President Barack Obama named Julia Pierson to serve as director of the United States Secret Service. Pierson is the first female ever appointed to head the agency over the past 148 years, according to report from the Washington Post.
Pierson served as chief of staff for the past five years to the outgoing director, Mark Sulivan. She started her career as an agent in Miami three decades ago. According to her colleagues, Pierson is a skilled and dedicated manager who helped supervise the $250 million project to modernize the communications and data management networks of the Secret Service.
In a statement, President Obama said, “Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own.”
According to people familiar with the selection process, President Obama selected Pierson over another top candidate, former Secret Service official David O’Connor. Pierson’s appointment came after the agency’s reputation was stained by a prostitution scandal involving 13 male agents almost one year ago. Some of the agents and two supervisors involved in the scandal were dismissed from their position.
Sullivan implemented additional mandatory training for agents, and new rules regarding the use of alcohol as well as curfew on international trips. He also apologized for the scandal and decided to resign as director of the agency last month.
Retired Secret Service deputy director Barbara Riggs said Pierson “has all the credentials regardless of the events a year ago.” Riggs is the first female deputy director of the agency in 2004. She added, “I think that because [the scandal] is still out there in the public’s mind and also in the press, yeah, she will have to deal with what’s remaining from it.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley commented in a statement that many Americans lost trust in the Secret Service and failed to live up to the high expectations placed on the agency. He said, “Ms. Pierson has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with.”
Pierson will head the 3,500 agents and 1,400 uniformed officers of the Secret Service. The agency has $1.5 billion budget with 142 domestic and 23 investigative field offices. The Secret Service provides protection for U.S. dignitaries.
Last year, Pierson stated that the technological innovation within the agency over the next five years is critical to improve its capability to protect the President and detect counterfeiting, which are the main functions of the Secret Service.