Saturday, September 18, 2010

Security Theatre, Inc.

Well, today I finally sent off the final copy of an article I've been working on for the past 6 weeks. I don't feel like I've given birth, I feel like I just walked out of the bathroom, 2lbs lighter than I came in.
Discussing and dissecting operational-level maritime security was about as uplifting as a family funeral. The more I learned, the less secure I felt, and the more frustrating it was. The feeling of watching a puppet show became pervasive. The dark side to all this is that I'm now much more aware of the hand of the puppetmaster dancing 'round my unmentionables.
For the most part, I'm not motivated enough now to drop into professional mode here and actually tear up anyone's paper-mache security constructs. Some aspects common to all maritime security plans and noted goals, however, should be exposed to the light of day.

One misconception that I had going in was that security plans are made to enhance security on board ship. This is absolutely not the case- security plans are supposed to be simply a codification of actions and reactions based on common sense, and made to enhance communication by simply getting in situ personnel on the same page as the shoreside staff should there be an issue, and to maximize efficiency in forming and executing the response to an issue by all parties.
Unfortunately, creating a uniform response plan within an organization, port, or other archtype isn't enough to promulgate the creation of a new layer of industry, and thus, security plans had to grow in scope to justify the creation of security planners as an industry job, and this is where security plans start to suffer. Like a good Tiramisu, the creation of extraneous layers does nothing to enhance quality overall. Rather, it just improves the chances that the whole thing is going to go to pieces when pressure is applied.

So here we sit in the latter half of 2010. Ships and shipping are suffering from economic pressures. Security planners are buying the McMansions that ship managers lost in foreclosures earlier this year. And security plans have grown from modest documents to a reference library of 3-ring binders, which, for some obscure reason, have to be kept on paper, too, btb, and not on CD, here in our paperless society. As a result of the need for security planners to justify their own existence, security enhancement has become part of the stated goals of security planning, though the means of enhancing security don't actually merit discussion, beyond referring to common sense practices. This has led to our current practice of staging Security Theatre, where the need to do anything for visibility's sake has outstripped the need to improve security.
I've really tried not to be cynical as my knowledge base has increased on this subject, but I want you to know that it's hard. I see the root subject matter, and I see the need for security planning... but I have observed, as well, that efforts to contain the spread of the mandate of security planners are not being made. In all reality, on an operational level, the benefits of today's security planning efforts are actively undermining management-level job performance aboard ship, through making security theatre exercises part of ships' drills. This has none of the common-sense level of motivation for afloat staff, when compared to lifesaving drills, and that's a shame, because, in theory, enhancing security could be a lifesaving measure. Rather, we have the overwhelming need to look busy when the boss is watching. Any failure to measure up to standard can be squarely placed in the lap of the administrative-level of security planners, as the opportunity to do something positive has waned rapidly with the need to cover a host of subjects that are not germane to operational-level security enhancement.

So that's my 2 cents... and, like the day after submitting any article, I don't want to look at the subject for a while. Unfortunately, I'm floating around in my metal box, so I have to go and look at this months' security drill on board. Grrrrr...

1 comment:

eastriver said...

Sounds interesting. Where and when can we read it?