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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Federal Protective Service (FPS), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the General Services Administration (GSA) have taken some steps to improve collaboration, such as drafting a joint strategy. While each agency has some individual policies for collaboration, the two agencies have made limited progress in agreeing on several key practices as described below. Reaching agreement on these practices will help to enhance the agencies' ability to protect federal facilities and to improve day-to-day operations at the regional level.

Status of the Federal Protective Service's and the General Services Administration's Efforts to Address Key Collaboration Practices

Define and articulate a common outcome

While FPS and GSA have drafted a joint strategy that includes a common outcome related to facility protection, they have not reached agreement on the document.

Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies

FPS's and GSA's draft joint strategy defines an overarching strategic goal of creating a federal-facility critical infrastructure that balances public access, security, and resiliency to enable continuity of operations and rapid recovery from all hazards. However, the two agencies have not reached agreement on the document. In October 2015, FPS and GSA officials told GAO that they intend to put the joint strategy on hold and revisit the document after they address other priorities.

Agree on roles and responsibilities

A 2006 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between FPS and GSA addresses their roles, responsibilities, and operational relationships concerning the security of GSA-controlled space. However, some information in the MOA is outdated and incorrect as it does not reflect policy and organizational changes affecting roles and responsibilities. In August 2015, FPS and GSA officials renewed negotiations to update the MOA, but the two have not yet fully agreed on current roles and responsibilities related to facility protection, and they have not set a time frame for completion.

Establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agencies

In some cases, the two agencies have individual policies, but it is unclear whether they are compatible. FPS and GSA officials have not fully collaborated in communicating policies and procedures to operate across agencies and regions, and regional officials told GAO they rely on informal communication for day-to-day operations.

Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results

FPS and GSA individually monitor specific areas of facility security. However, the two agencies have not developed mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of their related missions regarding facility protection.

Reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports

FPS's and GSA's strategic plans address the importance of collaboration with other agencies in general, but these plans do not reinforce accountability for collaborative efforts.

Source: GAO analysis of the status of FPS's and GSA's collaboration practices. | GAO-16-135

As a result of not having key practices in place, regional officials said they were not aware of agreed upon collaborative policies and procedures to conduct day-to-day operations. GAO found that this created inefficiencies and security risks. For example, FPS officials told GAO that GSA did not coordinate with them on new construction intended for law enforcement tenants, and as a result, it was not suitable for law enforcement use. GSA officials told GAO that they did not have sufficient information from FPS about security plans for upcoming events and, therefore, were not able to inform tenants of necessary security measures.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO designated federal real-property management as a high-risk area in part because of physical security challenges at federal facilities. FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access.

In light of these challenges, GAO was asked to review (1) how the agencies' collaboration reflects key practices to ensure facility security and (2) the impact of their collaboration practices on day-to-day operations at the regional and facility level. GAO analyzed pertinent laws and documents, compared FPS's and GSA's collaboration efforts against GAO's selected key-collaboration practices, and interviewed agency officials at the headquarters and regional levels selected based on various factors. While the results from regions cannot be generalized, they provided illustrative examples.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that FPS and GSA take actions to improve their collaboration in several areas, including defining common outcomes, agreeing on roles and responsibilities, and communicating compatible policies and procedures. DHS specifically concurred with GAO's recommendations, and GSA agreed to work with FPS to address the findings.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security 1. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on a joint strategy and finalizing it in order to define and articulate a common understanding of expected outcomes and align the two agencies' activities and core processes to achieve their related missions.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. Previously, GAO reported that collaborative efforts require agency staff working across agency lines to define and articulate the common federal outcome or purpose they are seeking to achieve. GAO also reported that collaborating agencies need to establish strategies that work in concert with those of their partners. GAO found in 2015 that FPS and GSA officials had drafted a joint strategy with an overarching strategic goal of creating a federal facility critical infrastructure that balances public access, security, and resiliency to enable continuity of operations and rapid recovery from all hazards. However, as of October 2015, the agencies had not defined and articulated a common outcome or fully established mutually reinforcing or joint strategies, and FPS and GSA officials had no timeline for completing these efforts. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on a joint strategy and finalizing it in order to define and articulate a common understanding of expected outcomes and align the two agencies' activities and core processes to achieve their related missions. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed the joint strategy. The joint strategy facilitates, among other things, proactive collaborative planning, information sharing, and accomplishing missions between FPS and GSA concerning the protection of federally owned and leased buildings, ground, and property under the jurisdiction, custody, or control of GSA. For example, the joint strategy identifies and clarifies FPS's and GSA's information sharing and communication efforts, related policies and procedures, and agency roles and responsibilities. As a result of this joint strategy, FPS and GSA are better positioned to align their partner agencies' activities, core processes, and resources to accomplish a common outcome, and enhance their ability to fully protect federal facilities and their tenants and visitors.
General Services Administration 2. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on a joint strategy and finalizing it in order to define and articulate a common understanding of expected outcomes and align the two agencies' activities and core processes to achieve their related missions.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. Previously, GAO reported that collaborative efforts require agency staff working across agency lines to define and articulate the common federal outcome or purpose they are seeking to achieve. GAO also reported that collaborating agencies need to establish strategies that work in concert with those of their partners. GAO found in 2015 that FPS and GSA officials had drafted a joint strategy with an overarching strategic goal of creating a federal facility critical infrastructure that balances public access, security, and resiliency to enable continuity of operations and rapid recovery from all hazards. However, as of October 2015, the agencies had not defined and articulated a common outcome or fully established mutually reinforcing or joint strategies, and FPS and GSA officials had no timeline for completing these efforts. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on a joint strategy and finalizing it in order to define and articulate a common understanding of expected outcomes and align the two agencies' activities and core processes to achieve their related missions. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed the joint strategy. The joint strategy facilitates, among other things, proactive collaborative planning, information sharing, and accomplishing missions between FPS and GSA concerning the protection of federally owned and leased buildings, ground, and property under the jurisdiction, custody, or control of GSA. For example, the joint strategy identifies and clarifies FPS's and GSA's information sharing and communication efforts, related policies and procedures, and agency roles and responsibilities. As a result of this joint strategy, FPS and GSA are better positioned to align their partner agencies' activities, core processes, and resources to accomplish a common outcome, and enhance their ability to fully protect federal facilities and their tenants and visitors.
Department of Homeland Security 3. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on the two agencies' respective roles and responsibilities for federal facility security, and update and finalize the two agencies' MOA accordingly.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. However, FPS and GSA did not fully agree on roles and responsibilities for their related missions regarding facility protection. Although FPS's and GSA's facility security roles and responsibilities are documented in regulation, statutes, and policies, some of these were outdated and incomplete at the time of our review. For example, the 2006 MOA between the two agencies, which has a stated purpose to address roles, responsibilities, and operational relationships between FPS and GSA concerning the security of GSA-controlled space, was outdated and incorrect as a result of policy and organization changes to FPS and GSA. In August 2015, FPS and GSA officials renewed negotiations to update the MOA, but they had not yet fully agreed on current roles and responsibilities related to facility protection, and they had not set a timeframe for completion. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on the two agencies' respective roles and responsibilities for federal facility security, and update and finalize the two agencies' MOA accordingly. In 2018, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized the revision to the MOA, which included identifying, defining, and addressing roles and responsibilities and operational relationships between FPS and GSA concerning the protection of federally owned and leased buildings, ground, and property under the jurisdiction, custody, or control of GSA. Agreeing on roles and responsibilities that are consistent with the two agencies' related agency goals and missions and finalizing an MOA to align their efforts should help FPS and GSA improve their working relationship and enhance the agencies' ability to protect federal facilities.
General Services Administration
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
4. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on the two agencies' respective roles and responsibilities for federal facility security, and update and finalize the two agencies' MOA accordingly.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. However, FPS and GSA did not fully agree on roles and responsibilities for their related missions regarding facility protection. Although FPS's and GSA's facility security roles and responsibilities are documented in regulation, statutes, and policies, some of these were outdated and incomplete at the time of our review. For example, the 2006 MOA between the two agencies, which has a stated purpose to address roles, responsibilities, and operational relationships between FPS and GSA concerning the security of GSA-controlled space, was outdated and incorrect as a result of policy and organization changes to FPS and GSA. In August 2015, FPS and GSA officials renewed negotiations to update the MOA, but they had not yet fully agreed on current roles and responsibilities related to facility protection, and they had not set a timeframe for completion. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA establish a plan with timeframes for reaching agreement on the two agencies' respective roles and responsibilities for federal facility security, and update and finalize the two agencies' MOA accordingly. In 2018, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized the revision to the MOA, which included identifying, defining, and addressing roles and responsibilities and operational relationships between FPS and GSA concerning the protection of federally owned and leased buildings, ground, and property under the jurisdiction, custody, or control of GSA. Agreeing on roles and responsibilities that are consistent with the two agencies' related agency goals and missions and finalizing an MOA to align their efforts should help FPS and GSA improve their working relationship and enhance the agencies' ability to protect federal facilities.
Department of Homeland Security 5. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop a process to ensure that compatible policies and procedures, including those for information sharing, are communicated at the regional level so that regional officials at both agencies have common information on how to operationalize the two agencies' collaborative efforts.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. Previously, GAO reported that to facilitate collaboration among agencies with different cultures, agencies need to address the compatibility of policies and procedures that will be used in this effort. GAO's prior work has found that agencies that articulate their agreements in formal documents must have a process in place for implementing such agreements at all organizational levels and across agency boundaries. Without policies and procedures that are well understood at all levels-headquarters, regions, and facilities-it is more difficult to share information and coordinate consistently and effectively. In 2015, GAO found that FPS and GSA regional officials were not always aware of policies and procedures to operate across agencies and regions because FPS and GSA had not fully collaborated in communicating established policies and procedures. As a result, the regions relied on informal communication between the agencies for day-to-day operations. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop a process to ensure that compatible policies and procedures, including those for information sharing, are communicated at the regional level so that regional officials at both agencies have common information on how to operationalize the two agencies' collaborative efforts. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed a joint strategy, which among other things, identifies a process and provides information for ensuring that compatible policies and procedures for information sharing are communicated at the regional level. For example, through annual reviews and facilitated collaboration, the agencies will identify inefficient procedures and systems to develop new methods of sharing information that are more accurate and detailed. Furthermore, FPS and GSA have co-located personnel at the Joint Information Management Center to provide leadership with the most up-to-date information during steady state and emergency response operations. As a result of this process that communicates both agencies' policies and procedures for operating across agency boundaries, FPS and GSA are in a better position to improve the inconsistency in day-to-day communication and operations across the regions.
General Services Administration 6. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop a process to ensure that compatible policies and procedures, including those for information sharing, are communicated at the regional level so that regional officials at both agencies have common information on how to operationalize the two agencies' collaborative efforts.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. Previously, GAO reported that to facilitate collaboration among agencies with different cultures, agencies need to address the compatibility of policies and procedures that will be used in this effort. GAO's prior work has found that agencies that articulate their agreements in formal documents must have a process in place for implementing such agreements at all organizational levels and across agency boundaries. Without policies and procedures that are well understood at all levels-headquarters, regions, and facilities-it is more difficult to share information and coordinate consistently and effectively. In 2015, GAO found that FPS and GSA regional officials were not always aware of policies and procedures to operate across agencies and regions because FPS and GSA had not fully collaborated in communicating established policies and procedures. As a result, the regions relied on informal communication between the agencies for day-to-day operations. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop a process to ensure that compatible policies and procedures, including those for information sharing, are communicated at the regional level so that regional officials at both agencies have common information on how to operationalize the two agencies' collaborative efforts. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed a joint strategy, which among other things, identifies a process and provides information for ensuring that compatible policies and procedures for information sharing are communicated at the regional level. For example, through annual reviews and facilitated collaboration, the agencies will identify inefficient procedures and systems to develop new methods of sharing information that are more accurate and detailed. Furthermore, FPS and GSA have co-located personnel at the Joint Information Management Center to provide leadership with the most up-to-date information during steady state and emergency response operations. As a result of this process that communicates both agencies' policies and procedures for operating across agency boundaries, FPS and GSA are in a better position to improve the inconsistency in day-to-day communication and operations across the regions.
Department of Homeland Security 7. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities in order to identify possible areas for improvement and to reinforce accountability.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. GAO previously reported that when agencies monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of collaboration, they can better identify areas for improvement. In 2015, GAO found that while FPS and GSA individually monitor specific areas of facility security, they had not jointly developed mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of their shared responsibilities for collaborative efforts. Because FPS and GSA had not developed mechanisms to monitor and evaluate their collaboration for facility protection, the agencies did not have the means in place to systemically identify areas for improvement. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities in order to identify possible areas for improvement and to reinforce accountability. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed a joint strategy, which among other things, facilitates their efforts to accomplish their missions and outlines a process that involves FPS and GSA meeting bi-annually to discuss progress, and monitor, evaluate and report on the agencies' regional efforts to protect federal facilities. As a result of these efforts, FPS and GSA are better positioned to improve their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities.
General Services Administration 8. Given the collaboration challenges that FPS and GSA face in protecting federal facilities, GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the General Services Administration. FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities in order to identify possible areas for improvement and to reinforce accountability.
Closed - Implemented
FPS and GSA have joint responsibility for protecting federal facilities held or leased by GSA. FPS has primary responsibility for the security and protection of buildings and their occupants, whereas GSA has primary responsibility for security fixtures, maintenance, and building access. In 2015, GAO reported that the nature of FPS's and GSA's related missions for federal facility security and protection and the presence of potential threats to these facilities require effective collaboration. GAO previously reported that when agencies monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of collaboration, they can better identify areas for improvement. In 2015, GAO found that while FPS and GSA individually monitor specific areas of facility security, they had not jointly developed mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on the results of their shared responsibilities for collaborative efforts. Because FPS and GSA had not developed mechanisms to monitor and evaluate their collaboration for facility protection, the agencies did not have the means in place to systemically identify areas for improvement. Therefore, GAO recommended that FPS and GSA headquarters officials should develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities in order to identify possible areas for improvement and to reinforce accountability. In 2020, GAO confirmed that FPS and GSA finalized and signed a joint strategy, which among other things, facilitates their efforts to accomplish their missions and outlines a process that involves FPS and GSA meeting bi-annually to discuss progress, and monitor, evaluate and report on the agencies' regional efforts to protect federal facilities. As a result of these efforts, FPS and GSA are better positioned to improve their collaborative efforts to protect federal facilities.

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