With its elitist mission to protect the president, the Secret Service seems like the summit of law enforcement agencies.
Instead, the job is “a frustration” that allows many employees to flee from overloaded working conditions, according to a report requested by the agency’s management.
The morale of the Uniformed Division (UD) officers guarding the White House is so bad that a new study by a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) found that job satisfaction and employee engagement are “a worrying risk “Indicate a” crisis in the UD work-life balance “.
NAPA advises heads of government as an independent, non-partisan, congressional chartered organization. Your current harsh assessment is particularly troubling given that it comes after improvements following previous budget cuts and a series of embarrassing incidents that have ruined the agency’s stellar image.
The public sees determined, determined, plainclothes agents with earplugs and sunglasses in their sleeves, who are within easy reach of the most powerful person in the world. Visitors to the White House and presidential events must walk past uniformed officers in crisp white shirts checking their IDs and inspecting bags. They are all committed, determined, and not to be despised.
But their working conditions confuse them.
Despite the prestige of working in the White House, “long, repetitive hours have become a chore for the majority of officers,” the report said. Many officials we met in this study struggle with burnout. “
Although progress has been made over the years, the agency remains underfunded and understaffed, resulting in a depleted workforce pursuing a no-fail mission.
“The demands on the missions continue to increase, while the workforce has not increased at the same pace, causing the workforce to work significant overtime,” said NAPA. “Longer working hours mean more fatigue and an increased feeling of monotony at work, along with less time exercising and less time at home with family or pursuing external interests.”
Some of that frustration may have been taken out on agency cars. Citing the “often deplorable condition of vehicles”, including missing floorboards, NAPA said there were “cases of willful damage” to patrol cruisers. “Officials feel that they do not have the quality of the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively,” the report said.
The increasing threats against those protected by the Secret Service and the increasing complexity of the financial crime investigated by the agency coincided with earlier budget cuts and hiring freezes. That may have contributed to the negative incidents that once damaged his reputation, as Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post reported and recorded in a book this year. One of the most scandalous was the recall of agents dealing with prostitutes while serving under then-President Barack Obama’s command during a summit in Colombia in 2012. One of the most dangerous was 2014 when a man slipped into the mansion with a knife through the front door of the White House before being stopped. In 2015, the Secret Service ranked last among federal law enforcement agencies in the influential Best Places to Work in the Federal Government published by the Civil Service Partnership.
Although the agency has emphasized programs to strengthen the Uniformed Division, “wear and tear is particularly problematic,” the academy said. Together with 30 percent of uniformed officers who have been on duty for less than three years, the secret service has “a large part of its law enforcement personnel with limited experience”.
A major problem is the “unsustainable amount of overtime” civil servants have to work. To make matters worse, overtime is not always fully remunerated.
From 2016 to 2018, specialty agents lost more than $ 1 million in unpaid overtime, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last year. A review of exit surveys by the academy panel found that incomplete compensation for work performed was a common reason for leaving the agency.
A spokesperson for the agency would not answer a question about unpaid work despite the GAO and NAPA results, calling it “hypothetical character”. A House committee held a hearing on the gratuitous work four years ago.
Regarding the report, the spokesperson agreed “with the overarching conclusion that morale and engagement will not improve significantly until the agency is funded and staffed at optimal levels. We will continue to campaign aggressively until we are fully staffed and able to provide a better quality of life for our elite law enforcement agencies, whose fast pace every day ensures the mission’s success. “
The Secret Service currently employs 7,846 people in 162 offices in Germany and abroad. The agency’s heads say the number of employees must increase to 9,595 by fiscal 2026.
Most of the employees in the Uniformed Division are members of the Fraternal Order of Police union, who refused to comment on the report until they could consult with them.
John Koskinen, a member of the NAPA panel and a former commissioner for the Internal Revenue Service, paid “great tribute” to the heads of the agencies for soliciting the study and addressing issues. “They are trying to keep making progress in what they are doing,” he said in an interview.
In addition to hiring more people, NAPA suggested that the Secret Service should protect fewer people. Although the reduction in the number of asylum seekers “goes against the basic” ethos “of the agency,” the report says it is important to take this into account. Four times, the report cited the additional duties imposed on the agency by former President Donald Trump, who “authorized protection for family members and White House officials for the first six months of the new administration, placing an unprecedented protective burden on the service.”
This, along with other issues, added to the rising demands on intelligence, which the Academy found “stressed the workforce and had a negative impact on staff focus, engagement, willingness and effectiveness.”