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Budget woes

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More and more folks in the security industry continue to voice their disappointment with President Obama's 2010 budget. Following up from a previous blog, a story went out on our newswire today about port security not getting its full Congressional appropriations. As part of the SAFE Port Act of 2006, Congress approved $400 million for port security for five years (2007-2011), but in Obama's budget only $250 was allotted to port security. When I tried to argue that the $150 million from the economic stimulus package would bring the total up to $400 million, Aaron Ellis, the spokesperson for AAPA, held fast that the stimulus money was intended for job creation and therefore restricted port security directors in how they could spend the money to improve security.

And, ports aren't the only ones facing cuts in fiscal appropriations. I just received a press release from the Security Industry Association.

“President Obama is looking for cuts in all the wrong places,” SIA Director of Government Relations Don Erickson said. “We understand and support efforts to be fiscally responsible, but taking money away from programs that protect children in the classroom and the millions of Americans traveling on our mass transit systems or conducting business at our nations’ ports is not in any way responsible. It is a misguided step in the wrong direction.”

SIA also noted that the Transit Security Grant Program is facing similar reductions and was also only allotted $250 million, down from $388.6 from the current budget. Transit was authorized for $900 million by Congress for fiscal 2010, so they're facing much larger reductions. The cuts to transit particularly surprised me, considering the Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, pledged to invest in mass transit security.

SIA also stated that while Obama's budget would keep funding for the Secure Our Schools program at the current level of $16 million, that is still less than the $50 million authorized in the School Safety Enhancements Act passed in September by the House of Representatives.

It's quite the dilemma. While no one wants to see reductions in security initiatives, we're also facing such an economic crisis that my guess is no one's going to get the money they want or need. What do you think?

Lost and found

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I don't know how many of you have seen Steve Hunt's video where he goes "dumpster diving" but this story has a similar slant. It's all about the potential loss of some coveted trade secrets.

At a St. Louis hotel, which was evidently a temporary home to actors working on the upcoming George Clooney movie, "Up in the Air", a local beauty shop owner accidentally happened upon one of the hottest Hollywood scripts — the pages from an upcoming "Twilight" sequel — in a trash bin at the hotel.

Casey Ray found two scripts, one for the vampire sequel "New Moon" and one for a different movie titled "Memoirs." She decided to return them to the studio making the films. In return, she was invited to attend the movies' premieres, her lawyer said.

Ray recently was waiting for her fiance to finish work when she spotted two scripts in a trash container. She was outside the hotel ... It's not clear how the scripts wound up in the bin.

OK, I don't know about you but I rarely spot anything that is in the trash — why was she looking in the trash or is that a random habit? Why wasn't she looking for what most women would be dying to see at that hotel — Clooney?

Anyway, how did the scripts end up in the trash and possibly reveal industry trade secrets to the world?

The Clooney movie includes actress Anna Kendrick, who is also in the "Twilight" vampire movie. A spokeswoman for Kendrick, Lisa Perkins, said the actress wouldn't have left scripts lying around.

It doesn't sound like she left them lying around. It sounds like she threw them away. Maybe the scripts were boring, not very good, maybe she couldn't handle reading her dialog one more time??

I actually didn't see the first movie, which grossed $350 million worldwide, but I bet those scripts are pretty important to some company. Possibly Summit Entertainment, the studio making the movies?

Catching up

Saturday, May 9, 2009

So after a long delay at Newark Airport last night, I finally arrived back in Portland. While Maine might not have the year-round sunshine like California, we certainly have a lot less traffic and natural disasters, which is a pretty fair trade off, in my opinion.

But, now it's back to work and as I sift through my 200 unopened emails, I've come across several interesting security-related stories that I thought I should share in an effort to get this blog back on track. (Sorry to those of you looking for my typical Friday fun blog, I've been having a little too much fun, lately).

An article yesterday in the Dallas News reports that President Obama has requested $2 billion more in funding for border security and law-enforcement on the Mexican border. The paper reports this will be an 8 percent increase for border and transportation security funding over this year and that a significant amount of the money will dedicated to technology and manpower to deal with illegal weapons and immigration.

There were several associations in the security industry who weren't too happy with Obama's 2010 budget.

The American Association of Port Authorities, for example, released a statement that it is disappointed, saying the administration has underfunded DHS's Port Security Grant Program.

The Administration's request calls for a 6.5 percent overall increase in DHS's budget for fiscal 2010, but recommends a significant decrease for port facility security funding over what Congress appropriated last year. In its proposed budget, the Obama Administration recommends the Port Security Grant Program-the only federal program that assists public ports to fund marine facility security improvements-receive $250 million in Congressional appropriations. While this is $40 million more than the fiscal 2009 budget request, Congress authorized $400 million for the program in the 2006 SAFE Port Act and approved a $400 million appropriation for port security grants in fiscal 2009.

Airports Council International, North America also released a statement expressing disappointment that funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) was not increased, given the need for critical airport infrastructure for safe and efficient air transportation. However, they did acknowledge a $100 million increase in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget for the procurement and installation of inline explosive detection systems, which it says is important for more efficient and effective screening of passenger checked baggage.

Surprise, surprise

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A article by the Associated Press reports that the FBI has been slow to update the national terror suspect list. The news service says this potentially compromises national security. You think?

This information comes from a report by the Justice Department's Inspector General, Glenn Fine, who found "that 12 terror suspects who were either not watchlisted or were slow to be added to the list may have traveled into or out of the United States during the period when they were not placed on the list."

Auditors also found significant delays in taking people off the list once they were no longer considered suspects. (How long does it take to delete someone from this list anyhow? I'd love to hear about the process although considering how tough it is to make things happen in any organization, I guess I can understand.)

Overall, auditors found the entire process was still too slow.
"We found that the FBI failed to nominate many subjects in the terrorism investigations that we sampled, did not nominate many others in a timely fashion, and did not update or remove watchlist records as required," the report found.

The FBI says it has improved its processes and taken the recommendations to ensure a more efficient, streamlined process. But how much do you want to bet that the Inspector General will be delivering a similar write-up in the next six months?

Currently, the watchlist, which is used to screen people entering the United States, contains more than 1.1 million names.

The state of one 'lil market

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Right now I'm reading over a white paper from Frost & Sullivan (developed in conjunction with Protection One) focused on security solutions for the food service industry.

The report states that in this vertical physical security is often overlooked and underestimated as compared to IT security issues such as credit card fraud. We all know that the biggest issue restaurants face is theft — employee theft and external theft. The little stuff, such as a brownie a server took to eat because she was starving (just an example ... really) and a couple leaving before paying for their $23.98 tab (OK, you can probably now tell that I worked in a restaurant at one point), add up quick. And bigger events, like employees voiding items or checks after a customer leaves, add even more to the loss calculation. It's kind of like the Bermuda Triangle of theft — the money and inventory could have gone anywhere and never be found.

Frost & Sullivan suggests that integrating security and POS systems can help reduce the impact of employee theft, while linking a video surveillance system with temperature sensors can reduce food spoilage. Those are just two examples of the value of security systems in this environment. Let me be clear, the firm is not saying that technology can replace people but they are saying that security systems can help reduce loss and in this economy isn't that an important point.

I'm lining up times to talk with the reps from Frost & Sullivan and Pro One, hopefully in time for next week's newswire.

A day in Hollywood

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I had a chance to experience some of the California dream yesterday with a tour of Paramount Studios in Hollywood as part of the ASIS media preview tour.

The film and production history at Paramount is mind blowing to say the least and while I felt enamored with the surroundings, the security issues there are nothing to mess around with. As you might expect, everyone entering the Paramount property must be registered and checked in at the front gate, which I imagine could in itself be an overwhelming task. I've never been on a movie set, but I knows it takes a lot of people, from production staff to movie extras to make these things happen. Clint Hilbert, vice president of environmental health, safety and security for Paramount, is only four months into the job and has worked in several other industries including healthcare and manufacturing. He said that the major difference at Paramount is how quickly things change depending on what production is being shot. Security is always balancing the needs of different production crews housed in its 30 different stages while maintaining perimeter security of its 62 acre property. During its busiest times, Paramount is like a self-contained city except there are a lot of really, really good looking famous people walking around (Hilbert didn't say the good looking famous part, that's just what I'm imagining).

Anyway, along with Hilbert, Rick Madrid, investigator for security emergency services joined us for the tour. His job is basically to ensure that films aren't leaked out early (like what happened with the new Wolverine movie, which was Fox, not Paramount) and at each screening studios send personnel with night vision goggles to make sure no one is videotaping the movie from the audience. Madrid said that he works very closely with the IT department as well as the L.A.P.D to catch bootleggers.
And, in addition to touring the studio of Dr. Phil (yes, I sat in his chair, but no pictures allowed, sorry) and the facade of the New York set we also got a tour of the studios command center. Louis Lam, executive director of security services said the security department is in the process of relocating its facility to a different dedicated location to monitor the nearly 200 cameras on the property. The security department also has its own on-site fire department and its security officials are all trained in fire fighting techniques.

Oh, and because I know you're dying to know, no, I didn't see any movie stars while I was there, or at least I don't think I did.

ASIS preview tour, day one

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Good to be back online. My trip to Aruba was pretty amazing and I got lots of sunshine (maybe a little too much sunshine as I'm a light shade of red), but it was nice to completely unplug myself from life. I recommend to everyone to force yourself to turn off the cell phone and internet access for at least a few days, it can be quite invigorating. Anyway, I'm not quite back to my normal security routine and just arrived in Anaheim, Calif. to participate in the ASIS International media tour.

We have quite the security-filled itinerary for the next two days, which includes a tour of the Port of Long Beach's new $22 million command and control center. I've never toured a port (despite several attempts at my hometown of Portland) and am anxious and excited to see one of the largest ports in the country. Also included on the itinerary is a tour of the Kodak Theatre, and the command center for Hollywood and Highland Center and Paramount Studios. There's lots more on the schedule and I'll keep you updated. Right now I have go get ready for the first part which includes a tour on the Anaheim Convention Center (where ASIS 2009 will be held). Check back for more. LAS

Bumpy road ahead

Monday, May 4, 2009

There is a new security leader in place at Chicago Public Schools, and he has some ties to the President Obama.

Michael Shields, who is also first lady Michelle Obama's cousin, was named director of security for Chicago Public Schools. Shields is a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Defender reported.

What interests me far more than Shields' ties to the first family is the very tough task he has in front of him. According to the Defender, 38 students in the public school system have been killed so far this year. Is it just me or is this a really high number?

Andres Durbak, previously the CPS director of security, resigned last week.

Photos of Amsterdam

Friday, May 1, 2009

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More pandemic

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I know, I know. Pandemic and swine flu information has officially reached the point of oversaturation but I came across this article that does a good job of outlining how companies are preparing for the, now liklehood, of a pandemic.

I sat in on a webinar yesterday about communication during crisis situations. Robert Chandler, a professor and communication specialist with the University of Central Florida, said findings ways to streamline communication is one part of the process. The other part, centers around being upfront and honest with your employees and the general population.

I mentioned this yesterday in my post about the Air Force One snafu, but we as a society — individuals and businesses — really need to start being more open about plans and procedures, whether it be security, operations or a photo opportunity. If this does official become a pandemic situation, it is not time to hide behind your desk. We all need to remember that truthful, well directed communication will be critical to limit panic and confusion if this situation escalates.