The Secret Service continues to struggle to fill available positions, resulting in overwork of current agents and uniformed officers that in turn is contributing to higher turnover and yet more vacancies, DHS IG John Roth has told the House Homeland Security Committee.
The IG estimated that to be fully staffed, the Secret Service will need about 8,200 positions within five years, up from its current level of about 6,500. The administration’s budgetary request for 450 more in fiscal 2018 “is a step in the right direction, but will be insufficient to meet current needs. Inadequate workforce strength results in little or no training, mistakes due to workforce fatigue, decreased quality of work life, poor morale, and increased attrition,” Roth said.
Due to understaffing, officers in the White House Branch worked an average of 23 overtime hours per pay period and had to work on three-fourths of their previously scheduled days off in fiscal 2015, he said. “Working excessive overtime and having days off routinely canceled has a long-term negative impact on UD officers’ alertness and preparedness. Having to work exceedingly strenuous hours leads to fatigue, stress and low morale, which is unsustainable and results in attrition,” he said.
He said for example that while Secret Service hired 487 people in the nine months ending last June, during the same period 439 individuals left, resulting in a net gain of only 48.
Meanwhile, “hiring freezes and attrition across the department have also affected staffing levels of human resources personnel, resulting in a delay of applicant processing and hiring,” he said. The average hiring time for a uniformed division officer is 359 days and for special agents 298 days.
He said that the Secret Service has made some improvements–for example, hiring events that allow applicants to complete several steps in the process in one location–” but most of the changes are relatively new and their long-term success cannot yet be measured.”