Budget, staff cuts hamper FPS

Published 17 March 2008

Since being absorbed into DHS in 2003, the Federal Protective Service’s budget and staff have been steadily cut, with DHS transferring many of the service’s assignments to outside contractors; critics say this has gone too far

A series of embarrassing incidents on federal property across the country, including the theft of a trailer of surveillance equipment from an FBI parking deck, is being blamed on budget cuts at the agency charged with securing federal grounds. CNN reports that a Federal Protective Service (FPS) officer trains with a paintball gun. The agency has lost staff since 2004. “We’re seeing the near collapse of the Federal Protective Service,” said Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), who leads the congressional subcommittee that oversees federal buildings. The service’s budget and staff have been cut since it became part of DHS in March 2003, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). “I think that FPS is less able to do its job than … in the past, primarily because of budgetary restrictions that have occurred, and that has forced them to slash their workforce” GAO investigator Mark Goldstein said. “There are 756 uniformed federal officers to oversee the 8,800 buildings” under the agency’s watch, he said.

A preliminary GAO report contained these findings:

—A man died at a vacant federal complex in Kansas City, Missouri, and his body was not found for three months. Watch scene of body’s discovery

—Twenty-two guns were stolen from a federal building in Atlanta, Georgia. A private security guard employed at the building was convicted of participating in the theft

—A surveillance trailer with $400,000 worth of high-tech equipment was stolen from the parking garage of a federal building in Los Angeles, California.

The trailer was stolen from the Los Angeles FBI field office in May. Contract guards watched the theft on surveillance cameras but did nothing to intervene and did not report the incident for three days, according to an incident report confirmed by the FBI and Norton. The trailer was recovered with some of the equipment intact. The FBI investigation is still open.

In Kansas City, Eric Howell, 27, who had been homeless from time to time, died in a vacant government building sometime in summer 2007. His body was found months later by a government real estate agent showing the property to a prospective buyer. The cause of death could not be determined.

FPS director Gary Schenkel defended his agency, telling CNN the incidents cited by the GAO were “taken out of context.” “FPS does not refute that these incidents took place, but I do believe that additional background information shows that