General Services Administration:

Many Building Security Upgrades Made But Problems Have Hindered Program Implementation

T-GGD-98-141: Published: Jun 4, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1998.

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GAO discussed the General Services Administration's (GSA) progress in upgrading the security of federal buildings under its operation, focusing on: (1) what criteria GSA used to assess security risks and prioritize security upgrades for its buildings; (2) the implementation and operational status of GSA's security upgrade program and the costs GSA has incurred by both funding source and type of security upgrade; and (3) whether any problems have hindered GSA's implementation of the security upgrade program.

GAO noted that: (1) GSA used the Department of Justice (DOJ) report's criteria to assess risks and prioritize security upgrades in its buildings; (2) despite the formidable challenges posed by this program, GSA has made progress implementing upgrades in federal buildings throughout the country, particularly in its higher risk buildings; (3) GSA's data systems indicate that about 7,000 upgrades were completed and it estimates that roughly $353 million were obligated from the Federal Buildings Fund for the upgrade program nationally between October 1, 1995, and March 31, 1998; (4) however, mistakes made by rushing to meet the timetables in the DOJ report because of GSA's sense of urgency to upgrade security in its buildings, reduced staffing due to downsizing, data reliability problems, and uncertain funding sources have hindered GSA's upgrade program implementation; (5) because of data reliability problems, neither GSA nor GAO can specify the exact status or cost of the building security upgrade program, and because GSA has not established program outcome measures, neither GSA nor GAO knows the extent to which completed upgrades have resulted in greater security or reduced vulnerability for federal office buildings; and (6) GSA is not in a good position to manage its program to mitigate security threats.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA advised GAO that it has completed final action on this recommendation by approving outcome-oriented performance measure and customer satisfaction surveys.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, GSA, should direct the Commissioner of PBS to develop outcome-oriented goals and measures for its security program, identify security program evaluations to be done and implement them as appropriate, and identify the means by which the Federal Protective Service will verify and validate measurement data related to security program goals in GSA's annual performance plan for 2000.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA considers this recommendation implemented and closed. GAO's recommendation did not specifically say that GSA should complete agreements with OMB beyond fiscal year 2001. GSA said they did complete agreements with OMB for fiscal year 2001, and it considers the recommendation closed. GAO should as well.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, GSA, should direct the Commissioner of PBS to complete agreements with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the most appropriate means of providing sufficient funding for the security of GSA-operated buildings at the minimum standard levels recommended by the DOJ report.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA advised GAO that it had begun a review of each facility. All buildings scheduled to be completed by March 30, 1999. This action has been completed as planned.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, GSA, should direct the Commissioner of PBS to review all GSA buildings to ensure that security evaluations have been completed.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA is reviewing all security measures recorded in the security upgrade tracking system and is making the necessary corrections. In addition, it is reviewing all security upgrade obligations to ensure that they are accurately recorded in the GSA financial system, NEAR. GSA advised GAO that these tasks will be completed by March 30, 1999 for all buildings. According to GAO's work and testimony (October 7, 1999), on the follow-up assignment, these actions have been completed.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, GSA, should direct the Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service (PBS) to correct the data in GSA's upgrade tracking and accounting systems and institute procedures to accurately record approved and completed upgrades in the upgrade tracking system and accurately record obligations incurred for security upgrades in the accounting system.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On September 22, 2000, the GSA Audit Liaison provided information showing that the entire Federal Security Risk Management process had been refined and automated. He also noted that personnel using the new system have all been trained on using the new system. Also, the Building Security Assessment Program has been re-established and buildings are now being reassessed in accordance with the new guidelines.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, GSA, should direct the Commissioner of PBS to complete the internally recommended review of GSA's current security risk assessment methodology, and once the appropriate risk assessment methodology is determined, resume GSA's program of periodic building security inspections by GSA physical security specialists.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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