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Federal Protective Service: More Collaboration on Hiring and Additional Performance Information Needed

GAO-23-105361 Published: Dec 15, 2022. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 2022.
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Fast Facts

The Federal Protective Service (FPS) protects about 9,000 federal facilities and their occupants.

For the third time in almost 20 years, FPS has moved into a new agency within the Department of Homeland Security. This agency, the Management Directorate, is responsible for providing human capital and other services. FPS has experienced several benefits from the move, including more support from leadership. But FPS continues to face staffing shortages and doesn't have enough information to assess whether it is meeting goals outlined within its strategic plan.

Our recommendations address these issues.

A Federal Protective Service officer monitors the security of a federal building.

A Federal Protective Service officer looks at security camera footage.

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What GAO Found

In 2019, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) moved to the Management Directorate, an office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees and supports budget, human capital, and other business functions. FPS officials cited multiple benefits of this move, including improved support from leadership and improved coordination with certain Management Directorate offices. Additionally, officials said FPS has gained credibility among DHS agencies as FPS is more involved in security operations since moving to the Management Directorate.

However, FPS's long-standing challenges in managing human capital have not yet been resolved since its placement in the Management Directorate. In particular, FPS had a staffing shortage of 21 percent at the end of fiscal year 2021. These staffing challenges persist in part because FPS and the Management Directorate's human capital office have not sufficiently collaborated on hiring processes. Mechanisms to facilitate further collaboration and agreement on hiring processes and to document the agreements reached could help the human capital office and FPS more effectively and efficiently address FPS's staffing shortages.

DHS and FPS have performance measures and targets for some of the critical activities GAO selected for review (see table). However, FPS has not established performance measures for information technology management and training for FPS officials. Instead, FPS identified initiatives that will help it achieve the related strategic objectives of modernizing the FPS infrastructure and developing the FPS workforce.

Performance Measures and Targets for Selected Federal Protective Service (FPS) Activities

Selected FPS critical activities

Performance measure(s) identified?

Target(s) established?

Facility security assessments



Contract guard management



Law enforcement response, policing and patrol



Information sharing and coordination



Human capital management



Information technology management



Training for FPS officials



Source:  GAO analysis of Department of Homeland Security's fiscal year 2021 Congressional Budget Justification and Federal Protective Service strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2026.  I  GAO-23-105361

FPS also has not established targets for several of the performance measures it identified for other critical activities; these targets would enable FPS to compare actual results against planned performance. FPS officials said that, as of October 2022, FPS was in the process of collecting data to determine appropriate targets for these performance measures, but that this effort was taking longer than expected. Developing performance measures with targets would provide FPS with performance information that could help FPS more fully measure program performance and understand the extent to which FPS is achieving its objectives within the Management Directorate. Performance measures with targets could also facilitate the oversight of FPS by the Management Directorate.

Why GAO Did This Study

FPS is responsible for protecting approximately 9,000 federal facilities across the country and the millions of people who visit or work in them. FPS's organizational placement has changed several times since its formation in 1971. GAO reported in GAO-19-122 that any organizational placement for FPS could result in benefits and tradeoffs.

GAO was asked to review the impact FPS's 2019 placement in the Management Directorate has had on FPS's activities. This report examines (1) the benefits and challenges of FPS's placement in the Management Directorate and (2) FPS's performance measures for critical activities.

GAO focused on seven critical activities performed by FPS. These activities were selected because they had the highest cost in fiscal year 2020 and are key issues, among other reasons. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed officials from FPS and the FPS employee union, and the Management Directorate. GAO compared actions taken to leading practices for collaboration and for measuring agency performance.


GAO is recommending (1) that the Management Directorate's human capital office and FPS strengthen mechanisms to facilitate collaboration on hiring processes, and (2) that FPS fully develop performance measures with targets for each of its strategic objectives. DHS agreed with the recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of the Under Secretary The Under Secretary for Management should direct OCHCO and FPS to strengthen mechanisms to facilitate collaboration and agreement on hiring processes and document their agreements accordingly. (Recommendation 1)
DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. When we confirm what actions DHS has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Federal Protective Service The Director of FPS should fully develop performance measures for each strategic objective in its strategic plan and ensure that each of these measures has a related performance target. (Recommendation 2)
DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. When we confirm what actions DHS has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Full Report

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Federal facility relocationHuman capital managementPerformance measurementStrategic planPerformance measuresStaffing levelsHomeland securityLaw enforcementCompliance oversightFederal facilities