AA Security has provided security solutions for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) across the last three years now, including protection regimes for the North Luffenham and Abingdon Barracks.

We seem to have done pretty well, too, if this quote from Major K D Radwell (Second in Command, 16th Regiment RA) is anything to go by… “AA Security has continued to meet the stringent requirements of its current MoD contract in North Luffenham. The fact that we selected the company over and above a strong field of competitors was proof of its flexibility to adapt and willingness to improve. The staff are highly motivated and, with the support of the company, keen to further their professional and personal development.”

Major Radwell continued: “At all levels of management there’s open and honest dialogue resulting in speedy conflict resolution and a proactive response to feedback. Based upon the company’s performance to date, I would have no hesitation in recommending them for further work in this field.

The most difficult of public sector contracts to secure

Contracts of this type are among the most difficult to secure within the public sector, as the MoD branch responsible for the tender process ‘Commercial: In Confidence’ undertakes a very stringent investigative analysis of all who approach the organisation for contracts.

The mandatory finance audits, quality assurance testing and Health and Safety analyses required for most public sector contracts are only part of a process that’s elongated by specific requirements and meticulous in terms of detail.

For instance, when service providers come to complete the tender documentation for these contracts, the MoD makes it compulsory that organisations endorse a commitment to professionally develop all potential employees to be deployed on site to a full NVQ Level 2 standard.

Some might say that’s no real landmark. However, this learning stipulation surpasses many other commercial and public sector organisations, and sets a rather refreshing precedent (something that I have been championing for our industry in its entirety).

Moreover, it could be argued that an opportunity to incorporate this training practice in the first cycle of re-licensing has been overlooked by our industry Regulator, the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

Environmental and CSR credentials

The contract also required organisations to demonstrate their environmental, innovation and technology and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. This recognition of the need to reduce the collective carbon footprint is an element of the MoD’s tendering process that’s worthy of some accolade. This from an organisation not conventionally expected to be concerned with miasma.

The MoD is taking a lead role in filtering out insouciant companies and cascading a message of responsibility.

This need for commercial accountability is echoed in the MoD’s elucidation of organisations with a strong CSR ethic, and quite commensurate with the strong local focus that has made MoD units participative – if not to say intrinsic – to large community events, while at the same time emitting a palpable charitable presence.

AA Security is also an organisation with a tangible community image. We organise the local Redbridge Carnival, and our management team is now indispensable to many local police, Council and community initiatives. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we won the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ category at the 2007 Docklands Business Club Awards.

With regard to innovation and technology, private sector security companies now find themselves in a position whereby they must be able to provide integrated security solutions if they are to survive. Many are now also using GPS tracking systems functioning through mobile telephones or real-time patrol manager systems, workable through online Control Centre software that’s accessible to clients by way of pass-coded secure access.

Yes, these technologies and systems empower clients and contractors alike. However, few if any other companies other than ourselves have installed photovoltaics (otherwise known as solar panels) that provide 75% of their annual general electricity consumption and are all linked to a UPS. Is this unique in the industry? It’s certainly a reflection of our organisation’s ethical green stance, and a commitment to long term strategy and contingency planning.

Environmental and CSR factors have become a stronger and more welcome focal point within the much improved and continuously enhanced SIA Approved Contractor Scheme. This is, however, a voluntary accreditation, and our industry practitioners are still unclear in respect of the term CSR.

At a recent SIA public meeting, I remember an officer from a leading security organisation talking of supervisory visits, internal audits and BS EN IS0 9001 when he was asked to present on the subject. I have offered my services to the SIA, and hope the Regulator will give me an opportunity to readdress and highlight the more advanced concepts of ‘sustainable development’ practice.

In the meantime, we’ll rely on organisations such as the MoD and a number of local councils to push forward the agenda to our industry in a more forcible manner by dint of setting a ‘Good Practice Demonstration’ criteria for tendering companies.

Counter-terrorism checks and Baseline vetting

One other important factor relating to MoD tendering is the need to undergo counter-terrorism checks and Baseline vetting for all employees. This is an involved and rather detailed process that’s undertaken by the MoD and throws many hurdles in the pathway of potential contractors.

The Baseline application researches immigration status, Right to Work and three personal references. Two of the references can be from anyone who doesn’t reside at the same address, while one must be a professional reference from either an educational establishment or an employer.

There’s a catch, however. The applicant must have been residing in the UK for at least three years. This process is to be facilitated by the awarded security contractor, irrespective of screening practices deployed within the requirement for BS 7858:2006 and BS 7499:2007, and must be approved by an authorised MoD on-site representative.

The CTC application is significantly more stringent than the Baseline checks, and requires a history check on relatives of potential recruits (ie parents and children, etc). It limits certain travelling (ie to countries with a proclivity for terrorism) and also incorporates a deeper financial analysis.

The process is very intensive, and security contractors that have been through it will be well aware of the logistical burdens placed on their Human Resources function. If you think the SIA requirements are tough you really will find this too much to take, and should probably steer clear of a process that could become unfruitful.

This process is undertaken by the Defence Vetting Agency and its decision is final without recourse to appeal. It can take up to two months, and late rejections may cause serious recruitment burden. Hence, it would be advantageous and rather astute to ensure that the potential candidates for deployment are in excess of logistical need and that an approved reserve force to cater for unforeseen and planned absences is calibrated from the outset.

Lifelong training and the MoD

Finally, I should remark on the extremely laudable lifelong training practices undertaken by the MoD. We are aware that its military staff are frequently up-skilled and have access to a wide range of courses external to the organisation. If the MoD decided to hire out its security services to the commercial sector, many organisations in our sector would not have a chance!

Too many of our lead protagonists have a ‘minimise costs’ perspective rather than a more encompassing focus on training. As I say, we’ve been working in tandem with the MoD, and ensured that our staff have been rostered in a manner that compliments cross-pollination training. This flexibility has resulted in several military-specific training courses in searching and operational practices, culminating in a more integrated and collaborative effort to reduce breaches of security

The SIA definitely missed a trick when it came to the recent re-licensing of security operatives and management. Although the Regulator has covered some ground in the potential physical intervention requirement for door supervisors in the third round of licensing (with the potential for panic ensuing before the Olympics?!), it has still to set any new targets for other security disciplines.

Personally, I hope the modular training routes proposed at various SIA meetings will come to fruition as I can see no better way to proceed with the future training remit for our industry.

The Institute of Leadership and Management

In the meanwhile, as an organisation we have now attained Institute of Leadership and Management status to provide leadership and management training for our potential and deployed supervisors and members of the holistic senior management team. I know for a fact that this development impressed the MoD at tender stage. We are also unique in the security sector in terms of our attainment of a Leadership and Management Accreditation hosted by Investors in People.