Order Code RL31739
Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Federal Agency Emergency Preparedness and
Dismissal of Employees
Updated March 4, 2003
L. Elaine Halchin
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Federal Agency Emergency Preparedness and
Dismissal of Employees
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center
provided a compelling reminder of the importance of emergency and disaster
preparedness for federal agencies in the United States. Natural disasters,
infrastructure breakdowns, and emergencies also can disrupt agency operations, place
employees at risk, and damage or destroy federal buildings.
Responsibility for federal agency emergency preparedness is highly
decentralized. Generally, agencies that occupy buildings under the control of the
General Services Administration (GSA) share responsibility for emergency
preparedness with the Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS), currently part of
GSA. Agencies that have received delegations of authority for security functions
from GSA, agencies that have independent real property authority, or agencies whose
buildings are statutorily exempted from GSA control, are responsible for protecting
their employees and buildings. Effective March 1, 2003, FPS moved to the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To date, DHS has not promulgated
information relating to its role in agency emergency preparedness, including FPS.
Therefore, this report is written from the perspective of FPS being part of GSA and
will be revised as further information becomes available.
With the passage of the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296), responsibility
for building security will expand and shift to the Department of Homeland Security.
P.L. 107-296 transfers FPS to DHS and gives the Secretary responsibility for
safeguarding federal buildings and buildings occupied by federal agencies, which
may lead to changes in how the federal government approaches agency preparedness.
Generally, the authority to dismiss employees who work in executive branch
agencies located in Washington, DC is held by the director of the U.S. Office of
Personnel Management (OPM). However, agency heads may act independently if
the need arises, although coordinated action is preferred. Dismissal authority among
federal courts and legislative branch agencies generally is decentralized.
This report discusses several issues relevant to federal agency emergency
preparedness, including funding, the development of a federal emergency decision
and notification protocol for the Washington, DC area, the status of agency
preparedness activities and implications of homeland security legislation for the
protection of federal buildings and employees. It concludes with a number of policy
questions still to be answered by Congress and the Administration following the
enactment of the Homeland Security Act.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Emergency Preparedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Who Is Responsible for Emergency Preparedness? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Emergency Preparedness Functions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Interagency Security Committee (ISC) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Dismissal and Closure Authority . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Washington, DC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Executive Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Legislative Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
U.S. Supreme Court . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Outside of Washington, DC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Funding for Building Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Federal Emergency Decision and Notification Protocol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Status of Agency Preparedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Homeland Security Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Policy Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Federal Agency Emergency Preparedness
and Dismissal of Employees
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center
provided a compelling reminder of the importance of emergency and disaster
preparedness for federal agencies located in the United States. Other recent terrorist
incidents on U.S. soil include the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and the bombing of the World Trade Center on
February 26, 1993. Terrorist acts, though, are only one type of incident or emergency
for which government facilities and employees must prepare. Natural disasters,
such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and even heavy snowstorms, and
infrastructure breakdowns and emergencies, including power outages, fires, broken
water mains, and inoperable elevators, also can disrupt agency operations, place
employees at risk, or damage or destroy federal buildings. On September 5, 2000,
the Earle Cabbell Federal Building in Dallas lost electrical power and was partially
flooded following an accidental break in a water main, and a minor fire prompted the
evacuation of the federal building in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in December 1999.
Agencies are well-served by providing for the protection of their personnel.
Employees expect to be safe from undue harm in their workplaces; feeling and
believing they are safe frees them from being distracted by concerns about personal
safety. Safeguarding agency personnel also may be considered a pre-condition to
continuity of operations. Following an emergency or disaster, federal employees are
needed to continue agency operations. A host of agency activities, from performing
security checks at building entrances to developing and practicing an emergency
response plan, can help protect employees in event of an emergency, and also
demonstrates an agency’s commitment to employee safety.
The first section of this report discusses who is responsible for agency
emergency preparedness, describes emergency preparedness functions, and reviews
the work of the Interagency Security Committee. Next, the report reviews dismissal
and closure authority for government agencies located in Washington, DC, and
outside Washington, DC. The final two sections cover issues and policy questions,
including funding for building security, the status of agency preparedness, the
implications of homeland security legislation for agency preparedness, and the
ramifications of the Federal Emergency Decision and Notification Protocol.
Effective March 1, 2003, the Office of Federal Protective Service moved from
the General Services Administration (GSA) to the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS). To date, DHS has not promulgated information relating to its role in agency
emergency preparedness, including FPS. Therefore, this report is written from the
perspective of FPS being part of GSA and will be revised as further information
Federal agency emergency preparedness is highly decentralized. The size and
geographic dispersal of the federal workforce dictate that emergency planning and
preparedness be managed and carried out locally. Within the United States, there are
2.6 million federal government civilian employees working in all 50 states and in
thousands of facilities. Most employees, nearly 2.3 million (88%), work outside the
Washington, DC metropolitan statistical area.1
Who Is Responsible for Emergency Preparedness?
Responsibility for federal agency emergency preparedness varies and,
accordingly, guidance may vary from agency to agency and building to building. As
explained in greater detail below, agencies occupying facilities owned or leased by
the General Services Administration are subject to the provisions of Title 41 of the
Code of Federal Regulations that direct occupant agencies to establish an emergency
response team and to develop an emergency plan. Occupant agencies are aided by
GSA’s Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS) in establishing and maintaining an
emergency program. Federal agencies that occupy buildings not subject to GSA
control or not covered by FPS are responsible for devising their own emergency
Generally, agencies that occupy facilities owned or leased by GSA share
responsibility for disaster preparedness with FPS. As the government’s landlord,
GSA has control over public buildings outside of Washington, DC, purchased or
constructed from appropriations under its control2 and has charge of public buildings
and grounds in Washington, DC.3 However, exceptions exist, and these are
discussed below. Facilities that fall under the definition of “public building” include:
federal office buildings, post offices, customhouses, courthouses, appraisers stores,
border inspection facilities, warehouses, record centers, relocation facilities,
telecommuting centers, and “any other buildings or construction projects the
inclusion of which the President may deem, from time to time hereafter, to be
justified in the public interest ....”4
U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Civilian Workforce Statistics, Employment
Trends as of March 2002, June 2002. These figures include civilians employed in the
legislative, judicial, and executive (Department of Defense, non-Department of Defense, and
U.S. Postal Service) branches. Excluded are the Central Intelligence Agency, the National
Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Imagery and Mapping
40 U.S.C. 285.
40 U.S.C. 19.
40 U.S.C. 612.
Security arrangements for post offices and courthouses are not the responsibility
of FPS alone. Typically, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is responsible for security
at stand-alone post offices (i.e., buildings occupied only by USPS). In locations
where a post office shares a facility with another occupant, generally GSA has
primary responsibility for security. In federal courthouses, responsibility for security
is divided between FPS and the U.S. Marshals Service. FPS handles perimeter
security while federal marshals are responsible for internal security. However, for
the purpose of emergency preparedness, courthouses are subject to the same
provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations as agencies which occupy buildings
served by FPS.
In some cases, GSA has delegated one, or more, of its functions to an occupant
agency or organization.5 GSA may delegate security authority when there is a clear
and unique security requirement, a critical national security issue, or an intelligence
or law enforcement mission; or the current security contractor is ineffective.6 For
example, GSA has delegated security authority to the Secret Service for the White
House and to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS),
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Office of Personnel Management
(OPM), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Justice for some
or all of the buildings these agencies occupy.7 GSA has approved a total of 278
delegations of authority for security purposes; each delegation is for a specific
building or a complex consisting of several buildings in close proximity to each
Some organizations or institutions, and their facilities, are statutorily exempted
from GSA’s authority and hence are responsible for securing their buildings and
protecting their personnel. These include the General Accounting Office (GAO),9 the
Capitol complex,10 and the U.S. Supreme Court.11 Additionally, the term “public
shall not include any such buildings and construction projects: (A) buildings and
construction projects on the public domain (including that reserved for national
forests and other purposes), (B) on properties of the United States in foreign
countries, (C) on Indian and native Eskimo properties held in trust by the United
GSA may delegate to any federal agency authority for leasing, real property management
and operation, individual repair and alteration projects, lease management (contracting
office representative authority), disposal of real property, administrative contracting
responsibilities, security, and utility services (41 CFR 102-72.25).
41 CFR 102-72.95.
Information provided, in writing, by the Office of Federal Protective Service, May 9, 2002.
Information provided, in writing and telephonically, by the Office of Federal Protective
Service, May 9 and July 9, 2002.
31 U.S.C. 781(a).
40 U.S.C. 13a. See CRS Report RL30861, Capitol Hill Security: Capabilities and
Planning, and Capitol Hill Security, an entry in the CRS terrorism electronic brief book,
both by Paul Dwyer and Stephen W. Stathis.
40 U.S.C. 13c.
States, (D) on lands used in connection with Federal programs for agricultural,
recreational, and conservation purposes, including research in connection
therewith, (E) on or used in connection with river, harbor, flood control,
reclamation or power projects, or for chemical manufacturing or development
projects, or for nuclear production, research, or development projects, (F) on or
used in connection with housing and residential projects, (G) on military
installations (including any fort, camp, post, naval training station, airfield,
proving ground, military supply depot, military school, or any similar facility of
the Department of Defense), (H) on installations of the Department of Veterans
Affairs used for hospital or domiciliary purposes, and (I) the exclusion of which
the President may deem, from time to time hereafter, to be justified in the public
However, an agency that is exempted from GSA control may opt to contract with
FPS for security services. In these cases, agencies are subject to the emergency
preparedness provisions of Title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Thirty-six federal agencies have some level of independent real property
authority, which allows them to purchase, own, or lease space, buildings, or parcels
Agency for International Development
American Battle Monuments Commission
Appalachian Regional Commission
Bonneville Power Administration
Broadcasting Board of Governors
Central Intelligence Agency
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Resources
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of Labor
Department of State
Department of Transportation
Department of the Treasury
Department of Veterans Affairs
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
General Services Administration
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Archives and Records Administration
40 U.S.C. 612.
GAO-02-1004, Sept. 2002, Building Security: Interagency Security Committee Has Had
Limited Success in Fulfilling Its Responsibilities, p. 24.
National Science Foundation
National Transportation Safety Board
Panama Canal Commission
Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation
Securities and Exchange Commission
Tennessee Valley Authority
U.S. Parole Commission
U.S. Postal Service
U.S. Sentencing Commission
U.S. Trade Representative
Unless these agencies arrange for FPS to provide security for their facilities, which
would include emergency preparedness assistance, they are responsible for protecting
their facilities and employees and for developing their own emergency preparedness
organizations, plans, and procedures.
Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296; 116 Stat. 2135; H.R.
5005), security arrangements and responsibilities apparently will change. Section
403(3) transfers the Federal Protective Service from GSA to the Department of
Homeland Security’s Directorate of Border and Transportation Security. Further,
Section 1706 of P.L. 107-296 amends 40 U.S.C. 1315, and states:
To the extent provided for by transfers made pursuant to the Homeland Security
Act of 2002, the Secretary of Homeland Security ... shall protect the buildings,
grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal
Government (including any agency, instrumentality, or wholly owned or mixedownership corporation thereof) and the persons on the property.
By directing the DHS Secretary to safeguard buildings occupied, owned, or secured
by the government, the Act could lead to a centralization of the security function. It
is unknown, at this time, what the extent and breadth of centralization might be. The
effective date of the Act is January 24, 2003, though more time will be needed for the
development of security policies and procedures. The Federal Protective Service
transfers to DHS on March 1, 2003.14 As more information becomes available about
the policies and practices of DHS, this report will be revised.
Emergency Preparedness Functions
The Office of Federal Protective Service can trace its roots to 1790, when six
night watchmen were hired to protect buildings occupied by the new federal
government.15 Billed as a facility security organization that provides comprehensive
Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan, Nov. 25, 2002, available at
Jan. 30, 2003.
The authority and jurisdiction of FPS officers is stated in 40 U.S.C. 318a - 318d. On Jan.
11, 1971, the Administrator of the General Services Administration signed an order
security and law enforcement services, FPS is instrumental in federal agency disaster
preparedness. Executive Order 12656 broadly describes GSA’s responsibilities in
The Administrator of General Services shall develop national security emergency
plans and procedures for the operation, maintenance, and protection of federally
owned and occupied buildings managed by the General Services Administration,
and for the construction, alteration, and repair of such buildings.16
In GSA-owned or -leased buildings where FPS has retained responsibility for
security, it shares responsibility for emergency preparedness with a designated
official and occupant organizations or agencies. The highest ranking official of the
primary occupant agency (or a designee) is the designated official for a given
building.17 The designated official for a federal building or facility is responsible for
developing, implementing, and maintaining an occupant emergency plan, and for
establishing, staffing, and training an occupant emergency organization (OEO) with
tenant agency employees.18 An occupant emergency plan provides instructions for
employees to follow during an emergency. An OEO consists of agency employees
who have been assigned specific tasks to perform during emergencies.19
Occupant agencies are responsible for providing training to their employees,
adhering to facility procedures and regulations, and cooperating with the designated
official in implementing emergency plans and staffing an emergency organization.
FPS provides expert assistance to the designated official, reviewing plans and
organizations, assisting in training personnel, providing emergency program policy
guidance, ensuring proper administration of the occupant emergency program, and
providing technical personnel qualified in the operation of protective equipment.20
An occupant emergency program encompasses the development of an emergency
plan and emergency organization as well as training for employees and OEO
members, the acquisition and maintenance of supplies and equipment.
establishing the FPS.
U.S. President (Reagan), “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities,”
Executive Order 12656, Federal Register, vol. 53, Nov. 23, 1988, p. 47508.
41 CFR 101-20.003(g).
41 CFR 101-20.103.4(a).
An OEO member may serve as a floor team coordinator, damage control coordinator,
medical coordinator, administrative officer, technical advisor, floor monitor, area monitor,
stairwell monitor, elevator monitor or exit monitor. For more information, see U.S. General
Services Administration, Public Buildings Service, Federal Protective Service, Occupant
Emergency Program Guide (Washington: GPO, 1990).
41 CFR 101-20.103-4(b)-(d).
Tenant agencies pay security fees, as part of their rent,21 to GSA for services
provided by FPS.22 A basic security fee, which is set annually on a per-square-foot
basis,23 pays for, among other things, assistance and coordination in developing an
occupant emergency plan, coordination of mobilization and response to terrorist
threat or civil disturbance, and physical security assessments.24 The basic security
fee is set annually. The fee covers general law enforcement on GSA-controlled
property; physical security assessments, crime prevention and awareness training,
advice and assistance to building security committees, intelligence sharing program,
criminal investigation, assistance and coordination in occupant emergency plan
development, coordination of mobilization and response to terrorist threat or civil
disturbance, program administration for security guard contracts, and megacenter
operations for monitoring building perimeter alarms and dispatching appropriate law
enforcement response.25 This fee is assessed in all properties controlled by the Public
Buildings Service and where FPS provides security.26
The Interagency Security Committee (ISC)
The day after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, President
William J. Clinton directed the Department of Justice to conduct a vulnerability
assessment of federal office buildings in the United States. Study participants
identified five security levels for federal buildings, evaluated security practices, and
developed security criteria for federal buildings.27 The report’s security standard
chart indicates, for each security level, whether a particular criterion is considered a
minimum standard, desirable, not applicable, or discretionary, depending upon a
building evaluation. “Occupant Emergency Plans” is included as one of the 16
categories of security standards. The four criteria listed under this category are
designated for all five levels of federal facilities. The criteria are28
Pricing policy is covered in 41 CFR, Part 102-85.
The administrator of GSA determines (40 U.S.C. 490(j)), and the director of the Office
of Management and Budget approves, the rates for space and services (40 U.S.C. 603 note).
The basic security fee in FY2003 is $.24 per square foot. (Information provided,
telephonically, by the Office of Federal Protective Service, Sept. 24, 2002.)
41 CFR 102-85.35.
41 CFR 102-85.35.
A building-specific security charge may be levied in cases where an agency, in
consultation with FPS, determines that additional security measures are required.
Additional security measures may include the implementation of a contract security guard
program (e.g., guards would screen visitors, control access points, or patrol the interior of
a building) or the purchase and installation of security systems (e.g., vehicle barriers,
cameras, alarms, or magnetometers). A building security charge would consist of operating
expenses and amortized capital costs. (41 CFR 101-20.103-2; 41 CFR 102-85.35.)
U.S. Department of Justice, Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, June 28, 1995
(Washington: U.S. Dept. of Justice).
Ibid., p. 2-8.
Examine occupant emergency plans (OEP) and contingency
procedures based on threats.
Ensure OEPs are in place and updated annually. Conduct periodic
Assign and train OEP officials (assignment based on largest tenant
Conduct annual tenant training.
Later that same year, President Clinton issued, on October 24, 1995, an
executive order, which established an Interagency Security Committee (ISC).29
Chaired by the administrator of GSA, the committee consists of representatives from
the 14 executive departments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB);
the director of the U.S. Marshals Service; the assistant to the President for National
Security Affairs; and the director of the Security Policy Board.30 The President also
may appoint other federal employees. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 does not
mention the ISC or its role in helping to improve the security of government
As a “permanent body” charged with addressing “continuing government-wide
security for Federal facilities,” the ISC is responsible for establishing policies for
security in and protection of federal facilities; developing and evaluating security
standards and overseeing the implementation of appropriate security measures in
federal buildings; and taking other actions as necessary to enhance the security of
government facilities.31 The executive order directs the administrator of GSA to
monitor agency compliance with the committee’s policies and recommendations and
to provide staff and administrative support to the ISC.
A report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO), in September 2002,
revealed that the ISC has fulfilled some, but not all, of its responsibilities. Since its
inception in 1995, the ISC
has developed and issued security design criteria and minimum standards for
building access procedures; disseminated information to member agencies, for
their consideration and implementation, on entry security technology for
buildings needing the highest security levels; and, through its meetings and 13
U.S. President (Clinton), “Interagency Security Committee,” Executive Order 12977,
Federal Register, vol. 60, Oct. 24, 1995, pp. 54411-54412.
The Security Policy Board was disbanded by National Security Presidential Directive 1
(NSPD-1), dated Feb. 13, 2001, and its duties were to be transferred “to various [National
Security Council Policy Coordination Committees], depending on the particular security
problem being addressed.” (National Security Presidential Directive 1, “Organization of the
National Security Council System,” Feb. 13, 2001, Federation of American Scientists,
[http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/nspd-1.htm], visited Sept. 26, 2002.)
working groups, provided a forum for federal agencies to discuss security-related
issues and share information and ideas. On the other hand, ISC has made little
or no progress in other elements of its responsibilities, such as developing and
establishing policies for security in and protection of federal facilities,
developing a strategy for ensuring compliance with security standards,
overseeing the implementation of appropriate security in federal facilities, and
developing a centralized security database of all federal facilities.32
The GAO report also noted that GSA has committed to reinvigorating the ISC. The
committee held business meetings on April 26 and June 27, 2002. During these
meetings, the ISC acknowledged the need to address issues fundamental to the
revitalization of the committee, such as developing operating procedures, a charter,
a voting protocol, and a new membership process. The committee agreed to meet
quarterly.33 GAO recommended that the administrator of GSA work with the ISC to
rectify the problems identified in the GAO report.34
Dismissal and Closure Authority
The decision to dismiss, or release, employees is separate and distinct from the
initiation of a building evacuation. Restated, the evacuation of a building may or
may not involve the dismissal of employees.35 An automatic fire alarm, a formal
decision, or an employee who alerts others to a suspected or actual threat may prompt
an evacuation. Generally, the dismissal of employees follows a determination made
by the appropriate authorities.
Executive Branch. The Office of Personnel Management is responsible for
monitoring incidents, situations, or conditions that affect, or could affect, federal
government operations and for determining whether any action is necessary regarding
government employees. OPM’s “Washington, DC, Area Dismissal or Closure
Procedures”36 apply to employees in all executive agencies located inside the
Washington capital beltway. They do not apply to employees of the U.S. Postal
Service, the government of the District of Columbia, or businesses. If conditions
warrant, though, OPM may issue guidelines affecting facilities outside the beltway.
U.S. General Accounting Office, Building Security: Interagency Security Committee Has
Had Limited Success in Fulfilling Its Responsibilities, GAO report GAO-02-1004
(Washington: 2002), p.2.
Ibid., p. 11.
Ibid., p. 17.
For example, a minor incident may prompt an evacuation, but, once it is determined that
the building is safe, employees would be directed to return to work.
Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies from Kay Coles James,
Director, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, “Washington, DC, Area Dismissal or
Closure Procedures,” CPM 2002-12, Nov. 12, 2002.
After having consulted with municipal and regional officials, OPM will decide
on the appropriate course of action: closure, dismissal, or special leave treatment.37
For a disruption that occurs before the workday begins, the director of OPM may
announce one of these policies is in effect:38
Federal agencies are open. (Employees are expected to report for
work on time.)
Federal agencies are open under an unscheduled leave policy.
(Employees who cannot report for work may take unscheduled
leave39 for their entire scheduled workday.)
Federal agencies are open under a delayed arrival policy.
(Employees are expected to arrive for work within a time period
specified by OPM. Anyone who arrives later will be charged annual
leave or leave without pay for the additional period of absence.)
Federal agencies are open under a delayed arrival/unscheduled leave
Federal agencies are closed. (Only emergency employees are
expected to report for work.)40
For a disruption that occurs during the workday, OPM may announce that
federal agencies are operating under an early dismissal policy. The announcement
would specify how many hours before normal departure time employees could leave,
including the option of immediate dismissal. Emergency employees would be
expected to remain at work. The OPM memorandum advises that the status of
government operations will be available at the OPM Web site and a recorded
message on a telephone line maintained by OPM’s Office of Communications.
The memorandum dismissal procedures emphasize that federal agencies should
avoid acting independently. OPM advises that any change in the work hours of
federal employees requires coordination with municipal and regional officials.
Additionally, depending upon the nature of the threat or emergency, some planning
may be necessary to steer federal employees (and others) away from streets,
On September 11, 2001, the official announcement of a dismissal was made by the
Human Resources Management Council. Transmittal #MSG-064 stated: “Federal
Government offices in the Washington, DC, area are closed. All employees may
leave their Federal offices immediately. Additional guidance will be issued by the
U.S. Office of Personnel Management.”
Memorandum from Kay Coles James, “Washington, DC, Area Dismissal or Closure
Procedures,” Nov.12, 2002.
Employees may take annual leave, or leave without pay, without the prior approval of
Agencies determine which employees will be designated as emergency employees.
(Memorandum from Kay Coles James, “Washington, DC, Area Dismissal or Closure
Procedures,” Nov. 12, 2002.)
highways, bridges, or transit systems that have been damaged. However, agency
heads are not prohibited from releasing their employees. On September 11, 2001,
several agencies, including the Departments of the Interior, State, and theTreasury,
GSA, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, released their employees before
OPM issued its dismissal announcement, and the White House shut down the federal
government in Washington, DC.41
In its memorandum on dismissal and closure procedures, OPM also describes
agencies’ responsibilities. These include:
Providing to employees, at least annually, written procedures for
dismissal and closure.
Notifying employees of the procedures for requesting leave when an
unscheduled leave policy is in effect.
Identifying, at least annually, which personnel are designated as
“emergency employees” and notifying these employees that they are
to report for or remain at work when operations are disrupted.
Determining closure, dismissal, and leave policies for employees on
shift work and alternative work schedules.
In May 2002, a new procedure for determining when to dismiss federal
employees, and close agencies, apparently took effect.42 Scott Hatch, director of the
office of communications, Office of Personnel Management, briefly mentioned the
Federal Emergency Decision and Notification Protocol (FEDNP) during his
testimony at a congressional hearing on September 20, 2002.43 Under FEDNP, the
heads of OPM, GSA, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have
collective authority to dismiss federal employees who work in the Washington, DC
metropolitan area. These three agencies have established 24-hour operations centers
that are in contact with the FBI, antiterrorism task forces, the U.S. Capitol Police, and
state and local police departments. In the event of an attack or emergency, the
directors of OPM, GSA, and FEMA would confer with the Department of Justice,
the Office of Homeland Security, and local emergency management officials and then
would determine what steps to take, such as ordering the release of employees. After
notifying the White House, local elected officials, the Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority (WMATA), and emergency management authorities, the three
directors would notify affected agencies and the public. Reportedly, a decision to
dismiss federal employees under this new procedure would take 15 minutes or less.
Spencer S. Hsu, “Sept. 11 Chaos Prompts Exit Plan,” Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2002,
Hsu, pp. A1 and A8. See also Jason Peckenpaugh, “Government Creates New
Washington Evacuation Plan,” Government Executive, Daily Briefing, Aug. 9, 2002,
available at [http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0802/080902p1.htm], visited Aug. 12, 2002.
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on the District
of Columbia, Emergency Preparedness in the Nation’s Capital, unpublished hearing, 107th
Cong., 2nd sess., Sept. 20, 2002 (Washington: 2002).
Also, Federal Executive Boards (FEBs) apparently are developing similar plans for
the agencies in their regions. (See below for more information on FEBs.)
It is possible that the FEDNP may change as a result of the establishment of the
DHS. One of the agencies that has decision-making authority under the protocol,
FEMA, will move to the homeland security department. The FPS also will move,
from GSA, into the new department, and the Secretary of Homeland Security will
assume responsibility for protecting buildings owned, occupied, or secured by the
Legislative Branch. Within a year after the attacks of September 11, House
of Representatives leaders established the Office of Emergency Planning
Preparedness and Operations (OEPPO) and the Senate created the Office of Security
and Emergency Preparedness (OSEP). These two offices are involved in emergency
planning, including evacuation procedures, and continuity of operations (COOP) and
continuity of government (COG) planning. Authority to release employees rests with
many different congressional offices, although, in practice, the specific offices that
order a dismissal of employees may vary, depending upon the situation.44
The heads of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) (or his/her designee),
GAO, and the Government Printing Office (GPO) have the authority to dismiss their
respective employees and close their buildings.45 At the Library of Congress (LOC),
the Deputy Librarian, or his/her designee, shall determine when to release employees
and close the library.46 The Architect of the Capitol (AOC), or his/her designee, has
authority to dismiss AOC employees, including U.S. Botanic Garden personnel, and
close the garden.47
U.S. Supreme Court. Dismissal, closure, and evacuation authority for
the U.S. Supreme Court rests with the Chief Justice, although other management
officials may act if circumstances warrant.48
Information provided, telephonically and electronically, by the House Office of
Emergency Planning Preparedness and Operations and Senate Office of Security and
Emergency Preparedness, Nov. 13 and 14, 2002.
Information provided, telephonically, by CBO, GAO, and GPO, Oct. 1, 2002.
Library of Congress, “Excused Absences Because of Emergency Conditions,” Library of
Congress Regulation (LCR) 2015-17.8.
Information provided, telephonically, by the Architect of the Capitol, Security Program,
Jan. 9, 2003.
Information provided, telephonically, by the Marshal, U.S. Supreme Court, Jan. 14, 2003.
Outside of Washington, DC
In other areas of the country, the local Federal Executive Board (FEB),49 or one
of its committees, provides general guidance to agencies and other federal entities.
The OPM director’s memorandum of November 12, 2002, states: “Federal Executive
Boards and Federal Executive Associations have established similar dismissal or
closure procedures in other major metropolitan areas.”50 Federal Executive Boards
are located in 28 cities and are composed of top-level executives drawn from the
federal agencies in the area. FEBs are located in cities that are major centers of
federal activity, such as Denver, Honolulu, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.
In areas or cities that do not have FEBs, a Federal Executive Association (FEA)
serves in the role of OPM in terms of deciding whether to dismiss employees.51
There are 63 FEAs. Several cities that are home to FEAs are Anchorage, Alaska ;
Ft. Collins, Colorado; Boise, Idaho; Billings, Montana; Syracuse, New York; and
Charleston, South Carolina.
Funding for Building Security
The GSA’s federal buildings fund (FBF),52 which was established in 1972,
provides funds for real property management and related activities, such as
emergency preparedness and security. User charges, including basic security charges
and rents, are deposited in the FBF, and may be expended in amounts specified in
annual appropriations legislation. Appropriated funds also may be deposited in the
FBF and expended as specified in appropriations legislation.
Despite the $367.3 million proposed in the President’s FY2003 budget for
building security, there is some question as to whether the Federal Protective Service
has sufficient funds to meet the security needs of the buildings under its control. The
Federal Executive Boards were established by President John F. Kennedy in a presidential
directive dated Nov. 14, 1961, to improve coordination among federal programs and
activities outside Washington, DC. The FEB Web site is available at [http://www.feb.gov].
This Web site includes a directory of Federal Executive Associations.
Memorandum from Kay Coles James, “Washington, DC, Area Dismissal or Closure
Procedures,” Nov. 12, 2002.
Federal Executive Associations are informal, voluntary organizations. (Information
provided, telephonically, by the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Congressional
Relations, Dec. 10, 2002.) FEAs are mentioned briefly in President Kennedy’s Nov. 14,
1961, Presidential Directive that established FEBs: “As a first step in bringing Federal
officials outside of Washington closer together, I have directed the Chairman of the Civil
Service Commission to arrange for the establishment of a Board of Federal Executives in
each of the Commission’s administrative regions. Where associations of Federal regional
officials exist in other regional centers they will be continued.”
40 U.S.C. 490(f).
Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities noted that implementation of any
standards not already in place would require additional funding.53 According to this
study, it would cost nearly $2.5 million (new construction) to $3 million (retrofit)
to provide the necessary security for a 17 story multi-agency Level IV54 building with
380,000 total square feet and more than 450 employees.55 As for the basic security
charge levied by GSA, there appears to be a discrepancy between actual costs and
what GSA is allowed to charge. Prior to September 11, 2001, actual costs were
slightly more than $0.30 per square foot, but the basic security charge, in FY2002,
was $.18 per square foot. The basic security charge was increased to $.24 for
FY2003.56 As of this writing, all funding is frozen at FY 2002 levels and funding for
FY2003 is uncertain.
For agencies that own their own buildings or have obtained security waivers
from GSA, or whose buildings are exempted by statute from GSA control, funding
for security and emergency preparedness is their responsibility. It is not known
whether these agencies receive or allocate funds sufficient to meet their security
Federal Emergency Decision and Notification Protocol
As reported in the news media, a federal emergency decision and notification
protocol took effect in May 2002. It will be used in the event of a widespread attack
or the threat of an impending biological, chemical, or radiological attack. The
protocol identified who (i.e., FEMA, GSA, and OPM) determines when to dismiss
employees and how that determination will be communicated, and discussed the role
of the media in any notification.57 To date, the only confirmation of the existence of
the protocol may be found in the congressional testimony of Scott Hatch, director,
office of communication, Office of Personnel Management.58 OPM has not yet
provided any other information about the protocol. In the absence of additional
information, or explanation, several questions remain unanswered.
The November 12, 2002, OPM memorandum on dismissal
procedures does not refer to the protocol. What is the relationship,
Department of Justice, Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, p. 3-5.
A Level IV building generally has over 450 employees and more than 150,000 square feet,
high-volume public contact, and high-risk tenant agencies, such as law enforcement and
intelligence agencies, courts, judicial offices, and highly sensitive government records.
(Department of Justice, Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, pp. 2-4 to 2-5.
Department of Justice, Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities, p. F-2.
Information provided, telephonically, by FPS, on Sept. 24, 2002.
Spencer S. Hsu, “Sept. 11 Chaos Prompts Exit Plan, Washington Post, pp. A1, A8; Jason
Peckenpaugh, “Government Creates New Washington Evacuation Plan,” Government
Executive, daily briefing, Aug. 9, 2002, available at [http://www.govexec.com
/dailyfed/0802/080902p1.htm], visited Nov. 4, 2002.
See “Dismissal and Closure Authority, Washington, D.C., Executive Branch.”
if any, between the protocol and the November 12, 2002, OPM
memorandum on dismissal and closure procedures?
Is the scope of the protocol the same as the memorandum’s (all
executive agencies inside the beltway, excluding the U.S. Postal
Service), or different? How would the legislative branch and federal
court activities relate to the protocol?
What are the extent, and progress, of Federal Executive Boards’
efforts to develop similar protocols?
Does the protocol cover a variety of leave options for federal
employees akin to the content of the November 12, 2002 OPM
Does the protocol apply only to impending or actual attacks, or
would it also apply in the event of a city-wide emergency caused by,
for example, inclement weather (e.g., snowstorm)?
How will the protocol change as result of the realignment of FPS
and FEMA under the Department of Homeland Security?
Status of Agency Preparedness
Agency autonomy and the decentralization of emergency preparedness functions
combine to make it difficult to gauge the extent of preparedness among federal
agencies. Establishment of the Interagency Security Committee was an effort to
address this challenge and other, related issues, but so far the ISC has compiled a
mixed record. The Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities was another
initiative aimed at, among other things, evaluating how well agencies are prepared
for disasters. However, this report was a snapshot of agency preparedness.
Apparently, there is no ongoing, governmentwide effort to assess agency
Ideally, information on the status of agency preparedness would be compiled on
an ongoing basis and would be available before an emergency occurs. This sequence
would allow an agency head and emergency team personnel to address areas that
Information gathered after an incident occurs also may be useful. Information
and data sometimes referred to as “lessons learned” can be used to improve a
program, including an emergency preparedness program.
Where an incident has occurred, a potentially useful tool is the after-action
report, which would document how an agency responded, what worked well, and
what needs to be improved. The applicable portion of the Code of Federal
Regulations does not require agencies to produce an after-action report, although an
agency may decide, on its own, to review and examine its performance during an
incident or emergency. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
issued Lessons Learned in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001, dated February 1,
A more formal investigation is required by the National Construction Safety
Team Act (P.L. 107-231; H.R. 4687). Signed by President George W. Bush on
October 1, 2002, P.L. 107-231 requires the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) to establish national construction safety teams for deployment
after an event which causes a building failure that resulted in substantial loss of life.
Although the thrust of this law is studying building failures that resulted in a
substantial loss of life, or had the potential to, and recommending improvements to
building standards, codes, and practices, it also calls for the evaluation of the
technical aspects of evacuation and emergency response procedures. H.Rept. 107530 elaborates on the function of teams:
The ultimate goal of investigations conducted under this Act should be to
develop a detailed set of recommendations for any necessary improvements to
building codes, standards, and practices, as well as emergency response and
evacuation procedures, based on the findings of the investigation. Many of these
procedures are based on an understanding of how people respond to a disaster.
It is the Committee’s view that, when examining emergency response and
evacuation procedures, Teams should evaluate not only the effect that a
building’s design has on emergency response and evacuation procedures, but also
on human behavior.59
Information gleaned from construction team reports could prompt agencies to revise
their emergency procedures or implement new safety features. Construction team
reports also would provide insight into the technical aspects of an agency’s
preparation for emergencies.
Homeland Security Legislation
Under the Homeland Security Act, responsibility for safeguarding buildings
currently protected by GSA shifts to the homeland security department with the
transfer of the Federal Protective Service to DHS. Furthermore, the language of P.L.
107-296 Section 1706(a) (see “Who Is Responsible for Emergency Preparedness?”)
suggests that the Secretary of Homeland Security also acquires responsibility for
federal buildings that currently are protected by agencies other than GSA. This
action would constitute a significant expansion of the responsibility that had been
vested in GSA. Centralization of responsibility for safeguarding buildings owned or
occupied by the federal government does not necessarily mean that the protection
function also will be centralized. The Secretary of Homeland Security could
delegate, to federal agencies, the authority to provide security for their buildings,
facilities, and installations.
U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, National Construction Safety Team Act, 107th
Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 107-530 (Washington: GPO, 2002), p. 20.
Policy questions and issues will likely arise as Congress examines the status of
emergency preparedness within the federal government and the implications of the
Homeland Security Act for agency emergency preparedness.
The Homeland Security Act places the Federal Protective Service
within the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS).
The responsibilities of the Under Secretary for BTS include
preventing terrorists and instruments of terrorism from entering the
United States; securing borders, territorial waters, ports, terminals,
waterways, and air, land, and sea and transportation systems;
conducting immigrant enforcement functions; establishing and
administering rules for granting visas; establishing immigration
enforcement policies; administering certain customs laws; and
conducting certain agricultural inspection functions.60 How will the
mission of FPS mesh with the responsibilities of this directorate?
Section 1706(a) of the Homeland Security Act amends 40 U.S.C.
1315 and states: “the Secretary of Homeland Security ... shall protect
the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or
secured by the Federal Government (including any agency,
instrumentality, or wholly owned or mixed-ownership corporation
thereof) and the persons on the property.” Does the Secretary’s
responsibility include, for example, the legislative branch, the
Supreme Court, buildings occupied by agencies that have received
delegations of authority for security functions (such as the White
House), and military installations? Will DHS need additional
personnel, and other resources, to fulfill its responsibility? Under
what conditions or circumstances might the DHS Secretary allow an
agency to provide its own security?
What model should be used to provide a suitable combination of
centralization of responsibility (DHS) and decentralization of
execution (agencies and buildings)?
Per P.L. 107-296 Section 422(b)(1)(A), the administrator of GSA
retains the authority “to collect rents and fees, including fees
collected for protective services”; the Secretary of Homeland
Security is not authorized to obligate amounts in the federal
buildings fund; and, if any amounts are transferred by the
administrator to the Secretary “out of rents and fees collected by the
Administrator” they “shall be used by the Secretary solely for the
protection of buildings or grounds owned or occupied by the Federal
Government.” Is this a workable arrangement? How should the fees
collected for protective services be handled? The transfer of FPS
and the responsibility for building security to DHS might provide an
P.L. 107-296 Section 402.
opportunity for examining security fees charged, actual costs of
security, the alleged discrepancy between the two, and whether, and
how, to reconcile the differences.
The Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities was issued in
1995. Should another assessment be conducted, with a focus on
terrorist threats and anti-terrorism measures? If so, who should
conduct a second vulnerability assessment?
Questions posed about the Federal Emergency Decision and
Notification Protocol may include: Is OPM going to inform federal
employees about the protocol? How might FEDNP procedures
change in light of the creation of a Department of Homeland
Security that includes FEMA and FPS?
What should be the relationship between the Interagency Security
Committee and DHS?
GSA retains responsibility for the operation and maintenance of
“buildings and grounds owned or occupied by the Federal
Government and under the jurisdiction, custody, or control of the
Administrator.”61 How should GSA and DHS work out issues that
involve both organizations? For example, the homeland security
department may determine that, to meet security requirements,
entrances to a building must be modified in a specific way, but GSA
may believe there are other options available for improving building
More than a year has passed since the attacks of September 11,
2001. Is emergency preparedness (still) a top priority among
agencies? Are agencies reviewing and, if necessary, revising their
emergency preparedness plans? Are training programs provided for
employees? Are emergency teams fully staffed? Do agencies have
the necessary equipment and supplies needed to help protect their
employees? Do agencies have sufficient funds to establish and
maintain comprehensive, effective emergency preparedness
P.L. 107-296 Sec. 422(a).