WASHINGTON – A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) still has widespread problems with its contract guard force. The report, “Federal Protective Service’s Contract Guard Program Requires More Oversight and Reassessment of Use of Contract Guards” (GAO-10-341), is the final report and a follow up to preliminary testimony the GAO gave last July showing many of the same problems.
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 Senators are actively working on legislation to reform and modernize the FPS and expect to introduce it later this month.
Tuesday’s report found that none of the contractors the GAO reviewed had met training or certification requirements for their guards. Additionally, not all contract guards have received required training on x-ray machines or metal detectors at the posts they are in charge of protecting.
“I have long been concerned that FPS employs too few Federal officers overseeing too many contractors who are not provided the needed training and oversight,” said Akaka. “In one region, GAO found that FPS had not provided training to roughly 1,500 contract guards since 2004. That is unacceptable. FPS safeguards the millions of Federal employees and members of the public who enter Federal buildings every day, a responsibility that must be taken seriously. It is long past time to address critical gaps in training and contractor oversight at FPS.”
“This GAO report paints a troubling picture of operational challenges, management problems and poor coordination inside and outside of FPS, despite its recent realignment within DHS. I am particularly disturbed to learn that contract guards are not receiving the training and certifications they need to secure our federal buildings and protect our employees,” Voinovich said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to address these critical issues and ensure that FPS isn’t marginalized at DHS at the expense of public safety and employee morale.”
“While it has taken some steps forward in recent months, the Federal Protective Service continues to be an agency in crisis,” said Lieberman. “I am particularly alarmed by information in this most recent GAO report that, in over half of the tests of building security FPS recently conducted themselves, some guards failed to identify prohibited items, such as guns, knives and fake bombs. I will continue to work with my colleagues to address these, and other, issues with legislation to modernize FPS that we expect to introduce later this month. In the meantime, we can take a step in the right direction by augmenting the FPS budget to provide the agency with additional flexibility and manpower, as I asked the Budget Committee to consider as it works on the FY11 budget.”
“Once again, a GAO probe into the workings of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) has revealed alarming security lapses,” said Collins. “Investigators gave FPS a failing grade when it comes to managing guard contractors who protect federal buildings. The GAO review found that seven out of seven selected guard contractors in a random sampling were not in compliance with mandatory training and certification requirements-that’s a 100 percent failure rate. Instead of terminating or taking other actions against these contractors, FPS incredibly exercised its option to extend all seven contracts. This new report notes that follow-up tests have produced dismal results: In more than half of the 53 security checks FPS conducted, guards failed to identify concealed guns and knives. And although FSP has revised its x-ray and magnetometer training, all guards won’t be fully trained until December 2010-even though they are currently working to guard federal facilities. Every day, FPS officers and the agency’s contract security guards protect nearly 9,000 federal facilities, the people who work in them, and the visitors who come to them to access vital government services. This is no way to protect federal employees and buildings in post-9/11 America. FPS is a system in dire need of improvements, and I look forward to working with Senator Lieberman to resolve these problems.”