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A new lease on security

Securing a government building becomes more complicated if a third party owns the building, and a government agency is leasing the space.

"Our biggest challenge is to provide the same level of security for the occupants of our leased facilities as we have for those in buildings that we own," says F. Joseph Moravec, commissioner of Public Buildings Service for the General Services Administration (GSA).

The GSA maintains and manages more than 1,700 federal facilities. It and the Department of Defense lease buildings and office spaces around the globe. The GSA is tasked with delivering integrated security and law enforcement services to all federal buildings, including office buildings, courthouses, border stations and warehouses.

Ensuring tight security for leased spaces often involves a balancing act between federal security needs, requirements of leasing management and the needs of non-government tenants that share the building.

"It is much easier for the GSA to address security in buildings we own. In our leased facilities, we have to work with landlords and their buildings; and, in some instances, the building's other tenants," Moravec said in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy.

The process of securing leased government space begins with the search for suitable property. According to Paul Chistolini, deputy commissioner of Public Buildings Services for the GSA, the agency advertises for space "under specific procurement rules and includes security requirements including setbacks."

The GSA — like all U.S. government agencies since Sept. 11 — has been under pressure to increase security at its facilities. Wendell C. Shingler, assistant commissioner for the GSA's Office of Federal Protective Service, told a House subcommittee that "there is no 'one size fits all'" security plan for every GSA building and leased space.

Basic security, however, is a given. Existing minimum government standards for leased space security are outlined in a 1995 Department of Justice report. Physical countermeasures such as guards, barriers, alarms, cameras, X-ray machines and magnetometers are recommended. The GSA is also responsible for supplying law enforcement services.

Installing all or some of these technologies in a building's lobby not owned but leased by the GSA is where the process can hit a snag. To smooth the transition, Chistolini says the GSA meets with tenant agencies to develop security plans through their building security committees.

Landlords work with the Building Security Committee to provide options and alternative solutions to security needs," he says. Successful interaction between the agencies can lead to, for example, the installation of separate rooms for visitor screening and mail inspection.

Since Sept. 11, however, it may have become easier for non-government tenants and government agencies to co-exist on a property. One commercial real estate agent in Washington pointed out that most building tenants don't mind an additional security presence due to the threat of terrorism.

"When there are restrictions in a lease agreement that make it unreasonable for GSA to implement appropriate security measures, GSA will seek alternative means to ensure security and safety," Moravec says. "[Even if that means] relocating the agency."

This story is from NREI sister publication Government Security. Visit the Web site at

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