WASHINGTON- A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) lacks a comprehensive personnel management strategy and does not communicate effectively with the federal agencies it protects.
The report, “Federal Protective Service Should Improve Human Capital Planning and Better Communicate with Tenants” (GAO-09-749), was requested by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, Ranking Member George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and several House members.
The report, made public Thursday, found that the FPS does not have a human capital plan to guide its current and future workforce planning efforts. GAO also found that the FPS does not collect centralized and standardized data on the knowledge, skills, or abilities of its employees, forcing its regional leadership to develop disparate systems and strategies for managing their employees. Additionally, GAO found a significant lack of communication between the FPS and its customers – federal agencies – with over 80 percent of its customers relying on other agencies for emergency law enforcement. The report also found widespread gaps in its client contact information.
“The Federal Protective Service faces serious challenges, as the Committee’s hearing earlier this month demonstrated,” Lieberman said. “But I am particularly alarmed by the GAO’s conclusions that the FPS lacks an effective hiring, training, and staff development process just weeks after the FPS Director told our Committee the agency needs additional personnel to protect federal buildings. I am also troubled by the FPS’ lack of a long term strategy to manage current and future workforce needs and its lack of a constructive relationship with the federal agency it protects. We will address these issues, and more, as we work on legislation to modernize the FPS.”
Collins said the report “gives us even more evidence of the urgent need to reform critical areas of this poorly performing agency.” Although the Committee staff has received multiple briefings, the Committee has yet to receive an internal FPS review outlining what immediate and long-term steps will be taken to rectify security lapses and to increase the safety of employees and visitors at federal buildings. The Committee expects this report shortly.
Collins and Lieberman have previously labeled the agency’s overall work a “security crisis” after learning that federal investigators had successfully smuggled bomb-making materials into 10 high-security federal buildings guarded by the FPS. The FPS protects 9,000 federal buildings around the country. At the time, Collins said Congress needed to “immediately remedy these very serious and alarming gaps in our security,” which she called “a pervasive, systemic problem.”
Akaka said: “Insufficient and uneven training have been cited repeatedly as a weakness of the Federal Protective Service. This report highlights the need for FPS to develop a strategic human capital plan that ensures a uniform approach to training and workforce planning across its 11 regions. In particular, the agency needs a plan because it has not been able to accurately assess its staffing needs, and DHS and Congress are left guessing during the budgeting process.”
“The ability of FPS to meet its mission has continued to deteriorate since its transfer to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003,” Voinovich said. “It seems that FPS has become a second-class citizen within the Department, at the expense of public security and employee morale. This GAO report paints a troubling picture of operational challenges, management problems and poor coordination inside and outside of FPS.
The report is part of a comprehensive review of the FPS that Lieberman, Collins, Akaka and Voinovich have asked the GAO to conduct. The first report, issued in June 2008, revealed several challenges that impeded the FPS’ ability to protect federal buildings. The Committee also held a July 8 hearing that focused on contract guard management.