Homeland Security:

Federal Protective Service Could Better Measure the Performance of Its Control Centers

GAO-06-1076: Published: Sep 29, 2006. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2006.

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The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service (FPS) through its control centers (MegaCenters) helps provide for the security and protection of federally owned and leased facilities. This report (1) identifies the services MegaCenters provide, (2) determines how FPS assesses MegaCenter performance and whether FPS links MegaCenter performance measures to FPS-wide measures, and (3) examines how MegaCenters and selected organizations compare in the services they provide. To address these issues, GAO reviewed FPS's performance measures and past MegaCenter assessments, assessed the MegaCenters' performance measures, and interviewed officials and collected relevant information at FPS, the four MegaCenters, and nine selected security organizations.

FPS MegaCenters provide three primary security services--alarm monitoring, radio monitoring, and dispatching of FPS police officers and contract guards. These and other services are provided around the clock from four locations--Battle Creek, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Suitland, Maryland. With a fiscal year 2006 budget of $23.5 million, the MegaCenters monitor alarms at over 8,300 federal facilities, covering almost 381 million square feet, and have available for dispatch over 7,800 FPS police officers and contract guards. FPS MegaCenter managers assess MegaCenter operations through a variety of means, including reviewing data about volume and timeliness of operations, listening to and evaluating a sample of calls between operators and FPS police officers and contract guards, and receiving informal feedback about customer satisfaction. FPS managers have also developed performance measures for assessing MegaCenter operations. However, these measures are of limited use because they are not always clearly stated or measurable and do not address governmentwide priorities of efficiency, cost of service, and outcome--which are among the attributes that GAO has identified for successful performance measures. In addition, the MegaCenters do not measure a key activity--the time from alarm to officer dispatch--that would link MegaCenter performance to an FPS-wide performance measure. Without this measure, FPS is limited in its ability to evaluate the MegaCenters' contribution to the FPS-wide measure of response time. Nine selected security organizations--including federal and local police and private entities--offer some of the MegaCenters' services as well as provide and assess these services in a manner that is generally similar to the MegaCenters. Like the MegaCenters, many of the selected organizations have centralized their operations. They also use regular call reviews and volume and time measures to assess the quality of the services they provide. A major difference between the MegaCenters and some selected organizations is the use of a computer-aided dispatch system, which enables these organizations to automate many functions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2006, GAO reported that Federal Protective Service (FPS) managers have developed performance measures for assessing MegaCenter (control centers) operations. However, these measures were of limited use because they were not always clearly stated or measurable and do not address government wide priorities of efficiency, cost of service, and outcome--which are among the attributes that GAO has identified for successful performance measures. GAO recommended that FPS establish MegaCenter performance measures that meet the attributes of successful performance measures GAO has identified. In 2010, FPS developed and implemented performance measures to monitor MegaCenter operations. Specifically, FPS's performance measures are now measurable because they have quantifiable targets and are clearly stated because the methodology for calculating these targets are described in FPS's Performance Management Data Dictionary. As a result, FPS has the ability to compare performance across MegaCenters and identify shortfalls and target improvements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of the Federal Protective Service to establish MegaCenter performance measures that meet the attributes of successful performance measures we have identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Federal Protective Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2006, GAO reported that the MegaCenters (control centers) did not measure a key activity--the time from alarm to officer dispatch--that would link MegaCenter performance to an FPS-wide performance measure of response time. However, although data pertaining to this activity existed in the MegaCenters' records management system, they did not measure the timeliness of this activity, and FPS had not developed a performance measure that would identify the MegaCenters' contribution toward meeting FPS's measure. GAO recommended that FPS develop a performance measure for the MegaCenters that corresponded to the FPS-wide patrol and response time measure and covered the MegaCenters' operations, from alarm to dispatch. In 2010, FPS developed and implemented a performance measure and utilized available data to measure MegaCenters' response time from the receipt of a routine or emergency alarm until a dispatch call is made to a first responder. As a result, FPS can evaluate the MegaCenters contribution--from the alarm to officer's dispatch--to the FPS-wide measure for response time and identify opportunities for improvement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of the Federal Protective Service to develop a performance measure for the MegaCenters that is directly linked to the FPS-wide response time measure and covers the scope of the MegaCenters' operations, from alarm to dispatch.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Federal Protective Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2006, GAO reported that the MegaCenters (control centers) use various means to assess operations, but their performance measures have weaknesses and are not linked to Federal Protective Service-wide performance measures. GAO recommended that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) (1) establish MegaCenter performance measures that meet the attributes of successful performances and (2) develop a performance measure for the MegaCenters that corresponds to the FPS-wide performance measure of response time. In agency comments, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) generally agreed with the reports findings and recommendations. DHS indicated that FPS and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had undertaken a comprehensive review of the MegaCenters to identify, among other things, ways in which performance can be better measured. DHS noted that through this broad approach, FPS personnel would be able to generate and track the kind of information necessary to assess the MegaCenters' performance and therefore, develop appropriate performance measures. Based on DHS's comments, GAO concluded that FPS should not only establish appropriate performance measures, but also routinely assess performance using these measures. Therefore, GAO added a recommendation that FPS routinely assess the extent to which MegaCenters meet established performance measures. In 2010, FPS began regularly assessing and reporting on the extent to which MegaCenters meet establish performance measure targets. As a result, FPS is able to reliably assess MegaCenter performance overtime.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of the Federal Protective Service to routinely assess the extent to which the MegaCenters meet established performance measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Federal Protective Service

 

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