WASHINGTON—A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) does not adequately train its contractor guards and that, on a building-by-building basis, no one is accountable for decisions about each building the FPS protects. The report, “Addressing Weaknesses with Facility Security Committees Would Enhance Protection of Federal Facilities (GAO-10-901),” was made public Thursday and is the fourth in a series of reports the GAO has issued on FPS.
The FPS, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the security of most federal buildings. The GAO review 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 found that “internal facility committees” for each federal building are unfocused, poorly prepared to perform their duties, and have been operating for 15 years without proper guidance. Additionally, contract guards are still not appropriately trained–a problem GAO first pointed out over a year ago.
Lieberman said: “The GAO’s latest report on the Federal Protective Service makes clear that this agency is in dire need of reform to ensure the millions of people who work in and visit federal buildings every day are better protected. Although the agency has begun to make some improvements, poor agency management and planning continue to undermine FPS’ overall performance. For example, GAO found that the internal security committees for each federal building remain unfocused and poorly prepared to perform their duties. I will continue to work with my colleagues to address these ongoing systemic problems and help modernize this important agency.”
“This report, unfortunately, reads like déjà vu all over again,” said Collins. “Last July, the GAO uncovered critical security lapses by the Federal Protective Service whose job it is to safeguard federal buildings, the employees who work there and the visiting public. The security was so lax that undercover investigators were able to sneak bomb-making materials into ten high-security federal buildings.
“In subsequent reports, GAO has made numerous recommendations to fix the problems, and although the Department of Homeland Security agreed to those solutions, the majority of them are not fully implemented. That is simply unacceptable. Based on this latest report, it is clear that the legislation that Senator Lieberman and I are preparing is needed to ensure that these security improvements are made in order to protect our federal buildings from a potential terrorist attack or other act of violence.”
“This report reveals that many facility security committees do not have the expertise or authority needed to move forward with FPS recommendations to protect our Federal buildings,” said Akaka. “FPS must work with its partners to address this problem. I am encouraged by the progress FPS has made, and expect that they will continue to work with Congress and GAO to address outstanding issues, particularly in workforce planning.”
“Today’s report paints a troubling picture of operational challenges, management problems and poor coordination inside and outside of FPS,” Voinovich said. “Although some improvements have been made since the subcommittee’s June 2008 hearing, continued challenges such as the lack of a human capital plan continues impede FPS’ ability to balance its workload in order to properly secure our federal buildings.”