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Federal Protective Service criticized again over guard training

Date: Mar. 6, 2006 Slug: me-moussaoui sassignment # 178056 Location: Alexandria, VA Courthouse 401 Courthouse Square. Photographer: Gerald Martineau Summary: Mousaoui sentencing trial begins Caption: (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

Once again, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found fault with the Federal Protective Service (FPS), which provides security for 9,600 federal facilities.

A GAO report released Wednesday says some of the 13,500 contract security guards utilized by FPS are not adequately trained, particularly in the areas of active shooter incidents and the screening of individuals entering federal buildings.

“For example, according to officials at five guard companies, their contract guards have not received training on how to respond during incidents involving an active-shooter,” said the report released at a hearing of a House Homeland Security subcommittee. “Without ensuring that all guards receive this training, FPS has limited assurance that its guards are prepared for such a threat.”

The current report is the 17th in a series on the protection of federal facilities since 2008.

Three years after an earlier report on the lack of guard screener training, “guards continue to be deployed to federal facilities who have never received this training,” GAO said Wednesday in statement by Mark L. Goldstein, GAO’s physical infrastructure director, to the oversight and management efficiency subcommittee.

One company told GAO that about 38 percent of its guards “have never received their initial X-ray and magnetometer training from FPS.”

“Consequently, some guards deployed to federal facilities may be using X-ray and magnetometer equipment that they are not qualified to use ─ thus raising questions about the ability of some guards to execute a primary responsibility to properly screen access control points at federal facilities.”

In a joint statement, Caitlin Durkovich, a Homeland Security assistant secretary and Federal Protective Service Director L. Eric Patterson told the subcommittee that FPS “is working closely with industry and Federal partners in an effort to further standardize the PSO [contract protective security officers] training screening station related training.”

That statement did not directly answer all points in the GAO report, but it did provide generalities like “FPS partners with private sector guard companies to ensure that PSOs are prepared to accomplish their duties” and “FPS is committed to ensuring high performance of its contracted PSO workforce.”

David L. Wright, president of  American Federation of Goverment Employees Local 918 that represents FPS employee law enforcement officers, was critical of both the GAO report and the protective service.

“Contrary to the broad brush of the GAO report ─ there are FPS regions  in which all guards receive FPS training, untrained guards are never used at a screening post, guard firearms qualification is fully monitored and guards are trained on active shooter procedures at the facility they protect,” he said by e-mail. Front-line FPS inspectors “spend weekends to ensure that contract guards are trained,” he said.

But he added: “I make no excuse for supervisors and senior managers who have failed to ensure proper training in other Regions. FPS contract guard issues should have been fixed. The FPS managers who have failed should be held accountable.”

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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