Magazine article Security Management

Rechanneling Security toward Changing Threats

Magazine article Security Management

Rechanneling Security toward Changing Threats

Article excerpt

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT REquires agencies and contractors working with classified projects to spend too much money on physical protection against unlikely threats and not enough on personnel and information security. So says the Joint Security Commission, comprised of private citizens and representatives of various government agencies.

The commission was formed in June 1993, at the request of the Director of the CIA. It was charged with reexamining the government's security policies in light of post-Cold-War threats. The White House recently released the commission's report outlining a new organizational approach to government security programs. Accompanying the commission report, though not released to the public, was a White House draft executive order on classified documents.

The report describes the evolving threats to national security and how they affect security philosophy at the highest levels of government. It is similar in scope to the operating manual expected to be issued later this year by the National Industrial Security Program (NISP), which was established by President Bush.

Physical security. The commission found that the amount of physical security provided to protect classified information in facilities within the United States is excessive. At the same time, information security may be lacking. The report recommends that priorities be reevaluated.

Modern threats call for increased spending on information systems security, says Joint Security Commission Chairman Jeffrey Smith, a lawyer with Arnold & Porter of Washington, D.C. Protecting the information in computer systems should not be limited to classified information, but should include unclassified but crucial elements of government, such as air traffic control information, he says.

According to Smith, the focus needs to be shifted in other ways, as well. "There is far too much time, money, and effort spent on physical security and not enough on personnel security," he says. Smith says the report's most urgent recommendation is that the government should not require contractors or agencies to defend against remote threats, such as spies scaling twelve-foot walls. Resources should, instead, be focused on more probable risks, such as disgruntled employees and computer theft.

Each agency protects classified material as it sees fit. A physical document may be protected by more or less security depending on the department under which it is classified. The commission report advocates that classified material or information stored within the United States be protected by one of two levels of a national physical security standard to be determined at a later date.

A database would be maintained that registers facilities in each area that are certified as meeting security requirements. All agencies requiring a specific level of security for storing classified documents could deposit items at the appropriate facility. Agencies would not be allowed to alter the level of security provided at the facility.

Another problem cited by the report is the decentralization of technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) activities. Resources are allocated at the agency or department level. To decrease expenses and increase communication, the commission recommends that routine inspections be eliminated within the United States and overseas inspections be increased. Any domestic inspections should be prompted by a clear threat to security. A training program would be coordinated to support overseas inspections and prepare for technological advances in technical surveillance equipment.

The report also advocates that a badge system be developed for government employees and contractors with security clearance. The badge system would include visual and electronic recognition, automated access control, and various encoded levels of access.

Joint investigative service. The commission recommends that a joint investigative service be established. …

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