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Highlights

What GAO Found

Several of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Protective Service's (FPS) guard requirements are generally comparable to those of the six selected agencies GAO reviewed, but FPS faces challenges in some aspects of guards' training. FPS and the six selected agencies GAO reviewed require basic, firearms, and screener (x-ray and magnetometer equipment) training for their armed guards. However, GAO found that providing screener training remains a challenge for FPS. For example, officials from one of FPS's contract guard companies stated that 133 (about 38 percent) of its approximately 350 guards have never received this training. Similarly, according to officials at five guard companies, some of their contract guards have not received training on how to respond during incidents involving an active shooter. Additionally, while contract guard industry guidance states that all training should be done with a certified instructor, GAO found that FPS does not require guard instructors to be certified to provide basic and refresher training, which represents the majority of guards' training. According to six guard companies, the lack of a requirement has led to having to retrain some guards, potentially increasing costs to FPS.

Twenty-three percent of contract guard files GAO reviewed did not have required training and certification documentation. GAO reviewed 276 randomly selected (non-generalizable) guard files maintained by 11 of the 31 guard companies GAO interviewed and found that 212 files (77 percent) contained the required training and certification documentation, but 64 files (23 percent) were missing one or more required documents. For example, the 64 files were missing items such as documentation of initial weapons and screener training and firearms qualifications. Although FPS has taken steps to address its challenges in this area, GAO's previous recommendations concerning monitoring guard companies' performance are a guide to furthering FPS's efforts. According to FPS officials, it plans to address GAO's recommendations in the near future. FPS continues to lack effective management controls to ensure its guards have met its training and certification requirements. For instance, although FPS agreed with GAO's 2010 and 2012 recommendations that it develop a comprehensive and reliable system for managing information on guards' training, certifications, and qualifications, it still does not have such a system. According to FPS officials, it plans to address this recommendation in the near future.

FPS also lacks sufficient management controls to ensure consistency in its monthly guard file review process (its primary management control for ensuring that guards are trained and certified), raising questions about the utility of this process. In the absence of specific guidance regarding how files are to be selected, FPS's 11 regions varied in how they conducted the monthly file reviews. For example, FPS officials from three regions stated that they randomly select their files for review, while officials from one guard company in another region stated that FPS asks the guard company to select the files for review. Allowing contract guard company officials to select files for review by FPS could result in selection bias and affect the results of FPS's review. FPS also lacks guidance on reviewing and verifying the results of its guard-file reviews. Without such guidance, FPS may not be able to determine the accuracy of its monthly file review results or if its contract guard companies are complying with the guard training and certification requirements.

Why GAO Did This Study

FPS relies on a privately contracted guard force (about 13,500 guards) to provide security to federal facilities under the custody and control of the General Services Administration. In 2010 and 2012, GAO reported that FPS faced challenges overseeing its contract guard program, specifically in ensuring guards' qualifications.

GAO was asked to update the status of FPS's contract guard oversight. This report examines (1) how FPS's requirements for contract guards compare to those of selected federal agencies and challenges, if any, that FPS faces in ensuring its requirements are met; (2) the extent to which guard companies have documented compliance with FPS's guard requirements; and (3) the management controls FPS uses to ensure compliance with its guard requirements. GAO reviewed 31 FPS guard contracts, and analyzed guard files from 11 contracts, selected based on geographic diversity; interviewed officials from guard companies, FPS headquarters, and 4 of 11 FPS regions; and reviewed the contract guard requirements and processes at six federal agencies, selected for their comparability to FPS.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that the Secretary of DHS direct FPS to take immediate steps to determine which guards have not had screener or active-shooter scenario training and provide it to them; require that guard instructors be certified to teach basic and refresher training; and develop and implement guidance for selecting guard files and verifying the results. DHS concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To improve the management and oversight of FPS's contract guard program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and the Director of FPS to take immediate steps to determine which guards have not had screener or active-shooter scenario training and provide it to them and, as part of developing a national lesson plan, decide how and how often these trainings will be provided in the future.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service (FPS) relies on a privately contracted guard force to provide security to federal facilities under the custody and control of the General Services Administration. In 2013, GAO reported that, among other requirements, FPS required that guards receive screener (X-ray and magnetometer equipment) training and active shooter scenario training before they can be assigned to a post at a federal facility. However, FPS experienced difficulty determining which guards had received the training and providing this training to all guards. According to guard company officials, some guards had not received required training in these areas. For example, an official at one contract guard company stated that 133 of the approximately 350 guards (about 38 percent) on three separate FPS contracts had never received their initial screener training from FPS. FPS headquarters officials stated that they were unaware of any of its regions in which guards had not received screener training. Similarly, officials at 5 of the 16 guard companies GAO contacted stated that FPS had not provided active-shooter scenario training to their guards. Finally, an FPS official stated that the agency is collaborating with its guard companies to develop a national lesson plan to standardize the training guards receive. As such, GAO recommended that FPS take immediate steps to determine which guards have not had screener or active-shooter scenario training and provide it to them and, as part of developing a national lesson plan, decide how and how often these trainings will be provided in the future. In 2019, GAO confirmed that FPS determined which guards had not met their screener or active shooter scenario training requirements and how much training they need. First, FPS has developed systems to track guard training requirements and ensure that guards are not assigned to posts for which they have not met all training and certification requirements. FPS's Training and Academy Management System (TAMS) tracks and maintains related documentation for all guard training and certification requirements, including screener training and active threat certifications and allows FPS management to automatically identify guards who are not in compliance. Training and certification from TAMS is integrated into a second system-FPS's Post Tracking System (PTS)-which can help prevent guards from standing at posts for which they do not meet requirements. In order to stand post, guards are required to sign in to a PTS device using personal identification number, fingerprint, and an identification card. As FPS demonstrated to GAO, a guard would be unable to sign-in to a post for which they were not qualified-for instance, if they did not have the required screener training or active-threat certification. Second, FPS has updated its requirements for screener training and clarified which guards are required to have such training: an eight-hour training is required for guards assigned to non-x-ray screening posts, a 16-hour training is required for guards assigned to an x-ray screening post, and no screener training is required for guards who are not assigned to screening posts. Additionally, FPS has updated its training curriculum to include an "active threat" lesson plan, which covers active-shooter scenarios, among other topics. Guards are required to annually sign a certification documenting that they have completed the annual refresher training on this topic. Taken together, these actions met the intent of GAO's recommendation to better position FPS to help ensure that all guards have the required training before standing post at federal facilities.
Department of Homeland Security To improve the management and oversight of FPS's contract guard program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to require that contract guard companies' instructors be certified to teach basic and refresher training courses to guards and evaluate whether a standardized instructor certification process should be implemented.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service (FPS) relies on a privately contracted guard force to provide security to federal facilities under the custody and control of the General Services Administration. Before guards are assigned to a post at a federal facility, FPS requires that they complete a combination of training provided by both the contractor and FPS. In 2013, GAO reported that FPS's lack of certification requirements for instructors who teach basic and refresher training could affects guards' ability to perform their duties. At the time of our report, FPS required guard instructors to be certified to provide training in CPR, first aid, AED, and firearms and have a minimum of 2 years of law enforcement, military, or security training experience. However, FPS had no requirements for instructors teaching the guards' basic and refresher training-which accounted for a large percentage of the required training at the time of our review-to be certified or to be knowledgeable in instruction techniques. According to some of FPS's guard companies, the absence of an instructor certification requirement has affected the quality of training provided to some guards. For example, at the time of our review, 6 of FPS's 31 contract guard companies stated that they experienced problems related to training quality when taking over a contract from a previous guard company and employing guards who had worked for the previous company. Further, representatives from law enforcement training organizations as well as sixteen of the guard companies stated that FPS should standardize instructor training and certification requirements to ensure quality and consistency in the training guards receive. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS require that contract guard companies' instructors be certified to teach basic and refresher training courses to guards and evaluate whether a standardized instructor certification process should be implemented. In March 2018, GAO confirmed that FPS has added a requirement that guard instructors be certified to teach basic and refresher training, and evaluated whether a standardized instructor certification process should be implemented. Based on evaluations of FPS's program to certify instructors that teach the screener training course (training required for guards working at access control points in federal facilities), FPS determined that a standardized certification process would be unsustainable, considering the high estimated costs. As such, FPS has amended its standard guard contract statement of work to require that guard instructors be certified to teach basic and refresher training. Specifically, the statement of work requires that proposed trainers have completed an approved and accredited Principles of Instruction course or similar training (for example, training provided by a police academy, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or military training courses) certifying them as an instructor. As a result of this change, FPS is in a better position to ensure consistent quality of the training its guards receive.
Department of Homeland Security To improve the management and oversight of FPS's contract guard program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to develop and implement procedures for monthly guard-file reviews to ensure consistency in selecting files and verifying the results.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service (FPS) relies on a privately contracted guard force to provide security to federal facilities under the custody and control of the General Services Administration. FPS is in the process of developing a comprehensive system to manage information on guards' training, certifications, and qualifications. However, in the absence of such a system, FPS conducts monthly reviews of guard files to ensure guards are trained and certified. In 2013, GAO reported that FPS lacked sufficient management controls to ensure that those reviews were conducted consistently. GAO found that FPS lacked specific guidance on how guard files should be selected for review as well as guidance on verifying the results of those reviews. Specifically, FPS's 11 regions varied in how they conducted the monthly file reviews. For example, FPS officials from three regions stated that they randomly select their files for review, while officials from one guard company in another region stated that FPS asks the guard company to select the files for review. Allowing contract guard company officials to select files for review by FPS could result in selection bias and affect the results of FPS's review. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS develop and implement procedures for monthly guard-file reviews to ensure consistency in selecting files and verifying the results. In 2017, GAO confirmed that FPS issued guidance intended to define and support consistent application of file review procedures. The guidance includes, among other things, (1) requirements and instructions for selecting a random sample of guard files for review, (2) requirements for review and validation of findings, and (3) descriptions of acceptable documentation for each requirement. This guidance was distributed to regional officials and will be effective on October 1, 2017. As a result, FPS is in a better position to ensure that guard file reviews are conducted consistently and hold guard companies accountable for contract requirements.

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