As the drama unfolds and fingers of blame are pointed at the Secret Service over recent breaches of security at the White House, we have a bit of good news/bad news to report:
The good news is that no one will ever be able to accuse the agents in the Presidential Protective Division of being too old to do the job. And the bad news is that this is because the Secret Service doesn't keep people over 40 on the front line of the presidential detail. Come to think of it, I'm not actually sure that's such bad news in this case, although it does feel like a bucket of cold water dumped on my head to even type these words: There are some jobs we are too old to do.
Even Dan Emmett, author of "Within Arms Length," and who guarded three presidents as part of the Secret Service Presidential Protective Division, says that protecting the leader of the free world is "a younger man's game." He told The Huffington Post that while there are older officers in supervisory jobs, the "boots on the ground" spots go to "men and women in their prime."
"There is no official policy as such," he said, "but it just is." The Secret Service press office declined to comment on the median age of the detail surrounding the President but said, like other federal jobs, the retirement age is 55. That's not even close to the reality of what actually transpires when it comes to guarding the President, said Emmett. "There is no way a person in their mid-50s could hold up," he said.
He added that it "makes sense" for the job to be done by someone younger. Despite the perceived glamour of the job, the stress and grueling hours cause most people to want to rotate off the presidential duty after about four years, he said. The job, while much-coveted within the Secret Service, has a high turnover rate, he said. The job is "punishing on the body," Emmett said.
OK, so guarding the President is one career opportunity I won't direct my unemployed post-50 friends toward, even though I suspect there will soon be some openings. And my friends also probably shouldn't rush their resumes over to the military either. The maximum age for Army enlisted recruits is 35, while the Navy and Marines cap recruitment ages at 34 and 28, respectively. The Air Force in June upped its enlistment age ceiling from 27 to 39. Under federal law, the oldest recruit any military branch can enlist is 42, although each service sets its own policy within that limit.
But I'd like to draw the line there. With our own government limiting the hiring of older workers, I worry that others might jump on the "they're too old" bandwagon. With at least 1.5 million people aged 55 and older unemployed and looking for work, the last thing the jobs market needs is Uncle Sam setting a bad example.