Synergies between National Security & Public Safety
SCOTT NEWARK  |  Nov 19, 2015

In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, one of the most important realizations by Government was that a society’s crime vulnerabilities were likely national security vulnerabilities with potentially enormously dangerous consequences. 

An example of this, which ironically I raised in my first column for FrontLine Security magazine back in 2006, was inadequate cargo screening, intelligence analysis, and personnel deployment at Canada’s major marine ports. 

Canada has since made significant improvements with respect to marine security, although it demonstrates the unique institutional challenges that ‘national security’ issues present. It’s not all bad news, however, because there are real productive synergies for the general public safety of Canadians that can result from these activities when deployed through a strategic and informed approach. 

To fully appreciate these opportunities, it is helpful to understand the ‘security’ and ‘public safety’ sectors, and how they differ, but also how they can overlap to produce increased cost effectiveness and operational productivity. 

The first reality to understand is that although national security is a ‘national’ issue (like the defence sector), there is no single entity (like the Department of National Defence) that is responsible for operations. Instead, there are multiple Departments including Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (wisely created post 9-11), Transport CanadaNational Defence (CSE)Citizenship and ImmigrationFinance (FINTRAC)Fisheries and Oceans (Coast Guard)Infrastructure CanadaIndustry CanadaPublic Services and Procurement Canada (Shared Services Canada) and others.

And… within those departments, especially Public Safety, are a variety of agencies that are in charge of different aspects of the ‘national security’ operational scenario – think RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, CSC, NSS and PBC. Within the department itself, are responsibilities for ‘national security’, cyber security, critical infrastructure protection, and counter radicalization. 

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If you want to get a sense of the inter departmental involvement and the complexities that are created, just look at the Shared Services Canada directory on the Government Electronic Directory Service, which is an excellent tool for finding who’s the right contact for a given project.

All of these departments and agencies appropriately have their own budgets, policy priorities, personnel and institutional interests (including, in some, risk aversion), so it’s not surprising that the result is an environment replete with duplication, competition, and ‘silos’ that obstruct substantive progress. 

The final challenge of the national security sector is that, unlike the defence sector, the operational participants are not confined to the national or federal level of government but also include both Provincial and Municipal governments and law enforcement and emergency responders within their jurisdiction. 

In this area, Canada had something of a head start as we already had a successful history of specialized inter agency co-operation such as with the RCMP-led Combined Forces Special Enforcement Units which have served as an effective model for the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSET) which exist throughout Canada. 

The issues involved in national security operations, either preventive or investigative, almost always include local law enforcement issues, and thus their full and informed participation is something to be encouraged. It is a strength that is not without challenges, but it is a core part of an effective national security strategy. 

That combined and even integrated approach to law enforcement has had a significant consequence in that the actions taken to support national security operations can, in some circumstances, actually support more generic public safety initiatives. This is especially the case when it comes to the deployment of security technologies because there is a growing realization that these technologies can have dual-use applications, which means increased law enforcement effectiveness with increased savings. And that’s always a good thing in today’s fiscal environment. 

Automated, analytical radar sensor technology that detects and tracks small vessels and low flying aircraft helps secure our borders but it also provides invaluable information to prevent drug, gun, tobacco and human smuggling into Canada. 

As law enforcement leaders in Canada have noted for years, “what gets through the border ends up on our streets.” Deployment of those systems means reduced crime and reduced costs. Likewise, training with simulation technologies means safer training and less “wasted” resources.

Digital identity verification technology that ensures we’re actually communicating with who we think we are helps protect critical infrastructure from SCADA system attacks and provides a cyber security measure that protects personal information to prevent identity theft. 

Face recognition biometric technology matched to a national security watch list database helps detect and interdict returning and departing jihadis but, with specially designed databases, it also does the same for criminal inadmissible non-citizens and ‘Most Wanted’ fugitives. That means the bad guys are detected before they commit a new crime with a new victim, and add to the staggering costs of our already backlogged criminal justice system.

A critical part of identifying these potential beneficial synergies is bringing together the various players that are involved in the national security and public safety sectors. There has been real progress within Government on this through the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) which is part of the Centre for Security Science. CSSP has become a catalyst for the inter agency and multiple government project participation that is essential for these synergies to be identified and then realized. Its operational outcome focus is also a huge success. 

In the private sector, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) has also taken significant steps to bring together industry and government in both the security and public safety sectors. The specialized Securetech conference organized by CADSI is a tangible example of this, and it too is making a difference. 

Thanks to the post 9-11 work that has been done, there is now a clear synergy between national security and public safety projects which can enhance Canadian security and public safety while saving money at the same time. It’s time now to take advantage of these opportunities.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer to the Canadian Police Association, Director of Operations to the Washington D.C.-based Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada.

© FrontLine Security 2015