From the Deckplates - Are We Serious About Physical Security?

By Senior Chief Jim Murphy, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The potential for a serious incident requiring physical intervention by a sentry might be low, but such encounters do occur. In both these cases, the sentries were at an unacceptable disadvantage should they have needed to defend themselves or the facility. Short of using deadly force (assuming they could accurately fire a weapon while supported by walking aids), neither sentry was capable of pursuing or apprehending a suspected intruder or other criminal.

It might seem inconsequential to have lax security on a vehicle gate since each SCIF has its own security, but it’s not. During the same week these two incidents occurred, a Department of the Navy civilian security officer (different from a DoN civilian police officer) was standing watch at the entry point to one of those SCIFs. He was obviously recovering from a recent shoulder injury or surgery, resulting in his right arm being immobilized in a sling.

Again, the guard was at a physical disadvantage that put his life and a sensitive facility at risk. To make matters worse, the sling supported his gun hand. The guard was not even able to put on his gun belt, so his firearm was lying somewhere in his small guard shack. Even though he had quick access to his weapon (not nearly as quickly as if it had been on his hip), drawing a weapon from a holster attached to a loose gun belt is much slower and more difficult than drawing a properly worn sidearm.

Again, the odds are low that an incident would occur at either of these entry points, but had a would-be intruder been conducting surveillance, all three of these personnel presented weaknesses in the security condition of the facility. My criticism is directed less at them than at the leaders who allowed these incidents to occur, placing people on watch who were physically incapable of performing essential protective measures. While each sentry should have (and may have) made a case for his or her own temporary unsuitability, their leaders had ultimate responsibility and should not have placed the sentry or the facility at risk.

Overlooking basic and sound security principles is unacceptable, and it suggests some people have become comfortable with a pre-9/11 level of preparedness. Enforcing these practices takes no additional financial investment, nor a great deal of time or effort. It only takes constant awareness and enforcement by security force leadership.

Without that enforcement, we must wonder if we are serious about physical security.


Senior Chief Murphy retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. He is a contributing author to Everyday Leader Heroes (Caboodle Books).
 

 
 

Conferences and Events

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Thu, 2014-12-04

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

Defense Forum Washington will take place December 4, 2014 at the Newseum - Knight Conference Center in Washington, DC.

2015 WEST Conference

View All

From the Press

Keynote Speaker & Book Signing

Mon, 2014-11-03

Guest Speaker & Book Signing

Tue, 2014-11-04

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership