Julia Pierson, Director of the Unites States Secret Service, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Secret Service and the recent security breach, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- After facing heavy criticism for several major breaches of security, head of the Secret Service Julia Pierson announced she would resign her post Wednesday.
"Today, Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, offered her resignation and I accepted it," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. "I salute her 30 years to the Secret Service and the nation."
"The president had the opportunity to telephone Director Pierson and express his appreciation for her service to the country," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, praising Pierson for taking responsibility for the breaches of security that occurred during her tenure.
"She believed it was in the best interest of the agency to which she had dedicated her career," and the president and secretary agreed, Earnest said, adding that Pierson offered her resignation, and was not asked to leave.
Joseph Clancy, who was the formerly the special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, and who retired in 2011, will take over as acting director until a replacement is appointed.
He also said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas would take the reins of the inquiry into the fence-jumping incident on Sept. 19.
Pierson, a member of the Secret Service for 30 years, was appointed as the first woman to head the agency in March 2013.
Her resignation comes just a day after she faced scathing criticism from members of Congress who made it clear they had lost confidence in her ability to lead the protective service.
The fence-jumper, Omar Gonzalez, managed to evade multiple layers of security as he sprinted across the North Lawn and through the White House front door, running through much of the main floor of the executive mansion before he was eventually tackled by an off-duty officer.
Then after the hearing, reports surfaced of an incident three days earlier, when President Obama was touring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
A security contractor was allowed to ride in an elevator with the president during the Sept. 16 visit, and only later did the Secret Service learn he was a convicted felon carrying a concealed handgun.
According to the Washington Post, agents in Obama's security detail became suspicious when the contractor refused to follow orders to stop recording the president with his cell phone camera. When the doors opened, the president got out and several agents detained the contractor to question him.
The agents ran his name through a national database that revealed his three convictions for assault and battery, and a supervisor fired him immediately. Agents were shocked when he agreed to surrender his gun, as they were unaware he was armed.
The agency is supposed to conduct extensive screening to ensure no one who is armed or has a criminal history gets within reach of the president.
"You have a convicted felon within arm's reach of the president, and they never did a background check," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who learned of the breakdown in security from a whistleblower within the agency. "Words aren't strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family."