On Monday, USA Today published an exclusive report on the state of the Secret Service just seven months into the Trump presidency: Facing astronomical costs for protecting multiple properties and the members of a large family, the Secret Service is essentially running out of money for the overtime required to protect the president.
The Secret Service is required by law to safeguard the president and his family at all times — but it also has a federally capped budget, and according to USA Today’s Kevin Johnson, “more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally-mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.”
The fact that the Trumps are uniquely expensive to keep safe is not exactly new. Back in December, Trump was estimated to be the priciest president-elect to protect, at up to $1 million a day.
Trump also likes to get away from Washington on weekends, which adds to the cost. He’s gone so far as to dub Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, the “winter White House” and his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, the “summer White House.” Despite criticizing Obama for going golfing as president, Trump has hit the greens more times than his recent predecessors at the same point in their presidencies.
And those 53 trips and counting to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster add up quickly — a single trip to Mar-a-Lago costs the Secret Service more than $3 million.
Making matters worse, the number of protectees in the Trump administration is also greater than it was in Obama’s administration. Trump’s children, other family members, and close associates mean that 42 people require Secret Service protection, compared to 31 in the Obama administration.
The USA Today report includes some startling details on the Secret Service’s budget woes, including:
The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump's first term.
But even if such a proposal was approved, about 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed, according to the agency.
While the Secret Service has hired 800 more people in the past year, the article states, a rising attrition rate has made the increase effectively only 300 employees.
Another reason attrition rates are so high could be morale. In addition to agents being underpaid, Center for Public Integrity investigative reporter Christina Wilkie shared that she’s heard they are also feeling underappreciated.