On June 6-7 in Washington D.C. the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO) held its Seventh Annual Contract Security Summit. Attended by executives from over 25 contract security companies, the Summit provided a unique opportunity for these executives to hear from and interact with members of Congress, congressional staff, federal officials, legal and policy experts, and other subject matter experts on issues and activities affecting the private security industry.
The Thursday of the Summit was devoted to an detailed examination of two major federal programs that utilize private security contractors – the Federal Protective Service’s Protective Security Officer Program and the Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Partnership Program. Officials from both these programs spoke and took questions, as did senior staff from the House Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees which have legislative and oversight authority over these programs. In addition, also addressing the Thursday session and soliciting information from attendees were officials from the Government Accountability Office who for the last several years have been examining various aspects of the FPS Protective Security Officer Program. Much of the interaction between Summit attendees and the federal, congressional, and GAO representatives was an extension of previous contacts and meetings between industry and government/Congress facilitated through the NASCO Government Security Contractors Caucus. The NASCO Government Security Contractors Caucus is made up of over a dozen government security contractors, most of whom are current FPS and SPP contractors, and membership in the Caucus is open to all interested security companies. The Caucus is currently establishing several working groups with FPS officials (led by FPS Deputy Director for Training Rick Swengros) to address FPS PSO training and certification issues.
The highlight of Thursday session was an address by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Judiciary Committee who chairs the Homeland Subcommittee with oversight over FPS. Congressman Lungren is a strong believer in the private sector’s ability to provide effective and efficient security services to the federal government and he has been a leader in Congress against proposals to “federalize “ FPS contract security officers while at the same time a leader in efforts to “privatize” airport screening. During his address, Congressman Lungren also announced that he would co-sponsor and work with his fellow Judiciary Committee members in passing the Private Security Officer Screening Improvement Act (H.R. 4112) which would make it easier for employers of private security officers to obtain FBI checks on their officers. The government security contractor community has no better friend in Congress than Dan Lungren. However, as a result of redistricting, Congressman Lungren faces a very serious election challenge this November, and his re-election and keeping him in Congress (overseeing and writing legislation related to FPS and other DHS agencies) should be a priority for all government security contractors.
On the Wednesday of the Summit, a variety of topics both industry specific and of interest to all employers were discussed, including an discussion led by G4S’ General Counsel on wage and hour and other legal/class action assaults against security companies. Related to this discussion was a comprehensive presentation by the head of the U.S. Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative on current labor and employment issues and activities impacting (or soon to impact) employers. Much of the presentation focused on a host of NLRB rulings, rules and other actions meant to make it easier and faster for unions to organize employees while at the same time restricting employer rights to communicate with employees on unionization. Also addressed by a leading employment lawyer were the implications for employers of the recently released Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidance for Employers on the Use of Criminal Background Checks. NASCO is part of a coalition of employer groups that has been working to temper (and now “repeal”/”revise”) the new Guidance, and for security companies that do conduct criminal background checks, they would be advised to review the new Guidance. Finally, the head of the U.S. Chamber’s political operations gave a great “insider” presentation on the 2012 Federal election landscape.
More industry specific topics at the Wednesday session included a presentation by the Department of Justice on the new training (video) for private security officers on the detection and reporting of suspicious activities. The development of the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) training for private security was a collaborative effort between DHS/DOJ, NASCO, ASIS and other private sector security representatives. Another issue which NASCO has been involved with on behalf of its members through the DHS Emergency Services Sector Coordinating Council (ESSCC) are efforts at the federal level, and more so at state level, to standardize emergency access procedures/credentialing for first responders (including private security). Officials from the NSA Pegasus/FBI Infraguard program gave a briefing and update on the adoption by several states of a joint standard operating procedure for credentialing and providing access to first responders. The formulation of industry/non-governmental standards for private security (both officers and companies) was also addressed Wednesday. While most states do regulate private security, there are still some that do not, and with some states the requirements are still relatively low. ASIS International recently developed and had approved an American National Standard (ANSI) Standard for Private Security Contractors (ASIS/ANSI PSC .1) that is a management system based standard for the operation of a private security company that includes elements related to private security officer vetting, training, conduct etc. While the Standard is geared to private security contractors operating in areas where the rule of law is not entrenched (Afghanistan), ASIS officials presented on how the Standard could be modified as a domestic U.S. standard, and they also discussed the ASIS Guideline for the Selection and Training of private security officers.
The Summit was a major success with attendees unanimous in their appreciation for the content of the program and the quality of the speakers. Also, the ability of company officials to interface directly with congressional staff, the GAO, and FPS officials about issues their companies’ may be having with their contracts (or problems that were systemic) was a real benefit for attendees. The Summit also provided great networking opportunities. For $450, which included two cocktail receptions and four meals, it was quite a value! The next NASCO event will be the annual NASCO breakfast at the ASIS Seminar in Philadelphia on September 11th.