News Stories

South Atlantic Division security managers meet to quell complacency

Published April 22, 2008

   When it comes to being on guard in the Global War on Terror, complacency is a “bad word.”  That, according to South Atlantic Division Security Managers who attended the Wilmington District-lead SAD Security Conference.

   “It’s easy for people to fall into complacency,” said Wilmington District Chief of Security Greg Barr.  “A big part of our job is to keep the workforce informed and remind them that as government employees they simply can’t become complacent.  That’s why we send security announcements out and change security measures occasionally.  We all just need to remember that we work for a civil works organization that belongs to the Army.  It’s still a target.” 

   The security managers gathered onboard the USS North Carolina to discuss standardizing security measures across the division.  Barr said topics included analyzing each District’s Mission Essential Vulnerable Areas or MEVA.  (The Wilmington District’s MEVAs are its five projects, the Engineer Repair Yard and the headquarters building.)  Each District is required to have a MEVA, a risk assessment, a threat analysis, a physical security plan and a terrorism plan. 

   “Throughout the division we look at everything to make sure that it’s standardized.  We have certain requirements that we have to follow and it’s important for all of us to get on a single foothold.” 

  Barr said force protection is still at the top of the list.  Under the United Facilities Criteria all Department of Defense facilities have to be fortified.  They must be bomb proof, have bomb-resistant windows, blast resistant doors and stand off distance. 

   “The stand off distance is the actual physical distance between your building and the perimeter fence.  We’re in very good shape here at the headquarters building because of the perimeter fence and ample security cameras.”

    Barr said that security measures at Wilmington District projects are solid.  Case in point?  When unidentified, uniformed people visited Falls Dam three years ago park rangers immediately notified the Wilmington District.  Security cameras were trained on the group, and local, state and federal authorities had been notified.  The incident turned out to be a false alarm, but Barr said it was an excellent, real-life test to measure the District’s response time to such a situation.  Barr added that the projects are not immune from local security-related concerns.  Gang activity is present on Corps property, and USACE security managers partner with local and state law enforcement agencies. 

   Susan Smith, a detective with the Columbus County Sherriff’s Office, gave a presentation about gang identification ranging from how to identify gang members to what they wear and how they wear it. 

   “Our Rangers are more likely to run into gang activity than terrorist activity at our projects,” Barr said.  “We’ve had meth labs, people growing marijuana….the gangs are heavily involved with mobile meth labs and selling drugs. They have fairly elaborate warning systems.  If a ranger were to stumble upon a meth lab like that, it might go south in a hurry for them.  We’re noticing gang graffiti at some of the lakes that indicates some of the gangs are there marking their turf.  That’s a threat to our rangers and we take that very seriously.” 

   Overall, Barr said proactive measures by SAD security managers are keeping all USACE facilities safe from unforeseen events.  Still, the biggest hurdle is keeping Corps employees from falling into complacency.  Even though the Wilmington District is a civil works organization with an almost non-existence military presence it’s often perceived as not a potential target.   

   “We don’t look at it that way.  The threats are very real for us.  We potentially could be more vulnerable than an Army installation.  A terrorist will look at an Army installation and know that there are defenses in place with quick reaction forces.  The Wilmington District headquarters building is considered a soft target and my job as security manager is to make it a hard target with help from the Department of Homeland Security.”