American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS)
KeywordsSecurity organization Globalization Networking
Organizations serve numerous purposes: sharing of views and knowledge among members and supporters, standards setting, and numerous other services. ASIS International has been termed “foremost” among several industry organizations and associations concerned with protective assets from loss (Lipson 1975, p. 186). Now a global entity ASIS International faces existential issues concerning how it will serve future members.
During World War II, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were allies against the Axis powers. But following peace in 1945, the two nations’ political and economic systems diverged sharply with each superpower believing the other was dedicated to world conquest. The Cold War was born with the failure of the two former allies to agree on restructuring governments and territories mostly of Eastern Europe.
Hostilities between the two forces never led into a shooting conflict. Yet, elsewhere in the globe, the two economic and military powers saw “proxy” conflicts such as East and West Germany, North and South Vietnam, and North and South Korea. By the early 1950s, chances of a renewed conflict between the United States and the USSR seemed depressingly almost inevitable, and such hostilities this time would involve nuclear arms with harm capable of reaching an unimagined level. Military and intelligence activities and investments were at high levels. Private security businesses were expanding, and a sector of private industry was inextricably responsible to produce what was needed for national security.
Individuals heading security programs in industries serving classified activities of the federal government were required to obtain security clearances in order to work on confidential projects. Furthermore, all employees who protected private information of national importance were also required to obtain security clearances or were barred from being on the worksite. “Proper clearances were a sine qua non to obtaining government contracts,” wrote an industry historian (Lipson 1975, p. 44). These vetted organizations provided hardware, systems, and services to government and were bound to the same classified standards as were the secrecy-bound government departments and agencies. This military intelligence requirement set the basis for a trade and professional group that would support leadership in protecting people, property, intellectual property, and opportunity.
The Early Years of ASIS
Security specialists, often with military, law enforcement, and intelligence backgrounds, took responsibilities for organizations that had to meet government classification requirements. In November 1953, five men met in Detroit, Michigan, to exchange views on what was then called industrial security. The group represented the public and private sectors and included Robert L. Applegate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Personnel, and Reserve; Eric L. Barr, General Dynamics; Eugene A. Goedgen, General Electric; Paul Hansen, Reynolds Metals Company; and Russell E. White, also General Electric (Leading the Charge 1990, p. 9). The five continued to be in touch with each other to discuss their interests. The possibility or necessity of creating a national security organization evolved, a suggestion made first by Applegate. Other security groups, often concerned with local commercial matters, already were in existence but showed no interest in linking themselves with a national association where their identity could be lost.
A Special Security Group of 21 men met the next year in Cincinnati to discuss the matter further. Hansen had drafted a prospectus for the incipient organization. He argued “Industrial security and protection has become such an important part of history and national security that it should now qualify as a profession to be so recognized and takes its place along with the other great professions” (Leading the Charge 1990, p. 10).
Two existing organizations – the Industrial Security Council of the National Industrial Conference Board (today The Conference Board) and the Security Committee of the Aircraft Industries Association – joined the temporary governing body to help organize the new society. It would accept three types of memberships: Active members were the persons most responsible for industrial security and protection functions of an organization. Associate members, presumably down the pecking order, were ineligible for active membership but performed supervisory, administrative, or professional duties concerning industrial security. Then, government personnel concerned with security matters constituted a separate membership category. Proof of employment or government service was always a requirement. Prospective student members – a new category created years later – would need to provide their current transcript or bursar’s receipt and express interest in security employment in order to be admitted to membership and enjoy the benefits.
In January 1955, the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) was incorporated in Dover, Delaware. Its charter stated in part that its purpose was: “To encourage, promote, aid in, and effect the voluntary interchange among members of the Society, of data, information, experience, ideas, knowledge, methods, and techniques relating to the field of industrial security.” The charter additionally identified the intention “to promote uniformity in industrial security, as such, and develop matters of mutual interest to its members.” Ethics and professional standards would be emphasized. Publications and education would be supported. Hansen, ASIS’s chief idealist, was elected the first president (Paul Hansen 1990, p. 12).
Rapid Expansion of ASIS
Within just a few months of its founding, security decision-makers from other workplaces unaffected by Cold War preoccupations and without government contracts sought ASIS membership. After all, most managerial issues did not involve matters of government secrecy. An expanded scope of vocational concerns and skills sharing attracted the evolving cadre of security directors in offices, healthcare facilities, manufacturing businesses, retailers, transporters, academic institutions, and still other workplaces. Membership, initially open to security practitioners in the private and public sectors, was enlarged to include affiliate memberships for suppliers of security services in 1957, though such members were not permitted to hold chapter offices for several years.
During the early decades of its existence, ASIS scrutinized membership applications with care. Did the applicant truly have a connection and commitment to protection of assets? Did any question arise about the loyalty of the prospective member to the interests of the United States or, as membership became more international, the ethos of the West? This vetting process and member services required a headquarters, and a logical place for it to be located was Washington, DC. ASIS would be governed by a Board of Directors who would henceforth set policies and institutional direction. The Board would also appoint someone to handle ongoing operations.
The first executive director served only 6 months in 1958. Next (1959–1964) came Brig. Gen. William Fagg (USAF Ret.). William D. Wright assumed leadership as a dip in membership was encountered and reversed it almost by double during his tenure (1964–1972). He was succeeded by O.P. Norton (1972–1977) during which time membership again doubled and emphasis on security education increased. (The O.P. Norton Information Resources Center (IRC) – a combination library, member service function, and archive – was named in his honor.) E.J. Criscuoli Jr. (1977–1993), security manager for General Electric’s Valley Forge Space Center, led the organization in robust further expansion. His tenure included the purchase of land and the construction of a commodious headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, which opened in 1998. For the next executive director, the Board decided to retain the services of an experienced trade association executive, Michael J. Stack (1993–2015), instead of turning to an industry practitioner as in the past to manage operations. Expansion had occurred globally, and services became complex with membership peaking at a reported 38,000. The next year Peter J. O’Neil, also an organizational manager, became executive vice president and staff director.
From its earliest existence, emphasis was placed on the importance of active individual chapters where activities would be centered throughout the year. Chapters drove membership growth through vigorous networking and valuable local programs. Prominent leaders of the security community, not surprisingly, became chapter chairs. While initially affiliate members could not hold leadership roles, this rule was changed to the benefit of security products and service providers. (These business persons became financial supporters of chapters’ activities.) Typically, chapters would meet monthly in season with a speaker on a topic of interest to the membership. The chapters often would publish their own newsletter, liaise with law enforcement and related agencies, support local security-related education, and sometimes hold their own annual seminar.
But a coming together for an annual national meeting was an early decision. The first annual Seminar in 1956 drew 254 charter members; by 2 years later membership had reached 2000 (Davidson 2004, p. 2). The Seminar was renamed the Annual Seminar and Exhibits to emphasize the growing trade show activities and is now called the Global Security Exchange (GSX). The event spans over almost a week and combines education, technical exhibits, commercial displays, and society business. For many security leaders, attending this event is the highlight of their year in a vocational sense. Increasingly over time commercial exhibitors also used the meeting to announce and promote their latest offerings. Eleven corporations exhibited at the first seminar; in recent years over a thousand are registered.
A quarterly magazine, Industrial Security, was launched in 1957 as a member benefit. Over the years it became bimonthly and then monthly and was renamed Security Management. Meanwhile, from a fledgling start, chapters expanded to over 240 (103 international). Regional vice presidents, themselves usually former chapter leaders, would coordinate activities of chapters in their geographic regions.
In its search for professionalism, ASIS established a nonprofit Foundation in 1969 to support education and research in the field. Its first major project was a survey of security executives identifying their reporting patterns and work backgrounds (Kakalik and Wildhorn 1974, p. 75). It identified that in larger firms, the principal background of a security executive was in business, followed by law enforcement and military. Another endeavor of the Foundation resulted in the founding of a vetted research quarterly, Security Journal, begun in 1989. (The Journal remains important in the field but is not published by ASIS.) Charles H. Davidson, IV, Foundation staff director from 1985 to 2001, argued in the first issue that security management was “a new discipline” and deserved to be regarded as “a stand-alone” management science (Davidson 1989, p. 3).
The Foundation periodically sponsored conferences that brought together leading security practitioners and security educators to share with each other what they knew and what was still needed to be done. Years later research grants were awarded on a competitive basis to scholars who would produce a monograph on a topic of importance to the membership. These would be published and disseminated as CRISP (Connecting Research in Security to Practice) Reports, available to the membership and wider community.
The Foundation also listed an early duty: “To purchase all relevant book titles in English and in selected foreign languages, to catalog, abstract, and store them at the Foundation’s headquarters, and to finance or assist in financing of distribution of such abstracts to interested persons” (Poised for Greatness 1990, p. 86). These began to fill the shelves of the O.P. Norton IRC and a vast security book, film, and research report global lending library began service in 1984, soon under the longtime leadership of Eva Giercuszkiewicz.
From its inception, the security industry was developing a “body of knowledge,” once collected by James D. Calder, the University of Texas at San Antonio, in a database at the behest of the Foundation. Knowledge of results from vetted research, best practices know-how, and formal standards were becoming expectations of competent practitioners, as was the need to establish criteria for experience and examination.
Recognizing such learning and competence for security practitioners would occur through certifications. The concept, nurtured over 15 years to fulfillment by Timothy J. Walsh and others, led to the creation of a process to “recognize achievement and encourage practitioners to expand their knowledge” (The Mark of Professionalism 1990, p. 97). This decision led to the establishment of formal certification.
The Society created an independent Professional Certification Board (PCB) that painstakingly created, with outside assistance, protocols for exam admission and an examination which, when passed, would lead to a designation as a Certified Protection Professional (CPP). The first examination was in September 1978 (The Mark of Professionalism 1990, p. 98; Criscuoli 1988, p. 98). About 1000 early designees were “grandfathered in” at the commencement, based on their years of demonstrated experience as security practitioners; a few others opted to sit for the exam despite their experience. As the examinations became required and regularized, just being allowed the opportunity to sit for the examination represented a challenge for some. Applicants needed to provide their credentials. Probity among those designated as certified was emphasized by a CPP Code of Professional Responsibility adopted in 1975.
Two other certifications were introduced in 2003, to recognize qualified security personnel with demonstrated proficiency and advanced technical knowledge. The Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) recognizes expertise in evidence collection and case preparation. The Physical Security Professional (PSP) identifies the capacity of a practitioner to conduct threat surveys, assure knowledge of security products and technology, and design integrated security systems. All PCB-developed certifications required a commitment to ongoing learning and professional development with verified recertification required every 3 years.
Security activities cut across a broad range of commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental endeavors. Everything from A to Y (academic programs to young professionals) has security concerns that are particular to them while also sharing general issues with all security endeavors. Beginning as committees, 34 ASIS Councils have been created to bring specialists together sharing their common concerns, to sponsor programs for the annual seminar, and to serve as media contacts. A Chief Security Officer (CSO) Center Advisory Council was created with the goal to link interests of practitioners of large organizations.
When ASIS was in its early years, few managerial vocations were more male dominated than security. But times changed and women began assuming leadership roles. As law enforcement organizations began drawing, if not welcoming, women into their ranks, the same thing was happening in security. With women composing a significant factor of workplace personnel, it was a natural evolution for security programs to employ females as employees, managers, and executives. This notion came to be reflected at ASIS including at the senior level. The first female president of ASIS was Darlene Sherwood, 1985, and then Mary S. Rawle, 1992. They were followed by others: Cynthia P. Conlon, Bonnie S. Michelman, and Shirley A. Pierini. Moreover, women have served as past presidents of the PCB and ASIS International Foundation.
Early in its history, the original name became problematic, and a new name and focus were needed. It was no longer just American, as chapters all over the world were operating (currently 108 international chapters). The first ASIS security symposium was held in Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France, in 1973. Then the word Society was an encumbrance for organization that thought of itself more as a professional group. Finally, Industrial Security spoke of a time when “plant security” for organizations churning out classified products and systems was the basis of the young ASIS. In 2002, the name was officially changed to ASIS International. A new logo was approved by the ASIS Board of Directors reflecting the way ahead: “Advancing Security Worldwide.”
ASIS International: Quo Vadis?
Regardless of relevance, organizations have to be run effectively, especially so in a vocational activity some referred to as a “management science.” Yet, throughout its history, ASIS has periodically experienced budget shortfalls. “We were broke,” said Dennis Chesshir, president for the 1975–1976 term. He recalled “talk about dissolving the Society” despite a growing membership, a vigorous Annual Seminar and Exhibits, and 20 years’ operating experience (Davidson 1989, p. 82). From 1970 to 1979, revenues grew six times, but expenses sometimes were greater. The decade of the 1980s saw more than a triple of revenues with expenses, fortunately, always a bit less. By the end of the next decade, membership topped 30,000 with positive financial net most years to create some reserves. Seminar revenues far outpaced the importance of other income streams: publishing, membership fees, educational charges, publishing and merchandise revenues, and certification fees.
At the annual meeting of 2015, ASIS President Dave N. Tyson, retiring from the hectic annual 1-year term of leadership, reported that the organization was strong on all levels. “Today, I celebrate not only our 60 years, but also our exciting future,” he exclaimed (Exceptional ASIS Members 2015, p. ?). But earlier financial reports, unknown to the vast number of members, told a different story, one of a budget out of balance. In 2013, IRS filings revealed a budget deficit of $1.6 million – up almost ten times over the previous year – on total revenues of $29.3 million. [That year 99 individuals were employed at headquarters – national and chapter officers are not paid – while the reported compensation of the top seven amounted to $2.2 million.]
ASIS International would have to limp before it could walk again. The Board responded with alarm by cutting historic services. Numerous employees and their positions were jettisoned with replacements in some cases of new individuals without industry experience. The ASIS Foundation stopped activities with only the name being retained. The IRC was closed with books and other materials, assembled over decades, being boxed for an uncertain future. The ASIS headquarters building that had grown enormously in value was put up for sale. ASIS International surely has a future, diminished on the national level, but remaining vigorous within many chapters. A strong national organization is needed to advance public-private cooperation, security standards, and goals, support ethics, and interact with legislative issues that impact protection activities.
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