DHS not properly protecting federal buildings, report finds

Federal Protective Service officers guard a blockade. Federal Protective Service officers guard a blockade. Damian Dovarganes/AP file photo

The Homeland Security Department’s Federal Protective Service is not doing an adequate job assessing and preparing for security risks at government workspaces, according to a new report.

The Government Accountability Office said FPS -- which has an annual budget of $1.3 billion to protect federal facilities -- is not using previously determined guidelines in evaluating risks, has allowed a backlog of assessments to pile up and is failing to properly oversee its contracted security guards.

GAO recommended FPS use the National Infrastructure Protection Plan -- which calls for inspectors to weigh the threats vulnerabilities, consequences and potential countermeasures of each federal facility -- as a framework for assessing buildings in the future.

The auditors also called for a more exhaustive security inspection process that includes across-facility comparisons to prioritize needs and that focus more on the consequences of an undesirable event. 

FPS contracts about 12,500 guards to secure federal facilities, however the agency does not independently screen applicants prior to employment, according to GAO.

“That FPS cannot ensure that its 33 contractors are providing accurate information on its guards is . . . problematic,” the auditors wrote in their report.

FPS’ shortcomings are costing the government, as many agencies are paying for their own security assessments, despite the fact they are already paying FPS for its services.

Jim Crumpacker, director of Homeland Security’s Departmental GAO-OIG Liaison Office, defended FPS in some instances, noting a lack of resources and authority to address all of GAO’s criticisms, but ultimately concurred with each of the auditor’s recommendations.  

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