Bill would boost Federal Protective Service staff, training

Monday - 4/11/2011, 4:04pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

A bill introduced last week in the Senate would hire more Federal Protective Service guards and increase resources for training.

The SECURE Facilities Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would hire 150 more FPS guards and require a minimum of 1,200 guards to be employed at any point. Currently, the federal government employs 1,200 FPS guards, while 15,000 FPS employees are contracted.

The bill also calls for a testing program to assess the performance of contracted guards.

FPS protects 9,000 federal buildings across the country. The service has come under attack for poor management and employee performance. In one incident in 2006, an infant in a carrier was placed in an X-ray machine.

Investigations by the Government Accountability Office found contract guards were poorly trained and people were able to walk into high security buildings with dangerous objects without ever being detected.

"The agency must be turned around, which is why we are introducing this legislation to strengthen its management, provide it with the necessary resources to fulfill its mission, and help it function at a higher level," Lieberman said in a statement.

The bill would also allow FPS guards to carry firearms off duty, "allowing them to respond to incidents more quickly," according to a release from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman is chairman of the committee.