Guardian: Secret service agents are resigning and others might have to go without pay after more than 1,000 agents protecting the Trump family hit salary and overtime caps, the head of the US Secret Service said.
With more than four months to go before the end of the year, director Randolph “Tex” Alles told USA Today the Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out its protective mission, due in part to the size and activities of Trump’s extended family.
Alles said the agency was burdened beyond its typical presidential workload by Trump’s weekend travel schedule to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia, as well as providing protection for his adult children on their business trips and vacations, both domestically and internationally.
“The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,’’ Alles told the newspaper. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.’’
Under Trump, 42 people require protection, including 18 members of his family, compared with 31 during the Obama administration, Alles said. The additional workload had led to an increasing number of agents resigning from the ranks of the agency, he revealed.
Without additional funding, the director warned, the agency would not be able to pay agents for the work they have already done. Alles said he had approached lawmakers with a proposal to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents from $160,000 a year to $187,000.
Even if the caps are raised, he added, 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of additional hours they have already booked.
Upcoming events that will further strain the agency’s 1,100 agents include the opening of the UN General Assembly next month, when nearly 150 foreign heads of state converge on New York.
Alles’s comments come during a period of uncertainty at the agency, whose job it is to protect current and former presidents and vice-presidents and their families, as well as combat certain financial crimes.
A panel convened after a September 2014 breach during which an Iraq war veteran suffering form PTSD was stopped by security in the White House with a small knife found that agents often worked “an unsustainable number of hours”. As a result of that and other breaches, then-director Julia Pierson resigned. Subsequently, a recruiting blitz of around 800 agents and officers over the past year has limited the overall drop in numbers to 300.
As the protection agency lurches between crises that have included a prostitution scandal in Colombia, efforts to fix its finances have proved elusive or temporary.
Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House oversight and government reform committee who first sounded the alarm on the agency’s funding crisis, said through a spokesperson: “We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases [in overtime hours].”
Trump’s security costs have been an issue form almost the outset of his presidency. His travel costs to Mar-a-Lago, Florida, are estimated at $3m each, for a total of $20m over just his first three months in office. In all, Trump has made seven trips to Florida, five to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and returned to Trump Tower in Manhattan once.
The Trump entourage attracted further attention when the Secret Service recorded $100,000 for hotel bills in Uruguay accompanying Eric Trump on a business trip. Other trips made by Trump’s sons include trips to the UK, Dominic Republic, British Columbia and Dubai.
Security has also been provided for Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, on a skiing trip to Aspen, Colorado, and Tiffany Trump’s holidays to Germany and Hungary.
Alles characterized the challenges posed by protecting Trump as a new “reality” and described the White House response to the issue as understanding. “They accommodate to the degree they can and to the degree that it can be controlled.
“They have been supportive the whole time.’’