Federal Protective Service:

Preliminary Results on Efforts to Assess Facility Risks and Oversee Contract Guards

GAO-12-943T: Published: Jul 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2012.

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Mark L. Goldstein
(202) 512-2834


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

GAO’s preliminary results indicate that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Protective Service (FPS) is not assessing risks at federal facilities in a manner consistent with standards such as the National Infrastructure Protection Plan’s (NIPP) risk management framework, as FPS originally planned. Instead of conducting risk assessments, since September 2011, FPS’s inspectors have collected information, such as the location, purpose, agency contacts, and current countermeasures (e.g., perimeter security, access controls, and closed-circuit television systems). This information notwithstanding, FPS has a backlog of federal facilities that have not been ssessed for several years. According to FPS’s data, more than 5,000 facilities were to be assessed in fiscal years 2010 through 2012. However, GAO was not able to determine the extent of FPS’s facility security assessment (FSA) backlog because the data were unreliable. Multiple agencies have expended resources to conduct risk assessments, even though they also already pay FPS for this service.

FPS has an interim vulnerability assessment tool, referred to as the Modified Infrastructure Survey Tool (MIST), which it plans to use to assess federal facilities until it develops a longer-term solution. In developing MIST, FPS generally followed GAO’s project management best practices, such as conducting user acceptance testing. However, our preliminary analysis indicates that MIST has some limitations. Most notably, MIST does not estimate the consequences of an undesirable event occurring at a facility. Three of the four risk assessment experts GAO spoke with generally agreed that a tool that does not estimate consequences does not allow an agency to fully assess risks. FPS officials stated that they did not include consequence information in MIST because it was not part of the original design and thus requires more time to validate. MIST also was not designed to compare risks across federal facilities. Thus, FPS has limited assurance that critical risks at federal facilities are being prioritized and mitigated.

GAO’s preliminary work indicates that FPS continues to face challenges in overseeing its approximately 12,500 contract guards. FPS developed the Risk Assessment and Management Program (RAMP) to help it oversee its contract guard workforce by verifying that guards are trained and certified and for conducting guard post inspections. However, FPS faced challenges using RAMP for guard oversight, such as verifying guard training and certification information, and has recently determined that it would no longer use RAMP. Without a comprehensive system, it is more difficult for FPS to oversee its contract guard workforce. FPS is verifying guard certification and training information by conducting monthly audits of guard information maintained by guard contractors. However, FPS does not independently verify the contractor’s information. Additionally, according to FPS officials, FPS recently decided to deploy a new interim method to record post inspections that replaces RAMP.

Why GAO Did This Study

FPS provides security and law enforcement services to over 9,000 federal facilities managed by the General Services Administration (GSA). GAO has reported that FPS faces challenges providing security services, particularly completing FSAs and managing its contract guard program. To address these challenges, FPS spent about $35 million and 4 years developing RAMP—essentially a risk assessment and guard oversight tool. However, RAMP ultimately could not be used to do either because of system problems.

This testimony is based on preliminary work for the Chairman and discusses the extent to which FPS is (1) completing risk assessments, (2) developing a tool to complete FSAs, and (3) managing its contract guard workforce. GAO reviewed FPS documents, conducted site visits at 3 of FPS’s 11 regions and interviewed officials from FPS, Argonne National Laboratory, GSA, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Highway Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and guard companies; as well as 4 risk management experts.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations in this testimony. GAO plans to finalize its analysis and report to the Chairman in August 2012, including recommendations. GAO discussed the information in this statement with FPS and incorporated technical comments as appropriate.

For more information, contact Mark L. Goldstein at (202) 512-2834 or goldsteinm@gao.gov

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