Where should the agency tasked with politician security and protection be housed?
The Secret Service began in 1865 primarily to combat counterfeit money, which is why it was housed within the Treasury Department. Its protective function began in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley. Yet it has always investigated financial crimes even to this day, although that remains its less prominent mission in the public consciousness. In 2003, the Secret Service moved to the newly-created Department of Homeland Security.
Yet now some are now calling for the agency to return to the Treasury Department once again, for increased prioritization. Within the Treasury it would be the second-largest agency behind only the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), while currently under Homeland Security it only constitutes 3 percent of the department’s budget. And some longtime Secret Service agents feel Homeland Security doesn’t support their mission as fully as the Treasury did.
What the bill does
The U.S. Secret Service Mission Improvement and Realignment Act would officially transfer the Secret Service from the Department of Homeland Security to the Treasury Department.
It was introduced in the Senate on May 6 as bill number S. 3636, co-sponsored by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that the move would be a better fit, returning to the pre-2003 status which most say worked well.
“In my opinion, the Treasury is a better fit for the Secret Service as the Secret Service has primary responsibility dealing with currency forgery,” Sen. Graham said in a press release. “In addition, they will receive renewed support from Treasury to combat financial cybercrimes. Both are essential to maintaining the financial integrity of the United States.”
“Secret Service and Treasury Department leaders agree that returning Secret Service control to Treasury from its current home at Homeland Security will be mutually beneficial,” Sen. Feinstein said in the same press release. “I’m pleased the bill includes a requirement that the Secret Service report its expenditures, including payments to private entities. Ensuring the Secret Service functions effectively and transparently is a worthwhile goal.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the Secret Service was moved to the Department Homeland Security for a reason, and that moving it away could spark a domino effect which makes America’s security agencies less cohesive.
“Such a loss could open D.H.S. up to additional reforms or reorganizations, perhaps even some involving the transfer or dismantling of other operating components, further weakening the department at a critical time in its development,” according to a government report obtained and published by the New York Times.
“It would bring us back to a security posture pre-9/11,” Auburn University’s McCrary Institute Director Frank Cilluffo told NPR, noting that it could inspire other federal agencies housed within the Department of Homeland Security to break off too, thus potentially sharing less information with each other.
Odds of passage
The bill’s two lead sponsors are the top ranking member of each party on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so its odds of passage in that chamber seem reasonably high.
Its odds of passage in the fuller chamber or in the House are harder to ascertain, especially given its lack of other cosponsorship.