Recently, controversy has erupted, as the Secret Service allowed an intruder to run past the locked gates and security barricades and run all the way into the White House — eventually being tackled only by an off-duty officer. This follows a 2011 incident in which the Secret Service was unaware for some time that gunshots had made contact with a wall of the White House.
This latest story will continue to evolve, and it’s safe to say we don’t know all the facts — and perhaps never will. But this story reminds us that even the most crucial and respected departments (or perhaps especially those agencies) must be scrutinized and reformed with an eye toward efficiency and good practices, not just throwing more money their way.
Often, unfortunately, National Security-related agencies or the Pentagon are placed on a pedestal, away from attempts to pass necessary reforms.
The Secret Service, which had a $1.6 billion budget in FY2013, is now getting what some call a long-overdue second look. Three high-profile scandals within the last three years have shone light on the fact that there were a startling 824 cases between 2004 and 2013 in which officials were cited for misconduct. The Secret Service’s reputation of being “invincible” is hardly accurate.
Regardless of what comes of this specific scandal, or even of the Secret Service in general, one thing is clear: there are no invincible government departments. The more we think there are, the less accountability, efficiency, cost-savings, and effectiveness there will to be had.
Some people would like to pretend that the more crucial a department is, the more impervious it should be to criticism and reform. But in fact, the opposite is true. We have to demand reform of our most important departments. We can’t afford not to.