Bill to strengthen FPS clears Senate committee

Wednesday - 5/18/2011, 4:20pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

A bill to boost training and testing for Federal Protective Service guards cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

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 to protect federal buildings.

"The FPS is a dysfunctional agency, struggling to perform its mission, and the evidence of that is overwhelming," Lieberman said in a statement. "This legislation is urgently needed to set the agency back on course so it can protect the thousands of people who work and visit federal buildings."

FPS has been criticized for lax security. As part of an investigation in 2009, agents with the Government Accountability Office were able to smuggle in bomb-making materials into federal buildings.

GAO also discovered guards taking prescription meditation while on duty and sleeping on the job. In one instance, a guard had allowed a baby pass through an X-ray machine.