He admitted that "it's purely a lack of oversight on our part," and said that starting from scratch has been mentioned as the way to go about fixing the agency's problems. But, he added, "in essence, we have started from scratch twice. When I came on board in April '07, we had a task of organizing 11 police departments into one."
Schenkel said that once he learned of the GAO's initial findings, he took the situation seriously and ordered immediate action.
But despite the action taken since the investigation, the security tests highlighted critical issues.
"We brought in all the components that we needed to make a real bomb," the GAO's Mark Goldstein said as he explained the tests to lawmakers today.
He said the materials used are available in stores and on the Internet, and that the assembled bombs carried around by investigators cost less than $150 to produce and took less than four minutes to assemble.
Goldstein noted that the investigators "did use actual bomb components, but they were at a level that would not actually set the bomb off. The concentration was below the trigger point."
The government investigators detonated bombs that would have produced the same results as those used in the tests. The result? Powerful, potentially deadly explosions. Video of two detonations show one exploding at a test site and another blowing up in the trunk of a car.
Goldstein expressed concern that at several of the security checkpoints tested as part of the probe, "guards were not even looking at the screens that would show materials passing through."
And the security breaches didn't end with smuggled bomb parts, according to the GAO.
Investigators also found stunning examples from among the ranks of the Federal Protective Service, according to the GAO's preliminary results. Investigators caught one armed guard sleeping at his post after taking the prescription painkiller Percocet during his shift. Another "accidentally fired his firearm in a restroom while practicing drawing his weapon." One "was caught using government computers to manage a private for-profit adult Web site" while absent from his post.
But one incident in particular highlights concerns about guard training.
According to the GAO's preliminary findings, an incident occurred after a mother placed her baby's carrier in front of an x-ray machine as she reached for her identification.
"Because the guard was not paying attention and the machine's safety features had been disabled, the infant in the carrier was sent through the x-ray machine," the report found.
The agency fired the guard after an investigation, but the guard sued, claiming that the FPS didn't provide adequate training. "The guard won the suit because FPS could not produce any documentation to show that the guard had received the training," the investigators found.
"When I first heard about the story, about a guard allowing a baby to go through the screening device, on a baby seat, I thought it was made up," Lieberman said. "But it wasn't made up. It was real, and it all speaks to a lack of caring, really. I mean, when you hire someone to be a guard, a security guard at a high-security federal building, they've got life and death responsibility."
The GAO's preliminary findings also indicate that in one FPS region, the agency "has not provided the required eight hours of x-ray or magnetometer training to its 1,500 guards since 2004."