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Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Addresses Sobel & Co. Executive Women’s Breakfast

Jackie Schatell

Monday, January 13, 2014 • 6:55am

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Last Thursday, Sobel & Co., a Livingston-based accounting and consulting firm, hosted an Executive Women’s Breakfast for professionals and entrepreneurs, in which Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Field Office, Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service, Cynthia Rubendall Wofford, addressed the audience on, "Can Being 'Worthy of Trust and Confidence' Be Gender Neutral?"

Sobel & Co. hosts these events six times a year at the Eisenhower Corporate Campus, in which more than 150 professionals network and listen to inspirational speakers. In lieu of a fee, attendees are asked to donate to a specific cause. On Jan. 9, attendees donated items for the American Heart Association’s Garden State Go Red for Women Luncheon that is taking place on May 12.

Wofford opened up her presentation by sharing her experiences as a Senior Executive in a federal law enforcement agency with the audience and explained what the Secret Service does.

“The Secret Service does a lot really well, but one thing it does not do well is brag,” said Wofford at the beginning of her discussion. “In fact, many people in my family don’t even understand what I do,” she said with a laugh.

According to Wofford there are two sides to the house—while the Secret Service does protect the President, his family, heads of state and government, and anyone the president says to protect, as well as his multiple residences, the vice president and his extended family, and others in the government, they also work to combat counterfeiting. Wofford shared that there are currently 30 such permanent protected individuals.

“Originally, in 1865, President Lincoln signed an order for the Secret Service to combat counterfeiting, not protect the president,” said Wofford. “Ironically, that is the day he was assassinated,” she added.

Wofford said that it wasn’t until 1901, when the 25th President, William McKinley, who was also later assassinated, was president that the Secret Service began to not only protect people from counterfeiting, financial crimes, and bank fraud, etc., but that they began to also protect the president.

In fact, Wofford said that the Secret Service was under the Department of the Treasury until 2003, when it was moved to fall under Homeland Security. Now, since the Patriot Act, Wofford said that the agency is responsible for investigating anything that can affect the finances of the United States.

Wofford explained that the Secret Service is a small organization, with 6,600 employees—in which 3,400 are agents. The others make up the uniformed division of administrative and technological employees, such as lawyers and forensics workers, etc. There are 142 domestic offices across the country, 24 of which are on foreign soil and 64 percent of all employees work on the investigation side of the house.
    
She said that when agents are not actively protecting the president or a head of state, they are working on pressing situations such as the recent hacking episode at Target.

“The Secret Service was a big player in the 1984 savings and Loan situation and also helped design the security features of the new $100 bill,” said Wofford.

Wofford said there are many other situations they watch and offered advice to ATM users by saying, “Pull on the part where the ATM card is inserted into the machine to make sure there is no skimmer [something thieves place there to capture user’s ATM information].”

The audience also learned that another duty that falls to the Secret Service is protective intelligence—ion which the agents do surveillance very early on, way before an event is to take place.

“We are there in plain clothes looking for the things that should be knowable,” she said. “We look to see where there are vulnerable places where we should place officers and where there are people who may be testing security measures and are acting like they are going through a magnetic area but instead are looking to see what types of people are singled out or waved through. We look to see who is watching us—we do counter surveillance.”

Wofford also explained that her agency is not charged with collecting intelligence, but that it makes use of the intelligence collected by the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.

In addition, Wofford said she was involved in the Safe School Initiative where the agency took what it learned about school shooters and began teaching educators and those involved in school safety what prior behaviors to look for and how to improve safety. She said that in most instances the agency had learned that the episodes were planned, the shooters sought weapons from family members, and other avenues, and that there is no one type of profile for such a shooter. She also said that many times the shooter did in fact tell someone, usually a kid, who either didn’t take them seriously, thought they were joking, or was a afraid to speak out.

“Trying to get kids to tell adults has been key in preventing violence in schools,” said Wofford.

Wofford also told the audience that she has travelled the globe more than once, has protected President Obama and other heads of state including the President of Korea.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself and say ‘did I just travel overseas with the president,’” said Wofford.

The audience asked her where she was during 911.

“There are two days I will never forget—911, and the day of the Oklahoma Bombing,” said Wofford. “I was leading a talk on school safety for many police chiefs, as well as two high-ranking intelligence officers and we heard the news that a plane hit the first World Trade Center building as it was happening, just like everyone else—and we then just went into gear.”
    
Wofford was also asked if she had ever felt any gender challenges as a woman.

“In 1971 there were some senior female officers in executive protection services,” said Wofford. “In 1987, when I became one, there were 2000 agents and I was one of 80 women. So, while there are still not as many women as men, there are many women in the field.”

“I never felt I had to work harder as a woman—it’s just that genetically I am a hard driver, I am just driven,” said Wofford, who grew up in a blue collar family with three bothers where she was never told that there was anything she couldn’t do.

Then, as an afterthought, she said, “I am perhaps feeling it now, as I look to retire. As I look to see what I will do next, I realize that people in the private sector really don’t know all I have done. I have done the same as men. I have used a gun, etc.”

To this point—earlier in Wofford’s discussion, she explained how once during a situation involving the entering of a building, where she was the fifth in line and was holding the shot gun, that out of the corner of her eye she saw a 5-year-old on a nearby playground saying, “She’s the man.”

About Sobel and Co.
Sobel Partner and Chief Growth Strategist, Sally Glick, and Marketing Manager, Colleen Logan, have been organizing events like this for the past several years. Breakfasts are attended by a diverse group of business woman that are involved in a plethora of industries. From Attorneys to Corporate Art Consultants and everything in between, these ladies are afforded an opportunity to network and to be enriched by one another’s expertise.

For information on the next Executive Women’s Breakfast, contact Sally Glick at (973) 994-9494 or via email at sally.glick@sobel-cpa.com.

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