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GAO Calls for Overseers’ Input on Police Staffing Plan

The Capitol Police department needs to more adequately involve Congress as it prepares a strategic plan addressing its staffing needs and other programs, according to a General Accounting Office report issued Monday.

“The continuing lack of Congressional and other key stakeholder input represents a major gap in the planning efforts’ usefulness to USCP, the Congress and others that will need to be addressed as USCP moves forward,” states the report, which comes on the heels of criticism from House Members of the department’s growth.

The law enforcement agency is preparing a plan, mandated by the fiscal 2003 spending bill, that outlines the necessary number of civilian staff and sworn officers, as well as how the department will expand training, prevention and response methods.

“Their criticisms are fair and their suggestions are solid, and we will be working with a vendor to tighten it all up,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said through a spokeswoman. The department is working with Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys, an information technology services company, to prepare a report by Aug. 20.

The GAO report, provided to both chambers’ Appropriations committees and the four subcommittees with oversight of the agency, recommends that the department involve Congressional committees and the Capitol Police Board “to ensure agreement on USCP’s mission and goals, how progress will be measured … and the budget and human resources it needs to meet its mission.”

In a statement responding to the findings, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle said: “The Appropriations Committee directed the GAO to produce this report and I welcome its findings. As chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Board, I look forward to addressing the issues that GAO has raised.”

GAO also examined a staffing analysis released by the Capitol Police in April 2003, which will be incorporated into the strategic plan.

“While the agency’s USCP’s staffing analysis is an important and informative step, it is nonetheless incomplete and its staffing estimates therefore appear to be premature,” the report states.

The report continues: “Moreover, the staffing analysis is not clear on how USCP would establish priorities and make appropriate trade-offs in the event that its staffing request is not granted in full.”

The analysis, which predicts growth for the department through fiscal 2005, shows the agency with 2,369 civilian and sworn officers by then, a 68 percent increase from the 1,386 employees it had in fiscal 2001.

The department now has about 1,400 sworn officers and 227 civilian staff members, and plans to grow to 1,569 sworn officers by this fall and to 1,833 officers in the following fiscal year.

Members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, including Chairman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and ranking member Jim Moran (D-Va.), have openly questioned the size of the department.

In its version of the fiscal 2004 legislative branch spending bill, the panel provides the police force $212 million, but has halted funds for new officers until the law enforcement agency completes the strategic plan.

The Senate’s version of the spending bill funds the department at $240 million, still below the agency’s $275.5 million request.

The GAO report also focused on information technology within the agency, stating that it “has taken positive steps toward modernizing its IT infrastructure and administrative and law enforcement systems.”

However, the report noted, the Capitol Police have not finalized a continuity-of-operations plan that complies with Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

“Until USCP completes a continuity-of-operations plan, it will not be positioned to reduce or mitigate disruptions of operations and ensure the continuous performance of essential functions during an emergency.”

Another concern raised by GAO is the impending departure of the Capitol Police’s chief administrative officer, John McWilliam, who will leave the department next month.

“[The] Chief Administrative Officer’s recent decision to leave USCP later this summer will likely challenge USCP to maintain, and as appropriate, augment the momentum under way to make improvements in the strategic planning, change management, human capital, IT, and financial management areas,” the report states.

Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel noted a nationwide search is under way to fill the CAO post. In the meantime, James Getter, former director of the department’s office of information systems will serving as acting CAO.

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