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Traveling toward redemption?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Here it is. My first post of 2009 and also my first post since I've been back to work after a somewhat lengthy holiday vacation that I spent most of sick with some kind of bird flu (or at least that is what I have been calling it).

While on the couch battling this wretched illness, I saw more TV promos for this Homeland Security USA reality show than I care to admit.

If you haven't seen it, here it is:

It's interesting to see the steps DHS has recently taken to improve its image. In addition to this reality show, TSA is running advertisements on select radio stations. WBZ 1030 is running them pretty regularly over in this neck of the woods. The sound bites provide tips on making your way through security lines easily and encourages listeners to visit TSA's web site to find more travel tips.

On paper, both these programs sound good. The TV program will help showcase the heroes that work to protect U.S. citizens on a daily basis, while the radio advertisements are attempting to get the message across that safety is TSA's priority. But I'm not sold.

Do you think these public relations initiatives are a wise investment of time and money on DHS' part? I know the department has been beat up by the general population since its inception but I don't think this is the wisest way to change public perception. The department's job is to keep the country and its people safe from a variety of risks; it is my opinion that it should focus on that task rather than TV and radio promotions.

But I'm just the editor of a trade publication.

TSA brings holiday cheer

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm always so grateful that I don't have to fly anywhere for the holidays. I love my family, of course, but there are very few reasons I would brave the airport crowds and certain weather delays this time of year. The news networks always have some sort of horror story about people trapped in the airport trying desperately to get home for the holidays and, frankly, I just want no part of that. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would pass along a positive story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about airport travel and how hard the TSA works to make passenger travel smooth. Here's a little something to cheer up those of you working hard on this Monday morning:

"In my opinion, they're (TSA) on the ball," said one passenger. "Fastest security I've ever been through. It was a long line, but it just flew."

The TSA's No. 2 person at Sea-Tac, Deputy Federal Security Director Deborah Wojnicz, said that despite the bad weather, the normal complement of security screeners was maintained. The TSA brought in two mobile teams of screeners when the forecast showed the weather facing Sea-Tac.

TSA official Dennis Hayne led a team of 24 screeners from Phoenix. "We got an alert on Dec 18 at 10:30 p.m." Everyone was on a plane to Sea-Tac at 7:30 the next morning, he said. They'll be spending Christmas away from home.

I didn't realize the TSA had "mobile units" who are dispatched to airports suffering from staff shortages (or passenger influxes), but it definitely makes sense. So, there you go. I feel good having done my part to spread some holiday cheer. Enjoy it while you can.

And so it goes ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I just wanted to wish everyone happy holidays. Hope you and your families enjoy the best of the season.

I'm out next week enjoying the last few days of the year so I'll talk to you all in the new year. And thanks for a great 2008.


More 'security theater'

Monday, December 22, 2008

For those of you who missed the 60 Minutes segment on airport security because you were shoveling your driveway for the fourth time, here it is:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Too bad they didn't mention that we are in the middle of one of the safest flying periods in U.S. history.

I agree that not all the programs TSA has implemented have worked, but I do think they are doing some things right — the behavior screening, for example, is an effective program. All around, the agency gets a really bad rap and so do the screeners (I wouldn't want that job). It may be 'security theater' but if it helps keep me safe, I'm happy to play a role.

Panasonic bids $9B for Sanyo

Friday, December 19, 2008

There's some big news out of Japan this morning. Panasonic has made a formal offer for Sanyo. This Wall Street Journal article sums it up pretty well. Although the deal is valued at $9.1 billion, Sanyo is selling below the electronics manufacturer's current share price. Not a good sign for the state of the electronics industry.

What does this mean for Panasonic's and Sanyo's respective security divisions? Who knows at this point. Panasonic and Sanyo have a ton of overlap in the consumer electronics side of the business and I expect things to be the same on the security product end of the business. But all this is conjecture at this point. I'll post more as we dig up more information.

A personal matter

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This is a reminder to all you last minute shoppers that Christmas, if you celebrate it, is only a week and one day away. I am still struggling with what to buy my mom. If anyone has any ideas, please comment below. It would be neat to be able to tell her that the loyal readers of this blog helped me pick out her gift. (Obviously, she doesn't read this often, or ever for that matter.)

On a much more relevant note, last week we had the pleasure of meeting with Randy Nichols, Bowdoin College's director of safety and security. We made the 15-minute trip from our offices to talk about museum security. The 1,700 student college recently opened a stunning new museum.

If you ever make it up to Brunswick, Maine, you should stop by — I recommend you do so in the summer by the way. The museum has some beautiful, and unique, collections on display including a giant blow-up Buddha. See?

I was really impressed with Randy's approach to security and safety. Not only does he meet with each new freshman each year, but he also can be found wandering across campus on weekend nights making sure everything is running smoothly. He also asks students to call him Randy so that they feel comfortable coming to him in case there is a problem.

This 'personal approach' is refreshing in an age when technology is becoming a larger part of security programs. I get so frustrated when a vendor tells me their latest and greatest technology can replace security personnel. Sure, technology can augment an officer's capabilities, but it can never replace this human aspect. And in today's environment, the personal approach is becoming more and more important.


What to expect in 2009

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Control Risks released its annual report on risks companies can expect to face in the new year. It's no surprise that 2009 is going to be a tough one: The economy sucks, a new president is good news but can also be challenging and Control Risks is forecasting that there is a global spike in kidnapping for ransom.

The report also notes that the volatile financial markets will have varying effects depending on "both a country's exposure and its government's response." Adam Strangfield, Control Risks' research director, noted that "emerging markets as well as more mature economies are not immune."

RiskMap 2009's research said kidnap for ransom has mainly been associated with Latin America in the past but now stories are emerging "from the swamps of the Niger delta, the turbulent cities of Iraq and the ships on the Gulf of Aden."

Overall, not a very positive forecast for 2009. Happy new year.

Calling all readers

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I never thought I would say this but I have become a bit of a social networking junkie. Maybe junkie is a bit of a stretch considering I still pledged to stay far away from Facebook and MySpace ... but I am a big LinkedIn supporter and to that note, last week we launched the Security Director News Reader Network. I've designed this to be a networking group for readers of SDN and I'm hoping it will serve as a place to foster discussions on the critical topics that security leaders face today.

Like my Twitter experiment, it's a work in progress but I'm interested to see where it goes.


When hypocrisy catches up

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm not a big fan of perpetuating the media's obsession with scandal, however it's not very often a fairly high ranking security official gets busted for illegal activities. Lorraine Henderson, the Boston Area Port Security Director, was charged on Friday with harboring an illegal alien because she employed a Brazilian woman as her housekeeper. And it wasn't like Henderson didn't know the woman was an illegal immigrant. Authorities allegedly wiretapped the housekeeper and caught Henderson on tape saying:

“You have to be careful ’cause they will deport you. Be careful.”

I mean, it is true, except the ironic part is that Henderson was the one actually in charge of deporting her. Henderson faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if she is convicted.

So long, farewell

Monday, December 8, 2008

We got the news yesterday that George West, who has led Siemens Building Technologies security division for the last two years (or so), is moving on to bigger things. Word is he is leaving Siemens to head up an environmental company in Boston (don't have the name yet, but should in the next week).

Sounds like a pretty good move for George but I'm definitely sad to see him go. He's always made time to chat with us here about trends and news in the market (surprisingly not a lot of senior executives do). We wish him well in this new endeavor.