Ten Years after 9/11: Where are we and where do we go?

Ten years after the World Trade Centre attacks awoke fortress North America from its naïve impression of being beyond the reach of international terrorism, are we any safer? If “safer” means that some asset protection and security (AP&S) vulnerabilities have been addressed then the answer is a qualified yes, but many key vulnerabilities remain to be addressed if Canadians are to enjoy the quality of life that they expect, protected from deliberate, accidental or natural threats.


Politicians typically express effort in terms of money spent, and a 2008 CBC study estimated that Canada has spent $24 billion on security, but much of this is hidden in budgets for lead security departments including the military, so money is not mapped directly to physical or operational safeguard implementation. Canada formed Public Safety Canada (PSC) in 2003 to integrate the protection efforts of Customs, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, the former Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board. The U.S., in comparison, has spent approximately $1 trillion in integrating 22 departments into their Homeland Security behemoth (2011 budget: $98.8 billion) and in implementing counter-terrorism safeguards. But integration of actual protection often has not extended beyond individual AP&S agencies, which has resulted in inconsistent application of safeguards in airports, at borders and in shipping. These inconsistencies represent vulnerabilities that remain exploitable by threat agents.


Some usable protection advice from PSC has been forthcoming from their Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre periodic bulletins, and the Government Operations Centre provides a good theoretical co-ordination function. On the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) side, a national strategy was developed in 2009; in 2008 they drafted a bi-lateral agreement on emergency management co-operation, and in 2010 they produced a Canada-U.S. Action Plan. This represents a lot of “talking about talking about it” but tangible and measurable results on protection implementation are not yet in place. Policies without oversight are untrusted safeguards.


The future for protection in Canada lays in timely action based on a full appreciation of the risks to the availability, integrity and confidentiality of the valued assets that support the businesses that produce goods and the organisations the deliver private and public services upon which all Canadians rely. While governments can provide policy and standards for protection of critical infrastructures and even sanctions for non-compliance, if dollars do not accompany direction then the hard decisions on how much to spend on AP&S safeguards fall upon the senior management of individual organisations. Examples of local initiatives such as the Business Continuity Plan produced for our MacOdrum Library and the campus-wide Emergency Management/Continuity of Operations (EMCO) project currently under consideration by Carleton University’s leadership will go a long way to providing the necessary protection posture post 9/11 at the local level, where all protection measures ultimately reside and need to be managed.


Three interconnected components are required for effective protection against all hazards, and the resultant sense of security that all citizens deserve as they study, work or play. First, capable AP&S specialists must be developed through training, education and experience to advise upon and implement appropriate security safeguards at the local, campus or facility level to meet likely threats. Second, senior management must display leadership and must trust the security risk assessment and advice of their AP&S staff and exert the necessary leadership to fund the implementation of safeguards where justified and champion their continued implementation. And third, safeguards must be “interlocked” into an integrated protection posture both within the enterprise and within the local community based on common threats. Achieving these three components is challenging in an environment where lack of trust among organizations and security staff continues, and reluctance to share information persists; even 10 years after 9/11 many of the same silos and sacred cows remain. These obstacles will be best overcome by the next generation of AP&S specialists who understand the big protection picture. Only the integration of all security safeguards will produce an effective “all-round defence” from the bottom-up, with the eventual interweaving of individual protection networks into a national fabric of security. Hope that we will not be attacked is not an effective security safeguard; leadership and trust by our senior management at the enterprise level, competent asset protection and security practitioners, and the integration of technical and non-technical security safeguards both across and up the various physical and organisational chains are the keys to appropriate protection post 9/11.

Wayne Boone is the co-ordinator and principal instructor in the inter-disciplinary master’s of Infrastructure Protection and International Security (MIPIS) Program at Carleton University, which is building the next generation of AP&S practitioners, advisors and leaders.

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