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ISC West is just around the corner and ASIS announces keynote speakers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I took a nice long weekend to recover from my travels to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for i3 International's annual event followed by a very successful TechSec Solutions in Delray Beach, Fla. (I know, both tough places to be in February, especially when you call Maine home). But no time to relax, we're jumping right into the next round of security conferences.

ISC West Security Conference and Exposition at the Sands in Las Vegas is right around the corner on April 5-7. If you're an end user who's planning to attend the show, I'd like to meet with you. These conferences are a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with folks and I'm always interested to hear about the challenges and successes security practitioners are experiencing out there in the real world. Likewise, if you're a manufacturer or integrator and have some customers who will be attending the show, also feel free to contact me to set up an appointment: LStelter(at)

Also, don't forget to sign up for the Security 5K. Last year we had more than 300 people from the security industry running the streets of Vegas at 7:30 a.m. It created a ton of buzz at the show so this year we're expecting even more people to participate. All proceeds generated by the race will be contributed to Mission 500, an organization determined to get the security industry to sponsor 500 (or more) children through the World Vision humanitarian organization. The 2011 goal is to raise $100,000, which will feed, educate, clothe and tend to the health needs of more than 300 needy children around the world. Not a runner? Not a problem. It's a fun run, people, do it for the children.

In other conference news, ASIS International announced two big name keynote speakers for their conference in Orlando, Fla. on Sept. 19-22. This year Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, will give the opening address on Tues., Sept. 20. And on Wedn., Sept. 21, Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, 2000-2006, will discuss the economic and social challenges facing Latin America. Frankly, I'm very excited to hear what Fox has to say about the political landscape and security challenges in Mexico right now. Mark your calendars.

Ridge at it again: Advocates overhauling DHS

Thursday, September 23, 2010

As the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge knows how the fledgling agency works and he also knows how it should work better. Now that he's a private sector man, Ridge has been outspoken and refreshingly candid about how he thinks the agency should be improved.

In a recent event hosted by The Ripon Society in Washington, Ridge discussed what he thinks the current administration, and the next Congress, should address in order to improve national security.

Ridge criticized insufficient funding for the Coast Guard, specifically, as well as the the lack of a system to develop and distribute vaccines, according to this article in Government Executive.

In his remarks, Ridge said the national response to the H1N1 virus last year showed the country does not have an adequate system for developing, storing and distributing vaccines in response to a public health emergency.

But, Ridge went so far as to say that DHS should be overhauled and regional centers should be created around the country. He said that during his tenure at DHS he proposed establishing regional directors when the Bush administration was creating the new department, but his plan was rejected.

Such directors could develop close relationships with state governors in their regions, he said. And he questioned whether the government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 would have been better if regional structure had been in place. He said he doubted that storm victims would have had to seek shelter in the Louisiana Superdome or that buses would have been left unused in parking lots had that structure been in place.

Also, Ridge discussed the ongoing need for better communication systems and called for the creation of a broadband public safety network that enables first responders to communicate with each other. (Remember this story about how ancient the communication networks were in Maryland so that fire and police in neighboring counties couldn't communicate with each other?)

Ridge has previously commented on a blizzard of other security issues including aviation security, which he said was inadequate, saying “we're not doing a very good job” of securing America’s airports.

In that speech, he said the Transportation Security Administration needs to change the way it approaches security:

Ridge said that during his tenure as the head of DHS, he pushed for such a program that would collect biometric information and perform voluntary background checks to identify travelers. But the idea was not accepted for reasons he doesn’t understand.

When I spoke with him (*ahem*), he discussed the need for the private security sector to be more thoroughly engaged with the government’s security efforts and why the two sectors don't currently have a stronger partnership:

“So many men and women involved in private sector security have a background in the military, law enforcement or the intelligence world and, in my judgment, can and should be trusted with certain types of information, knowing full well their sensitivity to its public dissemination,” he said. “Why the government is so reluctant to share with these individuals, is beyond me.”

Obviously, DHS has a long way to go in its national security efforts, and, frankly, it's a mission that everyone knows will never be fulfilled. But there's always room for improvement and at least somebody's talking about how to make it better.

TSA turns its attention to rail and mass transit with public campaign

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tomorrow John Pistole will be sworn in by Secretary Napolitano as the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. The swearing in will take place at Penn Station in New York City during a rail security event. I consider this a rather symbolic gesture of the TSA's effort to shift some of the attention to protecting mass transit systems and not just aviation.

Napolitano herself will be traveling to New York from Washington, D.C. aboard an Amtrak passenger rail train for the inauguration of a national "See Something, Say Something" campaign, reported I thought the "See Something, Say Something" campaign was already a national effort, but apparently that was exclusive to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City (see, you learn something every day).

During his confirmation hearing, Pistole discussed the need to complete a threat analysis of U.S. rail systems in order to determine how TSA can better protect our national transit system. While I think we cannot ease up on our efforts to protect aviation, the threat against our rail and bus systems is very real and even more difficult to protect.

I think the strategy of trying to involve the public in protecting these systems is absolutely critical. Realistically, the TSA will never be able to screen every passenger aboard the nation's rail and bus systems, so the agency must really rely on the alertness of the traveling public to pick up on events that are out of the ordinary. We can't forget we're all in this together.

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!

The public: Security dummies?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sometimes those of us involved in the security industry get a little high and mighty about what we consider as having a superior knowledge and understanding of security. And, largely for good reason, of course. If you think and talk about security all day, you're likely to be more aware of security measures than the average Joe.

However, I found a recent speech by Janet Napolitano to be fairly humbling as she discussed the importance of engaging the public in matters of security.

“For too long, we’ve treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than as an asset in our nation’s collective security,” Ms. Napolitano said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “This approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety and fear to linger.”

During her speech, she encouraged voluntary participation in local emergency preparedness programs and said it was important that Americans be educated on how to be more aware of terrorism risks. But she acknowledged that at present there was no educational program in place.

Image that? Imagine a public who participated with their local police departments or even within their businesses about matters of emergency preparedness? I'm sure that if people knew what to expect and understood their role, events like Hurricane Katrina would have been far less devastating. I find the concept of the public as an asset rather than a liability quite refreshing. I know it sounds lofty, but wouldn't it be beneficial for our national security program to offer the public some sort of tax credit, for example, in exchange for participating in a few nights of local emergency preparedness training? Crazy talk, I know.

Also during her speech, Napolitano talked about the importance of fusion centers (which I've had a recent infatuation with, by the way, and am flying into Anaheim early on Sunday to make sure I can get a tour of the Norwalk Fusion Center as part of ASIS International). If I wasn't working in this industry, I would never have heard of such a thing, but why shouldn't the public know more about this? Why shouldn't there be a public line into these centers where members of the public can report suspicious activity? I know that's a lot to read into for one speech, but I think these are the kinds of discussions those charged with security the public must have in order to even come close to reaching a true national security program.