The Clock is Ticking

Canadian Maritime Domestic Security

National Security – The Sea Matters
Over the last six years, in the changed global security environment, Canadians have learned that National Security is a modern imperative that requires profound thought, development, investment, resourcing, and, most of all, government leadership and action. The new threat environment includes globalized threats such as terrorism, multi-national crime organizations, disease epidemics, and ­natural disasters – not simply traditional, state-oriented threats.

Photo: Telesat Canada

One effect of this change has been the overlapping of the Defence and Security areas of responsibility in all western democracies. This creates difficult challenges for those who vow to secure their open societies.

Strategic jihadist terrorism is a growing and serious phenomenon in the post 9/11 era. In Canada much has been accomplished to improve national security – new legislation has been introduced, compliance to international regulations has been achieved, a reasonably ambitious resourcing plan has been instituted, and government machinery continues to adapt to the new reality.

Canadians are also learning to be aware of, and protect, their maritime interests – the coasts and maritime approaches.

The National Security Policy of April 2004 (which, significantly, is deemed a framework for national security strategy, but not a National Security Strategy) – with its rather remarkable Integrated Security System approach that includes integrated threat assessment, protection and prevention capability, effective consequence management, and evaluation and oversight machinery – highlights a six-point Marine security plan. This plan gives broad strategic strokes of responsibility to government partners: Transport Canada is tasked with responsibility for marine safety, security policy coordination, and regulatory leadership; Public Safety is charged with law enforcement and policing responsibility; and National Defence has the responsibility to coordinate all of Canada’s on-water response to maritime threats or developing crises in the Exclusive Economic Zone and along the coasts.

With the Vancouver Olympics already less than two and a half years hence, Canada will need to review and assess lessons learned in maritime security – particularly the areas needing urgent improvement. Moreover, the recent release of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in mid-July 2007 revealed that Al Qaeda has regenerated its attack capability as it projects itself from its new safe haven in northwestern Pakistan.

Since 2002, Al Qaeda has been capable of attacks on vessels, ports, and ­offshore platforms. With this in mind, it is important to assesses current maritime security practices with a view to excite consideration for continued maritime security improvement as the Olympics draw near.

Existing Framework for Maritime Security
Following 9/11, an important surge of government interest and activity focused on Maritime Security. In the first five years, the Interdepartmental Maritime Security Working Group (IMSWG) successfully justified ample government funding to initiate projects according to a Marine Security plan. In fact, the hallmark of this working group’s success was a risk-management matrix that compares maritime activities to circles of vulnerability.

The four key activities of domain awareness are defined as follows:

  • Domain Awareness: the activity which enables a nation to be aware of and comprehend what is happening and who is present in all areas of maritime responsibility. It is made up of surveillance and intelligence efforts to build a comprehendable picture of a nation’s maritime zones and interest areas.
  • Safeguarding: this ensures the physical security of ports, vessels and other critical infrastructure in or around areas of maritime responsibility (including offshore platforms). It also enhances personnel security by creating an environment which precludes terrorist or criminal activity and prevents potentially threatening persons or devices from entering through any part of its maritime system.
  • Responsiveness: this activity executes the national will to enforce the law to prevent imminent threats and to apprehend perpetrators. It includes all enforcement efforts of relevant police forces, mandated security agencies, and military units (both foreign and domestic), to intercept and capture terrorists, criminals, or other threats.
  • Collaboration: this is a critical piece of the national and maritime security system. Shared knowledge and information are integral cornerstones to prevention. This activity is somewhat qualitatively different from the other three but enables them all to execute their role in maritime security. Collaboration includes information sharing, coordination, cooperation, and unified action to resolve security problems. It entails horizontal sharing of information between government departments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement groups, plus vertical sharing between first responders, and regional, federal, and international agencies.

When one superimposes these four activities across all the geographic circles of vulnerability, it is evident that, the ­farther one is from one’s own country, security requirements are increasingly information-based; however, as one draws near home, the requirements tend to be more physical and response-oriented. IMSWG work led to prioritizing required national activity as: security of the maritime perimeter; security of internal waters (particularly the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River system) and infrastructure; and security of Arctic waters.

The value of this excellent interdepartmental work is that one can assess Canada’s progress in achieving maritime security and highlight areas for urgent attention as 2010 draws near.

An Assessment in 2007
Many activities have been initiated since 2001, and much funding disbursed to improve national and maritime security. However, if one compares the original strategic intent for maritime security, a number of gaps have appeared. These may be due to technological challenges, bureaucratic inertia, or lack of capacity in some departments to implement government policy in times of limited resources.

Before one assesses the effectiveness of maritime security activities, it is reasonable to assess the overarching policy in which maritime security finds itself. The National Security Policy provided Canada a “framework” for security strategy. Canada has jumped from framework to program without the necessary supporting policy structures to guide implementation programs.

Three years later, enough has been learned and discussed to move forward as a nation to formulate a Canadian National Security Strategy – a national strategy that drops the singular focus on departmental concerns and embraces a “multi-pillar” perspective in which an integrated government invests resources according to an overarching national vision. After all, how can one really expect to be successfully pro-active and preventative as “the lead minister for the coordination of on-water response to a maritime threat” if one has no influence on other departmental planning schedules or their business plans?

To achieve the comprehensive strategic perspective, the traditional prisms or stove­pipes of bureaucratic government must be broken down – possibly by the institution of permanent, high-level, interdepartmental, strategic council of advisors mandated to ensure continual engagement of government in the allocation of resources to a given plan over the long term. One example of a best practice is the Dutch strategic institution known as IDON (International Deliberations over North Sea Governance). Strategy emanates from whole-of-government debate and interdepartmental synergy.

About 38 Coast Guard vessels are presently being outfitted with the new Vessel Satellite Communications System. (Photos courtesy of Telesat Canada)

Domain Awareness
Many lessons have been learned since 9/11 in the realm of Domain Awareness. Yet, what is severely lacking, is a National Maritime Domain Awareness Strategy with supporting surveillance requirements upon which to base future decisions. There are three major gaps that languish. The failure to implement the High Frequency Surface Wave Radar (HFSWR) is one. International regulatory restrictions have left a large gap in the requirement for continuous and persistent surveillance. While the maritime community awaits the full capability of radar satellite ­technology, it is time to move on from HFSWR and espouse a replacement ­technology. For coastal approaches, east, west, and arctic, research in alternative long-range radar systems (or similar capabilities) must be undertaken with allies. Moreover, advances in commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) security radars (like the Accipiter security radar system trialed on the Great Lakes) have made internal waters radar systems more capable and suited to the small-target environment of harbor approaches, rivers and lakes. These new technologies must be analyzed and exploited by IMSWG to fill this gap in “layered surveillance” as it and government originally envisioned.

Continued and expanded utilization of civilian air contract services combined with Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) will bolster the positive identification portion of the “layered surveillance.”

Finally, increased domain awareness in the arctic has been found to be a priority in that region – but climate and geographic conditions complicate successful implementation. The arctic is different and needs special attention before resources are expended. As Stephen Bigras of the Canadian Polar Commission explained in The Hill Times, “Canada’s polar research community is dispersed and diverse…. Unlike our circumpolar neighbours, and many other nations active in polar science, Canada has no national policy to guide and support polar science.”

Now that the government has a re-energized enthusiasm for arctic maritime security, research and development of technology that functions in polar conditions must be undertaken.

Significant gaps in Safeguarding are also apparent. The most serious is the absence of Port Policing in Canada. Senator Colin Kenny states in the Canadian Security Guide Book, 2007 edition – Seaports, “The current situation at Canada’s ports is untenable. The RCMP has not even been adequately funded to put meaningful contingents of officers at the ports of Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver.”

The National Port Enforcement Teams that came forward from IMSWG deliberations as intelligence and investigative units (and not patrol units) are drastically understaffed and not adequately specialized. In contrast, the Netherlands, a maritime country that is heavily dependent on reliable maritime transport, has learned that to have effective maritime security, one must have centralized control and, therefore, securing borders and seaports (including freshwater ports) must be treated as a national responsibility. That being said, should we not insist that the RCMP to complete their ongoing study immediately and fund them to initiate a federally-run port police approach for the major ports that are crucial to trade and ferry traffic? To do this, some private/public cost sharing must be arrived at. Senator Kenny suggests that there are roughly 20 of these critical ports. This approach must be urgently engaged in Vancouver with time to mature prior to the 2010 Olympics.

A second safeguarding gap is the lack of Canadian security intelligence capability in the world’s major seaports. As the Australians have shown us, with their use of ASIS (the Australian Secret Intelligence Service) in foreign seaports around the world, it is best to learn about a threat to Canada when far from our shores. As CSIS increases its security intelligence operations abroad, a significant part of this effort should be aimed at placing CSIS personnel in selected major maritime ports to gather intelligence that pertains to Canadian maritime security.

Responsiveness came to the fore in the National Security Policy when the six-points plan called for strengthening marine security and a focus on “increasing on-water patrols to better position the RCMP, Coast Guard and the Canadian Forces Maritime Command to intervene, interdict, and board ships that may pose threats to Canada.”

After three years, much remains to be accomplished on this front. Although there have been a number of valuable exercises on the coasts and in the arctic, and Marine Security Enforcement Teams were introduced on the Great Lakes in July 2005, numerous gaps still exist. Most pernicious of these is the legal restriction on integrated forces operating together for routine, non-targeted operations. Naval ships have been stopped from going to sea for sovereignty patrols with RCMP officers on board because the law requires such integration to be carried out only during specific, targeted operations against a known threat. This restriction unnecessarily fetters integrated operations when longer-term surveillance and sovereignty patrols are necessary prior to and during the 2010 Olympics. This must be resolved.

For mature responsiveness, law enforcement departments must work on a regular basis (not just exercising) with on-water departments. Exercises should eventually become regular integrated operations that can focus on risk-management solutions based on intelligence and awareness. Navy and Coast Guard vessels must be utilized for both training and operations – integrating operations with other government departments so that inshore patrol requirements of domestic maritime security are fulfilled.

The 2010 Olympics require a robust and layered maritime security organization highlighted by minor vessels and Port Security units integrated with law enforce­ment officers providing both presence and quick response. The Olympics challenge also means quickly implementing promised modifications like the support for carriage, launching, and recovery of RCMP Emergency Response Team boats from DND’s Canadian Patrol Frigates.

If Canada were to follow Norway’s example of integrating military Special Operations Forces teams with elite police response units for maritime security, a strong synergy could be attained. This training and operational integration would provide precision-targeted specialist response to terrorist threats to ports, vessels, and, ­significantly, to offshore oil and natural gas platforms on the coasts and Great Lakes.

The IMSWG received strong interdepartmental leadership from Transport Canada and obtained generous funding for maritime security. One excellent initiative was the recent IMSWG Collaboration Fund project to define a marine security surveillance protocol. However, the five-year funding envelopes are coming to a close and the struggle for continuous improvement is lagging. IMSWG has ballooned in size due to project reporting processes and has become immersed in bureaucratic inertia. A scrub-down of this excellent organization, including an updated master plan is needed.

Cornwall Detachement RCMP officers participate in a recent training exercise. (Photo: Roxanne Ouellette, RCMP)

The IMSWG is apparently carrying out a gap analysis on Canada’s marine security. This needs to be fast-tracked.    

The first concrete and practical collaboration idea at the tactical level came through IMSWG in the form of the Maritime Information Management Data Exchange system (MIMDEX). This system was expected to furnish a maritime security network in which all members could bring together necessary security information about maritime threats and alert other departments to targets of potential interest. Unfortunately, the MIMDEX system is not operational at the time of writing – even after Senator Kenny’s Committee twice exhorted departments to fast-track this initiative.

The problem is not technological; it is the inability (or unwillingness) to alter legislation pertaining to individual departmental mandates, or indeed the Charter and the Privacy Act, on the issues of information sharing and interoperability. This issue is so critical to the new security environment that a government-led, coordinated debate is required.

In a similar fashion, the Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOC) which have been initiated on the two coasts and in the Great Lakes are beleaguered with limitations on individual departments’ ability to share with each other. As with the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre (ITAC), the participa­ting departments in these facilities have access only to their own databases – they do not have access to other database information needed to “connect the dots.” Security experts, including Senator Kenny and the Auditor General, have ­reiterated the importance of this cross-government need to share and alert in the new security environment.

Obvious gaps in the fabric of Canadian Maritime Security remain, due to stalled initiatives, however, there is a better understanding of the post-9/11 security environment.

Of particular importance at this juncture – a mere 2½ years before the torch lights up the 2010 Olympics – is the hair-raising pittance of dedicated Olympic security funding! While ample activity with regard to infrastructure and promotion of the Games is in motion, the scope of Security funding needs for this nation-building event has not been seriously addressed. Athens spent over $1 billion on security alone for their summer Olympics. Salt Lake City winter Olympics security cost over $400 million. Canada has dedicated one third of that amount. There is an urgent need to dedicate serious funding towards an integrated and shared (public/ private) security effort. The next Budget is not too soon for this investment – huge pressure has been mounting from both the International and U.S. Olympic Committees.

To achieve national security, a full-fledged National Security Strategy, with a long-term approach towards resource investment, is needed before Canada hosts the Olympics.

Greater effort and time must be spent on analysis of the right issues. Action and follow-through must then ensure implementation follows the master plan. To get it right, Canadians must take the National Security Policy and lessons learned in security, superimpose them over the 2010 Olympic security challenge, fund and resource a focused implementation plan on this “nation-building” event, and then use the resulting model as a framework for security best practices across Canada. The clock is ticking.  

Capt(N) 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 2007