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Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Bill to improve federal building security advances to Senate floor

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Overcoming its first hurdle, the Improving Federal Building Security Act (S.3613) passed out of committee this week, putting its ideas of timely improvements for federal buildings into consideration by the full Senate.

Earlier, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) issued recommendations on security measures for these more than 9,000 buildings, which are used by federal employees and the public. The bill, as authored by U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rick Scott (R-FL), would require a response to those measures within 90 days. Peters serves as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which advanced the bill.

Between 2017 and 2021, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that FPS has submitted more than 25,000 facility security recommendations, of which more than half were outright ignored. Of those heeded, even then, only 27 percent of recommended security measures were reportedly implemented.

“Federal buildings across the nation house federal employees dedicated to serving the American people and host countless Americans who are accessing critical government services,” Peters said. “This bill will help ensure federal agencies are following the most up-to-date security recommendations to protect both these facilities and the people in them.”

Peters held a hearing in November 2023 on the growing threats posed to federal buildings. Witnesses there backed up the GAO findings about the many ignored recommendations on building security.

“This good legislation will make sure that when the Federal Protective Service makes safety recommendations for federal offices and buildings, they are quickly reviewed and taken into consideration,” Scott said. “Federal agencies must do everything necessary to serve the American people while keeping public servants safe.”

If passed, the bill would give agencies the right to either adopt or reject FPS recommendations – but they must respond to them either way. If rejected, they would need to state why they rejected those recommendations. At the same time, DHS would be tapped to develop a method of monitoring responses to FPS security assessments and moving to guarantee agencies accountable. Further, DHS would need to report to Congress each year about agency responses to those assessments.