A lone gunman -- Johnny Lee Wicks, who had filed a federal race discrimination suit in 2008 against a regional Social Security Administration official -- was dressed in black and with a shotgun at first hidden inside his jacket. He walked into the lobby of the Las Vegas Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse this morning (Jan. 4), pulled out the weapon and started firing. A federal security officer was hit and died at a hospital later. Fleeing the building and followed by federal officers, the gunman shot a deputy U.S. Marshal, now in stable condition, before being shot in the head and killed. Witnesses heard more than two dozen shots being fired.

Unrelated to the incident, there has been pressure on the Federal Protective Service last year in relation to who that agency reports as well as the need to tighten up access controls at federal building lobbies.

In late October, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano transferred Federal Protective Service (FPS) from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). She claimed the move aimed at “streamlining decision-making and aligning the protection of federal buildings with DHS’ broader critical infrastructure protection mission.”

Earlier last year, a covert operation by GAO managed to have operatives bring in bomb parts through security and into a number of federal buildings in the Washington, D.C., area. At a September 2009 Congressional hearing, Mark Goldstein, director of physical infrastructure with the Government Accountability Office, testified, “We found that in protecting federal facilities, FPS does not use a risk management approach that links threats and vulnerabilities to resource requirements. We have stated that without a risk management approach that identifies threats and vulnerabilities and the resources required to achieve FPS's security goals, there is little assurance that programs will be prioritized and resources will be allocated to address existing and potential security threats in an efficient and effective manner.”

DHS has acted but will it be enough?

“Securing government facilities is a vital aspect of DHS’ critical infrastructure protection mission,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Transferring FPS to NPPD will enhance oversight and efficiency while maximizing the Department’s overall effectiveness in protecting federal buildings across the country.”

According to DHS, the realignment allows FPS to focus on its primary mission—securing General Services Administration (GSA)-owned and leased federal buildings by performing building security assessments and deploying appropriate countermeasures—while enabling ICE to focus on the effective enforcement of immigration and customs laws.