Federal Judicial Security:

Comprehensive Risk-Based Program Should Be Fully Implemented

GGD-94-112: Published: Jul 14, 1994. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's efforts to ensure the security of its judicial personnel, focusing on: (1) the risks judges and other judicial personnel face in their work environment; (2) the administrative structure, policies, and procedures for providing judicial security; and (3) whether changes are needed to security management responsibilities.

GAO found that: (1) the working environment for judges and federal judicial personnel is becoming increasingly dangerous; (2) although district marshal officials believe judicial personnel are generally secure within and around judicial facilities, they believe that judicial personnel are less secure away from these facilities; (3) most judges view judicial facility security as adequate and are more concerned with off-site security; (4) many key aspects of the judicial security program have not been fully implemented; (5) the Marshals Service has not established a representative and security committee for each federal judicial district, completed the necessary judicial facility security surveys, or implemented a national security database to effectively manage security resources and programs; (6) the judicial security program is not comprehensive, since it does not evaluate off-site security issues; (7) the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Marshals Service lack effective coordination in their security surveys and plans; (8) the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) and the Judicial Conference have not systematically overseen and effectively monitored the security program and the use of appropriated funds; and (9) any fundamental changes in security management responsibilities should be deferred until the comprehensive security program is implemented.

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 ensure that the comprehensive security program is fully and consistently implemented in each of the nation's judicial districts, the Attorney General should have the Director of the Marshals Service update the Court Security Division's operating manual to include: (1) procedures for establishing and operating district security committees and preparing and updating security surveys and plans; and (2) requirements for uniform, comprehensive formats for security surveys and plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service's revised Court Security Division operating manual includes requirements and assigns responsibility for: (1) establishing and operating district security committees; (2) preparing and updating security surveys and plans; and (3) using uniform, comprehensive formats for security surveys and plans. These requirements were reiterated and detailed in supplemental correspondence from the Service's Director to all Marshals and Chief Deputy Marshals. In addition, the Service issued a policy notice containing uniform comprehensive formats for judicial security surveys and plans. The AOUSC also sent correspondence to all chief judges urging them to hold district court security committee meetings.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the comprehensive security program is fully and consistently implemented in each of the nation's judicial districts, the Attorney General should have the Director of the Marshals Service, in consultation with AOUSC and the Judicial Conference, reiterate to district marshals the 1982 task force recommendations and expectations that security committees be established in every district and that they include all parties specified by the task force and the Judicial Conference, and establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure that these committees play an integral role in district security activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service's revised Court Security Division operating manual includes requirements and assigns responsibility for establishing and operating district court security committees. Also, in supplemental correspondence to all Marshals and Chief Deputy Marshals, the Service's Director: (1) reiterated the 1982 Task Force recommendations and the importance of regular security committee meetings; (2) instructed them to meet with their respective chief judges to strongly encourage regular meetings; and (3) initiated a requirement for bi-annual reporting of committee meetings to the Court Security Division using a standard summary report. In addition, AOUSC sent correspondence to all chief judges urging them to hold court security committee meetings.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the comprehensive security program is fully and consistently implemented in each of the nation's judicial districts, the Attorney General should have the Director of the Marshals Service, in consultation with AOUSC and the Judicial Conference, incorporate consideration of off-site security needs into district security surveys and plans, using risk-management principles to identify, evaluate, and prioritize such needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service initiated an off-site security project to determine security needs and develop recommendations. In September 1995, the Service submitted a proposal to AOUSC and the Judicial Conference Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities with recommendations for minimum levels of off-site security and related cost estimates. The Judicial Conference approved the funding of cellular phones for federal judges for security and official business purposes but did not recommend the funding of residential security systems and equipment for judges except temporally where an identified threat is present. The Marshals Service also agreed upon request to conduct residential security surveys for judges and advise them in the purchase of priority funded systems.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and the Administrator of General Services should, in consultation with AOUSC and the Judicial Conference, resolve the differences between the Marshals Service and GSA regarding building entrance and perimeter security needs and responsibilities, revising as necessary the 1987 memorandum of agreement (MOA).

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service and GSA conducted a survey of all multi-tenant facilities to determine the number housing court operations, determine how best to deploy Court Security Officers and Federal Protective Service personnel, and limit the number of entrances. Recommendations were included in DOJ's Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, issued in June, 1995. This document established the Marshals Service as the determiner of ingress/egress for all facilities housing court operations.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and the Administrator of General Services should, in consultation with AOUSC and the Judicial Conference, resolve the differences between the Marshals Service and GSA regarding building entrance and perimeter security needs and responsibilities, revising as necessary the 1987 memorandum of agreement (MOA).

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service and GSA conducted a survey of all multi-tenant facilities to determine the number housing court operations, determine how best to deploy Court Security Officers and Federal Protective Service personnel, and limit the number of entrances. Recommendations were included in DOJ's Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, issued in June, 1995. This document established the Marshals Service as the determiner of ingress/egress for all facilities housing court operations.

    Recommendation: To enhance judicial branch input into judicial security matters, the Director, AOUSC, should take whatever measures are necessary to enable AOUSC to systematically monitor and oversee the effectiveness of the comprehensive judicial security program and the use of appropriated funds as envisioned by the 1982 task force and required by the 1987 MOA.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Per AOUSC officials, staffing of AOUSC's Court Security Office has been increased to provide an enhanced level of program oversight for the Judiciary's Court Security program. The new positions include a budget analyst and two physical security specialists. In addition, a new chief of the office, with an extensive background in federal law enforcement, has been appointed. Also, AOUSC recently contracted for an audit survey of the financial procedures employed by USMS to track the funds transferred by the Judiciary in support of its court security program. In addition, for fiscal year 1996, AOUSC is amending its procedures for transferring funds to USMS to allow the transfer in quarterly allotments or on an as-needed basis. Finally, the Court Security Office is developing an automated inventory of the security systems and equipment purchased by USMS with Judiciary appropriations.

    Recommendation: To enhance judicial branch input into judicial security matters, the Director, AOUSC, should, in consultation with the Marshals Service and GSA, report annually to the Judicial Conference on the results of AOUSC monitoring and oversight activities and its recommendations for resolving any problems.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Judicial Conference Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities meets twice each year to address, among other things, the provision of security-related services to the federal judiciary and the expenditure of Judiciary appropriations for this purpose. AOUSC staff are responsible for developing agenda items and making recommendations for the Committee's consideration. They also work with the Marshals Service and the General Services Administration in implementing the Committee's policies. The area of program oversight and AOUSC actions to improve its monitoring of the security program are routinely placed on the agenda for the meetings of the Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities and included in its biannual report to the Judicial Conference.

    Recommendation: The Committee on Security, Space and Facilities should develop additional policy guidance on judicial security matters for consideration by the Judicial Conference, including the reporting of threats, the role of district security committees, cooperation with the Marshals Service and GSA, and the provision and funding of general off-site security equipment.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States: Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to AOUSC, the Judicial Conference Committee on Security, Space, and Facilities continuously reviews the judiciary's policies in the security area and makes recommendations to improve operations. The Committee has adopted a staffing methodology for court security officers to ensure that every facility has the appropriate number of positions. It also worked with the Marshals Service to energize the district court security committees, and with the Service and the General Services Administration to implement the recommendations in the Justice Department's Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities. The Judicial Conference approved the funding of cellular phones for federal judges for security and official business purposes. However, it did not recommend the funding of residential security systems and equipment for judges except temporarily where there is an identified threat.

    Recommendation: To improve coordination and cooperation among the parties to the MOA, the Attorney General, the Director, AOUSC, and the Administrator of General Services should direct security officials of the Marshals Service, AOUSC, and GSA, respectively, to: (1) periodically meet at the national level to discuss progress and problems in implementing a comprehensive judicial security program and address any problems and issues; and (2) sponsor periodic regional meetings to foster interchange among the agencies' key district officials involved in judicial security matters and to discuss and resolve key issues.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September, 1993, the Attorney General and the Judicial Conference formed the Security and Facilities Working Group, chaired by the Deputy Attorney General. The group, which was formed to improve coordination and communication between the Judiciary and the Executive Branch and address common problems and concerns, has met several times. In addition, a subcommittee meets more frequently to further address security issues. USMS has directed its Circuit Court Security Inspectors to meet periodically with the Circuit Executives and regional GSA officials to discuss security concerns and to help ensure full cooperation in their resolution. Following the April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, the President established an Interagency Security Committee consisting of representatives from the cabinet-level agencies. The Judiciary has authorized and directed AOUSC staff to represent it on the interagency committee.

    Recommendation: To improve coordination and cooperation among the parties to the MOA, the Attorney General, the Director, AOUSC, and the Administrator of General Services should direct security officials of the Marshals Service, AOUSC, and GSA, respectively, to: (1) periodically meet at the national level to discuss progress and problems in implementing a comprehensive judicial security program and address any problems and issues; and (2) sponsor periodic regional meetings to foster interchange among the agencies' key district officials involved in judicial security matters and to discuss and resolve key issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September, 1993, the Attorney General and the Judicial Conference formed the Security and Facilities Working Group, chaired by the Deputy Attorney General. The group, which was formed to improve coordination and communication between the Judiciary and the Executive Branch and address common problems and concerns, has met several times. In addition, a subcommittee meets more frequently to further address security issues. USMS has directed its Circuit Court Security Inspectors to meet periodically with the Circuit Executives and regional GSA officials to discuss security concerns and to help ensure full cooperation in their resolution. Following the April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, the President established an Interagency Security Committee consisting of representatives from the cabinet-level agencies. The Judiciary has authorized and directed AOUSC staff to represent it on the interagency committee.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct that the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, working with AOUSC and the Judicial Conference, encourage judges and other judicial personnel to report to the Marshals Service all threats by explaining the definition and the process for and importance of reporting threat information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service published an official definition in the USMS Policy and Procedures Manual. Also, USMS continually reinforces to judges through various forums the importance and necessity of reporting not only threats but all inappropriate communications to the local U.S. Marshal's office. For example, USMS has incorporated the definition of judicial threats, procedures to be followed in reporting them, and the importance of such reporting--even when in doubt--in its Security Awareness and Orientation Program for the judiciary and family members. This program is presented by the Court Security Division at all circuit conferences, national workshops sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center, and also at the district level.

    Recommendation: To improve coordination and cooperation among the parties to the MOA, the Attorney General, the Director, AOUSC, and the Administrator of General Services should direct security officials of the Marshals Service, AOUSC, and GSA, respectively, to: (1) periodically meet at the national level to discuss progress and problems in implementing a comprehensive judicial security program and address any problems and issues; and (2) sponsor periodic regional meetings to foster interchange among the agencies' key district officials involved in judicial security matters and to discuss and resolve key issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September, 1993, the Attorney General and the Judicial Conference formed the Security and Facilities Working Group, chaired by the Deputy Attorney General. The group, which was formed to improve coordination and communication between the Judiciary and the Executive Branch and address common problems and concerns, has met several times. In addition, a subcommittee meets more frequently to further address security issues. USMS has directed its Circuit Court Security Inspectors to meet periodically with the Circuit Executives and regional GSA officials to discuss security concerns and to help ensure full cooperation in their resolution. Following the April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, the President established an Interagency Security Committee consisting of representatives from the cabinet-level agencies. The Judiciary has authorized and directed AOUSC staff to represent it on the interagency committee.

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