It is dangerous to walk alone by Philip Ingram MBE

Security by its very nature is complex and as such, no matter how large a company you are, it is unlikely that you will have the wherewithal to meet all of the potential threats that could be presented. 

The Manchester Enquiry into the horrific attack perpetrated by Salman Abedi where he killed 22 people on 22 May 2017, is highlighting many of the difficulties caused by multiple agencies being responsible for different parts of one venue. As the enquiry slowly and rightly unpicks what has happened the one conclusion that is jumping out before the judge says anything in that all of the different organisations involved need to operate together much much better.

One of the victims of that horrific night was a young man called Martyn Hett, his mother, Figen Murray started a campaign with Nick Aldworth a former National Coordinator (Protect and Prepare) with Counter Terror Police UK (CTPUK) to deliver what they billed as Martyn’s Law.

Martyn’s law will become the new Protect Duty and when enacted will require a coherent counter terror plan, mitigation plan and risk assessment.  This will force different entities to work together in a more formal way. The need for this was summed up in a statement in the Martyn’s Law final report that said, “Of the estimated 650,000 crowded places in the UK, only about 0.2% are prioritised to receive direct support from the states networks of counter-terrorism experts.”

However, the government recognises the need for security agencies to work together in a much more coordinated way. At present the intelligence organisations all contribute to the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre or JTAC but they don’t do anything to coordinate operations. The next logical step was announced by the Prime Minister as part of the Governments Integrated Defence and Security review which introduced a new Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre, a new Situation Centre to boost national resilience and a new National Cyber Force, underpinning the increasing importance of cyber in all that happens.

Of course, for those from a military background doing things on operations in isolation has never happened.  Deployed military headquarters are hives of multidisciplinary planning and coordination of activity ensuring one person has proper control over all of the assets needed to deal with the tasks in hand.

However, multidisciplinary, multi-agency command and control for incidents exists outside the military in other public service organisations with the “Gold, Silver, Bronze,” command and control structure that provides a framework for delivering strategic, operational and tactical responses to an incident or operation.  It is just there has never been a dedicated national control centre for highest level incidents (such as the COVID Pandemic response) until now.

It is often clear that even with those processes in place and the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) that aim to help the blue light services ensure that their initial response to major incidents is more organised, structured and practised, and that they recognize the need to ensure they constantly update their working practices and learn from events of the past together and not just in isolation, Manchester has shown it doesn’t always work no matter how often practised.  This just practices the public sector elements of response, there is nothing mandating the inclusion of the private sector. Hence the hope behind Martyn’s Law is that this will happen.

The biggest barrier to the private sector carrying out this level of coordination, planning, rehearsal and more is simply cost and as it isn’t mandated at the moment then outside a few of the larger and better resourced security providers it is difficult for companies to commit resourced in the preparation phase.  However, Manchester highlights very clearly the need. 

As Martyn’s Law or the new Protect Duty comes into being and it is still some way off, it will likely impact the cost of security for different events, and this will be something that the industry will have to prepare event providers for.  Being a piece of legislation, it will be easier for event providers to justify and plan costs.

In a recent interview for the International Security Journal, Barry Palmer told me that, “good collaboration with others including other local businesses and the police, good intelligence sharing and the ability to gain wider awareness through professional organisations such as the International Committee for Museum Security (ICMS) for industry expertise were key to providing the best security environment.”

If we look at the highest levels, Governments secure their interests through cooperation and understanding through bodies like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and police cooperate internationally through the likes of INTERPOL and EUROPOL.

It therefore shouldn’t be a huge jump to understand the real benefits of greater public private cooperation, my only surprise is it has taken so long and a huge tragedy to stimulate the Government into mandating cooperation that should be part of all of our best practice on a daily basis, no matter what level we work at.

The threat landscape also dictates the need for greater teamwork and cross organisation cooperation. The cyber threat is everywhere and growing but I for one to hack a network would hack a human with access; that is how spying happens and is something, if done right, no IT network administrator would ever know about.

Security is an all-encompassing and increasingly complex art.  So if you find yourself trudging a lonely path then it is time to change, as to do your job properly you need a cooperative, multi-disciplinary and multi-agency approach.

Philip Ingram MBE

Philip Ingram is an internationally respected defence and security journalist and consultant. Building on a long and distinguished military career, retiring as a full Colonel,

after performing intelligence, counter-intelligence, security and planning roles, whilst on active service. He is also the man behind the rapidly expanding, and highly regarded, organisation, Grey Hare Media.

Philip is a strategic thinker and recognised subject matter expert on issues of international security, defence and geo political events…..