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Security in Federal Buildings



JUNE 4, 1998

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for inviting the General Services Administration (GSA) to appear before you today to describe our security program for GSA-controlled Federal workspace.

We have no more important duty than to assure the physical safety and peace of mind of the Federal employees who work in, and the members of the public who visit, the space that we own or lease on behalf of the Federal Government. The job is monumental: nearly one million Federal workers and uncounted millions of visitors, thousands of children and their day-care providers, not to mention passers-by, depend on us to keep them safe from harm and to make sure that the work of the government goes on peacefully. We operate more than 1,800 government-owned buildings and more than 6,200 leased locations spread throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

Within days after a terrorist bomb destroyed GSA's Murrah Federal Building and took 168 lives in Oklahoma City, on April 19, 1995, we embarked upon a program that has significantly upgraded security in the facilities under our control. Since that awful day, we have:

?pervised the placement of nearly 8,000 security countermeasures recommended by lay committees in Federal buildings;
?arly doubled the size of our uniformed Federal Protective Service Officers, from 376 officers to a planned strength of 724 (with all but 52 actually on board);
?re than doubled the number of contracted guards in Federal work locations, from 2,300 to more than 5,000;
?hanced intelligence-sharing with other Federal law enforcement agencies; and,
?vised our policies to provide more protected sites for many new buildings and to discourage co-locating low-risk agencies with higher-risk ones.

We have redirected training and duties of our security force and issued revised design criteria for new and renovated Federal buildings.

All this comes at a cost, of course. The BSC countermeasures, which include large numbers of security screening and surveillance devices and additional personnel to monitor them, have come at a capital cost of 148 million, and with additional operating costs totaling $249 million, for a cost of $397 million since 1995. Virtually all of this cost has been funded through the Federal Buildings Fund, except for a small supplemental appropriation in fiscal year 1995.
While no one wants to put a price on preventing violence, we do note that when and where we have requested our tenants to pay for the additional security measures, their demand for the measures drops significantly.

Additionally, the task is complicated by the fact that the vast majority of our facilities exist to provide services to the American public. They must be open and readily accessible to Americans? foreigners, too?h legitimate business to conduct in the facilities. We pay some price for maintaining our buildings as a face of democracy in their communities, but we are the Public Buildings Service, and intend to remain so.

Measuring Success

Before describing the progress we have made delivering the specifics of our security program, I would like to talk about measuring results. As you know, I have been trying to manage PBS by the numbers by establishing outcome-oriented performance measures. Security is no exception. We are struggling to develop meaningful performance measures. Other security organizations, both public and private, are trying to do the same thing. Until we settle on those measures over the next few months, we can report the following results.

?iminal activity reported in our buildings has declined steadily since 1995. During 1997, the number of crimes against persons decreased by 6 percent and the number of crimes against property decreased by 3 percent.

? have had a 31 percent increase in the number of weapons violations that we have caught. During 1997, we recorded 612 offenses.

? also know that our security measures have made our tenants feel more safe. Results of recent customer surveys conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) indicate high levels of satisfaction with our security measures.

Security Upgrades in Federal Facilities

President Clinton ordered an interagency review, headed by the U.S. Marshals Service, which produced findings and recommendations that were published on June 28, 1995, in a Department of Justice (DOJ) report entitled "Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities." The report recommended that GSA carry out recommended security improvements for existing facilities and for new construction through consultation with building-level security committees and security experts.

The DOJ report recommended that each Federal facility be enhanced with a minimum set of security standards based on its specific needs. The standards focused on four primary areas: perimeter security; entry security for access of people, packages, and mail into a building; interior security for prevention of criminal or terrorist activities inside the facility; and security planning. Using DOJ report criteria, we categorized GSA-controlled facilities into four security levels with Level I buildings requiring the least security measures and Level IV the most.

We also established more than 6,500 Building Security Committees (BSCs) -- made up of tenant agency representatives, building employees, and union representatives - and conducted building-by-building reviews of Federal facilities under our control. The building surveys looked at many items, including occupancy, construction, location of child care centers, public access, on-site parking, and security screening at entrances.

Based on their reviews, the BSCs recommended and GSA approved some 8,000 security upgrades. These recommendations included hiring more contract security guards, limiting access to entry points in facilities, restricting parking, installing closed-circuit television cameras and monitors, installing x-ray machines and magnetometers, and instituting closer scrutiny of employee and visitor identification.

We undertook an enormous task under tight time and financial constraints to improve security in Federal facilities under our control, and we have made significant progress.

Security Program Overview

Since 1995, we have increased the size of our uniformed force of police officers from 376 to 672 and we are recruiting an additional 52. In addition, the Federal Protective Service has some 500 other personnel: physical security specialists, criminal investigators, and support. The Service directs over 5,000 privately contracted security guards, up from 2,300 in 1995, who provide access and egress control, visitor and employee identification, security equipment monitoring, and foot patrols on building perimeters.

Increasing security has been an expensive endeavor, as we noted before. Funding for upgrades has come from the Federal Buildings Fund - the rental income from our customer agencies that provides for the operation, maintenance, and repair of GSA-owned space, and payments to lessors. Beginning in FY 1999, we will charge our customers for the actual operating costs associated with the BSC security enhancement. As our customers begin to understand the cost of heightened security, they are beginning to take another look at their security requirements.

Of the nearly 8,000 security upgrades identified in building-by-building reviews of our facilities, we have completed over 90 percent. In many cases, the remaining improvements are more difficult: they require building redesigns or renovations with a longer lead time. Our goal is to complete them by the end of fiscal year 1998. As the Building Security Committees continue the ongoing process of reviewing security and making additional recommendations, we have received 162 new recommendations and have implemented 32 percent of them.

The delivery of the security countermeasure program has been an enormous task and has not gone without some hitches. In December 1997, the GSA Inspector General (IG) issued a report on the implementation of security countermeasures in the National Capital Region. The IG identified a number of countermeasures which were inaccurately reported as complete. I immediately asked the IG to expand his review to other regions. The IG has issued additional reports for Regions 1, 4, and 7. I directed all of our regions to review and either validate or complete all of the countermeasures recorded as completed in our tracking system.

We have reviewed and reconciled 75 percent of the countermeasures recorded in our tracking system. Our goal remains to complete implementation of all countermeasures by the end of fiscal year 1998 and, at the same time, continue work on the new recommendations that we have received from the BSCs.

We have learned much from our work and the IG's review. We found some problems. We developed an inflexible countermeasure tracking system that does not allow us to deal with changing security requirements and led to data inaccuracies. We need to work more closely with Building Security Committees. We also may have found a handful of instances of false reporting. We are investigating those vigorously.

Remember that immediately after the Murrah building bombing, GSA was trying to develop management systems at the same time that we were establishing 6,000 Building Security Committees, reviewing and approving 8,000 security upgrades, and shifting funds in order to deliver the security program. At this point though, I will not be satisfied until we are 100 percent complete and we have systems in place to ensure that new requirements are identified, tracked, and completed in the most expeditious manner.

Leadership of the Interagency Security Committee

In addition to our work with our own inventory, GSA has a critical governmentwide role. On October 19, 1995, the President issued Executive Order 12977 to improve governmentwide coordination of security initiatives. The order created an Interagency Security Committee (ISC), chaired by the Administrator of General Services, and tasked the committee to develop and evaluate security standards for Federal facilities. The ISC is responsible for establishing policies for the security and protection of Federal facilities and is overseeing the implementation of security measures in Federal facilities. The ISC established a number of working groups to address specific security issues.

Accomplishments of these groups include a study of minimum security standards for all non-GSA controlled facilities, recommendations for sharing security intelligence, a memorandum of agreement for court security, and draft security design criteria for new construction and modernization projects. I would like to provide a couple of examples of the ISC's work and GSA's implementation of ISC recommendations.

Changes in Design and Construction Criteria

Following the issuance of the DOJ report, GSA convened a Construction Standards Working Group of the Interagency Security Committee to develop a strategy for implementing the design and construction aspects of physical security in construction and renovation programs. This working group began its discussions, and its subsequent meetings with experts, with the premise that Federal buildings are facilities that must be both secure and accessible for Federal employees and public visitors. The primary goal of the ISC/GSA security design criteria is to prevent death and injury and, secondarily, to protect assets. In the event of a major terrorist or criminal act, our structural, mechanical, electrical, and life-safety criteria are aimed at facilitating safe evacuation and rescue.

GSA has adopted the working group's security design and construction criteria for its own new construction projects and major renovation projects. We conduct a security risk assessment at the earliest stages of project programming. We have also used the security design criteria to make design changes in our construction projects where possible.

I should mention one other activity falling under the Construction Standards Working Group that has received a lot of attention -- the use of polymer film to make windows shatter-proof. The force of the blast at the Murrah building caused the windows to shatter into tiny shards, which killed or injured many victims. Before beginning a wholesale program to retrofit existing windows in all Federal facilities, the ISC Construction Standards Working Group recommended further study of the performance of polymer film.

In 1996, we asked the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to evaluate the shatter protection performance of polymer film. NIST found no evidence that polymer film measurably reduces the possibility of damage caused by flying glass from explosive blasts. Given this analysis, we asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct blast tests to determine the performance of polymer film and other glazing configurations. The strength of the glazing units was primarily related to the thickness of the glass. The test results focused our attention on the importance not just of the capacity of the window glazing material itself, but also the supporting structural walls, the anchorage (bite retention), and the window framing in order to maximize total window system strength.

GSA uses the ISC draft security design criteria for new construction and for retrofitting windows in our existing buildings. As the Corps' blast tests suggest, we determine the most appropriate retrofit solution (e.g., polymer film, laminates, blast curtains, or polycarbonate panels) by examining each individual building, using security risk assessments, engineering recommendations, cost benefit analyses, and, of course, the recommendations of our tenant agencies. To make a cost-effective decision, we consider the life cycle of the building, the life cycle of the alternative glazing solutions, and their life-cycle costs.

Security Costs

Construction Costs.
Employing security design criteria developed by the ISC Construction Standards Working Group has added 3 to 4 percent to the cost of constructing courthouse facilities, primarily for enhancements to the structural system, exterior envelope, and perimeter security systems to mitigate blasts.

Security Charges.
Since the establishment of the Federal Buildings Fund, GSA has assessed a charge for security in Federal buildings and in leased buildings. After the fund had been in operation for several years, it became clear that some agencies, because of their mission requirements, needed a different level of security. For those buildings, which numbered about 1000 in 1995, GSA provided additional security, usually through the use of alarm systems and security guards. The cost of this added service was added to the benefiting agencies' Rent bills, pro rata among the agencies occupying the building.

After the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the resultant decision that the Federal government should improve security in many locations, GSA funded, from the authority given to GSA, principally in the appropriations acts for fiscal years 1996 and 1997, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in new security devices and installations. The operating costs associated with these improvements, most commonly associated with screening entrants to the buildings through the use of guards, magnetometers, and x-ray machines, have also been paid for by GSA, beginning in fiscal year 1996 through the present. In fiscal year 1999, these added operating costs (approximately $120 million per year) will be included in agencies' Rent bills. Agencies received notice of these costs, with the details down to the building level, as a part of the annual estimate GSA sends its customers for budgeting purposes, in June 1997.

Delivering Excellent Security Programs:
People and Organization

Federal Protective Service Officers

In response to recommendations in the DOJ report, the President directed GSA to review its security program requirements and to identify resources needed to enhance and expedite security countermeasures. In response, GSA developed a resource allocation model to determine new workload requirements for the Federal Protective Service (FPS) officers. The study, which was conducted for GSA by Booz, Allen and Hamilton and issued in September 1995, recommended increasing the size of GSA's uniformed force of police officers from 376 to 724. As of April 1998, the Federal Protective Police Officer strength stood at 672.

In January 1996, we revised the position description of our journeyman non-supervisory Federal Protective Service police officers to include additional investigative duties. We reclassified their positions and upgraded their grade level from GS-06 to GS-08. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) subsequently conducted a position management review in regions we selected and found that most officers were not performing the more complex, higher-graded investigative work. As a result, in July 1997, OPM officials prohibited further hiring and promoting of officers to the GS-08 journeyman level.

Our primary concern is our ability to recruit and retain the best possible FPS officers in order to ensure the safety of employees and visitors in our facilities.

New Directions

In April 1998, the Federal Protective Service held a 3-day charrette - an architectural term for an intensive group planning process - to consider how we might better perform the functions of the Service and match its security and law enforcement expertise with the needs of the tenant community. Participants in the "Achieving Excellence in Public Buildings Security" workshop included GSA managers and union representatives, as well as representatives of the Departments of Justice and Interior, Social Security Administration, and the American Society for Industrial Security.

The working group developed recommendations, integrating both ongoing and new initiatives, for improving our responsiveness to tenant agencies; for strengthening our investigative, criminal intelligence, and physical security training; and for increasing the integration of security functions with building design, location, and operations activities.

We are already upgrading training for our Federal Protective Service officers, adding a 2-week course tailored to their mission at the end of the eight week long basic training course all FPS officer recruits take at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. We are expanding training requirements for our physical security specialists and giving intelligence analysis training to all our criminal investigators. We have armed all our officers with the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.

We are reviewing the statutory jurisdictional authority of our officers. For example, we are concerned that jurisdiction currently is restricted to Federal property, except in hot pursuit of a person suspected of committing a felony on GSA-controlled property. We believe that some limited area surrounding Federally-controlled space should be included in the routine patrol jurisdiction. There are other aspects of jurisdiction that may need some revision.

However, we strongly oppose suggestions that have been made to divorce the Federal Protective Service from the Public Buildings Service and make it an independent service within GSA. Security needs to be tightly integrated into the location, design and operation of federal buildings. Our security is financed out of revenues collected by the Public Buildings Service. Making the FPS "independent" of PBS will seriously harm our efforts to provide tight and seamless security.

The focus of GSA's security program is to protect people while in our buildings. It is a challenging, costly, and ongoing task. We are committed to ensuring Federal employees and visitors safe, secure access to our Federal facilities.

This concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13