GAO Reports Federal Monuments Need Better Protection

As Americans prepare to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) has delivered a report to Tom Davis, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, on security at some of the nation’s most popular summer destinations. The report, entitled “Actions Needed to Better Protect National Icons and Federal Office Buildings from Terrorism”, evaluates current actions and future challenges faced by US Department of the Interior (Interior) and the US General Services Administration (GSA) in protecting federal monuments, icons and office buildings in the aftermath of September 11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.

The GAO report notes that Interior, which is responsible for the safety of 70,000 employees and 1.3 million daily visitors to 507 million acres of public land, has made major improvements in security at high-profile sites like the Washington Monument and Statue of Liberty while concerns remain for remote sites like Mount Rushmore. Interior has created physical security plans and has developed a uniform system to measure risk of terrorist attacks at national monuments and icons and ranks the level of risk. GAO recommends linking the risk rankings to funding for security.

GSA continues to face challenges at the 8,000 federal office buildings it owns or leases. Security at leased buildings is particularly difficult since GSA does not have complete control over building access. Further, the GAO report states that the transfer of federal building law enforcement, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) from GSA to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), continues to be a challenge. The GAO report recommends that “a formal point of contact” be established at GSA to facilitate interaction with FPS and DHS.

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