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Introduction of Legislation to Reform the Federal Protective Service

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing legislation to improve the level of security provided by the Federal Protective Service, FPS.

Formed in 1971 as the uniformed protection service for the General Service Administration, GSA, the Federal Protective Service's mission is to safeguard the Federal buildings that Americans access every day across the country. FPS is charged with protecting over 9,000 Federal facilities, including many of our own Congressional district offices.

Since FPS was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, a series of government audits have uncovered major breaches in the security services FPS provides and attributed these lapses, in large part, to slipshod oversight by the agency of its contractor workforce.

One glaring example of FPS's lapses in providing security occurred in February 2011 when contract guards failed to detect explosive material that was left undetected inside the Patrick V. McNamara Federal building in Detroit for 21 days.

Testifying on July 13, 2011 about this incident before the Committee on Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office, GAO, stated that FPS needs to undertake a stronger role in overseeing contractor performance, to reevaluate its hiring and training practices for contract guards, and to implement a comprehensive risk assessment strategy.

On July 24, 2012, at a subsequent Committee on Homeland Security hearing, FPS's lack of a comprehensive risk management strategy was identified as a major obstacle to FPS' ability to safeguard Federal facilities and effectively serve as the lead agency charged with coordinating infrastructure protection government-wide.

Both hearings addressed the Federal Protective Service's pressing need to replace the failed Risk Assessment and Management Program, RAMP, to monitor the hours and duties performed by contract guards--which has cost of over $41 million--with an effective tool to implement risk assessment. As an interim step, FPS has since developed the Modified Infrastructure Survey Too, MIST.

Since May 2007, the Committee on Homeland Security has held five oversight hearings of FPS. Additionally, since 2008, GAO has issued seven oversight reports, at my request, on the agency that identified a wide range of challenges FPS faces in protecting Federal facilities. Among the areas for reform identified in these reports are the need for increased oversight of the contract guard program; the need for FPS to implement a risk management strategy to improve facility security; enhanced schedule and cost estimating practices to facilitate the transition of management functions; and a comprehensive approach to human capital management.

The legislation I am reintroducing today: (1) seeks to increase security at Federal facilities by adding 500 more Federal Law Enforcement Officers; (2) directs FPS to intensify its monitoring of contract guards; (3) requires national minimum standards for the training and certification of contract guard staff; (4) requires that security standards for Federal facilities established by the Interagency Security Committee be implemented; (5) directs FPS to conduct a 1-year pilot program to assess whether a Federal Security Guard that is a Federal employee would do a better job protecting the highest risk Federal facilities than a contract guard; (6) requires a law enforcement presence at the highest risk Federal facilities; and (7) directs the Government Accountability Office to investigate the adequacy of the fee-based funding system utilized by FPS and determine whether it prevents the agency from fully executing its security mission.

Under my legislation, the FPS' inspector corps would be increased to 1,350, thereby elevating the Federal law enforcement presence inside Federal buildings by offering ``boots on the ground'' security expertise.

I strongly believe that a more robust inspector workforce would, for the first time, provide FPS with a core of specialized security personnel with the training and authority required to create long-overdue change within the entire organization.

My legislation also calls for dedicated contract oversight staff to oversee the performance of contract guards; this would allow FPS inspectors focus on their security and law enforcement duties and not be bogged down in contract-management concerns.

Similarly, my legislation would require a law enforcement presence at the highest risk Federal facilities, which directly addresses a gap in the current system, where contract guards, who lack arrest authority are charged with protecting high-profile Federal facilities.

I introduced similar legislation in the 111th and 112th Congresses to ensure that the Federal Protective Service fulfills its responsibility to coordinate infrastructure protection across the Federal government, and to make certain that effective management procedures are implemented to hold contractors accountable for the hiring, training and certification of security guards who are charged with protecting Federal facilities.

It has been 18 years since the Alfred P. Murrah building was attacked in Oklahoma City. We have been fortunate that an attack of this magnitude has not occurred against a Federal building in the intervening years. That said, we must do more to ensure that Federal buildings are secure and that the Federal Protective Service can effectively fulfill its mission.

Enactment of my legislation will bring about long-overdue and necessary reforms and help FPS become the agency that Congress envisioned and the American people deserve.

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