Federal building security bill unveiled
Private security guards protecting the nation's federal buildings may one day earn a government paycheck and could face new national training and certification standards if legislation introduced Monday advances in the coming months.
The proposals unveiled by members of the House Homeland Security Committee come more than a year after government auditors embarrassed the beleaguered Federal Protective Service by penetrating 10 major federal facilities with materials to construct a bomb. FPS provides security for about 1.5 million federal workers at 9,000 federal facilities with a mix of about 800 full-time federal inspectors and 15,000 private security guards.
The proposed legislation requires FPS to hire an additional 550 federal inspectors, a figure that is "really not enough," but all that the agency can handle right now, said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). The new hires should help the agency move toward federalizing most if not all of its private guards, she said.
Much as the Transportation Security Administration federalized the nation's airport security screeners after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "Many of us believe that it may be time to un-privatize the contractors of the Federal Protective Service or at least put in higher requirements," Jackson Lee said. Her proposals, cosponsored by Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), will probably be incorporated into a larger bill funding the Department of Homeland Security, she said.
The bill would establish a one-year pilot program for the Government Accountability Office to determine whether federally employed guards would do a better job than private guards at protecting government installations. The federal positions would become permanent if GAO determines the program's success, according to the bill. It also would for the first time implement nationwide training and certification standards for private guards and require FPS to hire contract oversight staffers to monitor the firms employing private guards.
Aides could not immediately provide an estimated cost for the bill.
House Republicans introduced a similar bill last Spring. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) is expected to introduce a similar bill as early as this week, aides said. The proposals come as federal buildings remain a target for violent attacks. A January shooting at a Las Vegas federal courthouse left a security officer dead and a U.S. marshal wounded, while a February plane crash at an Internal Revenue Service office in Austin killed one worker.
The union representing FPS inspectors supports the bill, but is disappointed it fails to give inspectors the ability to carry their weapons while off-duty, said David Wright, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 918.
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| September 13, 2010; 6:20 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Contracting, Workplace Issues
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