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Postulated Threat and Understanding the Adversary


Unfortunately, in the world today we face threats in many areas of our daily lives. As security professionals, it is essential that we know, analyze and mitigate the threats that we face to the greatest extent possible.

I have spent more than 30 years in the business of security, the majority of that within the United States Department of Defense, but in the civilian sector I have found that threat management is not too dissimilar. It is in this capacity that I have discovered one of the best ways to understand and mitigate the threat you face in any aspect of your life is by looking at the risk from a postulated perspective.

From my experience, managing the threat and the design basis threat, is easiest when you put it all into perspective and develop the best possible way to understand your potential adversary; whether your adversary is in the corporate environment, on the roadway, on the playing field or in a high-threat travel/operational location.

First, we need to determine what is a postulated threat? The dictionary defines postulated as a form of postulate;

  • Verb: suggest or assume the existence of fact, or truth as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief
  • Noun: a thing suggested or assumed as true as the basis for reasoning, discussion or belief

So, in essence a postulated threat is based on something that you know or assume to be true with which you determine the best course of action for mitigation.

What do we need to know or understand about the threat we face? One of the first things you should determine is the number or the commonality of identified groups both in observed and potential strength, specifically in the environment of your operations.

Identified groups are a collection of people determined to likely attempt overt or covert aggression against your location or operation. Some of the variables you should use to determine the potential of aggression are:

  1. Presence in the area
  2. Intent to target operation
  3. Capacity for success against operations
    a. Tactics, techniques or procedures
  4. Capabilities projected during previous activity

One method you can use to assist in gathering this type of intelligence is including as many stakeholders as possible in the affected area to share different sources and experiences.

Once you have gathered intelligence, training is the next logical step. How do we train ourselves to help ensure the best possible opportunity for success in the corporate world, on the playing field or in our everyday lives? We practice, practice, practice. Tried and true methods of preparation are to develop plausible scenarios that our competition may use against us and train ourselves for those postulated activities. There are four key things you must consider to maximize your training efforts:

  1. Understand fully the environment and any considerations needed for success
  2. Consider how your adversary’s vulnerabilities may be exploited based on demonstrated or assessed capabilities
  3. Determine desired intent – theirs and yours
  4. Develop scenarios based on all this information and train yourself and your personnel for success

You may be thinking that this sounds too much like a military aspect of threat management, however I would argue that you can incorporate this into everyday life. In business, you need to know the capabilities of your competition when it comes to sales, contracts and hiring practices. On the playing field, you certainly need to study your opponent’s capabilities to enable your team to develop the best solutions based on your understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. In a high-threat travel/operational environment, all of this will help you survive a situation with the best possible outcome based on your understanding and preparation.

Wayne Tackett, is the Deputy Director of International Biosecurity and Biosafety Programs for AT-RISK International. In this role, he develops and implements biosecurity tactics, techniques and procedures. Mr. Tackett has over 35 years of experience with interpretation, analysis, training and implementation of biological and nuclear-related security concepts in the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as well as the private sector. He has authored DoD-level security manuals and regulations.



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