Former Secret Service agent offers solution to money troubles

Several factors is leading to the agency hitting its financial limits.

ST. PETERSBURG — This report about the President, his family, and the people who protect them might have caught your eye on social media. USA Today uncovered how the Secret Service is running out of money to pay hundreds of its agents.

The report was picked up and spread across the country.

The director of the Secret Service told USA Today that more than a thousand agents have already hit the federal yearly limit for salary and overtime pay.

And the first seven months of President Trump's term have been the most expensive in history for the Secret Service.

USA Today outlines two main reasons for the spending increase:

First-- he has a big family. By law, they all get Secret Service protection.

That's five kids-- three of them with kids of their own-- for a total of eight grandchildren. On top of that, Donald Jr and Eric Trump travel all over the world, and bring Secret Service agents with them.

The second reason for all the spending -- the president travels a lot himself.

The Secret Service has to protect his homes along the east coast-- all the way south to Mar-A-Lago.

But there's something in the Secret Service's history that makes a difference too.

You have to understand this organization wasn't originally designed to protect the president or his family. When it was founded back in 1865, it was part of the Treasury Department tasked basically with fraud protection - trying to catch people counterfeiting money.

It wasn't until 1894 the Secret Service started informal protection of President Grover Cleveland.

And after the assassination of President William McKinley, the Secret Service took over full-time protection of the president by congressional order.

Fast forward to 2003 when the Secret Service becomes part of the Department of Homeland Security. The president, president elect, VP, their families, presidential candidates, foreign dignitaries, all getting Secret Service protection.

The mandate to protect the most important people in the country has vastly expanded.

All the while, the Secret Service is continuing to investigate financial crimes all over the world.

That's why a former agent 10News spoke to says the answer to this whole money problem is simple.

The purpose of the Secret Service has changed.

“The Secret Service, the overwhelming majority of what they do has absolutely nothing to do with the most important job, which is protecting the president,” said former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino. “The majority of the agents assigned to the Secret Service are assigned to field offices investigating things like counterfeit, credit card fraud, they're investigating trafficking over the internet of child pornography, they’re investigating check kiting, bank fraud.

"The question is, should the Secret Service be involved in that? There's an alphabet soup of federal agencies that can pick up the job and run with it while the Secret Service focuses on protection.”

It's kind of hard to believe, but the Secret Service has a budget of more than $2 billion dollars.

We wanted to compare that to local police budgets so we had our researchers look into it.

That's more than 20 times the operating budget for St. Pete police and 14 times that for Tampa.

And for that $2 billion, you could have 2,000 high-end personal body guards protect you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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