THE MAGAZINE

Security Becoming Less of a Luxury

By Michael Gips

There’s a well-known Monty Python sketch in which four successful Yorkshiremen compete to prove that they suffered the most humble upbringing. When one of the four boasts of growing up in a tiny tumbledown house with holes in the roof, another counters that his whole family lived packed in a single room. The four men keep one-upping each other by claiming to live in increasingly improbable locations: a corridor, an old water tank, a hole in the ground, a lake, a shoebox, and a paper bag in a septic tank. Even upon hearing the ludicrous extreme of living in a septic tank, one of the men shouts “Luxury!”

Sometimes it seems that security directors are in the same situation, competing to see who can craft the best program given meager resources. After a brief post–9-11 surge, security budgets suffered, taking a big hit during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. In those years, corporate boards, CEOs, and CFOs, looking to cut costs and create efficiencies, often viewed security as a drag on the bottom line. One can almost imagine a CSO telling a fellow CSO how he shrank the security budget, only to hear in response, “You have security beyond compliance? Luxury!”

To be sure, security budgets still face serious pressure, but since 2011, security spending is again on the increase. Healthy growth is projected in both operational and IT security through 2017. (Operational security includes physical security, intelligence, antifraud, investigations, and other elements that don’t fall under IT or cyber.)

This forecast comes from an upcoming 2014 survey and report prepared by ASIS International and the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM) called The United States Security Industry: Size and Scope, Insights, Trends, and Data, 2014-2017. The document updates the original 2012 ASIS/IOFM survey, which projected spending only to 2013.

The most recent data shows a surge of spending on security goods and services from 2013 to 2014: private-sector spending jumped from $282 million in 2012 to $319 billion in 2013 to a projected $341 billion in 2014, a 20 percent increase over two years. Including federal homeland security budget items, total spending on security goods and services in 2014 tops $400 billion. By way of contrast, in 2013 the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that U.S. educational services generated $324 billion, utilities accounted for $401 billion, and arts, entertainment, and recreation—including gaming—generated $277 billion in revenue. That puts the security industry in powerful company.

And there’s reason for optimism looking forward. The data, which derives from surveys completed by 479 security end users, manufacturers, and service providers, augurs $377 billion in private sector security spending in 2015, another 10 percent year-over-year increase.

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