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CDR NEXT QUESTION – Shaun McEwan, President, ADGA Group

CDR NEXT QUESTION – Shaun McEwan, President, ADGA Group

BY MARC MONTGOMERY

Shaun McEwan

President, ADGA Group

Since 1967 ADGA Group has been quietly, but efficiently, aiding the Department of National Defence (DND) and other government departments in a wide variety of critical software engineering and integrated security roles. CDR had the opportunity to sit down with the company’s President, Shaun McEwan. The conversation focused on the company’s various training & simulation products, their involvement in key cybersecurity programs, and their support of veterans. Here is that conversation.  

CDR: Hi Shaun, thank you for speaking with us today. To start, would you please give our readers a brief overview of ADGA Group and tell us what your company is working on these days?

McEwan: Hi Marc, it’s a pleasure speaking with you. ADGA really started off as an engineering services firm and we’ve been true to that, more or less, throughout our corporate history. Several years ago, we drifted somewhat to the staff augmentation model but in the last couple of years we’ve been focused on being an engineering services firm, principally to Canada with DND as a main customer along with other agencies in the security and public safety domain, such as Corrections Canada.

We have employees working on a number of programs, including software engineering for the Canadian Army’s command and control support systems, the design and development of military simulation training systems for all facets of the Canadian Armed Forces [CAF], and significant integrated security work on the Canadian Surface Combatant [CSC] program.

According to Shaun McEwan, ADGA is involved in software development for training on LAVs and Griffon helicopters

TRAINING & SIMULATION `

CDR: What are some examples of ADGA’s contributions to these programs?

McEwan: It involves things like weapons systems management, software engineering for weapons programs such as ballistic computing, and intelligence fusion capabilities. For more than 20 years, ADGA Group has supported the Army’s Command and Control requirements, providing in-service support, capability development, adaptive engineering solutions, strategic analysis, and insights.

Our experts provide highly responsive, secure software development capability for any environment. This includes the development, maintenance and operation of resource planning systems to deploy troops and solutions into theatres of operation.

We have significant simulation contracts at a variety of departments, including the simulation software we’re developing for training on LAVs as well as Griffon helicopters. Some of our employees have helped write the entire integrated security plan, including the cyber security plan, for the Canadian Surface Combatant program.

ADGA is engaged in cyber operations and military programs that ensure the security and resilience of assets, develop new capabilities in support of force generation, and launch intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Some of this includes NATO and NORAD interoperability and interchangeability, developing some of the software interfaces and data conversions that are necessary to enable Canadian systems to talk to other countries’ systems.

Those are some of the more recent ones. And I can only mention that there are some other involvements as well at higher levels of security.

CDR: Technology is constantly progressing so how do you ensure your employees keep up to date with the latest advancements?

McEwan: We constantly upgrade our employees’ training and certifications and sometimes take personnel out of the field and put them onto purely research projects, things like AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning]. Such R&D efforts have led to applications such as our MedCoach system which provides immediate medical diagnoses and treatment in extremely remote areas with little to no communications.

Another example is our Amari product – an adaptable artificial intelligence platform for earth observation which uses some very advanced algorithms to declutter images. It’s a next-generation machine learning platform for deriving actionable intelligence from earth observation datasets. It provides a specialist framework to rapidly train neural networks without human intervention, allowing observers to not only keep pace with the overwhelming and always increasing volume of available satellite imagery, but to bring observation and detection as close to real time as possible.

Beyond ADGA’s agile software development and integrated security solutions, we offer ‘Value added Program Management’ [VaPM] which is a more holistic, outcome-driven relationship model. We believe the key to helping the government overcome ‘capacity’ problems is to deliver ‘capability’—by investing in the skills development, knowledge growth and R&D experiences of our employees, so ADGA can drive better outcomes in procurement and program management as an industry partner to the CAF.

The ADGA team at CANSEC 2023

SUPPORTING VETERANS 

CDR: We know that ADGA has a social mandate to create meaningful employment opportunities for veterans. Please tell us a little more about this.

McEwan: As a company of some 600, we seek to provide meaningful employment to former CAF and RCMP personnel and their families, and reinvest into that community.

Veterans consistently make up about a quarter of our workforce and in many cases they now work as civilians within their former departments. This guarantees a high degree of affinity towards ensuring that uniformed individuals get what they need to perform their tasks.

We’re really proud of the fact that ADGA Group was formed with a high degree of passion towards ensuring those who serve, Canada’s men and women in uniform, get the kinds of tools, systems and information they need to effectively do their jobs. That’s what really drives this business.

Equally important to us is our ability to provide significant financial resources to reinvest in the betterment of that community. I’m not aware of many other consulting and engineering companies that can say that.

I’ve worked as a CFO and CEO for many public companies for 35 years, and for me it’s always been about maximizing shareholder wealth. That’s really the same here except the shareholders are veterans. So, it has a whole different ‘feel good’ approach to it. I think it sets AGDA up as a truly unique ally to Canada and to the CAF because the trust factor can start from a very different place. We’re not sending all our profits home to our parent company in the U.S. or Europe. Instead, we’re sending our profits home to the veterans that need our assistance.

Back in 2021, ADGA Group was acquired by Commissionaires Ottawa, one of 15 Commissionaires companies. Commissionaires is Canada’s largest private sector employer of veterans and the only national not-for-profit security company. Commissionaires also donates significant sums of money into a variety of programs, but we’re going to vastly amp that up to the tune of millions of dollars.

CDR: For those who are currently thinking of changing careers or retiring from the CAF and looking for civilian work, how would you want to promote your company?  

McEwan: ADGA Group is an all-Canadian company, a place for technologically experienced service members planning to leave the Forces, or having left, where you don’t need to work full time or sit in an office 9-5, yet still contribute in a meaningful way. ADGA is also highly attractive for a younger generation that wishes to work for a progressive company that is focused on all facets of business and delivering safety and security for our men and women in uniform, while working in a really cool engineering and technology driven organisation that ultimately gives back.

Marc Montgomery is a Regular CDR Contributor

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