Secret Service Out of Overtime Money for 1,100 Employees

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

Roughly 1,100 Secret Service employees will work overtime hours in excess of a statutory pay cap during calendar year 2017, the agency said Aug. 21. This means the employees, who are part of the agency responsible for guarding President Donald Trump and his family, won’t get paid for all of their overtime unless the cap is raised.

“This issue is not one that can be attributed to the current Administration’s protection requirements alone, but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational tempo,” U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA. “Our agency experienced a similar situation in calendar year 2016 that resulted in legislation that allowed Secret Service employees to exceed statutory caps on pay.”

Alles was referring to the Overtime Pay for Protective Services Act, which extended the Secret Service pay cap for calendar year 2016 only. The 2017 presidential election caused some Secret Service agents to bump up against the statutory pay cap, which led to the signing of the measure by President Barack Obama in December. The new pay cap shortfall is unusual because it comes during a year in which there are no national elections.

The agency is working with the administration and Congress on a legislative solution to the problem, Alles said.

A senior House aide told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 21 that the Secret Service’s costs in protecting Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and their families have increased significantly compared with the Obama administration.

Current Pay Cap Is $160,000

Pat O’Carroll, executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 21 that the “vast majority” of the employees referred to in the statement from Alles are Secret Service agents. A small number may be employees in the agency’s technical security and uniformed divisions, O’Carroll said.

Congress most likely will be considering legislation this year to raise the pay cap for Secret Service agents and other protective services employees from $160,000 to about $187,000, O’Carroll said. This would allow about $17,000 in additional overtime for calendar year 2017, and the cap would increase in subsequent years, he said.

That’s the same adjustment that was made to the pay cap for calendar year 2016, O’Carroll said. If Congress had approved legislation to permanently increase the Secret Service pay cap, rather than increasing it only for one year, there would be no need for new legislation, O’Carroll said.

There are a total of about 3,200 Secret Service agents, according to the agency’s website. This means that about one-third of the agents have reached the current pay cap for calendar year 2017.

It’s ‘Hard to Turn Off Protection’

O’Carroll agreed with Alles that the Secret Service’s costs have been increasing for years.

The agency “used to be very stingy in terms of who would get protection,” he said. Over time, the number of individuals who receive protection from the Secret Service has increased, partly because agency officials are reluctant to withdraw protection from people who already have it, O’Carroll said.

For example, in 1997 Congress passed and the president signed a measure to provide Secret Service protection to future ex-presidents for only 10 years, rather than for the rest of their lives, O’Carroll said. The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 restored lifelong protection for ex-presidents, he said.

“It’s so hard to turn off protection once you start,” O’Carroll said. “You don’t know whether it’s the protection that’s keeping the individual alive.”

As for higher costs related to the unique challenges of protecting Trump, these shouldn’t be surprising, O’Carroll said.

“The American public elected the guy knowing he has a huge family,” O’Carroll said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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