Defense pushes to allow contractors to guard military bases

The Defense Department should be allowed to use contractors to guard military installations, federal procurement chief Angela Styles and four Defense officials told a House panel on Wednesday.

Styles said the Bush administration supports repealing a law that prohibits the military from hiring contractors as security guards. The issue of who guards military bases is a management decision and should not be dictated by statute, she told lawmakers on the Military Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

"You can have a security guard that is carrying a weapon, using force, and protecting the lives of people who you may decide is inherently governmental," said Styles. "You have other security guards that may not be inherently governmental, and that [decision] should be left to the department or agency, and should not be made by statute."

The 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act requires federal employees to perform all jobs deemed "inherently governmental."

Defense officials at the hearing echoed Styles' remarks. "When I first was honored to take this job, the first question I asked was why aren't we using private contractors [as security guards]?," said Mario Fiori, the Army's assistant secretary of installations and environment. Fiori, who oversaw contractor security guards in a previous job with the Energy Department, said contractors could allow managers to provide better security with fewer employees.

"Right now I'm using 130 to 150 National Guard soldiers in several of my facilities to protect these places," he said. "I think I'd be a heckuva a lot better off if I could use good civilian workers to do it."

The Readiness Subcommittee has considered repeal of the statute (Section 2465 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code) before, but Congress has never approved it. The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, vowed to fight any attempt to scrap the law.

"We will not allow the safety and security of personnel and installations to be jeopardized by rent-a-cops," said an AFGE spokesman. "Pentagon officials have obviously learned nothing from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, also expressed reservations about overturning the law, noting that Congress recently voted to federalize airport security. Security at military bases should be no less of a priority than airports, he said.

"I think that when you federalize security guards to take care of airports, it is a serious business," he said. "It's also a serious business to be able to protect those workers that work in military facilities, and families who might be living inside these facilities."

But Styles and the Defense officials said that contractors could handle security duties if they were well paid and highly trained. This is possible if the government specifies exactly what it requires in the contract, she said.

"It's a matter of … in the opening solicitation of your contract saying we must have 'X' kind of person who is paid 'X' amount of money with 'X' skills," said Styles. "That way you ensure that your contract has the right type of person in place to be a security guard."

Michael Wynne, undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics at the Defense Department, H.T. Johnson, assistant secretary, installations and environment at the Navy, and Michael Dominguez, assistant secretary of manpower and reserve Affairs, U.S. Air Force, joined Styles and Fiori in calling for a repeal of the law.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.