US Secret Service manpower shortage as campaigns ramp up

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WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Secret Service, tasked with simultaneously protecting President Barack Obama and some of the Republican and Democratic candidates now running to replace him next year, is facing a manpower shortfall at a time of peak demand, the agency told Congress on Tuesday.

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Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told a House Appropriations panel the agency is focused on "human capital needs across the organization" and accruing enough agents to ease overtime demands on the existing force.

The Secret Service hopes to have 7,600 agents in its ranks by fiscal year 2019, up from the current figure of approximately 6,200, Committee Chairman John Carter of Texas said during Tuesday's hearing.

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US Secret Service manpower shortage as campaigns ramp up
A member of the Secret Service walks the perimeter of the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2016, after a person allegedly attempted to jump over the fence. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A Secret Service uniformed officer patrols the North Lawn of the White House after a lock down at the White House in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A member of the uniformed Secret Service stands in front of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's plane as he prepares to depart after speaking at a rally at Millington Regional Airport in Millington, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A member of Secret Service positioned onstage during remarks by President Barack Obama during a panel discussion as part of the White House Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A Secret Service agent stands guard as a group of construction workers stands on a doorway for a glimpse of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Elko, Nev. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A uniformed U.S. Secret Service police officer stands guard in a knee-deep snow outside the White House in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Secret Service police stand guard outside the White House after a man was caught jumping the fence as President Barack Obama and his family ate Thanksgiving dinner, on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A Secret Service Agent stands guard as Vice President Joe Biden, with President Barack Obama and his wife Jill Biden, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, to announce he will not run for the presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A heavily armed US Secret Service officer talks to another officer on the grounds of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary where Pope Francis will stay during his visit Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Wynnewood, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Members of the Secret Service keep a watchful eye prior to President Barack Obama's departure from Palm Springs, Calif., International Airport aboard Air Force One Sunday, June 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Peña)
Members of the Secret Service Uniform Division moves media from the briefing room and media as parts of the White House are evacuated, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
An officer of the US Secret Service Uniform Division patrols Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Part of the White House was evacuated amid security concerns. Secret Service officers interrupted a live, televised press briefing with the White House press secretary on Tuesday and evacuated the James S. Brady Briefing Room shortly after 2 p.m. The officers would not say what prompted the evacuation, and the White House had no immediate information about the incident. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Uniformed Secret Service Police officers patrol on bikes near the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 14, 2015, during a lockdown. A federal law enforcement official says a man has been arrested after trying to launch a drone outside the White House fence. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Secret Service snipers protect Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard Friday, May 8, 2015, at the Oregon Air National Guard Base in Portland Ore. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)
Secret Service officers search the south grounds of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A device, possibly an unmanned aerial drone, was found on the White House grounds during the middle of the night while President Barack Obama and the first lady were in India, but his spokesman said Monday that it posed no threat. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A Secret Service Agent is seen through tinted and patterned glass as he stands in front of the door to a room where President Barack Obama was meeting with leading CEOs to discuss ways to promote the economy and create jobs during his last two years in office, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, at the Business Roundtable Headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
** UPDATES THE CHARGES FILED AGAINST DOMINIC ADESANYA ** A Secret Service police officer walks outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, as a maintenance worker performs fence repairs as part of a previous fence restoration project. Dominic Adesanya, the 23-year-old Maryland man who climbed over the White House fence was ordered held without bond in an appearance Thursday before a federal magistrate judge. He has been charged with unlawfully entering the restricted grounds of the White House and harming two police dogs. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Members of the Secret Service watch as Marine One taxies on the runway before President Barack Obama leaves the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Ind., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2014 file photo, a U.S. Secret Service K-9 sweeps the sidewalk around the White House facing Pennsylvania Avenue after protests by anti-war activists who blocked the entrance to the northwest gate. Security around the White House perimeter has been intensified since last Friday when a 42-year-old Army veteran climbed over the fence and dashed across the north lawn and entered the executive mansion before being stopped. The US Secret Service and National Park Service have been discussing possible changes to the security infrastructure on roads and parks around the White House. The Secret Service is deciding whether to permanently close the Ellipse and other roadways, which have been closed since 9/11. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2104 file photo uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the lawn on the North side of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Secret Service is coming under intense scrutiny after a man who hopped the White House fence made it all the way through the front door before being apprehended. The US Secret Service and National Park Service have been discussing possible changes to the security infrastructure on roads and parks around the White House. The Secret Service is deciding whether to permanently close the Ellipse and other roadways, which have been closed since 9/11.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
A U.S. Secret Service agent stands watch as President Barack Obama lifts off on Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, as he travels to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama and White House counselor John Podesta at the intersection of 18th and C streets NW, accompanied by members of the Secret Service as they head towards the Dept. of Interior, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Obama and Podesta also walked back to the White House after a signing a proclamation regarding the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Members of the US Secret Service's Counter Assault Team, known in the agency as CAT, are seen before boarding helicopters at a landing zone in Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, March 24, 2014. The Secret Service sent three agents home from the Netherlands just before Obama's arrival after one agent was found inebriated in an Amsterdam hotel, the Secret Service said Tuesday. The three agents were benched for "disciplinary reasons," said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, declining to elaborate. Donovan said the incident was prior to Obama's arrival Monday in the country and did not compromise the president's security in any way.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

While Clancy said the Secret Service was making progress in hiring more agents, "we have yet to see the desired impact on our overall staffing levels due to increased attrition."

Clancy testified at a hearing to review the agency's funding needs for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1.

Demands of the mission are peaking, he added, with Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions slated for this summer, the general elections in November and presidential inaugural events in January.

Carter cited the loss of 19 agents in the last four months and the large amounts of overtime hours agents have had to put in on the president's detail, on the campaign trail and in the uniformed division.

Carter, a Republican, questioned whether the service's hiring goals were "obtainable" with the agency "losing more agents than they have brought on board."

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Clancy responded that the agency is exploring initiatives to lure more applicants and retain current agents.

The Secret Service was rocked in 2012 when it surfaced that some agents working a presidential trip to Colombia were involved with prostitutes. In 2014, agents failed to stop a man who jumped the White House fence, ran across the lawn and made it into the mansion before he was apprehended.

More recently, during a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump in Radford, Virginia, a Time magazine photographer was grabbed by the neck and shoved to the ground by a Secret Service agent. An agency spokeswoman said the service is investigating the incident.

Besides protecting the president and presidential candidates, Secret Service agents investigate financial crimes such as counterfeiting of U.S. currency and credit card and fraud.

(Reporting by Clarece Polke, editing by Richard Cowan and Alan Crosby)

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