Report Says Feds Not Fully Protecting Government Facilities from Terror Attacks
by Jim Kouri
In 2003, the Federal Protective Service was transferred from the General Services Administration to the Department of Homeland Security and is currently tasked with providing physical security and law enforcement services to about 8,800 facilities owned or leased by GSA.
To accomplish its mission, FPS currently has a workforce of about 1,100 employees and about 15,000 contract guards located throughout the country. While there has not been a large-scale attack on a domestic federal facility since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the 1995 terrorist attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, it is important that FPS has sufficient resources and an effective approach to protect federal employees and members of the public that work in and visit federal facilities from the risk of crime and terrorist attacks.
The US Congress requested that the Government Accountability Office provide information an analysis on the extent to which FPS is fulfilling its mission to protect federal employees and facilities, as well as the management challenges FPS faces. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed FPS staffing data and interviewed numerous FPS officials, GSA, tenant agencies, and local police departments.
Due to staffing and operational issues, FPS is experiencing difficulties in fully meeting its facility protection mission. According to many FPS officials at regions GAO analysts visited, these difficulties may expose federal facilities to a greater risk of crime or terrorist attack.
FPS' workforce has decreased by nearly 20 percent from almost 1,400 in fiscal year 2004 to about 1,100 at the end of fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2007, FPS had about 756 inspectors and police officers, and about 15,000 contract guards who are used primarily to monitor facilities through fixed post assignments and access control.
FPS is also implementing a policy to change the composition of its workforce whereby it will essentially eliminate the police officer position and mainly utilize inspectors. One consequence of this change is that, with the exception of a few locations, FPS is not providing proactive patrols in and around federal facilities in order to detect and prevent criminal incidents and terrorism related activities before they occur.
FPS has also reduced its hours of operation in many locations and has not always maintained security countermeasures and equipment such as security cameras, x-ray machines, radios, building security assessment equipment, and access control systems at some facilities analysts visited.
For example, at one location visited, a deceased individual had been found, after three months, in a vacant GSA facility that was not regularly patrolled by FPS. FPS continues to face several management challenges that, according to many FPS officials at regions visited, have hampered its ability to accomplish its facility protection mission.
These include budgetary challenges, a lack of adequate contract guard oversight, and the absence of agreements with local police departments regarding response capabilities or jurisdictional issues at federal facilities. Historically and recently, FPS' revenues have not been sufficient to cover its operational costs. To address its recent revenue shortfall FPS has restricted hiring and travel, limited training and overtime, and eliminated employee performance awards. These measures have had a negative effect on staff morale, contributed to FPS' high attrition rates, and may affect the performance and safety of FPS personnel.
Moreover, many FPS officials expressed concern about the lack of oversight of the 15,000 contract guards and poor performance by some guards when responding to crime and incidents at federal facilities. FPS has indicated that they are covering facility protection gaps through increased reliance on local law enforcement but it has not signed any agreements with local law enforcement agencies to ensure local assistance or resolved jurisdictional issues, which could authorize local police to respond to some incidents at federal facilities.
In fact, according to the GAO report, many local police departments said they were not even aware of FPS' expected reliance on their services.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.