Secret Service Struggles To Pay Agents Who Hit Overtime Caps Protecting Trump
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Secret Service is in the middle of a pay crunch. Federal law caps the salary and overtime an agent is paid in a year. Kevin Johnson, in a story he broke for USA Today, says that more than a thousand agents have already hit those caps for this year and it's not even September. Kevin Johnson joins me in the studio. Hi.
KEVIN JOHNSON: Hi. Good to be here.
SIEGEL: How did this happen?
JOHNSON: Well, it wasn't supposed to happen this way, as these stories go. The Secret Service was expected to catch a break this year after a very busy campaign season. And after the inauguration, the former director had indicated that they expected the workload to normalize. That hasn't been the case, obviously.
SIEGEL: Secret Service Director Tex Alles, Randolph Alles, issued a statement after your story was published. He said that the Secret Service has the money it needs to meet all current mission requirements for the remainder of the fiscal year, but says the issue is not one that can be attributed to the current administration's protection requirements alone. To the extent that this does involve the current administration's protection requirements, how different are they from previous administrations?
JOHNSON: Well, the previous administration had a number of protectees that was 30, 31. This administration has seen a significant increase up to 42. Including in that number are 18 members of the Trump family. And it's not only protecting them here at home in their offices in the U.S., but these are adult children who travel. And two of them manage a fairly large company that a lot of people know about. And so they are traveling a lot overseas, and the Secret Service goes with them.
SIEGEL: I believe you reported that the Secret Service has spent I think it's $60,000 on golf cart rentals at Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster when they have been there with President Trump and his family. Couldn't the Trump Organization have donated some golf cart time for the Secret Service?
JOHNSON: Well, this number has been reported out there by a number of outlets. But that also goes to a central issue that's probably separate from - that is separate from this. And those are the number of conflicts that have come up in how you manage a president's administration. In the son's travels to their various properties, Secret Service details follow them to those properties. And they're renting rooms at those hotels.
SIEGEL: A hundred thousand dollars' worth of hotel bills at - on one South American trip, you report.
JOHNSON: Yeah, almost. But a number of people have looked at the conflicts that exist within this administration and how they apply to paying for basic services that the government provides.
SIEGEL: Do you hear from Secret Service agents that they're feeling overworked or that it's a tough time to be a Secret Service agent?
JOHNSON: We have. We heard from a number of agents who felt like they were worried about the amount of hours that they were putting in. The Department of Homeland Security had commissioned a report in which an independent reviewer found that the workload could not be sustained over a period of years.
SIEGEL: Secret Service pay, regardless what the - what problems have been found with the Secret Service over the past couple years, this sounds like mom-and-apple-pie stuff in Congress. I can't imagine that they wouldn't - that they wouldn't get the ceiling, the cap lifted.
JOHNSON: I haven't run across anybody who's not in favor of doing something in this case. It's a matter of how permanent this fix will be.
SIEGEL: Kevin Johnson of USA Today. Thanks for talking with us.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF DO MAKE SAY THINK'S "AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.