Scott Broyles plots the best future for Safe Skies

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on the National Safe Skies Alliance that is headquartered next to the Knoxville Airport.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Scott Broyles spends a good deal of his time thinking about individual and organizational leadership – trends, traits and tactics.

“Companies that are successful must have a mix of both evolutionary and revolutionary thinking,” the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Safe Skies Alliance believes. He describes the former as “how we grow” and the latter as “new and unlike anything before.”

Over the past three years, Broyles has applied this thinking to the restructuring of Safe Skies with the ultimate goal of “creating a culture where both evolutionary and revolutionary thinking exists.”

Today, Safe Skies has embarked on a new initiative called the Program for Applied Research in Airport Security (PARAS). It reflects Broyles belief that great organizations must seek opportunities to serve their constituents in new and innovative ways. .

The CEO and I have met for lunch once or twice a quarter for the past two years, discussing leadership from a variety of perspectives. Broyles just recently earned his Master of Arts in Civic Leadership from Lipscomb University in Nashville.

“Over time it became abundantly clear that what we were doing would not suffice,” he explained us in a recent interview. “To survive, much less thrive, we had to change in a very big way.”

Broyles remembers the situation clearly.

“We’re going to reorganize,” he recalls telling the organization’s 75 employees.  Financial uncertainty and the lack of a clear mission were the drivers in a painful process to dramatically reduce staff to 15 employees.

Broyles established four priorities. The first was financial stability. The staff reductions allowed Safe Skies to align its expenses with available funding at the time.

A second priority was innovation, a goal best reflected in the new PARAS initiative, but also an integral part of everything Safe Skies does.

The other two goals were to secure ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification and to increase membership. In the case of the latter, Broyles proudly notes that membership has increased 400 percent in the three-year period.

Today, Safe Skies is on solid footing and actually gradually hiring new staff.

The organization’s best known initiative is the Airport Security System Integrated Support Testing Program, better known as ASSIST.

“It is the Consumer Reports Digest for airport security technology,” Broyles says in explaining ASSIST.

The three-level, “soup-to-nuts” program is funded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Level 1 is basic research on airport security, while Level 2 involves testing equipment in individual airports.

“We write a comprehensive report on the performance of applicable technologies, but don’t make specific recommendations,” Broyles explains.  “Ultimately, the airports choose which technology works best for them after considering additional criteria such as cost and relative use.”

The third level is what he describes as a “lifecycle analysis after the deployment of security equipment” where airports can clearly see how a technology is performing over time.  Doing so helps them budget properly and based on performance degradation, consider re-capitalization.

A second initiative is the FAST (Find Airport Security Technology) Resource Center, which Broyles describes as a database “helping airports learn about and locate perimeter, access control, and biometric technologies that meet their specific needs.” It is available to all airports, too.

The newest initiative is PARAS which we will discuss in the second article in this series.

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