New Security Office Underway at NCUA
The NCUA will establish a new office focused solely on agency security and continuity, but the move shouldn't have a big impact on the 2014 operating budget. Public Affairs Specialist John Fairbanks told Credit Union Times the new office will be comprised mostly of existing NCUA resources.
“There is an ever-increasing focus on, and need for, stronger security, so we performed an internal review of our security functions,” Fairbanks said. “We determined it is best if we consolidated our various security functions under one office instead of the current decentralized model.”
The new office will also handle continuity of operations at the NCUA, which is an existing function that addresses all circumstances, including natural disasters and other emergency events, he said. Fairbanks also said the NCUA anticipates naming a director of the new office in the near future.
The NCUA's announcement came in response to Credit Union Times questions about examiner safety, prompted after court documents revealed NCUA employees discovered 10,000 rounds of ammunition and semi-automatic weapons in a storage room when they seized the $23.6 million Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in Cleveland earlier this year.
NCUA employees also discovered a go bag in the office of former CEO Alex Spirikaitis, which was packed with blank identification cards, clean underwear, a razor, a Los Angeles map and a variety of prepaid cards, prosecutors said.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told Credit Union Times in a statement that the situation in Cleveland was unusual, but NCUA employees have ongoing concerns about personal safety.
The NTEU represents approximately 950 of NCUA's nearly 1,200 employees, and about 150,000 bargaining unit employees in 30 federal agencies and departments.
Kelley also said the NTEU will work with the NCUA to explore ways to enhance and improve the safety and security of employees.
Fairbanks confirmed that statement, saying the NCUA is presently working in partnership with the union to identify and address additional on-the-job safety concerns.
The NCUA continually reviews policies and procedures for enhancing the security of employees working in the field and in office environments, Fairbanks said. Police officers don't regularly accompany NCUA employees to credit unions when the regulator places them into conservatorship. However, Fairbanks said when necessary, the regulator will work with law enforcement and security specialists to protect NCUA employees.
A former NCUA examiner, who agreed to speak anonymously, said the NCUA does a good job sheltering inexperienced examiner staffers from volatile situations. If there is a perceived threat, law enforcement coordination is used to assist in serving conservatorship orders, the former field employee said.