Better Governance for Security

In their November 2007 report entitled, A Resilient Canada: Governance for National Security and Public Safety, by Trevor Munn-Venn and Andrew Archibald, the Conference Board of Canada has produced an insightful analysis of how Canadians formulate and implement governance in their national security and public safety ­organizations. Interestingly, after interviewing public and private sector leaders and experts in this subject area, the Board found that the greatest threat to national security perceived by these experts is “a lack of clarity around governance.”

Vancouver Harbour area.

This conclusion is surely unexpected – the threat they are talking about here is not found in the usual panoply of issues that cause insecurity (disease, climatic catastrophe, terrorism etc); it is a self-inflicted threat imposed by our own poor organization for security.

What does governance really mean? And why would these national experts agree that it could be so important in its absence as to qualify as the greatest threat to our security?

Let us define “governance” and then analyze two recent examples of high-level governance that have had varying degrees of success. The Conference Board of Canada first proposes a number of valuable “key governance principles” upon which to base “effective governance of multi-party response.” These principles are: Leadership and Accountability; Coopera­tion and Collaboration; Communication and Transparency; Mandate and Resources; Fairness; and, Continuous learning (Training and Lessons Learned). In examining these principles, we may find why governance is so important to determining best practices at the national strategic level.

Governance Defined    
The Funk and Wagnall’s Standard College Dictionary defines governance as: “exercise of authority; direction; control.” My use of the term “strategic” at the end of the ­preceding paragraph was intentional. If national strategy is a landscape on which the management of scarce resources takes place over longer stretches of time at the national level, then governance is the roadway through this landscape. It is a roadway that can only be successful when its engineers have a comprehensive and profound knowledge of the nature (and broad interests) of the landscape they are taming – and we are concentrating on the security landscape in this article. Thus, in the context of security, governance is the exercise of authority on a roadway that leads to two necessary outcomes in the national security landscape, Policy Approval and Resource Acquisition.

Thus, in the strategic security landscape, existing tools of interdepartmental and “integrated” government structure must be considered and utilized in order to ensure that the optimum process for policy and resource management takes place. In security spheres, the Federal Emergency Response System (FERS) is a critical tool to engage these processes, and must be ­considered whenever governance is contemplated for strategic security concerns.

Emergency Response
FERS has been developed and made part of federal policy by Public Safety Canada, as a reaction to the new security environment of the post 9/11 era. In brief, it is a cross-­government system joining first-responders and their government leaders through Canadian municipal, provincial, and federal government bureaucracies, to decision-making at the very highest level of national government – Cabinet.

FERS was specifically designed for crisis and consequence management in times of emergency, when prevention has not been successful. It is a solid, well-thought-out system that vets the various decision-points at each level of interdepartmental bureaucracy – and, in so doing, preserves only the highest-level, and most serious, national strategic concerns for elected members appointed to Cabinet. We are talking about issues like closing borders, quarantining cities, sinking threatening terrorist-ships – that level of decision-making. Now in place, this government machinery can also be used for strategic, multi-departmental policy and resource issues.

An example of governance-gone-right is the Transport Canada-led Interdepartmental Marine Security Working Group, or IMSWG. This Working Group was a direct reaction to the events of 9/11 and the recognition by then Deputy-Prime Minister John Manley that maritime security, as well as border and air security, were seriously wanting. Within weeks of 9/11, the Minister of Transportation was made the clear and undisputed lead for maritime security policy development in government. Under the Minister, at the Director-General level, the IMSWG was formed from six ­initial member-departments: Transport Canada; CSIS; RCMP; National Defence; Fisheries and Oceans/Canadian Coast Guard; Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; and Citizenship and Immigration. Over time, IMSWG would increase in size to 17 departments and agencies (including central agencies Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat, and the Department of Finance), and Transport Canada has maintained its lead status throughout.

Tangible results of deliberations in the IMSWG (Memoranda to Cabinet, IMSWG Charter, Resource Management reports) would be presented to individual departmental leadership for review in draft. As lead-department, Transport Canada would corral the commentary from the member-departments, coordinate with Central agencies, and bring the agreed-upon product to the ADM-level Interdepartmental Safety Committee. Once this committee had approved the product, and verified the source of funding, the product would make its way through the Deputy-Minister “mirror-committee” and then to the Cabinet Sub-committee for National Security issues. This roadway would become similar, if not identical, to that of the FERS organization for Public Safety issues.

The IMSWG mandate, leadership, membership, terms of reference for members, coordination methodology, accountability protocols, sub-working-groups, and approval route to authority were set out early on in the IMSWG Charter. This interdepartmental document laid out the route to Cabinet for IMSWG products for both policy and resources. It also laid out the resource management accountability route for IMSWG to report the results of their work.

The roadway to interdepartmental resource acquisition was mapped out in the first document proposed to government. Approved as policy were the broad strategic ideas that Four Pillars of Maritime Security would be supported for ongoing policy development and resource sharing: Domain Awareness, Safeguarding, Responsiveness, and Collaboration. This government-approved strategic approach cemented the governance that existed in the IMSWG for future endeavors. It also ensured Fairness amongst partners of the IMSWG. Its policy and resource products were debated and voted upon central agency guidance along the way and prior to government approval.

Eventually, tools for cross-government policy development and resource acquisition were put in place for integrated training and exercising in maritime security areas. This area is still evolving – mostly because some departments (like DND, CCG, and RCMP) are more inclined to carry out a long-term, continuous training program; whereas many other departments do not include this in long-range business plans, thus making participation seem like an in-year contingency issue.

2010 Vancouver Olympics
In serious contrast, the recent 2010 Vancouver Olympics Security Organization has seen a very different, and less effective approach to governance. The initial designation of Heritage Canada as Lead Department for the Olympics was perhaps predictable and reasonable; however, in the post-9/11 era, the fact that security must play such an important part in overall Olympic planning considerations leads one to question the omission of a security-oriented department as a co-leader or, at the very least, senior member under the lead department. Valuable time and absence of focus on security funding needs resulted from this serious omission.

Eventually, when Heritage Canada recognized that they had neither the experience nor the bureaucratic depth to lead the security portion, the RCMP were designated as a leader for security concerns in the Olympic Integrated Security Unit (ISU), subordinate to Heritage Canada who remained as the overall federal lead for the 2010 Olympic effort. This was a sound, if tardy, governance change.

Unfortunately, other significant challenges were nagging the RCMP at that time. Moreover, the structure of the recently formed Public Safety Canada (PSC) macro-department was not making things easy for the new security lead. While the Commissioner of the RCMP would have direct access to the PSC Minister, the RCMP do not have any responsibility for policy, resourcing, or action in important public safety areas such as Critical Infrastructure Protection, federal/regional government linkages, and Interdepartmental Training and Integrated Exercise Coordination across the security community. Missing was any sort of directed mandate in a Charter to link these and other security areas of interest to the RCMP leadership for specific Olympic action. Neither a clear leadership mandate nor the appropriate accountability protocol were set in place for strong governance in this instance.

While the PSC Minister would, of course, be a proper and valid champion for the security products brought forward to Cabinet by the RCMP lead, the lack of integration into the already-formed interdepartmental roadway at the federal level produces an inability to bring departments together with central agencies to speedily and successfully progress policy and resource acquisition in step with the myriad of other strategic-level issues.

The Olympic Security Working Groups are led by RCMP officers. These Working Groups have formal charters or mandates and are directly subordinate to several Security Steering Committees. These Steering Committees report directly to the Olympic ISU– which is co-chaired by RCMP and VANOC officials. All security community members are not currently represented on the ISU roster. From there, ISU products progress to an Olympic-specific, ADM-level, Public Safety, Inter­depart­mental Committee. Thus, the current Olympic security governance process is decidedly confused and convoluted. Thankfully, Mr. Ward Elcock has been recently appointed as the senior Deputy-Minister level advisor to the Prime Minister in PCO for Coordination of Security of the 2010 Olympics and G8. It will likely be incumbent upon him to sort out this confused governance picture. Early and detailed attention to governance when initial responsibilities were assigned might have alleviated this.

One important tool that Mr. Elcock will have in his governance toolbox is the already formed FERS organization at the federal and regional levels. By using this existing governance structure, he may find ease of communication, coordination, and integration as policy development initiatives and resource acquisition requests rise to government from the Olympic planning front-lines.

Without a recognized and accepted governance system in place, individual Deputy Ministers are left to debate individual priorities – instead of fusing together an integrated coordinated and agreed policy and resource product amenable to all departments prior to reaching the highest levels of the governance roadway. While fairness is attempted at present, without formal governance arrangements, the seduction of departmental competition for resources is strong. The policy development must take place in an integrated fashion – and then the meting out of resources can follow according to an agreed-upon plan.

Finally, continuous learning is extraordinarily important in the instance of an International Olympic event. The national security value of lessons learned in the preparation and execution of this nation-building event is immense. Once formed and accepted, these security lessons can be used across the country to implement other portions of the National Security Policy needed to meet the challenges of this new security era. Precious little in current Olympic governance encourages a healthy culture of continuous learning.

When one compares these two examples of Canadian government organization and governance, one is struck by the crucial importance of creating a solid, functional governance system in government organizations at an early stage of planning – well before organizational policy development, resource acquisition, and certainly before organizational activities are up and running. The most important stage of government decision-making for organizing future major events is selecting appropriate and functional governance. This is akin to selecting Command and Control for the military – if you don’t have it set up in a workable fashion with the appropriate authorities and delegations, the system, full of well-meaning bureaucrats, will stutter in fits and starts while wasting untold resources.

As the Conference Board of Canada found out, a comprehensive governance system must be set in place early and with authority; it must clearly define leadership, membership mandates, coordination linkages, and shape fairness and transparency. Moreover, it must instill a culture of continuous learning so that lessons are indeed learned and the nation benefits from experience for continuous improvement.

The formal discipline of an authoritative Charter of Governance as a Best Practice for interdepartmental committee systems is an effective approach to establish these requirements.

It may well be PCO’s job to set this formal governance from the outset of each new interdepartmental committee and system. In the case of the 2010 Olympics, Mr. Elcock should consider this sort of approach to clarify present lines of authority for policy development, resource acquisition, and activity management. In so doing, the organizers of the 2010 Olympics will be able to focus on the real internal and external threats of globalization on this international event, instead of wrestling with self-made threats emanating from a confused organizational structure.

Navy Captain Peter Avis is currently Commander of Maritime Operations Group Four in Esquimalt, British Columbia. He has worked with the IMSWG, Privy Council Office, and the Strategic Joint Staff at NDHQ. He is the author of “National Security Approaches to Maritime Security in the Post 9/11 Era” available at the Dalhousie Centre for Foreign Policy Studies. This article represents his personal views.
© FrontLine Security 2008