Senate panel moves building security bill

The federal agency in charge of protecting government facilities is one step closer to major reform.

On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the Supporting Employee Competency and Updating Readiness Enhancements for Facilities Act (S. 3806), which would overhaul Federal Protective Service operations.

FPS, a 1,200-employee Homeland Security Department agency responsible for guarding 9,000 federal buildings, has been heavily scrutinized in recent years, especially after 2009 Government Accountability Office testimony that revealed undercover investigators entered 10 high-security federal buildings with guns, knives and bomb-making materials.

"The current situation at FPS is a disaster waiting to happen," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the committee's ranking member and one of the bill's co-sponsors.

The measure would authorize funding for FPS to hire 500 full-time employees during the next four years, allow the agency to establish governmentwide training requirements for its 15,000 contract armed guards, and make it easier to terminate ineffective employees. It also would let off-duty FPS officers carry firearms.

The labor union representing FPS workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, supports the legislation.

House lawmakers introduced a similar FPS reform bill earlier in September. The legislation could get folded into the fiscal 2011 Homeland Security authorization bill.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also unanimously approved the bipartisan 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which would revise the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act by requiring agencies to post quarterly performance updates on a single government website instead of submitting them to Congress annually.

In addition, the performance legislation would require agencies to designate senior officials to serve as chief operating and performance improvement officers. The officials would be responsible for finding significant cost savings through the elimination of redundant programs.

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