Homeland Security:

Transformation Strategy Needed to Address Challenges Facing the Federal Protective Service

GAO-04-537: Published: Jul 14, 2004. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 2004.

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With responsibility for protecting thousands of federal facilities, the Federal Protective Service (FPS), which transferred from the General Services Administration (GSA) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2003, plays a critical role in the federal government's defense against the threat of terrorism and other criminal activity. GAO was asked to determine what challenges, if any, FPS faces now that it has been transferred from GSA to DHS.

FPS faces a number of significant challenges now that it has been transferred from GSA to DHS. These relate to its expanding mission and increased responsibility, unresolved issues about how it will be funded in the future, and the transfer of FPS mission-support functions to DHS. Expanding mission and increased responsibility: FPS has responsibility for securing approximately 8,800 GSA government-occupied facilities and as a result of the transfer, plans to take on additional DHS facilities. FPS might also seek authority to protect other federal facilities. FPS's mission has also expanded to include other homeland security functions, such as support for efforts to apprehend foreign nationals suspected of illegal activity. In light of these changes, however, FPS does not have a transformation strategy to address its expanding mission, as well as the other challenges it is facing. Unresolved issues related to funding: As part of GSA, FPS was funded from security fees that were included with tenant agencies' rent payments. It has not been decided if FPS will begin billing agencies. DHS believes that FPS lacks the authority to bill agencies for facility protection, but GSA disagrees with DHS. Also, GSA has historically covered a shortfall between the cost of security and security fees collected. In commenting on this report, DHS and GSA said that for fiscal year 2005 the President's budget includes an increase in the FPS security rate that, if enacted, will eliminate the shortfall. Related to funding, we also found that FPS's involvement in homeland security activities not directly related to facility protection is inconsistent with a requirement in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 that FPS funding from agency rents and fees be used solely for the protection of government buildings and grounds. Transfer of mission-support functions to DHS: FPS still relies on GSA for mission-support functions, such as travel services, payroll, and contracting support. DHS plans to assume these functions by the end of fiscal year 2004. However, assuming these functions prematurely could affect FPS's ability to accomplish its mission. For example, FPS relies heavily on contract guards and is dependent on GSA's contracting management software to write contracts, track costs, and make vendor payments.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should take immediate steps to ensure that funds collected from agency rents and fees are used in the future solely for the protection of buildings and grounds owned or occupied by the federal government. If FPS continues its involvement in activities not directly related to facility protection, a funding process would be needed that is consistent with the requirement regarding the use of funds from agency rents and fees. In addition, a means of tracking these activities and determining related costs would also be needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DHS, in September 2005, FPS issued guidance to its Regional Directors to not engage in activities not directly related to the protection of federal facilities unless a reimbursable agreement was in place. Also, according to DHS, FPS has instituted a procedure for tracking the cost associated with reimbursed services and the processing of the Security Work Authorizations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should initiate a dialogue with GSA aimed at resolving disagreement between DHS and GSA about whether FPS has the authority to bill GSA's tenant agencies for security services. If this issue cannot be resolved, DHS should seek resolution from OMB or the Treasury.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DHS has initiated a dialogue with GSA on this issue. However, according to DHS, the billing issue may not be completely resolved until 2007.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FPS--in consultation with the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement--to develop and implement a transformation strategy that reflects FPS's consideration of key practices and addresses the significant challenges it is facing. In particular, this strategy should identify implementation goals, measures, and a timeline that FPS could use to show progress toward its transformation and demonstrate that it is accomplishing its mission while undergoing changes. It should also link FPS's goals and measures to the broader goals and objectives contained in DHS's strategic plan and to DHS's ongoing integration efforts. In serving as a road map for FPS's transformation, such a strategy should be used by FPS as a platform to identify strategies and proposals for addressing the significant challenges that we identified--expanding mission and increased responsibility, unresolved issues related to funding, and mission-support challenges related to the eventual transfer of these functions from GSA to DHS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FPS has developed a strategic plan in response to our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that DHS is prepared to effectively integrate FPS mission-support functions before these functions are transferred from GSA, even if it is necessary to extend the September 2004 goal for the transfer.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DHS, the transition of support services from GSA to DHS was nearly complete in March 2005.

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