(WASHINGTON)—Calling the Federal Protective Service “a rudderless, sinking ship,” American Federation of Government Employees FPS Local 918 President David Wright today testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Public Buildings about a new GAO report released today that describes a critical homeland security agency in a shambles.
“I am shocked at the leadership failure by the [FPS], Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Office of Management and Budget, which increased the risk of criminal and terrorist attack on federal employees, facilities and members of the public, by gutting the FPS in the FY08 budget to roughly the same number of field staff that existed at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995,” Wright told Committee members.
“If one of our local unions had performed in such a manner with respect to carrying out its mission and responsibilities, it would have been put into trusteeship,” Wright added. “It is clear to us that we need Congress to act as a trustee for the Federal Protective Service.”
Wright urged the Committee to increase the number of authorized personnel from its current level of 1200 by approximately 400 for next year. AFGE opposes the effort by ICE, which oversees FPS, to eliminate police officers and other law enforcement personnel and create an all-inspector work force. Wright calls the ICE effort “a mistake,” stating “while there are more than 1,600 Capitol Police with a budget of $281 million to protect a 12-block radius including the Capitol and congressional offices, in FY08, all of FPS is projected to have just 1,200 personnel and approximately $238 million nationwide. Furthermore, the Secret Service has more than 1,300 officers in its Uniformed Division to protect its assigned facilities in Washington, D.C., and the Veterans Health Administration has more than 2,500 police officers protecting its 154 medical centers nationwide … All these agencies use extensive proactive patrol by police officers to detect and deter attack—the very critical activities GAO found missing in FPS.”
AFGE also urged the Committee to restore the 10 percent cut in retention pay on employees and provide full law enforcement retirement benefits for FPS law enforcement personnel not now eligible. It also voiced strong objections to the FPS funding formula, which relies entirely on the square footage measurement of federal buildings to determine the fee paid to FPS.
“ In today’s post- 9/11 world, it makes virtually no sense to rely upon a square footage based fee to entirely determine funding for the FPS,” Wright said. “While AFGE does not oppose the continued funding of some optional FPS services through this mechanism, we strongly believe that most activities of FPS can and should be funded through annual appropriations. The current funding formula is a root cause of the problems at FPS and it is in desperate need of reform.”
In addition to today’s testimony, Wright will go before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia on June 19 to discuss “Management Challenges Facing the FPS: What is at Risk”