The new U.S. Service Service director is pleased how agents are dealing with the two-pronged “stress” of staffing shortages and special challenges of protecting the spread-out family of President Donald Trump.
“I’m impressed by the people we’ve got, but we need more people, because staffing shortages are affecting morale,” Randolph Alles, who became Secret Service director last month, said in a media briefing Thursday.
Alles wants to increase the 6,800-member staff to 7,600 within the next two years and to nearly 9,600 by 2025.
The new director plans to increase the numbers by easing its policy on marijuana use. In the past, the agency rejected an applicant who has used the drug more than a certain number of times. Instead, the agency will now use a “whole-person concept” to measure marijuana use, which would include how long ago they used it.
Alles, a retired major general, is the first director from outside the agency in 70 years.
He said the extra numbers are needed to improve persistent morale problems because of unpredictable staffing demands and limited funds to pay overtime.
In October, USA Today reported that slightly more than 1,000 agents – about a third of the staff — had reached their annual overtime and salary allowances. Congress approved additional funds to cover the overtime costs last year.
Without a permanent fix, Alles said a “couple hundred” agents and officers will max out their pay allowances this year.
Agents are also dealing with 24-hour-a-day protection at Trump’s residence in New York, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, other properties, as well as members of Trump’s extended family.
“There are more places we have to protect by statute,” Alles said. “That and the fact that he has a large family. That’s just more stress on the organization. We recognize that. It’s not something I have any flexibility on.”
He noted: “I can’t change the size of the president’s family nor will I attempt to do that.”
At the White House, a series of intruders have scaled the fence and gotten onto the grounds. “There will be no easy solutions at the White House until we get the staffing up,” he said.
On Wednesday, a man attempted to scale a bike rack outside the White House and agents assisted in the arrest of a man on weapons offenses at the nearby Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Secret Service also will question actress Kathy Griffin, who was photographed holding a fake, severed head in the image of Trump.
Last April, the Secret Service fired two agents for the March 10 intrusion at the White House when a man jumped over the fence and roamed the grounds for 15 minutes.
And in March, a bag containing a laptop and other items was stolen from a Secret Service agent’s vehicle in New York.
Also in March, a Secret Service agent was suspended after meeting with a prostitute at a Maryland hotel.
The U.S. Secret Service has received the same number of threats against Donald Trump as previous presidents.
“The number of threats has been fairly constant over the past 10 years, about six to eight a day,” said Alles, who became Secret Service director last month.
Despite its heavy protection workload, Alles said the Secret Service shouldn’t abandon its responsibilities for enforcing laws against counterfeiting and cybercrime.
“Without that ability, we become just a guard force, waiting for something bad to happen,” he said.