GAO: Postal Service needs comprehensive plan for physical security

The Postal Service has improved physical security at many facilities throughout the country, but lacks a comprehensive plan to address ongoing security problems at core centers, government auditors said in a report Tuesday.

Numerous security problems still exist at some core USPS facilities, such as missing building and vehicle keys, unlocked doors and gates, unattended and unlocked vehicles, deactivated alarms, unsecured mail and stamp inventories, and employees not wearing required identification badges, the Government Accountability Office concluded after investigating from March 2003 to October 2004 (GAO-05-48). Incomplete and inaccurate databases, however, prevented GAO from making an assessment of improvements in security measures at all core facilities.

"Available information showed that implementation of security measures had increased at some core facilities, although security problems still existed at some facilities," according to the report. "GAO recommends that the Postmaster General develop a plan with objectives, time frames, and resources needed for correcting and updating USPS's security database so USPS can accurately assess the status of physical security at core facilities, identify needed improvements and assess progress made."

About 800,000 Postal Service employees process nearly 700 million pieces of mail daily at almost 38,000 facilities nationwide. In 2003 alone, USPS collected, processed and delivered over 202 billion pieces of mail, GAO said.

The agency said the Postal Service is taking steps to improve physical security. For example, the Inspection Service is working with local and headquarters management to make security improvements. Additionally, the Inspection Service has filled almost all of its 47 new physical security specialist positions and completed training of up to 600 security control officers.

USPS also has created an emergency preparedness group and is in the process of updating and improving its facility security database, which has the potential for identifying and tracking facility security issues nationwide.

GAO noted that the facility security database currently has incomplete and duplicative data, meaning that accurate information on physical security measures was only available for 119 of 373 core facilities.

The Postal Service said it is aware of security problems, is taking steps to address them, and agreed with GAO's recommendations. USPS acknowledged it does not yet have an integrated system for tracking the status of physical security efforts at its facilities.

"We are pleased that the GAO recognizes that we take physical security at our core facilities very seriously and that we are working on a number of initiatives that, when implemented, will lead to improved security at all our facilities," Patrick Donahoe, the Postal Service's chief operating officer, wrote in response to the report. "Once we have up-to-date and accurate data on the status of security measures at our facilities, we can more reliably identify those facilities in need of security improvements and make sure they are being implemented in a timely and efficient manner."

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