Budget, staff cuts hamper FPS

FPS and its contract guards acted according to the established mission guidelines and standards,” Schenkel said. He said the trailer was taken by “a government contractor with frequent access to the parking deck” and blamed the FBI for taking “three days to notice and report that its own trailer was missing.” In regards to the Kansas City case, Schenkel said the Government Services Administration (GSA) building in question “was not on the GSA list,” and FPS wasn’t being paid to guard it.

Critics say this is just the point — because of funding cuts since it was made a part of DHS five years ago and an unusual pay-for-service arrangement to compute its current budget, FPS is unable to adequate provide security for government properties. Before the creation of DHS in 2003, the Federal Protective Service was part of the Government Services Administration, which manages thousands of federal properties across the country, functioning as landlord to hundreds of federal agencies. While part of the GSA, the Federal Protective Service had a larger budget and more agents. Its workforce has been cut 20 percent since 2004, the year after the agency became part of DHS. FPS is funded through a complex formula based on the square footage of the property that Government Services controls. “Everyone was proud the day it was announced that Homeland Security was going to be formed, and there were talks that FPS was going to be absorbed. … It’s been downhill ever since,” said David Wright, president of Local 918 of the American Federation of Government Employees, the FPS union. He said FPS has never been taken seriously within Homeland Security. “We were at the bottom of the food chain, so there’s a real disregard for Federal Protective Service within our parent agency,” Wright said.

Last year, Congress required DHS to add 150 officers to the service, but the department still will rely on about 15,000 contracted private security guards for the bulk of the policing at federal buildings, according to the GAO, Norton and the union. Contract guards are generally less expensive than federal officers, but they lack the training of FPS officers, and in many jurisdictions, they have no power to arrest or detain suspects, Goldstein and Norton said. “Unless the government is prepared to have a private army or a public army of guards, which would be astronomically expensive, we’re going to have to find the right mix of private guards to do security in less risky areas and then have more highly trained guards perhaps in higher security areas,” DHS secretary Michael Chertoff said.

Norton compared the decline of the Federal Protective Service with the shortcomings of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEM) revealed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Interestingly, both happened when they were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security,” Norton said. “I can’t say honestly to anybody who asks that ‘Now that the Federal Protective Service is in the Homeland Security Department, you’re better off.’ You’re worse off.”