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,” is the final report and a follow up to preliminary testimony the GAO gave Congress a year ago showing many of the same problems.
The GAO review was requested by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, among other elected officials. Senators are actively working on legislation to reform and modernize the FPS.
The most recent GAO report found that none of the contractors the GAO reviewed had met training or certification requirements for their guards. Additionally, not all contract guards received required training on x-ray machines or metal detectors at the posts they are in charge of protecting.
“While it has taken some steps forward in recent months, the Federal Protective Service continues to be an agency in crisis,” Lieberman stated. “I am particularly alarmed by information in this most recent GAO report that, in over half of the tests of building security that 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.”
The FPS’ mission is to render federal properties safe and secure for federal employees, officials and visitors in a professional and cost-effective manner by deploying a highly trained and multi-disciplined police force. As the federal agency charged with protecting and delivering integrated law enforcement and security services to facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration, FPS employs 1,225 federal staff (including 900 law enforcement security officers, criminal investigators, police officers, and support personnel) and 15,000 contract guard staff to secure more than 9,000 buildings and safeguard their occupants. FPS provides comprehensive coverage for these facilities nationwide. The contract guard staff members are unionized. The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas, including FPS officers.
Congressional officials have been long concerned that FPS employs too few federal officers overseeing too many contractors who are not provided the needed training and oversight.