Bomb in Detroit federal building largely the result of guard's poor judgment, says DHS IG
A security guard's poor judgment led him to bring a bomb inside the federal building where he worked and leave it at a security post for 21 days, the Homeland Security Department office of inspector general says.
But the Federal Protective Service and the contractor who employed the guard also bear some responsibility, the OIG says in a redacted report (.pdf) dated July 27.
On Feb. 26, 2011, someone placed a bag containing an improvised explosive device outside the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building in Detroit. A guard who worked for DECO, Inc., the FPS contractor for the building, brought it inside.
The guard treated the bag as found property, even though 3 months earlier he had received refresher training that covered how to detect and handle suspicious items. One FPS official told the OIG that the guard, who was also a Detroit Police Department sergeant, was also one of the best guards at the McNamara building.
But he breached DECO's contract when he failed to avoid contact with the bag and cordon off the area around it.
Guards later tried to visually inspect the inside of the bag, which contained a safe that held the IED. They also shook and moved the safe and screened it with an X-ray machine. DECO terminated the guard who brought the bag in, along with a guard and supervisor who X-rayed the bag and couldn't identify its contents. Another supervisor also resigned.
During the weeks the bag sat at the security post in the lobby, an FPS inspector examined the area four times. Each time, the inspector noted that it was "clean and orderly" and "free of unauthorized items," the OIG says.
But the area was routinely cluttered with guards' belongings and other property they'd found, the report says. And FPS officials disagreed about who was responsible for keeping posts free of unauthorized items.
The OIG recommended that FPS give clear guidance as to what it means to be clean, orderly and free of unauthorized items--and who determines that.
Additionally, outside consultants told DECO that a full-time police officer needs time off to rejuvenate--and so may not be the best fit for a second job that calls for constant vigilance.
They suggested that DECO instead hire retired police officers or people with military experience. DECO no longer hires full-time police officers to work as guards, it told the OIG.
In April 2011, DECO also paid for 85 guards to attend refresher training on weapons detection. It also trained about 60 guards on situational awareness. The company employs about 150 guards and supervisors under its FPS contract.
The IED was eventually identified after two guards became suspicious and notified an FPS inspector. Though it did not explode, it presented a serious risk to the building and its occupants, the OIG says.
The building houses offices for many federal agencies including DHS, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration, and the departments of Agriculture, Justice and Veterans Affairs.
DECO provides guard services at every federal facility that the General Services Administration owns or leases in Michigan. It's also FPS's fourth-largest guard services provider.
The OIG says FPS was right to continue its contract with DECO after the McNamara Building incident. Even if FPS had opted to change contractors, most of DECO's guards probably would have gone to work for the new contractor.
The successor usually keeps 85-90 percent of the incumbent workforce when FPS contracts with a new company, the OIG says.
- download the report, OIG-12-100 (.pdf)