Keeping an eye on airport security

Shortly after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the Canadian government created the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to provide security screening services at airports. The organization was then handed the challenge of finding a better way to ensure that people working in airports and for airlines – about 110,000 of them – were properly authorized and identified when they walked in the doors at Canada’s 29 major airports.

The system that was developed to meet this security challenge, called RAIC (Restricted Area Identity Card), has been a resounding success, winning the Exceptional Innovation Award at the 2006 Canadian Information Productivity Awards. CATSA CIO Kevin McGarr accepted the award, along with Rob Durward, director of technical programs.

The first stage of the RAIC project was completed at the beginning of 2007, after investment of four years and $40 million. Success means that there will be a second phase. If the project had failed, the political costs would have been high and public confidence in airport security could have been shaken.

That’s pressure, and it would have been felt even by CIOs with long experience in the aviation industry. When McGarr was appointed to lead the project in January 2003, however, he was a first-time CIO and had no previous industry experience.

But he knew about pressure. He had been a police officer in Montreal for 26 years and retired in 1997 as lieutenant-detective in charge of organized crime investigations. “There’s enough work to keep you busy,” he says dryly about that experience.

After retirement McGarr began a new career as a consultant in Montreal with KPMG Investigation and Security. When he left after 6

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