The security of U.S. federal government buildings and facilities not only influences the daily operations of the federal government and the health, wellbeing, and security of federal employees, but also the public.
Congress and federal law enforcement entities are still conducting inquiries into the biggest security breach in history of the U.S. Capitol security building on January 6, 2021. Following the Oklahoma City federal building bombings in 1995, the government formed the Interagency Security Committee (ISC). Congress took an even deeper interest in federal facility security following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the September 2013 Washington Navy Yard shootings, and the April 2014 Fort Hood shootings.
What Is U.S. Federal Facility Security?
- Glass glazing to decrease the potential for injuries from shattering glass
- Greater standoff distances implemented by preventing unscreened traffic from approaching within a certain distance of the building; and
- Measures to prevent the progressive collapse of buildings.
Federal building security includes operations and policies that focus on decreasing the exposure of a facility, employees, and the visiting public to criminal and terrorist threats. Each federal facility has unique attributes that affect its individual security needs and the missions of the federal tenants.
Who Is Responsible for Federal Facility Security?
The authority for federal departments and agencies to provide security for their facilities and employees is cited in various sections of the U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). As per their respective authority, each department or agency obtains the funds to provide security.
In single-tenant facilities, the federal department or agency with funding authority is the decision-maker for the facility’s security and has the option to use these standards or other internal procedures to make security decisions. For facilities with two or more federal tenants with funding authority, a Facility Security Committee (FSC) is established to make security decisions for the facility.
Typically, about 30 federal law enforcement agencies provide security for 45% of federal facilities and their occupants. The remaining 55% of federal facilities are owned and occupied by military, intelligence, and national security entities with their own facility security force, such as the Pentagon’s uniformed police.
Federal Facility Security Levels
Due to the differences among federal buildings and their security needs, the ISC created five categories to classify federal facilities based on building size, agency mission and function, tenant population, and the degree of public access to the facility. A building’s security level determines which security activities and operations need to be established and maintained to secure the facilities.
According to the General Services Administration (GSA), at the request of the Judiciary, GSA changed the designation of several buildings housing agencies with court and court-related functions from Level III to Level IV.
The levels include:
This type of building has 10 or fewer federal employees; a low volume of public contact or contact with only a small segment of the population; and a maximum of 2,500 square feet of space, such as a small storefront type of operation. It is more vulnerable to an attack.
This type of building has 11 to 150 federal employees; a moderate volume of public contact; 2,500 to 80,000 square feet (7,400 m2) of space; and federal activities that are routine in nature, like commercial activities.
This is a building with 151 to 450 federal employees; moderate/high volume of public contact; 80,000 to 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of space; and tenant agencies that may include law enforcement agencies, court/related agencies and functions, and government records and archives.
This type of building has 450 or more federal employees; high volume of public contact; more than 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of space; and tenant agencies that may include high-risk law enforcement and intelligence agencies (e.g., ATF, FBI, and DEA), the federal courts, and judicial offices, and highly sensitive government records.
These buildings contain mission functions critical to national security, such as the Pentagon or CIA Headquarters. A Level-V building is like a Level-IV building in terms of the number of employees and square footage with the minimum security features of a Level-IV building. The missions of Level-V buildings require that tenant agencies secure the site according to their own requirements.
GSA’s Schedule for Conducting Security Surveys
Surveys are conducted of GSA’s building inventory, depending on the level of the facility, as defined by the June 28, 1995 Department of Justice Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities:
- Level 1: Survey conducted every 4 years
- Level 2: Survey conducted every 4 years
- Level 3: Survey conducted every 3 years
- Level 4: Survey conducted every 2 years
- Level 5: Survey conducted every year
What Security Operations Do Federal Facilities Include?
- All-hazards risk assessments
- Criminal and terrorist countermeasures, such as vehicle barriers, closed-circuit cameras, security checkpoints at entrances, and the patrolling of the grounds and perimeter of federal facilities
- Federal, state, and local law enforcement response plans
- Emergency and safety training programs
- Proactive gathering and analysis of terrorist and criminal threat intelligence
Types of Threats to Federal Facilities, Employees, and Public
Federal facilities, employees, and the visiting public face a variety of threats, including:
- Illegal weapon and explosive possession
- Robbery and riots
- Civil disturbances
Some examples of threats to the federal buildings include:
- The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard facility on September 16, 2013; the Department of Defense (DOD) investigated and adjusted the Navy Yard’s security operations
- The occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon for 40 days by armed private citizens in 2016
Physical Security Program for Federal Facilities
So how does the government ensure that these high-level federal facility buildings stay secure? The Physical Security Program (PSS) protects the federal agency’s facilities, property, information, and personnel assets per federal standards and regulations within the U.S and Foreign Commercial Service. It continuously evaluates and certifies risk assessment surveys, prioritizes the physical security effort, and recommends countermeasures to mitigate vulnerabilities.
The Physical Security program focuses on guidance, instruction, countermeasure deployment, and services in areas of:
- Electronic Security Systems (ESS)
- Physical Access Control Systems (PACS)
- Video Surveillance Systems (or CCTV)
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
- Facility Security Assessments
- Facility Security Committees
- Locks and Keys
- Protective Security
- Protective Security Officers (PSO)
- K-9 Services
Challenges Associated with the Implementation of Federal Facility Security
In addition to the unreliable nature of the data in the upgrade tracking and accounting systems, several other problems have hindered and slowed GSA’s implementation of the security upgrade program. These include:
- Funding source uncertainties
- Mistakes made to meet deadlines by a downsized staff
- Sense of urgency to rapidly complete as many security upgrades as possible
- Unreliable upgrade cost estimates
- Information lacking on program goals, measures, and results
Secure Your Federal Facility with Identiv
At Identiv, we secure government sites from standard office spaces to highly secure facilities. Whether you have a basic office space, a shared building, or a research facility, we offer flexible and reliable physical access control and identity management systems that keep you connected and secure at all times.
We provide secure visitor controls, access to cyber resources, asset tracking, and attack prevention. Our government solutions are customizable to your needs. A compliance layer can be added for federal facilities (i.e., HSPD-12 and FICAM) while migration expansion is supported in legacy environments.