Thursday, April 26, 2012
- by Gen. B.B. Bell
The recent Secret Service scandal has been both an embarrassment to the nation and a real security lapse by America's most important security outfit. The almost complete demonstration of indiscipline by senior and highly respected protective service agents is almost incomprehensible. Additionally, it's reported that some soldiers assigned to the President's mission in Colombia are also culpable in this sex scandal. There may be more as investigations run their course.
By bringing foreign nationals into the personal and physical protective envelope which surrounds the President, these irresponsible agents opened a security gap that even the most junior foreign espionage operative could penetrate. The fact that professionals with the mission of protecting our President could put their personal agendas above their nearly sacred duty is beyond appalling.
My 39 years of military service tell me that there is only one way that such a total breakdown in personal discipline and mission focus could possibly happen -- a long and continuing leadership breakdown. My experience also tells me that it is nearly impossible that this is the first time such indiscretion was pursued by these and, perhaps, other agents -- they were just not caught. Activities such as this usually start small, and grow in scale to the level we saw in Colombia only after months and months of failed leadership somewhere in the chain.
Leaders who are in a position of enormous responsibility for life and limb (especially the life of the President) must set high personal and professional standards of conduct within their organizations, check and recheck the execution of those standards in the field, and harshly discipline anyone breaking the rules at the first sign of a lapse. This leadership requirement has clearly not been met in the Secret Service and I am convinced that the failure of leadership didn't just surface with the President's Colombia trip. It has been long in making.
Clearly Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should immediately resign or be fired. I've read how much confidence the President, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, and key members of Congress have in Director Sullivan, but he is the leader who sets and enforces standards within the Secret Service. His outfit has failed, terribly. As such, this is his personal failure and he is responsible. Likewise, the first line supervisors and direct commanders of the military personnel involved in this sordid disclosure should be relieved of their duties if an investigation demonstrates military culpability.
I for one am tired of those in whom we place enormous trust and confidence in our most sensitive national security positions rarely if ever being held personally responsible for major failures within their organizations. I'm glad the Secret Service agents and the military members who were involved resigned or were relieved of their duties with security clearances suspended. It was needed and necessary. Now, what about their bosses? It's time for the buck to stop somewhere.
General (Retired) B. B. Bell