OTTAWA - The Foreign Affairs Department plans to spend up to $5 million next year for a sweeping intelligence study of potential threats to Canada's foreign embassies and missions.

The department is soliciting bids from seasoned security intelligence firms to tell them about the possible threats to its diplomatic corps from terrorism, instability and natural disasters in 174 countries, including 46 major cities.

The Baseline Threat Assessment -- or BTA -- comes with a seemingly modest $1-million to $5-million price tag, according to a recently posted government procurement notice.

A May memo obtained by The Canadian Press from the briefing book of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird noted that the 2010 budget set aside $450 million over seven years for the Security Abroad Strategy to bolster security at Canada's foreign embassies.

Two weeks ago, Foreign Affairs posted a procurement notice to award a single contract for work to be conducted between January and March of next year.

It is seeking a detailed set of assessments to safeguard the people, programs and infrastructure of Canadian embassies.