GAO Finds Facility Security Committees Undermine Security at Federal Buildings

By Matthew Harwood

The committees responsible for making security decisions at federal buildings do not have the knowledge or power necessary to choose and to fund the appropriate measures to safeguard their facilities, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports. 

At each federal building, tenant agencies choose representatives from that location to sit on a facility security committee (FSC), which address security issues and approve security countermeasures at the building. The GAO, however, found two critical deficiencies with the FSC's organizational structure (.pdf).

"[T]enant agency representatives generally do not have any security knowledge or experience but are expected to make security decisions for their respective agencies," the GAO report states. "We also reported that some of the FSC tenant agency representatives also do not have the authority to commit their respective organizations to fund security countermeasures." The tenant representatives must often appeal for funds to their agency headquarters, and sometimes the funding isn't available promptly because of the government's multi-year budgeting cycles, according to Congress' watchdog agency.

The GAO further found that FSCs "have operated since 1995 without guidelines, policies, or procedures that outline how they should operate, make decisions, or establish accountability," according to GAO report. "This results in ad hoc security that undermines effective protection of individual facilities as well as the entire facilities' portfolio."    


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