Panel approves federal building security bill
By The Post's Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson:
Fed up with a rash of complaints about the Federal Protective Service, a Senate committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday designed to strengthen the agency charged with protecting 9,000 federal buildings.
The legislation would increase agency staffing by 500 positions over four years, with most of those assigned to law enforcement positions. Some of the support and administrative personnel hired through the measure would be used to provide increased oversight of the contract guards used by FPS.
FPS has about 1,200 full-time employees and 15,000 contract guards. Reports by the Government Accountability Office have repeatedly found serious problems with the agency's ability to secure government facilities.
The problems are so serious that the agency's "mission is now imperiled," Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.
"The GAO found a seriously dysfunctional agency that lacked much, if any, focus or strategy for accomplishing its mission," he said in his prepared statement before the voice vote. "GAO investigators found guards sleeping on the job, and investigators successfully smuggled bomb-making ingredients past security to build an explosive device and move about the building undetected. GAO concluded that contract guards lacked adequate training, FPS personnel suffered from low morale, oversight of the contract guards was poor, and many of the standards that guide federal building security and guard behavior were outdated."
The bill also allows law enforcement retirement benefits to FPS officers. It does not federalize contract guards.
Contract guards, however, presumably would become more professional because of provisions in the legislation. Minimum training requirements would be doubled, to at least 80 hours, and the amount of guard training provided directly by FPS or monitored by the agency would increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.
One significant finding by GAO was that its investigators were able to sneak bomb-making components into federal facilities undetected. The legislation would more than double the number of FPS canine explosives teams and authorize a pilot program to test advanced imaging technology, like that used by airport screeners, at three federal facilities.
"The agency remains troubled," Lieberman said before the vote, "and needs help to keep it from failing."
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| September 29, 2010; 3:14 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Workplace Issues
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