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DHS agency that secures federal buildings is failing its mission, GAO finds

Sep. 11, 2012 - 05:47PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
The 2010 SECURE Facilities Act also would call for a study of the implications of insourcing the agency's 15,000-plus contract security guards, set minimum standards for contracted security guards, and establish a monitoring program to assess guard performance and security measures.
The 2010 SECURE Facilities Act also would call for a study of the implications of insourcing the agency's 15,000-plus contract security guards, set minimum standards for contracted security guards, and establish a monitoring program to assess guard performance and security measures. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

The Federal Protective Service collected $236 million in fees last year from agencies to perform security threat assessments on federal buildings, but the agency is failing to perform that job, according to a new audit report.

“FPS currently is not assessing risk at the over 9,000 federal facilities under the custody and control of [the General Services Administration] in a manner consistent with federal standards,” said the Government Accountability Office in a new report released Monday.

GAO said more than 5,000 facilities were supposed to be assessed between 2010 and this year, but GAO said it could not determine how big the backlog is because FPS’ data is so unreliable.

Further, FPS could not say when it last conducted security assessments on 9 percent — or roughly 800 — of federal facilities, GAO found.

Meanwhile, agencies are working around FPS to conduct their own security assessments — on their own dime — even though they are paying FPS do perform that service.

The General Services Administration is resurrecting a security assessment tool it has not used since 1998 while the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers all conduct their own security assessments on some of their buildings.

FPS lacks a reliable tool for conducting those security assessments, the report said.

FPS spent four years and $35 million developing a security assessment program that was later abandoned because it was not able to track the location and training certifications of its contract guard workforce — a key part of assessing security risks and developing a building-specific plan, according to the report.

FPS has an annual budget about $1.3 billion and oversees 12,000 contract security guards and about 9,000 federal buildings.

The agency worked with the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop an interim tool to assess federal buildings — but that tool also does not provide a comprehensive assessment of building security, according to GAO.

GAO recommends that FPS:

• Incorporate a wide range of security factors into any permanent security assessment tool it develops.

• Develop a new comprehensive system for contract guard oversight.

• Coordinate with GSA and other agencies to reduce duplicative security assessments.

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