Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy acknowledged that an "element" within the agency has a drinking problem but said he will wait to take action until the conclusion of an investigation into allegations that two senior agents collided with a barricade while drunk at the White House.
"I would say that there is an element within our agency that does cope with the stresses [of the job] by using alcohol," Clancy told a House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday. "There's no question that we have that element."
Clancy noted that just three to four weeks ago the agency kicked off a work-life initiative to address problems with coping with the job's stresses.
"There's no excuse," Clancy said. "There has to be self-discipline, but we've got to find a way to help these people who are going toward alcohol as a coping mechanism."
The statement earned a sharp rebuke from Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who chairs the Appropriations panel.
"I'm concerned about their health as well, but I am more concerned about the health of the president of the United States and who's protecting him from harm," he said. "It seems to me the only discipline that you could exert could be caused by the ability of your and your staff to terminate as punishment."
Earlier Rogers also said he was disappointed that Clancy hadn't led his own investigation into an incident that occurred March 4 involving allegations that two senior agents drove drunk onto the White House property and may have disrupted an active investigation of a suspicious package by driving their car through it.
"To say that you are not investigating because you want the inspector general to investigate is hogwash," Rogers said sternly.
After lamenting the long string of similar agency episodes involving agent "drinking and carousing on and off duty," Rogers said he doubted Clancy from his testimony was up to imposing the changes the agency needs.
"We've got to have some changes and I don't sense at the moment that you have the determination to make it happen," he said. "Am I wrong?"
Clancy said he respectfully disagreed and stressed the importance of allowing the Department of Homeland Security inspector general to conduct the investigation so witnesses and those involved would not be intimidated and give one version of events, instead of several during separate interviews.
In the past, during separate investigations of misconduct, some people involved gave several different accounts to agency officials and to the inspector general's investigative staff, he said.
Clancy also emphasized the need to win over the trust of agency rank and file in order for people to share information about different allegations of misconduct up the chain of command. Clancy had not been told about the incident until five days after it occurred.
"Deep down people want to see discipline, people want to be disciplined. They want to have people held accountable," he said. "I just want to respect the due process, as frustrating as that is, and let my actions speak for how we are going to move forward as an agency."
"We will be watching and waiting," Rogers concluded.
During the exchange with Rogers, Clancy also named the supervisor on duty at the White House the night of the incident, who is accused of letting the two agents go without conducting sobriety tests or reporting the night's events to his superiors.
Clancy said the supervisor's last name is Braun. He also said he watched a video of the two agents driving very slowly onto White House property on 15th and E Street when they "nudged" an orange barrel out of the way but did not hit it hard enough for it to fall over.
"They moved up to the check point where typically the officer was," he said. "It appeared they were showing their badges to go through the check point and that's the extent of the video I saw."
Clancy explained that the agents had attended a retirement party for a fellow agent at a nearby bar and were returning to the White House to pick up one of their government-owned vehicles that was parked at the White House complex.