How do you validate your curriculum?
It’s a question as old as the first school or training course, are we teaching the correct material, topics, or skills for our students to be successful. When should we update what we’re teaching? By what measure do we determine success? The question is no different for federal training academies, the military, or the private sector.
Unfortunately in the private sector, there are those who have designed their training programs to be more flash and shiny objects than a real training program. Executive protection basic academics are often replaced with shooting exercises and force-on-force scenarios, leaving the student totally unprepared for providing EP services in the real world. So when you finally design your curriculum by what means do you evaluate it?
If you’re an ISA course manager or instructor you compare what we’re teaching against what our clients are requesting for services and by what we see going on in the field.
We will look at best practices, failures, and lessons learned, and that includes the events that took place on January 6th, 2021 at the US Capitol.
Wait you say, “the Capitol riots? What does that have to do with EP”?
Great question, thanks for asking. Well as every graduate of the Independent Security Advisors accredited Dignitary and Executive Protection Training Program will attest, we spend a great deal of time discussing and preparing threat assessments, risk mitigation, and operations planning. We also go into behavioral “triggers” and discuss what makes a person or organization a threat. Then students go into the field with that threat assessment to conduct advance work and site surveys, they prepare mission briefs and operational or mission plans. Plans based on the threat and designed to mitigate the risk to our principle and agents.
This focus on threat assessments, risk mitigation, and operational planning directly relate to the three top failures that led to the breach of the Capitol.
Now, our focus on threat assessments and risk mitigation has at times drawn some criticism because it’s not “sexy” like shooting and driving. It’s “too academic,” say others and thus our program is not for beginners. It’s also been said we are an upper-level program and students need to take some “basic course” before they attend training with ISA. As the Director of the Training Division, and the Master Instructor who oversaw the year-long instructional system’s design (ISD) process that led to the current accredited training program, I can understand how some may form those opinions. Mathew Parker CEO, ISA
Let’s be honest, the academic study we require with multiple independent and team research projects is not a very exciting thing to look forward to if you’re a prospective student. And we understand those programs and course instructors who have based their training on “shiny objects” like shoot houses and infantry fire team engagement tactics did that because they think it appeals to their target audience.
Hey, I applaud your business model, it’s very successful with a high-profit margin. It looks exciting and action-based, so you’re going to get the adrenaline junkies and type “A” personalities, well done.
For the serious Protection Specialist who understands we use our intellect and critical thinking skills, 99.9% of the time, as opposed to guns and high speed driving its understood threat assessments, are the foundation for everything else we do. It’s that very academic non-sexy classroom study that students need to be successful.
Calling BS are you?
Ok, answer me this batman, what internationally known agency responsible for the protection of nationally elected officials and other world leaders is recognized as the “best in the world” bar none? (Theme from Jeopardy plays in the background), times up, the United States Secret Service. And what is their philosophy? Well, let’s ask them.
“We rely on meticulous advance work and threat assessments” USSS , Linked-In, June 2021.
So can we now agree that threat assessments, advance work, and risk mitigation planning belong front and center in any serious EP training program? It’s not advanced training, it’s as basic as walking in formation or how to wear a suit and tie.
Ok, you say, threat assessments are important, but a failure to do one won’t really lead to mission failure. Well, um, no. That’s completely wrong, false, and the opposite of correct. No threat assessment, no success. You might get lucky a few times but it will catch up to you and karma is a bitc,,,, well let’s just say it’s not nice.
Now to further prove my point let’s go back again to the events of January 6th, 2021. We will just look at the latest expensive government research, testimony, and Congressional investigation findings of the Bipartisan staff report on the security failures at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021.
Findings; The federal Intelligence Community—led by FBI and DHS—did not issue a threat assessment warning of potential violence targeting the Capitol on January 6.
Quote “In testimony before the Committees, officials from both FBI and DHS acknowledged that the Intelligence Community needs to improve its handling and dissemination of threat information from social media and online message boards.
Training Question: ISA instructors as part of our threat assessment class conduct practical exercises on the use of social media in threat assessments. This is old news to us, so how exactly did the “intelligence community” not realize the value of information from social media, or get that information into the hands of police?
Findings: “Capitol Police intelligence failed to convey the full scope of threat information they possessed”. In other words, they didn’t tell anyone what the threat was.
Quote “the Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division was aware of the potential for violence ahead of January 6”. “Yet, failed to fully incorporate this information into all of its internal assessments about January 6” “As a result, critical information regarding threats of violence was not shared with officers and other law enforcement partners”.
Training Question: @ISA we teach students the critical need to share information, the need to incorporate all information into our threat assessments, and the essential need to look at the “triggers” of the known or perceived threats. Our instructors with years of experience with the US Secret Service, the US Military, and civilian law enforcement have had this point drilled into them from the first day. Information and intelligence must be shared if the team is to be successful. So did some internal struggle or agency infighting stop this information from getting to the police officers on the front lines?
Findings: “Multiple intelligence reports were issued prior to January 6 that reflected inconsistent assessments of the risk of violence at the Capitol”.
Quote; “For example, although a January 3 Special Event Assessment warned of the Capitol being a target of armed violence on January 6’, ‘the Capitol Police daily intelligence reports rated the likelihood of civil disturbance on January 6 as “remote” to “improbable.”
Training Question: So you had the information, you had a threat assessment and didn’t share it or use it for operational planning and risk mitigation. And you rated the threat low anyways meaning you didn’t think to plan for violence. You rated it low, seriously? #executiveprotectiontraining and operations is hard enough, but when you ignore threats it makes it all that much more difficult. Because the threat level and category of threat determine the resources and procedures needed to protect a client, @ISA students spend time determining threat levels and risk mitigation based on verifiable and quantifiable information. A process apparently not followed on January 6th. Why not?
Training Validation: The report makes it clear what we are teaching our students about threat assessments and intelligence sharing had it been followed on January 6th may have prevented the breach of the Capitol.
Quote: The Chief of Police on January 6, “believed they would need support to secure the Capitol perimeter in light of a large number of expected protestors at the Capitol, but he did not order the creation of a department-wide operational plan”.
Findings; The police chief and later the acting chief both attributed the breach of the Capitol to “failing to prepare a department-wide operational or comprehensive staffing plan”. This plan would address the threat and help identify proper risk mitigation procedures. But as this plan was never done officers faced off with thousands of violent bear spray wielding extremists without face shields, masks for every officer, physical barriers interlocked providing standoff from the crowds, and officers were not prepared with the crowd dispersing tools like gas, flashbangs, etc.
The report says “Capitol Police were not adequately prepared to prevent or respond to the January 6 security threats, which contributed to the breach of the Capitol”, “leadership failed to provide front-line officers with effective protective equipment or training”.
Training Question: ISA students are taught the lack of a threat assessment means no true operational planning can be done. No planning, no leadership, and thus poor communication. Not to mention in this case officers without the proper equipment to deal with the threat. Well, how do you prepare a risk mitigation plan without knowing the threats or you lowball the level of threat? I mean if it’s going to rain you need an umbrella and a raincoat right? But the Capitol police knew there was a threat, a threat assessment was done, it appears it was just empty and ignored. So is this simply a one-off situation of no umbrella in the rain? Shouldn’t threat assessment and planning be a priority in EP training?
Quote: The Capitol police say now they “would have deployed all seven “specialty Civil Disturbance Units” instead of just four”.
Point: But since you ignored the threat assessment only four platoons were “outfitted with special protective equipment, including helmets, hardened plastic armor, and shields”.
Training Question: Yup, the two very things a threat assessment would have identified and had been addressed in the risk mitigation plan, manpower and special equipment, but you rated the threat so low “leadership ignored it”. In the Army, we have a saying “Piss poor planning leads to piss poor performance” and January 6th really highlights why as protection agents we need to know how to do a threat assessment and use that assessment in our daily mission planning. But is this basic level or something more advanced?
Training Validation: Had the leadership on January 6th been trained in the ISA EP program they may have understood the absolutely critical need to have an operational plan built around the threat assessment. Risk mitigation measures may have been in place and officers properly equipped.
In the January 6th report it points out “operational failures were exacerbated by leadership’s failure to clearly communicate’ “communications were chaotic, sporadic, and according to many front-line officers, non-existent”.
Training Question: In the ISA training program we place stress and barriers on the students that affect team communications. This highlights the need for proper planning and standard operating procedures in the event communications fail during a mission. So since the importance of communications, standard operational procedures and training is not a new concept, how did all three fail on January 6th?
Dignitary and Executive Protection are not about guns, it’s about planning, and in the report, it notes planning was nonexistent. Go ahead and don’t check weather or traffic reports, allow the client to be late and get wet, or have a physical security plan for the home or office that allows a breach of the inner space and places the client in harm’s way. See how long you last in this industry.
Wait a minute, there is no direct connection to the private sector here!
Really? Ok, so let’s do a quick case study,
According to police reports Eminem awoke at home on April 5 after an alarm went off, Eminem got up and came face-to-face with the intruder in his living room. The intruder identified as Matthew David Hughes according to police was on the premises for “quite some time”, in fact, multiple angles of security camera footage showed Mr. Hughes first rang the doorbell and after getting no response, used a paving stone to smash a kitchen window and climbed inside the house.
Now having managed to slip past security, which reports say were “sleeping” (figuratively) and on the front of the property. Mr. Huges walks through the home into the living room where Eminem then escorts him through a TV area, game room, and basketball court to an exit out of the house. So after the home is breached and the inner safe zone is no longer safe police testified that officers arrived at the home to find a security guard wrestling with Hughes on the ground.
It should be noted when asked why he breached the home he said that he was there to kill him,”
On January 6th,
According to several reports and findings of the Congressional investigation, a group of rioters entered the Capitol by smashing a window after being on the grounds for some time.
After breaching and entering invaders walked through the building pushing past security and finally coming upon the inner safe area.
They again begin smashing the windows and doors that stand between them and Members of Congress, and as one rioter tries to breach this last window an officer fires killing the rioter.
Now, what do we see in both case studies? Security is complacent or unprepared. Why? Threat assessments were not done or ignored. One team is “sleeping” the other is overrun, pushed, and attacked, and in the case of the Capitol, officers had no choice but to use deadly force.
What risk mitigation measures were in place? Security officers, alarms, cameras, gates, fences, locked doors, and windows. Risk mitigation measures based on a threat assessment done long ago and now a “standard” array of physical security measures. So how did they fail? Piss poor prior planning, leadership, and communication.
Findings and Questions: Eminem’s security didn’t get to the intruder until after the client escorted him out of the house apparently. Was that the plan? After the client had escorted the intruder out of the home they take them into custody? In any operational plan, security is seldom all consolidated in one location, in this case, they were all at the front of the home. Where in the operational plan does the supervisor rotate officers, patrol the grounds, and when does the officer watching the CCTVs alert the others? If there was a plan it wasn’t followed.
Capitol police did or didn’t have a threat assessment and if they did intel was missing and the threat level too low. So risk mitigation measures for a riot were not put into effect. Officers were outnumbered, internal communication failed, leaders couldn’t or didn’t react and there was no operational plan. As a result Members of Congress were put in harm’s way and officers had to kill a protestor/rioter.
These case studies reinforce what we are teaching agents is a critical part of their training and education. The Congressional and police reports also validate the ISD process and the curriculum ISA has designed for training EP agents. Nowhere does it say officers couldn’t shoot straight, drive fast enough, or failed to execute a fire team wedge. These reports if you read and analyze them point out that all the failures that stemmed from the threat assessment process, intelligence failures, and lack of planning could have been avoided.
Every failure from manpower, equipment, communications, command, and control, and physical security started with a failed or ignored threat assessment and no or poor operational planning and supervision.
Question: So please tell us again why we spend too much time on threat assessments, risk mitigation planning, and advance work?
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