Spring/Summer 2005 (Volume III, Issue I)

Promoting new understanding and improvement of Canadian foreign and defence policy.

Message from the President - Robert S. Millar

Welcome to this Summer’s issue of the Newsletter. In this edition we introduce two new individuals to our team of experts on security, defence and international relations. Lieutenant-General (Ret’d) George Macdonald, CMM, CD, of CFN Consultants has recently joined CDFAI as a Fellow. Jocelyn Coulon, a visiting professor with the Research Group in International Security (REGIS), based in Montreal, has also joined us as a member of CDFAI’s Advisory Council. We welcome them to our expanding network and look forward to their future contributions.

The four articles in this newsletter, all written since the publication of Canada’s recently released International Policy Statement (IPS), are interesting contributions to the understanding of Canada’s evolving role on the international scene. The first article written by Derek Burney is titled “International Policy Statement – One Hand Clapping.?” In his assessment of the IPS Derek discusses the “…sensible, if somewhat airy, blend of realism and idealism for Canadian foreign policy” that marks the IPS. He suggests “the proposed prescriptions” for the most serious external threats to Canada “a work-man like, piece-meal agenda for officials, but convey neither the appetite nor the conviction for high-level political engagement.”

In her article “Canadian Security Requirements and the Defence Policy Statement” Elinor Sloan suggests that the best defence for Canada in today’s world is a more balanced mix of offence and defence assets than was the case during the Cold War era. She analyzes the nature of the threats to Canada and the role of geography in complicating those threats. She then points to new civilian and military technologies that may help counter those threats. She warns that the current procurement process may not support much of some of the best ideas contained in the DPS.

Rob Huebert’s article “Canadian Seapower in the 21st Century” provides an historical context for the configuration of today’s Canadian Navy. He discusses the nature of the Post 9/11 threat to Canada in relation to adding new ships to the Canadian inventory.

“Forward to the Past: Some thoughts on Vision and Transformation in the Defence Review” is Jim Ferguson’s article. Jim’s thesis is that as far as vision is concerned, the government is committed to creating a Canadian Forces to meet the demands of the last fifteen years and that the transformation envisaged will likely take another ten plus years before it is completed.

Enjoy this newsletter; if you have any comments please contact us.


CDFAI New Fellow

georgemacdonald.jpg Lieutenant-General (Retired) George Macdonald joined CFN Consultants in Jan 2005 after serving 38 years in the Canadian Forces, culminating in the position of Vice Chief of the Defence Staff from 2001 to 2004, following three years as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of NORAD.

Initially, LGen Macdonald spent several years as an operational fighter pilot. He has commanded at the squadron, base/wing, and air division level. Throughout his career, he held many leadership positions in Ottawa, and has served with NATO forces in Germany and Norway, and with North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) in both Winnipeg and Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also held the position of Director of Operations in the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat in the Privy Council Office.

In addition to his broad operational experience, LGen Macdonald has extensive executive-level expertise in military requirements and capability planning, all aspects of defence program management, corporate change management, international security issues, and Canada-U.S. relations (including bilateral security issues, joint planning, NORAD and ballistic missile defence). In his last position as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, LGen Macdonald was the senior resource manager for DND and was responsible for strategic planning. As the second senior officer in the CF and chief of staff of National Defence Headquarters, he worked closely with both the Deputy Minister and the Chief of the Defence Staff on both resource and operational issues.

LGen Macdonald is a graduate of the University of Calgary and the National Defence College. He has participated in executive seminars at Harvard University and with the Canadian School of Public Service and has been published on several topics, including change leadership, interoperability, knowledge management, and ballistic missile defence.


CDFAI New Advisory Council Member

CDFAI now has seven Advisory Council Members whose role is to provide the Board of Directors  and CDFAI management with advice on programs and projects.  Council Members also provide advice on program areas that the Institute should be pursuing.

jocelyncoulon.jpg Jocelyn Coulon is a visiting professor with the Research Group in International Security (REGIS) at the Université de Montréal's Centre for International Research and Studies (CÉRIUM) for the year 2004–2005. He also writes a column on international politics for the Montreal daily La Presse.

He was director of the Montreal campus of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre from February 1999 to December 2003. He is a member of the PPC Board of Directors.

In the past few years, he has published a number of books, including, in 1998, Soldiers of Diplomacy. The United Nations, Peacekeeping, and The New World Order, University of Toronto Press, and in 2004, Guide du maintien de la paix 2005 and L'agression: Les États-Unis, l'Irak et le monde, both published by Athéna Éditions.

He is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).


Research Paper:
Effective Defence Policy for Responding to Failed and Failing States

On June 15, Dr. David Carment’s paper entitled: Effective Defence Policy for Responding to Failed and Failing States was released. Dr. Carment’s paper takes a hard look at the past decade of failed/failing states operations and sums up lessons he believes are vital for the success of future operations. Click here for the full-length PDF of this paper.

Dr. Carment’s paper is the second research paper in 2005 to be released. Two more papers will be released this year in September and December. They will be featured on CDFAI’s website as well.  



International Policy Statement (IPS) – One Hand Clapping?  

by Derek Burney

After a year and a half of discussion, delay and rewrites, the recently released International Policy Statement offers a sensible, if somewhat airy, blend of realism and idealism for Canadian foreign policy. The strength of the “Statement” is a belated but welcome call for more focus and commitment, particularly in official development assistance, in the modernization of the long-neglected Canadian Forces and on North American security, including the renewal of NORAD. The weakness lies in the continuing reluctance to acknowledge the need for a comprehensive, integrated approach to the management of our most vital relationship - one which demands “repair” before we contemplate any semblance of “revitalization”. The most serious external threats to Canada’s well-being are the increasingly protectionist sentiments of the U.S. Congress and the potentially negative fallout at our border from a security breach or a new terrorist strike. The proposed prescriptions offer a workman-like, piece-meal agenda for officials, echoing recent press releases, but convey neither the appetite nor the conviction for high-level political engagement. Complacency can be lethal for Canada.

The most elusive commodity for effective implementation of foreign (or domestic) policy is genuine political leadership. Of late, that has been erratic and, given the uncertain life of the current government, is unlikely to change anytime soon. Nonetheless, we need not only more coherence in foreign policy and the instruments of implementation, but also more coherence between foreign and domestic policy and a bolder plan of action. Our national interest in ensuring a prosperous and safe Canada within a stable, more humane world cannot be served by rhetoric and noble intentions alone. Platitudes about “independence” and “sovereignty” are relatively meaningless in an increasingly interdependent world, one in which the forces of globalization create both risks and opportunities for Canada.

Real, effective leadership requires signalling top priority - confidently and clearly - to the manner in which we manage relations with the United States. Fundamentally, for Canada, it is a choice between engagement and irrelevance; between tackling hard issues vital to our well-being or dancing on the periphery, between leading and advancing our long-term interests or following the short-term whims of popular opinion.

Talk of greater integration contradicts the more evident fragmentation of foreign policy delivery instruments, whether through the pointless decision to split the integrated department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, or the sub-contracting of vestiges of foreign policy to the provinces. Nor will adding more resources to Consulates in the United States achieve much if the substance of our relations is skewed by inexplicable decisions on basic policy in Ottawa.

Canada has every right and good reason to be concerned about what the United States will do, unilaterally or otherwise, with its massive military power. But, if we hope to influence the U.S. on decisions of that kind, we need to establish a more mature platform of trust that will facilitate constructive dialogue. We also need to back our positions with commitments in kind. And when we choose to differ, we should learn to express our difference in a manner that can be understood as serving a distinct Canadian interest. That is where the decision to stand down on Ballistic Missile Defence was most perplexing to Americans and many Canadians alike. It defied logic in terms of either Canadian national sovereignty or security. Who doubts that we are now further than ever from having the degree of trust and respect in Washington that would be required to make the IPS commitment to “revitalize” the relationship a reality?

From a more confident platform of high-level engagement, we could move to strengthen our huge commercial relationship, resolve persistent disputes and reinvigorate, if not expand, existing agreements. The energy sector cries out for mutual commitment and mutual benefit but that will not happen by osmosis. Our border infrastructure is increasingly out-dated, draining billions of dollars from both economies. New technologies and new investments are urgently required to make the border part of the solution and not part of the problem. We would also both benefit from explicit plans for harmonization and mutual recognition of standards and for tariff negotiations that would eliminate, or at least reduce, rule of origin impediments to bilateral trade.

Canada faces huge challenges in the next decade. We have coasted for decades on the richness of our resources and the economic oxygen of ties with our all-powerful southern neighbour. But the easy life at home and the detached, highly sentimental attitude about our place in the world is not preparing us for the complexities of globalization or for competition from those with stronger convictions and capabilities. We may be entering a “golden era” for our resources, but the climate for competitive manufacturing operations in Canada is deteriorating in the face of an appreciating currency, lagging productivity rates and declining levels of investment. Our exports to China, Japan and the “emerging Powers” are not matching those of our natural competitors, notably Australia. Ambitious estimates about the potential for trade relations with these countries mask the meager results we have had to date from protracted negotiations with much smaller entities. If we expect to keep pace, we will need the courage of our convictions - the essence of leadership - and some concrete prescriptions for action that would match the dire flavour of much of the analysis in the ”Statement”.

There is, of course, much more to Canadian foreign policy than the manner in which we choose to manage our most vital bilateral relationship. It is not a zero/sum game. But, if we are unwilling to engage systematically and forcefully those with whom we have the most at stake, it is even less likely that our global aspirations will stimulate much resonance.



Canadian Security Requirements and the Defence Policy Statement

by Elinor Sloan

The defence component of Canada’s International Policy Statement, released in April 2005, includes a marked and appropriate change in emphasis from the primarily overseas-orientation of previous defence policy statements, to a greater focus on the defence of Canada and North America. What is the basis of this new balance between domestic and international roles? Does it go beyond rhetoric to encompass future acquisition decisions?

The primary Cold War threat to North America, a Soviet nuclear missile attack, was such that there was little we could do to defend against the threat. As a result, we concentrated on ensuring our security abroad, and the often-stated mantra became “the best defence is a good offense.” But the contemporary security environment is such that more can be done to address the threat to Canada at home. Today the best defence is a more balanced mix of offense and defence.

An assessment of four factors leads to this conclusion, the first of which is the nature of the threat. The contemporary threat to Canada is exceedingly difficult to detect. Today the equivalent of detecting armies massing is picking up increased “chatter” pertaining to a planned terrorist attack. Intelligence is at a premium and human intelligence is very important. At home we may be looking for a lone person in a visa line-up; abroad we may be looking for dispersed terrorist cells.

In some ways the ‘difficulty of detection’ issue may be less pronounced abroad than at home. It is possible to identify those failed states that are likely to harbor terrorists and pose a security threat to North America, and this was done in Afghanistan. Yet although it is appealing to focus on failed states, the fact is that international terrorist organizations operate in small cells in dozens of countries, only a handful of which are failed states. The Madridand London bombings well illustrate that terrorists are living and operating within Western nations. So when it comes to the nature of the threat we need to continue to look abroad but we also need to be more vigilant at home—a distinction between the Cold War and post-9/11 eras.

A second factor is the diminishing role of geography in assessing security policies. Historically, Canada and the United States enjoyed a geography that protected them from the threats of the outside world. New technologies and an increasingly interconnected, globalized environment has largely eliminated this geographic advantage. This has meant that what happens in a far off corner of the world can impact us at home, but it has also meant that we can no longer put the homeland to one side and concentrate on missions abroad.

Third, advances in civilian technologies. Since 9/11 the United States and Canada have implemented a vast range of technologies designed to detect the terrorist threat at home and increase the security of the continent. Progress in homeland security technologies has been significant. Although the magnitude of the task of monitoring goods and people entering the United States and Canada is mammoth, technological advances may, in the medium-term, be able to move the task into the “just possible” realm. In the next few years, for example, it may be possible to have in place a robust screening process for cargo containers that enter Canadian ports.

A final factor is advances in military technologies. Many of these centre on the increased precision, mobility, and long-range striking power of modern military forces, attributes which are relevant to the ability of forces to target the terrorist threat to North America in overseas settings. But conducting warfighting efforts against terrorists abroad is still very challenging. Terrorist groups are increasingly amorphous, more likely to use evolving information technologies and to rely on less traditional organizational structures, thus making it much harder to find targets to attack militarily. At the same time, there have been some significant advances in homeland defence technologies, such as the High Frequency Surface Wave Radar Network to detect ships and low-flying aircraft approaching the continent, and unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor our coasts and the Arctic. The promises of military technologies can, in the future, reduce the enormity of defending Canada’s vast landmass.

What does all this add up to? Assessing the nature of the threat, the role of geography, and advances in civilian and military technologies reveals that Canada should give roughly equal weight to security and defence measures at home and abroad.

The defence component of the International Policy Statement appears to have found this balance in its organizational changes. In place of the many separate maritime, land, and air headquarters that currently exist the CF is creating a small number of joint force headquarters that integrate all three services, the first of which will be in Halifax. All will report to a single integrated command structure known as Canada Command, with the idea that such a structure will be better able to bring all resources to bear on a domestic contingency. The CF is also creating three new kinds of joint formations—a Special Operations Group, a Standing Contingency Task Force, and other Mission-Specific Task Forces—that can be used both for domestic and international missions.

But likely future capital acquisitions paint a slightly different picture. The policy supports the acquisition of joint support ships for sealift, offshore command and control, and replenishment; an amphibious assault ship for landing troops ashore; satellite-guided munitions for air-to-ground strike; heavy lift helicopters for mobility in theater; and the Mobile Gun System and Multi-Mission Effects Vehicle for ground force operations—all of which are primarily or exclusively meant for international roles.

By contrast, the list of new capabilities applicable to the surveillance and control of Canadian territory is somewhat shorter. It includes acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles (also applicable to overseas roles); enhancing the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Company to support civilian first responders; expanding the number of surface wave radars on each coast; and acquiring new fixed wing search and rescue aircraft. Nowhere is there mention of vessels that can better patrol Canada’s coasts or conduct missions in an ice-covered Northwest Passage. Nor is there any discussion of possible shortfalls in the number of long-range patrol aircraft for maritime surveillance and control, or fighter aircraft for combat air patrols over North America.

In 1971 the Trudeau government released a defence policy statement that placed primary emphasis on missions at home, but subsequently equipped the CF for roles abroad. The challenge today is to ensure the new defence policy vision is reflected in future CF capabilities, and that the Canadian government does not revert to old habits of the past.



Canadian Seapower in the 21st Century

by Rob Huebert

Until the Chicoutimi incident that occurred earlier this year, most Canadians were unaware that Canada had submarines, let alone a navy. With the exception of those Canadians who live in Halifax or Esquimalt/Victoria, and are reminded of Canadian seapower whenever they look out their window,  the vast majority of Canadians are oblivious to the navy’s existence. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and  the Twin Towers in New York, the Canadian Navy has  become one of the government’s most important foreign and security policy instruments. It seems improbable that both the end of the Cold War and the war on international terrorism would  place such a heavy burden on the Canadian Navy; yet it did. In the 1990s and the early stages of the 2000s, the navy has been committed to a level of intensity not seen since the Second World War. The equipment of the current fleet has served the navy well. But it is now time to plan for the next fleet. With the release of the Canadian Security Policy in 2004 and the International Policy Statement in 2005, the Canadian Government is developing a new and comprehensive international defence and security policy that reexamines the manner in which Canada uses all of its armed forces. This article considers what  these changes mean for Canadian seapower in the coming decades and what instruments Canada needs to ensure the continued protection of its maritime security.

The Historical Context
While Prime Minister Trudeau is often criticized for the defence decisions made by his government, his government actually left the Canadian Navy in reasonably good shape. The Trudeau Government’s  decisions to allow for the modernization of the four 280 class destroyers and  the construction of the 12 Halifax class frigates provided the navy with the nucleus for a solid medium-power navy. These sixteen vessels were the core of a modern, multi-purpose blue-water fleet. The retention of the three (and subsequently two) Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) enabled the Canadian forces to deploy these vessels as a task-force rather than as individual units almost anywhere in the globe. Furthermore, the decision to give the destroyers and frigates a wide range of capabilities, thereby expanding beyond the navy’s Cold War focus on anti-submarine warfare, meant that when the Cold War did end, the Canadian Navy could perform a wide range of tasks. This is not to suggest that there were not problems and mistakes. The inability of subsequent governments to provide the navy with a modern helicopter remains a serious omission, as was the delay in acquiring the four Upholder submarines. Likewise, the reduction in personnel numbers, which led to the premature retirement of the HMCS Huron, is also indicative of other bad policy decisions in the 1990s. But, for the most part, in the 1990s Canada had a very professional and capable navy that “hit well above its weight class”.

Even before the dust had settled with the end of the Cold War, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait led to an international response which included the deployment of three Canadian warships to support the military effort to liberate Kuwait. While none of the modern or modernized Canadian vessels were deployed, the flexibility, utility and durability of the task force demonstrated to the Canadian Government the political and military usefulness of Canadian seapower. The 1990s witnessed a continual deployment of Canadian naval units to a number of international crisis spots, including East Timor and the Balkans. Furthermore, there was closer, operational cooperation between the Canadian Navy and American Navy in the 1990s. Beginning in the mid-1990s, a Canadian frigate was attached to an American carrier battle group. The frigate assumed all of the roles of an American vessel, but could be disengaged if the Canadian Government decided that it did not want it to participate in a specific action. For example, prior to the Canadian recognition of the dangers posed by al-Qaida, the attached Canadian frigate was sent away when the battle group launched missiles against training bases in Afghanistan, and subsequently rejoined the group after the attack was complete. (Ironically, therefore Canada could have been with the Americans at the very forefront on the attack on international terrorism, but chose not to.)The net effect of both the increase in overseas international crisis deployments and closer integration with the USN meant the Canadian navy of the 1990s became a heavily utilized force that could operate with the best and the biggest in the world.

Maritime Security Post 9/11
Even though Canadians were the overwhelming victims of the Air India bombing in 1985, one of the worst, single day attacks by international terrorists, it took the attacks of 9/11 in the United States to finally compel the Canadian Government to respond to the threat of international terrorism. The Canadian Government’s immediate action in the days following the attacks on Washington and New York was to deploy the Canadian Navy. Almost the entire fleet of destroyers, frigates and replenishment vessels was deployed in Operation Apollo. This was the maritime component of the Canadian commitment to the military intervention in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and capture al-Qaida  members. Canadian vessels were deployed to demonstrate solidarity with the United States and to provide naval assistance in tasks such as embargo enforcement, escort duties and resupply to name but a few. The attacks also provoked the government to develop a national security policy and  an integrated international policy statement. These developments come at a time when serious thought must be given to the composition of the next Canadian fleet. What then are the ramifications for the Navy?

In the short term, the government has made it clear that protecting Canada is the core function of the Canadian forces and that any overseas deployment is discretionary. However, the government has made it clear that it still intends to be an active player in the security of the international system. In particular, the international policy statement calls for providing assistance to failed and failing states. The current Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, has stated that he sees the need for a joint effort on the part of the of the Canadian forces to quickly deploy a unified Canadian force to respond to international crisis. This has led to considerable discussion regarding the need for a large vessel that can ship Canadian land forces and their equipment to the crisis spot. The Canadian Navy has also received consent to procure three multi-role Joint Support Ships (JSS). These vessels will retain an ability to replenish Canadian naval vessels, but they will also be given a sealift capability and the ability to support deployed joint operations. These new abilities mean that the Navy can expect to retain a critical role in any future military intervention that Canada is engaged in. It also means that Canada will retain the ability to go to any ocean. In fact, the JSS are to be given limited ice capability so that they will be able to venture into northern waters farther than any other Canadian warship since the navy gave up its one icebreaker in 1954. But the question that follows is what will the rest of the Canadian navy look like?

The truly critical question will be the nature of the replacement for the destroyers and frigates. The challenge for naval planners is both numerous and complex. However, the two core issues that must be considered are as follows:

These vessels need to be able to respond first and foremost to the security of Canada. However, before assuming that only smaller, less capable, ocean-going vessels are required, further consideration of this issue is necessary. Canada now has direct responsibility for its Exclusive Economic Zone which extends 200 miles from its coastlines. Soon, it will also have responsibility for up to 350 nautical miles for its continental shelf. In addition, it has also begun to require all ships that are within 96 hours of reaching Canadian waters to notify Canadian officials. Presumably this means a need to investigate ships of interest that do not report to Canadian officials. If a ship is sailing at approximately 20 miles/per hour (i.e., under 20 knots) Canada needs an ability to intervene as far away as almost 2000  miles. In short, even if all Canadian naval vessels were mandated to deal only  with possible threats to Canada, they must retain an ability to be ocean-going (i.e., blue-water). Storm conditions in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans are severe and necessitate large ships. Ships  smaller than the current frigates will have difficulty operating in these conditions and, therefore, will not provide the security necessary for Canada’s maritime approaches. If Canada is also serious about protecting all of its ocean space, some of the next generation vessels will need to have some capability to travel in ice. With the advances of global warming, the Canadian north will have decreasing ice cover. However, even as the ice retreats there will be periods where local ice conditions worsen. Thus, any Canadian vessel in the area needs to retain some ice strengthening to operate in Canada’s third ocean.

Perhaps even more challenging is determining the nature of the threat that these vessels will need to respond to. Given that these vessels will probably be built by 2025 and then operate 30 years to 2055, it is a daunting task to anticipate the next threat. Thus, the next fleet should be able to respond to both low level threats (the terrorist who puts a box of dynamite in a motor boat) to the highest level threats (an interstate war of belligerents who have the most advanced torpedo and missile technology).  Furthermore, it is accepted that Canada will always be involved with its allies and friends. Thus, any new vessels need to be able to fully integrate its communication and weapon systems with the navies of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and so forth.

In many ways these realities make it clear that the next fleet is going to strongly resemble a modernized version of the current fleet. At least 12 units that retain good ocean-going capabilities with a wide range of weapon capabilities are needed. They will need to be served by professionally trained personnel who can respond to the numbing tediousness of maintaining viglence against low level threats, but can immediately respond within minutes to an incoming missile or torpedo threat.

Some will criticize this on the basis that it represents an acceptance of the status quo that does not think “beyond the box.” Yet the geo-political realities framing Canadian security needs must remain the means by which Canada decides the composition of its next fleet. Canada needs forces that will be able to respond for at least the next thirty years to a wide range of threats that will take place in a dangerous and challenging maritime environment. The challenge will be to get the number of vessels correct with the proper balance between communication, weapons, personnel training  and sea-keeping capability. The real challenge will be getting the political will to procure this next fleet.



Forward to the Past: Some Thoughts on Vision and Transformation in the Defence Review

by James Fergusson

Vision and transformation are the two core concepts of the Defence Review. Vision, though it has no particular or specific meaning within defence and military circles per se, is used with direct reference to the future, and implies a prescience based upon recent experience and “identifying the key operational trends that are likely to continue…”1 This prescience serves as the basis for transforming the Canadian Forces (CF). Transformation, however, is not well articulated, except as being synonymous with change. But transformation does have two relatively specific conceptual foundations in defence and military circles – the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the functional military demands of the post Cold War or what may be labeled the Peace Intervention era.

Notwithstanding the conceptual, theoretical and empirical debate surrounding the RMA, transformation in many American military circles concerns the organizational and doctrinal changes necessary to exploit fully the technological revolution at the heart of the RMA. Technologies that are marginalizing, if not eliminating the fog and friction of war as traditionally understood, and giving its applicants a decisive advantage on the battlefield demand a transformation in the organizational structures of military force and the doctrines defining how these ‘new’ structures apply force.

The second foundation relates to the historical and natural lag between environmental transformation and capability, organizational and doctrinal transformation. For the past decade, militaries have been working on transformation in order to meet the demands of the Peace Intervention world. Force structures and doctrines designed for the static nuclear deterrent world of the Cold War are inappropriate to a dynamic world demanding the intervention of military forces into a range of conflict environments, most recently encapsulated by the idea of ‘three block’ war.

For both the RMA and environmental cases, a fifteen to twenty year lag between them and the full transformation of military force is not surprising. In terms of the former, it takes time before analysts begin to understand fully the implications of new military technologies. In the later case, it takes many years before a consensus occurs that the old world is truly dead, and many more years before agreement is reached on the nature and demands of the new world. In both cases, the military, like all large, complicated, organizations are slow to change because of the inherent inertia they possess as a function of, inter alia, a conservative mind-set, entrenched traditions, existing bureaucratic processes and vested sub-organizational interests.

In addition, capital equipment, with life-cycles anywhere up to thirty or more years depending upon up-grade and life extension decisions, cannot be quickly replaced as no nation can afford to throw its obsolete equipment away and start over again. Moreover, even if possible, it takes a great deal of time to procure new equipment and then train personnel to employ it. Combine these and other related organizational factors with the time it takes to create a consensus among all the actors on the new world and new technology and their demands, it is not surprising that the military is slow to transform.

In the previous historical occurrence, RMA and environmental transformation occurred almost simultaneously; the former with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the later with the end of World War II, the collapse of the traditional Great Powers and their empires, and the emergence of bipolarity. As the technology evolved after 1945, including delivery systems, so followed organizational and doctrinal transformation; the latter being the key transformation from ‘warfighting’ to ‘war avoidance’ or deterrence. The new Cold War environment also demanded some organizational and doctrinal transformation. Combined, the RMA and environmental transformations would produce the military Cold War structures and doctrines ten to twenty years after 1945.

Importantly, however, this raises issues concerning the importance of the RMA compared to the environment in military transformation. In this regard, environmental transformation may well have had little impact on existing military thinking, structures, and processes in the absence of the nuclear revolution. Beyond the transformation produced by the permanent alliance structure (NATO) that emerged, it is doubtful that much organizationally and doctrinally would have changed from the World War II experience. 

Naturally, explaining military transformation is much more complicated than discussed here; but the key issue for the CF, and thus Canadian defence and security, is the relative importance of these two transformation agents. Like 1945, the 1991 Gulf War heralded both the RMA and a new international political environment. Doubts since 1989 about the end of the Cold War were significantly erased with the Soviet support for the war, and the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. These were followed by ‘new’ conflicts, and new demands on military force in the transformation from ‘war avoidance’ to ‘peace intervention’.

However, the RMA was a product of Cold War exigencies, and central among them were inter-state Great Power rivalry with the possibility of thermo-nuclear war in the immediate background. The Peace Intervention environment, however, is dominated by intra-state conflict and limited to clashes between poorly trained forces with low technology military capabilities or a clash between these local forces and advanced western intervention forces, such as in Iraq.

It is possible that the capabilities, organizations, and doctrines necessary to respond to both are synonymous, and certainly there is a universal quality across time and space of some military capabilities, organizational structures and military doctrines. However, there is no shortage of historical examples of military disaster resulting from the expectation of universality. This is particularly evident in the failure of Western military powers to transform organization and doctrine in the lead up to World War I. this failure followed from an inability to understand the industrial RMA, and the willingness of elites to accept environmental constancy. In addition, the colonial or imperial military experience of the Nineteenth Century did little to prepare for the demands of Great Power war in 1914.

In the Defence Review, the government emphasizes that “the challenge of failed and failing states will serve as a benchmark for the Canadian Forces.”2  In turn, the focus on land forces centered upon JTF-2 and elite, special forces with air and naval units almost exclusively in a logistical support role reflects this emphasis, especially the Afghanistan experience. However, whether the end result for the CF will be functional or flexible enough to adapt to a different environment remains an open question. Like World War I, modern unequal ‘colonial’ wars may do little to prepare nations for a Great Power confrontation.

There is little doubt that senior military officials are well aware of the need to transform as a function of the RMA. The Defence Review may not be very explicit about the RMA dimension, but sensitivity to this dimension has been present for many years. Strategy 2020, for example, clearly recognizes this vital requirement not least of all because incorporating RMA technologies are the key to ensuring inter-operability with the United States, as well as other allies that are following the American lead. In this sense, the CF’s future is being driven by forces beyond its control, if it wants to stay functionally relevant.

Furthermore, highly, specialized elite ground forces able to call in precision strikes from sets of capabilities thousands of miles away is central to much thinking about the future. Of course, these capabilities will not be possessed by the CF. The costs of RMA technologies relative to budgetary constraints, even with the proposed increases in the 2005 budget, prohibit such acquisitions. There are significant choices to be made, and the Defence Review relative to RMA is essentially about the choices that will (or should) be made. The issue then is whether the choices are functional and flexible enough for the future relative to the RMA and possible future environmental transformation.

Boots on the ground in the form of elite JTF-2 and special forces may be essential for Canada in the Peace Intervention world, but they may not be essential in a world where Great Power rivalry returns. One central aspect or goal of the RMA is to bring decisive power to bear (known as Effects Based Operations) from capabilities far removed from the forward edge of battle. Manpower or land forces are becoming a greater liability on the RMA battlefield. This battlefield sees the RMA moving individuals farther away from violence, whereas the Defence Review suggests that Canada will focus on keeping its forces close to forward edge. The RMA also creates a technology intensive military, whereas on the surface at least the CF is headed towards a labour intensive military.

There are many other factors which account for the transformation proposed in the Defence Review. But as far as vision goes, the government is committed to creating a CF to meet the demands of the last fifteen years. This transformation will likely take another ten to fifteen years before it is completed, (notwithstanding a range of barriers, such as the willingness and ability of the government to spend and maintain its defence course over this time frame). In effect, ten or fifteen years after transformation should have been completed if history is the guide, the CF will be transformed. It is in this sense that the Defence Review is truly forward to the past.

In all fairness, CF has been attempting to change for some time, and change has occurred. Unfortunately, the ability to do so has been handcuffed by over a decade of deep budget cuts and high operational tempo. Neither the money nor time (or respite) has been available. However, the vision informing the Review is no longer prescient unless the future remains the same as it has been for the last fifteen years.

Of course, the world may not change and the current system may come to rival other long-lived stable eras. Alternatively, the details or implementation of transformation may produce capabilities, structures, and doctrine functional and flexible to adapt to the current and a future system. Regardless, the current Review for all its rhetoric appears driven by the past, rather than the future. Naturally, governments in Canada are little concerned about the future, and the military architects are bounded by the art of the politically possible. Hopefully, in the details to follow over the next many years, these architects will look forward, rather than back.


1 Department of National Defence. A Role of Pride and Influence in the World: Defence. Ottawa: Government of Canada. April, 2005. p. 7.  
2 Ibid, p.7.


About Our Organization

An investment in CDFAI is an investment in Canada.
CDFAI or the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute is a unique charitable organization, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.  It is the largest Canadian non-governmental organization dedicated solely to studying and providing policy recommendations on Canadian defence, security and foreign affairs issues.

Canadians depend on and support a world that is politically free and open.  Both Canadian values and Canadian interests are served by the free flow of people, goods, and ideas across international boundaries.  Such a world requires a strong Canadian diplomatic presence, effective security and adequate military capacity.  CDFAI is dedicated to educating the Canadian public about the importance of these issues.  


An investment in CDFAI is an investment in Canadians.
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By developing and sponsoring authoritative research and education programs, CDFAI provides Canadians with factual and comprehensive policy analysis regarding Canada's foreign policy and the state of our military preparedness and national security.

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An investment in CDFAI will help maintain a properly funded research institute that can influence the making of defence and foreign policy decisions in Canada. CDFAI will help to strengthen Canada’s capacity to participate on the international stage.

"There is a connection between a democratic and prosperous Canada and an active and engaged Canadian foreign policy.  Let us refer to this as  “Canada’s necessary international connection.”  From the earliest colonial days to the present, Canada’s small population base has made it imperative for Canada to trade abroad in order to achieve a high standard of living.  Canada has also required substantial inflows of immigrants to build its population base and it has always needed access not only to international markets, but also ideas."   

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During its brief four-year history CDFAI has witnessed reforms to military policy, increases in defence spending and increased interest in Canadian foreign policy.

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CDFAI provides Canadians with factual and comprehensive policy analysis to promote their understanding of Canada’s foreign policy and the state of our military preparedness and national security by developing and sponsoring authoritative research and education programs.

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