Proclamations directing agencies to fly flags at half-staff come from an unexpected corner of DHS.
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.
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