Two years ago, congressional researchers sounded an alarm: The Army had hired scores of civilian security guards with criminal records because it had not conducted required background checks on them. Other guards lacked required training.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon decided to see if such problems had been fixed by conducting spot checks at five bases, including Utah's Tooele Army Depot.
It found those bases still could not verify whether three of every five security guards at them had received all the required screening and training. It also found some bases didn't have as many guards on duty as contracts required but paid the full contract amounts anyway.
Some bases also failed to conduct required, secret exercises to see if guards could find fake IDs or simulated car bombs.
"All of these problems put the Army at risk of having unqualified contractor personnel guarding installation access points, and paying security guard contractors for services it hasn't received," says a May 15 Army Audit Agency report.
The Deseret News obtained a copy of that report through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report was originally classified, but the Army declassified it and released it after a review requested by the newspaper.
In 2006, the newspaper also was the first to obtain and report on a Pentagon study that showed similar problems with security guards at Air Force bases nationally.
The new Army report does not identify how bad problems were at each of the five bases it reviewed. Some breakdowns in it do not identify the bases by name, but simply as "base one," "base two," etc.
Tooele Army Depot, in a written response to the Deseret News, said few problems occurred there but adds that it has been ordered by the Pentagon not to renew its current security guard contract.
"Very few (of the problems identified by inspectors) were actually connected to Tooele. Deficiencies noted were administrative," Tooele's response said.
"Each contract security officer assigned has received the proper physical examination, background security checks, physical fitness testing, on-site training, weapons qualifications and screening prior to being actually placed on the position," it said.
"Tooele Army Depot is confident that the current contract security guards are providing adequate protection."
But the contract for those guards with Chenega Services expires on Sept. 30, and Tooele says that contract will not be renewed.
"By direction of the Department of Defense, this role will be absorbed by Department of the Army Civilian Security Officers. Tooele Army Depot is in the process of recruiting and training these new employees," the base response said.
The new Army report notes that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress allowed the military to contract for security at bases to allow stretching military forces by moving former guards to other more critical positions as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan followed.
But the U.S. General Accountability Office in 2006 found many of the newly hired contractor guards did not receive background checks before beginning work, and scores of them had criminal records. Many others never received required training, such as for firearms, before beginning work.
At the request of the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Readiness, the Army Audit Agency decided to do a follow-up study this year to see if problems were corrected. It chose to do spot checks at Tooele; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; and Fort Monmouth, N.J.
"We found that, initially, the Army didn't have adequate oversight of contract security guards," auditors wrote, although it said most problems since have been corrected.
For example, it decided to review records for 191 security officers randomly chosen at those bases to see if they had proper screening and training. "Supporting documents weren't available to verify qualifications for 119," or 62 percent of them.
It also said that in further review, officials at "four of five sites couldn't verify that all contract security guards satisfied all mandatory screening qualifications and training requirements" (although Tooele told the Deseret News that guards there do).
Auditors added that at three of the five bases, Army officials did not "ensure contractors provided the correct number of security guards at each access control point during each daily shift." It said some contracts allowed contractors to provide just 85 percent of required staffing and still be paid full contract amounts.
The report also said that officials at four of the five bases did not adequately perform or document required quality assurance inspections and often depended on contractors themselves to do that.
Such quality assurance work is supposed to include monthly secret attempts for people to enter the base with "fake identification cards and fake vehicle explosive devices to test the adequacy of contract security guard review procedures."
Among recommendations by the Army Audit Agency were to require contract officers nationwide to develop quality assurance plans for overseeing guards; give base commanders a report after each quality assurance inspection; and require receiving documentation proving screening and training before a base accepts a guard for duty.The Office of the Provost Marshal General and the Army Installation Management Command both agreed with the findings and recommendations, and wrote they had taken or would take corrective action.
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