The release last week of a jaw-dropping report on security at federal buildings has prompted little public comment from federal authorities, but congressional sources and other observers expect plenty of activity in the coming months to address concerns about the Federal Protective Service.
As last week’s GAO findings revealed, government investigators successfully entered 10 high-security federal buildings with bomb-making materials, and they proceeded to assemble bombs in the building’s restrooms, undetected by the building’s security guards. Lawmakers, observers and rank-and-file employees called it but one example of an agency in desperate need of a makeover, complete with more money, manpower and oversight.
By the end of July, lawmakers expect to see draft legislation that proposes a “fairly significant” modernization of FPS, according to congressional aides. The bill is likely to give Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano new marching orders on how to reshape the agency. As of this writing, however, it is unclear whether the bill will propose federalizing all or some of the approximately 13,000 private security contractors employed by FPS.
Conversations in recent days with private guards and union leaders for the 1,200 FPS employees indicate that federalization may be the only way to solve the agency’s woes. They suggest that government-issued training standards, security procedures and pay scales would boost guard morale and remove the stigma of any agency relegated to second-class status.
FPS guards already feel ignored or misunderstood under their current arrangement as part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to David Wright, president of AFGE Local 918, the union that represents FPS employees. He said the government should never have placed FPS under ICE when the Bush administration created the Homeland Security department earlier this decade.
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