The former head of the Federal Protective Service has welcomed a bill now under consideration in the Senate to increase the number of guards who protect U.S. government buildings.
Wendell Shingler, who once served as director of the FPS, told In Depth’s Francis Rose that the legislation would be “a great first step,” which would move the agency “light years” from where it is now.
The Federal Protective Service is charged with protecting the vast majority of the federal government’s civilian workforce. It has been the object of bad press – especially concerning poor performance by its guards.
The bill, introduced this month by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and two co-sponsors, would add nearly 150 full-time employees and ensure that the service never employ fewer than 1200 persons at any time.
The legislation would also intensify the training of contract guards.
The FPS’s 1,200 full-time employees and and 15,000 contract guards are tasked with guarding 9,000 federal buildings and facilities.
Shingler said that the FPS is “way understaffed” for the missions the service is given and that increasing the number of personnel is, in fact, the agency’s “first priority.”
The bill, known as the SECURE Facilities Act of 2011, would – in Shingler’s view – certainly “put the FPS on the road to recovery.”
He gave credit to the bill’s sponsors for, as he put it, “looking out for the men and women of the FPS.”
Shingler noted that – contrary to the public’s perception – many of these individuals are not actually guards: “These are police officers, they’re agents, they’re inspectors.” He added that the FPS is “actually a small police department, policing federally-owned facilities.”
Put another way, the FPS is the law enforcement agency that polices the facilities owned by the General Services Administration, which in turn is the largest provider of office space for the federal government.
“They’re not just a guard agency,” Shingler stressed.
“They’ve got a lot of hats and not a lot of heads to put them on,” Shingler said, “and that’s probably their biggest problem right now.”