Bridging The Gap: Operational Security and Asset Management
President Harry S. Truman commonly said, “The buck stops here.” And while the buck might not stop at the asset manager’s desk, it certainly lingers there for a while. The asset manager’s challenge is to continually and accurately verify, log, track and manage critical property, assets and equipment. The acute nature of this challenge grows exponentially when you consider law enforcement equipment such as firearms, ammunition, body armor and the controls typically placed around these and other types of highly sensitive items.
Law enforcement equipment is usually procured through direct funding, grants or forfeitures. Agencies should designate an asset manager with the responsibility for demonstrating accurate accountability of this highly sensitive equipment. In larger agencies the asset manager may be a civilian administrative professional while in smaller agencies the manager may be a law enforcement officer with both administrative and operational responsibilities. In addition to the asset manager, each unit within the law enforcement agency should also demonstrate responsibility and accountability over their assigned assets.
Operational security is critical to ensure personnel safety and mission integrity. To accomplish this, law enforcement agencies must maintain the integrity of their assigned assets by instituting policies and procedures, which, if compromised, create advantages for subjects with the intent to harm. As important as it is, maintaining operational security can create tension and result in a breakdown in communication between the asset manager and operational personnel. The asset manager requires the appropriate amount of information to thoroughly track agency assets, while operational personnel attempt to keep as much information as possible confidential. A solution is needed that considers both the sensitive nature of the assets as well as the assets’ accountability requirements.
As Joshua Brown recently wrote in his piece titled Positive Multi-Directional Leadership: Ascending, Descending and Horizontal Emotional Support, leadership responsibility should be on everyone’s task list-- regardless of position, rank or chain of command. Enabling trust between administrative and operational functions within an agency is everyone’s responsibility- not just the responsibility of those in leadership positions. Personal leadership requires effective communications to establish collaboration and trust among stakeholders, and is necessary to accomplish agency mission objectives including accurate accountability of agency-sensitive assets. Law enforcement personnel should demonstrate leadership by working with operational and administrative functions within an agency to ensure accountability of assigned assets. At the same time, operational personnel must be confident that the asset manager understands the operational security risks associated with the unnecessary disclosure of information related to the assets.
Forming a working group comprised of all stakeholders is an effective collaboration tool that allows both operational and asset management personnel with accountability responsibilities to have “a seat at the table”. Stakeholders want to be included in the discussions and decisions that affect their operations. These discussions are only effective if entered into with a common goal-- as objectives do not exist in a void; they must contribute to the greater organizational mission. Only those stakeholders who understand how their objectives contribute to the agency’s mission, and who are willing to work together to integrate them, will serve as effective contributors and problem solvers. Bringing the right people to the table is often the most challenging aspect of problem solving. Once the correct stakeholders are identified and agree to convene, they are typically quick to identify issues and create a mutually agreeable methodology to solve them. The agencies’ asset accountability and operational security requirements can both be met after each entity agrees to the scope of each other’s objectives and agrees to work together to meet them.