Federal Protective Service struggles with new management tools

The long-troubled Federal Protective Service, which some consider a "stepchild" within the Homeland Security Department, has made little progress in improving training of building security guards and has not fully implemented management tools for tracking assignments, witnesses told a House panel Wednesday.

Director L. Eric Patterson said FPS' four-year effort to develop a long-recommended centralized tool for prioritizing threats to federal buildings "was not cost-effective and has not fulfilled its original goals." The contractor for the tool, known as the Risk Assessment Management Program, has been relieved of future development duties but will continue working with the agency to maintain databases, Patterson told a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.

FPS, a 40-year-old agency recently moved from DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to its National Protection and Programs Directorate, has long been targeted for reforms, has undergone multiple leadership changes and has prompted debate over whether some of its largely contractor workforce should be federalized.

This March, the agency was embarrassed when an improvised explosive device was discovered near the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit. An FPS security officer three weeks earlier had simply moved the suspicious package inside to the lost and found.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., called the hearing to "examine several perennial problems which have impacted the FPS mission," including poor management, weaknesses in oversight of the agency's 13,000 contract security guards and the need for enhanced training of guards.

In defending his agency, Patterson noted that FPS provides building security at 9,000 federal facilities in 50 states, through whose portals 1 million people pass each day. He reported that FPS security forces on average make 1,600 arrests and confiscate 700,000 dangerous objects annually.

He said in his first nine months on the job, he established an important code of conduct for employees, and that his response to the dangerous incident in Detroit was to send in a mobilized training team and launch an audit of the responsible contractor, which was fined. The guard who failed to promptly process what was later revealed as a pipe bomb was terminated.

But testimony by Mark Goldstein, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, faulted FPS for being slow to develop a systematic risk management approach to prioritizing threats and vulnerabilities in buildings. He said the agency has not addressed key human capital issues or figured out the optimal size for its workforce, does not collect sufficient data on contractors and has not reviewed the structure of the fees it charges agencies for service. "Of 28 recommendations the GAO has made since 2007," he said, FPS has fully implemented none and has begun to address only 21.

Patterson agreed on the need for risk management, saying, "Not all threats are the same, and not all vulnerabilities the same. They should be assessed independently of one another." As for implementing RAMP, he acknowledged some "challenges in antiquated methods of collecting data," but predicted the project should start to move soon.

Several members, including full committee ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., encouraged House passage of H.R. 176, a bill aimed at improving oversight and launching a study on federalization of more FPS contract guards.

But Steve Amitay, legislative counsel of the National Association of Security Companies, said industry opposed any move toward federalization and added contractors maintain a good relationship with FPS.

Representatives of federal workers backed the bill. "The time for reports and hearings is past," said David Wright, president of the National Federal Protective Service Union, American Federation of Government Employees. He called for passage of H.R. 176 and a similar bill pending in the Senate, arguing that contract guards are not as well trained as federal employees and that FPS is the "only law enforcement organization in Homeland Security that has less staff than it had at DHS' inception."

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 GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


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