Industry: An Essential Contributor to Security

Sep 15, 2006

There is no more important role for government than the security of its homeland and the safety of its citizens.

While government is ultimately accountable for a nation’s safety, it is by no means exclusively responsible for it. The private sector shares this responsibility and must be an integral contributor to the government’s national security framework for the ­following three reasons:

  • Business is flexible and has proven problem-solving capacity. The pace at which destructive elements in the world are devising new and ever more daring and sophisticated methods to disrupt and unsettle western societies requires the nimble and innovative private ­sector to engage fully in support of Canada’s long-term security interests;
  • Business is motivated by self-interest. The devastating economic and employment consequences that would be triggered through a terrorist-related disruption to North American transportation and port systems, critical infrastructure, food, health, energy, financial or telecommunications networks suggests that the business community has a vested interest to be fully engaged in security-related problem solving;
  • Business opportunities abound in a world looking for risk mitigation tools against non-traditional, non-state related threats. The magnitude of current-day security challenges, be they related to detection, surveillance, intelligence, communications, data fusing, biometrics, improvised explosive devices or CBRN mitigation, offer unprecedented opportunities for business solutions.

Continuing terrorist attempts, like the one leading to the recent airline-related arrests in the U.K., vividly remind us of the determination of those intent on wreaking havoc on western societies. Canada is not immune from these threats and must remain both vigilant and prepared. As an industrialized country, we have the inherent capacity and duty to contribute to international stability and greater North American security as it relates to external and homegrown threats or natural disasters.

Is the federal government fully utilizing the skills, innovation and resources embedded in the private sector to address Canada’s security priorities? CADSI members see little evidence of this. Significant investments have been made through Public Safety (PSEPC) and Canada’s various security agencies, but little program money has found its way into the private sector.

To date, the government has not articulated the capabilities it needs from Canada’s defence and security industrial base. If it did so, there would be a place for homegrown technologies, equipment and services that target long-term strategic Canadian interests related to its maritime environment and northern sovereignty objectives, its urban communities, shared border with the United States, its rich energy resources and the global telecommunications and financial networks that connect us.

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) encourages the government to engage the private ­sector as a key partner in safeguarding national security and economic prosperity. This may require policy changes and a cultural shift within the federal government to reduce the private sector’s costs of doing business with the public sector and increase its potential rate of return.

In the past, government-sponsored and -run science, research and development institutions were the prime generators of new technologies and equipment designed to respond to military and security objectives. Today, however, greater private sector leadership and a more collaborative relationship between the private and public sectors is critical to ­keep pace with rapidly evolving threats. To strengthen business involvement with government in security-related problem solving and risk mitigation, CADSI calls on the government to:

  • adopt procurement practices based on best value not on the lowest cost compliant bidder. If your disease can be cured through surgery and the doctor tells you it will cost $10,000 for the operation, you are not likely to ask him what you can get for $5,000! Federal policies and practices for the procurement of national security-related ­technologies, equipment or services should be no different;
  • create a venture capital fund, managed by the private sector and perhaps financed in part from defence procurement offset obligations, that will help Canadian-based technologies companies to bring innovative security-related technologies to market;
  • establish a “buy and try” program within Canada’s security agencies that will allow federal security professionals to test new equipment and technologies, relevant to their missions, in operational settings;
  • encourage greater private sector R&D in strategic defence and security technologies and include security-related companies as eligible applicants in a restructured Technology Partnerships Canada program;
  • articulate the strategic capabilities it would expect to secure from Canada’s industrial base to meet long-term defence and national security priorities.

Ongoing terrorist attempts confirm that we no longer live in a ‘business-as-usual’ world. Both industry and government have a shared responsibility to address global and North American threats on a real time basis. This will not happen without new thinking in Ottawa that elevates the role of business to that of a collaborative partner to government on national security issues.

The social and economic consequences of inaction on these challenges by both government and business will be felt – instantly and dramatically – by all Canadians at the moment our national security is compromised.

Tim Page is the President of CADSI (Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries).
© FrontLine Security 2006