What drives our security in America? What motivates us to keep certain technologies, information or operations so secret that the money pot has no bottom to grant their safety from intrusion? In a free market, capitalistic society such as the United States, wealth has a lot to do with it. Private security companies and governmental security agencies have prospered dramatically due to their ability to provide the front line man or woman a better than average standard of living for doing one thing. Our government enters into a never-ending chess matches with quasi-adversarial nations of similar capability in an effort to hold the upper hand in the 21st century technology and information arena, if even for a moment. However, if the legislative arm of the United States could think of one thing that is more important than our nation’s intellectual property advancements, what would it be? What could be more important than our secrets?
Recently, I was required to attend several site visits to various three-letter agencies around Washington D.C. and northern Virginia. The purpose of these visits is not important. In fact, most of it involved planning and was rather bland. At each facility we were required to show a form of government identification to the sentry at the gate. They would then cross reference our names to a visitor log of expected guests throughout the day and direct us to our designated parking area. We elected to wear our flight suits due to the informality of the conferences. Four stoic fighter pilots emerge from an SUV only to be greeted by another pair of security officers whom appeared to be suited up for a night raid down in the nuc bowl in central Afghanistan. Fully equipped with Mossberg shotguns, M&P sidearms, tasers, MOLLE gear vests with armor plates and zip ties, these guards were not your run of the mill rent-a-cops. One of them greeted us by name and rank in probably the most professional tone I have ever heard out of a police franchise. This indicated that he was obviously prior military with some top-off training for his current occupation. His partner stood off approximately 30 paces from us carrying an unrecognizable caliber of AR. I briefly thought about recommending he skip the gym that day due to the vein grotesquely protruding out from his temple; ready to rupture any second. Somehow I knew, though, that my appreciation of sarcasm and ridicule would not be shared between us. Their intent was simply to direct our group to the visitor check-in and ensure we did not begin wandering the facility in search of it. After the visual shock of the greeting wore off, I absorbed the magnitude of the situation I was in – these people aren’t playing!
Upon arrival at the door we were directed to empty our pockets and subject ourselves to a screening measure slightly more in-depth than that of the TSA at the airport. The individual at the x-ray machine also seemed to know our names without looking at the name tags. At the end of this security checkpoint stood our escort for the day. Everyone proceeded as a group to the visitor badge office where we were processed and given our credentials. After an abbreviated tour of the facility where we would be working that day, we were then passed over to the Mission Director’s staff. Never did we go anywhere in the building without an escort. Despite our expansive security clearances and background checks, we were still treated as outsiders. It was obvious this was their house and we did not work there. In the halls loitered various armed security personnel, all of whom knew what our purpose was that day. It was truly one of the most expert operations I had ever experienced. At the end of the day, the agency’s exit brought an equivalent amount of scrutiny. Some of our personal belongings that we entered with had been collected and stored by the staff until our out-process. As I gathered everything up and proceeded to the car, I again noticed the parking lot patrol. Their eyes were on everything – not just us. We exited in the same manner in which we left and then went about our business fighting I-95 traffic around the beltway.
On the ride home I pondered what would happen if a security breech were to occur in a place like that. Then it dawned upon me that no one in his or her right mind would think of attempting to gain unauthorized access to such a place. The overt security presence surly deters even the sickest of minds from doing something stupid. Not to mention, if an incident were to take place, I feel pretty confident in the security officers’ training to handle the situation surgically and flawlessly. I am positive this was not their first rodeo.
Now taking that concept one step further, I merged my personal values and priorities with the experience of the day. God, family and country surround my existence in everything I do. If our nation’s secrets, technology and processes are allowed under the umbrella of such drastic security measures, why is my son not afforded the same security at his elementary school?
Regardless of personal beliefs or preferences on the gun sentiment in this country, no one can deny the historical pastime of being able to reach out and touch a threat with a gun. It is not the newest of inventions, but the concept remains tried and true today. The overall percentage of crazies that live amongst us in society has not increased or decreased drastically from days past. Remember the quotation, “There’s nothing new under the sun“?
Placing my children under the protection of trained and trusted security professionals is step one whenever a threat exists, no matter how insignificant. This is what we do in the military. Why can we not apply the same concept to families and educational institutions? All mental health issues aside, circling the wagons on the gun debate does my son or daughter absolutely no good during that defining moment when another person puts a gun to their head. Having the appropriate personnel, equipment and training can make all the difference in the world. Like nuclear weapons, we cannot un-invent guns – they are here to stay. So, the ridiculous proposals from groups such as Moms Demand Action, or the Brady Campaign need to be realistically addressed. I know that I most certainly want someone there at the door with a gun! The last time I checked, my family ranked above my country on the priority list.