The Secret Service: An illustration of how bureaucracy fails at even basic tasks

Bureaucracies fail in their missions because political institutions inevitably — it is very nearly a law of nature — come to embrace pursuing their own parochial interests, rather than their stated missions, as their prime motive. And, like all political agencies, the Secret Service is subject to the political self-interest of the agencies to which it is subordinate, in this case the White House.

Secret Service director Julia Pierson was an affirmative-action hire, the agency’s first female chief, who was installed in the wake of the Colombian scandal for the purpose of assuaging Washington’s impression that the agency is a sexist gang of cowboys operating under a boys-will-be-boys ethic. This rankled some within the Secret Service but, more important, it elevated to a key leadership position an out-of-touch functionary whose mission seems to have been mainly political rather than operational. Secret Service agents speaking to the Washington Post complained that Pierson “hasn’t been on a protective mission in two decades,” and that “she doesn’t know anything about security planning in a post-9/11 world.”