Homeland Security

NPPD flies (and lowers) the flag

Royalty-free stock photo ID: 712727152 By CrackerClips Stock Media 

When the dust settled on the Trump administration's back-and-forth on whether to mandate a half-staff flag at federal buildings in observance of the death of Sen. John McCain, the order to agencies came from an unlikely quarter.

The instructions were given and put in place through the same Homeland Security division responsible for critical infrastructure cybersecurity – at least at federal buildings under the control of the General Services Administration.

Specifically, the White House's directive to (finally) move the flags to half-staff was executed through the Federal Protective Service, an organization that is part of the National Protection and Program Directorate at DHS. The order came from the FPS Megacenter Program facility in Suitland, Md., according to agency emails and documents reviewed by FCW.

According to one federal agency source, FPS distributed an initial order to fly flags at half-staff, but that order was canceled. Shortly after that cancellation early on Monday Aug. 27, the White House flag returned to full-staff.  

Although NPPD's mission is typically associated with defending the .gov network environment and securing U.S. critical infrastructure against cyber and physical threats from cybercriminals and Russian hackers, its FPS operations are responsible for the physical security of federal buildings around the country.

The responsibility of supplying and flying flags at federal buildings lies with the General Services Administration. According to that agency's flag policy, it delegated the duties of raising and lowering flags at the facilities to FPS contract guards at the structures.

FPS' Suitland Megacenter is one of four nationwide facilities that monitors alarm systems, closed circuit television and wireless dispatch communications inside federal buildings.

If the Senate passes pending legislation to reorganize NPPD as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FPS would be moved elsewhere in DHS.

NPPD Undersecretary Christopher Krebs has said the directorate's current name blunts the effectiveness of its cybersecurity efforts because it isn't cyber-specific enough.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in February, Krebs said should the agency be reorganized, one of his immediate actions would be to provide recommendations on where to transfer FPS.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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