Canadian Security Magazine

Focus on Government Security: The New Face of Government

By Allan McDougall   

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The federal government has certainly not been immune to the economic pressures facing other security organizations within Canada.

Consequently, security organizations have had to evolve administratively, technically and operationally.

The primary step involved reinforcing the concept that the federal security program consisted of two main activities. The first and most visible activity involved the provision of security services such as guard services, security patrols, sweeps and combination changes. The change in this step involved understanding that the security advisor roles, essentially functional roles, were much more in line with the professional, scientific and technical services defined in NIACS 2017.

The second step involved understanding that the federal physical security officer no longer worked within a government bubble. When the Government of Canada owned its own infrastructure (and it still does in some rare cases), government policies could be considered authoritative and final in their own right. As a result, the physical security officer simply needed to impose the requirements of policies and standards. With divestiture and the rise of the public-private partnership, this landscape has changed. The federal security officer now operates in a span of influence where his or her decisions must be scrutinized by those who look to save each and every dollar but who also look at the issue through a private sector lens. In short, the new relationship is one where the federal physical security officer needs to be able to perform his or her function based on reasoning that can influence a performance and efficiency driven group.

To accomplish this, physical security within the CBSA identified that training was (by a margin) the single greatest gap. With most physical security officers having access to only three courses through the Canadian School of Public Service, that provided a baseline but not the advanced understanding needed to take on Agency requirements. As a result, the Agency developed a progressively tiered system that used the CSPS baseline, then built upon it using a structure that integrated many outside practices:


•    The establishment of a management structure for training based on ISO 17024 (Requirements for bodies operating the Certification of Persons) intended to keep training relevant to Agency needs;

•    The formation of a training continuum from the entry level to management to give a clear sense of knowledge expectations;

•    The creation and ongoing delivery of 63 webinars intended to provide detailed training on technical aspects of the program; and

•    A formalized coaching and mentoring program to help personnel integrate their learning.

These four elements culminated in individuals being encouraged to seek certification to industry standards so as to be working at parity with the consulting and senior security officer positions representing the private sector at the table.

This training has allowed the Agency to take on innovative projects that focus on improving service delivery.
 These improvements were possible because the internal capacity moved from a passive compliance mode (waiting for lead agencies to provide guidance) to an active innovative mode (focusing on problem solving in support of operations). The key to this shift, however, resided in modernizing our concepts of professionalism and then building our capacity to best meet that standard of performance.

Allan McDougall is Manager, Physical Security, Comptrollership Branch, Canada Border Services Agency and was a presenter at the Focus On Government Security conference hosted by Canadian Security magazine in October in Ottawa.

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