14 Feb 2006
Although figures abound regarding the size and value of the security market, it is, for the most part, deeply unattractive and invites little private sector investment or public-private sector risk-sharing. The reason is simple: the security market is spread across every Government department, every part of the critical national infrastructure, every first-responder community, every private business and every individual. Likewise, almost as many different services and products are sought as there are potential buyers. In short, it is highly fragmented, vastly diffuse and large parts of it are opaque due to being shrouded in secrecy.
From the point of view of a supplier, costs of sales are frequently prohibitively high and the construction of business cases for investment very difficult indeed. Similarly, all is not rosy from the demand side of the equation: working out what solutions exist for your need; which is the best; and then finding someone to deliver the product or service to time, cost and quality – all of these can be a monumental task.
However, it appears that the situation may not remain this bleak for long. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, made a number of key statements regarding this issue during his security speech at the Royal United Services Institute on 13 January 2006.
The first statement came early in his speech where he stated: ‘Co-ordinating the way we address international terrorism will be a central feature of the coming spending review’. This statement came shortly after reminding the audience that ‘The first responsibility of a Government is to protect its citizens’ and that it was not just the Treasury which was a ‘department of security’ but so too was almost every other Government department.
Clarification of what exactly he meant by this came later in his speech. He stated that priorities for the review would include: an examination of ‘future security needs for intelligence gathering and policing’; a review of the ‘strategic allocation of resources’; and an assessment of how co-ordination, delivery and accountability will be best assured. However, almost hidden within this clarification, which included examples of resources that might be sought, such as detecting explosives in crowded places, came perhaps the most significant statement for industry: ‘We will examine the case for a single security budget’.
Couple this statement with an earlier assertion that the Government needed to ‘make use of continually evolving technology’; an admission that just as the Government has been ‘evolving new responses to national and international security’ there have been ‘analogous developments in the private sector’; and the proposition of a joint public-private project to take the UK Identity Card scheme forward – then suddenly the security market shows early signs of becoming much more attractive.
Without wishing to count chickens before they hatch, it appears that not only will the Government’s security requirements become much more joined-up and coherent – making the Government part of the security market more attractive and accessible – but in the future, the Government will actively seek to join forces with the private sector, which has similar needs – and, in many cases, much more money – to ‘release the best technology and value or money’, thus turning a fragmented, diffuse and opaque market into an entirely different proposition.