NEWS

Budget and Staffing Cuts Hurt Federal Protective Service

By Matthew Harwood

Budget cuts at the Federal Protective Service has led to a series of security lapses and failures that CNN.com calls "embarrassing."

A preliminary GAO report contained these findings:

• A man died at a vacant federal complex in Kansas City, Missouri, and his body was not found for three months. Video Watch scene of body's discovery »

• Twenty-two guns were stolen from a federal building in Atlanta, Georgia. A private security guard employed at the building was convicted of participating in the theft.

• A surveillance trailer with $400,000 worth of high-tech equipment was stolen from the parking garage of a federal building in Los Angeles, California.

The GAO investigator, Mark Goldstein, told CNN.com that the agency mostly relies on contract security officers. While it directly hires only 756 uniformed officers to oversee 8,800 buildings underneath the FPS' watch, it's contract force consists of 15,000 private security guards.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with contracting out for security services, there have been questions about the performance levels of those forces.

In the incident involving the theft of costly surveillance equipment, CNN.com reports, and the FBI confirms, that the private security guards on duty watched the heist on surveillance cameras, did nothing to stop it, and didn't report the crime for three days.

Gary W. Schenkel, head of the FPS, said the incidents cited above were "taken out of context."

"FPS does not refute that these incidents took place, but I do believe that additional background information shows that FPS and its contract guards acted according to the established mission guidelines and standards," Schenkel said.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said the country is witnessing the "near collapse" of the FPS.

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