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Succeeds in the Virtual Domain



Will people actually attend and get involved in a virtual trade show and conference? The Aerospace, Defence & Security Expo Atlantic 2020 (ADS Expo 2020) online event proves that they will. Deftly produced by the Atlantic Canada Aerospace & Defence Association (ACADA) and held from September 30 – October 1st, the ADS Expo 2020 had everything one would find at a ‘real’ trade show and conference. The difference was that it was hosted online as a multi-window video conference that attendees could interact with – and interact they did. Those viewing the event online were more than happy to send the presenters questions in real-time, just as if they were seated in a physical meeting space.


“We watched in dismay as sector events were postponed/cancelled for 2020 and had the option of doing nothing, but jumped into the virtual conference world hosting three virtual conferences, including ADS Expo Atlantic and the upcoming MASS 2020 Conference. Support from federal and provincial government partners and industry sponsors was key to minimizing the risk of entering this new venue for events,“ said Carole Lee Reinhardt, President & CEO of ACADA.

ADS Expo 2020’s two-day lineup included keynote addresses and panel discussions, a virtual trade show with 43 vendor ‘booths’ and ‘onsite staff’, 121+ confirmed B2B/ B2G meetings, networking opportunities, ‘speed mentoring’ with Women in Aerospace Atlantic and the annual ACADA Industry Excellence Awards. ACADA reported that the online registration level was 500+ delegates, which is no small achievement given the current business environment.

The ADS Expo 2020 program was certainly varied. The program included a “The Future of Work” session which featured expert speakers and highlighted the experiences of Atlantic aerospace & defence companies through the pandemic.

There were also many government and industry presentations, including a DND update on the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) project delivered by RPAS Project Director LCol Jason Furlong. He told attendees that whichever of the two RPAS bidders – Team Artemis or Team SkyGuardian – wins the RPAS contract in 2022-2023, the resulting RPAS drones will be large, capable aerial platforms. “They’re not like toy aircraft drones that you will be able to purchase down at the local big box store,” said LCol Furlong. “These are full systems.

They’re exceptionally sophisticated from an electronics and software integration perspective.”


During the “International Outlooks” panel, Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA), Executive Director Molly Magee reported that COVID-19 had not depressed her members’ sales. Instead, Magee told delegates that sales had actually gone up and that the economic picture for her members looked promising. At a time when the defence industry is worried about its future prospects, this was good news indeed.

This said, the other panellists were not so optimistic. They predicted that some defence industry firms will be forced to shut down due to the pandemic or survive by merging with other companies to consolidate revenues and cut costs.

DoD will implement CMMC in all its contracts over the next five years, said Katie Arrington, Chief Information Security Officer to the DoD’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition


Cybersecurity is a major concern for the world’s militaries and their defence suppliers 2020 – particularly because hostile players could penetrate the former by exploiting lax security in the latter. This is why military organizations have been enhancing their cybersecurity requirements for defence suppliers.

In the United States, the Department of Defence (DoD) has adopted the “Cybersecurity Maturity Model Compliance” (CMMC) certification standard. This ensures consistent cybersecurity compliance among all of its estimated 300,000-plus suppliers.

“We needed something that covered all DoD contracts, because our mutual adversaries are looking for that vendor 3-12 layers down in the ecosystem that doesn’t realize that they are a target,” said Katie Arrington, Chief Information Security Officer to the DoD’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition. This is why CMMC, with its five levels of cybersecurity compliance and across-the-board application to all DoD suppliers, was created. “We needed to have something that gave cyber requirements to all contracts (that) . . . was scalable, repeatable and auditable,” she said. 

The DoD will be implementing CMMC in all its contracts over the next five years. The cost of running the program “will be built into your indirect rates as an allowable cost” Arrington told ADS Expo 2020 attendees. She added that the DoD is “willing to do anything to assist in making it easy, acceptable, and obtainable for companies in Canada to gain the (CMMC) certification, if they’re doing work with the Department of Defense.”

The twin topics of “Cyber Certification in Canada and the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Compliance (CMMC)” were subsequently tackled during the keynote of the same name by Brendan Dunphy. He is Director of Trust and Compliance with CyberNB, an organization created to enhance cybersecurity in Canada.

Dunphy noted that Canadian suppliers who comply with the federal government’s CyberSecure Canada program are certified as such for two years. They can advertise their compliance using a CyberSecure Canada ‘digital certification mark’. “You can display (it) to demonstrate to customers and stakeholders that you have implemented Canadian government recognized cybersecurity controls,” he said. In contrast, Canadian suppliers who comply with the DoD’s CMMC standard will receive a certification “valid for a three-year term, (and) you will then be eligible to bid on U.S. Department of Defense contracts.”

To simplify life for Canadian defence suppliers,“. . . the federal government is very interested in tracking towards equivalency between the CyberSecure Canada program and CMMC,” said Dunphy, so that qualifying for one certificate will qualify a supplier for the other. But this cyber equivalency may not come about for 12 to 24 months, because the Americans are focussed in CMMCcertifying their domestic suppliers first.

“Once this program (CMMC) is fully launched nationally (in the U.S.), the focus can shift to other jurisdictions,” Dunphy said. “They are working in tandem to ensure international requirements for the program are refined before their international program launches. And Canada is at the top of their list.”


A physical trade show booth is a preferred place for companies to meet and woo new sales prospects. A virtual trade show booth lacks this personal touch, but during a crisis like COVID-19, it is an excellent alternative.

“Nothing can replace face-to-face conversations,” said David Ibbetson, Vice President and General Manager of General Dynamics Mission Systems–International, whose company had a ‘booth’ at ADS Expo 2020’s virtual trade show. Nevertheless, “we’ve been impressed by the agility of trade show organizers to pivot and provide the technology that allows us to stay engaged with the defence and security community. Virtual trade shows offer a safe online venue that creates a sense of community and allows us to engage with our customers and partners.” And yes, “new and familiar faces” visited General Dynamics’ virtual booth during ADS Expo 2020.

“It has been a different experience in that there is a lack of providing any ‘hands on’ experience that one would normally have at a trade show booth,” agreed Tom Ormsby, Irving Shipbuilding’s Director of Communications. This said, “our virtual booth has been very busy and we have had a steady engagement and outreach from attendees . . . so it is working as intended and to our expectations for this event.”


Four ACADA Industry Excellence Recognition awards were presented to ACADA members during the ADS Expo 2020.

AS Works received the 2020 Innovation Leader award for its significant research and development investment in a new ADS product/service. Founded by Armin Strobel, AS Works designs/builds unique drones and docking stations that have “attracted the attention of both the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN),” said the award citation.

The 2020 Business Development Distinction for receiving a defence/ commercial ADS contract worth $500,000 or more went to Kognitiv Spark.

The 2020 Most-Promising Start-up award was given to Global Spatial Technology Solutions. 

Finally, the 2020 Gender and Diversity Excellence award was presented to Serco Canada. “Serco proudly demonstrates exemplary gender and diversity excellence as the Department of National Defence’s site support services contractor at 5 Wing Goose Bay,” said the ACADA award citation.


James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief

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