Client’s Challenge: Two Presidential Candidates, Several Debates, Multiple Security Vulnerabilities

It was a short conversation – in part, because Hillard Heintze’s bona fides were well known and watertight. The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates asked the firm to serve as its security liaison for a series of major national political debates.

“We’d like you to support and assist the law enforcement authorities and public safety officials,” said the organization’s Executive Director, “and, most importantly, serve as our trusted advisor in establishing and maintaining a secure environment for all spectators, dignitaries, media and other attendees. Help us reduce potential security vulnerabilities and ensure the uninterrupted continuity of the debates.”

Our Solution: Expert Protective Services in Support of the U.S. Secret Service

To meet this client’s needs, Hillard Heintze drew on its team’s experience as former law enforcement authorities and Special Agents of the U.S. Secret Service. It also relied on its knowledge of best practices in critical security domains such as physical security; inter-operability of communication equipment; existing plans, policies and procedures; key resource planning and coordination; and best practices in the mitigation, prevention, response to and recovery from a security-related incident.

Over the months and weeks leading up to the debates – as well as during the events themselves – Hillard Heintze coordinated with the U.S. Secret Service, state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies and served as a vital bridge of communication and trust between these agencies and the debate organization’s leaders and key personnel. Hillard Heintze also helped maintain the integrity of the established security perimeters of each site and ensured proper screening of all authorized personnel and vehicles with access to designated areas.

Impact on the Client: An Incident-Free Set of Debates

Each one of these debates unfolded without security incidents. None of the political candidates – or their staff, or media participants or audience members – were harmed or harassed. Every exchange between the moderator and the candidates, as well as the candidate’s answers, went unmarred by any security-related interruption. And the national viewership – measured in the millions by Nielsen Media Research – gained what they sought, in line with the organization’s mission: information that helped them select the candidate best aligned with their interests.

Unplugged: The Project Manager's Post-Engagement Perspective

“Ninety-five percent of the time, this is a quiet job, a discreet responsibility, a mission that unfolds primarily behind the scenes. Candidly, the lion’s share of your time is in planning and preparation.

You’re away from the glare of the media lights and the push-and- pull of leaders’ preferences and the urgent demands of their staff.

You’re defining protocols and then checking that they’re followed. You’re looking systematically for the weak link in the chain, the soft spot on the team, the tiniest wrinkle in the three-perimeter strategy that most haven’t noticed. You have to. Even a one percent failure rate could be catastrophic.”

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