Where’s our homeland security plan?

TORONTO — Security companies trying to sell information technology solutions to Ottawa are being hobbled because the federal government doesn’t have a government-wide IT architecture, says a former senior civil servant.

“”There doesn’t seem to be a master plan for homeland security, which

makes it very difficult for the public and private sector to co-ordinate their activities,”” Jacques Lyrette, acting CEO of the ADGA Group, an Ottawa IT consultancy, told a security seminar here Wednesday.

“”When there was the power failure (in August in Ontario) you saw what happened. The right hand didn’t know what the other was doing. There’s a need in this country to increase the efficiency and effectiveness”” of IT purchasing, he added. “”Right now a lot of people buy a lot of systems, but nobody worries if they can talk to each other.””

The IT architecture would embrace the acquisition, sharing and processing of information between departments and allies, he said.

Not only is the sharing of information online poor, he said, but without a plan for fixing it, security companies have to go from ministry to ministry trying to sell IT solutions.

Earlier this year, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said it is reviewing the Management of Government security standard that will govern how security is handled across federal departments.

Lyrette also complained the government is so stung by recent news stories about cabinet ministers accepting trips from corporations they are afraid to meet with companies trying to sell solutions — including those covering security — to the government.

The seminar was organized by the Toronto branch of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), a high-tech industry lobby group.

Lyrette worked for more than 30 years for the former department of communications and the National Research Council, where he headed the industry research program helping small and medium companies get research funding. He also taught computer science at Royal Military College. He left government a year ago to work for ADGA.

He complained that two years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington the Canadian federal government’s reaction is disorganized. Departments create committees that have no power, resulting in “”a false sense of security.”” There is some collaboration, he said, but legislation limits the ability of ministries to face today’s complex national security threats. He called on organizations like CATA to push the government to adopt a strong IT security plan.

CATA last week released a detailed report that looks at the size of the Canadian security market and some of its challenges, including financing and access to markets.

Lyrette’s remarks came two weeks after Solicitor-General Wayne Easter announced that a new terrorism assessment centre has been established to enhance the capability of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The Integrated National Security Assessment Centre (INSAC) is based at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, draws on personnel from defence, immigration, transport, communications, customs, critical infrastructure, foreign affairs and law enforcement agencies.

Its assessments are then distributed to departments to improve warning, response and incident mitigation capabilities, the government said.

Two attendees at the seminar spoke out about their problems selling IT security solutions to governments, although with different focuses.

Rocky Stefano, a partner in Echelon Systems, a Concord, Ont. smart card developer, complained there isn’t enough government support for small start-up companies. He’s considering moving the company to Maryland because the U.S. is offering lucrative incentives.

Norman Cheesman, director of marketing and communications for Fire Monitoring Technologies International Inc. of Toronto, complained local governments aren’t mandating companies to install online fire warning systems like his firm’s product.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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