Know What Needs Protecting
A basic lack of information on Federal facilities may stand in the way of complying with a Presidential Directive to safeguard these facilities from terrorists.
In August of 2004, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) was issued, calling for a mandatory government-wide common physical and information security standard for Federal employees and contractors. In early fall, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent an implementation guidance to executive agencies to reiterate HSPD-12’s goals to “enhance security, increase Government efficiency, reduce identity fraud and protect personal privacy.”
A hitch in complying with this directive is that the Federal government currently does not have a complete or accurate inventory of property owned or leased by the Federal government. What is more, there is no call for such an inventory in either HSPD-12 or OMB’s implementation guidance.
How can you create a fool-proof, universal physical and information security system without knowing exactly what property you own or lease, who works there and what they do?
The Federal government owns or leases approximately 650 million acres and 3.5 billion square feet of building floor area. By some estimates, as much as 25 percent of that inventory is unnecessary for agency missions. While some agencies have a better handle on their real property than others, there is no common database of comprehensive real property information. That means any system for identification and restricted access — including the “graduated criteria” for secure access as called for in HSPD-12 — is vulnerable to exploitation.
There is some hope, however. Through provisions such as pilot legislation HR 3134 and Executive Order 13327 (part of the President’s Management Agenda), the Federal government will be required to get a better handle on its real property and human resources assets.
There are three things one can do right away to make sure a security system is as foolproof as possible.
- Talk to financial and real property colleagues
Each agency has a Senior Real Property Officer (SRPO). In many cases, this SRPO works within the Finance and Administration Office. Make sure the office and the SRPO knows about HSPD-12. Coordinate the efforts.
- Benchmark with other agencies
Are counterparts at other agencies coordinating with their own SPROs? What are they doing to comply with EO 13327 and HSPD-12?
- Look for help
There are companies that have extensive experience in understanding the implications of real property on physical security. In many cases, these companies have actually walked through numerous government buildings. That information could prove vital.
Agencies must work together to develop a shared pool of information related to their real property holdings. Until that happens, a common government-wide physical and information security system will never be truly foolproof.
Ray Summerell is vice president of corporate development for VISTA, a Herndon, Va.-based provider of management services to government.