By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 11, 2023) -- This week, more than two dozen prevention assistance and response professionals participated in training at Quantico, Virginia, to enhance their ability to prevent workplace violence at 17 military installations.
The 2009 active shooter event at Fort Hood, Texas -- now known as Fort Cavazos -- resulted in the deaths of 13 individuals. It was a devastating blow to the military community, and it raised questions about how better to prevent workplace violence and identify insider threats to military and national security.
Prompted in part by that event and others, the Defense Department last year stood up the Prevention Assistance and Response program, which falls under the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency headquartered at Quantico.
The PAR program puts trained professionals on military installations to assist commanders in preventing and addressing workplace violence and other types of insider threat concerns.
"On the prevention side, this ranges from military community briefings and outreach, education and training on reporting and indicators of violence to help individuals understand when problems may be arising," said Dave Paravecchia, chief of the DOD PAR division.
Paravecchia said, PAR professionals are expected to work closely with prevention and human resources experts to ensure military and civilian leaders are aware of various services, such as financial planning, marriage counseling, and other employee assistance programs. These programs address some of the issues that, if left unaddressed, might lead some employees to act out with violence, he said.
"With response, if the PAR coordinators learn that an individual is beginning to escalate further down the path of violence, they will work closely with law enforcement, security, and leadership to better understand the risk and help develop potential mitigation measures to stop the threat," Paravecchia said.
At the military installations where DOD has placed a PAR professional, Paravecchia said commanders can expect those individuals to be attuned to workplace violence issues within their organizations and communities.
"The PAR professional will also gather information, work with other stakeholders and members of the staff to develop a holistic assessment of what they know and make recommendations to raise awareness, assist with leader decision making, and help prevent and reduce risk," he said. "The end goal is help stop people from making career-ending decisions, from hurting their fellow military community members, maintain unit readiness and enhance unit cohesion."
The DOD currently has 29 PAR personnel hired who are now assigned to 12 joint military installations along with five service-specific installations. Paravecchia said the program expects to hire 13 more PAR professionals this fiscal year and an additional 10 next fiscal year.
The current PAR professionals, Paravecchia said, were hired from within the federal government both inside and outside DOD, state law enforcement, and the private sector. Many, he said, come from counterintelligence, law enforcement and security communities.
"People gravitate to these positions because in many ways it naturally lines up with their previous careers of addressing risk and expands their experiences," Paravecchia said. "The transition many will make in this position is to understand their greater role in the prevention and assistance portion of their mission versus just responding to danger."
During the recent training at Quantico, Paravecchia said, the PAR professionals gathered to learn about various prevention, assistance and response programs and about partner requirements so they can be better equipped to work collaboratively at the installation level.
"Specific to workplace violence, the PAR cadre are trained on indicators of violent behaviors, friction points in an individual's life which may be influencing their behaviors and actions, data aggregation, threat and risk assessment, subject professional judgement tools, coping mechanisms, available services and other mitigation measures that can be implemented by military and civilian leaders to help move someone off the path of violence," Paravecchia said.
The PAR program is relatively new, and Paravecchia said it will go through a yearlong assessment as it moves through the three phases of initial operating capability, implementing the tasks associated with each phase until it meets full operational capability in the first quarter of fiscal year 2025.
"From there, we will continue to look to mature the PAR program in collaboration with our stakeholders in prevention, law enforcement, security and insider threat to decrease prevalence on the different installations," Paravecchia said. "Over time, we will also shape various metrics that will not only help highlight the return on investment for this program, but also improve awareness for leaders where workplace violence issues may exist within different subordinate commands and organizations."