AUGUST 17, 2011
Four years and tens of millions of dollars later, the inept Homeland Security agency charged with protecting the nation’s public buildings from a potential terrorist attack or other violent acts still can’t do its job adequately.It’s yet another unbelievable—but true—story of how the U.S. government pours huge sums of taxpayer dollars into perpetually troubled agencies with little oversight and nothing to show for the investment. In this case the Federal Protective Service (FPS) can’t fulfill its mission despite getting $35 million to improve its notoriously deficient security system.With 1,200 full-time employees and 13,000 contract guards, the FSP is responsible for protecting 9,000 public facilities around the U.S. as well as the 1 million federal employees and members of the public who work in and visit them. But the agency, which has a $1 billion annual budget, has come under fire over the years for lacking properly trained guards who don’t carry out their duties.In fact, a few years ago a congressional probe revealed that security was so dismal at buildings guarded by the FSP that investigators easily smuggled explosive materials into ten facilities and constructed lethal devices that they carried around undetected. Incompetent guards failed to detect the explosives even though the brief cases that stored them went through the conveyer belt of an X-ray machine. In some instances guards didn’t even bother looking at the X-ray image as the explosives slipped by.The government’s solution was to give the FSP big bucks to correct the problem. But years later virtually nothing has changed, according to a new federal audit published this week by the investigative arm of Congress. In fact, the FSP created a flawed system that lacks a process to verify training and certification for more than 13,000 contract guards and doesn’t incorporate crucial security measures that were supposed to be implemented last year.It gets better. The system that was supposed to miraculously improve the agency’s performance was only supposed to cost $21 million, but the FSP has already blown $35 million and now claims it will take an additional $22 million before it works properly. Congressional investigators put it mildly by characterizing it as “significant expenditures” for a system that “is not functional.”
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