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Rather than spend $8 million on a replica White House to help in their training, the Secret Service might want to just run down the street to the nearest hardware store and invest in a $35 deadbolt.

I'd even be OK if they splurged and put out for the $300 electronic version.

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They'd still have money left over to invest in training designed to improve the professionalism of the agents.

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy's testimony before the House Appropriations Committee last week saying the agency needs a replica White House in order to train agents tasked with protecting the president has been the subject of much derision.

It was last September when a man jumped a fence and entered the executive mansion through an unlocked door before he was eventually apprehended. A month later, a Bel Air man was subdued by two police dogs after he jumped the White House fence.

Perhaps, in addition to putting locks on the doors, we should just invest in a higher fence.

The Secret Service has taken quite a few knocks in recent years. Back in 2012 the agency got in trouble for hiring prostitutes while they were checking out Colombia ahead of a visit from President Barack Obama. According to reports at the time, the whole thing came to light after an agent fought with a woman in the hallway of a hotel over a payment. A subsequent Justice Department investigation found that 13 Secret Service employees had some sort of "personal encounters," with the locals, some of them known prostitutes.

The following year a supervisory agent got in trouble in Washington after an incident involving a woman he met in the hotel bar. And last year, three agents were sent home from an assignment in the Netherlands after an alleged night of drinking.

The latest episode occurred earlier this month. The Washington Post reported on two Secret Service officials who, after celebrating the retirement of a colleague, drove their government vehicle into a security barricade at the White House. That's bad enough, but apparently there was an investigation occurring at the time into a suspicious package that the pair drove through. And now it has been revealed that some of the surveillance tape has been erased. Additionally, apparently uniformed officers wanted to give the agents field sobriety tests, but someone higher up the chain didn't allow that.

That $8 million would be better spent teaching them the basics of living in a civil society where everyone is expected to follow the same rules. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the mindset of those tasked with protecting the President of the United States. Instead, drunken parties, harassment of women and general juvenile-like debauchery seem to be the prevailing priorities for the bunch.

Perhaps instead of building a replica of the White House, they could build a replica of Animal House, modeled after the famous 1978 movie. The headlines concerning activities at some of the nation's frat houses mirror pretty closely some of the headlines surrounding the Secret Service.

But womanizing and drunkenness isn't the extent of their issues. Who can forget when, in November 2009, Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a state dinner at the White House? That was certainly a huge embarrassment. And you don't need a full scale model of the White House to teach people the basics of checking IDs, (something the agents have surely witnessed others doing when they went to their local taverns and got plastered).

In fact, the Secret Service has amassed quite a list of missteps over the years, and by far the majority of them would not be resolved if agents were able to romp around an $8 million replica of the White House in their training.

Perhaps a greater focus on professionalism would be a better use of taxpayer money.

In a way, I feel a little sorry for Clancy, who was just tapped as the agency's director in February. Only a month later he's getting hauled before a congressional committee and having his butt handed to him. But surely he knew the history when he took the job. And he has been serving as acting director since October.

Clancy has said changing the culture is a priority, but apparently he hasn't had much success moving the needle on that. Going forward, that should probably be a bigger priority. It is far more important, and a lot cheaper for taxpayers.

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Jim Lee is the Carroll County Times' Editor. Email him at jim.lee@carrollcountytimes.com.

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