Security at Federal Facilities Abysmal, According to Report
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
(Special thanks to Fox News Channel national security correspondent Catherine Herridge for her help with this article. Ms. Herridge is one of the top newspeople in the business. Also thanks go to Chuck Young, the managing director of the US Government Accountability Office, for his assistance to the National Association of Chiefs of Police.)
Vulnerability tests conducted at a number of federal facilities — including those involved in top security activities — met with abysmal results, according to a report to the US Congress by the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO released a preliminary report on Wednesday, July 8, which was obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Terrorism Committee.
There are about 9,000 federal buildings and facilities that are managed by the US General Services Administration. GSA provided security staff for these facilities, but now security at federal facilities is under the control of the Federal Protective Service, a directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. FPS has an annual budget of approximately a billion dollars and an in-house (proprietary) staff of 1,200 employees.
The vast majority of the FPS protection staff — about 13,000 men and women — is comprised of security guards contracted from privately owned security firms.
The GAO conducted site visits at 6 of FPS’s 11 regions, interviewed numerous FPS officials, guards, contractors, and analyzed FPS’s policies and data. GAO also conducted covert testing at 10 level IV facilities located in four cities.(*Note: A level IV facility has over 450 employees and a high volume of public contact such as venders, patrons and other visitors.)
The inspections, both overt and covert, revealed that the FPS failed to ensure that its contract security guards have the training and certifications required to be deployed to a federal facility. FPS contractual agreements with private security firms all require that every security guard complete about 128 hours of training including 8 hours of x-ray and magnetometer training prior to being deployed at any federal government facility.
However, in one region, GAO inspectors discovered that FPS has not provided the x-ray or magnetometer training to its 1,500 guards since 2004. One of the drawbacks to using private security firms is their high turnover rates. The American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) has long complained about turnover among contract guard staffs due to low wages, few employee benefits (such as healthcare), and the nature of the job itself. Another drawback is that contract security guards and their managers are treated as outsiders and therefore their loyalties and interests may not be the same as government employees working directly for their respective agencies and departments.
GAO discovered that regardless of how much training they received, these guards are assigned to posts at federal facilities without fulfilling the pre-assignment training requirement of 128 hours.
X-ray training is critical because guards control access points at facilities. Insufficient x-ray and magnetometer training may have contributed to several incidents where guards were negligent in carrying out their responsibilities, according to the GAO.
An example of security vulnerabilities occurred at a level IV facility in which an infant in a baby carrier was sent through an x-ray machine due to a guard’s negligence. Even more troublesome is the fact that the GAO discovered that FPS does not possess a reliable system for monitoring and verifying guard training and certification requirements. One security expert told this writer that because guards are contracted, there is confusion as to whether record keeping is a responsibility of the FPS or the private security firm for which the guards work.
GAO analysts reviewed 663 randomly selected records and found that 62 percent of the guards had at least one expired certification including a declaration that guards have not been convicted of domestic violence, which make them ineligible by law to carry firearms. The records also lacked verification that the armed guards were qualified to use their firearms and lacked verification that armed guards periodically visit firing ranges to demonstrate their proficiency with their weapons.
In Addition, the GAO reported that FPS has limited assurance that its guards are complying with post orders due to minimal supervision by in-house security managers. FPS does not have specific national guidance on when and how guard inspections should be performed. FPS’s inspections of guard posts at federal facilities are inconsistent and the quality varied in the six regions GAO visited.
GAO also found that guard inspections are typically completed by FPS during regular business hours and in locations where FPS has a field office; and seldom on nights and on weekends. However, on an occasion when FPS did conduct a post inspection at night it found a guard asleep at his post after taking the pain killer prescription drug Percocet. The photo of the sleeping guard found its way onto the pages of newspapers and on television newscasts.
GAO investigators found other incidents at level IV facilities where guards neglected or inadequately performed their assigned responsibilities. For example, a guard failed to recognize or did not properly x-ray a box being carried by an undercover inspector past a loading dock at one facility. The box contained handguns .
GAO analysts identified serious vulnerabilities and security breaches related to FPS’s guard program. For instance, GAO investigators carrying the components for an improvised explosive device (IED) successfully passed undetected through security checkpoints monitored by FPS’s guards at each of the 10 level IV federal facilities where GAO conducted covert testing. Investigators were 100% successful in compromising the security and safety of the facility, its staff and visitors.
Of the 10 level IV facilities GAO penetrated, 8 were government owned, 2 were leased, and included offices of a US Senator and US Representative, as well as agencies such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Department of State, and Department of Justice. Once GAO investigators passed the control access points, they assembled the explosive device and walked freely around several of floors of these level IV facilities with the device in a briefcase, according to the preliminary report.
In response to GAO’s briefing on these findings, FPS has recently taken some corrective actions including increasing the frequency of intrusion testing and guard inspections. However, implementing these changes may be challenging, according to FPS, necessitating the hiring of in-house security staff to closely oversee the work performed by contract guards, as well as increasing field inspectors — who work directly for FPS — who would inspect facilities during off-hours.
*A. Level I facilities have 10 or fewer employees, up to 2,500 square feet of office space, and a low volume of public contact or contact with a limited segment of the public.
B. Level II facilities have from 11 to 150 employees, up to 80,000 square feet of office space and a moderate volume of public contact.
C. Level III facilities have from 151 to 450 employees, up to 150,000 square feet of space, and a moderate to high volume of public contact.
D. Level IV facilities have over 450 employees, more than 150,000 square feet of space, a high volume of public contact, and tenant agencies that may include high-risk law enforcement and intelligence agencies, courts, judicial offices, and highly sensitive Government records.
E. Level V facilities house mission functions critical to national security. The Pentagon and the CIA Headquarters are examples of two Level V facilities.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc.
To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write “Subcription” on the subject line.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.