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March 31 2016

Badge of Dishonor: GSA Reportedly Isn't Monitoring Employee IDs

Patrice J. Lee

In an age of terrorist attacks and acts of violence, everyone wants to be safe. However, if you’re going to a federal building, it’s possible that your safety is at greater risk because of official badges that are outdated and can be easily counterfeited.

A government watchdog at the General Services Administration (GSA) surveyed management at GSA regional offices and found embarrassingly weak internal controls over building badge access because the federal agency has ignored orders to stop issuing access badges that can easily be counterfeited.

The inspector general's report found that building badges are unsecure, yet frequently used even though other forms of identification and access are more secure. Specifically, they found that badges of many former employees are still active, “unfit” contractors with allegedly shady associations also were found to have active badges, unsecure IT systems, and unauthorized non-GAS tenants printing badges for contractors. :

Some of the ways those badges were being created and used is concerning:

·         At the same Level IV facility, we found an individual who leased space in the building for a barbershop used a building badge issued by an agency that was no longer a tenant in the GSA  managed facility (see Figure 3). This individual had no background   investigation on file with GSA and was   able to routinely enter the facility using only this building badge.

·         At a Level III facility, we found a building badge in use that was made of low quality material and was easily reproducible (see Figure 7). Despite its poor quality and noticeable damage, this building badge allowed access to the facility. GSA staff created this badge by inserting a picture of the contractor into a word processing document, which was then printed on regular copy paper and laminated.

And it gets worse. The GSA reportedly, doesn’t know how widespread the issue is because it doesn’t monitor the management of building badges issued in the thousands by staff.

In the age of 3-D printing of prosthetic limbs, how hard can it be to replicate and laminate a badge to gain restricted access to places that a person with sinister motives should not be?

Apparently as the Daily Caller reports, the Department of Homeland Security ordered federal officials to stop using such security badges back in 2008, but the GSA is ignoring that directive.

We focus a lot on cyber security, but physical security is just as important an issue that requires vigilance on the part of federal agents. For regular Americans who may find themselves entering a federal building, we assume that the metal detectors are sufficient. However, we now know that individuals can bypass security with badges that should indicate they have authenticated access, but may just be a knock-off and no one gives them a second thought.

It shouldn’t take a government report to tell the GSA to do its job, but let’s hope that they take heed to the recommendations. It would be all too tragic if something untoward in the future occurs because of lax security.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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