Security Protection:

Standardization Issues Regarding Protection of Executive Branch Officials

T-GGD/OSI-00-177: Published: Jul 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2000.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the security protection of executive branch officials in 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) how much did it 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 the implications of standardizing and centralizing threat assessments; (6) what training did protective personnel receive, and what are the implications of standardizing and centralizing security protection training; (7) what are the implications of centralizing protection services under one agency; and (8) what are 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 positions at 31 executive branch agencies; (2) these officials included all 14 cabinet secretaries, 4 deputy or under secretaries, and 24 other high-ranking officials (mainly heads of agencies); (3) the 42 officials were protected by personnel from 27 different agencies; (4) 36 officials were protected by personnel from their own agencies or departments, and 6 officials were protected by personnel from other agencies or departments, such as the Secret Service and the Marshals Service; (5) agencies reported that the number of full-time protective personnel increased by 73 percent in fiscal years 1997 through 1999; (6) the 27 agencies also reported spending a total of at least $73.7 million to protect the officials holding the 42 positions during that 3-year period; (7) only two agencies--the Secret Service and the Department of State--had specific statutory authority to protect executive branch officials; (8) the other agencies relied on a variety of other authorities in providing protection to officials, such as having their protective personnel deputized by the Marshals Service to provide them with law enforcement authority; (9) agencies reported that their officials received different levels and frequencies of protection and that protection was needed to respond to possible and actual threats; (10) the agencies reported that their protective personnel received different amounts of protection training and from different sources; (11) the issue of centralizing security protection governmentwide has many implications, including who would decide who is to be protected and the level of protection to be provided, who would provide the services, whether Congress would need to grant statutory authorities, and whether centralization would be a more cost-efficient and effective way of providing these services than the current decentralized approach; (12) GAO contacted protected officials in its review to ask them for their views about their protection and about security protection standardization issues; and (13) those officials who responded to GAO's queries generally said that they were satisfied with their protection and would like to continue with the current arrangements.

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