Homeland Security:

Federal Protective Service's Contract Guard Program Requires More Oversight and Reassessment of Use of Contract Guards

GAO-10-341: Published: Apr 13, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 2010.

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To accomplish its mission of protecting about 9,000 federal facilities, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) currently has a budget of about $1 billion, about 1,225 full-time employees, and about 15,000 contract security guards. FPS obligated $659 million for guard services in fiscal year 2009. This report assesses the challenges FPS faces in managing its guard contractors, overseeing guards deployed at federal facilities, and the actions, if any, FPS has taken to address these challenges. To address these objectives, GAO conducted site visits at 6 of FPS's 11 regions; interviewed FPS officials, guards, and contractors; and analyzed FPS's contract files. GAO also conducted covert testing at 10 judgmentally selected level IV facilities in four cities. A level IV facility has over 450 employees and a high volume of public contact.

FPS faces a number of challenges in managing its guard contractors that hamper its ability to protect federal facilities. FPS requires contractors to provide guards who have met training and certification requirements, but 7 of 7 guard contractors we reviewed were not in compliance with this requirement. Specifically, we reported in July 2009 that 62 percent, or 411, of the 663 guards employed by 7 of FPS's 38 contractors and deployed to federal facilities had at least one expired certification, including those showing that the guard has not committed domestic violence, which make the guards ineligible to carry firearms. As of February 2010, according to FPS data, 435 of the 663 guards are now fully certified, 167 are not fully certified, and 61 guards are no longer working on the contract. FPS's guard contract also states that a contractor who does not comply with the contract is subject to enforcement action. FPS did not take any enforcement actions against these 7 contractors for noncompliance. In fact, FPS exercised the option to extend their contracts. FPS also did not comply with its requirement that a performance evaluation of each contractor be completed annually and that these evaluations and other performance-related data be included in the contract file. FPS also faces challenges in ensuring that many of the 15,000 guards have the required training and certification to be deployed at a federal facility. In July 2009, we reported that since 2004, FPS had not provided X-ray and magnetometer training to about 1,500 guards in one region. As of January 2010, these guards had not received this training and continued to work at federal facilities in this region. X-ray and magnetometer training is important because guards control access points at federal facilities. In addition, once guards are deployed to a federal facility, they are not always complying with assigned responsibilities (post orders). For example, we identified security vulnerabilities when GAO investigators successfully passed undetected through security checkpoints monitored by FPS guards with components for an improvised explosive device concealed on their persons at 10 level IV facilities in four cities in major metropolitan areas. Since July 2009, FPS has conducted 53 similar tests, and in over half of these tests some guards did not identify prohibited items, such as guns and knives. In response to GAO's July 2009 testimony, FPS has taken a number of actions that once fully implemented could help address challenges it faces in managing its contract guard program. For example, FPS has increased the number of guard inspections at federal facilities in some metropolitan areas. FPS also revised its X-ray and magnetometer training; however, guards will not all be fully trained until the end of 2010, although they are deployed at federal facilities. FPS recognized that its guard program has long-standing challenges and in 2009 contemplated a number of changes to the program, including assuming responsibility for all guard training and/or federalizing some guard positions at some federal facilities. However, FPS has not taken any actions in pursuing these ideas.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that FPS faces a number of challenges in managing its guard contractors that hamper its ability to protect federal facilities. We also reported that although FPS has used guards to supplement the agency's workforce since the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, it has not undertaken a comprehensive review of its use of guards to protect federal facilities to determine whether other options and approaches would be more cost-beneficial. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and the Director of FPS to identify other approaches and options that would be most beneficial and financially feasible for protecting federal facilities. In response, in July 2014, FPS indicated that it considered two alternatives to protecting federal facilities. First, FPS reviewed the Interagency Security Committee's Risk Management Process for Federal Facilities to help determine how its recommended countermeasures (e.g. contract guards, CCTVs, etc) compared to those standards. In April 2012, FPS also assessed whether it would be more effective to federalize, in-source, or contract out its guard workforce. Based on its reviews, FPS determined that a contracted workforce allows flexibility in deploying countermeasures. FPS also concluded that the agency would continue to contract out the guard functions because it results in low risk, best value, and affords maximum flexibility in meeting the agency's security requirements. As a result, FPS has better assurance and justification for continuing to use contract guards to protect federal facilities.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and the Director of FPS to identify other approaches and options that would be most beneficial and financially feasible for protecting federal facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that FPS faces a number of challenges in managing its guard contractors that hamper its ability to protect federal facilities. FPS requires contractors to provide guards who have met training and certification requirements, but 7 of 7 guard contractors GAO reviewed were not in compliance with this requirement. FPS's guard contract also states that a contractor who does not comply with the contract is subject to enforcement action. FPS did not take any enforcement actions against these 7 contractors for noncompliance. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to rigorously and consistently monitor guard contractors' and guards' performance and step up enforcement against contractors that are not complying with the terms of the contract. In response, in May 2014, FPS officials indicated that it hired an additional 17 full-time Contracting Officer Representatives who are primarily responsibile for overseeing that guard contractors are complying with terms of contract. FPS also revised its Contract Protective Security Force Performance Monitoring guidance to reflect changes in its Contracting Officer Representative and Contracting Officer responsibilities as it relates to monitoring guard contractors and guards' performance. For example, the guidance specifices that the the Contracting Officer Representative is required to monitor the guard contractor's day-to-day performance to ensure that the contractor meets contract requirements. As a result, FPS has better information to help it make critical decisions regarding future contract awards.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to rigorously and consistently monitor guard contractors' and guards' performance and step up enforcement against contractors that are not complying with the terms of the contract.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that FPS requires that a performance evaluation be completed annually and at the conclusion of the contract for those contracts exceeding $100,000. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) also prescribes requirements for establishing, maintaining, and disposing of contract files. However, FPS did not comply with its requirement that a performance evaluation of each contractor be completed annually and that these evaluations and other performance-related data be included in the contract file. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to complete all contract performance evaluations in accordance with FPS and FAR requirements. In response, FPS provided GAO with its contract performance evaluations for 2013. GAO reviewed the performance evaluations and verified that the evaluations were completed in accordance with FPS and FAR requirements. As a result, FPS has better information to make critical decisions regarding future contract awards.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to complete all contract performance evaluations in accordance with FPS and Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that although FPS is required to follow DHS's Office of Procurement Operations procedures for preparing and organizing contract files, FPS's Consolidated Contract Groups (CCGs) did not follow these procedures for the contract files GAO reviewed. Specifically, GAO's review of the official contract files for the 7 contractors who had guards with expired training and certification records working at federal facilities showed that the files were poorly documented, did not contain all of the required performance-related information, and varied among the CCGs. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS issue a standardized record-keeping format to ensure that contract files have required documentation. In response, in August 2014, FPS indicated that it is complying with the record keeping format required by DHS's Office of Procurement, specifically, Procurement Operating Procedure. This procedure requires the use of a standard contract file checklist that identifies the documents required for each stage of a procurement ranging from pre-solicitation to close-out. We agree that FPS's adherence with DHS's procurement procedures ensures standardization of all contract files. As a result, FPS is in a better position to make critical decisions regarding future contract awards.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to issue a standardized record-keeping format to ensure that contract files have required documentation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that in response to our July 2009 testimony, FPS increased the number of guard inspections at federal facilities in some metropolitan areas. Although this was a step in the right direction, it did not address the problems FPS faced with conducing guard inspections in rural areas where they were rarely done. In 2008, GAO reported incidents in which guards deployed to federal facilities in rural areas had not been inspected in over 1 year or where the inspections were done over the telephone, instead of in person. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to develop a mechanism to routinely monitor guards at federal facilities outside metropolitan areas. In response, in April 2014, FPS received approval from DHS to develop and acquire a contract guard management system. This system will provide FPS with the capability to remotely monitor in real time whether a guard is standing post as required and to verify the guard's certification and training against the post requirements. Thus, FPS will be in a better position to more efficiently and comprehensively oversee guard posts at facilities outside metropolitan areas.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to develop a mechanism to routinely monitor guards at federal facilities outside metropolitan areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that FPS faces a number of challenges in managing its guard contractors that hamper its ability to protect federal facilities. FPS was not ensuring that t its guards are adequately trained to respond to building-specific situations, for example, how to handle an evacuation or shelter in place situation at a federal facility. The lack of building-specific and scenario-based training may have contributed to several incidents in which guards neglected their assigned responsibilities. Therefore, GAO recommend that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to provide building-specific and scenario-based training and guidance to its contract guards. In 2014, GAO confirmed that FPS has added a variety of building specific and scenario based training courses (including building evacuation, elevator malfunctions, and hazardous material incidents) to its guard curriculum. As a result, FPS has better assurance that its contract guards are better trained to handle building specific and other incidents that may occur at federal facilities.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to provide building-specific and scenario-based training and guidance to its contract guards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that despite FPS's recent efforts to develop a more reliable and accurate contract guard management system, challenges remain. Maintaining accurate and reliable data on whether the 15,000 guards deployed at federal facilities have met the training and certification requirements is important for a number of reasons. First, without accurate and reliable data, FPS cannot consistently ensure compliance with contract requirements and lacks information critical for effective oversight of its guard program. Second, given that other federal agencies rely on many of the same contractors to provide security services, the need to complete accurate evaluations of a contractor's past performance is critical to future contract awards. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to develop and implement a management tool for ensuring that reliable, comprehensive data on the contract guard program are available on a real-time basis. In response, in April 2014, FPS received approval from DHS to develop and acquire a contract guard management system. This system will provide FPS with a more efficient management control to verify its contract guards training and certification data on a real time basis. We believe that DHS's approval to acquire the system meets the spirit of our recommendation and will improve FPS's ability to ensure that reliable, comprehensive data on the contract guard program are available on a real-time basis.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to develop and implement a management tool for ensuring that reliable, comprehensive data on the contract guard program are available on a real-time basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported concerns with the accuracy and reliability of the contract guard training and certification information that FPS planned to enter into RAMP. Although FPS took steps to review and update all guard training and certification records, FPS experienced difficulty verifying the status of about 6,400 of its 15,000 guards, in part because it did not have a system to obtain reliable information on a real-time basis. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to verify the accuracy of all guard certification and training data before entering them into Risk Assessment Management Program (RAMP), and periodically test the accuracy and reliability of RAMP data to ensure that FPS management has the information needed to effectively oversee its guard program. In response, in April 2014, FPS indicated that it is using the results of its monthly reviews of guard files to verify the accuracy of guard certification and training data before entering it into its interim contract guard database. Although FPS terminated RAMP, FPS recently received approval from DHS to acquire and develop a contract guard management system, which will utilize these same guard data. The combination of FPS's monthly reviews of contract guard files and the acquisition of its new contract guard management system will enable FPS to effectively manage and control its operations using reliable contract guard data on a real-time basis.

    Recommendation: Given the long-standing and unresolved issues related to FPS's contract guard program and challenges in protecting federal facilities, employees, and the public who use these facilities, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of NPPD and the Director of FPS to verify the accuracy of all guard certification and training data before entering them into Risk Assessment Management Program (RAMP), and periodically test the accuracy and reliability of RAMP data to ensure that FPS management has the information needed to effectively oversee its guard program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

 

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