President Obama on Tuesday named the first woman to lead the Secret Service. Julia Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency and current chief of staff to retiring director Mark Sullivan, will be appointed to the position, which does not require Senate confirmation.
The news would garner little more than a few “that’s great for women” nods, if it weren’t for the agency’s recent past. Last year, the Secret Service became embroiled in a highly embarrassing scandal after several agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms while preparing for the president’s visit to Cartagena, Colombia. In its aftermath, the reported “wheels up, rings off” motto became fodder for stories about in the agency. The Secret Service is frequently described now with the modifiers “macho” or “male dominated.”
As a result, Pierson’s appointment will be seen by many — fairly or not — as an attempt to correct such a culture. Of course, some will say that her gender shouldn’t matter at all. What matters will be her record at modernizing the agency’s infrastructure and, of course, protecting the president, his family and other leaders.