News of a report from the GAO hit the wires this week. I haven't been able to find the official GAO report (I've been too busy reading Sam's blog from Israel), but here is a story from Government Executive:
The Federal Protective Service's budget shortfalls and shrinking workforce could threaten the physical security of government buildings, according to preliminary findings from the Government Accountability Office.
FPS, the agency charged with providing physical security and law enforcement services to approximately 8,800 facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration, was transferred in 2003 from GSA to the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau. Since then, FPS has faced multi-million dollar funding shortages and ensuing management challenges.
Traditionally, FPS was able to make up its budget deficit through GSA's Federal Buildings Fund. But now, as a part of Homeland Security, FPS no longer can tap into that fund and has had to scramble to cover operational expenses and implement cost-cutting measures.
Faced with a projected revenue shortfall of $70 million for fiscal 2006, FPS restricted hiring and employee travel, limited training and overtime, and eliminated employee performance awards as belt-tightening measures. But GAO said these steps ultimately could hinder the service's ability to meet its mission.
Since fiscal 2004, FPS workforce has declined 20 percent, standing at about 1,100 by the end of fiscal 2007. The Bush administration's fiscal 2009 budget request recommended the agency reduce its workforce by 150 people. President Bush included the same recommendation in his fiscal 2008 budget, but Congress rejected it. A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee said the administration's current proposal would leave 50 cities without any FPS presence and would eliminate night and weekend protective services and response capability.
FPS has hired about 15,000 contract guards to monitor facilities it cannot cover. Lawmakers and FPS officials, however, expressed concern that there was inadequate oversight of these private security guards. The GAO found that FPS inspectors charged with overseeing contract guards were struggling to meet oversight responsibilities while juggling building security assessments and responses to criminal incidents. FPS officials also indicated to GAO that contract guards were poorly trained and reluctant to act in emergency situations. Goldstein said a separate review on the contract guard program will begin soon.
FPS said it is filling holes in facility protection through increased reliance on local law enforcement, but GAO disputed this strategy. The service has not signed any agreements yet with local law enforcement agencies for extra assistance, or formally authorized local police to respond to incidents at federal facilities. And local officials told GAO they were unaware of such agreements, that they lacked the capacity to take on that responsibility, and would refuse to sign any agreement requiring them to do so.
GAO did not make recommendations in the preliminary evaluation, but will likely do so in May, when the complete report is expected. ICE did not return calls for comment, but reviewed a draft of the GAO testimony and agreed with the agency's conclusions.
Would have loved to see some direct quotes from a FPS or DHS spokesperson here (the reporter does have a byline on the story â€” normally means they spoke to someone directly not just regurgitated a report's findings although I'm not sure here.) But check out the comments below the story ... pretty interesting. A guard asleep and a corpse round out the details, or so it seems.