|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 1998
The FPS is currently part of the General Services Administration's
Public Building Service. While current law gives the GSA Administrator
the authority to hire special police officers and investigators, there
is no statutory requirement to have a Federal Protective Service.
Traficant, who has been working on federal building security issues for
five years, said his bill was direct response to the April 19, 1995 bombing
of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and
the federal government's inadequate response to that tragedy.
The main features of Traficant's legislation, the Federal Protective Service Reform Act of 1998, will:
Establish, by statute, the Federal Protective Service as the principal law enforcement and security agency in the United States with respect to the protection of federal officers and employees in buildings and areas under GSA's control.
Make FPS a freestanding service within GSA, separate from PBS. Under the bill, the FPS will have its own commissioner reporting directly to the GSA Administrator (currently the head of FPS has the title of Assistant PBS Commissioner).
Clarify the responsibilities and authority of FPS officers, including giving them the ability to carry firearms to and from work, providing officers with a "buffer zone" of responsibility extending as far as 500 feet from a federal building, and clearly delineating the circumstances under which FPS officers can make arrests.
Establish a pay scale and benefit package for FPS officers similar to that of the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service.
Require GSA to hire at least 730 full-time FPS officers within one year of enactment of the bill into law, and bar GSA from reducing the number of full-time FPS officers unless specifically authorized by Congress (there are currently 648 full-time FPS officers; the PBS commissioner recently stated that GSA's long-term goal is to have 724 full-time FPS officers).
Require contract guards to undergo the same background checks as FPS officers, and require FPS to prescribe adequate training standards for contract guards.
Direct a General Accounting Office study of the feasibility of merging all federal building security services under FPS.
Require that the FPS Commissioner be a career civil servant with extensive law enforcement experience.
"The Oklahoma City bombing revealed that we were woefully unprepared for such an act," noted Traficant, a former sheriff. On the day of the bombing there was only one contract security guard on duty in Oklahoma City. That contract guard was responsible for providing security at the Murrah building and two other federal buildings. "There is evidence that those responsible for bombing the Murrah building cased the building in the days and weeks leading up to the bombing," observed Traficant. "The fact that the Murrah building was, for the most part, unprotected, could have played a role in the decision of the terrorists to bomb that building."
Traficant noted that, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Public Building Service has made great strides in improving the physical security of the federal buildings under its control. But, as a recent hearing by the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Public Buildings revealed, the security upgrade program initiated in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing has been hindered by mismanagement and staff reductions. According to Traficant, structural and personnel problems within the FPS are also hindering GSA's ability to upgrade and improve security.
At the present time there are only 648 full-time FPS officers, as opposed to more than 5,000 contract guards. "The best deterrent to a terrorist bombing or attack on a federal building is a highly trained, professional and fully staffed FPS," said Traficant. "While I recognize that the use of contract guards is necessary, the use of contract guards may not be appropriate at certain federal buildings."
All FPS officers undergo a full and detailed background check, including a review by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Contract guards, on the other hand, only undergo a cursory background check. Traficant is concerned that some federal buildings that have been classified as a high security risk are being patrolled by undertrained and unqualified contract guards.
"I also am deeply troubled by the fact that FPS officers are paid significantly less than other federal law enforcement officers that perform the same function. Equally as disturbing, the low level of compensation combined with poor communication between management and the rank and file is causing a morale and turnover problem that could further compromise security. Morale plays a key role in the effectiveness of any law enforcement agency," asserted Traficant. "The Federal Protective Service Reform Act will make the changes needed to boost morale, improve management and make FPS better able to respond to terrorist threats to federal buildings."
Traficant's bill was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Traficant said today that he will ask both panels to hold hearings on the bill next month. Prior to his election to Congress in 1984, Traficant served four years as sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio.2009