Two recent events highlight the need for increased collaboration in the Canadian and international security landscape under conditions of increasing austerity.

On May 31, the National Capital Security Partners’ Forum (NCSPF) hosted an evening panel discussion in Ottawa, “National Security versus Corporate Security: What the two can learn from each other.” Moderated by Lynn Mattice, the panel featured MGen (Ret’d) Doug Dempster, former NATO assistant secretary general for executive management; Mivil Deschenes, chief security officer (CSO) for RioTinto; Jeffrey Miller, VP and CSO for the National Football League; Melissa Hathaway, former cyber security czar to the White House; Julie Myers Wood, former assistant secretary with the Department of Homeland Security; and J. David Quilter, former CSO for four Fortune 500 companies and former supervisory special agent for the DEA.

In early June, the Kingston Conference on International Security, hosted by the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University, the U.S. Army War College, and the Land Force Doctrine and Training System of the Canadian Forces, examined “International Security in an Age of Austerity.”

A key takeaway of the May 31 discussion was that national security and corporate security need to better understand and communicate with each other to achieve their unique and mutual security objectives. There has been limited academic interaction among the national security and corporate security disciplines – the former historically being more strategic in approach and the latter more tactical.

In practice, neither business nor military models have transposed effectively onto the other community – the application of business efficiencies to military operations during the Vietnam War and to the Canadian military during the 1990s were deeply damaging to military effectiveness and by extension national security. Similarly, military models proved too restrictive for business innovation over time.

No longer can either the national security or corporate security communities perform effectively in isolation – military and economic power are inextricably linked. Globalization has had multiple effects on trade, threats and security, among them the concentration of infrastructure under private ownership, increased targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure by threats, unprecedented levels of mission- and security-related outsourcing to the private sector by government, and the increasingly strategic nature of corporate security as business operates internationally.

A key takeaway of the Kingston conference was that the NATO alliance is struggling under financial pressures and competing understandings of security and related requirements in the wake of the risk-based, high-cost, expeditionary Afghanistan mission.

Long wars and expeditionary responses in support of national security are fast losing support among increasingly inward-looking Western populations and their governments. NATO is moving forward with Smart Defence – a capabilities- and competencies-based approach that seeks to pool and share capabilities within the alliance. While Shared Services may be an example of this approach at the whole-of-government level in Canada, others are harder to find. The inclusion of the corporate security community at a whole-of-effort level in Canadian security efforts may be critical in countering globalized threats, such as cyber threats, which governments have so far failed to effectively address unilaterally.

Domestically, government is making deep efficiency cuts while struggling to identify the value and requirements of national security to Canadians. The Canadian bureaucracy is resizing and carrying forward in “survival-mode,” shedding and shrinking capabilities while reacting more slowly and tactically.

Canadians will be increasingly resistant to expansive, high-expenditure security approaches, such as Public Safety’s risk-based, all-hazards approach, which contributed to the unprecedented cost of G8/G20 security. While the U.S. is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of support from European partners, there are indications that the Canadian corporate and not-for-profit security communities are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of federal government engagement in collaborative Canadian security efforts, both in terms of resources and participation. Under current austerity conditions, government risks hardening existing silos and drawing on increasingly limited in-house resources rather than on identifiable capabilities and competencies located beyond itself.

Recent government emphasis on shared visions and values – anchors during change – may be insufficient to mitigate current isolationist tendencies that hinder cost-effective, collaborative efforts.

This may in part explain the appeal and rapid spread of the collaborative and capabilities- and competencies-focused Canadian Security Partners’ Forum network; the Calgary and Southern Alberta Security Partners’ Forum launched earlier this month and is the tenth Forum structure in Canada while the Nova Scotia Security Partners’ Forum held its inaugural event in June.

Bonnie Butlin is executive director of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies and co-chair of the National Capital Security Partners’ Forum.