Financial troubles ahead?
By Canadian SecurityFeatures Opinion
As I write this, the U.S. House of Representatives has just voted in favour of raising the debt ceiling in their country. The next stage is to send it to their Senate for consideration.
Currently, the debt in that country is sitting at $14.3 trillion. A trillion dollars in the United States is one thousand billion. I did the math, and if I am correct, that means that every American man, woman and child, all 311,043,000 of them each owes approximately $46,149. This was confirmed by figures I found on the U.S. national debt clock website at www.brillig.com/debt_clock/.
Now before you get smug about this, if you are the type to get smug about this kind of thing, I also went to the Canadian debt clock at www.debtclock.ca to check out our debt. Canadians owe roughly $564 billion, or approximately $16,452 for each of the 33,739,000 citizens in this country. Yes, the U.S. number is approximately three times higher per citizen, but no matter how you look at both county’s per capita numbers, this is a lot of money. This is money that the government is borrowing to pay for stuff that you as a citizen are using, whether it is for health care, roads, national security, the military, education, paying off other debt and a whole bunch of other things.
There is a considerable discussion about what the impact will be in the United States about the debt, how the Americans temporarily resolve it (because it is not going away anytime soon) and what its impact on Canada and the rest of the world will be. Some suggest that the world will be plunged into another recession, not that we have crawled out of the last one yet, while others suggest that life will carry on pretty much as usual. Canada, knock on wood, has weathered the current worldwide recession relatively well. Our unemployment numbers are dropping across the entire country. I read an article a few weeks ago that stated there were 22,000 jobs created in Alberta alone in May 2011, which was more than all jobs created in the entire United States. Just think about that for a minute. There were more jobs created in a province with just over three million people than in an entire country of 311 million people.
So how is all this relevant to the Canadian security professional? It is relevant for a couple of reasons. First, our largest trading partner is the United States. What impacts them and their ability to spend will affect us.
Generally speaking, when the budget tightens up for an organization, security spending is often one of the first things to be cut. If you are not showing the value that your department brings to your organization, you may want to start figuring it out and get in front of the money decision-makers and let them know.
Part of this will include actually showing how security brings value to the organization. It may mean investing in an incident management program, developing metrics or displaying it correctly with credibility and accuracy.
The Canadian dollar may continue to rise against that of the U.S., which is bad if you work for either a manufacturer or exporter of goods and services. Canadians have traditionally relied on our weak dollar to make our products attractive to Americans. One response to this is to seek out non-traditional markets in other countries.
This can mean a number of things for the security group, including concerns about employee travel, protection of employees in foreign countries, getting them out if things go bad, making connections with security practitioners where possibly you don’t currently, identifying new business partners and all the stuff that goes with it including background investigations, due diligence and espionage.
A weakened Canadian economy may also mean layoffs. We already saw this in 2008 and 2009. Just when security departments are ramping up as the economy grows, this may be for naught. Security staff, like so many other staff, may be expected to do more with less. This means increased training and the ability to enhance departmental effectiveness. You may also see major purchases put off. Access control systems, lock and key upgrades, fire alarm systems and CCTV projects or enhancement may be put on the backburner or, alternatively, may be sped up to spend this year’s budget money. This may mean increased pressure on the security department to produce results.
A positive result may be increased employee retention; if things get tough, employees will likely decide to stick around. This is a good thing. This should make your life a bit easier.
Regardless of what happens, consideration needs to be given to various impacts that your organization may face in the event of financial upheaval.
Glen Kitteringham, M.Sc., CPP, F.SyI. is President of Kitteringham Security Group.
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