requires time to fully realize its personnel needs, we will not take shortcuts that compromise our high standards.

We are building on the momentum of our FY 2016 recruiting efforts. In FY 2017, we expect to hire approximately 300 Special Agents, 280 Uniformed Division officers, and 260 APTs. Our Strategic Human Capital Plan includes an addition of 450 Special Agents, 150 Uniformed Division Officers and 300 APTs by the end of FY 2019. The tireless efforts of our Human Capital Division, Security Management Division, field offices, and the James J. Rowley Training Center, in coordination with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, are making this possible.

While we have made significant progress on our hiring goals, we realize these achievements have the effect of running in place if attrition is ignored. The agency’s retention efforts are targeted to every sector of our workforce. With the assistance of the Department and Congress, we have implemented the Uniformed Division Retention Bonus Program, as well as student loan repayment and tuition assistance programs. Two additional examples of retention tools are an updated telework policy to allow more workforce flexibility, and revitalized Senior Special Agent and Senior Resident Agent programs. The Secret Service has also implemented an agency-wide APT Career Progression Plan and is very close to implementing a child care subsidy program. Additionally, the 114th Congress passed HR 6302, the Overtime Pay for Protective Services Act of 2016, which allowed our personnel to be compensated above the statutory salary cap (up to level II of the Executive Schedule) for the 2016 Presidential Campaign year. This was a tremendous morale boost to a workforce that had experienced an operational tempo unlike any other. We will continue to work together with Congress, the Department, and the Administration to institute additional legislative measures to improve overall staffing, training, morale, and the work/life balance of our entire workforce.

To accommodate increased hiring, our Office of Training has adjusted to meet training needs. In addition to growing its training staff, the Rowley Training Center has begun a series of capital improvements to meet the needs of our workforce. Upgrades and investments include a new canine facility and shooting ranges, which improve the capacity and capability to provide exceptional training. With continued long-term investments, the Secret Service can provide the type of immersive, real-life, integrated training that will befit our premier law enforcement personnel into the future.

A Commitment to Excellence

A commitment to excellence requires a focus on both mission and employee. To that end, a number of external studies have examined agency capabilities and employee well-being. I would like to briefly summarize some of the studies and findings significant to our future as an agency.

The independent Protective Mission Panel (PMP) was created in 2014 by then-Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct an assessment of the security at the White House. The work of the PMP has led the Secret Service to examine and adopt best practices throughout organization in areas such as training, operations, and engagement with every member of the workforce.

A year after the PMP issued its report, the Secret Service invited the panel members to meet with former Director Clancy to discuss the progress made and to obtain input to ensure the actions taken were consistent with the intent of their recommendations.

In November 2016, the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its report on the status of the Secret Service’s implementation of the PMP recommendations and noted that fully addressing some will take considerable time, funding, and stakeholder support. The OIG stated:

 

“The Secret Service has clearly taken the PMP’s recommendations seriously, which it has demonstrated by making a number of significant changes. Specifically, it has improved communication within the workforce, better articulated its budget needs, increased hiring, and committed to more training. Using funding appropriated for PMP initiatives, the Secret Service has also begun enhancing security and refreshing technology at the White House Complex.”

 

Additionally, the DHS Office of Policy, in conjunction with the DHS Management Directorate, examined whether the Secret Service protective mission would benefit from shedding certain collateral or non-essential missions, primarily its investigative mission. The report found not only that the investigative mission should not be shed but also that it complements the protective mission:

 

“The review also found that the Secret Service’s partnerships with the law enforcement community, academia, and the private sector are woven into the fabric of the agency. The USSS has strong, reciprocal relationships with its state and local law enforcement partners. The degree of trust and rapport that the USSS has built across the law enforcement community through task force participation and leadership, technical support, investigative partnerships, and training opportunities are critical to the support the Secret Service receives in turn from state and local law enforcement in carrying out its protective mission.” 1

 

This combined strength of our integrated missions also makes the Secret Service the world’s foremost leader in protection and securing our Nation’s financial infrastructure.


1 Department of Homeland Security, Office of Policy, Review of the United States Secret Service Protective and Investigative Missions (January, 2017).

 

Work/Life Balance

As noted, the past two years have brought an unprecedented workload for our employees. In an effort to attain a better understanding of those work/life balance factors upon which we can improve, we sought the feedback of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), which completed an assessment of our business transformation efforts in October 2016. Their findings helped us identify ways to build upon our completed actions. The critical analysis that the Academy Panel conducted discovered that:

 

“… agency efforts are significant and wide ranging in terms of both scale and scope. The Secret Service has accomplished a substantial number of organizational, policy and process changes to transform the way the agency does business, to professionalize administrative, technical and management functions and to remedy numerous staffing and employee issues. Agency leadership has achieved these changes in a relatively short time, demonstrating its commitment to change.” 2

 

NAPA was able to study the revised structure of the Secret Service, instituted by the former Director. More specifically, the agency appointed a senior-executive civilian to the position of Chief Operating Officer. The agency also aligned several professional, experienced Chief Executive Officers to report to the Chief Operating Officer. Prior to September 2014, the Secret Service had nine directorates, with all but the Office of the Chief Counsel led by a Special Agent. The agency now has twelve directorates, of which six are headed by non-Special Agent personnel, including a Chief Human Resources Officer, a Chief Counsel, a Chief Technology Officer, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Strategy Officer, and a Chief Information Officer. Additionally, the agency now has a Chief Personnel Research Psychologist, a Component Acquisition Executive, a Director of Communications, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Manager – all at the senior-executive service level. This new structure, which increased civilian professional executive appointments, enables the agency to better focus attention on both the operational mission and business needs.

All of these reports and findings demonstrate our focus on improving the Secret Service in the spirit of the PMP’s findings, not just in short-term actions, but as part of a sustained, long-term effort. Our work to address the PMP recommendations has also allowed us to appropriately address similar Congressional oversight concerns, which include changes in Secret Service leadership and structure, budgeting for our mission needs, and hiring and retaining personnel.


2 National Academy of Public Administration, United States Secret Service; Review of Organizational Change Efforts (October 2016).

 

White House Fence

Among recommendations of the PMP was the replacement of the existing perimeter White House fence. With respect to this recommendation, the Secret Service and National Park Service have secured all approvals needed from the Commission on Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission to construct the proposed new White House fence. I am further pleased to note that on May 5, 2017, the President signed into law H.R. 244, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, which included the $50 million of funding needed to support construction of the new fence. The contract solicitation package is nearly complete and ready for advertisement. The Secret Service and National Park Service estimate that it will take six months to advertise and award. After contract award, site mobilization and off-site fence fabrication will take approximately six months.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to thank former Director Joseph Clancy for the commitment he exhibited in his time as Director and his nearly three decades of dedication to the Secret Service. His focus on the agency’s workforce and critical mission has resulted in the progress mentioned to date. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank recently retired Chief Kevin Simpson for his leadership of the Uniformed Division and for his almost thirty years of service.

As we move forward, I will build upon the accomplishments noted previously to ensure that our workforce is afforded all of the leadership and resources necessary to accomplish the mission at the highest level. Thanks to the hard work, dedication, and many sacrifices of our employees around the world, we have had noteworthy successes when the demands of the mission were greatest. We will continue to uphold our core values of justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty for ourselves and the American people.

Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Watson-Coleman, and members of the Committee, this concludes my testimony. I welcome any questions you have at this time.

Last Published Date: June 8, 2017
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