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Eye Opener: Federal Protective Service Hit Again

By Ed O'Keefe

Federal Protective Service vehicles parked outside a Virginia federal courthouse in 2006. (AP)

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Another government report blasts the agency responsible for security at about 9,000 federal facilities nationwide. This time investigators raise concerns that the Federal Protective Service lacks agency-wide staffing plans and has failed to communicate regularly with the agencies it protects.

FPS failed to hire at least 1,200 full-time employees by a July 31, 2008 deadline and will instead meet that goal in September, according to the Government Accountability Office report. That's mostly because the agency lacks solid plans to train and retain staffers, the report concluded.

Perhaps worst of all, many of the federal agencies protected by FPS said they could not comment on the agency's performance when asked by GAO investigators, because they do not have regular contact with FPS.

According to GAO: "In emergency situations, about 82 percent of FPS’s customers (agencies) primarily rely on other agencies such as local law enforcement, while 18 percent rely on FPS. The survey also suggests that the roles and responsibilities of FPS and its customers are unclear, primarily because on average about one-third of FPS’s customers...could not comment on how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with FPS’s level
of communication on its services, partly because they had little to no interaction with FPS officers."

“The ability of FPS to meet its mission has continued to deteriorate since its transfer to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003,” Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said in response. “It seems that FPS has become a second-class citizen within the department, at the expense of public security and employee morale."

Voinovich and Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have asked GAO to keep tabs on the small security agency and are expected to introduce legislation next week to restructure it. Another report earlier this month revealed serious security gaps at 10 major federal facilities after investigators smuggled bomb-making materials past FPS security checkpoints. The Eye also reported this week about a recent incident at FDA headquarters involving at least 58 unqualified private security guards working for FPS.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Senate Panel Approves Postal Funding Bill: A bill giving the U.S. Postal Service more borrowing authority to help pay billions of dollars in retiree benefit costs passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday by an 11 to 1 vote. Lawmakers expect to tweak its details before a full Senate vote. Competing House and Senate measures will have to be reconciled, because the measures provide relief for different lengths of time.

Proposal to Report Agency Overhead Costs Advances: The Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) that requires agencies to disclose overhead and administrative costs when submitting budget requests. The move should force agencies to tighten their belts during the economic downturn, Dorgan said. As The Eye has previously reported, President Clinton tried but failed to mandate these types of reports with an executive order in 1993. The penny-pinching Dorgan (trailing a potential Republican opponent back home) most recently killed plans by the Bureau of Public Debt to hire a workplace humor consultant. (Frown.)

'Clunkers' Program Is Running Out of Cash: The government program, aimed at boosting stagnant auto sales, is almost out of money, putting its future in question, according to sources familiar with the effort.

Subcommittee Backs Extension of Benefits To Gay Partners of Government Employees The debate that preceded the 5 to 3 vote along party lines quickly moved beyond the federal workplace and into such fundamental cultural issues as religion, morality and the state of marriage.

House Backs $636 Billion Defense Bill: The defense measure, which passed 400 to 30, was the last of 12 appropriations bills for 2010 to clear the House.

House Approves New Food-Safety Laws: House passage sets the stage for the Senate to take up the issue, though probably not until the fall. The Obama administration has voiced strong support for a comprehensive food safety revamping.

Panel Wants Deep Space, Not Landings as U.S. Goal: That could, panel members said Thursday, enable NASA to send astronauts to more corners of the solar system more quickly while keeping within a limited budget.

FCC Eyes Rural Impact of Cellphone Tie-Ups: The agency's inquiry into exclusive carrier deals on popular cell phones will focus on customers in rural areas who can't buy Apple Inc.'s iPhone or Palm Inc.'s Pre smart phone because the carriers don't serve their markets.

PBGC Will Take Over Metaldyne Pension Plan: The agency will soon seize a pension plan covering about 11,000 workers from auto supplier Metaldyne Corp., a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

ANC Hearing Take Two?: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wants to provide Alaska Native Corporations with another chance to plead their case for maintaining their contracting preferences -- this time with a possibly more receptive audience.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 31, 2009; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Oversight, Workplace Issues  
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