Oversight

GAO urges agency collaboration to keep federal buildings safe

Google Maps image: Ronald Reagan Building.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office identified building management as a high-risk area due to physical security challenges at federal facilities. Both the FPS and the GSA share responsibility for protecting the approximately 8900 federal buildings under GSA control. Over one million employees work at these facilities and members of the public seek services there as well. All depend on the government for security.

GAO said the two agencies have made progress in 2015, through drafting a joint strategy and resuming talks to update the 2006 memorandum of agreement that outlines their roles and responsibilities, but they haven't achieved a full working partnership yet.

The state of security technology is one area of concern in the report. Officials at the regional level told GAO that security systems are more integrated now than when the 2006 agreement was written. Without an updated agreement between the agencies, officials said it's not always clear which agency is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the gear needed to secure facilities, including surveillance cameras, physical barriers, screening devices and more. The agencies often rely on informal networks and past practices to assign roles and responsibilities.

"Officials told us that some facility access control systems have been inoperable while GSA and FPS determine which agency will do what," the GAO report states. "As security technology advances, lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities for these systems could result in security gaps potentially leaving the tenants, the public, and the facilities at risk."

FPS and GSA said that they would take a more integrated approach when it comes to acquiring, installing and maintaining the next generation of technology. In November 2015 GSA officials told GAO they were updating failing physical access control systems and legacy systems.

GSA's Administrator, Denise Roth and DHS's liason to the GAO, Jim Crumpacker, concurred with the recommendations in the report.

About the Author

Bianca Spinosa is an Editorial Fellow at FCW.

Spinosa covers a variety of federal technology news for FCW including workforce development, women in tech, and the intersection of start-ups and agencies. Prior to joining FCW, she was a TV journalist for more than six years, reporting local news in Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Spinosa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Writing at George Mason University, where she also teaches composition. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Click here for previous articles by Spinosa, or connect with her on Twitter: @BSpinosa.


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