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Just me and Tom Ridge ... chattin'

Friday, August 20, 2010

I interview high-level security professionals on a regular basis. Just the other day, I spoke with the CSO and manager of corporate security for, you know, the City of Calgary. Owen Key was a nice guy. He was well spoken, smart, knew his security stuff. I got a good story out of it. No big deal, really.

Well, on Monday, I'm scheduled for what is certainly the biggest interview of my career so far. I have an interview with Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (oh, and a former Congressman and Governor of Pennsylvania, too). So no big deal, right?

Uh, except, yes big deal.

I'm currently reading his book, The Test of our Times, and it's been very interesting to learn about the formation of DHS, from an inside perspective. First of all, bringing 180,000 federal employees from 22 agencies together under one roof seems like a daunting task, but to do it during a time where Americans felt so vulnerable? Well, let's just say it's not a job I (or I suspect most of you) would take on.

In his book, he discusses his reservations about accepting this position knowing that no matter what kind of job he did, good or bad, he probably wouldn't come out of it unscathed:

"And if I suspected that my political career would be sacrificed, well, so be it: We are all expendable. Despite my reservations, I would take on this new assignment, and I would give it my best."

I'm only a quarter of the way through this book (don't worry, I'll finish it by Monday), but I'm hoping it'll give me more insight into what he went through as a high-ranking government official. But that's not what I'm most interested in for my conversation with Ridge.

After he left political life, somewhat controversially, he founded a private security consulting firm, Ridge Global. Now as someone on the private-sector side of life, I'm curious if his perspective about how the government goes about protecting its people has changed? Obviously, DHS is an older (although still very young) department than when he was there, but I wonder if he sees better ways for the government to work with the private security sector? How does he think security professionals should be engaged? Are there specific skills security professionals need that he doesn't think they have? What about during disasters? Is the way we prepare and respond to emergencies evolving appropriately? What's the private sector's role in strengthening the nation against terrorism?

Oh, so many questions and so little time to ask them. Don't worry, I'll narrow it down before our conversation.

But, I wanted to give you, my loyal blog readers, an opportunity to have some input. What would you like to know from Ridge? Leave some questions in the comment section here or email me: LStelter(at) If nothing else, wish me good luck, people.

But, if you'd prefer to ask him yourself, he will be the keynote speaker at an event called Security Leadership: Reducing Costs without Sacrificing Value on Sept. 14 in Washington, D.C. I'm planning to attend this event and, you know, maybe shake his hand or get my picture taken with him or something. He definitely makes my Top 5 security celebrities. Don't tell my friends what a security geek I've become.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read the full story from my conversation with Tom Ridge here.

All things ISC West - Let's talk

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's slightly more than a month away, but I'm officially gearing up for this year's ISC West Conference & Expo in Las Vegas on March 23-26. While I typically spend these three days sprinting from one 20-minute appointment to the next, this year I'm trying to be smarter about it and generate more content for those who can't attend.

While I think SDN does a great job of sharing information through traditional media resources (i.e. articles), one of our most valuable offerings has become sdnTVnews. And these trade shows represent a rare opportunity to have a vast assortment of security professionals in one place at one time. Here at SDN we've tried to maximize on that opportunity by sitting down and talking to security professionals, one on one, and hearing straight from them about the issues they face, the solutions they use and where they see the security profession heading. It's that simple.

And we've generated some of our best content at these shows. If you don't believe me, here's the proof:

My discussion with Sergeant Chris Kovac of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department about the city's approach to surveillance got 5,488 views. I know. Wow.

What about my interview with Chief James Overton of Delaware State University about the challenges of campus security and the strategies he uses. That got 760 views.

Want to know more about port security? Hear it directly from security professionals at the Port of Houston or the Port of Long Beach. Combined they got nearly 1,000 hits.

But, I'm not using this opportunity to brag about how great we are here (although if my boss is reading this, I sure could use a raise for all the traffic I've generated). Rather, I'm making a point that security professionals want to hear from other security professionals. They want to know what the other guy thinks, what the gal on the other coast is doing to solve the problems that those in the same sector likely have in common.

So, here is my official call for sdnTVnews appointments at ISC West. If you are an end user and would like to share your perspective with me, shoot me an email:

If you're a manufacturer and have some clients in town for the show, do the same. In a perfect world, I'd like to meet with everyone, but I'm prioritizing time for companies who have clients at the show.

Great. I look forward to talking with you!