Examining the Federal Protective Service: Are Federal Facilities Secure?
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Hearing on “Examining the Federal Protective Service: Are Federal Facilities Secure?”
May 21, 2014
(Remarks as Prepared)
Today we are examining the Federal Protective Service and the security of our federal buildings and facilities. FPS, with 1,300 personnel including law enforcement officers and nearly 14,000 contract guards, is charged with protecting over 9,000 federal buildings and facilities across the Nation owned or leased by the General Services Administration. While FPS it not responsible for all federal facilities, its role is central to protecting federal workers and visitors to federal buildings nationwide.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our country has taken steps to prevent and be better prepared for terrorism and other threats. And, unfortunately, public buildings are proven targets. Whether because of their symbolism or because of the number of federal employees and visitors that use these facilities, the threat to federal buildings has a long history.
In 1995, Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators used a truck filled with homemade explosives to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children. In 2010, Andrew Stack targeted a building in Austin, Texas, housing 200 IRS employees by crashing a small plane into the building. Active shooter incidents have been an ongoing threat as well, including shootings at the Navy Yard here in Washington, D.C., Fort Hood in Texas, the U.S. Capitol building, and the United States Holocaust Museum.
Because of these clear threats and the steps taken since the Oklahoma City bombing, we should have – nearly 20 years later – significantly improved the security of public buildings.
Unfortunately, problems persist. Over the past five years, the Government Accountability Office and others continue to identify very real deficiencies.
Penetration testing done by the GAO and FPS has revealed fake bomb components, knives, and guns have been secreted past security. The oversight of contract guards and their training needs improvement and, while the guards are armed, they lack training and clear direction on active shooter situations. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are patchy, raising questions as to whether state and local law enforcement agencies are clear on their authority to respond to incidents on federal property. The facility risk assessments conducted on federal buildings to help identify their risks and needed security measures are behind schedule and sometimes ignored by customer agencies.
And, on top of all of this, confidence in FPS may be eroding. Just this month, DHS has taken steps to remove FPS from overseeing security at its Nebraska Avenue Complex.
But we should also put all of this in context. The reality is building security is difficult. If it were not, these problems would have easily been resolved years ago. We have seen that even with the best security, there is still a risk a terrorist could be successful.
And there have been improvements, including FPS’s revamping of its risk assessments, improved partnerships with local law enforcement, particularly here in the Nation’s capital, and a strengthened working relationship with GSA.
Today, I hope this can be a productive hearing. We need to understand the challenges and problems, but we also want to hear solutions. Ultimately, whether it’s the members of the public or federal workers, those who come to federal buildings must have confidence we are doing all we can to protect them.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.
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