WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A taller fence for the White House is the most important immediate step in ramping up protection for the president, a Homeland Security panel said Thursday.
The report was submitted to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel began examining presidential security and the role of the Secret Service after a number of incidents, including one in which a man jumped the White House fence and got into the building before he was apprehended.
The panel said a fence designed to be unclimbable would keep out those who represent a real threat, as well as "pranksters" and people with mental illness. The report suggested those can be a distraction for Secret Service agents, who must decide, sometimes in a split second if someone is truly dangerous.
"A better fence can provide time, and time is crucial to the protective mission," the report said. "Every additional second of response time provided by a fence that is more difficult to climb makes a material difference in ensuring the President's safety and protecting the symbol that is the White House."
The fence could be as much as 4 to 5 feet taller than the existing one and designed so that it does not have horizontal bars providing foot and hand holds, the report said. The panel said it should be possible to provide a secure fence that also meets the aesthetic and historic considerations of the White House.
The next director of the Secret Service should come from outside the agency's ranks, the panel said.
"The next director will have to make difficult choices, identifying clear priorities for the organization and holding management accountable for any failure to achieve those priorities," the panel said. "Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require."