I’ve just got in from spending the day listening to an excellent range of presenters at the CSARN conference: '20:20 Vision: Business Security in the Next Decade’
For those of you who don’t know, the City Security and Resilience Networks (CSARN) group is a not-for-profit membership group of business and public sector security and emergency planning leaders, excellently supported by MITIE.
Their groups meet under Chatham House rules to brainstorm and share expertise around Organisational Resilience. Their mission is not to make judgements; but to promote and share good practice. Today’s meeting was hosted at Canary Wharf by global legal practice Clifford Chance LLP and their indefatigable security manager, Len Randall.
In its fourth year, this briefing is challenging yet fun for presenters. In front of their peers, they put their collective necks on the chopping block and give their insight about how the future, in their specialist spheres, may unfold. The clever approach may well be to push broad strategic questions back to the audience for interpretation... and here, below, are some of the biggies that were posed.
Louise Ellman MP, Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, and liked around all corners of the House, diplomatically asked if sufficient support would really be given to meaningful technological developments that really do genuinely address our security needs, yet do not materially restrict us. (For example, there still remains no full inspection of air cargo.)
Stirling Assynt’s Hugh McLeod gave a tour de force of developments in Syria and across the wider Middle East. McLeod’s analysis and range across these dynamic and turbulent theatres of conflict remains second-to-none. He prompted attendees to ask how dominant the Muslim Brotherhood will become in years to come, the nature of its interface with investors and regional emerging economies, as well as - more broadly - possible future confrontations in between social cleavages and states over chasms including regional water resources and insurgencies. To say nothing of Syria’s tortured demographic schisms and the embedded sanctuary of armed jihadists in Yemen, Mali and now Syrian territory.
Vernon Coaker MP, who only recently became Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was right to celebrate the achievements of post-Good Friday Agreement. But around two dozen terrorist attacks each year demonstrate that pockets of so-called Irish ‘dissidents’ will probably continue to attack, principally, some symbolic elements of security forces unless the six counties of the North are united with the island of Ireland – my words, not Vernon’s. However, Vernon spoke eloquently on social and educational divides that exist and are even reinforced today. Separate schooling, housing and (possibly) a divide in perceptions in relation to who benefitted from any peace dividend. How we as a society, and network of communities, address these potential fault-lines, will ultimately play some role in determining our security by the year 2020, won’t it?
The day was neatly rounded up by Major General Ranald Munro, who recently took over the mantle from the Duke of Westminster as Commander of the UK Territorial Army. With a further tranche of full-time Army cuts biting deep, the Reserves are in transformational mood with the expectations of defence ministers to recruit more than ten thousand new Reservists are being heaped upon them. More than 2,000 Reserves served in Afghanistan, 29 so far giving their lives.
But, hopefully, the threat spectrum has altered, with Reservists no longer being recruited for Afghanistan per se, but a plethora of domestic and international resilience measures.
One speaker, gave the example of TA troops and equipment including 4x4’s being available to help out in a British civil emergency (severe weather) a couple of years ago. Families and farmers were stuck. But because of the prickliness and ‘territoriality’ of local decision-makers (perhaps the police, or Council), the Reservists and their equipment were left un-deployed. This shocking anecdote flies in the face of just about everything that is associated with ‘community resilience’ and certainly runs contrary to the latest Civil Contingencies Act, which was manifestly designed to break down silos and map out limited civil emergency resources.
Perhaps, at this point, I should conclude by mentioning Chris Needham-Bennett of Needhams 1834. In a 21-minute presentation he, very politely, castigated business continuity orthodoxies and suggested with quite compelling evidence that the discipline hasn’t really moved forward in terms of theoretical deliverables in the past decade. (And, ergo, I sensed he wasn’t too hopeful for the next!) For me, continuity is mainly predicated on adaptability, influence, practice and rehearsal. It was nice to hear another crisis management geek echo my thoughts.
And from reams of marking I’ve been doing this week from our BA and Certificate in Security Management cohorts, I’m heartened to see several students articulate - with well constructed practical evidence - the limitations of burgeoning BCM guidance, much of which fails to see risk management as anything other than a self-satisfying intellectual Black Hole full of interminable cul-de-sacs which themselves merit chess-like analysis. This is not what a CEO, or a Director, wants to pay for, or listen to. If they do, I will make my only firm prediction of the day... I suspect that they might not survive in post by 2020.
Richard Bingley is a Senior Lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University and serves on the CSARN Advisory Council. He is author of ‘Terrorism: Just the Facts’