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Federal Protective Service Reform Bill Advances in Senate

A Senate committee has unanimously passed legislation aimed at reforming the troubled Federal Protective Service (FPS), which is responsible for the security of 9,000 federal buildings around the country.

The bipartisan bill authored by members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, calls for FPS to hire 500 new full-time staff above its current 1,200, deploy controversial full-body scanners at three sites, and study the federalization of its 15,000-member contract guard force. The bill would also set strict training requirements for contract guards.

A multi-year investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has exposed gross mismanagement at FPS, inadequate training and supervision of contract guards, and critical security vulnerabilities. In the most publicized cases, an FPS contract guard ran an infant in a baby carrier through a belt-fed x-ray machine at a security checkpoint, while undercover GAO investigators slipped bomb components through a checkpoint and assembled them in a bathroom.

“The people—not just employees, but millions of visitors—who enter federal buildings each year deserve better protection,”said committee Chairman and bill co-author Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). “Our bill provides that by ensuring that FPS has sufficient staff to carry out its mission, by tackling deficiencies within the contract guard program, by ensuring FPS is ready to take on the threat of explosives, and by striking a good balance between both public access and security.”

Separate legislation introduced by Democratic leadership of the House Homeland Security Committee would focus on FPS’s core component of sworn federal officers, boosting their ranks from 850 to 1,350. While the Senate bill would require FPS to hire a consulting firm to examine federalization, the House bill calls for an internal pilot program to be evaluated by the GA).

The Senate bill now moves to the full senate for possible consideration before the end of the current Congress later this year. Skepticism persists about whether the two bills could be passed separately, then reconciled and a final bill considered before the end of the year.

In the meantime, FPS has expanded and intensified oversight of its contract guard force, officials said.

(For more on FPS and reform efforts, see"Senate Bill to Reform Federal Protective Service Introduced," "Bill Would Require FPS to Examine Federalizing Contract Guards," and "GAO Finds Facility Security Committees Undermine Security at Federal Buildings" in Today's Headlines.)

♦ Photo by cliff1066™/Flickr