Magazine article Security Management

On the outside Looking In: Working for the Government versus Working for a Contractor - One Security Professional's Reflections

Magazine article Security Management

On the outside Looking In: Working for the Government versus Working for a Contractor - One Security Professional's Reflections

Article excerpt

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, I WAS part of a highly trained and inspired security force of a major contractor that was doing work for a federal agency. Our mission: to protect assets relating to national security.

I expected some tension within the organization because it had so many dedicated individuals who had their own vision of how to carry out this mission best. I did not expect, however, to be told the agency we worked for did not appreciate our diligence and cared less for our esprit de corps. Consequently, the series of events that followed had serious effects on the members of the security force, the contractor, the relationship between the contractor and the agency, and, most importantly, the ability to provide good security.

The first step in the demoralization of our security force concerned physical fitness requirements, which were forced on us by the agency. We resented these requirements because they did not accommodate older and less physically capable personnel. Consequently, a substantial percentage of the staff members were forced out of their jobs.

The individuals who lost their jobs were mentors to many of us who remained. We did not know who to trust. This paranoia led to another major exodus of many qualified workers from the security force.

The departure of these capable persons created other problems. Training programs were neglected. It became obvious that the newly promoted supervisors were more interested in their futures than in seeing that those of us who were left had the proper skills and confidence we needed. This neglect was a signal to us that we were no longer valued members of the organization. Both the security line personnel and supervisors became apathetic and complacent.

An additional problem resulted from this sudden shortage of security personnel - forced overtime. Employees who did not work the overtime when directed were reprimanded. Those who failed to comply were given time off without pay. Resentment grew.

The contractor decided the only solution to the security force's overtime problem was to reduce its need for overtime. The only way this could be done, according to the contractor, was not to hire and train new employees but to remove the materials that required so much security in the first place. This necessitated downgrading the facility's status. This action, in short, would free up time for training and bolster our lost esprit de corps - or so we thought.

No sooner was the facility's status downgraded and the sensitive materials removed than nearly 50 percent of the security force was laid off and training significantly cut back. The contractor offered no viable explanation for either laying off more people or reducing training.

My coworkers and I were totally shocked. Who could we trust? Whose hidden agenda were we following - the agency's or the contractor's?

I NOW WORK FOR THE AGENCY THAT supposedly created all the problems for my previous employer. I am, in other words, on the outside looking in.

Having been in this job for a while, I have learned about the methods certain contractors use to deceive and manipulate responsible oversight agencies. I have had time to reflect and piece together what happened to a really good security force.

My previous employer had been forewarned by the agency of the upcoming physical fitness requirement three years prior to its implementation. …

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