Get to Know Robert Graves, Our Regional Director of Security for Greater Washington

Federation is pleased to introduce Robert Graves, our community’s Regional Director of Security with Secure Community Network (SCN), the official security and safety organization of the American Jewish community. We sat down with Robert to learn more about his role and the efforts he’s overseeing to keep our community secure.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I grew up in Nashville, TN. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, I served for a decade as a Military Intelligence Officer in the US Army, with assignments in Germany, Ft. Bragg, NC, and Italy. From there, I joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where my career brought me from the Atlanta office to conducting counterintelligence, counterproliferation, and other national security investigations. I have served as a member of the FBI’s Undercover and Behavioral Analysis programs, managed national security undercover operations at FBI Headquarters in Washington, conducted risk of violence assessments for sensitive operations, and led a unit managing complex and sensitive domestic and international investigations. Before retiring from the FBI, I led teams investigating national security threats, including terrorism, in the Houston office. I returned to DC in 2017 to work as a law enforcement, counterintelligence, and cybersecurity advisor for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

What interested you in taking the lead on security for our Greater Washington Jewish community?

As I prepared to retire from the FBI after 30 years of public service, I wanted to continue contributing to the community. I was particularly interested in providing security advice and support to non-profit and non-governmental organizations, which are often underserved. I wanted to make a direct contribution to the safety and security of the community. When I learned of the Secure Community Network and its work to secure the Jewish community – my community – I knew I had found the opportunity I had been looking for.

How is The Jewish Federation supporting local security needs?

Through its partnership with SCN, The Jewish Federation is bringing more resources to bear for the safety and security of the community. Through information sharing, security awareness, training, and security consultation, Federation and SCN strive to empower individuals and organizations to establish a culture of awareness, preparedness, and resilience. Most recently, Federation has established a Security Task Force to assess our Washington-area community’s security needs and to identify resources to address those needs. I’m proud to be part of the SCN team that will help guide this Task Force in their work.

What is the most important thing that individuals or Jewish organizations can/should do to keep themselves safe and secure in today’s unpredictable environment?

First, be aware of your surroundings. In his book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker talks about the importance of paying attention to the signals of our innate survival instincts and acting on them. In the FBI, I learned that lesson well – when something seems wrong or out of place, do something about it, avoid the danger, and report it.

Second, use simple, no cost/low cost measures to prevent bad things from happening. Simple crime prevention measures, such as keeping doors and windows in good repair, having properly secured, sustainable visitor policies, and maintaining an active relationship with local law enforcement can go a long way towards ensuring the safety of members and staffs.

Lastly, developing emergency response plans and ensuring all members of your family or organization are familiar with them is critical. We all think about what to do when the little things in life go wrong, like having a flat tire or getting sick. We should give the same thought to those worst-case scenarios as well. By thinking about contingencies, preparing for them, and planning our responses and actions, we empower ourselves, become more confident in our ability to handle crises, and recover from them more readily should they come to pass.

What are your goals moving forward?

In the near term, I want to get to know the breadth of the community and its security needs as much as possible and for them to get to know me. I also want them to know that Federation, SCN, and I are here as resources. Ours is one of the largest Jewish communities in the nation and that presents some unique challenges. I have begun meeting with congregations and organizations, and I am looking for venues in which to meet as many as I can in a short period.

Longer term, I want to help every local organization develop its own security plans and programs. This will be an on-going and continuous process. Security programs are their most effective when they are developed and implemented by the community they are designed to protect. Along with my SCN colleagues, I can provide security expertise to each congregation, organization, and agency to help them develop their own, customized programs to meet their unique needs.