Security decisions within the federal government don’t work according the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports. Federal institutions tend to make security decisions by forming committees that, when reviewed by the GAO, don’t have the information, or federal job rating necessary to “choose and to fund the appropriate measures to safeguard their facilities.”
Diverse federal departments are often located within the same building or complex, and each of the department chooses a representative to sit on the Federal Security Committee (FSC). The FSC addresses security issues and approves security countermeasures at the building.
The GAO, however, found two critical deficiencies within FSC’s organizational structure.
First, federal offices that occupy government buildings are not experienced, nor do they have training that’s necessary to assess complex security issues.
Perhaps even more problematic is that FSC committee members do not have authorization to allocate funding. According to the report, FSC members have to request funds from higher up the chain, and funding isn’t available in a timely manner.
Another disturbing issue brought to light was that the FSCs across the nation don’t have guidelines for operation; since 1995, FSCs have received no guidance for policies and procedures on steps necessary to make decisions or establish accountability.
Federal buildings are managed by the GSA (General Services Administration). However, they are protected by the Federal Protective Service, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. The FPS’ mission is to assess federal building security, highlight vulnerabilities, and suggest methods to counteract building weaknesses.
Once completed, the report is submitted to the building FSC to determine which measures to enact and maintain.
The FSC’s lack of formal lines of communication and guidelines actually put federal offices at greater risk.
As an example, an FPS official recommended that 24-hour security measures be implemented at a government facility in a crime-ridden neighborhood. However, the recommendation was never enacted because the FSC could not garner approval from their diverse tenants. In another example, a federal building’s committee asked FPS inspectors to not recommend improvements, “because there is not sufficient funding in regional budgets to purchase and maintain the security equipment.”