While much has been made of insider threats recently, with a wave of security breaches targeting agencies and organizations online, external threats and facility security are still of critical importance, with thousands of facility security positions keeping intelligence and defense offices safe.
With Federal Protective Services within the Department of Homeland Security providing security to over 9,000 federal offices, the question has arose as to whether security functions are best carried out by contract personnel, or should be insourced to government employees. Some members of congress have proposed requiring agencies to use federal personnel to protect their most sensitive facilities.
A Government Accountability Office study released in June examined the staffing approaches of nine federal agencies to determine best practices and recommendations for facility security staffing, and reported those findings back to the Committee on Homeland Security in the House of Representatives.
Overall, many agencies were using contract security staff for some functions, noting the benefits of cost savings as well as flexibility. The ability to hire individuals on an hourly basis, as well as the savings in benefits including healthcare and retirement, made contract staff a more fiscally responsible choice in some cases. The downsides to using contract security staff included a lack of control in staff selection, and career progression. Overall, the report noted the lack of standardized training for security personnel in government facilities. Each agency develops its own training requirements and standards for security staff, with no baseline requirements across the Federal Protective Services.
Some facilities use in-house personnel to protect their most sensitive facilities, while others, including the Department of Justice, use highly trained contract personnel with previous law enforcement experience to protect its facilities.
While offering both the challenges and benefits of contract versus in-house staff, the report made no final recommendation concerning staffing preferences. It did provide best practices for making staffing changes, including the need for upfront planning and worker oversight during a transition.