Gary Schenkel, director of the Federal Protective Service since March 2007, will become acting deputy assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement in early June. (COLIN KELLY / STAFF)
The head of the battered agency charged with protecting employees and visitors at 9,000 federal buildings is moving to another position within the Homeland Security Department.
Gary Schenkel, director of the Federal Protective Service since March 2007, will become acting deputy assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement in early June, DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said.
In the new policy position, Schenkel will be a primary liaison to local law enforcement agencies and fill a leadership void in that office, Kudwa said.
FPS Deputy Director Paul Durette will serve as acting director until a permanent replacement can be found. Kudwa said an open search will begin immediately to fill the leadership role.
Kudwa characterized the move as a way to bolster the department's relationship with local and state law enforcement agencies, which DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has identified as a key initiative. She would not say whether the move was initiated by Napolitano or Schenkel.
FPS has been faulted by federal and congressional investigators for failing to adequately protect employees and visitors entering federal buildings under its control. The agency relies largely on a network of 15,000 private security guards to screen employees and visitors, and numerous reports have documented alarming security lapses in that process. In addition, FPS has been faulted for failing to ensure that contractor guards have proper training and certifications.
The head of the union representing FPS employees said he is looking forward to beginning a new chapter at the agency. David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, said "strong, positive and effective leadership" will be critical to the future success of the agency.
"A well-qualified law enforcement professional who can balance the equally important law enforcement and protection missions of FPS is essential," Wright said in a statement.
Before joining FPS, Schenkel served as assistant federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Chicago Midway Airport. A retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, he had no prior uniformed police experience.
Schenkel instituted many changes during his three years in an attempt to improve performance. He began phasing out FPS police officers in favor of inspectors who can perform building security assessments as well as patrol and respond to crimes within buildings, took over the responsibility for training contract guards, and developed a new Web-based software tool to help inspectors better assess security risks and threats at federal buildings and recommend appropriate countermeasures to agencies.