Employee shortages hit Protective Service

Staffing shortages at the Federal Protective Service threaten to undermine the agency’s mission of protecting the country’s 9,000 federal government buildings, according to the Government Accountability Office. In response to a 20 percent decrease in staffing since fiscal 2004, the service has reduced security measures at government buildings, GAO recently reported.

The service generally has eliminated proactive patrols at government buildings that would detect and prevent criminal incidents and terrorism-related activities, according to a GAO report released June 19. The service continues to struggle with managing its contract guard program and the implementation of safety measures such as security cameras, the report stated.

GAO auditors found that many security cameras installed at high-risk facilities were not working properly and were preventing investigators from identifying suspects.

The report said  the agency plans to improve security by moving to an investigator-based workforce of more highly skilled employees.

In recent years, the service has also experienced funding problems. In fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006, its parent agency — the Homeland Security Department — had to transfer funds to make up for shortfalls. However, in fiscal 2007, the service was allowed to increase security fees to cover its costs. It shows signs of maintaining that ability, according to GAO.

The Protective Service has an annual budget of about $1 billion with 1,100 employees and 15,000 contract guards at locations nationwide.


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