With all of the budget battling on Capitol Hill lately, some people may have missed that the Secure Facilities 2011 bill has been re-introduced by Senator Lieberman. In some of our eyes this bill is equally important not only to the great men and women of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) but to all of the federal employees housed and members of the public that visit our 9000 federally owned and leased facilities.

As a former director of the FPS, I talked with Francis Rose about this important subject last week on Federal News Radio. Check out the audio recording of that discussion.

People often underestimate the missions the Federal Protective Service faces across the nation protecting the facilities and the operations of much of the federal government. Of late, it appears that even the press confuses them with the approximately 15,000 contract security officers that provide most of the screening services at most federal locations, supplementing the only 1200 law enforcement staff.

The Secure Facilities Bill will provide additional law enforcement people to FPS and is a start to providing the resources necessary for them to safely conduct their missions. The bill also provides for additional K9 units, which have always been a big success for FPS.

One other provision of the bill provides for FPS officers, Inspectors and Special Agents to carry their issued weapons off duty. This too has been a long time in the making and hopefully will finally come to fruition. Had this provision been in effect on September 21, 2001, maybe the last line of duty death of an FPS law enforcement officer could have been avoided. On that day, Ron Sheffield locked up his weapon in the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit so he could leave the building for lunch. Upon his return, as he was waiting for the elevator to retrieve his weapon, a crazed gunman entered the building and started waving it around and did discharge it into a wall. Ron ran at full speed at the gunman (despite being unarmed) and tackled him. While Ron was subduing the individual, the shooter still managed to get off two more shots, which ultimately killed Ron. Due to Officer Sheffield’s own body weight, even while he was dying, he held down the shooter until local police officers arrived.

Ron Sheffield was a hero and probably saved many lives in the building that day while making the ultimate sacrifice knowingly unarmed, but leaving two young daughters Jessica and Jenelle.

So I offer my many thanks to Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins and many thanks to the men and women of FPS who have continue to do their jobs everyday despite being understaffed and funded. They all continue to be unsung heroes.