US Secret Service out of money to pay agents

USA Today:-WASHINGTON — The Secret Service can no longer afford to pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.

Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.

The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump – who has traveled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia – and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.

“The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,” Alles said. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.”

 Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That’s up from 31 during the Obama administration.

Overwork and constant travel has also been driving a recent exodus from the Secret Service ranks, yet without congressional intervention to provide additional funding, Alles will not even be able pay agents for the work they have already done.

The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump’s first term.

But even if such a proposal was approved, about 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed, according to the agency.

“I don’t see this changing in the near term,” Alles said.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed deep concern for the continuing stress on an agency, first thrust into into turmoil five years ago with disclosures about sexual misconduct by agents in Colombia and subsequent White House security breaches.

A special investigative panel formed after a particularly egregious 2014 White House breach also found that that agents and uniform officers worked “an unsustainable number of hours,” which also contributed to troubling attrition rates.

While about 800 agents and uniformed officers were hired during the past year as part of an ongoing recruiting blitz to bolster the ranks, attrition limited the agency’s net staffing gain to 300, according to agency records. And last year, Congress had to approve a one-time fix to ensure that 1,400 agents would be compensated for thousands of hours of overtime earned above compensation limits. Last year’s compensation shortfall was first disclosed by USA TODAY.

“It is clear that the Secret Service’s demands will continue to be higher than ever throughout the Trump administration,” said Jennifer Werner, a spokesperson for Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.

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