The Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum’s quarterly meeting was held on the 16 May on board the Thames Sailing Barge Lady Daphne at St Katherine’s Dock in London. We had a good turnout from regulars mixed with a few new faces. The meeting started with a presentation from our Speaker in Residence, Lt Col Crispin Black and was entitled “The Drone Club”. Crispin started with a provocative paraphrase of Hilaire Belloc, “whatever happens, we have got the unmanned drone and they have not”. Crispin shared his research into surveillance drones and asked what can be kept secret any more. Drone use has moved from the military to border patrol and even corporate security, e.g. it was pointed out that the oil & gas industry is interested in surveillance drones for pipeline protection. Crispin then moved on to discuss armed drones and asked if anywhere is safe. There was a heated discussion about the morality of ‘signature strikes’ and how targeted assassinations might prove irresistible, yet wreak tremendous change in the nature of conflict. During the conversation, many digs were directed at Crispin’s new thriller, “The Falklands Intercept” and the difficulty for parachute regiment veterans of finding sailing barges in broad daylight on time.
After our usual round robin to identify key issues and concerns, where cyber and culture again featured, our second speaker was Professor Martin Gill, who is a Director of Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International. Martin’s talk was entitled “Security Management in the 21st Century: Adding Value To Business”. He pointed out that security affects all aspects of the organisation and has the potential to impact positively if managed well and negatively if mismanaged or not managed at all. Either way the impact can be considerable. Martin then went on to suggest that the security function is often marginalised by mainstream management. Whilst security is centre-stage in a crisis, once that crisis has passed, it reverts to a less influential role. Martin felt that many Heads of Security are uncomfortable with profit-and-loss, balance sheet sheets and other business decision tools, also often lacking business process knowledge. This leaves them to operate at an operational rather than strategic level. His conclusion was that security should not be seen as a cost centre, as has been traditional, but that investments in security should not be considered as a financial burden that should be kept to the minimum level necessary. Martin’s focus was aligning security with opportunities for improving business performance and profitability. During the discussion it was suggested that the term Risk better encompassed the Security function, that security people perhaps shouldn’t aspire to being ‘C-level’ and that volatility reduction (valuing security interventions using option pricing) might be a better approach to integrate with financial decisions alongside cost-benefit analysis. Martin also put forward a provocative suggestion that financial reports should include a statement of asset losses, i.e. the cost of poor security.
Before dinner we quaffed our traditional post-discussion cocktail, in this case a traditional Drone’s Club drink, Buck’s Fizz. After dinner we enjoyed a short, well-structured and incisive talk by Commander Steve Tatham RN from the Ministry of Defence. Steve shared some of his experiences in Afghanistan and North and East Africa, when he commanded 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group. His new book, co-authored with Major General Andrew Mackay, is entitled “Behavioural Conflict: Why Understanding People And Their Motivations Will Prove Decisive In Future Conflict”. Steve and his co-author put forward a thesis that a wider understanding of behavioural science and new techniques of influence, many from commerce, will challenge our ability to engage with people using new media. That said, Steve believes we can see the outlines of an emerging science of influence. He gave some excellent examples to support his thesis from the Arab Spring where there were ‘unknown knowns’, i.e. research indicated things contrary to traditional power shifts were likely to happen, but research was ignored. Steve led a lively discussion. At the end of the evening Security Forward was pleased to present everyone with copies of both Steve’s book and Crispin’s novel.