By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio
A newly introduced bill to modernize and reform the Federal Protective Service could see some private contract employees who guard federal facilities made into full-time federal workers.
Four senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Monday introduced S. 3806, the Supporting Employee Competency and Updating Readiness Enhancements for Facilities Act of 2010 (SECURE Facilities Act).
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is the principle author and said the goal is to reform the FPS, an agency responsible for security at over 9,000 federal facilities and courthouses. Other co-sponsors of the measure include Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and George Voinovich (R-Ohio).
The bill would mandate that the FPS have no less than 1,200 workers at any time, and would further authorize the hiring of 500 additional full-time employees over the next four years.
The measure also would address shortcomings detected by congressional investigations into the use of contract security guards; mandate that FPS take steps to address the threat of explosives; and provide avenues of appeal if the tenant of a federal facility feels security measures hinder public access to a building.
"These are the folks charged with protecting the security of federal buildings and federal employees who work in those buildings, and the American public," Lieberman said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio on Capitol Hill. "There's just too much evidence that they're not doing a very good job."
The FPS has been tested and failed when people posing as terrorists were successful in getting into federal buildings with bomb-making materials.
Lieberman said his bill also is about taking a second look at the fact that over 15,000 contract guards are used to protect federal facilities at a time when the FPS has only 1,200 full-time staff to oversee them, often with mixed results.
"That can be efficient and cost-effective, and it cannot be," he said. "I'm concerned about it. The bill authorizes a test of federalizing, if you will, some of these members of the Federal Protective Service, and making them full-time federal employees."
Lieberman also said the measure would increase funding for the FPS to cover not only the cost of additional staff but also to cover the increased cost of doing business.
"The FPS (budget) has not increased proportionate to the increase in the number of federal employees and an increase in their responsibilities," he said. "The result is a vulnerability that we want to close on behalf of all the folks who work in those buildings and American citizens who go into those buildings."
The measure is now pending, awaiting its first hearing on the proposal by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman would not say whether the measure will be considered before Congress adjourns before the end of this session.