Missing and Dangerous: Poor Asset Management and Deadly Risks

Asset management becomes a gripping topic when expensive, vital or potentially dangerous items vanish from an organization’s inventory. The more dramatic losses present a clear threat to public safety, as when 2,000 encrypted two-way radios, disappeared from the inventory of the US Marshals Service (USMS) . Although discovered missing by the USMS in 2011, the loss was only made public when The Wall Street Journal obtained the official investigation report under the Freedom of Information Act.

Radio Silence: The United States Marshals Service

The USMS is charged with protecting federal judges and courts, apprehending federal fugitives, and protecting those in the Witness Security Program. It fields highly-trained, heavily-armed fugitive task force units in over 75 districts, where they aggressively pursue violent criminals. Rapid, secure, field-level communications lie at the heart of the US Marshals’ ability to fulfill its mission. Loss of such sensitive and vital equipment clearly jeopardizes that mission.

Not only do the lost radios have to be accounted for, but the USMS’s communications’ security protocols and encryption systems may need to be revisited and possibly reengineered from the ground up to prevent compromise. This will not be cheap: the original radios were valued at $6 million. Reworking security and communications’ protocols and providing new radios to potentially the entire USMS force can reasonably be assumed to cost much more than the original investment.

It was no daring daylight raid that took such valuable assets, but, in the words of the USMS Office of Strategic Technology, “It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property. In large part attributable to poor record keeping as a result of an older property management system, as opposed to equipment being lost.”

This may be true, but without a modern assets management system capable of generating immediate and accurate audit history and check-out reports over multiple locations, who can really say?

Too Many Guns: U.S. Department of the Interior, Park Police:

Another heavily armed United States government entity lost count of some of its deadlier assets. Following nationwide, surprise visits by the Interior Department’s Inspector General, The United States Park Service’s U.S. Park Police were unable to account for a surplus of 1,400 weapons – including handguns, rifles and shotguns that weren’t listed in inventories. Of these extra weapons, 198 were thought to have come from the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco and were thought to have been destroyed. One rifle was located in the home of a U.S. Park Police officer assigned to security for the Presidential Inauguration. Where the other 1,201 guns came from was unclear.

As with the United States Marshals Service, the U.S. Park Police (USPP) were no strangers to lack of asset control: the Inspector General had reported the same issues in the preceding three years. Reported the Inspector General:

Our efforts to definitively address the allegations were hindered by a failure of the USPP property and firearms custodians to provide a baseline inventory and accounting of firearms. We found credible evidence of conditions that would allow for theft and misuse of firearms, and the ability to conceal the fact if weapons were missing.

Commanders, up to and including the chief of [Park] police, have a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management. Historical evidence indicates that this indifference is a product of years of inattention to administrative detail and management principles.

The USPP firearm’s inventory was a manual system – dependent upon software spreadsheets, handwritten ledgers, and prone to error. Issued in June, 2013, the Inspector General’s report did not include a recommendation for an automated assets management system. It was merely a call for more accurate record keeping.

Loose Nukes: US Department of Defense

Worrisome safety issues arise from governmental mismanagement of tactical communications systems and firearms’ assets. However, the ultimate level of asset management failure was touched upon recently by the Communications Analyses and Training Corporation(CTAC) in its 2013 case study, Review of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Weapons Related Material.

The Department of Defense misidentified nuclear weapons systems’ components with missile components within its packaging and inventory system. This triggered a review of nuclear weapons sites to verify full accountability of [nuclear] weapons-related parts and that the parts were under sufficient control to prevent an inadvertent transfer or loss. The results of the review haven’t and probably won’t become public knowledge, but the chillingly understated problem is clearly a failure of asset management.

Dramatic as these examples are, they illustrate the inherent shortcomings of legacy manual auditing systems; which are labor intensive, time consuming, and prone to error. Public and private organizations that fail to take advantage of well-regarded, state-of-the art asset management software, such as Wasp’s MobileAsset, risk losing fixed asset accountability. If you don’t know the location and status of your fixed assets, you don’t have control of them.  And, as we’ve seen in the above cases, ill-managed assets can easily be lost, stolen, underreported, or misreported.

Taking Control of Your Assets

Asset management software lets you monitor all aspects of the lifecycle of your organizations’ assets, from acquisition and commissioning, to maintenance and deployment, and through to decommissioning and replacement. Regular and ad hoc management information reports on location, status, and condition are easily structured, summarized, and shared.

With MobileAsset Pro , you can easily and directly enter new acquisitions into your asset database, getting it right the first time and preventing erroneous data from corrupting your management information. MobileAsset uses the proven and robust Microsoft SQL database to give you immediate, reliable, and secure information on your fixed assets.

Organizations that rely on Wasp Asset Management Systems range from small to large, from public to private. Several public safety agencies depend upon WASP in their mission to serve and protect. The City of Dallas, for example, helps manage their critical fire and emergency systems, including bomb control robots, with WASP Asset Management systems. Paladin Private Security, in Sacramento, tracks their strategic vehicles with WASP technology.

WASP’s Philosophy

We give our clients the true sense of security that comes with having firm control over their most critical resources. We offer free, online training, unlimited technical support, and a 30-day, unconditional money back guarantee.

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter