What’s a Threat Assessment?

Intelligence

Celebrations occur when a classified contract is awarded. As the contract manager, with clearance holding personnel, you want to go into action. If the system is working properly, you are deluged with various security and intelligence people from other agencies telling you things necessary for the success of you mission. What to do?

First, you need some help. You need personnel who can work with these outside experts to show how their advice applies, or not. This person(s) need not be a jack of all trades, but someone long conversant with the security and intelligence world. He needs to understand the language. Here’s why.

Understanding Contract Security Requirements Increasingly Important

One document you will be handed is the Threat Assessment. This document is prepared for you so that you will understand who is out to get your product, device, weapon, or component. It will also give a general overview of how they will try to do so. If they are terrorists, international spies, disaffected anti-government activists, criminals, or others, the Threat Assessment, created by the government, will advise you. It will cover their methods of collecting this information, such as theft, electronic monitoring, photography, elicitation, or similar. Based on what it says, you can properly create countermeasures, or where you alone can’t do it, you can reach out to the government itself to provide such a defense. (A simple example, spies threaten your project. Coordinate for an annual classified counterespionage briefing by the Defense Security Service or the FBI for your involved personnel).

It is easiest to understand something with examples from history; to show how they are supposed to work, or again, not. Consider the World War II German Vergeltung (Revenge) 1 and 2 rocket programs. These were the ‘secret weapons’ that Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels ominously warned would win the war for Nazi Germany. Had you been their program manager, you’d be confronted with many threats. What would your threat assessment have said? It would have said there are many spies who will try to steal information about the design and development of the V-weapons. In France, one German officer on vacation from the test site on the Baltic Sea was challenged by his French ‘girlfriend’. ‘I don’t believe you are so important’ she cooed. With that, he pulled a sheaf of documents from his briefcase, and showed her important designs. Ah, she shrugged. And later she photographed them all for shipment to the British through her underground group.

There is sabotage. Many of the V-weapon workers were slave laborers from concentration camps. They were certainly poised to act secretly to defeat a weapon for Hitler. Surveillance. A Polish observer noted a ‘giant torpedo’ on a flat car of a train which passed by, under an unsecured flapping tarpaulin. The secret Polish underground Home Army, created upon the collapse of the Polish government in 1939, reported the incident through their remarkable underground chain of command, and the data was passed to England. Insider threat. A special Polish Home Army Bureau recruited an Austrian anti-Nazi who, as a Wehrmacht soldier stationed at one of the major test sites at Usedom on the Baltic, rendered valuable reports. Then of course there is reverse engineering. The Home Army put out the word through its many links across the country, and soon farmers, homeowners, and special teams reported or collected crashed, undetonated, discarded and other parts of the V1 and V2. These were sent to engineers specially recruited by Polish aerial experts whose studies proceeded under the very eyes of the Nazi occupiers.

This example shows in concrete ways what types of information can be found in a Threat Assessment. You are authorized such information, and regular updates. This is normally coordinated through your servicing government counterintelligence officer. Of course, today threats are much more  sophisticated. There are cyber threats, and electromagnetic threats, to name just two. Ask for the threat documents you receive to be explained. It is informative, and will give you guidance on knowing who is out to get you, and how you can thwart them.

John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.

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