Senate Bill to Reform Federal Protective Service Introduced

Created 09/20/2010 - 18:35

Leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has introduced bipartisan legislation [1]aimed at reforming the beleaguered Federal Protective Service (FPS), which is responsible for the security of roughly 9,000 federal sites nationwide.

The bill calls for FPS’s full-time staff to grow by 500 by 2014, and not fall below its current level of 1,200. The bill would further require 80 hours’ training for each of the agency’s roughly 15,000 contract guards, 16 hours of annual training after that, plus establishment of an evaluation program for the agency and its guards, including overt and covert testing.

Notably, the bill requires designation of three federal sites for deployment of full-body scanners, now referred to by the federal government as “advanced imaging technology.” The bill would prohibit FPS from saving any images captured with the controversial scanning devices, as happened with machines used by the U.S. Marshal Service.

A committee aide told Security Management that the full-body scanner requirement is a response to the vulnerabilities exposed by U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators last summer, who passed through FPS checkpoints with bomb components and then assembled the devices in restrooms [2] (.pdf).

(For Security Management coverage of persistent problems at the FPS, click here [3], here [4], and here [5].)

A separate reform bill was introduced last week [3] by Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee. Doubts persist over whether the separate bills can be passed and reconciled before the end of the current Congress this year.

The House bill’s staffing requirements focus on FPS core complement of federal law enforcement officers, requiring the agency hire an additional 500 for a total of 1,350.

The House bill would require FPS to conduct a pilot program to examine federalization of the agency’s contract guard force; the pilot program would then be evaluated by the GAO. The Senate bill calls for FPS to hire a consultant to evaluate that option.

The Senate bill would further require that FPS field 10 additional canine teams, that it establish a database of guard service contracts, and would require FPS’ director to establish rules allowing its officers to carry their firearms when they are off-duty.

The Senate legislation would require security training for members of the facility security committees (FSCs) that hold sway over security programs at many General Services Administration (GSA)-owned buildings [6]. FSCs consist of representatives from the GSA, FPS, and each of the federal agencies that leases space in a federal building. FPS develops building-security recommendations that are then considered by FSCs.

Because those tenant agencies must often share the cost of security programs, GAO found that approval by FSCs can essentially require unanimous consent. Rather than voting down FPS recommendations, the Senate bill would provide for FSCs to appeal FPS recommendations to the Interagency Security Committee (ISC), an executive-level panel that sets government-wide security standards.

The Senate bill, co-authored by committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), ranking member Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sens. George Voinovich (R-OH) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI), also requires that FPS report to Congress on any facilities not compliant with the security standards established by the ISC.

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