Security Protection:

Standardization Issues Regarding Protection of Executive Branch Officials

GGD/OSI-00-139: Published: Jul 11, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed security protection for selected officials from all of the civilian executive branches from fiscal years 1997 through 1999, focusing on: (1) how many federal government officials were protected, who protected them, and how many security personnel protected them; (2) the cost to protect these officials; (3) under what legal authorities were agencies providing security protection; (4) under what circumstances were officials protected; (5) how agencies were preparing threat assessments, and what are the implications of standardizing and centralizing threat assessments; (6) what training did protective personnel receive, and what the implications of standardizing and centralizing security protection training are; (7) the implications of centralizing protection services under one agency; and (8) the views of the protected officials regarding the need for and adequacy of their protection.

GAO noted that: (1) from fiscal years 1997 through 1999, agency security officials said that security protection was provided to officials holding 42 executive branch positions at 31 executive branch agencies; (2) the 42 officials were protected by personnel from 27 different agencies; (3) agencies reported that the number of full-time protective personnel increased by 73 percent from fiscal years 1997 through 1999; (4) the 27 agencies also reported spending a total of at least $73.7 million to protect those officials during that 3-year period; (5) only two agencies--the Secret Service and the Department of State--had specific authority to protect executive branch officials; (6) the other agencies relied on a variety of other authorities in providing protection to officials; (7) according to agencies with security protection as one of their primary missions, threat assessments form the basis for determining the need and scope of protection; (8) however, nearly three-fourths of the agencies that provided protection said they had not prepared detailed, written threat analyses justifying their decisions to apply certain levels of protection and expend resources; (9) most agencies favored establishing a central repository of protective intelligence to facilitate sharing of threat information about their officials; (10) security officials said the implications of establishing a central repository of protective intelligence to facilitate sharing of such information among agencies would involve a number of issues; (11) protective personnel from the agencies with security protection as one of their primary missions reported having more training than those employed by the other agencies; (12) most agencies favored establishing a standardized protection training program so that different agencies' protective personnel would be trained in the same procedures and would react in a similar manner in case of an emergency; (13) security officials at most of the agencies in GAO's review said they opposed centralizing security under one agency because it would be more effective to use the agencies' own personnel; (14) the implications of centralizing security protection governmentwide involves many issues; (15) GAO found that no single agency or official was responsible for handling issues relating to the routine protection of executive branch officials; and (16) this fragmentation of protective responsibilities among multiple executive branch agencies has implications regarding the functioning of government, in part, because 14 of the protected officials are in the line of presidential succession.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 2000, Congress enacted the Presidential Threat Protection Act (P.L. 106-544), which authorized the establishment of the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) as a unit within the U.S. Secret Service to facilitate information sharing among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with protective responsibilities. NTAC activities may include training, consultation on complex threat assessment cases or plans, threat assessment research and prevention of targeted violence, programs to promote standardization of threat assessment and investigations involving threats, and other activities necessary to implement a comprehensive threat assessment capability. No further action is anticipated.

    Matter: Once the Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has submitted his recommendations to Congress, Congress should consider enacting legislation that would provide whatever agency or agencies that provide protection with specific statutory authority to effectively carry out these responsibilities. In addition, should it be determined that centralized protection training, threat assessment, or protection services are appropriate, Congress should consider making the resources available to the appropriate agency or agencies that are designated to provide these services and provide any needed legislative changes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No further action is anticipated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as whether an official or group should be designated to oversee security protection issues for top executive branch officials on an ongoing basis.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No further action is anticipated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as whether the administration should adopt a policy regarding the routine protection of top executive branch officials.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No further action is anticipated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as whether agencies or offices of Inspectors General should be provided with specific statutory authority to provide protection, and whether the Marshals Service should continue to renew its deputation of agencies' protective personnel.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No further action is anticipated on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as whether security protection should be centralized under one agency or, if not, whether any changes in the way protection is being provided should be made.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secret Service now provides training on executive protection on a quarterly basis to interested agencies.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as what training should be provided to federal protective personnel, to what extent the training should be standardized, and who should provide it.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secret Service has taken the lead on executive protection after the National Threat Assessment Center was established. Through the Center and the Secret Service's Regional Information Sharing System, along with quarterly seminars sponsored by the Secret Service, agencies are better able to link threat assessments with protection levels given to top-level officials.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as how best to ensure that a clear linkage exists between the documented threat assessments and the need for and level of protection for the routine protection of top executive branch officials.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: After Congress established the National Threat Assessment Center, the Secret Service implemented a program to share intelligence on a government-wide basis and to prepare more uniform threat assessments.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, in consultation with the President, should designate an appropriate official or group to assess security protection issues for top-level federal officials. At a minimum, this assessment should include such issues as (1) how agencies can best obtain protective intelligence from governmentwide sources needed to prepare thorough threat assessments, including an assessment of whether a central protective intelligence repository should be established and, if so, who should administer it.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: With the establishment of the National Threat Assessment Center and the Regional Information Sharing System, the Secret Service has implemented most of the actions recommended in GAO's report. No further action is anticipated.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the benefits of this assessment are realized, the Director, OMB, should direct the individual or group conducting the assessment to produce an action plan that identifies any issues requiring congressional action.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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