Lawmakers skeptical of planned Federal Protective Service cuts

Members of a House committee on Tuesday questioned a proposal to eliminate 249 police officers from the Federal Protective Service.

At a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, lawmakers expressed concern that the Homeland Security Department's plan to establish a "refocused workforce" at FPS, composed mainly of inspectors and contract security guards, would leave federal facilities more vulnerable.

Lawmakers asked FPS Director Gary Schenkel for assurance that the proposal would enable the service to effectively protect federal buildings, even amid the budget shortfalls the agency has faced since moving from the General Services Administration to DHS when it was established in 2003. In the transition, FPS lost $139 million in subsidies from GSA; the service now relies entirely on fees collected from customer agencies.

Shenkel told committee members the department can effectively protect federal buildings with the proposed workforce. Contract guards "will deter and provide an effective means for responding to immediate situations," he said, "but they still will require the services of a sworn law enforcement officer."

The FPS chief argued that the contract guards, who hold no more authority than an average citizen to make an arrest, would be the first line of defense, while inspectors, who hold officer status, would remain on site at facilities deemed high risk.

But according to David Wright, president of an American Federation of Government Employees local representing FPS employees, inspectors are responsible for conducting studies and making minor repairs to security systems, and have little time for the patrol duties of an FPS officer.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., agreed that inspectors have a much different role than FPS officers, who are responsible for interrogating suspects, preventing crimes, arresting offenders and assisting police during emergency situations.

Lawmakers also stressed their concern about oversight of contractors. DHS Deputy Inspector General Jim Taylor noted reports from his office and the Government Accountability Office that found numerous deficiencies with contract guard qualifications and FPS oversight of these guards.

The audit reports concluded that some of the guards were working without current suitability determinations or with expired certifications. Some lacked the appropriate security clearances and others were noncitizens who did not have work cards with them, Taylor said.

"Inadequate contractor oversight can result in the government paying for services it did not receive, loss of monies resulting from contract deductions due to nonperformance, and placing FPS-protected facilities, employees and facility visitors at risk," Taylor said.

Schenkel said the lack of oversight was largely due to staffing problems, and assured the committee that FPS was making the necessary improvements to ensure its contract security guards met all of the appropriate requirements.

Meanwhile, FPS' proposal also includes a plan to increase the user fee charged to client agencies from 39 cents to 57 cents per square foot, in an attempt to recover estimated costs for providing basic security services. At a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing last month, lawmakers questioned whether FPS should be changed from a fee-based organization to one with its own budget.

Wright recommended that appropriators provide an additional $38 million for FPS in fiscal 2008. He also recommended that the appropriations committees initiate a reprogramming request to DHS that would stop attrition by adequately funding FPS through the end of fiscal 2007.

"The administration has said more times than I can count that we are doing all we can to protect the nation against terrorists and terrorism," Wright said. "I doubt anyone could honestly call this FPS plan 'doing all we can.'"

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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