Policy

Trump Costs Prompt Secret Service Plea to Congress

‘The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law’

A Secret Service agent wipes down one of the presidential limousines at the U.S. Capitol before the start of the Inauguration parade on Jan. 20, the day Donald Trump was sworn in as president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Secret Service, anticipating the demands of protecting President Donald Trump and his family, wants Congress to again lift pay caps so it can reimburse its agents for overtime work during fiscal 2018.

Whether the agency will need additional appropriations remains to be decided. But the service, part of the Homeland Security Department, estimates about 1,100 employees will work overtime hours that would exceed the statutory pay caps in place during calendar year 2017, Director Randolph “Tex” Alles said in a statement Monday.

Alles said the agency faced a similar situation in 2016 and Congress passed legislation that allowed it to exceed the statutory pay caps. 

“To be clear, we are not asking Congress for more money,” Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan told CQ Roll Call. The agency is only asking lawmakers to lift the pay caps, she said. She could not say, however, if the service will need additional funding to meet salary obligations.

Secret Service agents have racked up overtime hours providing security to Trump and his relatives, who are spread out across the country. Trump himself has traveled to his golf clubs and resorts almost every weekend since taking office.

The salary cap issue was first reported by USA Today. “The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,” USA Today quoted Alles as saying. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.”

In a statement after the news report was published, Alles called the pay caps a “serious problem,” but added that it is “not one that can be attributed to the current administration’s protection requirements, but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational tempo.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Secret Service had to offer protection to multiple candidates of both parties in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election.

Alles said in the statement that the service “has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration, and the Congress over the past several months to find a legislative solution.”

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, for fiscal 2017, Congress funded the Secret Service at $23.6 million above the White House budget request. But the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal sought no additional resources, nor did the president’s June reprogramming request call for such funds.

The committee has only received rough estimates from the Secret Service regarding what additional needs might exist. “The committee is working with the Department to address hiring and retention within the Secret Service, a situation which is affecting the agency’s bottom line problems,” a Senate Appropriations GOP aide said.

The president’s fiscal 2018 budget sought $1.94 billion for the Secret Service, less than the enacted fiscal 2017 appropriation of $2.04 billion. The House Appropriations Committee approved $1.96 billion for the service in its fiscal 2018 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which is expected to be debated on the House floor next month in a package with seven other pending appropriations bills. 

“The Committee is pleased that the request fully funds the fiscal year 2018 requirements for the United States Secret Service, thus assuring that both its agents and Uniformed Division officers are compensated for overtime and relocations,” the committee said in its report accompanying the bill. “Furthermore, the request helps reduce the need for overtime through additional hiring,” the committee noted.

Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan could not immediately say if the department is seeking additional appropriations over and above the money being sought to hire more agents.

The 2017 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. 

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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