Bring in the Professionals

Frost & Sullivan
By M. Valenti

Electrical utilities have been a prime target for terrorists over the years. For example, during their heyday in the 1980s, the Sendero Luminoso terrorists in Peru sabotaged power stations and networks to cause blackouts as a show of strength, before Peruvian security forces broke them up a decade later. Disrupting the U.S. power grid would also be a goal of terrorists, and at least one major utility has sought to support its anti-terrorist tactical operations by hiring professionals. On January 30, TECO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Florida’s Tampa Electric, announced that it had engaged Critical Intervention Services, Inc., of Clearwater, FL, to provide its Homeland Security Anti-Terrorism Officers – ATOs – to protect its power plants in Tampa Bay.

CIS provides a range of protection and investigative services to businesses, governments and individuals inside Florida and throughout the world. Since 1992, CIS has developed a reputation as a pioneer in developing and incorporating innovative and effective solutions to security and intelligence related problems. “Although our services are used in a variety of environments, our specialization is developing integrated programs to mitigate violence-related risks associated with urban crime, terrorism, and workplace aggression,” explained Craig S. Gundry, Vice President of Special Projects at CIS. “The success of our unique approaches to contemporary security issues has received worldwide recognition from local and national news media outlets, and academic think tanks.”

Fostering Excellence

Gundry’s department is responsible for CIS “Anti-Terrorist Officer doctrine and training.” The ATO program was developed in response to the domestic need for private security personnel with specialized anti-terrorism capabilities. Unfortunately, very few security officers outside of the government community have the training or experience to effectively prevent and respond to threats associated with terrorism and organized violence,” noted Gundry. To address this vital issue, CIS selected and trained a number of experienced ex-military personnel in anti-terrorism tactics and security procedures and developed an infrastructure to support ATO operations. Some examples of this support infrastructure include the procurement of specialized equipment and weaponry, a dedicated unit for intelligence analysis and suspicious activity investigation, and planning support through its security consulting division.

The executive opined that the greatest challenge CIS had to meet when developing its ATO program was personnel selection. “Our HR department screened over 700 applications within 45 days to arrive at the 40 personnel we trained in our initial deployment group. Keep in mind that screening includes a series of interviews by ATO command staff, background investigations, psychological screening, IQ testing, drug urinalysis testing, and field training evaluation prior to final acceptance as candidates into the program,” stressed Gundry. “Our human resources staff and command personnel did an incredible job in order to meet our personnel quota prior to the first training cycle.”

Fitting In

Probably the next largest challenge in CIS’ initial deployment with TECO Energy was integrating the ATO operation while minimizing possible “shock” to the employees. “There was a lot of concern about how employees would react to the presence of new security personnel in military-type uniforms with military-type weapons and equipment. The transition actually went very smooth and employees adapted very quickly without any problems,” remarked Gundry, who added, “Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a `challenge’, there was also a significant amount of work that went into logistical preparations, operational planning, coordination with local law enforcement and government agencies, procuring necessary licensing waivers for special weapons, etc. This doesn’t even include all of the work that went into development of the ATO training program, operational doctrine, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which serve as the basis for how our ATOs function in the field.”

Battlefield Grads

All of the CIS ATOs are required to have a military background in addition to a number of other qualifications. Many learned those lessons in the toughest classrooms of the world, as combat veterans of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. Others possess unique and valuable training and/or experience in special operations, military police, force protection, maritime operations, or intelligence gathering. Once they are accepted for the ATO program, CIS puts the candidates through 116 hours of state-mandated security training and instruction to qualify as basic CIS officers. They then begin actual ATO training, starting with 48 hours of classroom instruction and independent study in a wide range of anti-terrorism and security related topics. A full day of hands-on search training, and four days of weapons instruction and field tactical training follows. Finally, the ATO candidates must pass a week of HAZMAT Level III training to prepare these individuals to support tactical operations during biological and chemical incidents.

Some of the topics covered during the training include characteristics of modern terrorism, bomb search and recognition, operations security and counterintelligence, entry point screening, performance based physical security, mail screening, use of force/rules of engagement, facility defense tactics, and response to various types of terrorist attack scenarios (bombs, chemical & biological attacks, etc). “A considerable amount of time is spent exploring the methods used by contemporary terrorists in actual attacks so that ATOs can cultivate intuitive awareness and a deeper understanding of how attacks can be prevented. The training also includes instruction on our proprietary ATO operating procedures and support systems, such as SATAS (Suspicious Activity tracking and Analysis System),” said Gundry.

During the course, ATOs are required to complete two written examinations with passing scores of 80% or better, in addition to a number of pass/fail skill evaluations. All ATOs must qualify with their weapons systems with a score of 90% or better. According to Gundry, “ATOs are ideally suited for any assignment where facility protection against terrorist attacks is required: Protection of airports and seaports, power plants, water treatment facilities, chemical plants and petroleum facilities, ships carrying hazardous cargo or vessels traveling to high risk destinations, and public events. ATOs are also ideal for supplemental security at military bases, embassies, critical government facilities, and for companies with operations in hostile environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Private Sector Flexibility

An additional advantage of the ATO program Gundry cited is its flexibility. “As a private company, we can modify our methods and systems very easily without having to go through a great bureaucracy to have doctrine and operational changes approved, as is the case with the military and government agencies such as the Department of State. As a result, we can adapt very quickly to changes in terrorist methods and design protective solutions that are timely, practical, and cost-effective,” said the executive. “The ATO program represents a new evolution in domestic security and an excellent example of how the private sector can adapt to changes in society and threat. CIS ATOs provide civilian companies with the ability to protect their facilities with the same capability as the military, yet within the bounds of civilian law and with sensitivity to cost and public and employee relations.”

Gundry described the evolution of CIS’ first major ATO contract. “We originally worked with the TECO security management team as consultants, aiding in their facility vulnerability assessments. It was apparent during the assessments that if their facility security programs were going to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks, they needed some type of effective response force,” he said.

Beating the Enemy

“As demonstrated during Al-Qaeda attacks on facilities worldwide, simply having some barriers and conventional security officers with side arms is worth little or no protection in stopping a well-trained and determined group of adversaries,” remarked Gundry. “Al-Qaeda is one of the few threat groups that repeatedly strike so-called `protected targets’ if they find an exploitable weakness. To be successful in these circumstances, the anti-terrorism program must be developed with genuine emphasis on performance – not just hopeful deterrence. In an effective anti-terrorism program, measure of performance should be based on the likelihood of adversary success. There is no room in this type of program for unsubstantial appearances or assumed effectiveness. Deterrence, as a system objective, should only be considered a byproduct of having a low likelihood of adversary success.”

“With a performance-based system as the goal at TECO, the ATOs were an ideal solution to issues identified during the assessment. They provide an effective and immediate response capability and are highly capable of handling proactive security requirements such as counter-surveillance and investigating suspicious activity.”

Protecting Ports

The executive noted that the ATOs are demonstrating their utility elsewhere. Although TECO Energy is CIS’ first long-term ATO services client, the Clearwater firm has also provided ATOs on a limited basis for protecting chemical ships in seaports during periods of heightened alert. “In response to the need for anti-terrorism personnel in ports, we are currently developing a maritime extension to the ATO training that complies with current government and ISPS mandates for port and ship security,” commented Gundry. “In fact, our training continues where ISPS and the Coast Guard leave off and addresses issues that are largely overlooked in the current required training. We are also developing operational tactics and procuring equipment specific to this mission, such as diving gear for hull searches, modified weapon systems capable of boat disablement, long range night vision optics, etc. In addition to homeland security functions, these maritime ATOs are also ideal for protecting ships traveling through high-risk and violent piracy areas such as the Horn of Africa and the Straits of Malacca.”

More Training Needed

Gundry opined that despite the priority given to Homeland Security by the authorities, insufficient emphasis is placed on providing specialized anti-terror training. “Most of our nation’s critical infrastructure is protected by private security personnel or law enforcement officers with little or no specialized training in terrorism prevention and response,” he declared. “Part of this problem results from a lack of understanding and knowledge about how the threat operates and what is genuinely required to prevent terrorist attacks. Another part of this problem is economics. Many companies are reluctant to pay what it takes to do the job right, or may be afraid of the assumed cost. Fact is, if companies are smart, the cost of upgrading existing security programs to a level where attacks can be genuinely prevented is often very minimal. It’s simply a matter of allocating money wisely. TECO Energy demonstrated this by making major performance improvements to their facility security program while staying within their existing security budget, including even the integration of improved physical security elements and fulltime deployment of Anti-Terrorism Officers.” ***

For more information about CIS anti-terrorism solutions, click here.