After 13 years guarding federal facilities, WSI leaves Oak Ridge

WSI Oak Ridge

Friday was the last day for many employees at security company WSI Oak Ridge, which lost its contracts to protect federal facilities after the July 28 security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

After 13 years of protecting federal facilities, WSI Oak Ridge has left the Secret City.

Friday was the last day for many employees at WSI, and the contract ended Sunday, spokeswoman Courtney Henry said.

Formerly known as Wackenhut Services Inc., the company once provided up to 1,000 security police officers and support staff at federal facilities that included East Tennessee Technology Park, the Joe L. Evins Federal Building, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Y-12 National Security Complex.

But WSI lost its contract to guard Y-12, a National Nuclear Security Administration site, after the July 28 security breach, and it did not win a separate contract to protect local U.S. Department of Energy sites, including ETTP, ORNL, the Federal Building, and the rest of the Oak Ridge Reservation. That contract was awarded to National Strategic Protective Services LLC, or NSPS.

Henry said the majority of remaining WSI employees would go to work for NSPS, which won the DOE protective force contract in January. Those who don’t are leaving the company, retiring, or taking “other opportunities,” Henry said.

More than 500 WSI Oak Ridge employees had earlier started working for B&W Y-12, the company that manages and operates Y-12. B&W Y-12 took over the security guard force at the 811-acre plant last fall after the unprecedented security breach, which led to federal investigations, staff reassignments and retirements, and congressional hearings.

In a recent letter to the Oak Ridge community, WSI Oak Ridge general manager Steve Hafner said the company had stumbled in accomplishing its mission.

“We regret the circumstances of the July 28 security incident and take responsibility for our role in the event,” Hafner said. “However, we believe this incident does not define us as a company and does not erase the more than 50 years of excellent service we have given DOE across the country.”

During the July 28 security breach, three anti-nuclear weapons activists sneaked into Y-12 before dawn, cut through three fences in a high-security Protected Area, and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on the $549 million Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

“While we regret the circumstances of our departure, we leave Oak Ridge with our flags flying and with the knowledge that sometime in the future we will be given the opportunity to return to East Tennessee,” Hafner said.

Federal officials did not say how the security breach might have affected the decision to award the protective force contract to NSPS, but a federal spokesman in January said all bidding teams were considered against the same technical criteria, including technical approach, key personnel, corporate experience, and past performance, among other things.

After the five-year, $182 million award was announced, WSI, which had headquarters on Mitchell Road in central Oak Ridge, said it was “disappointed,” but the company did not protest.

Hafner, who had only been in Oak Ridge a few months, said he had “learned firsthand of the impact that our company has had on this community for the past 13 years.

“Everywhere I go I hear a new story of how WSI Oak Ridge and its employees have been involved and engaged to make our regional community an even better place to live,” Hafner said. “I am humbled to have been a part of this story.”

Henry said WSI and its employees, who marked their departure with a recent farewell luncheon, were involved in and supported community organizations, including the United Way of Anderson County, Habitat for Humanity of Anderson County, East Tennessee Economic Council, the Oak Ridge and Anderson County chambers of commerce, and leadership organizations in the city and county.

“It was a mission for WSI Oak Ridge to be a very good corporate citizen and a contributing member of the Oak Ridge community,” Henry said. “That was one of the great pleasures of my job, seeing the difference that the company made in the area.”

WSI started working in Oak Ridge in 2000. It was part of the international company G4S Government Solutions, which is headquartered in Palm Beach, Fla. Henry said G4S provides security at other DOE and NNSA sites, including Hanford, Nevada National Security Site, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Savannah River Site, Office of Secure Transportation, and Sandia National Laboratory.

Note: This is part of a series of stories this week on the Y-12 security breach.

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  • Susie Williams Taylor

    There were too many blunders w/this breach….I cannot stop thinking “what if”! This security assignment doesn’t allow ANY wiggle room….

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.allison.37 Jason Allison

    I’m still debating the need to have Bethel Valley rd closed. There has never and will never be an issue there. As far as WSI, it’s change, Y-12 have changed hands how many times? Wont change the fact we have the people who feel the need to push issues they will never have any effect of change on. Only thing these people accomplish is tying up our police force for hours when they could be doing something more important, like speeders or people who run red lights as these issues a far more important. It’s time the government starts prosecuting these people and quit slapping them on the wrist.

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