The VA’s police force suffers from “staffing shortages, the splintering of oversight responsibilities, confusion about roles, and lack of clear guidance,” the department’s inspector general has told a House hearing.
IG Michael Missal cited a series of reports from his office including one from last year finding that 52 of 140 VA medical facilities had designated police as a shortage occupation; overall, about 900 of the roughly 4,900 positions were vacant. The most commonly cited reason was non-competitive pay rates but facilities also “did not fully use staffing strategies such as recruitment planning or the use of special salary rates or incentives.”
Further, he said, oversight is divided between VA headquarters, the Veterans Health Administration and the 18 Veterans Integrated Service Networks, each of which has its own police chief, while primary responsibility for operations, falls to local VA police chiefs who report to their medical facility directors. Other issues identified included overdue inspections of police units and failure to reinspect those with identified problems on schedule.
He also cited a report from earlier this year finding that the executive protection division had “failed to develop adequate threat assessments and written policies, which contributed to security vulnerabilities.”
“The governance structure, staffing issues, and proper program oversight processes must be addressed. At the center of those decisions are whether the governance structure should be more centralized and, if so, how that should be accomplished,” he said.