A challenge well met.
For some first-time attendees, technological advances brought them to Atlanta. Mark Raybold, national manager of safety and security for a property management company in Chicago and an ASIS member for five years, came to "keep up to date on what's going on," especially in access control and CCTV.
Others cited the rich educational program as their reason for coming this year. Gary Pearce, Jr., corporate director of loss control, life safety, and risk management for Central Florida Investments in Orlando, was drawn by sessions on fire and life safety. He also noted that his company is getting more involved with the Internet, and he planned to attend sessions on that topic.
The following retrospective of seminar and exhibit highlights will bring back sweet memories for those who attended, offer those who missed Atlanta some food for thought, and whet everyone's appetite for next year's 43rd annual gala in St. Louis.
Bright beginnings. ASIS President Regis W. Becker, CPP, officially welcomed attendees to the ASIS 42nd Annual Seminar and Exhibits early Monday morning, calling it "the largest network of security professionals ever gathered under one roof."
A prestigious group of dynamic speakers brought political insights and visions of the future to each day's opening session. On Tuesday, Robert M. Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), delivered a power-packed speech before an appreciative audience.
Gates told seminar attendees that while the collapse of the Soviet Union may have diminished the threat of nuclear war, many other nations still threaten world peace. "After the Cold War, the United States slashed the federal budget and decreased the strength of its military, intelligence, and diplomacy operations," Gates said. "We acted on our faith and hope,... but that anticipated peace has given way to discord and conflict."
The career government official was adamant about the need for increased vigilance in intelligence gathering efforts from government, business, and industry, saying, "It is imperative for the American government to know about the military and human intelligence of threatening targets." Gates added that new targets would require a different kind of intelligence officer - one with more imagination and boldness in conducting clandestine activities.
The challenge for security professionals, the speaker said, is finding ways to increase legitimate information gathering on competitors. He encouraged the group to take seriously the threat of competing governments and companies as well as the physical security of employees abroad.
Gates also suggested that ASIS play an active role in changing the government's attitude about sharing intelligence information with private industry. "What intelligence gathers with 21st century techniques is still delivered [to executives] with 18th century technology, as if the electronic age never existed," he observed. By the same token, Gates said, "American business executives have much to learn about the loss of proprietary information.
On Wednesday, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger added his perspective on international issues. Eagleburger analyzed the post-Cold War world, which he viewed as far less predictable than the days of the U.S.U.S.S.R. rivalry.
One of the most serious issues of the next century is the spread of nuclear weapons, said Eagleburger. While the United States and the former Soviet Union aimed thousands of nuclear warheads at each other for almost fifty years, both countries understood the consequences of launching those weapons, which may not be the case with "rogue nations" that are acquiring such capabilities today.
Eagleburger also urged America to remain engaged with China, saying that such involvement has helped China slowly change over the past thirty years.
"The way we've improved human rights in China, as bad as it is, is through contact," Eagleburger said. "I believe that with economic liberalization, over time, will come political liberalization. You don't accomplish change by isolating your enemy."
Eagleburger defended the United Nations, saying that while the UN is not perfect, it provides a structure for the world's nations to solve problems. "If there were no UN, we'd have to invent one," Eagleburger said.
Eagleburger sprinkled his speech with both humor and a serious analysis of foreign affairs. For example, when one member of the audience asked Eagleburger to comment on two issues - the morality of the Clinton administration and the effects of terrorism on American freedoms - Eagleburger opted to answer the second question first. He started by saying that Americans are far less free today because of increased government regulations, adding that big government must understand the ramifications of new laws and regulations before rushing to pass them. "In regards to your first question," Eagleburger said, "it's been very nice talking to you, and thank you very much."