Homeland Security:

Federal Protective Service Should Improve Human Capital Planning and Better Communicate with Tenants

GAO-09-749: Published: Jul 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2009.

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The Federal Protective Service (FPS), as part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for providing security services to about 9,000 federal facilities. In recent years, FPS downsized its workforce from 1,400 to about 1,000 full-time employees. In 2008, GAO expressed concerns about the impact that downsizing had on FPS's mission, and in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 Congress mandated FPS maintain no fewer than 1,200 employees. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) FPS has hired and trained new staff to address its mandated staffing levels, (2) FPS has developed a strategic human capital plan to manage its current and future workforce needs, and (3) FPS's customers are satisfied with the services it provides. To address these objectives, we reviewed relevant laws and documents, interviewed officials from FPS and other federal agencies, and conducted a generalizable survey of FPS's customers.

FPS did not meet its fiscal year 2008 mandated deadline of increasing its staffing level to no fewer than 1,200 full-time employees by July 31, 2008. This same mandate relating to FPS's staffing was included in DHS's fiscal year 2009 appropriations act. Although FPS currently has over 1,200 employees on board, it did not meet this mandate until April 2009, because of challenges in shifting its priorities from downsizing its workforce to increasing it, inexperience working with DHS's hiring processes, and delays in the candidate screening process. Also, not all of FPS's new law enforcement security officers have completed all required training. According to FPS officials, it expects to have all new hires fully trained by September 2009. FPS does not have a strategic human capital plan to guide its current and future workforce planning efforts, including effective processes for training, retention, and staff development. Instead, FPS has developed a short-term hiring plan that does not include key human capital principles, such as determining an agency's optimum staffing needs. The lack of a human capital plan has contributed to inconsistent approaches in how FPS regions and headquarters are managing human capital activities. For example, FPS officials in some of the regions GAO visited said they implement their own procedures for managing their workforce, including processes for performance feedback, training, and mentoring. Additionally, FPS does not collect data on its workforce's knowledge, skills, and abilities. These elements are necessary for successful workforce planning activities, such as identifying and filling skill gaps and succession planning. FPS is working on developing and implementing a data management system that will provide it with these data, but this system has experienced significant delays and will not be available for use until 2011 at the earliest. On the basis of GAO's generalizable survey of FPS customers, customers had mixed views about some of the services they pay FPS to provide. Survey results showed that 58 percent were satisfied, 7 percent were dissatisfied, 18 percent were neutral, and 17 percent were not able to comment on FPS's overall services. The survey also showed that many of FPS's customers did not rely on FPS for services. For example, in emergency situations, about 82 percent of FPS's customers primarily rely on other agencies such as local law enforcement, while 18 percent rely on FPS. The survey also suggests that the roles and responsibilities of FPS and its customers are unclear, primarily because on average about one-third of FPS's customers, i.e., tenant agencies, could not comment on how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with FPS's level of communication on its services, partly because they had little to no interaction with FPS officers. Although FPS plans to implement education and outreach initiatives to improve customer service, it will face challenges because of its lack of complete and accurate contact data. Complete and accurate contact information for its customers is critical for information sharing and an essential component of any customer service initiative.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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: To improve service to all of its customers, FPS should collect and maintain an accurate and comprehensive list of all facility-designated points of contact, as well as a system for regularly updating this list.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We reported in 2009 that although the Federal Protective Service (FPS) is responsible for protecting over 9,000 federal facilities, it does not have complete and accurate customer contact data. During the course of our review, we found that approximately 53 percent of the e-mail addresses and 27 percent of the telephone numbers for designated points of contacts were missing from FPS's contact database. Complete and accurate contact information for its customers is critical for information sharing and an essential component of any customer service initiative. Thus, we recommended that FPS collect and maintain an accurate and comprehensive list of all facility designated points of contact, as well as a system for regularly updating this list. In March 2013, FPS reported that it is working with the General Services Administration and tenant agencies to collect and maintain point of contact information for each of its 9,000 facilities. FPS's efforts to improve the accuracy of its contact information should, among other things, enhance the agency's ability to notify designated agency officials in the event of an emergency at their facility.

    Recommendation: To facilitate effective strategic management of its workforce, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FPS to use these data in the development and implementation of a long-term strategic human capital plan that addresses key principles for effective strategic workforce planning, including establishing programs, policies, and practices that will enable the agency to recruit, develop, and retain a qualified workforce.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We reported in 2009 that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) does not have a strategic human capital plan to guide its current and future workforce planning efforts, including effective processes for training, retention, and staff development. The lack of a human capital plan has contributed to inconsistent approaches in how FPS regions and headquarters are managing human capital activities. For example, FPS officials in some of the regions GAO visited said they implement their own procedures for managing their workforce, including processes for performance feedback, training, and mentoring. These elements are necessary for successful workforce planning activities, such as identifying and filling skill gaps and succession planning. Thus, we recommended that FPS develop and implement a strategic human capital plan that addresses key principles for effective strategic workforce planning. In October 2012, FPS issued its Interim Strategic Human Capital Plan that, among other things, addresses workforce planning, knowledge, and management. As a result, FPS is in a better position to begin aligning its personnel with its programmatic goals.

    Recommendation: To facilitate effective strategic management of its workforce, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FPS to improve how FPS headquarters collects data on its workforce's knowledge, skills, and abilities to help it better manage and understand current and future workforce needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2009, we reported that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) does not collect data on its workforce's knowledge, skills, and abilities. Consequently, FPS cannot determine what its optimal staffing levels should be or identify gaps in its workforce needs and determine how to modify its workforce planning strategies to fill these gaps. Effective workforce planning requires consistent agencywide data on the critical skills needed to achieve current and future programmatic goals and objectives. In response to our recommendation that FPS improve how the agency collects workforce data, in October 2012, FPS issued its Interim Strategic Human Capital Plan reinforces the importance of the collection of workforce data. FPS also requires the development of individual development and career development plans that will provide the details needed to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities of its staff. Thus, FPS is in a better position to collect workforce data to determine the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic goals.

    Recommendation: To improve service to all of its customers, FPS should develop and implement a program for education and outreach to all customers to ensure they are aware of the current roles, responsibilities, and services provided by FPS.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We reported in 2009 that the Federal Protective Service (FPS) customers spent approximately $187 million in fiscal year 2008 for physical security and law enforcement services. However, our generalizable survey of FPS customers, showed that a majority of the customers are unaware of or do not use the services they are paying FPS to provide. For example, about 82 percent of FPS's customers primarily rely on other agencies such as local law enforcement as their primary provider in emergency situations. Our survey also found that many FPS customers were also unclear of its roles and responsibilities. Thus, we recommended that FPS develop and implement a program for education and outreach to all customers to ensure they are aware of the current roles, responsibilities, and services provided by FPS. In January 2013, FPS appointed a Policy and Planning Directorate who developed and implemented an outreach strategy for ensuring that FPS's clients and stakeholders are aware of the agency's current roles, responsibilities, and services. As a result, FPS's customers will have a better understanding of FPS's services.

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