Say Federal Security Staff Strained by Terror Trials

Chief Leader - November 24, 2009

by ARI PAUL

AFGE: FPS Shorthanded

The union president representing Federal Protective Service Officers Nov. 18 told a U.S. House of Representatives panel that the agency had a "manpower crisis in New York City" that needed to be resolved for the upcoming 9/11 trials in Manhattan.

American Federation of Government Employees Local 918 President David Wright said in testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security that the agency did not have enough personnel to provide adequate security during the trials, which will include the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, noting that "more staff is required to prevent diversion of staff from other areas."

Mr. Wright said that there was a general problem of understaffing at Federal facilities around the country.

Business Hours Only?

"The [Government Accountability Office] found that in most regions FPS is only on duty during regular business hours," he said. "Guards are not routinely monitored at night and on weekends. FPS does not even have 24-hour staffing in New York City. Criminals and terrorists don't work business hours and neither should FPS. Night and weekend staffing should be established in the 18 to 20 major metropolitan areas with the greatest number of high-risk and total facilities."

Mr. Wright said that the Federal Government's increased use of con- tract guards had compromised safety.

"In 2001 there were 5,000 contract guards and FPS was authorized over 1,450 total personnel. By 2009 there were 15,000 contract guards, but FPS was authorized only 1,225 total personnel," he said. "Based on the GAO test, where without detection, they entered facilities with explosives, the overreliance on contract guards-particularly at the highest security level buildings-has clearly reduced the effectiveness of security provided around these facilities."

UFA Questions Trial Location

The Obama Administration's decision to hold the trials for the alleged 9/11 plotters in the city prompted criticism from several elected officials as well as union and community leaders who believed that the high-profile events would make the city vulnerable.

"If the administration is 100 percent resolved to have the trials on American soil, giving these terrorists all of the trial rights of U.S. citizens, I suggest selecting an unpopulated and remote area in the middle of the desert or wilderness," Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said in an op-ed in the New York Post. "President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder must recognize that New Yorkers don't welcome this ill-conceived move. If they really care about the safety of Americans and New Yorkers, they will reverse course."