Last week at Security & Policing 2020, Elizabeth Sheldon, Vice-President for Security at ADS delivered a keynote address.

You can read the full speech below.

Thursday 5 March

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been a great honour to participate at Security & Policing 2020 for the third time as the Vice-President of Security at ADS. And what an event it has been in this, the final year of my tenure.
Both as VP and as an exhibitor, the event really has evolved and improved enormously since we moved into this fantastic venue, and JSaRC took the reins. I pay tribute to all involved – the Home Office, Dods, and not least the teams at ADS – for all they have done to deliver a great occasion.

It is doubly a privilege to have this opportunity to deliver these remarks in our brand-new Fusion Forum feature, kindly sponsored by Airbus, whom I should also like to thank for their generous support and involvement. Our aim was to introduce a platform this year that could facilitate new and innovative forms of dialogue between Government, Law Enforcement and industry on national security issues – and I think we have realised our vision. The programme of content at this year’s event generally, and especially in the fusion forum, has been exceptional. We have received contributions from the National Security Adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser for National Security, Professor Anthony Finkelstein. Many other senior officials, industrialists and subject matter experts have participated in this new initiative.

In addition, the live challenges we have delivered so far on counter-drone and protecting crowded places – and a third to be delivered later today on, CBRN resilience – are a genuinely new way of working. And we are so grateful to all those who have participated;

  • the Government policy leads who have had the courage and commitment to share their challenges with industry;
  • the companies who have popped their heads above the parapet to engage with some of the big questions that, collectively, we must address.
  • the subject matter experts who have kindly given their time to inform the dialogue magnificently.

The UK security sector, as well as the general public we seek to protect, will be all the better for us having kick-started these innovative exchanges.

S&P, then, can justifiably claim to be a – if not the – premier event in the UK security calendar. But we should also reflect that when we pack up later this afternoon, and we return to our desks, the industry we represent is very hard at work in supporting UK national security and policing objectives all the year round, 24/7.

In my role overseeing the activities of the ADS Security and Resilience team and chairing the Security Sector Board, I have come to learn from colleagues, many of whom are here this morning, more about how it is we represent a significant portion of a frankly world-leading UK security sector, in all its splendid diversity and excellence.

Reflecting the diversity, we have several active and vibrant special interest groups focusing on priority areas such as the development of covert technology, CBRN protection, counter-drone and countering explosive ordnance. All of these communities have been out in force at this event. The latter two groups – CBRN UK and Counter EO – have for the first time chosen to exhibit as groups in magnificent pavilions. What a super model that has proved to be.

Members of our new group covering cyber security – known as DISIG (digital information and systems integrity group) – have also thrown themselves into S&P 2020. And a particularly important priority that through this group we will be picking up from tomorrow, is on finalising work to bolster the resilience of the supply chains within all four sectors represented by ADS: aerospace, defence, security and space. We are very pleased to be working closely with our partners in Government to produce a cyber-security toolkit aimed at strengthening the digital protection of these critical sectors.

Our Security Export Focus Group is also breaking new ground. We are very pleased to be working closely with the Department for International Trade and now the Home Office, following the launch last year of the Security Export Strategy, to promote the UK’s security capabilities overseas. We place a strong focus on doing this through our very popular Public Security Exhibitions – table top displays of a broad range of UK capabilities -which we run in conjunction with the UK government.

Finally, I am pleased to confirm that, earlier this morning, we launched our plans for a new special interest group to support those many companies within our membership who provide physical and personnel security solutions. Formed in consultation with Government to help develop standards in this field as well as promote industrial capability, the work of our new group – PROTECT UK – is to start next week on the development of our exciting offer in this area.

These being our day to day efforts, to promote ADS members’ capabilities and facilitate practical business development opportunities, how can we lend our support to all aspects of National Security? How can we integrate ourselves fully into the spirit of the fusion doctrine, represented in this forum, which underpins the National Security Adviser’s vision?

These are big questions and new thinking and new energy will be needed to fulfil our potential. The time is right to place even greater weight on the development of the new ideas, structures and solutions that are needed to develop effective public-private cooperation in the security sector.

I have been privileged at this event to have participated in an important meeting of the Security and Resilience Growth Partnership. On Tuesday, the chairman of the UK Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers’ Community (RISC), Sir Kevin Tebbit, co-chaired with our friend and colleague Richard Alcock, the Chief Operating Officer of the OSCT, the first meeting of the SRGP for a year and it was a very fruitful discussion. For those who are unfamiliar with the SRGP, this is the UK’s primary strategic forum designed to shape and oversee the activity of government-industrial cooperation on security issues. ADS, alongside our colleagues in techUK and the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), play a central role in supporting the SRGP via RISC – the leading alliance bringing together the security and resilience sector.

What do I take from this meeting and other crucial discussions here at S&P? My message is simple – the security industry and the wider private sector now plays a core and central role in implementing national security objectives.

It is quite humbling to have the opportunity to say at the UK Government’s own official event that it is imperative we maintain and develop even more effective co-operation between Government and industry on security issues.

From an economic perspective, this will be crucial to ensure that our vibrant sector, which is growing rapidly and now exceeds over £5bn pounds in export markets annually and has grown over 142% since 2010, can fulfil its own economic potential in a new political landscape.

From the point of view of national security, Government now depends on our industry to help implement its security strategies. As the Director General of the OSCT, Tom Hurd, as well as Richard Alcock, have repeatedly said, echoed explicitly in CONTEST, we need integration of the private sector to succeed.

What are the policy priorities to focus upon and how can we go about achieving them? Under Sir Kevin’s exemplary leadership, RISC has devised a very robust policy portfolio focused on four key issues – procurement, innovation, exports and skills. It is rumoured that the acronym for this agenda is ‘PIES’ but our security director has informed me that he couldn’t possibly confirm or deny this.

The importance of these priorities was raised with the Minister this week and it is imperative that the emerging defence and security industrial strategy, DSIS, fully integrates these and other security sector specific priorities into its deliberations.

Until recently, the focus of this review on its defence elements was beginning to risk overshadowing the crucial ‘first s’ in the DSIS.

But our colleagues in the Home Office and the wider security machinery should be in no doubt that we fully support them as they seek to ensure that the security strand of the review is of utmost importance to our industry, and need appropriate representation in this process.

For there are a good number of crucial sector specific issues that, for the security sector at ADS, must be tended to. Not least the very real need for security companies to have the ability in principle to apply for security clearance. And without question we must properly recognise the unique character of the security market – spanning as it does, multiple purchasing entities across both public and private sectors – in which a wide range of capabilities is offered by a community mostly composed of SMEs.

To date the major focus of the preparations for the review appears to have been on the identification of specific industrial capabilities and their development. That is essential across both defence and security, of course, however the deeper element that must be grappled on the security side, is a full appreciation of the need to find new and pragmatic ways to deliver solutions within a unique security and resilience market.

We have heard at S&P about the Government’s intention to regulate aspects of this sector to a much greater extent, particularly in respect of the protection of crowded places and in tackling online harm. Well I am totally confident that, engaged properly with the end users, the companies in attendance can provide the solutions needed to offer the necessary levels of protection. And I say ‘engaged properly’ because in security, it is the wider private and commercial sectors who are increasingly the major purchasers of capability, not the Government. Collectively, and urgently, we must now begin to think of ‘industrial strategy’ in the security sector through a much broader lens. To be successful, we must adapt our thinking to the actual market dynamics at play, not how we might perceive or want them to be.

There must be room in this discussion, and also in the context of the integrated review of security, defence and foreign policy announced by the Prime Minister last week, for consideration of whether we have in place the appropriate machinery and resources to harness the private sector’s full contribution to national security.

For if you look at the quotation at the side of this very forum, we see that the fusion doctrine introduced by the National Security Adviser now places the private sector at the heart of the UK’s National Security Strategy. A very welcome statement – but are we realising this vision? We now need an honest assessment across government and industry as to whether we are sufficiently equipped and resourced in the non-MoD parts of UK national security to fulfil this important policy priority.

Let me be clear that that this is not in any way intended as a criticism of our colleagues in the Home Office and particularly in the Joint Security and Resilience Centre. Crucial work is being done under their leadership, the fruits of which we see at this event. But, in the view of ADS, it is now apparent in the context of growing major risks overseen by the Home Office – terrorism, organised crime and cyber criminality to name a few – that we need to step up efforts to enable the private sector’s involvement in national security.

And so, as Sir Kevin has expressed to the Home Office, and as we at ADS strongly believe, ‘our sector needs full, dedicated and genuine integration into the DSIS process at the highest levels, taking account of the importance of the non-military environment to the UK’s national security.’ I and ADS fully supports the RISC view that ‘consideration should be given to building up dedicated resource within the Home Office to strengthen HMG’s capacity for security industry engagement, both on policy and operational issues.’ In the view of ADS, there is an urgent need for Government to step up its approach to strategic industrial engagement in this sector and we suggest that consideration be given to the appointment of a senior, dedicated official within the Home Office to lead on these issues.

It is not just about resources, structures and Government strategies, of course. We cannot afford to get bogged down in process and bureaucracy. But, inevitably, the ambition we have will need investment. And we must work harder than ever to realise this ambition in the new, post-Brexit political environment.

We must strive for nothing less than the promotion to all our allies and partners, in the UK and internationally, assertively and without hesitation, the unique and unrivalled innovation and capabilities of the UK security and resilience sector.

It is a great honour to play a role in promoting the UK security and resilience sector, particularly here at S&P. The event has shown, once again, how our thriving sector already possesses and deploys the ideas and innovation that support national security and policing, day-in, day-out.

We must now ramp up our levels of public-private engagement on security issues. I am entirely confident about the appetite and ability of the UK security sector to play its full part in the National Security Strategy, to participate fully in ‘fusion’.

The building blocks are in place. There is no shortage of willingness to achieve the integration that is needed. We now have a fantastic chance to drive forward a new level of cooperation. Let us not miss the opportunity.

Thank you.