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GAO: Federal security is often unprepared for 'active shooter' threat

Dec. 18, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Securing Federal Facilities: Challenges of the Fed
Mark Goldstein, a director of GAO's physical infrastructure team (File photo)

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Are the contract guards who protect most federal buildings prepared to confront a threat like Aaron Alexis, who gunned down a dozen people inside the Washington Navy Yard complex in September before being killed by police? Not always, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Federal Protective Service says that it has required guards to receive training on responding to an “active shooter” scenario since 2010. However, the agency lacks a reliable system for guard oversight, said Mark Goldstein, a director of GAO’s physical infrastructure team, in prepared testimony at a hearing held Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

When GAO auditors asked 31 guard firms on whether their employees had gotten FPS active shooter training, 20 either did not reply or said they had not, Goldstein said in summarizing the findings of a September report. GAO also found that FPS had failed to provide required guard training on how to run X-ray machines and metal detectors. FPS, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, is working on recommended improvements, Director Eric Patterson said at the hearing.

FPS provides security at some 9,600 facilities overseen by the General Services Administration. It was not responsible for protecting the Navy Yard; the Defense Department provides its own security. As a contract worker, Alexis had a valid pass to get on to the installation without screening that might have otherwise detected the shotgun he was carrying.

In response to a question from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the committee’s chairman, a senior Pentagon official questioned the practicality of screening every employee who enters DoD facilities.

“With 10,000 people coming in the same window, there’s a disincentive to getting the work done,” said Stephen Lewis, deputy director for personnel, industrial and physical security policy

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