White House budget plan has Secret Service back under Treasury

Agency has been under Department of Homeland Security since it moved there after the 9/11 attacks

a man wearing a suit and tie
A Secret Service agent stands on the South Lawn as President Donald Trump makes his way to Joint Base Andrews on Marine One from the White House. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 10, 2020 at 7:42am

The president's fiscal 2021 budget blueprint assumes the transfer of the Secret Service back to its traditional home within the Treasury Department.

The agency, which provides presidential security and has primary jurisdiction over a variety of financial crimes, has operated as part of the Department of Homeland Security since it moved there in the bureaucratic reorganization after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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The proposal, which was the subject of media reports last week, was effectively revealed in a footnote to an Office of Management and Budget summary table for fiscal 2021 obtained Sunday by CQ Roll Call.

"The funding totals for 2019 actual and 2020 enacted are comparatively adjusted to reflect the Administration's 2021 Budget proposal to shift the U.S. Secret Service from DHS to the Department of the Treasury," the footnote said, in explaining an adjustment made in the table for comparison purposes.

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The move, which would require legislative action, was publicly endorsed by the White House as recently as January, citing support from the current and immediate former directors of the Secret Service.

According to a Senate aide, talks are ongoing between Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the Treasury.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been personally working on that proposal, including meeting with Feinstein. The draft legislation hit a bump last month when the Trump administration reportedly objected to a special reporting requirement favored by Democrats that would require disclosures on the costs of presidential travel before the November election.

"The good news is we have bipartisan support in the Senate. They'll be introducing this legislation," Mnuchin said in a Fox Business Network interview last week. "I think you know the Secret Service was started at the Treasury Department to prevent counterfeiting."

An internal Secret Service feasibility study, a copy of which has been reviewed by CQ Roll Call, suggests the relocation could better service the Treasury's focus on financial crimes and countering cybersecurity threats.

The Secret Service would also have a significantly larger footprint within Treasury than it does within Homeland Security.

The Trump administration believes that the move would improve the response to cyber-enabled financial crimes and benefit national security efforts, according to an administration official

The same feasibility suggested that the move could have some adverse effects on DHS, given the Secret Service's functions working with other agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.