Countering risks before they become threats

  • Published
  • By Michele Ruff
  • Air Force Materiel Command

The term “insider threat” often brings to mind images of men in dark suits, who hide in closets while printing out classified information by the suitcase-full. It’s usually much more subtle than that.

When supervisors and coworkers see illegal or even questionable activity at work, in social media posts or at off-base events, it is their duty to report it.  However, many are hesitant to make a report that might damage a career based on a hunch or a solitary outburst.

That’s where the new Prevention Assistance and Response system comes in.

“People don’t wake up one day and decide to intentionally betray their country,” said Jackson Tittle, Counter-Insider Threat (C-InT) representative for the Air Force Materiel Command. “A threat more often evolves gradually from other seemingly minor problems that lead down a negative path and eventually affect judgement and actions.”

The Department of Defense, and the Air Force in particular, has a vast system of helping agencies to ensure Airmen and Guardians stay fit in all areas of their lives including mentally, socially, spiritually, physically and financially. PAR is a DoD effort to unite the programs and efforts already in place in order to mitigate issues early.

The PAR strategy is to encourage supervisors to get subordinates the help they need immediately upon identification. PAR should be the first step for supervisors when a subordinate is having personal problems, such as a divorce or substance abuse, so that small problems don’t build into security issues that have to be reported.

The DoD began a discussing a PAR working group several years ago, but with the increased focus on extremism and pandemic-related issues, program managers were forced to postpone implementation efforts. The Headquarters AFMC team approached the Air Force C-InT oversite office and offered to kick-start the program in the command.

“I commend the AFMC team for leaning in and starting this program,” said Josh Reese, Program Manager for Policy and Oversight, Department of the Air Force C-InT. “The program will provide many benefits to both individuals and the Air Force as a whole.”

Tittle and the C-InT team partnered with the AFMC Community Action Team to take inventory of available resources and how they could work together to build an effective process focused on early intervention before problems occur.

The new CAT sub-working group consists of subject matter experts from the command team including legal, civilian personnel, the chaplains’ office, suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention, the Employee Assistance Program, physical fitness activities and health services such as mental health and substance abuse programs. The team met for the first time in August to discuss next steps.

“Our goal is to get the resources already available to our Airmen early – before a negative outcome happens,” said Jennifer Treat, AFMC Chief, Integrated Prevention and Resilience. “We are good at being reactive, but this program shifts the focus to proactively fixing problems before they even start. Although the group is in its infancy, I’m enthusiastic about its success.”

Anticipating problems and quickly finding solutions before they worsen can not only keep an Airmen’s career safe and flourishing, but it also helps to retain manning for the mission.  A good working relationship between those who help keep our Airmen on track and those who keep extremism in check is essential to the security of our country.

September is National Insider Awareness Month, so be on the lookout for more information on upcoming PAR events and initiatives as the group goes into action. Remember, “Detect, detour and mitigate.”