Safeguarding the President on Inauguration Day

On Wednesday, January 20, the 59th Presidential Inauguration was held at the U.S. Capitol, the site of a recent riot and serious security failure resulting in several fatalities, extensive property damage, and multiple physical injuries. What can we learn from the events of January 6, 2021? As a Secret Service agent, I can offer some perspective having been involved in previous Inaugurations and other major events.

More than a suit—a plan.
Oftentimes, the public’s image of the Secret Service is a federal agent dressed in a suit with sunglasses and earpiece protecting the President. I did protect the President and First Lady, but two other assignments were directly related to protecting buildings such as the U.S. Capitol as well as major events, like the Inauguration. As an agent, I assisted in constructing security plans for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and as Director of Security for the NBA, I participated in security measures for the Athens Summer Olympics.

Just like you, only different.
We can see a lot of similarities in security planning for large scale events and planning at your organization, except, of course one is on a much larger scale. Using best practices, we ensure physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security work together, we coordinate with other internal departments and external agencies, and train so everyone understands their role.

When I was assigned to the Secret Service’s Major Events Division, I designed security plans for events designated as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), including the Inauguration, State of the Union, and the Olympics. For NSSEs the Secret Service designs the security plan, the FBI is responsible for crisis management, such as what we experienced with the riot at the Capitol, and FEMA is onsite for consequence management if an incident occurs. These different agencies work together, share information, and assume delineated areas of responsibility that maximize their respective strengths.

This Inauguration was always going to be different.
Due to concerns with COVID-19, this Inauguration was always going to be different than its predecessors, with scaled back or cancelled events, such as the parade. And after the riot on January 6, the Secret Service and other partner agencies adjusted the security plan even further. They collectively identified potential vulnerabilities by assessing what they had and what they needed in terms of personnel, physical, technical, and procedural security—and all must be optimized and work together in order to be successful:

  • I’m sure you’ve seen the influx of National Guard troops with about 25,000 Guard members on the ground in Washington, D.C. Personnel from other local, state, and federal agencies will also join them and coordinate their efforts.
  • The area around the Capitol and National Mall has physical barriers like fencing with barbed wire on top and bollards to protect against vehicles with explosive devices. Additional restrictive areas have also been set up to limit the flow of traffic and people, also extending to rail stations and airports.
  • Security technologies include cameras that use both facial recognition to identify individuals on watch lists and license plate recognition to spot any reported suspicious vehicles.
  • Procedures, directives, and official orders outline the combined decades of security expertise of members from disparate agencies in the common objective of executing the plan and protecting the President, First Lady, members of Congress, and all visitors attending this ceremonial demonstration of our democracy.

An emergency management plan protects you from just that—emergencies.
Every event, organization, company, and agency must have a security plan to prevent and mitigate potential incidents and an emergency management plan (EMP) to respond in case something does happen. An EMP, among many things, establishes a reporting structure to manage the emergency, proper response protocols to safeguard people including evacuation, shelter-in-place, and run, hide, and fight, and a communication system to transmit vital information that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Practice really does get you closer to perfect.
A lot goes into an effective security plan, program, and policy. And that was very apparent when I was designing the airspace security plan for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, four months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The word on everyone’s mind and from everyone’s lips was “security.” This Inauguration is no different—and neither is your own organization. You must design a plan, put security measures in place that support it, and train your people on it. Just having a security plan, measure, or officer does not make you safe and secure. You must strengthen your security through scheduled training customized to the needs of each stakeholder.

Always be better.
Every plan can be improved. Communicate with partners, share information, and make sure you take the time to review an event, or your own security program, at least once a year so you can update it and make any adjustments to fix what didn’t go well—and be prepared for whatever comes next.

 

We’re here to help.
On Inauguration day, you were able to see me on local Chicago news programs sharing similar information about protecting the peaceful transition of power and our 46th President. When you’re ready to talk about your own security challenges and protecting your people, contact me at [email protected] or 312.515.8747.


What to look for when hiring a Chief Security Officer (CSO)

by Patrick Gray of Raines International and G. Michael Verden of The Lake Forest Group

The Lake Forest Group is working with Raines International in recruiting security professionals for top level executive positions to make an immediate impact in organizations across all industries and functions—because in today’s business environment, security has taken on an elevated role in operations to protect an organization’s people, property, and brand.

Accordingly, savvy business leaders want to build an environment that anticipates vulnerabilities, implements countermeasures to mitigate threats, and creates a backdrop of safety and security so employees can thrive.

When you are ready to hire a Chief Security Officer (CSO), you may not know where to start. CSOs can be an integral part of your leadership team because they understand how workplace violence, outside intrusions and other threats can disrupt business operations, impact employee turnover, and inhibit productivity. While they know how to anticipate and prevent the typical risks that may affect your business, a great CSO will have his or her finger on the pulse of the security world and will think three steps ahead to protect against today’s — and tomorrow’s — challenges.

Raines has found that many CSOs come from the military, law enforcement, or government. While those backgrounds support an organization’s security objectives because military and law enforcement backgrounds tend to bring a proactive approach to security, an outstanding CSO will also bring a variety of soft skills. From the obvious to perhaps the unexpected, a CSO may offer the following soft skills:

  • Adaptable and agile
  • Abreast of the latest industry developments
  • Communication skills
  • Business acumen
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Approachability
  • Organizational skills
  • Team building
  • Leadership

The right CSO for your organization should effectively complement your culture. Depending on the size of the organization, the CSO must also have the right support team and governance ability. Whether presenting an annual budget report to the C-suite or conducting orientation security training for new hires, the CSO should have the ability to relate to both, and, more importantly, be capable of engaging with everyone. This connection allows the CSO to communicate important security education and awareness material to the workforce that best prepares them for an incident in the workplace.

The CSO also needs to foster goodwill by demonstrating that any changes in the workplace are for the benefit of the organization’s people and not meant to disrupt daily business activities. A successful CSO realizes that some modifications he or she might make to a business environment in the name of security and emergency preparedness may be met with resistance by employees if they do not properly disseminate and adequately explain these changes and the reasons behind them.

Just as they do for the other leaders on your team, these soft skills can make the difference in your CSO being a simple placeholder and a real change maker who works to create a safe and secure workplace that supports your employees.

We’re Here to Help
You are committed to protecting your employees. We can help you determine next steps to create or enhance your safe and secure workplace, especially as employees return to your businesses or continue to remain at home. Contact Mike Verden at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss what’s on your mind and visit http://lakeforestgroup.com/.