GAO Finds Facility Security Committees Undermine Security at Federal Buildings

By Matthew Harwood


Federal facilities are managed by the General Services Administration (GSA) but are protected by the Federal Protective Service (FPS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One part of the FPS mission is to conduct facility security assessments that identify vulnerabilities and possible security countermeasures at federal buildings. This report is then given to a particular building's FSC to decide whether to fund certain countermeasures, which the FPS is responsible for installing and maintaining.

(The GAO has criticized federal building security repeatedly over the past few years, see "Senate to Move Fast on Federal Building Security in Report's Aftermath," "Contract Guard Oversight at Federal Facilities Gets Failing Grade," and "Budget and Staffing Cuts Hurt Federal Protective Service.")

The GAO found that the FSC structure and the ambiguous lines of authority and responsibility for implementing  improvements between FSCs, FPS, and the GSA actually increase risk at federal facilities.

One FPS official's recommendation to upgrade security to 24-hour coverage at a federal building in a high-crime area could not be implemented because the FSC could not secure unanimous approval from the tenant representatives, GAO reported. In another instance, several regional managers told told FPS inspectors not to recommend security improvements, "because there is not sufficient funding in regional budgets to purchase and maintain the security equipment."

The GAO recommended that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano move quickly to initiate the interagency collaboration necessary to outline the FSCs' "organizational structure, operations, decision-making authority, and accountability."

DHS concurred with the recommendation and said that an FSC standard should be submitted to the Interagency Security Committee, the standards body for federal building security, by before the end of the year.

♦ Photo of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., by cliff1066™/Flickr


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