Securing Government Facilities

Each day, millions of Americans enter government buildings. How secure these facilities are at the time of entry is probably an afterthought for many of them. However, the federal government continues to dedicate significant resources to implementing...


Each day, millions of Americans enter government buildings. How secure these facilities are at the time of entry is probably an afterthought for many of them. However, the federal government continues to dedicate significant resources to implementing strategies that will prevent attacks against government facilities. This is no small task, given that each of these buildings presents unique security challenges that should not be addressed through “one-size-fits-all” security standards and policies.

The 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to assess the security at federal facilities and establish 52 minimum security standards for all federal buildings. Shortly thereafter, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12977, establishing the Interagency Security Committee (ISC). The ISC was tasked with implementing the standards put forth by the DOJ and creating policies to improve the overall physical security of all nonmilitary federal facilities.

Prior to the creation of the ISC, no universal security standards existed for federal buildings. In 2003, the ISC was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The committee, which includes more than 100 senior personnel from 42 federal agencies, has issued reports on establishing security design criteria for new federal buildings and modernization projects and has established security standards for spaces leased by the federal government. However, the DOJ standards have not always kept up with changes in technology and the threats facing government facilities — and these standards, if not updated, could have the unintended consequence of creating vulnerabilities. The new suite of ISC standards completed in 2008 and 2009 fully replaced the DOJ standards. They are intended to better leverage new technologies and account for potential future security threats. For more information about these standards, visit http://www.dhs.gov/files/committees/gc_1194978268031.shtm.

The work of the ISC follows several noteworthy government security initiatives issued during the Bush administration, such as Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD-7). This directive established a policy to identify and secure critical infrastructure and key resources (CI/KR), including government facilities. It identified 17 CI/KR sectors, each assigned to a federal agency responsible for creating a sector-specific security plan. Today, SIA serves on the Emergency Services Sector while monitoring the work of the Government Facilities Sector, which does not include official private sector representation.

The Government Facilities Sector (GFS) was assigned to DHS’s Federal Protective Service as part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some of the initiatives that the GFS has undertaken include broadening interaction to strengthen information sharing within the sector, gathering accurate information regarding sector assets, helping sector partners to secure CI/KR and facilitating research and development for new security solutions. The GFS is updating its Sector Specific Plan, which is designed to coordinate critical infrastructure protection strategies for government facilities and support the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP).

Lastly, SIA has been heavily involved with the implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), ensuring that it is put into effect in a timely manner, which is not an easy task. Last spring, SIA testified before Congress regarding the implementation of HSPD-12. SIA Personal Identity Verification Working Group Chairman Rob Zivney of Hirsch Electronics told lawmakers, “The implementation of HSPD-12 is truly a pioneering effort on behalf of the federal government.”

SIA will continue to work with government agencies and lawmakers to help ensure successful implementation of government facility security initiatives. SIA supports the goals of the ISC, NIPP and the promotion of wider use of security technologies to safeguard and protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.

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