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Federal Protective Service Building Security Agency's Workforce Plan Questioned
by Federal Protective Service FCGOA NEWS Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2010 at 2:06 AM
The Federal Protective Service agency has an annual budget of roughly $1 billion, and employs 1,225 full-time workers and 15,000 contract security guards at more than 2,300 federal facilities nationwide
The Federal Protective Service is preparing to conduct a detailed workforce analysis to map out a long-term staffing structure for the beleaguered security agency, but a federal watchdog is warning the plan could face several logistical challenges.
In an interim briefing provided last month to House and Senate lawmakers and released publicly on Monday, the Government Accountability Office suggested that plans to potentially ramp up the size of the FPS workforce could be impaired by a lack of funding, insufficient performance metrics and a sluggish hiring process.
In the wake of a pair of damaging GAO reports that exposed gaps in the security of several federal facilities -- and led to the resignation of the agency's director -- FPS is conducting an analysis to determine the feasibility of insourcing some or all of the contract guard workforce.
The agency has an annual budget of roughly $1 billion, and employs 1,225 full-time workers and 15,000 contract security guards at more than 2,300 federal facilities nationwide
But, it's not clear how FPS -- a Homeland Security Department component that charges federal agencies for its services -- would pay for such a massive staffing increase.
"FPS' security fee has increased over 100 percent since its transfer to DHS, and FPS customers are already concerned about cost and quality of security," the report stated. It also noted, "FPS did not request additional funding in its fiscal year 2011 budget."
The agency's efforts last year to gradually expand the size of its workforce were not promising, GAO said. FPS "recently experienced difficulties" while hiring 180 new inspectors, many of whom still lack the requisite training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the report said.
FPS transferred in October 2009 from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau to DHS' National Protection and Programs Directorate. At the time, FPS pledged to "create a robust workforce staffing model that is scalable based on changes in risk, threat and consequence."
The model, which contains elements of the staffing structures used by other federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service and the Secret Service, would provide the basis for staffing recommendations in future budget requests.
FPS completed a plan for conducting the analysis in January. DHS officials are now reviewing it. Once department officials have reached consensus, the analysis will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget for final approval. It is not clear when the plan will be finalized or formally released.
But GAO suggested the analysis, which incorporates commonly used industry practices, could be fundamentally flawed.
"We found there are no widely used established criteria, formulas, or standards for determining the size of law enforcement and physical security workforces," the report said. "However, officials in most organizations we spoke with told us that budget ultimately drives staffing decisions and is the primary consideration when making these decisions."
It will be hard to determine the accuracy of FPS' workload analysis because it will rely on questionable data sources, investigators said. GAO has previously reported that FPS does not accurately track key activities such as facility assessments and guard inspections. And historical data might be of little use, because a new automated risk assessment and management program could allow staffers to perform certain activities significantly more quickly, the report said.
Despite the concerns, DHS officials expect the workforce plan to proceed smoothly.
"FPS leadership is optimistic that implementation of the plan will face fewer potential challenges than the GAO envisions in its analysis," wrote Rand Beers, undersecretary for NPPD, in response to the report. "The plan's development and review processes have afforded FPS a valuable opportunity to identify, analyze and address anticipated challenges, including the six potential challenges enumerated in the GAO briefing materials: funding, data quality, performance measures, human capital planning, hiring processes and training."
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