Executive Summary of the White House Breach

White House This week the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report titled: “Executive Summary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Report on the White House Incursion of September 19, 2014.” This report discusses Omar Gonzalez’s recent White House breach on September 19, 2014. On this day Gonzalez breached White House security and was able to gain access to the “north lawn” and the interior of the mansion. The incident sparked a national and congressional debate about the competency of the forces guarding the President’s residence, and whether a more lethal approach to the current rules of engagement (ROE) is appropriate.

Omar Gonzalez is an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran who served with the Army. He resides in Virginia where he incurred previous infractions with the Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). This report details the encounters Gonzalez had with law enforcement officials prior to his White House breach. These infractions date back to July of 2014. The report provides a detailed account of Gonzalez’s infiltration, route, and ultimately the actions taken by the United States Secret Service (USSS) to subdue him.

In the “Summary of Findings” section the Executive Summary analyzes the five key factors that contributed to Gonzalez’s ability to breach the interior of the White House. These five key factors include the following:

  1. Training: “Due to staffing shortfalls, USSS has not conducted regular training for Uniformed Division Officers. […] the training did not prepare personnel for non-lethal force scenarios such as preventing a noncompliant individual from entering the White House Mansion”
  2. Staffing Decisions: “…the seniority-based system by which the USSS schedules the Officers for duty creates situations where junior Officers are overrepresented on a particular shift — which was the case the evening of September 19, 2014
  3. Immediate Response on September 19, 2014: “…several factors specific to the September 19, 2014 incident affected the USSS response that evening: the ongoing construction that limited visibility […] the Emergency Response Team’s reliance on the canine unit and erroneous belief that the bushes were an impassable barrier…
  4. Communication: “A couple of missteps, lack of radio discipline, improper use of equipment, and aging infrastructure contributed to communications failures on the date of the incident that delayed notification to key Officers.
  5. Information Management: “Given the number of distinct databases that contain different information with varying levels of accessibility, many Officers expressed confusion or misunderstandings about various databases. The USSS personnel who interviewed Gonzalez on August 25, 2014 did not have access to information contained within some of the USSS databases, information that may have allowed them to change the tenor and consequences of the discussion with Gonzalez.

As a result of the breach, Julia Pierson resigned from her position as Director of the Secret Service less than two weeks after the incident. Pierson was appointed March 26, 2013, and was the first woman to hold the office. Since her resignation, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has declared Joseph P. Clancy as the Acting Director of the Secret Service.


For more information about the United States Secret Service’s role in Homeland Security, please review some of the National Strategy Documents at the Homeland Security Digital Library (some resources may require HSDL login).


Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/n-a-9