December 3, 2021

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Contract Security Guards: Army’s Guard Program Requires Greater Oversight and Reassessment of Acquisition Approach

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<div>Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, increased security requirements and a significant number of active duty and reserve personnel sent overseas to support the war on terror left the Department of Defense (DOD) with fewer military personnel to rely on to protect domestic installations. To correct this shortage, Congress is temporarily allowing DOD to use contract security guards to fulfill roles previously performed by military employees. The U.S. Army has awarded contracts worth nearly $733 million to acquire contract guards at 57 Army installations, an investment far greater than those made by other DOD services so far. The requesters asked GAO to assess how the Army has been managing and overseeing its acquisition of security guard services, particularly with regard to the Army's (1) acquisition strategy, (2) employment screening, (3) training of contract guards, and (4) award fee process. This report also discusses DOD's mandated November 2005 report to Congress on the contract guard program.The Army's three-phased approach for acquiring contract security guards has relied heavily on sole-source contracts, despite the Army's recognition early on that it was paying considerably more for its sole-source contracts than for those awarded competitively. The Army has devoted twice as many contract dollars--nearly $495 million--to its sole-source contracts as to its competed contracts and has placed contract security guards at 46 out of 57 installations through sole-sourcing. These sole-source contracts were awarded to two Alaska Native corporation firms under the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development Program. Congress has provided these firms with special advantages in the 8(a) program. During initial planning, the Army worked with a contractor who had not performed guard services before to refine the contract performance work statement. The Army's procedure for screening prospective contract guards is inadequate and puts the Army at risk of having ineligible guards protecting installation gates. The Army found that, at two separate installations, a total of 89 guards were put to work even though they had records relating to criminal offenses, including cases that involved assault and other felonies. Thorough background checks lag far behind the rate at which contract guards are put to work, and the initial screening process relies on prospective guards to be honest when filling out job application forms. In response to an earlier GAO report, DOD agreed to revise its antiterrorism standards to put into place a better mechanism for verifying the trustworthiness of contractors. The Army has given its contractors the responsibility to conduct most of the training of contract guards, and the Army cannot say with certainty whether training is actually taking place and whether it is being conducted according to approved criteria. GAO found that there is no requirement for the Army to certify that a contract guard has completed required training and that Army performance monitors do not conduct oversight of training as a matter of course. GAO also found missing or incomplete training records at several installations. At three installations, guards were certified by the contractor before training had been completed. An investigation discovered that at one installation, contractor personnel had falsified training records; the Army subsequently paid the contractor over $7,000 to re-qualify the guards. The Army has paid out more than $18 million in award fees, but the fees are based only on compliance with basic contractual requirements, not for above-and-beyond performance. Over the life of the contract guard program, the Army has paid out almost 98 percent of the available award fees. The practice of routinely paying contractors nearly the entire available award fee has created an environment in which the contractors expect to receive most of the available fee, regardless of acquisition outcomes. GAO found that many Army performance monitors were not conducting all of the required inspections of contractor activity in order to rate performance.</div>
Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army Contracting Agency to reassess its acquisition strategy for contract security guards, using competitive procedures for future contracts and/or task orders.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found that the Army had awarded two sole-source contracts, totaling almost $495 million and turned again to the sole source contracts in a third acquisition phase despite knowing that its competed contracts for the same services, awarded in the second acquisition phase, had cost 25 percent less than the initial sole source contracts. The Army has re-solicited all 54 contract security guard contracts using full and open competition with a small business set-aside. Contracts at 34 installations were awarded using full and open competition, while at 20 installations contracts were awarded using the small business set aside.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army Contracting Agency to remove award-fee provisions from future contracts and task orders under existing contracts.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found that the Army’s strategy of using award fees to motivate contractors had resulted in over $18 million in fee payouts for complying with the basic contractual requirements–not for exceeding what the contract required. GAO identified a number of concerns with the award-fee process, questioned the continued need, and recommended removing award-fee provisions from future contracts and task orders. The Army concurred and removed the award-fee provisions under the re-solicitation of all of the contracts under full and open competition.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Installation Management Agency to monitor the status of DOD’s revised antiterrorism standards and implement them into Army policy for screening of contract security guards as deemed suitable.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found the Army’s procedures do not provide assurance that contract security guards are adequately screened and put the Army at risk of staffing its gates with contract security guards who are not qualified for the job and in fact has resulted in applicants with criminal histories, including felons being employed as guards. GAO recommended that the DOD’s revised antiterrorism standards be implemented into Army policy for screening of contract security guards as deemed suitable. The Army has incorporated the language into the Army Civilian Police and Security Guard Program.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Installation Management Agency to direct installations to use the Army’s Crime Records Center and the National Crime Information Center databases to supplement initial screening (local agency check) of contract security guards until the new standards are in effect.

Closed – Implemented

GAO also recommended that the Army’s Installation Management Agency be directed to use the Army’s Crime Records Center and the National Crime Information Center databases to supplement initial screening of contract security guards. The Army now requires installations to use these data bases to supplement initial screening on contract security guards. This guidance was published in the Army Civilian Police and Security Guard Program and also is included the performance work statement.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Installation Management Agency to issue a standardized recordkeeping format for contractors to show that the guards have met all training requirements.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found that the Army may not have in place adequately trained contract security guards protecting its installations because contractors are given responsibility to conduct nearly all of the training and found instances where the contractors were not complying with requirements to track and maintain records of employee training and where contractors’ training techniques were inconsistent. GAO recommended using a standardized record-keeping format for contractors to show that the guards have met all training requirements. The Army updated the performance work statement for contractor security guard services to include a standardized record-keeping form for contractors to show that guards have met all training requirements.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Installation Management Agency to require installation performance monitors to review training files to ensure that initial training certification is achieved as well as subsequent annual recertification.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found that the Army may not have in place adequately trained contract security guards protecting its installations because contractors are given responsibility to conduct nearly all of the training and found that Army personnel did not provide sufficient oversight to know whether training is actually conducted in accordance with contractual provisions. GAO recommended that installation performance monitors review training files to ensure that initial training certification is achieved as well as subsequent annual recertification. The Army has revised the Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan to provide clear and detailed instructions to inspect all individual training records and certifications.

Department of Defense To improvement management and oversight of the contract security guard program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Office of the Provost Marshal General to require an Army official to monitor and certify contractor training of guards, especially weapons-qualification training.

Closed – Implemented

GAO found that the Army may not have in place adequately trained contract security guards protecting its installations because contractors are given responsibility to conduct nearly all of the training with insufficient oversight to know whether training is actually conducted including weapons-qualification training. GAO recommended that an Army official be required to monitor and certify contractor training of guards, especially weapons-qualification training. The Army guidance on contractor training was incorporated into the Army Civilian Police and Security Guard Program manual and the quality assurance surveillance plan and performance work statement now include the requirement for Army officials to monitor and certify contractor training. There is now a requirement for an additional contracting officer’s representative at each contract region to monitor weapons qualification.

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