House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Transportation Security Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee Chair Shelia Jackson Lee introduce their version of an FPS reform bill (“Federal Protective Service Improvement and Accountability Act of 2010
″) on September 14, 2010. Also this week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is planning to introduce their FPS Reform bill (which we have already seen in draft form), and in April, House HSC Republicans introduced their FPS Reform Bill (H.R. 5053).
While the Thompson-Lee bill does not outright “federalize private guards” as is being reported by some news organizations, the bill’s provisions make it clear that is the preferred path of the authors and provide for a two-step (not seemingly hard to activate) mechanism to federalize all FPS contract guards at Level III and Level IV facilities. Federal guards for Level III and Level IV facilities would be called “federal facility security guards” and their powers and responsibilities would be greater than that of current FPS contract guards (but they would not be LEO’s).
Like the House GOP bill, the House DEM bill calls for a pilot federal guard program, but the two programs are very different in scope, length and purpose. The GOP bill calls for a three year pilot program at three Level IV facilities “to test and evaluate to what extent efficiencies exist in having a federalized guard staff; and to what extent such a federalized guard staff provides a measurable improvement in facility or personnel security.” Then it will be up to FPS to determine whether or not to federalize such guards.
The DEM bill calls for “a 1-year pilot program (at four level III and four level IV facilities) to research the advantages of converting guard positions at the highest-risk Federal facilities protected by the Federal Protective Service from contract guard positions to positions held by Federal employees.” (I guess there are no possible disadvantages of federalizing.) As mentioned above, these federal guards in the pilot will called “federal facility security guards” and will have powers and responsibilities greater than current FPS contract guards.
After the completion of the pilot program, the DEM bill requires the GAO to evaluate the performance of the federal guards to determine if it was “satisfactory” (whatever that means) and one measure of evaluating the performance of these future pilot federal guards will be how they performed against evaluations of contract guards as made by GAO in past GAO reports — thus, no comparison to the current (improving) performance of FPS contract guards.
Finally, and here is the crux of the DEM bill, if the GAO comes back with a “satisfactory” performance grade for the federal guards in the pilot FPS then FPS is commanded to federalize all contract guards at all Level III and Level IV facilities.
(If the GAO “states in the final report under subsection (f)(2) that the Federal facility security guards employed in the position established under subsection (c) are performing satisfactorily, the Secretary shall replace contract guards at all highest risk Federal facilities protected by the Federal Protective Service (level III and level IV facilities) with Federal employees hired as Federal facility security guards.”
So it will basically be up to the GAO to determine whether or not FPS continues to use contract guards at Level III and Level IV facilities?
Obviously, this bill is very problematic and while Level III and Level IV facilities are only affected, total federalization of FPS guards would not be far behind if it becomes law. On the positive side, the bill provides for dedicated contractor oversight staff at FPS (a good idea) and calls for minimum training and certification standards for security contractors, but if there are no more contractors, what’s the point? Also, for FPS to be able convert to federal guards it will require significant additional funding, and this can only be provided by the Appropriations Committees.
What is interesting is that Jackson Lee has said that she thinks the bill can be passed by attaching it to an unrelated spending bill. This is pure conjecture and to do so would require House and Senate Dems (and key Republicans) to all agree on a final bill (over the next couple months), and also require some serious support from their respective leaderships to allow it to be attached to a “must pass” bill.
September 16th, 2010 by Steve Amitay
Stephen Amitay is the president of Amitay Consulting LLC, a lobbying and consulting firm in Washington D.C. For the past four years, Mr. Amitay has served as federal legislative counsel for the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO), the nation’s largest contract security association.
Links to articles about the House bill.
Legislation would federalize private guards who protect U.S. government buildings Washington Post
Federal Protective Service FPS Improvement and Accountability Act of 2010
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Tags: Federal Contract Guards of America, FCGOA, Federal Protective Service, federalizing of Contract Guards, House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, Federal Protective Service FPS Improvement and Accountability Act of 2010