Are Land Management Agencies Doing Enough to Protect Their Employees?

View this article online at https://www.fedsmith.com/2019/10/22/land-management-agencies-doing-enough-protect-employees/ and visit FedSmith.com to sign up for free news updates
By on October 22, 2019 in Agency News with 0 Comments
A Bureau of Land Management employee at work looking out over a field with binoculars

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office looked at how federal land management agencies protect their employees from extremist violence.

The report studied these federal land management agencies: the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS).

GAO said it conducted its study because a 2014 report from the Department of Homeland Security predicted that violent threats and incidents against federal employees motivated by anti-government ideology would increase in the coming years. It wanted to try to determine if that had turned out to be true.

So did the numbers increase? GAO said it ultimately couldn’t obtain definitive answers based on what it found.

There were a range of threats and assaults against federal employees between fiscal years 2013 to 2017 but GAO noted a precise count couldn’t be obtained. “…the number of actual threats and assaults is unclear and may be higher than what is captured in available data for various reasons,” wrote GAO.

The report added that some federal employees at these agencies may even consider threats made against them to be an expected job hazard. “…employees may not always report threats because they consider them a part of the job,” read the report.

Cited among other reasons for the lack of precise numbers was the fact that some incidents are investigated by state or local law enforcement and recorded in their data systems rather than in land management agencies’ systems. Consequently, GAO said that the number of actual threats and assaults is unclear and may be higher than what is represented in available data.

As to the types of threats employees faced, GAO said they ranged from verbal threats made over the phone to facing attempted murder when out in the field.

Ultimately, GAO made 6 recommendations for the agencies it studied:

  1. The Director of BLM should develop a plan to conduct all required facility security assessments agency-wide, taking into consideration the agency’s organizational structure, available resources, and training needs.
  2. The Chief of the Forest Service should develop a plan to conduct all required facility security assessments agency-wide, taking into consideration the agency’s organizational structure, available resources, and training needs.
  3. The Director of the Park Service should develop a plan to conduct all required facility security assessments agency-wide, taking into consideration the agency’s organizational structure, available resources, and training needs.
  4. The Director of the Park Service should update the agency’s facility security assessment methodology to comply with requirements in the ISC Standard, including a step to consider the consequence of each undesirable event.
  5. The Director of BLM should develop a facility security assessment methodology that complies with requirements in the ISC Standard to assess all undesirable events and consider all three factors of risk for each undesirable event.
  6. The Director of FWS should develop a facility security assessment methodology that complies with requirements in the ISC Standard to assess all undesirable events and consider all three factors of risk for each undesirable event.

© 2020 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

Tags:

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

Top