White House defends Secret Service pick

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday defended the selection of Julia Pierson to head the Secret Service after a report in The Washington Post suggested her pick provoked resentment from rank-and-file agents who felt she had spent relatively little time in the field.

"I think the president believes that Julia Pierson has exactly the kind of experience that we want, we want the person who's going to lead that agency, to have," Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

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Pierson headed the agency's Office of Protective Operations, which oversees budgets and personnel assignments for the Secret Service. But in the Post story, unnamed Secret Service agents complained that Pierson's resume lacked enough field experience.

"She’s not done her time in the trenches,” one agent told the paper. “She’s mostly been riding a desk.”

On Wednesday, Earnest said Mark Sullivan, the agency's former director, who himself had a lengthy career of Secret Service field work, was fully supportive of Pierson's appointment.

"I know that the outgoing director, Mark Sullivan, who I know has a lot of respect across the agency, is somebody who has been strongly supportive of her candidacy and said that she was exactly the right person for the job," Earnest said. "So, it's not just the president who believes that she's the right person for the job, it's the outgoing director of the Secret Service who believes that she has exactly the experience and skills necessary to lead that agency."

The White House spokesman added that Pierson's "experience in human resources and training" would help the agency as it works to repair its reputation in the aftermath of the Colombian prostitution scandal that led to the dismissal of six agents.

President Obama will host a swearing-in ceremony for Pierson this afternoon at the White House. Vice President Biden will also attend and plans to administer the oath of office.