As the U.S. government faces an increasing number of threats to our key infrastructure and buildings, supporting agencies and the Administration are taking action to prioritize security. On November 27, 2023, President Biden signed Executive Order 14111, an executive order that reinforces the work of the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) and reaffirms commitment to the security of federal facilities.
The purpose of the Executive Order is “to enhance the quality and effectiveness of security in and protection of buildings and facilities in the United States occupied by Federal employees or Federal contractor workers for nonmilitary activities, and to provide an ongoing entity to address continuing government-wide security for Federal facilities.”
After the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12977 six months later and created the Interagency Security Committee. Daryle Hernandez, Chief of the ISC (Executive Leader Program Cohort 2202), stated the bombing as the “worst case of domestic-based terrorism in the history of our country.”
According to their website, the ISC is a “collaborative organization that provides leadership to the nonmilitary federal community, supporting physical security programs that are comprehensive and risk based.” The committee currently sits within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Hernandez and his team support the ISC’s members efforts to better strengthen and support the security of federal facilities.
Before the creation of the ISC, “there were no common security standards for the federal government, and each agency was protecting itself in the way it thought was best,” said Hernandez. He continued, “this became problematic when they started looking at federal buildings where you have multiple tenants. And if everyone is following a different process, that means you have a greater potential for gaps and seams.” While so much has changed in nearly three decades since the ISC’s creation, especially in the case of the internet and cybersecurity, physical security of federal facilities has remained equally crucial.
With todays and the past decades’ evolving threats and risks, the National Security Council (NSC) wanted to take meaningful action to strengthen federal facility security in the contemporary threat environment. According to Hernandez, the NSC led the effort, with the ISC to look at ways to accomplish this goal. The ISC was in a unique position, having implemented the previous EO for over 25 years, to understand the strengths and limitations of the original executive order. The committee enthusiastically supported the NSC to get the EO updated.
“This new executive order does a number of things,” said Hernandez, “but its overall purpose is to reinforce the importance and strengthen the work of the Interagency Security Committee to protect our federal buildings, our federal employees, and the American public who visit them.” As the only executive order signed in November, “the timing was good,” said Hernandez, “because November is also National Critical Infrastructure and Resilience Month.”
In true interagency fashion, an estimated 20 agencies collaborated on the executive order, taking about 90 days to research, write, and finalize. Hernandez highlighted some of the major additions:
- Reducing ambiguity by clarifying and updating terms and definitions for “federal facility,” “federal employee,” and “federal contract worker.”
- A specific requirement for departments and agencies to designate a senior official responsible for implementation and compliance with the executive order, as well as supporting facility security committees.
- Increased visibility and accountability by adding the requirement for the ISC to submit a biennial report to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
- Minimum compliance monitoring requirements for the Department of Homeland Security which includes compliance reporting by departments and agencies and a risk-based compliance verification.
The executive order will also require the ISC to provide best practices for securing a mobile federal workforce. This is pertinent considering the results of the FY22 Federal Viewpoint Survey by the Office of Personnel Management showing 14 percent of the federal workplace is remote and 45 percent telework on a regular basis. Hernandez shared that the ISC is prepared to provide security advice for organizations regardless of workplace flexibilities.
A recent graduate of the Executive Leadership Program, Hernandez has served in this position at the ISC for over seven years. He enjoys how the ELP is “an interagency effort at its core” and how incredible the strategic-level leaders and speakers are. “This program gave me another opportunity to seek out and understand the perspectives of other agencies across the government,” said Hernandez. “It gave me the opportunity to connect with other security professionals and see how they’re implementing the standards that we set. It gave me a ready-made set of stakeholders: to be able to solicit their feedback and learn from them.”
Hernandez looks forward to implementing the executive order, which has three key responsibilities: setting security standards, monitoring compliance with those standards, and sharing best practices. As the ISC moves forward under his leadership, Hernandez is thinking thoughtfully about the long term. It is his belief that Executive Order 14111 will provide sound structure and enhanced authorities to the ISC for the next 30 years.