Tag Archives: Budget

Effectively Increasing Canadian Defence Spending Requires Major Procurement Reforms; Will PM Trudeau Bother to Make the Effort to Get it Done?

(Graph at top of the post [March 30, 2020 just before new budget] starts left at 1970–right click on image to see in full.)

Further to this post,

Ukraine: Quite a few Euros Giving Defence Budgets Big Boosts–and PM Trudeau’s Government? Note UPDATE

two people who really are experts in this field make some serious recommendations that should be implemented if this government is serious about defence matters (which is pretty unlikely, see John Ibbitson piece noted at the end of the post)–at the the Canadian Defence Associatons Institute:

Three ways to improve defence procurement in Canada

Richard B. Fadden, O.C. former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and Deputy Minister of National Defence

LGen (ret) Guy Thibault, former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff

In National Defence, getting the money is the easiest part…

Given the deterioration of the international security situation, the Prime Minister has said he is open to additional defence spending. Assuming Mr. Trudeau meant what he said [getting a knife in early], getting additional defence resources approved though Cabinet and Parliament is fairly straightforward. The first real challenge is determining on what the money is to be spent. Then comes the seemingly impossible task of getting spending decisions effectively implemented as quickly as possible.

Mr. Trudeau is the last in a relatively long line of Prime Ministers who have pauperized Canada’s defence establishment. Whether they regret or are content with their decisions, is not important except that it explains why virtually every part of Canada’s defence establishment needs new resources. In seeking to revitalize the operational capabilities of the Canadian Forces, it is important to appreciate that this will not happen if new resources are exclusively directed to the CAF. The Department of National Defence (the civilian part of the Defence portfolio) and Public Services and Procurement in particular will need additional resources.

New resources for the Canadian Forces can be spent in four ways. The first category is major capital procurement – the fighter aircraft replacement and Canadian Surface Combatant programs are examples. The second category is minor capital procurement- sidearms or armour vests are examples. The third category covers personnel costs – both those relating to current personnel as well costs relating to increasing the head-count of the Forces. The fourth category includes funding for infrastructure – everything from runways, to jetties to personnel housing). The last category might be called operational costs which come in two parts: those relating to training and those relating to actual operations in Canada and abroad. If the Government is serious about increasing the capabilities of the Forces, all five categories will need an injection of money and on-going attention by both Ministers and the public service. The challenge we’d like to focus in on below is the procurement process itself.

Defence procurement is under constant criticism for being overly slow and expensive. There are three main reasons for these shortcomings. The first is the insistence of successive governments that defence procurement support policy objectives other than procuring equipment for the Forces. Objectives such as regional and industrial development, support to innovation and others are all laudable but applying them automatically to major projects means that the procurement of defence equipment takes second place [emphasis added]. The second reason is the extreme risk aversion of both Ministers and public servants to anything going wrong such that an already heavy process is over layered with checks and balances and delays for additional study. Whether these precautions are to help avoid questions in the House, stories in the media or visits to the Federal Court or the International Trade Tribunal they mean delays and cost increases.

The third reason is the view of Governments — admittedly broadly supported by public opinion – that national security and defence are not as important as any number of other policy areas [emphasis added]. This means that defence spending gets a low priority, frequent cutbacks and poor priority setting. In any event, the shortcomings of the procurement process can be shared between politicians, public servants and CF personnel.

A number of possible measures to improve the procurement process are set out below but even the best procurement system on the planet would not change the fact that defence is an expensive business. Currently, for Canada, defence will be especially expensive as we will be — or should be — playing catch-up with most of our allies.

The first aid to an improved defence procurement system is sustained prime ministerial and ministerial attention based on their belief that the national security of Canada and of its allies requires it [emphasis added]. This will happen most easily if Canadians generally share that view but whether this is the case or not, it is the responsibility of governments to lead and to do what it is necessary to provide it. Surely, the current international environment requires nothing less.

If the above is forthcoming, the second aid will develop relatively easily. This would be an acceptance that greater risks are to be taken to advance specific procurement projects, including that public servants be encouraged to recommend — where appropriate — that specific procurement projects be exempt from some or all the rules which govern them. This should specifically include the possibility of subordinating other policy objectives to the delivery of required equipment [emphasis added]. The third aid is the acceptance by all — including the Forces — that while perfection is always desirable when developing capability requirements, sometime getting something promptly is the desirable course.

The final aid is utilizing at least some new defence resources on existing projects. For example, topping up the CSC budget to ensure that the full number of — fully capable — projected ships be delivered. Another example, relates to the need to increase our defence presence in the Arctic and could mean upgrading the Nanisivik Naval Facility to at least what was initially intended — a year-round capability including one or more runways to accommodate both Canadian and NATO aircraft. The same sort of upgrade could be applied to the Canadian Army’s Arctic Training Center. Finally, to improve communications and surveillance in the Arctic , build on existing commitments to support the on-going development of a low earth orbit constellation which could support both military and civilian needs.

There seems to be agreement in Canada and throughout NATO that we are all facing a very dangerous international environment. If this is the case, Canada will need to up its game on national security and defence. This will mean, as a former Deputy Prime Minister once said, our not going to the washroom when the bill is being circulated! But, it’s not only money, it’s ongoing attention by the Prime Minister and appropriate Ministers. And given Canada’s history in this area, the key is “on-going” attention. As Minister Anand has noted, Canada can get things done when its important – vaccine acquisition and distribution being the latest examples [emphasis added].

From that column by Mr Ibbitson:

Canada may increase its defence spending – but that doesn’t mean it’s serious about restoring our military

John Ibbitson

Thursday’s [April 7] budget will almost certainly include increased funding for defence. Do not expect that increase to signal a new and sustained commitment to restoring Canada’s rundown military.

Canadians feel safe. As long as they feel safe, they will not sacrifice. They will vow to stand with Ukraine, condemn alleged Russian war crimes, offer shelter to refugees.

But as Adam Chapnick, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College, observes, “we aren’t in the mental headspace to have a serious conversation,” about defence spending, “and our elected representatives aren’t in the headspace to have it either [emphasis added].

…Leah Sarson, a professor of international relations at Dalhousie University, expects to see a commitment to upgrade NORAD aerospace defences [see this post: “What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE“]

But she doesn’t expect any sustained effort to bring Canadian defence spending up to the NATO target of 2 per cent of GDP.

Canadians typically like to see an emphasis on humanitarian aid and diplomacy,” she told me, “rather than an emphasis on defence and military spending [emphasis added].”

Canada is content to shelter beneath the American umbrella. Oceans separate us from conflict in Eurasia, and the Western hemisphere is mostly at peace…

The military in Canada has such a small footprint that its well-being doesn’t register with Canadians. Politicians don’t prioritize it because no one raises the issue at the door…

The question, then, is whether the events in Ukraine will galvanize public opinion in favour of sustained increases. The answer is almost certainly no [emphasis added]

…a credible military – one capable of seriously contributing to the defence of Canada’s interests in the Arctic and of contributing meaningfully to NATO in Europe – is long overdue…

NATO partners are entitled to something better than a Canadian military that is equipped on the fly, with procurement either infinitely delayed or rushed through in response to the latest crisis. Our forces rely far too heavily on the kindness of allies.

But that would entail sacrifice. And a Liberal government that has signed a pact with the NDP to introduce publicly funded dental care and pharmacare is unlikely to ask Canadians to support increased spending on the military as well, along with the higher taxes needed to pay for it.

So don’t be fooled if you see headlines Thursday about increased defence spending in the budget. It likely won’t mean much of anything [emphasis added].

Sigh. We are truly not a serious country. But we are great at pretending:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Ukraine: Quite a few Euros Giving Defence Budgets Big Boosts–and PM Trudeau’s Government? Note UPDATE

Further to these tweets,

it is certainly time for this government to fish or cut bait on the matter of a significant hike in this country’s defence spending if we wish to be taken with any seriousness by allies and friends. And also to find ways to spend those scarce defence dollars faster and more efficiently and effectively. Let’s start by a stop to essentially using as much defence procurement as possible as job subsidies programs to win votes.

See story below at Aviation Week and Space Technology–would be nice if our media did stories aggregating the various European countries increasing defence spending rather than just covering them individually, if at all. Brief single stories do not give readers/viewers an overall picture they might retain. Canadians might take serious note of what, say, Sweden and Denmark are both doing as they are not seen as military-oriented countries:

Ukraine Invasion Prompting European Defense Spending Hikes

Tony Osborne

Sweden has joined the growing list of European countries set to hike defense spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Sweden’s government announced it would raise spending on defense to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) and that budgets would be allocated “as soon as it is practically possible,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a March 10 press conference. 

Stockholm had already been taking steps to boost its defense capability in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014. Ministers originally planned to increase defense spending by 85% between 2014 and 2025, the largest re-armament by the Scandinavian country since the 1950s.

“In a situation where tensions in our immediate area are worse than in several decades, we need to continue to strengthen our defense capabilities,” Andersson said. 

While spending would be immediately increased to strengthen capability in the short term, Andersson added that there was work underway to find “a stable, long-term and solidary financing of the expansion.” 

“The expansion must rest on a stable foundation for us to be able to have a strong and secure defense,” Andersson said. 

Sweden’s decision comes on top of announcements made by several other European countries led by Germany, which announced plans for a €100 billion ($110 billion) fund to address capability gaps and an increase in defense spending as a proportion of GDP to 2% [emphasis added]. The move is set to make Germany among the world’s largest spenders on defense. 

Romanian President Klaus Iohnannis has indicated that Bucharest will raise spending from 2% of GDP to 2.5%, stating that the additional funding will “ensure better conditions for our armed forces, in order to better train and respond more effectively to the operational needs of the Romanian Army and current and future security challenges.”  

Baltic state Latvia has also announced plans to raise spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025; up from 2.2% this year. Artis Pabriks, Latvian defense minister, said the increase will enable the country to spend more on logistics capabilities and develop more uncrewed systems, as well as support investment for indirect fire support, the mechanization of ground forces and the strengthening of cyber security. 

In Poland, new laws are being drafted that will allow Warsaw to further increase national defense spending to 3% of GDP [emphasis added] to give the country’s armed forces a “greater deterrent potential,” defense minister Mariusz Błaszczak said.  

Polish ministers hope to achieve the spending increase next year. It was previously envisioned that Poland would boost defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2023.  

“This is an act that will allow us not only to increase the size of the Polish Army, but also to spend on the Polish Armed Forces, restore the reserve system, encourage soldiers to remain in service and implement the concept of universal defense,” Błaszczak said. 

Denmark too has also pledged to raise defense spending permanently to 2% of GDP by 2033. Current Danish defense spending is around 1.4% of GDP [emphasis added–that current spending is about the same as Canada’s].  

Ministers are working to establish a reserve fund totaling DKR3.5 billion ($500 million) for increased preparation, strengthened diplomacy and humanitarian efforts.  

Copenhagen is also looking to repeal Denmark’s opt-out of European defense initiatives and plans to hold a referendum on abolishing the clause in June.  

“Denmark must be fully involved in the development of European defense and security policy,” Danish defense minister Morten Bødskov said. “Russia’s aggression on Ukraine threatens European peace and stability. Therefore, time calls for a gear shift.”

Sigh. We’re looking increasingly lonely and it would seem any fancying for essentially constabulary armed forces will have to go down the drain–earlier post:

COVID-19/Natural Disaster Response, or, Canada’s Coming Constabulary/Militia Armed Forces?

Other relevant recent posts:

Why Australia is Taken Seriously by the US and UK, Canada less and less (“irrelevant”?)

What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE

UPDATE: This government is planning to buy 88 new fighters for the RCAF (most likely the F-35A, which the Germans have now also decided to acquire, note the role they are for), with the endlessly postponed decision supposed to be announced this year. Knock on wood. That will be just over one-third the modern fighter forces the four Nordic countries combined will be deploying well before our air force can deploy its new planes. That is being done with a total population just under three quarters of Canada’s and with a very much smaller area to cover compared to this country:

In the future Denmark and Norway will have a total of 79 F-35s. The Nordic fighter aircraft force will be at 243 if a coalition is expanded to include 64 F-35s from Finland and 100 Gripen from Sweden.

‘Twould be nice to see the Canadian media point out those numbers–if they are even aware of them.

UPPERDATE: “Ouch!” cartoon of the day by Brian Gable at the Globe and Mail March 18:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US Air Force Trying to Shake, Rattle…(and note NORAD)

…and roll those aviation pots and pans, what with near (how long just near?) peers, A2/AD barriers, prolonged procurements etc. and with AI, machine learning, advanced manufacturing/digital engineering etc. top of mind. Further to this post,

Can’t See a Congress with a Chamber Controlled by Republicans Agreeing to “nationalize warfighting capabilities and the defense industrial base” of US Air Force

here’s a selection of recent pieces on the USAF’s rapidly moving efforts to reshape and revolutionize itself in a various fields to cope with emerging threats and, er, challenges. Whether or not these efforts will succeed, both within the passageways of bureaucracy (military and civil) and of Congress, is another matter. And note the matter of “mass” at the end of the post:

1) The U.S. Air Force’s New Mission: Accelerate Change or Lose?

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is a wrecker and a builder. The new U.S. Air Force chief of staff wants to uproot post-Cold War attitudes toward air warfare—attitudes premised on everlasting U.S. air supremacy—and implant a mindset premised on competitive entrepreneurship. Can he succeed?

2) The Air and Space Forces Want to Break the Mold. Here’s How They’re Starting.

The Department of the Air Force’s top officers are beginning to lay the groundwork for changes to how they manage and provide air and space forces to commanders around the world.

In his first month as Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. has warned that the service needs to overhaul its inventory and quicken the pace of warfare, or risk falling behind other global powers.

To get after that goal, the service’s operations policy team is thinking of new ways to bring in, train, and employ Airmen for global operations, Brown said. Their findings may affect the fiscal 2022 budget request, which is due early next year, and could soon shape deployments overseas…

Proponents say combining pieces of the Air Force make Airmen consider how various fields connect and how they could affect or bolster each other in combat. Brown has foreshadowed hard decisions ahead to cut certain aircraft and other parts of the force. He wants to focus on what’s most valuable for fights against digitally savvy, advanced militaries like Russia and China, like smarter sustainment, technology-driven training, and evolutions in unmanned aircraft, artificial intelligence, and networking…

3) AI To Fly In Dogfight Tests By 2024: SecDef

After an AI beat humans 5-0 in AlphaDogfight simulations this summer, [secdef] Mark Esper announced, a future version will be installed in actual airplanes for “a real-world competition.” But military AI will adhere to strict ethical limits, he said.

4) Could the F-15EX Transform the U.S. Defense Industry?

…interesting…is the idea that the F-15EX may offer a pathway into the Digital Century Series (DCS). To review, the Century Series concept (associated most notably with Air Force chief of acquisition Wil Roper) involves designing and building an evolutionary set of airframes in small batches with open-source architecture. Roper has embraced the “Century Series” metaphor…

In the DCS concept, digital engineering technologies would allow the separation of production and design, while the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies would remedy some of the problems associated with the multiplication of spares and maintenance procedures. More importantly, the system would enable to continuous integration of new technologies into new airframes, as opposed to the much slower process necessitated by the precise requirements of stealth airframes. Thus, the “Digital Century Series” represents an entirely new way of thinking about aircraft acquisition, and indeed could lead to a substantial restructuring of the US aerospace industry…

5) New Air Combat Commander Kelly Wants AI ASAP

“We absorb more data that we can process, that’s just a non-negotiable fact,” says Gen. Mark Kelly.

6) Air Force To Train ‘Lead Wings’ For Major Wars; First Test Next Month

Instead of sending individual squadrons to the Middle East, the newly created 15th Air Force wants to train entire wings together for rapid deployment against Russia, China and other “near peers.”

7) The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet

The development is certain to shock the defense community, which last saw the first flight of an experimental fighter during the battle for the Joint Strike Fighter contract 20 years ago. With the Air Force’s future fighter program still in its infancy, the rollout and successful first flight of a demonstrator was not expected for years.

“We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Will Roper told Defense News in an exclusive interview ahead of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”

Almost every detail about the aircraft itself will remain a mystery due to the classification of the Next Generation Air Dominance program, the Air Force’s effort for fielding a family of connected air warfare systems that could include fighters, drones and other networked platforms in space or the cyber realm…

8) Secret NGAD Fighter Flies, Sets Records, Raises Lot Of Questions

“All I can say is that the NGAD test flights have been amazing — records have been broken,” Will Roper says.

Air Force acquisition czar Will Roper revealed today that the service has built a full-scale prototype now in flight testing under the highly classified Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program —  raising myriad questions about future force structure and potential impacts on the five-year budget plan beginning in 2022…

UPPERDATE: See third comment, from an important article on USAF’s NGAD project at The Drive‘s “War Zone”.

Meanwhile on the NORAD front:

1) Beyond the North Warning System

Andrea Charron [tweets here]

Aug. 18 marked the 80th anniversary of the Canadian-U.S. Permanent Joint Board on Defense. This binational board of experts provides advice to the prime minister and president on how best to defend North America. The pressing topic today is North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) modernization and the renewal of its aged radar sensors in the Arctic.

The North Warning System, a series of unmanned, long- and short-range radars dotting the North American Arctic and Greenland in support of air defense and frontier control, is reaching its end of serviceable life. The American and Canadian defense industries are racing for a chance to provide both militaries with the latest technology to replace the old radars. But to what ends? More sensors are not the magic solution to “modernizing” NORAD. Sensors are but one very small part of a wider effort to reconsider what it means to defend North America — beyond technology and the North Warning System…

Washington and Ottawa are rethinking how to defend North America. Adversaries, especially Russia, have access to advanced technologies and capabilities and can strike from multiple directions. The United States and Canada need to focus on increasing “all-domain” awareness, improving command and control, and enhancing targeting capabilities for a new security environment and peer adversaries. Upgrading the North Warning System exclusively in a NORAD context is not sufficient. Canada and the United States need new sensors capable of dual-use data and information collection for military and civilian government agencies and allies in multiple domains including land, space, maritime, and subsurface zones, in addition to the aerospace domain. And these sensors — which will be subject to probing, denial of service, and cyber attacks — are but one layer in an ecosystem (beyond even system of systems) informed by a reconsideration of what it means to defend North America. Canada and the United States should embrace a posture that includes active and direct defenses (i.e., anticipating attacks by pooling and analyzing multiple sources of data from a variety of sources and systems at much longer ranges vs. responding to attacks via system-specific information) of North America. This will enable the simultaneous deterrence from attack and defense of North America rather than simply the latter.

The impetus for the creation of NORAD and for the North Warning System was the recognition that the Canadian and continental U.S. airspace were functionally indivisible. They still are, but so too are the other domains. NORAD, however, operates in the aerospace domain and only warns in the maritime domain. New systems need to provide information and data that can be analyzed through what the outgoing NORAD and U.S. Northern Command commander Gen. O’Shaugnessy called “predictive analysis.”

Governments and industry are focusing too narrowly on technology and a North Warning System 2.0 as the solution to modernize NORAD. What is more, the dependence on technical solutions from the defense industry to provide solutions may contribute to confining modernization efforts to the North Warning System only, at the expense of a more strategic overview of what it means to defend North America globally…

2) NORAD Modernization: Report One: Awareness & Sensors

NORAD’s defences are challenged by advanced new weapons like hypersonic glide vehicles.  These new weapons have proliferated across all military domains, designed to threaten North America and place its political autonomy and financial stability at risk. North American homeland defence needs to modernize to meet these new threats. A major component of this new thinking is the development of All Domain Awareness capabilities provided by a multi-layered sensor system (an ecosystem) that can detect, identify, and track these and other new threats at great distances and provide the right information to the right assets at the right time.

High financial costs and tight timelines are major obstacles to NORAD implementing an All Domain Awareness capability. These factors necessitate an approach to All Domain Awareness that emphasizes the technological readiness levels of industry. What ‘off the shelf’ technology is available that can be modified and brought to bear quickly?

Experts from across the defence industry elaborated on the design of the multi-layered sensor system that will enable a future All Domain Awareness capability. Sensors should be multi-mission, able to detect, identify, and track more than one threat from “birth to death”. These sensors should be modular, scalable, and software-defined with an open architecture for quick adaptability and upgradability. Throughout the discussions, the need to integrate these multi-layered sensors into a holistic system was emphasized. The goal is to create All Domain Awareness that seamlessly converges with renewed Command and Control (C2) and defeat capabilities to enable NORAD’s deter, detect, and defeat mission.

Many decisions have yet to be made that will drive the design of the multi-layered sensor system.  Where should these sensors be placed that provides the best coverage? Furthermore, the data this system provides will be valuable and could be partly shared with allies and industry. How can industry ensure the integrity of this data? Lastly, where and how does human decision-making come into a largely autonomous system…

3) Hardening the Shield: A Credible Deterrent & Capable Defense for North America

With innovations in long range missiles and foreign missile defense systems as well as a changing Arctic landscape, threats to U.S. national security are closer and less deterred than ever from attacking the U.S. Homeland. Without compromising fiscal resources set for alleviating the COVID-19 crisis [USAF Gen. (ret’d), O’Shaughnessy and [USAF Brig. Gen.] Fesler lay out where enemy forces, notably China and Russia, are targeting weaknesses in U.S. Homeland defense and how U.S. defense strategies and organizations can be adapted to match the muscle of its offensive force. Their recommendations include the use of existing technologies to elevate equipment, data collection from space systems, data analytics for decision making, augmented communication between certain defensive lines, and cross-cutting collaboration on shared challenges. Retiring from his post in August of 2020, O’Shaughnessy is the former Commander of the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). O’Shaughnessy is joined by Peter Fesler, NORAD’s Deputy Director of Operations…

UPDATE: Andrea Charron responds to the Shield paper above, raising a number of concerns from a Canadian perspective–her conclusion:

Finally, there is much emphasis on the paper on receiving information “at the speed of relevancy” to make fast and better decisions. After all, seconds literally do count in some scenarios. On many occasions, however, disaster has been averted because a soldier or analyst doubted what a computer screen was telling him/her or questioned the data blinking on their screen. What if NORAD wanted to exploit or surveil or probe a target rather than defeat it? The AI assisted processes that girds SHIELD is needed but how it is configured, with what OODA loop parameters (i.e. observe–orient–decide–act), and filters will be crucial. It is important that NORAD and USNORTHCOM do not become linear in thinking or response options. Further, Canada will find it difficult to keep up the predictive analysis and joint all domain command and control plans being recommended not because the Canadian armed forces aren’t capable but because it can barely manage what is expected of it now–50% of CAF missions respond to domestic events such as floods and fire. Will the governments see financial sense in investing in computer assisted defence (notwithstanding concerns about them being hacked or compromised or rendered redundant) against great power competition, which so far has done more damage with a few bots on twitter, than on flood, fire and other support to overwhelmed national authorities?

Nineteen years to the day when the U.S. was attacked from within North America by suicide bombers, the response was very costly wars conducted “away” to deal with terrorism at its source as well as the impetus finally to pay for badly needed feeds of civilian air space information into the NORAD HQ. NORAD adapted, created Op NOBLE EAGLE [story from 2005 here, still going on], and focused attention within North America. Post 9/11, NORAD and USNORTHCOM focused almost exclusively on Sunni-based terrorism. It has not disappeared and the challenges of COVID mean that all forms of terrorism have the perfect grounds in which to thrive. Too close a focus on great power competition may leave North America vulnerable to other threats –especially non-state based actors and what is rapidly taxing governments around the world, including CJOC [Canadian Joint Operations Command] and USNORTHCOM, responding to the effects of climate change at home.

NORAD was and remains a bold idea. After WW II, it was the air forces that recognized the air space above North America as indivisible and requiring joint defence, and this recognition has been deeply embedded in the defence thinking of both countries at the political and military levels. I think we all agree that the need to modernize NORAD, and that the CANUS defence relationship for North America is vitally important. The authors provide a useful and insightful starting point from which to move forward with detailed discussions between Canada and the US, and the means to do so already exists –the PJBD [the binational Permanent Joint Board on Defence] and its Military Cooperation Committee are the obvious places to create the basis for moving forward, as it was in WWII and since.

Moreover, despite all the anticipated techno-wizardry now in the pipeline and yet to come, keep in mind that mass still matters–David Alman (tweets here) and Heather Venable (tweets here) make their case:

Bending the Principle of Mass: Why That Approach No Longer Works for Airpower

It is one of warfare’s oldest questions: What is mass, and what advantages accrue from sheer numbers? The concept has variously been defined as being about “the superiority of numbers,” or “concentrating the effects of combat power.”

While commanders often desire numerical superiority over their adversaries, they are not always able to achieve it. Instead, commanders use methods such as maneuver to achieve a local superiority in combat power. Maneuver is just one of many ways commanders attempt to artificially inflate the mass of their forces. Others include improving command and control, enhancing lethality, and seeking to possess better information than their opponents. All of these methods can allow assets to contribute relatively more to a fight, thereby potentially offsetting a requirement for mass. Over the past 50 years, the United States has progressively placed more emphasis on artificial mass — command and control, lethality, and superior information — as a substitute for actual mass.

A critical question, however, is what happens when an adversary combines these measures with actual mass? If both sides are lethal, networked, and effectively commanded, then what factors determine who has the advantage? As Lawrence Freedman argues, the “sensible application of superior resources tends to be successful.”

As a result, this question is becoming increasingly relevant for the Department of Defense as a whole. After decades of either a qualitative and/or quantitative advantage against likely opponents, it is now facing a massive buildup of increasingly modern Chinese forces. Just weeks ago, China announced that its fifth-generation fighter, the J-20 Mighty Dragon, would be entering mass production. How will the United States fare if faced with modernized mass?

The Department of Defense, and more specifically the U.S. Air Force, should evaluate its definition of mass in the context of future air warfare. While relying on numbers alone is too simplistic, Air Force leaders should recognize the importance of having sufficient numbers to fight, take losses, and continue to provide relevant capabilities to combatant commanders. The geography and threats in the Indo-Pacific necessitate hard thinking about requirements such as range, basing considerations, and survivability. Thus, for example, it is not enough to merely have numbers of short-range systems if the region demands longer range. Similarly, it is not enough to build attritable systems hoping the adversary will expend resources combating them. Adversaries will attempt to target all elements of American airpower. The Air Force should lead the Department of Defense in thinking through the implications of peer conflict — namely, that artificial advantages in mass may no longer be sufficient and that real numbers might be required to sustain a war effort within an anti-access/area denial bubble…

Let’s face it. The USAF, along with the US Navy and US Marines, are facing increasingly sticky wickets, especially in the Western Pacific. But they are giving furiously to think about their predicaments (see links at preceding sentence).

One wonders how much thinking the Canadian Armed Forces, notably the RCAF, are able to do, especially under the inevitable COVID-19 budget pressures coming. And under a government that seemingly has no serious interest in the substance of defence matters. See this post: “COVID-19 Facing the Canadian Government and Military with Major Decisions on Force Structures, Employment and Equipment–how Radical a Re-Shape?“.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song:

What are the British Military for in the coming World (Dis?)Order? What do They Need to do it? And the Canadian Armed Forces?

Further to this post based on a piece by Sir Humphrey,

Whither the British Military, Part 2? And the Canadian?

excerpts from another post at Thin Pinstriped Line that, to my mind, have great relevance to the Canadian military as we move along in the world begat by COVID-19:

Defence in the Round – Thoughts on the Integrated Review

…it is interesting to spot that the MOD has issued a surprisingly defensive press release talking about how the Secretary of State for Defence has held an away day to discuss the preparation for the forthcoming Integrated Review and wider comprehensive spending review due to be held this year [see from April: “UK hits pause on defense review due to coronavirus“].

It seems likely that it is leaks from this meeting (sorry, background briefing) that have helped shape some of the articles emerging today as the Armed Forces attempt to build popular support to shield them from potentially difficult cuts. But, Humphrey is actually incredibly sympathetic to the argument of asking some very deep and probing questions about what it is that the Armed Forces do, and whether things could, or should, be done differently…

There is perhaps a regular inferred negativity about the state of the modern armed forces – every conversation that is had on capability often seems to stray into a well worn rut of ‘isn’t it depressing, when I joined we had X of this, and at least twice the headcount’ – people perceive the debate about defence not as one of saying ‘what is it that the armed forces are here to do today’ but instead look back at times gone by and wonder why there is so much less.

The debate has become stuck on being framed around capabilities and numbers and not roles. When the Navy is worried about funding, it leaks about losing carriers, or the Army will threaten the lose of Battalions or tanks. There seems to be a perpetual fear of less money meaning less kit, but not a sense of having a deep discussion about what does this change for what Defence can contribute to UK national security objectives?..

Instead of seeing a sensible debate openly around where UK interests lie, what benefits are gained from one approach or the merits of it over another – for example the discussion around whether UK interests lie in defending Eastern Europe via NATO or a more global role as peacemaker / enforcer, there instead seems to be a sense of going ‘we matter less if we do these cuts because we have less of the people and kit’ without asking whether there is actually any UK interest in us mattering in the first place…

What is needed is perhaps some genuinely honest and painful discussions about why we have the armed forces that we do, and move to actually remodel them in a way that is best for our national security needs.

If you were creating the British Armed Forces today, you would not end up with either the organisation or real estate that it currently has…

We have to work with the hand we’ve been dealt, but is the discussion on defence planning going to focus on retaining what we have, accepting that what exists isn’t the answer necessarily to every problem, or walking away and reinvesting in new areas?

The challenge for the military is that as threats evolve and grow, they move increasingly into murky domains where it is much harder to spot a direct military role or organisation. For all the focus on cyber warfare, the armed forces have yet to really embrace this in a way that is effective – there has been much talk of cyber forces, but little in the way of action.

Notwithstanding the suggestions around the importance of the Law of Armed Conflict when it applies to cyber warfare, there is perhaps a sense that cyber is seen as a difficult sell because it breaks the existing career models, needing people who are not necessarily natural officers and leaders, and it needs talent that is not necessarily drawn to a career in a structured and disciplined military.

[As for the Canadian military and cyber, an excerpt from a news story, “CAF has only recently received approval to engage in active and offensive operations at scale (though specialized activity has been present for years)” and an official CAF careers webpage: “Cyber Operator Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time: Cyber Operators conduct defensive cyber operations, and when required and where feasible, active cyber operations.”]

At the same time, pushing the case for cyber is hard because it isn’t something tangible that you can design a uniform for or put on an ORBAT. Saying we have invested in cyber means investment in infrastructure like PCs, not investing in easily quantifiable metrics like more tanks or planes. For Defence the challenge ahead is to show that it is the right organisation with the right mixture of skills and people to solve these sorts of challenges, and that its force structure accurately matches the needs of national security now and for the future.

This will require a narrative shift away from talking about assets and numbers and instead focusing on outputs. It requires talking about Defence as an enabler that solves strategic challenges by providing a variety of options, and not about Defence as a long list of equipment in search of a mission.

It also requires an explanation that reducing capability in some areas does not threaten national security – rather it requires a more adult explanation that national security is about trade offs, and reducing in one area allows uplifts in another, and setting out the overall benefits gained from the decision…

One has to hope that the Integrated Review genuinely means an integrated review. It hopefully means that the discussion reaches above that of force structures into a wider discussion around what it is that the British Armed Forces bring, and what they no longer need to do in such a way that we can set the stage for the next 20-30 years of operations.

The worst possible outcome for Defence is that more of the same continues – that there is a lack of tough decisions taken on stepping back from roles, that the budget continues to fail to balance, and that salami slicing on the pretence of doing a little bit of everything continues rather than radical reinvention and change to survive.

The next few months will be critical, for they mark a real chance to have a genuine debate about what role armed force plays in the security needs of a globally focused 21st century power, and whether these forces are properly configured to handle the tasks ahead…

Now have a look at this recent post of mine and consider the proposals at the end:

Covid-19 Facing the Canadian Government and Military with Major Decisions on Force Structures, Employment and Equipment–how Radical a Re-Shape?

I fear the CAF may over time be turned into services whose main mission is domestic response to emergencies of various sorts (cf. RCAF SAR) with actual mlitary/defence capabilities a distant concern. A few specific thoughts to stimulate discussion…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds


Further to this post,

Will COVID-19 Kill the Canadian Military? Its Budget, that is

here are the beginning and end of an analysis at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute that raises important questions, by Adam MacDonald and Carter Vance:

Executive Summary

Like governments and public institutions across Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have enacted a series of drastic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two primary, inter-linked but distinct objectives underpinning these moves. First, to protect its personnel and assets to preserve capability to fulfill defence duties during the pandemic. Second, and relatedly, to carve out capacity to support governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic if requested.

As unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it represents the continuation of a larger trend in terms of ever-increasing demand for CAF support to domestic emergencies. Answering these requests is perfectly reasonable, as providing assistance to civil authorities during domestic disasters or major emergencies is one of eight core missions of the CAF as outlined in the current defence policy. Furthermore, a recent poll by Ipsos, commissioned by the CDA Institute, indicates 9 out of 10 across the entire country are supportive of the CAF being called upon to assist governments in their fight against COVID-19. But such domestic demands question the organization’s’ ability to meet these requests alongside others defence duties.

Once the current conditions of the pandemic have passed, a Royal Commission or other high-level review should be initiated to look at Canada’s COVID-19 response from a whole-of-government perspective. Such a review will touch on many aspects, including but not limited to public health, federal-provincial responsibilities in terms of emergency management, and the effectiveness of social programmes in responding to the economic fallout.  The issues outlined in this paper make it clear that such a review must also include a separate report about the CAF’s domestic role and the distribution of duties, mandates, and resources for the organizations in Canada’s security communities.

The CAF will always be ready to defend Canada and help Canadians through a crisis, but are they properly mandated and should they be tasked with the increasing domestic duties they have been asked to take on? Is a more dedicated force, either functionally tasked to do so within the military, or a new civilian agency a better fit to meet the growing demand from domestic emergencies?  These are questions that do not have easy answers. Further, they are not exclusively or even primarily questions of logistics, funding or technical capabilities. Above all, they are questions that must be answered by policymakers and the public at a more overarching political level and rest on fundamental beliefs about what their military is for.


Like governments and public institutions across Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have enacted a series of drastic measures, many unprecedented in the history of the organization, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two primary, inter-linked but distinct objectives underpinning these moves. First, to protect its personnel and assets to preserve capability in order to fulfill defence duties during the pandemic. Second, to carve out capacity to support governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic if requested.

Balancing between these priorities is no easy task. However, as recently stated by a Department of Defence (DND) spokesperson: “The Canadian Armed Forces does not see any greater threat to ourselves or Canadians than what has been described by health authorities.”[i] The priority is and should remain on determining the best ways for the CAF to protect its personnel, ensure core (non-pandemic) defence duties are maintained, and prepare options which best leverage the organizations’ resources and competencies towards any requests made by governments.

The COVID-19 pandemic, represents the continuation of a larger trend in terms of ever-increasing demand for CAF support to domestic emergencies, questioning the organizations’ ability to meet these requests alongside others defence duties. Such matters are not simply technological, capability and/or budgetary in nature. These are political questions about what Canadians’ think the military’s role should be to confront and operate within an ever-evolving security environment with a growing impact on the domestic front. The military’s mandates, roles and responsibilities should be reassessed and thoroughly reviewed when this pandemic is over, as part of a re-evaluation of the resources and relationships between all of Canadian’s national security agencies.

This paper will start by examining the rationales, goals and details of the measures undertaken by the CAF to date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second section will outline the possible ways in which the CAF could assist governments and civil society within the current context. The third section provides an overview of the publicly available requests made thus far to better ascertain the nature and extent of the demand for direct COVID-19 support which is and could be placed on the military. The longer-term trends and challenges due to the pandemic to the CAF comprises the fourth section [note the discussion of the role of the Reserve Force]. The final section will emphasize the need for a post-pandemic review and highlight certain issue areas which should be taken into consideration…


Once the current conditions of the pandemic have passed and day-to-day life in Canada resumes in the context of whatever level of new normality emerges, a Royal Commission or other high-level review to look at Canada’s COVID-19 response from a whole-of-government perspective should be initiated. Such a review will touch on many aspects, including but not limited to, intelligence gathering and sharing (both within Canada’s intelligence community and between other countries in multi-national intelligence organizations such as Five Eyes[lxv]), public health, federal-provincial responsibilities in terms of emergency management, and the effectiveness of social programs in responding to the economic fallout.  The issues outlined in this paper make it clear that such a review must also include a likely separate report about the CAFs domestic role and the distribution of duties, mandates and resources for the organizations in Canada’s security communities.

The CAF will always be ready to defend Canada and help Canadians through a crisis, but are they properly mandated and should they be tasked with the increasing domestic duties they have been asked to take on? Is placing such burdens on the CAF fair to its members and the public and what are the public’s expectations of its military? Is a more dedicated force, either functionally tasked to do so within the military, or a new civilian agency, a better fit to meet the growing demand from domestic emergencies?  These are questions that do not have easy answers. Further, they are not exclusively, or even primarily, questions of logistics, funding, or technical capabilities. Above all, they are questions that must be answered by policymakers and the public at a more overarching political level and rest on fundamental beliefs about what their military is for.

For too long, the question of what Canadians expect from their military, and to what extent they are comfortable with military personnel operating on the Homefront in peacetime, has gone without serious consideration. Rather, this drift into serving as the de facto disaster response option for the federal government has been a result of reflexive policy-making without a clear vision of the future. The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first scenario to raise these questions, but it could prove definitive in charting the path forward.

One has a nervous suspicion that this Liberal government will be much inclined to give priority to the CAF’s domestic emergency operations over their traditional military/defence ones. And one really does wonder how much of the very large funding for such things as new RCAF fighters and new RCN frigates (far and away the most expensive procurement program) will be there over the next several years as federal deficits and the debt balloon. Will the Liberals succumb to the temptation to orient the CAF as a largely constabulary force as opposed to a combat-capable one?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Mark Collins – World Defence Spending 2015/2016

A tweet–US$, Canada steady at no. 15 (what do we buy–only part of defence spending–for it?):

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Winter 2016/17 Edition of CDA Institute’s “ON TRACK” Magazine

Contents via a message from the CDAI:

Ottawa, 1 December 2016 – The CDA Institute is pleased to release the latest issue of ON TRACK which features thoughtful and informative articles by experts from Canada and abroad on security and defence issues.

See full issue at:



  • “Editorial – Canada is Back – The Defence Budget Must Grow…Significantly” by Tony Battista and Dr. David McDonough

  • “Defending Canada in the 2020s?” by Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson (Ret’d)

  • “Vérité, Devoir, Vaillance : Le CMR Saint-Jean retrouve son statut universitaire” par Oksana Drozdova

  • “Les stratégies arméniennes pour garder le contrôle du Haut-Karabakh” par Michael Lambert

  • “Paranoid or Pragmatic? What Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan can tell us about international rivalry” by John Mitton

  • “L’hiver Yéménite” par Alexandra Dufour

  • “Chemical Weapons use in Syria and Iraq: implications” by Dr. Jez Littlewood

  • “2016 Vimy Award – Acceptance Speech by recipient Dr. James Boutilier”

  • “Evaluating China as a Great Power: The Paradox of the ‘Responsible Power’ Narrative” by Adam MacDonald

  • “Supporting an Informed Public Debate: Seven Important Facts to Know about Military Requirements Planning” by Colonel Chuck Davies (Ret’d)

  • “Australia and Canada – different boats for different folks” by Dr. Andrew Davies and Christopher Cowan

  • “Space and the Third Offset in the post-post-Cold War period – Lessons for Canada and Australia” by Dr. Malcolm Davis…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Trump's Victory: Trump's Implications for Canada: Defence, NAFTA, Keystone XL, Climate Change

Four tweets:

1) Defence:


3) Keystone XL:

4) Climate change:

Lots on the bilateral plate for our government and prime minister–and then there’s always softwood lumber, eh?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – RCMP’s Anti-Terrorism Fight Giving Mob Increasingly Free Pass

Further to this 2015 post before the federal election,

Policing Terrorism in Canada: Feds Don’t Match Mouth With Money

the Liberal government is now not stepping up to its job properly to fund core federal responsibilities:

Terrorism investigations tax RCMP’s ability to fight Canada’s organized crime
Colin Freeze [very good Globe and Mail reporter]

The number of RCMP wiretaps on organized-crime groups is plummeting sharply as the force shifts its detectives to the fight against terrorism, according to statistics analyzed by The Globe and Mail.

In its federal policing role, the RCMP essentially has two major business lines – chasing mobsters and chasing terrorists. The priority the Mounties give to each of the two files has always been an issue, but the balance clearly shifted after the attack on Parliament Hill two years ago.

The RCMP has moved hundreds of officers from organized-crime probes to terrorism investigations in a bid to track suspected sympathizers of the Islamic State. This may come at a cost to other important RCMP missions, such as stopping human trafficking, getting guns off the street and curbing trade in illicit drugs such as fentanyl.

– Related: Guilty pleas end risk of revealing RCMP surveillance technology

– Related: Surveillance device used in prison sets off police probe

– Related: RCMP fight to keep lid on high-tech investigation tool

A spokeswoman for the police force does not dispute that a significant shift has taken place.

“The decrease in RCMP wiretap applications for serious and organized-crime investigations in the past year can partially be attributed to the shifting of a number of federal-policing resources to national-security criminal investigations,” Corporal Annie Delisle said in an e-mailed response to Globe questions.

…the focus of police investigations is clearly shifting.

In 2011, police sought wiretaps in hopes of laying charges for 82 Criminal Code offences that explicitly had to do with organized-crime. Only six such charges were contemplated in 2015.

Half of all wiretap applications still involve drug cases, yet the number of drug charges being pursued has plummeted.

In 2011, federal police were seeking wiretap warrants involving only three terrorism charges. In 2014, police were hoping to lay 97 terrorism charges. In 2015, that number was 68.

The Public Safety Canada electronic surveillance report is preliminary and the 2015 numbers may increase because police do not have to disclose data about all their investigations right away [the report is here]. Not every wiretap warrant of leads to an arrest or criminal charge…

Follow Colin Freeze on Twitter: @colinfreeze

Must be a whole lot nicer to be an organized gangster these days in the Great White North.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Fall 2016 Issue of CGAI's "The Dispatch"

The table of contents:

Message from the Editor

Brexit, the Anglosphere and Canada 

The Obama Moment—Defence Spending Does Matter, eh!

Are Canada’s Digital Security Policies Being Decided in Washington?

Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy: Time for a Reset! 

Time for Canada to Shine in Space Diplomacy

For Today’s Peacekeeping, Prepare for War

NATO and Canada’s National Interests

Reviewing the Summer of the Defence Review

The Inevitable End of the Turkish-Western Alliance

New Canadian Government Talking the Talk on Climate Change

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds