A federal watchdog on Thursday sent the U.S. Secret Service a formal warning that its overworking of employees is jeopardizing security — citing the discovery that two Secret Service officers were asleep at their posts, according to three government officials familiar with the findings.
The inspector general who oversees the Secret Service issued a management alert, a formal designation that indicates investigators have found a problem so urgent or sweeping that it requires swift attention from senior management.
“This alert describes officer safety issues that may pose an immediate or potential danger to U.S. Secret Service officers and those whom they protect,” the inspector general’s alert says. “We are concerned that the Secret Service’s staffing and scheduling process does not ensure that officers receive adequate breaks while on duty and time off between shifts.”
Secret Service leaders strenuously objected Thursday to Inspector General John Roth’s conclusions that these incidents show a broader problem in the agency’s work schedules. A Secret Service spokesman said the evidence shows an overtaxing work schedule was not the reason for the two employees’ lack of alertness. In one case, the officer told investigators that cold medicine he took that day had made him drowsy, two government officials said. The other officer ostensibly had a very full work schedule on paper, but a large chunk of that was sitting and sleeping while flying back in a military transport plane from President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya.
New Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy has pledged that improving staffing, with Congress’s help, was his first priority in taking the job permanently in February.