Between 1998 and 2001, Pentland served as thestudy coordinator for the US Commission on National Security/21stCentury, better known as the Hart-Rudman Commission. It was an attemptto independently study and prepare the United States for the nationalsecurity challenges of the 21st century, and the three reports itissued—the last one in January 2001—now seem eerily prescient.
“The commission looked at the future securityenvironment and how to structure the national security of the UnitedStates to meet that challenge,” Pentland recalled. “There had neverbeen a baseline analysis of the security of the United States. Welooked at every agency of the United States that had an impact onnational security.”
On a white board in Pentland’s office thecommission staff outlined the institutions, issues and needs affectingthe security of the continental United States.
“What we saw was this gaping hole in what wecalled ‘homeland security.’ What we did was outline the issues: borderissues, emergency response, etc. We looked at the needs. On the whiteboard of my office, we drew the first outline of what would become theDepartment of Homeland Security.”
But conceiving the department was the easypart: “Then we had a hell of a time selling it to the commission,”according to Pentland. “Everyone wanted to take the easy way out. Theysaid, ‘Put it in [the Department of Defense], put it in the WhiteHouse.’”
The staff, however, firmly believed in theirproposal for a cabinet-level department. “We got the commissioners onboard and they did an excellent job selling it on the Hill.”
But, of course, it was the events of Sept.11, 2001, that put the proposal on the fast track—that and the findingsof the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities forTerrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction—informally known as theGilmore Commission after its chairman, former Virginia Gov. JamesGilmore—which endorsed the idea. It didn’t hurt that Gilmore waschairman of the Republican National Committee, Pentland noted.
After leaving thecommission in 2001,Pentland went to Science Applications International Corp.,headquartered in San Diego, Calif., where he served as the company’sprogram manager, senior national security analyst and associatedirector of its aerospace center—a position that drew on more than 20years’ experience in the Air Force. Among his Air Forceaccomplishments, Pentland was the first pilot selected from training in1976 to fly the tank-killing A-10 Warthog and he served as deputyinspector general of the Pacific Command in 1997.
At a conference at the Broadmoor Hotel inColorado Springs, Colo., in October 2003, Pentland had dinner with thechief operating officer of USProtect, a newly formed security-servicescompany based in Silver Spring, Md. “By the end of dinner,
he offered me a job,” said Pentland, whoaccepted. In June, USProtect announced that Pentland was its executivevice president.
Among its security services, USProtectprovides physical security, guard-force protection, risk assessment andemergency-preparedness services to federal agencies and contractors. Ina short time, it has taken on responsibility for more than 100 USgovernment sites in the United States and abroad.
“It’s a very vibrant company,” Pentland said. Personally, he said, “I’m learning the security end of the security business.”
USProtect, Pentland pointed out, has high standards and an intense focus on its mission—unlike some of its competitors.
“Right now, any mom and pop can open a shopand say they’re security experts. We don’t want that. There will becompanies that offer everything. They bid low on contracts and thenthey have liens against them. But these kinds of mom-and-pops won’tsurvive,” he argued.
By contrast, “I want to see the standard comeup,” he said, and that’s the impact of USProtect on the industry ingeneral. Furthermore, he noted, “We’re an American-owned andAmerican-operated company”—in contrast to some of USProtect’scompetitors who are headquartered or were first founded overseas.
USProtect has come a long way in a shorttime. With Pentland in the executive suite, it will no doubt go furtherstill—and soon. HST