The Secret Service is demoting four top-ranking employees following several dangerous security breaches, including an embarrassing September incident in which a man scaled the fence and ran far into the White House through an unlocked front door, a Secret Service official said Wednesday.
The action comes after a panel charged with reviewing the agency said last month that the elite agency is “an organization starved for leadership” that needs more agents, better training and discipline and a new leader from outside the agency.
“Based on the Independent Panel review, and my own assessments, I will be implementing leadership changes in the Secret Service management team,” Acting Director Joseph Clancy said in a statement late Wednesday. “Change is necessary to gain a fresh perspective on how we conduct business. I am certain any of our senior executives will be productive and valued assets either in other positions at the Secret Service or the department.”
Clancy informed the four assistant directors who oversee protection, investigations, technology and public affairs this week that they they will be reassigned within the Secret Service or the larger Department of Homeland Security, according to the official who was knowledgeable of the situation but not authorized to speak as a matter of practice.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, applauded Clancy’s decision, while urging Clancy to continue reviewing senior leadership in the agency.
“The Secret Service has suffered from a lack of leadership and that has had a detrimental impact on security, training, protocols, and overall culture,” Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in a statement late Wednesday. “Changes are necessary and these departures are a step in the right direction. Failures within leadership have been detrimental to the reputation of this elite law enforcement agency, and subsequently the morale of the men and women who work hard to keep the President and his family safe.
The four assistant directors who are being reassigned are: Dale Pupillo, who oversees protective operations; Paul Morrissey, who heads up investigations; Jane Murphy, who leads the governmental and public affairs section; and Mark Copanzzi, who organizes technology and support.
The news was first reported by the Washington Post.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appointed the independent panel in October following several lapses, including the Sept. 19 incident. That led to the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.
News reports also indicate that a man fired a semiautomatic rifle at the White House while President Barack Obama’s daughter, Sasha, was home in November 2011, and that the president shared an elevator with a security contractor who was carrying a gun during a trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last year.
“We believe that at this time in the agency’s history, the need for service experience is outweighed by what the service needs today: dynamic leadership that can move the service forward into a new era and drive change in the organization,” the panel wrote.
A request for comment from Johnson’s office went unanswered late Wednesday. But last month Johnson said the Secret Service should carefully consider all the panel’s recommendations. “The Secret Service itself must commit to change,” he said.
Much of the report, including details of assessments and recommendations, was classified and was not be released to the public. But the executive summary, which Johnson released, indicates that the panel found significant problems at the agency charged with protecting the president, his family and other dignitaries, as well as investigating financial crimes.
It recommended hiring an additional 200 agents in the uniformed division and 85 agents in the presidential protective division; breaking with tradition and hiring someone from the outside to lead the agency; and replacing the seven-and-a-half-foot outer fence that surrounds the 18-acre White House compound.
Clancy, formerly special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, was appointed acting director after Pierson resigned. Obama does not have a timetable for replacing him, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last month.