ARLINGTON, VA--Antiterrorism officers (ATOs) and protection professionals from the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) and the Program Executive Offices (PEOs) gathered this week at the USAASC Protection Conference to discuss antiterrorism and protection issues, as well as develop a common operating architecture and standard level of training.

"As a Direct Reporting Unit [DRU], we are responsible for protection for the PEOs. They all have ATOs and protection officers within their organizations, and we bring them all together," said Harlow Peck, Antiterrorism Program Manager for USAASC.

This is the third Protection Conference sponsored by USAASC since it became an active DRU in 2007. This year’s conference had representatives from 10 of the 13 PEOs.

"Many of the ATOs have collateral duties in several different areas, and that's why we use this forum to discuss information about the various pillars of protection not just antiterrorism," Peck said.

Most people have a particular definition or meaning of what antiterrorism entails. The attendees at the Protection Conference went far beyond those perceived parameters and discussed a wide array of topics--ranging from personnel and building protection to natural disasters.

"There are different programs considered under the protection umbrella. We use an all-hazards approach," Peck explained. "What if an incident occurs during a snowstorm and your responders can’t get there? You have to be able to address those issues, know what’s going to happen, or at least have a plan and coordinate it with the first responders."

The conference had a comprehensive, collaborative effort with input from all attendees not only encouraged, but required. USAASC is currently building the protection program, and this was discussed at the conference in full. The attendees went through the program plan page by page, offering their input, edits, and ideas of what should be included. The same process was followed when discussing benchmarks, reviews, and assessments.

"Due to the uniqueness of the individual PEOs, you just can’t do a blanket policy. You have to have their input and make sure it is applicable to everyone. Sometimes we have one benchmark that is applicable to one PEO, but not to the other 12. That's the way you have to go about it to make sure that it’s fair across the board," Peck said.

That collaborative approach was a common theme throughout the conference that will lead to more effective planning and communication among all the antiterrorism professionals throughout USAASC and the PEOs.

"Because we don’t have the opportunity to get together that often, we tend to let the side conversations go instead of directing the presentations," Peck said. "We get more feedback and participation that way."