Security and the election

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09/29/2008
I'm going to try to look at the presidential election fairly often over the next month for clues about how each candidate will perform for the security industry. There is, on one hand, the simple fact of how they'll perform for the economy in general, and small businesses especially, since the vast majority of security companies are simply small businesses trying to get by in what are increasingly uncertain economic times. But what of the candidates' views on actually keeping people safe? Sure, from terrorism and the like, but also from crime in general. I think this article from the Arizona Republic raises some interesting points about how security has been pushed to the side as the economy dominates presidential discussion. The candidates hardly discussed national and domestic security in Friday's debate. Why? Recent polls suggest that voters have relegated terrorism to a secondary concern, though it remains a major unresolved issue for the next president. Congressional and non-partisan reports lay out a list of 9/11 Commission mandates that remain unfinished, such as tighter transit security to better efforts to interdict weapons of mass destruction. The two candidates have staked out similar positions on bolstering border security, hunting Osama Bin Laden and closing Guantanamo Bay prison. But in the dozen times the two senators cast votes together on homeland-security bills, they agreed only twice. So how are voters supposed to figure out where they really differ? Well, you can try the candidates' web sites. For McCain, go here, here, here, and here. I'm not 100 percent sure what the difference between "National Security" and "Homeland Security" is, but maybe you can figure it out. For Obama, go here, here, and here. It looks like "Defense" is for fighting overseas and "Homeland Security" is more defending the borders, but there's some bleed. Also, Iraq is separated out for Obama. But if you read all of that, you'll see scant mention of the private security industry. I think this is a well-made point: Domestically, "we are obsessing about securing the border, but there are lots of other things out there to be concerned about: protecting the food supply, water supply, nuclear plants, natural-gas supplies and so on," said Courtney Banks, chief executive officer of National Security Analysis Worldwide. Is anyone reaching out to the security industry? The NBFAA, especially, has a presence on Capitol Hill, but despite their lobbying efforts, there's never much of a mention at all of the private security industry in the public discourse. Everyone's just talking about military and government efforts, but there's no way publicly funded efforts can keep everything safe. It's up to private water companies to protect their water supplies, up to private food manufacturers to make sure their products aren't tainted, up to private natural-gas facilities to make sure their plants aren't attacked and destroyed. CFATS and other government regulations dictate how some of these places must secure themselves, but they are largely unfunded mandates and it's up to the private security industry to figure out how to solve the problems as efficiently as possible. Has anyone suggested tax breaks for private businesses who invest in security? Has any candidate suggested a nationwide private information gathering service, a linking of IP-based surveillance systems? I haven't heard it if they have. Please send anything you see along and I'll take a look and make it widely available.