Public Works’ security clearance costs irk Ottawa firm

OTTAWA (OBJ) — An Ottawa-based security technology provider is complaining about the costs and process involved in obtaining security clearance from Public Works and Government Services of Canada.

Last September, Allen-Vanguard Corp. won a $3.7-million contract to supply its MKII bomb disposal robot to the Canadian Forces. The company also won a $30-million contract with Lockheed Martin last September to provide electronic warfare equipment to the U.S. and a $3.75-million contract to provide its advanced digital electronic counter measures (ECM) equipment to another unnamed NATO country last December.

“The main contract that we recently won with the Canadian government is bomb disposal robots with the Canadian military,” Luxton said. “We have to deal with information from the government on that and other matters that involve classified programs.”

Although for security reasons, he couldn’t specify the measures his company had to go through in order to handle such highly sensitive information, Luxton agreed that 24-hour monitoring of the facility as well as secure Internet connections were part of the requirements. Luxton also saod that these measures have cost his company a lot of money, something he said was a bit of a shock.

“(Security clearance is) not always necessary. It will be up to the contracting authority to determine if the security requirements must be in place at the request for proposal stage or at contract award. In either case, no access to protected or classified information or assets can be given until they have met the security requirements,” explained Pierre Manoni, spokesperson for PWGSC.

“So, for example, in a scenario where the government wants to survey the population about the spending habits of a particular age group, a private sector firm would need to be cleared in the Industrial Security Program to possess and process protected data. If the facility needed extra security equipment, like high security locks, containers to store paper documents and an approved IT system to process the data, those would all have to be in place before the contract could be let.”

No compensation (for these security measures) is provided by Canadian and International Industrial Security Directorate (CIISD), Manoni said.

“The CIISD does not get involved in the costing of the security measures deemed necessary by (the government). If necessary, a recommendation is made to companies advising them what security measures they will be required to implement,” said Manoni.

Luxton said the security measures go beyond common sense at times when compared to other governments he has dealt with. “There are real costs involved and there are real delays involved. I have to comment that we sell to many countries around the world and we find Canada one of the most bureaucratic, lethargic and in some ways mindless governments to deal with,” Luxton said. “I’ll give you an example: we had somebody on staff who had a top security plus, plus, plus clearance with the government. He retires and the next day he’s working for us. He has to start all over as though he was a complete unknown, instead of being able to carry over some of his security clearance.”

When asked for any advice he had for businesses looking to land a contract with the government, Luxton had a stern warning.

“It is a laborious process and needlessly so. My advice for companies who aren’t selling to the government and will be selling to programs that require security clearance is don’t be surprised to find it a long and painful process to get the necessary clearances. And that is very different from how it’s advertised, it’s advertised that it facilitates this expeditiously and it does not.”

— Ottawa Business Journal

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