Skip to Highlights
Highlights

The September 11 terrorist attacks have heightened concerns about the security of the nation's icons and parks, which millions of people visit every year. The National Park Service (Park Service) within the Department of the Interior (Interior) is responsible for securing nearly 400 park units that include icons and other parks. In 2004, GAO identified a set of key protection practices that include: allocating resources using risk management, leveraging technology, information sharing and coordination, performance measurement and testing, and strategic management of human capital. As requested, GAO determined whether the Park Service's security efforts for national icons and parks reflected key practices. To meet this objective, GAO used its key practices as criteria, reviewed five icons and parks to gain firsthand knowledge, analyzed Interior documents, and interviewed Interior officials.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with Office of Law Enforcement and Security (OLES), to develop and implement a more comprehensive, routine risk management approach for security that encompasses the Park Service's vast inventory of icons and parks, including developing guidance, standards, and procedures for conducting risk assessments at the icon and park level and for using the results to inform resource allocation decisions at the national, regional, icon, and park levels.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. Related to risk management, we recommended that Park Service develop and implement a more comprehensive, routine risk management approach for security that encompasses the Park's Service's vast inventory of icons and parks, including developing guidance, standards, and procedures for conducting risk assessments at the icon and park level and for using the results to inform resource allocation decisions at the national, regional, icon, and park levels. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation. These include (1) comprehensive assessments of several national icons, (2) improvements to the U.S. Park Police's approach to allocating resources through reorganization and the creation of a Homeland Security Division, and (3) an effort to designate security level classifications for the Park Service's 24,000 facilities to improve risk management decision making. Furthermore, according to the Park Service, cooperative efforts between the departments of Interior and Homeland Security have highlighted risk mitigation goals, objectives, and priorities for national icons and parks, and have significantly contributed to the goal of developing a more comprehensive risk management approach for security at the Park Service. Overall, these actions better equip the Park Service to use risk management to protect national icons and parks, as well as the people who visit them.
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with OLES, to develop and implement guidance and standards for leveraging security technology, including how to assess the costs and benefits of countermeasure alternatives while taking into account risk management results.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. Related to technology, we recommended that the Park Service develop and implement guidance and standards for leveraging security technology, including how to assess the costs and benefits of countermeasure alternatives while taking into account risk management results. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation, including (1) the provision of formalized consultation to national icon and park staff on technology matters by its Intelligence and Security Manager, (2) collaboration with external organizations to build a repository of information on existing and emerging technologies and standards, (3) establishment of a liaison with the Transportation Security Laboratories to identify screening technologies used by the Transportation Security Administration which will in turn inform Park Service procurement decisions, and (4) with regard to cost, research and analysis on the benefits of leasing security equipment versus purchasing to maintain cutting edge technology. Collectively, these actions meet the intent of our recommendation to improve Park Service security managers' capabilities, regarding technology, through better guidance and direction.
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with OLES, to develop and implement an internal communications strategy for security to address coordination gaps, including a timeline for the development of a servicewide Web portal for security.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. Related to internal communication, we recommended that the Park Service develop and implement an internal communication strategy for security to address coordination gaps, including a timeline for the development of a Web portal for security. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation, including (1) establishment of an Icon Protection Council to provide a forum and method for effective internal communication, (2) monthly suspicious activity reports, and (3) sharing of information obtained through the Park Service's representation on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force. Park Service officials said that while they have not developed a web portal, they have been able to utilize other available web portals hosted by FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to achieve the same purpose. These improvements meet the intent of our recommendation related to internal communication and will enhance the Park Service's capabilities with regard to national icon and park protection.
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with OLES, to develop and implement a servicewide performance management and testing program that includes specific measures and an evaluation component, which can be used to inform broader risk management decision-making and to assess security performance.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. With regard to measuring performance, we recommended that the Park Service develop and implement a performance management and testing program that includes specific measures and an evaluation component, which can be used to inform broader risk management decision-making and to assess security performance. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation, including (1) periodic joint security assessments with the department's Office of Law Enforcement and Security and the Park Service's Intelligence and Security Manager, (2) monthly preparation of performance reports by the U.S. Park Police at icons, (3) use of certain icon parks to test and evaluate emerging technologies, (4) live testing using inert devices to evaluate contract security officer performance, and (5) evaluation of contract security officer performance using computer simulation. These actions represent a major step forward in the Park Service's performance measurement and testing capabilities and will better inform future security enhancements and actions.
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with OLES, to develop and implement a strategy for more clearly defining security roles and responsibilities within the Park Service, which should, among other things, ensure thatthe Park Service is well equipped at the national and regional levels to oversee security improvements.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. With regard to managing human capital, we recommended that the Park Service develop and implement a strategy for more clearly defining security roles and responsibilities within the Park Service, which should, among other things, ensure that the Park Service is well equipped at the national and regional levels to oversee security improvements. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation, including (1) establishment of the Icon Protection Council, which, among other things, provides a mechanism for managers of icon parks to define roles and share ideas on implementation, (2) creation of a Homeland Security Division within the U.S. Park Police to define the roles and responsibilities of staff responsible for the protection of icon parks, and, (3) training in physical security methods for staff responsible for the oversight of the protection program at their respective locations. These actions form a strategy that focuses attention on security roles and responsibilities and will better equip the Park Service to address ongoing security challenges.
Department of the Interior In order to better oversee and more efficiently manage the protection of the vast and diverse inventory of the national icons and parks, the secretary should instruct the Director of the National Park Service, in consulation with OLES, to develop and implement a servicewide security training program and related curriculum to provide staff with the knowledge, skills, and awareness needed to improve Park Service security practices.
Closed - Implemented
In 2009, we reported that the National Park Service faced several challenges in protecting national icons and parks from the threat of terrorism. These challenges related to managing risk, leveraging technology, communicating internally, measuring performance, and managing human capital. With regard to human capital management, we recommended that the Park Service develop and implement a security training program and related curriculum to provide staff with the knowledge; skills, and awareness needed to improve Park Service security practices. The Park Service took several actions to implement this recommendation, including (1) an annual security and intelligence workshop in conjunction with the department-level Office of Law Enforcement and Security (OLES), (2) provision of basic and advanced training on security practices to key staff, (3) annual refresher training for law enforcement staff, (4) attendance and completion of Federal Law Enforcement Training Center courses on basic physical security and physical infrastructure protection, and (5) collaboration with OLES to identify and develop additional formal and contemporary security training. These actions reflect a strategy, as outlined in our recommendation, which will better equip the Park Service to provide staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to protect national icons and parks.

Full Report