Maybe by writing this post I am confirming that I don’t have a lot of experiences tending many large conferences, but I felt like this should be discussed. There was a completely mind boggling lack of security at AUSA 2016 considering the clientele present.
I realize I certainly wasn’t the only veteran or security professional present so I’m most likely not the only one who took note of the security situation at AUSA. The Walter E. Washington convention center has a myriad of entry/exits for the two buildings. Floor plans can be found here for any interested parties.
For the sake of professional courtesy and sanctity of the welfare of future AUSA events in DC, I will not discuss specific parts of the security apparatus which included Washington DC police and contractors.
Entering AUSA, I noticed what appeared to be only one guard at each minor entrance to the two buildings being used for the event. The two main entrances were guarded by a variety of security professionals and had a dedicated staging area for VIP motorcades.
Upon voluntarily surrendering myself for registration and card issuance, I was a little shocked to notice that there were absolutely no screening procedures to go through. Zero. Attendees carrying backpacks and other large parcels weren’t searched or screened in any fashion. You could essentially bring in anything that was man portable with zero scrutiny. There was, however, a sign that instructed people to not bring weapons into the convention center.
On the event floor I was pleased to see watchful reps and most sensitive items cable locked to the displays they were sitting on. I did notice that Beretta had a rack of firearms that were seemingly left loose.
This simple construction rack, which extended to about head level, was filled with weaponry. On the bottom was what appeared to be a Cx4 9mm carbine and a GLX160 A1 just resting against the base. During my time in the industry I’d hear (relatively often) about people or companies who had gear swiped from expos or conferences. I figured you can’t stop every crime, but after seeing this display I understand why theft at these types of events occurs with some semblance of regularity.
I’d like to note that I didn’t ask the Beretta reps if these were functional devices or had been permanently or temporarily disabled. At the time of taking this photo all Beretta representatives had their backs turned towards me.
I returned the second day, more confident and knowing exactly where I wanted to go, and made a bee line through the main entrance with the many security professionals and police. Not a single person stopped me. I walked confidently, without my AUSA credentials displayed, in a suit with a large bag into the conference and nobody even questioned it. I only put my credentials on once I remembered that I didn’t don them in the exhibition hall, already having breezed past several security guards who were supposed to be ensuring that everyone was badged before entering further into the conference.
I mention this only because I believe that the morphology of terrorism is changing faster than our understanding and expertise is. I received zero scrutiny by any of the many security professionals I passed because I was dressed in a nice suit and walked confidently.
Furthermore, not that anyone was investigating thoroughly, the ID tag I received on one day was good for the next day as well. Considering that they are printed and folded from regular paper it would be incredibly easy to duplicate. Coupling this fact with no daily credential swaps leaves forging a pass quite easy.
This was not intended to be inflammatory towards Beretta or the event holders themselves. I fully understand threat mitigation and the realities of operating under budgets with big taskings. I hope this post will emphasize that we should never underestimate our importance as individuals in the industry and our own parts to play in being secure.