THE MAGAZINE

Officers at Federal Facilities Lack Training

By Megan Gates

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) is responsible for safeguarding federal employees and visitors at approximately 9,600 federal government facilities, and contracts some 13,500 security officers to accomplish its mission. However, the FPS has significant weaknesses in its oversight of federal contracts when it comes to training security guards for active-shooter scenarios and x-ray scanner usage.

According to a report presented by Mark Goldstein, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), officials at five guard companies said that their contract guards had not received training on how to respond during incidents involving an active shooter. Goldstein presented the findings to a House Homeland Security subcommittee in a hearing that focused on protection of federal buildings in light of the September Washington Navy Yard shooting where government contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 federal workers.

All officers from the 117 guard services the FPS works with are required to receive active-shooter training as part of their 120 hours of orientation before they are assigned to posts. The GAO asked 16 contract guard companies about active-shooter training. Eight of them said that this was received during the orientation, and five other companies stated that the FPS had not provided active-shooter scenario training during FPS orientation. Officials from the other three companies said that the FPS had not provided active-shooter training during orientation, but that the topic was covered later.

Because of the varied responses, the GAO was unable to determine the extent to which the FPS’s guards have received active-shooter response training and reported that the “FPS has limited assurance that its guards are prepared for this threat.”

The 31 guard company contracts that the GAO examined for its report were chosen based on geographic diversity and geographic density of contracts “within FPS regions to allow us to conduct file reviews for multiple contracts during each of four site visits” and interviews that the GAO conducted. Eleven of the contracts were reviewed along with random samples of guard files associated with each contract, and the remaining 20 were chosen because they were the most recent contracts as of November 2012.

FPS Director L. Eric Patterson also testified at the subcommittee hearing and said that the FPS is working to address the situation. He noted that in 2013, the agency had conducted 17,000 personnel file audits to make sure guards were receiving the required training. FPS has also hired more staff to oversee contracts and monitor performance.

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