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Building owners interested in leasing space to the federal government, yet wary of navigating the complexities of meeting security requirements, take note: You’re not alone.
Meeting the security requirements of a federal agency might seem like a complicated matter at first simply because different spaces might need to be protected at different levels of security. However, neither the size of a contract nor the reputation of government negotiators should keep facility executives with qualified space and management processes from bidding on contracts.
First, the federal government is active in the tenant market. The trend of late is to solicit the building of new facilities for some of its agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and to continually search for new space for other agencies. The General Services Administration (GSA) manages the process. Second, facility executives have ample resources to assist in their bids to attract government tenants.
Unlike the commercial world, where security is not codified and guidelines and standards for a particular organization’s security requirements are rare, the federal government has published standards available for all potential landlords.
Following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City more than 10 years ago, President Clinton directed the Department of Justice to assess the vulnerability of federal office buildings. The resulting Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities report, issued on June 28, 1995, identified these and developed a recommendation to establish minimum standards. The report developed simple security levels that range from Level I, a small leased space with few staff, to Level IV, a facility such as the Pentagon with a large number of employees and a critical national security mission. Additionally, the report recommended the establishment of the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) to further the basic concepts for achieving effective security standards.
On Oct. 19, 1995, Executive Order 12977 established the ISC to develop long-term construction standards for locations requiring blast resistance or other specialized security measures. In a series of working group discussions, the ISC revised and updated the GSA 1997 Draft Security Criteria, creating the 2001 ISC Security Design Criteria.
The only issue with the sudden proliferation of guidelines and standards is that facility executives may have a more difficult time deciphering which ones are applicable. The government provides several Web sites to assist in applying the applicable security guidelines and standards. These may be useful to you as more specific information is required.
The Whole Building Design Guide prescribes how to integrate security design with the design of an entire building. It also lists the types of building classifications. Each facility type has different design criteria and various levels of security that should be provided.
Another helpful resource is GSA’s Public Buildings Service’s Building Security Technology Web site. This site addresses specific security issues. GSA’s Public Buildings Service also created a Site Security Design Guide. The document is available in a PDF format and is useful as a guideline to address the many aspects of security from neighborhood concerns to a building’s interior.
Some government agencies have a higher risk factor than others. They may be targets of foreign terrorists, be responsible for sensitive documents or be involved in activities that attract criminal retaliation. These agencies include the FBI, CIA, NARA and Secret Service. Above and beyond what the ISC Design Criteria may indicate, some federal agencies have issued their own security design standards. The most prominent of these are the Department of Defense’s Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC 4-010-01) Minimum Anti-Terrorism Standards for Buildings, available at www.wbdg.org/ccb. The Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) and Unified Facilities Guide Specification (UFGS), available at the same site, are the series of security engineering criteria that deal with antiterrorism and physical security for Defense Department facilities, including the Army and Navy.
Identifying the government agency with jurisdiction over security requirements is easy with a single-tenant building. The process can get complicated, however, in facilities housing multiple government agencies, such as federal courthouses. There have been several projects where a building has a courthouse, a post office and multiple other agencies. The agency with jurisdiction may overlap depending upon the time of day. For example, the U.S. Marshal may have security responsibility for an area while its prisoners are in the building. However, once the prisoners are gone, the marshals may be gone as well. GSA usually has responsibility for coordination of these types of security issues.
Non-government security guidelines may not be specific enough to carry out a design without a specific risk and vulnerability assessment. The ISC describes the design criteria based on building function classification, resident agency risk classification and a specific risk and vulnerability analysis that is to be conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address specific issue. Based upon a specific threat level, as determined by the DHS, specific criteria are developed. As an example, one of the criteria addresses the capability of barriers to stop a vehicle from penetrating the site. The specific language used might call for the installation of site perimeter barriers capable of stopping vehicles of a prescribed weight up to a specified speed.
Following good security industry practices, the government addresses security issues in a layered approach. Below are some of the facility areas, definitions and security vulnerabilities to consider when bidding on government contracts.
There are many resources available to help facility executives in their bids for government tenants. A security consultant with experience working with the federal government can be useful. Not having standards has long been a problem in the security industry. The federal government has taken a leadership role in establishing standards for its facilities. Understanding the process of how the government’s vulnerability assessment led to design criteria, and in turn to specific agency requirements, should help unlock the mystery of what is needed to provide security for a federal agency interested in leasing property.
Lauris Freidenfelds is a vice president of Sako & Associates, Inc., a security and media technology consulting firm based in Chicago. Freidenfelds’ experience includes projects for all levels of government, as well as Fortune 500 companies, health care facilities, correctional centers and corporate real estate.