- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2014

Some security guards hired to protect federal buildings cannot operate screening devices such as X-ray machines, are not certified to handle firearms and are untrained in dealing with an active shooter.

The Department of Homeland Security — which is tasked with securing federal facilities — still faces challenges in ensuring that the guards it contracts through its Federal Protective Service have been properly trained and certified before they are deployed, a Government Accountability Office official told Congress on Wednesday.

The FPS is so inept that the Department of Homeland Security will no longer use the agency to protect its own headquarters, said Rep. Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania Republican. He is the chairman of the House Transportation subcommittee on federal buildings, which requested the GAO audit of the agency.

“I am very concerned with the conclusions reached by the GAO report, as well as the fact that overall confidence in FPS appears to be eroding. Fake bomb components and weapons have been secreted into buildings undetected, which is an alarming exposure of weakness in security,” Mr. Barletta told The Washington Times. “It’s necessary to know the challenges and problems, but we also need solutions.”

The Federal Protective Service provides security to 9,600 federally owned and leased buildings, properties and other assets around the country and protects more than 1 million employees and visitors at federal spaces each day.

According to the GAO report, an official from one of the security guard companies contracted by Federal Protective Services told auditors that about 38 percent of its guards had never received training in X-ray screening — raising questions about how well they actually perform their monitoring duties. Officials from five companies said their guards had not received training on how to respond to an active shooter.

“Without ensuring that all guards receive training on how to respond to active-shooter incidents at federal facilities, FPS has limited assurance that its guards are prepared for this threat,” the GAO said.

In 2012, the GAO told Federal Protective Services that it should develop a system for managing guards’ information on training, certifications and other qualifications to ensure that all information is complete and up-to-date. Yet when the GAO performed its most recent audit, FPS still hadn’t created such a database.

GAO was unable to determine the extent to which FPS’s guards have received active-shooter response and screener training, in part because FPS lacks a comprehensive and reliable system for guard oversight,” Mark Goldstein, GAO’s director for physical infrastructure issues, told Mr. Barletta’s subcommittee Wednesday. “GAO also found that FPS continues to lack effective management controls to ensure its guards have met its training and certification requirements.”

Twenty-three percent of the contract guard files reviewed by auditors were missing records on screener training, CPR certifications, firearms qualifications and pre-employment drug tests, among things, the GAO found.

Auditors found that FPS also has failed repeatedly to apply federal standards in conducting risk assessments of facilities it’s assigned to protect. Proper risk assessments allow decision-makers to identify and evaluate security risks and implement protective measures.

Instead, FPS uses a different assessment tool that is inconsistent with federal mandates. Risk assessment experts at the GAO found the tool used by FPS does not estimate the level, duration or nature of potential loss resulting from an undesirable event, and therefore “does not allow an agency to fully assess the risk.”

FPS has limited knowledge of the risks facing about 9,600 federal facilities around the country,” the GAO concluded.

Most FPS employees are contract guards. The agency has about 1,200 full-time employees and 13,500 contract guards, the GAO said.

The FPS is working to implement all of the GAO’s recommendations, Federal Protective Service Director L. Eric Patterson said in testimony Wednesday. The agency is making advances toward addressing recommendations to its risk-assessment methodology, he added.

FPS remains committed to being transparent and proactive in our effort to provide GAO and Congress with regular updates on the steps we have taken to further enhance, integrate and transform FPS,” Mr. Patterson said.

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