Some of the 13,500 private security guards assigned to protect federal buildings lack training on how to respond to an active shooter, according to a government audit released Wednesday.
Since 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has required that its guards receive active shooter training. But the Government Accountability Office informed Congress that a spot check of private contractors found five companies who say their guards received no such training.
"Without ensuring that all guards receive this training, the Federal Protective Service has limited assurance that its guards are prepared for such a threat," the report said.
Eleven other contractors surveyed said the guards they provide have received some active shooter training.
The Homeland Security Department’s Federal Protective Service is responsible for protecting federal employees and visitors at approximately 9,600 federal facilities managed by the General Services Administration. The service has its own sworn law enforcement officers, but also hires private security guards to help it accomplish its mission.
DHS officials testified on Wednesdaybefore a House homeland security subcommitteethat a guard's primary responsibility is to send an immediate notice -- by phone and radio -- of an active shooter attack, and to make certain employees can get out safely and that no other intruders get in.
In remote areas, where a quick law enforcement response is unlikely, they said, a guard is expected to take further action. But the guard's response may be constrained, they said, because state laws limit what can be done by someone who's not a sworn officer.
GAO also said the government must do more to ensure that guards assigned to checkpoints using metal detectors have received the proper training in using the machines. "An official at one contract guard company stated that 133 of its approximately 350 guards ... have never received their initial X-ray magnetometer training," the GAO report said. "Some of these guards are working at screening posts."
Concern over the training of the FPS guards was heightened by the Sept. 16 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. A former Navy reservist, Aaron Alexis, killed 12 people inside the building where he worked before being fatally shot by police.
More from NBC News Investigations:
Follow NBC News Investigations on Twitter and Facebook
First published October 30 2013, 10:50 AM