The General Service Administration and the Federal Protective Services need to improve their communication, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report released on Jan. 15, the GAO found that while the two agencies have drafted a joint strategy for foster better collaboration, they have yet to agree on key practices to carry it out.

Related:Read the report

Since GSA maintains federal buildings and installations, and the FPS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with providing security for the buildings, the GAO stressed that the pair must improve their collaborative functions to ensure better protections of federal sites.

"As a result of not having key practices in place, regional officials said they were not aware of agreed upon collaborative policies and procedures to conduct day-to-day operations," the report said. "GAO found that this created inefficiencies and security risks."

Among the issues left yet to be resolved, GSA and FPS have not reached an agreement on the common outcome of facility protection or on their strategy to build a federal-facility critical infrastructure.

The two agencies still can't agree on how to update their respective roles and responsibilities in protecting GSA-controlled spaces and facilities after the 2006 memorandum of agreement became obsolete.

Other policies on evaluating performance, measuring accountability and even monitoring areas of facility security are incompatible between the two agencies.

In glaring examples from the report, the GSA built a $75 million building that FPS officials thought was for housing law enforcement, only to find that it was useless for that purpose. Due to a GSA-installed energy-efficient system, the walls were incompatible for the armories, holding cells and facility space that law enforcement requires.

But GSA officials said they thought they were building a district headquarters for the Army Corps of Engineers and consulted with FPS on perimeter security throughout the project.

GSA officials also failed to inform FPS about two renovation projects costing approximately $1.1 million, missing out on security enhancement recommendations the service could have provided.

During a security exercise, FPS failed to notify GSA in two regions when it shifted personnel to different federal facilities, leaving some less secure than others, agency officials alleged. But FPS disputed that point, saying it had coordinated with agency headquarters on the operation.

GAO offered four recommendations in the report, including that the agencies develop a timeframed plan to reach agreement on their joint strategy, as well as their roles and responsibilities, make their policies more compatible and craft mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of their collaborative efforts.

DHS concurred with the recommendations and said it was working on updating the MOA and clarifying the roles and responsibilities required. GSA agreed with the recommendations and said it would work with FPS to implement them.

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