Interview article

Commissioner Bud Mercer

Safe & Silent Security
CLIVE ADDY  |  Mar 15, 2009

Vancouver 2010 

Q:As Chief Operating Officer responsible for the security 2010 Games, what is the scope and role of your challenge as you see it since your arrival in November 2007?

Well, the first thing that struck me was the enormity of the file as compared to past functions for which I have been responsible. It was big when I arrived and every day it gets bigger. It touches all levels from local, municipal, provincial, and federal to the international. It is also probably the greatest occurrence of bringing so many organizations with varied cultures under an integrated security framework ever seen in Canada. They are all different, from their language and acronyms, their operational or battle rhythms and even their differing expectations of accountability frameworks, decision making and relative effectiveness. Police, military and private safety are the largest components of the ISU but by no means the only areas in the group. Getting all of this diverse and interested expertise together in the main office of the ISU is positive, and the level of collegiality and cooperation is indeed what I would qualify as a great success. An integrated approach is key to meeting the enormous challenge of coordinating 60 days of security operations for the 2010 Winter Games.

I am directly responsible for security for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I report to the Deputy Com­mis­sioner for the Pacific Region, Gary Bass. Of course I do not do this alone and nor does the RCMP. From across Canada, I am getting an enormous amount of support and assistance to ensure that the games are responsibly secured, while never forgetting that the Olympic Games are about sport, culture and sustainability

Q:What is your organization of the ISU, how did you arrive at it, how does it operate?

The V2010 ISU planning unit represents about 370 people at this time, and will surge to 500 before the start of the games.

Our planning structure has four major operational cells overseen by four Superintendents (3 RCMP and 1 Vancouver Police). The four operations officers (Tactical, Venues, Operational Support and Integra­tion) report to myself the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and there is also an Advisory NCO, Public Affairs, an Executive Assistant and Legal Services that form the core of the ISU planning org chart at the Executive Level.

For resilience and coordination reasons all planning falls under the four operations officers and anything of significance that one cell does must be signed off by the other three, and then the COO, so that the impact of one on another is really appreciated and catered for. This may seem bureaucratic, but with the collaboration and collegiality that has blessed us to date to get the job done properly and without hassle, it has proved to be very workable. In addition and importantly, it provides a resilience of command and superb awareness of the entire operation such that each can take over one another’s position.

There are of course far more people involved in securing the games when we become operational. Creating the operational security model was itself a unique process. First, the Vancouver Winter Games presented a particular complexity for which there was no truly corresponding model. For instance in Beijing, they chose to isolate part of the city to build most of venues in. Torino’s model was also not a natural fit to our unique geographic challenges and diversity. We had to build our plans from the ground up. In fact there are two major geographical game regions to be considered: one in Metro Vancouver and one in Whistler.

We did a risk and vulnerability assessment of the 186 venues and the ones that require a full security package will be the responsibility to the ISU. These venues include places like the Athlete’s Village and Canada Hockey Place. In the fall of 2008 the planners entered the detailed venue phase of the planning cycle. They are evaluating feedback and input we’ve received and are starting to fine tune details of security perimeters for example.

The unit has completed its Strategic Planning and is still finalizing advanced Concept Planning and Detailed Functional Planning. Once operational, the venues will be overseen by what we call a “Bronze” Commander. Their job will to run the security operations at that location on site. The multiple Bronze level venues are then grouped under one of two “Silver” Commanders, based on geography. So, there is a Silver Commander who oversees Metro Vancouver and then one for Whistler. They are the regional support, in place to assess resources and specialized unit needs, while having situational awareness of their overall area.

February 2009 - Exercise Silver is the second of three government-wide security exercises designed to integrate the security team for the Olympic and Paralumpic games. More than 100 municipal, provincial and federal agencies, including 500 CF members, are in the air, at sea and on the groud this week in support of the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit (ISU) exercise.

The two Silver Commanders report to a Gold Commander in the Integrated Command Centre (ICC) at the ISU. The Gold Commander has the task of overseeing the entire “theatre of operations” and they will have a core group of commanders, liaisons, and personnel along side them to provide that last level of support to the security workforce. The Gold Commander, who deals with operations and policy, then reports to me, the Chief Operating Officer. I will then work with the various levels of government and organizational stakeholders.

In this latter vein, I have been greatly served by the recently appointed Ward Elcock at the Privy Council Office. His expertise in government and its workings as a former head of CSIS and Deputy Minister at National Defence is invaluable. He has been able to bring various federal and other players to the table quickly and helped me resolve many matters of resources and policy coordination.

The Integrated Command Centre (ICC) is in Richmond and we “pipe-in” Whistler by redundant means. The ICC itself integrates Air, Maritime, Canadian Forces Joint Operations Centre and the major policing, public safety and Intelligence agencies input as needed. There are also a number of standing agreements and other safety and security partners that we will take advantage of and enhance were necessary during the games. Existing agreements with agencies like NORAD are being integrated into the overall security plan.

Our overall security plan will see approximately 7,000 police, 4,000 private security officers. The Canadian Forces will deploy another 4,000 personnel to help secure the games.

Q:Recently, much has been said about the rising costs for security. Even the UK committee for the 2012 Olympics foreseen for London recently upped their budget to US$1.3 billion – more than double the original bid announced in March 2007. Athens spent a reported US$1.5 billion on security. Our PM recently said in relation to security that ‘Security will cost what security will cost’ in respect to the increase from the VANOC bid forecast of CA$175 million. Can you shed some light on these figures?

On February 19th, the overall Olympic Security Budget was announced by the BC and Federal Government and is estimated to be around CA$900 million dollars. A portion of that money CA$491.9 million dollar has been allocated to the V2010 Integrated Security Unit to lead, develop and deliver the integrated security plan for the 2010 Games.

Our portion of the budget is based on the security plan. The ISU planners had to define what the security would look like before we could determine the budget required to provide it. We determined the security requirements and then planned to those needs – taking into consideration VANOC operations and the urban domain policing requirements. In November 2007 the ISU completed a 3-month process which validated our security plan. This security plan and the accompanying financial requirements were submitted to the BC/Canada Security Committee and the budget was approved.

The Vancouver 2010 ISU budget breaks down as follows:
➢    $177.5 M for personnel. This includes regular pay, secondments pay, overtime and benefits;
➢    $306.3 M for operations. This includes areas such as accommodations, meals, travel, and fuel;
➢    $8.1 M for capital expenditures such as radio communications equipment and vehicles.

The CA$491.9 million dollar ISU security budget includes a number of significant “cost drivers” that we had to acknowledge. First, there are the pure costs directly attributable to the games for areas such as personnel salaries, the need for a Command Centre, radio communications, equipment and logistics like accommodations, travel and meal for the security workforce.

Second, there are the costs for what I call “Policing in the Urban Domain.” These are costs incurred by police forces of jurisdiction within the host municipalities that exceed the baseline of normal and surge capability designed in any force and that can be directly attributable to the Olympic Games. This could include personnel, equipments and operations and maintenance costs.

Thirdly there is also a requirement for us to have a team on hand after the games to handle the demobilization of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit. They will need to look after the post-games administrative services, equipment inventory and the after action and financial reports to name but a few.

The additional money within the overall $900 million (CDN) includes a $137 million (CDN) dollar contingency reserve that the Government of Canada has set aside and then there is funding allocated for other government departments including DND, CSIS, Transport Canada, Industry Canada, Citizenship and Immigration, Public Safety Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Q:How much training has gone on to test the organi­zational structure and its components?
We have an extensive exercise program in place to test, practice and validate our comprehensive security plans. We have also just finished two of the three larger scale exercise called Exercise Bronze – which had a regional table-top exercise that involved 500 participants from over 70 public safety and security partners. Exercise Silver coincided with the one year countdown and was a national command centre functional and “live-event” exercise involving over 1000 participants from over 100 agencies. These two exercises tested the entire command structure, information flow and interoperability. We have learned very much from each and have adjusted our structures and procedures accordingly.

Our last will be “Exercise Gold” scheduled for November 2009. It will be the final opportunity to confirm our plans and allow us to be ready to go for the Games. Deputy Minister Ward Elcock and Privy Council, as a neutral body, oversee these large scale exercises. Their purpose is to prepare the whole of government response to Olympic related scenarios. They provide a believable and realistic environment and will test our relationships and organizational limits.

In addition to the exercise program, we also have on-going training for the various Bronze, Silver and Gold Commanders and individual initiatives for our specialty areas like Emergency Response Teams, Police Dog Services, etc.

Q:Do you have any last thoughts or comments that you would like to add?
Indeed I do. These are normally called the “Vancouver Winter Olympics,” but I would like to stress just how much they are truly Canada’s Games and are being accepted as such right across our nation. A prime example for me has been the response from our policing partners across Canada, who accepted the invitation to help us to secure the Games. Our original estimates were for 750 partner police officers from across Canada. In the end, 1800 municipal and regional police officers will be part of the security workforce. That means a police officer from Calgary, Saanich, and the OPP and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, to name a few, will be policing along side the RCMP and Vancouver and West Vancouver Police. This kind of interest and support really makes us proud and makes it worthwhile coming into work every day.

I thank you, Assistant Commissioner Mercer, for sharing so candidly what you can, and I wish you continued success and enjoyment in your mission. I feel our security at 2010 is in very good hands indeed.
© FrontLine Security 2009