Federal building security back in focus next week
House lawmakers will turn their focus next week to federal building security in the wake of the recent Pentagon shooting and other attacks on federal facilities across the country. The hearing comes as union leaders have suggested that Washington isn’t seriously addressing recent attacks that have killed or injured federal workers.
Government Accountability Office investigators last summer exposed serious gaps in protection at 10 major federal buildings, producing a report that earned wide attention in the news media and on Capitol Hill, but has produced little public discourse since then.
After last week’s shooting at the Pentagon, the February plane crash at Internal Revenue Service offices in Austin and a January shooting at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, lawmakers now seem keen to explore the issue further.
The House subcommittee on the federal workforce plans to focus especially on how federal agencies are sharing tips on threats with local law enforcement agencies that could be unfamiliar with the tenants and security efforts at major government buildings in their jurisdictions, according to congressional aides and union officials.
Plans for the hearing were underway before last week’s shooting at the Pentagon, aides said.
Separately, aides to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he plans to introduce a bill with proposed federal security reforms in April, after delaying it last fall to account for the Fort Hood shootings.
“These recent assaults on federal employees seem to be motivated by a deep-seated, and irrational, hostility against the government,” Lieberman said late last week.
Such bold statements are what federal workers need to hear, said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers. Kelley said she fears that attention and concern for federal security will soon dissipate, as it did after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
“There was a lot of attention and sincere focus, but as time passes without another incident, just in the rush of day-to-day business, sometimes it doesn’t get the ongoing attention that it needs,” Kelley said. In an effort to keep the issue on the minds of lawmakers, union members plan to visit congressional offices this week to try to score statements of public support for federal workers, she said.
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