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Security, Facilities, and Emergency Planning

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Security, Facilities, And Emergency Planning

COOP and Emergency Planning
Planning and testing continuity of operations scenarios has become a regular business practice in the federal courts and at the Administrative Office. National continuity tests by the federal government are one opportunity for the Judiciary to test telework and other remote work arrangements.

A U.S. Marshals Service Review of Courthouse Security

On January 4, 2010, a former pro se litigant entered the lobby at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada with a gun and began shooting. During the ensuing gun battle, Court Security Officer Stanley Cooper and the gunman were killed; a deputy U.S. marshal also was wounded.

In response, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Director John Clark formed a National Security Review Committee (NSRC) with AO representation, to review the incident report and research USMS policies, procedures, and facility infrastructure to determine critical needs and best practices in securing federal court facilities. The NSRC is identifying and recommending potential improvements in security measures and training.



Courthouse Perimeter Security Pilot Program

Physical security at federal courthouse facilities is provided by contract security guards, and systems and equipment is funded by the Judiciary and administered by two law enforcement entities—the United States Marshals Service (USMS), and the Federal Protective Service (FPS). While FPS has had primary responsibility for the perimeter security of federal courthouse facilities over the years, the USMS has been assuming more responsibility for perimeter security at primary courthouse facilities, or those where primary tenants are the court, the USMS, and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office. FPS continues to have sole responsibility for perimeter security at multi-tenant facilities housing court and related operations.

Congress, the Judiciary, and the USMS agreed to establish a pilot to test the feasibility of the district U.S. Marshal assuming full responsibility for perimeter security guarding and security systems and equipment at seven courthouses. The fiscal year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. L. No. 110-161) approved this pilot program.

The Committee on Judicial Security has played an active role in the pilot program, from the initial development with the USMS to its implementation. The Committee chair and AO staff visited each pilot location and consulted with the chief judges, district U.S. Marshals, and other court and USMS staff. There was consensus among those interviewed that consolidating command and control over all aspects of physical security has improved protection for both people and buildings. A report was submitted to Congress on the pilot program in October 2010.

Judiciary Facility Access Card Program

The Judiciary Facility Access Card (FAC) Program is the Judiciary's version of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, which established a mandatory government-wide standard for a secure and reliable identification card for federal employees and contractors in the Executive Branch. FACs will be used by Judiciary employees and contractors to gain access to multi-tenant federal facilities that house court operations and to courthouses during after-hours and on weekends. The AO plans to procure services for issuing and managing the FACs. Plans call for the ID cards to be provided to court personnel beginning in 2012.

Circuit-Based Space and Security Training

The National Space and Security Circuit-Based Workshops programs were developed to provide court unit executives and their staffs with detailed information on a variety of programs related to space and security in the courts. A team of court managers, AO staff, and Federal Judicial Center staff developed a curriculum to be presented circuit by circuit. Topics include occupancy-related agreements, the long-range facilities planning process, the Circuit Rent Budget program, space assignment and rent validation, courtroom technologies, personal property management, and judicial facility security. A rotating group of court and AO staff serves as faculty at the two-day event, which includes structured lectures and breakout sessions.

Workshops have been held in the Second, Third, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and District of Columbia Circuits for court unit executives and facility officials. All other circuits will be offered training in 2011.

Tenant Alterations Pilot Program

A provision in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Pub. L. No. 111-8) empowered the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to delegate authority to the Judiciary to enter directly into real property alteration contracts with private-sector companies, for projects up to $100,000 in value. Previously, GSA could delegate this authority only to Executive Branch agencies. The new delegation of authority should assist the courts in making minor alterations more efficiently, allowing GSA to focus on the larger, more complex Judiciary space projects. In October 2010, the Judiciary provided Congress with a report on progress with the delegation. GSA later interpreted that the delegation authority must be individually approved, as is done with Executive Branch agencies.

In December 2009, the Committee on Space and Facilities recommended developing a tenant alterations pilot program to assess the value of the delegations program to the Judiciary, and develop best practices for future projects. The AO invited circuit executives and district clerks to submit candidate projects for the pilot program.

Long-Range Facilities Planning

In March 2008, the Judicial Conference approved the Asset Management Planning (AMP) process, a new long-range facilities planning approach designed as a cost-containment initiative. AMP includes comprehensive physical and functional assessments of each courthouse, standardized planning assumptions, development of strategies to address current and future space needs, business rules that consider a range of real estate solutions, and a method for determining the order of precedence for locations to receive major projects. The methodology is intended to help control future rent costs and assist the circuit councils in managing their rent budgets.

The Conference Committee on Space and Facilities ensures that the primary AMP output, an Urgency Results List, prioritizes locations with the most urgent space shortages. AO staff continue to work with those courts that have not yet gone through the long-range facilities planning process to evaluate facility needs.

Through fiscal year 2010, the AMP methodology was applied to 42 district and appellate courts. Of those, 33 courthouses were subject to the 2004 Judicial Conference-imposed moratorium because they had received neither congressional authorization nor appropriations. New facility plans for all but two of those courthouses are now complete and are either final or awaiting chief judge approval. The AMP methodology has shown that approximately half of the 33 courthouses will not need to be replaced by new courthouse buildings, but can instead undergo renovation or alteration if and when congressional funding becomes available.

Judiciary Inventory Control System

In September 2010, a nationally supported, web-based property inventory system developed by the Northern District of New York became available to all court units and federal defender offices as a business efficiency tool. In October 2009, the AO began an effort to identify a locally developed Judiciary Inventory Control System for property management that could be implemented and supported nationally. The Conference Committee on Information Technology endorsed the effort in December 2010. The inventory control system selected is compatible with the Judiciary's financial accounting system, FAS4T, and already is used by 115 court units. The inventory control system can automatically import information from FAS4T, create custom reports, and track service calls and requests for information on specific inventory items. In partnership with the AO, the Northern District of New York has agreed to provide support for the system.

Continuity of Operations and Emergency Preparedness

The AO assists courts with emergency preparedness and responses to catastrophic events that affect Judiciary employees and court operations and may also damage court facilities and equipment. Several such events occurred during FY 2010.

El Centro Earthquake

On April 4, 2010, areas near El Centro in the Southern District of California experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2, resulting in major structural damage and power outages throughout the area. The El Centro courthouse sustained significant interior and exterior damage, including broken water pipes that flooded the probation office, and structural and ceiling damage. With the cooperation and assistance of the AO and the GSA, the court was able to resume operations two days after the earthquake occurred.

Hurricane Alex

Between June 26-30, 2010, the first major storm of the 2010 hurricane season formed in the Gulf of Mexico, reached Category 1 hurricane status, and was on course for Brownsville, Texas, and surrounding areas. The Brownsville and McAllen courthouses were therefore closed on June 30 for two days, shutting down their Data Communications Network (DCN) connections. Fortunately, Hurricane Alex took a more westerly path, causing only minor damage to southern Texas, allowing prompt re-opening of the court facilities.

Eagle Horizon 2010 Exercise

In May 2010, the AO participated with the Executive and Legislative Branches in Eagle Horizon 2010, a national continuity operations test. Approximately 200 AO COOP team members took part in the event, ensuring the agency's mission-essential functions to support the courts would be uninterrupted in an emergency. The AO also coordinated a tabletop training exercise for the Alexandria Division of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to test continuity of operations (COOP) plans. Similar local training exercises were carried out for the District of Maine and the District of Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court.

COOP Training

In July 2010, with the support of the FJC and a training program planning team, AO staff coordinated an instruction program on emergency preparedness and information technology (IT) systems, which was presented for the first time with the regularly scheduled Third Circuit IT Conference. Judges, court unit executives, IT managers, and specialists from each district in the circuit and the court of appeals attended. During the training, court employees described their responses to various disasters and a hands-on table-top exercise tested COOP plans and identified areas for improvement.

AO Business Continuity Tests Telework Days

Throughout 2010, the AO successfully conducted telework tests to validate its continuity of operations plans and to practice conducting operations from remote locations. Telework was widely used during the historic Washington, D.C. blizzards of 2010. The exercises will ensure that AO staff can continue to provide services to the courts even when conditions prevent AO employees from reaching their normal work stations.