Opening Statement: Issues related to the Defence Policy Review
by David Perry
Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
November 14, 2016
Mr. Chair, Senators, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today as part of your study related to the Defence Policy Review
I was asked to speak specifically about the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force’s capability gaps, and I will focus on these in my opening remarks. I’d be happy to take your questions on a broader range of topics as you see fit, however.
Let me start off by providing a broad frame around the Army and Air Force issue that I will discuss in greater detail by outlining four broad capability gaps that affect the entire Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Department of National Defence relative to pre-Defence Policy Review Canadian defence policy.
First, we face a personnel gap because our military is understrength. The CAF are authorized and funded for 68,000 positions, but currently sit at roughly 66,000. The 2011 Report on Transformation identified a need for the Canadian military to grow by several thousand additional positions above 68,000 to address capability deficiencies in areas like cyber, space and intelligence that existed at that point in time. I believe the demand for additional personnel has grown, not reduced in the last five years.
Second, DND has an infrastructure gap, because its real property holdings are increasingly antiquated, with far too much of it dating to the 1950’s or even earlier. This is in part the result of chronic under investment in defence infrastructure. At the same time, the Canadian military faces the need to expand its infrastructure footprint in the Canadian Arctic. Given the changing threat environment there driven by Russian military modernization, there is a need for additional facilities that could provide logistical support for northern operations on the water and in the air. Currently, virtually all of Canada’s military capabilities that can be used in the Arctic must be deployed there temporarily from bases in southern Canada and supported by a very small number of very rudimentary forward operating locations. We need for additional Arctic logistics support.
Third, there is a lingering readiness gap. To cope with budget cuts after 2010, the funding for National Procurement, the budget line that funds equipment maintenance, repair and overhaul and spare parts was reduced significantly. This saw declines in the National Procurement budgets for some air fleets drop by 25%, and contributed to the Army parking half of its ‘B’ vehicle fleet. While the funding for National Procurement has been largely restored to 2010 levels, the military is still dealing with the impacts of maintenance and repair and overhaul activities that were deferred due to lack of funding.
Fourth, under existing defence budget plans, the Canadian military faces a huge Capital equipment gap. Public documents show that the unfunded capital equipment plans needed to translate extant defence policy into military capability range between $20 and $40 billion dollars over the next couple of decades. Addressing this deficit, equivalent to at least a couple of billion dollars are year in additional Capital equipment funding, is in my estimation the single most important issue that must be addressed as part of the Defence Policy Review. If this Capital equipment gap is not addressed, and the status quo defence funding situation remains, the Canadian military will not be able to afford to keep the same broad mix of equipment it currently holds now.
This situation applies to both the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force, each of which face many un-funded equipment procurements which will become capability gaps in the future if DND is not provided with additional fiscal room to make equipment purchases. This would include several Army communications and command and control projects, as well as multiple projects for Army engineering and logistics support equipment. For the RCAF, these unfunded liabilities which will become gaps if left unaddressed include an replacement for our fleet of Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and our Search and Rescue and Tactical helicopter fleets.
Let me now switch the focus of my remarks to Canada’s operational capabilities relative to Canadian strategic priorities. With respect to our ability to conduct land-based operations, this is largely a function of Canada’s level of ambition, rather than strategic need. Broadly speaking, I think we are relatively well positioned to continue the same level of land based engagements as we have in recent years, thanks to the increase in the ranks of the Canadian Army in the mid-2000s and its recapitalization over the last decade. One point of concern would be the Canadian Army’s ability to conduct operations against conventional, ‘peer’ states like Russia, given our army’s focus on counter-insurgency operations for the last decade and peacekeeping operations for the decade prior.
With respect the Canada’s ability to counter possible air or space based threats to Canada, I think we do face some operational capability gaps.
Canada has no defence whatsoever against ballistic missiles. North Korea has been developing this technology for several years and is now working to launch these missiles from their submarines. While the United States has developed, a Ground Based, Mid-Course Defence against these missiles, and previously asked Canada to participate in that system, Canada declined to do so, and has subsequently never formally revisited that decision. This decision should be revisited. We should discuss the possibility of Canada joining Ballistic Missile Defence with the Americans, and if the terms are favourable, formally join.
Russian Air and Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles
The Russian military has significantly upgraded its air and naval forces in recent years and continues to do so. Over the last two years, the Russians have demonstrated this new equipment’s effectiveness as well as their willingness to use it to advance their own interests.
Russian forces successfully employed in Syria a new class of sophisticated conventional air and sea launched cruise missiles that have greatly enhanced range, are difficult to observe and are capable of precision targeting. Three aspects of this development are problematic. First, these weapons come in both nuclear and conventional variants. Second, they can be carried by Russian Long Range Patrol Aircraft and their newest and most capable submarines. Third, because of the increased distances at which these new missiles can successfully hit targets and their low observability characteristics, the current arrangements for defending North America, based on NORAD and the North Warning System, must be upgraded to counter them effectively.
Because of this increased Russian activity around North America, we also need to enhance our ability to know what it happening in all three of our coastal approaches, and especially in the Canadian arctic. Since 2007 the Russians have conducted long range aviation patrols towards Canada’s Arctic airspace, and done so in ways that indicate an inclination on their part to link this activity to strategic confrontations with Canada elsewhere in the world. Similarly Russian submarine patrols in the Atlantic have recently reached levels not seen since the Cold War. We therefore need an expanded mix of air and space based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms.
As well, we need to maintain our ability to respond to aerial threats to North America. As Russia continues to modernize its air forces, this will require Canada to keep pace with improvements in Russian technology. As such, we need to move quickly to purchase a fleet of fighter aircraft capable of detecting the most modern Russian aircraft and sharing that information with the rest of the North American defence system.
David Perry is the Senior Analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.