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Fifty Years of Advancing Security

​“THERE IS HISTORY in all men’s lives,” wrote William Shakespeare in King Henry IV. The history of ASIS International is manifest in the careers of the many practitioners who have helped to advance the profession. The Society, the profession, and the industry have also been shaped by the larger events on the world stage, as well as by technological advances and legislation.

While much has changed, it is interesting to note how many of the founding companies remain. Well before 1955, when the American Society for Industrial Security (as ASIS International was originally known) was founded, some of the security companies still familiar today already had a stronghold in their respective fields. For example, The William J. Burns Detective Agency, Pinkerton Protection Patrol, Holmes Protection, Inc., Ademco, Brinks, Inc., American District Telegraph Company (ADT), Honeywell, and even Securitas in Sweden had become mainstays in the delivery of security products and services.

World War II was a watershed event with regard to security’s role in society, as manufacturing industries were mobilized to produce tanks, jeeps, ammunition—anything needed to supply Allied military troops in Europe and the Pacific. In 1942, the U.S. government established security requirements for plant protection and trained more than 200,000 auxiliary police officers who were assigned to manufacturing sites to protect these facilities and the classified information they needed to produce goods for the war effort.

After the war, many security suppliers retooled their product lines to meet new government requirements and to adapt to a changing consumer market. Talk-a-Phone, for example, a large manufacturer of phonographs and records in the early 1940s, supplied communications equipment to the military during the war. After the war, “we chose not to go back to making phonographs and specialized in communications equipment,” says Samuel Shanes, executive vice president of Talk-a-Phone.

High-risk industries, such as banking, were early users of these new security products, to include electromechanical relays, teller alarms, DC alarm line supervision, monitoring systems, and two-way communications, as well as new generations of locks, vaults, and safes.

Meanwhile, in 1948, Bell Laboratories had developed the transistor. Many new alarm and video products became available in the 1950s because of this breakthrough. Other industries were adopting new concepts such as dual-use technology, although they would not be applied to security products for years.

First Generation

A number of security managers from large corporations in the eastern United States began meeting informally in the late 1940s, mainly to discuss the government regulations published in the Industrial Security Manual. At a 1953 meeting in Detroit, five members of this contingent, which had dubbed itself the Special Security Group, began to discuss forming a national security organization.

At that initial meeting were such professional luminaries as Paul Hansen, director, industrial security division, Reynolds Metals Company; Eric Barr, Jr., industrial security manager, Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation; Eugene Goedgen, manager of plant security, Jet Engine Division, General Electric Company; Russell White, security coordinator, General Electric Company; and Robert Applegate, director, Industrial Security Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Personnel, and Reserve.

Hansen drafted a prospectus for forming a national security organization, which was adopted by the Special Security Group. Hansen was also instrumental in convincing members of the Industrial Security Council of the Conference Board and the East and West Coast Security Groups of the Aircraft Industries Association to join in forming the new organization. At a March 1955 meeting in New York City, the American Society for Industrial Security was born, and Hansen was elected its first president. By the end of 1955, 257 charter members had joined.

The common bond among these security professionals was the need to share information with each other and to adapt the security regulations that were coming out of the Department of Defense. Many had come to their security positions from the FBI, which was frequently asked after the war to perform security surveys of industrial sites.

An early ASIS publication described the security climate at the time: “Neither industry nor government was adequately prepared for the tremendous responsibility of securing defense information and protecting the war effort.” The result led to “misunderstandings, arguments, lack of confidence, and distrust” between industry and government representatives. ASIS gave the new security profession a forum and a common voice.

Years of “firsts.” The cornerstone programs of ASIS, mainstays of the Society’s offerings to this day, were created in its first years. Chapters were formed immediately after ASIS was incorporated.

The Southern California Chapter, later the Greater Los Angeles Chapter, was the first to be established officially, in December 1955, followed quickly by chapters in Louisville, Chicago, New York City, Connecticut, Northern California (now San Francisco Bay Area), Western New York, and Detroit. The first international chapter, Europe, was formed in 1960. Five regional vice presidents facilitated communications between the chapters and the ASIS Board of Directors.

The first one-day “convention,” the precursor of the ASIS International Annual Seminar and Exhibits, was held in October 1955 just months after the Society was formed. The annual event convened in Washington, D.C., for the first four years, then it was rotated across the country, hosted by chapters in Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York in its first decade. Exhibits were added to the conference in its second year, and eleven suppliers participated. A theme was also chosen: “Security in the Electronics Age.”

ASIS opened its first headquarters in 1957 in Washington, D.C. Industrial Security magazine, which became Security Management in 1972, was launched as a bimonthly publication in July 1957 with six advertisers: ADT; Walter Kidde and Company, Inc.; Mosler Research Products, Inc.; Radio Corporation of America (RCA); Reynolds Metals Company; and Whitehead and Company, Inc.

The objectives of the Society, as set forth in its bylaws, were carried out through committees, now called councils. Some dealt with administrative issues, such as setting membership criteria. Others were charged with focusing on issues of the day (mostly still pertinent), such as emergency planning, government liaison, fire protection, and physical security.

Signs of the Times

Throughout subsequent decades, both the security industry and the profession continued to react to evolving legislative, societal, and technological issues. For example, the Bank Protection Act of 1968 required federal agencies to establish minimum standards for banks and savings and loan associations on security procedures as well as the installation, maintenance, and operation of security devices.

The original Fair Credit Reporting Act, passed in 1971, ensured the privacy of information gathered on consumers. A related law, the Privacy Act of 1974, required physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of “identifiable personal data.”

The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis led to a robust civil defense industry, and fallout shelters and emergency evacuation plans were common at industrial sites. Then, as now, terrorist acts, carried out by such diverse groups as Basque separatists, Irish nationalists, and Marxist cabals in Latin America, sowed fear and had to be dealt with. Such events as the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics were etched in public memory and led to increased security measures.

More positive trends also had an impact on security by driving technological advances. For example, President John F. Kennedy made landing on the moon a national obsession within the United States, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began driving technical innovations, include the first lowlight-level camera.

CCTV also benefited from the 1960s version of miniaturization and sensitivity that allowed surveillance of remote locations and high-risk sites using pan and tilt features. Plastic replaced metal casings in alarms, and the balanced magnetic switch, telephone dialers, and AC alarm line supervision appeared on the market. Television, cable, multiplexing, integrated circuitry, and even wireless communications and microprocessors all found their way into security applications by the 1970s.

Access control was developing as an industry. Magnetic stripe cards and readers paved the way for the application of Wiegand coding in access cards. The emergence of integrated heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems led to major building automation systems that eventually included access control as well as fire and security alarm monitoring. Honeywell and Johnson Controls were leaders in this new industry.

Redefining Security

The perception of what constituted “adequate security” was changing. By 1963, business and industry was spending “between $250 million and $300 million annually for protection,” according to a 1963 article in Industrial Security.

The position of director of security was becoming a business requirement, says Ralph Ward, CPP, who worked for Mosler before forming his own security design consultancy in 1972. Companies realized they were going to incur major costs to reduce their losses and wanted “someone who knew what he was doing,” says Ward.

The mix of ASIS committees at that time reflects the changing landscape of security. In 1964, a single ASIS Retail, Hotel, and Banking Committee was formed, only to be separated into three committees by 1967. They were joined that decade by committees that addressed the security concerns of educational institutions and hospitals as well as the insurance and transportation industries.

Following the formation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, the ASIS Drug Abuse Committee emerged to review and disseminate information coming out of this new government agency as well as the medical community. Other standing committees formed in the 1970s included the Privacy Committee, the Academic Programs Committee, and the Museum, Library, and Archive Committee.

A major accomplishment during the 1970s was the introduction of the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) program guided by the Professional Certification Board (PCB). The road to certification was rocky, with various members of the Society’s leadership voicing strong opinions on how the program should be set up, who should qualify, and what should be expected of applicants.

Eventually, 1977 President Wayne Hall of Ford Motor Company devised a plan that was accepted by both the ASIS Board of Directors and the PCB. Hall, himself, was awarded the first CPP designation in 1978.

Developing the first CPP test was arduous but satisfying for the PCB members involved, including Richard Cross, CPP, of The Bank of New York, who was president of ASIS in 1973 and 1974. The group drafted more than 600 questions, each supported by a published source.

Since security was just beginning to be recognized as an academic discipline, finding sources was a challenge. Questions that passed PCB scrutiny were sent to a professional testing service for further validation.

Laws and Outlaws

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 symbolized the end of the Cold War and the beginning of globalization, creating a new set of challenges for businesses and security professionals. Corporate boundaries became blurred, as partnerships, mergers, acquisitions, technology transfer, and sharing of patents became normal business practices. The kidnapping of high-profile executives and government officials, a frequent terrorist tactic particularly in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, gave rise to executive protection and related industries.

The breakup of AT&T, a seminal event in 1982, allowed local central stations to take over a percentage of AT&T accounts and led to regional alarm monitoring. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 banned the use of the polygraph in preemployment screening, which left the door open for new screening methods.

In the 1980s, the airline industry began to receive close scrutiny from legislators. The Foreign Airport Security Act of 1986 was the first in a string of new laws that set standards for securing domestic and foreign carriers and airports against acts of terrorism. High-profile events such as the Flight 103 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 added to the legislative flurry.

As the use—and abuse—of computers became commonplace in business, computer security legislation followed. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, first enacted in 1986, was amended several times in the next two decades. This was but the beginning of the impact of computerization and IT risk on security.

Other fields were also affected by security-related legislation. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which took effect in 1992, had far-reaching effects on security, particularly access control. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act set standards for the security of personal health information stored electronically.

During this time, standard technologies from other industries found applications in security. The development of the chip “was a major factor in the camera business,” says Roy Bordes of The Bordes Group, because cameras could be smaller and smarter. CCD cameras and silicon-intensified tube cameras also appeared on the market. Breakthroughs in security products came with the advent of wireless, fiber optics, radio frequency identification, embedded microprocessors, and smart multiplexing. Downloadable software written specifically for security applications debuted in the 1990s. Open architecture was on the horizon.

Keeping Pace

Like the industry itself, ASIS International made great strides during the 1980s and 1990s. By the end of the century, the Society’s revenues had surpassed $17 million, and membership had topped 30,000. ASIS had a vision, a mission, and a strategic plan. Its Information Resources Center housed 12,000 books, and the ASIS Foundation, Inc., was funding research, publications, scholarships, and academic degrees in security. Of the 34 chapters formed in the 1990s, 22 were located outside the United States.

New councils reflected changes in business and the business of security. The Business Practices Council championed the application of emerging management disciplines to the security field. The Security Architecture and Engineering Council gave a voice to this emerging specialty. Other committees focused on securing ports, telecommunications, and a full range of critical infrastructure. ASIS was poised to help lead the industry into the 21st century.

Taking the Lead

For the founding fathers of ASIS, the world changed with the outbreak of World War II. For security professionals 50 years later, the world changed on September 11, 2001.

The specter of terrorism reached into every corner of society after that attack. Government’s response, evidenced by the newly formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security, left little doubt that the practice of security and the security industry could continue to expect legislative oversight and leaps forward in technology.

Following the course mapped out by its founders, the Society’s response to the explosion in security’s visibility has been proactive. The Society has taken the lead in setting guidelines for security, shaping legislation on Capitol Hill, underwriting major studies of the industry, and expanding certification to investigative and physical security specialties.

Looking back on the Society’s 50-year track record, members can take pride in the progress made thus far. But the journey—and the challenge—never ends.

Mary Alice Davidson heads a publishing consultancy based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She retired from ASIS in 2003 as director of communications.