Tag Archives: Canadian Forces

Enfin, PM Trudeau’s Government Commits Money to Several Aspects of NORAD Modernization

Further to this recent post on US pressure on Canada over NORAD,

US Air Force Chief of Staff Visits Ottawa: What’s Missing in This Story?

the Canadian minister on national defence made the Big Reveal June 20, likely with the June 29-30 NATO Madrid summit in mind (to show allies we are Doing Something on defence) as well as trying to placate the Biden administration.

It is clear the announcement at Trenton air base was rushed–a two tweets:

The news release is here. There is still no “Backgrounder”–customary with such major announcements–giving details about, and projected timelines and costings for, the individual projects mentioned.

Some key points:

1) The initial C$ 4.9 billion over six years (i.e. just over $800 million per year) for NORAD modernization is not new money; it was already included in the government’s April 22 budget; there are no details about what the promised $40 billion over 20 years is for;

2) All the major projects are related to detecting threats and processing the relevant information; only two projects relate to acquiring new kinetic defence capabilities. There are also some upgrades for existing NORAD-related facilities;

3) There is no indication of how these specifically Canadian initiatives relate to US plans to modernize NORAD (some of which may not fit in with this government’s thinking–see “left of launch” post below);

4) Canada is still staying out of the US’ GMD ballistic missile defence system;

5) Minister Anand, for some odd reason, did not name either Russia (main threat now) or China as the adversaries involved.

To begin with, an excerpt from an article last year in Aviation Week and Space Technology:

…the radars of the U.S.-Canadian North Warning System (NWS) are still functioning, although their days seem numbered…

The early-warning system lacks the range to detect Russia’s Tupolev Tu-160 bombers [or Tu-95 ones] before they can launch cruise missiles and the resolution to track the latest Russian cruise missiles, particularly the stealthy nuclear Kh-102, after they are launched.

In other words, right now the capacity to intercept the bomber “archers” before they can launch their missile “arrows” at quite some distance from North American does not exist. And tracking those missiles on their courses to targets inside North America is exceedingly problematic. So it would now appear the main future challenge will be tracking and then shooting down the cruise missiles, not the bombers themselves (which may well have fighter escorts in any event–see this 2015 post: “NORAD to Face Escorted Cruise Missile-Carrying Russian Bombers?“).

Here are extracts from a Globe and Mail story:

Canada commits $4.9-billion over six years to modernize NORAD defences

Steven Chase Senior parliamentary reporter

Patrick Brethour Tax and Fiscal Policy Reporter

Defence experts told The Globe and Mail the spending commitment, nine days before a NATO Leaders’ Summit in Madrid, seems to be an effort to create the appearance that Canada is devoting more money to the military. Canada has come under pressure from allies, the U.S. in particular, to raise its military spending to meet NATO’s target level for each of its members: the equivalent of 2 per cent of annual economic output. Canada’s current defence spending amounts to 1.33 per cent…

“As autocratic regimes [Russia? China?] threaten the rules-based order that has protected us for decades and as our competitors develop new technologies…there is a pressing need to modernize NORAD capabilities,” Ms. Anand told reporters…

The new setup will have several components, according to Ms. Anand. “Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar” will provide early-warning radar coverage and threat tracking from the Canada-U.S. border to the Arctic Circle [clearly to track cruise missiles through Canadian air space after they have been launched].

The second component will be a “Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar” system to provide the same coverage and tracking over and beyond the northernmost approaches to North America, including Canada’s Arctic archipelago [clearly to track cruise missiles immediately after launch from Russian bombers well away from North American airspace–and perhaps track the bombers themselves–and not vulnerable to interception and attack by NORAD fighters].

A third piece will be a new network called Crossbow, which will be made up of sensors with what Ms. Anand called “classified capabilities.” They will be located throughout Northern Canada, where they will provide another layer of detection.

A final component will be a space-based surveillance system, which will use satellites to collect intelligence and track threats, she told reporters.

…She did not provide a breakdown of how the $4.9-billion would be spent, and did not offer any estimate of when the new surveillance equipment would be up and running. She said Canada will spend a total of $40-billion over 20 years for NORAD modernization under the plan [emphasis added]

Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba [a professor who really knows her NORAD and defence stuff], said it’s important that Canada is “thinking about and working on the joint defence of North America.”

But, she added, she thinks Monday’s announcement was aimed first and foremost at Canada’s NATO allies.

“There is incredible pressure that Canada spend more on defence, so they can go to NATO and say, ‘Look, we are spending more,’ ” Prof. Charron said. “At least they are going to the table with something.”..

Asked when Ottawa would reach its 2-per-cent commitment [to NATO], Ms. Anand pointed to Canada’s “upward trajectory” in defence spending….

With the $4.9-billion for NORAD, she said, “our defence spending is now on an even sharper upward trajectory.” However, that $4.9-billion is part of the $8-billion announced in the budget [emphasis added].

But Ms. Anand declined to provide a precise defence-spending target, or to explicitly pledge that Canada would reach the 2-per-cent threshold…

Prof. Charron said the new radar and surveillance projects will take “years and years” to build [emphasis added]

And from a CBC story:

The new network will monitor not only the Arctic — NORAD’s traditional domain — but also Pacific and Atlantic approaches to the continent [see the “Worries” post noted at bottom of this one”–our two fighter bases are well to the interior at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Quebec and ill-placed to deal with threats approaching from those oceans; might we start rotating fighters through east and west coast bases as thought needed?]

Canadian Lt.-Gen. Alain Pelletier, the deputy commander at NORAD, said he and other top military officials have been taking notes on Moscow’s air campaign [vs Ukraine].

“Some of that assessment is classified, but I can tell you that we’re seeing the usage of cruise missiles in that theater, like we were expecting it, and like we expect that that cruise missile may be used in the future, against potential … critical infrastructure in North America [emphasis added],” Pelletier told CBC News in an interview following the minister’s statement.

Asked whether Canada will end its prohibition on participating in the U.S. ballistic missile system (BMD), Anand said the government will maintain the current policy of non-involvement [emphasis added]

As for those new kinetic capabilities:

Canada will also acquire new air-to-air missiles [the new AIM-260 the US is developing?] that will be compatible with the 88 F-35 fighter planes from the American manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which will replace the aging F-18s of the Canadian military aviation in the coming years.

We will also work to develop options for a Canadian ground-based air defense capability” added the minister, remaining stingy with details…

Presumably that ground-based air defence capability will be missiles capable of intercepting cruise missiles closing on their targets. Will they be placed to defend our fighter bases at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Quebec? Critical infrastructure such as ports? Nuclear power plants? Major cities in case of a possible demonstration nuclear attack (a 2016 post: “NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”? Part 2“)?

Just for comparison’s sake, the current cost for the Stage 2 expansion of the Ottawa’s (pop. some one million) new Light Rail Transit system is $4.6 billion.

Here’s a video of Ms Anand’s announcement and news conference:

Those posts noted above:

NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat

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

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Canadian Armed Forces Readying for Cyberwar

Further to these tweets last year,

now we get a look at our military’s “cyber playbook”. From a Global News story:

Canada directs military to take more ‘assertive’ stance in cyberspace

By Marc-André Cossette & Alex Boutilier

The Canadian government has directed its military to take a more “assertive” stance in cyberspace in anticipation of electronic warfare becoming a more central component in conflict, documents obtained by Global News suggest.

A “cyber playbook” prepared by the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence comes as Ottawa pushes for international rules and norms around cyber espionage and warfare.

The playbook, provided to Defence Minister Anita Anand earlier this year, noted that the threats facing Canada’s networks have “evolved significantly” since the government released its 2010 cyber strategy.

The document also makes clear that Canada is under increasing pressure from allies to be able to conduct joint cyber operations, either as standalone operations or as support for “conventional” military conflict [emphasis added].

Anand’s office “clearly recognizes” cyberspace as a domain for warfare and operations that Canada must grapple with, the document read.

Speaking at a conference of defence experts hosted by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute on Tuesday [May 10], Anand singled out cyberattacks as one of several pressing national security threats…

Since 2016, NATO has recognized cyberspace as a domain of operations in which the alliance must defend itself just as effectively as it does on land, at sea and in the air.

But Russia’s war in Ukraine has given new urgency to allied co-operation in cyberspace, with western governments having issued repeated warnings this year about the threat of Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks.

“It may not be as upfront as some of the other military operations, but absolutely, cyber is a part of this conflict and in fact, all conflicts,” said Stephanie Carvin, a former CSIS analyst who now teaches at Carleton University.

The department’s playbook notes that Canada’s allies are increasingly calling for operational co-operation, including as part of missions that would include “robust cyber responses [emphasis added].”

In particular, the playbook highlights the U.S. concept of “deterrence through resilience,” noting that it has seen “a major thrust within Canada” and could be reflected in Canada’s cyber priorities.

“Basically, it means being able to deny actors access because of good cybersecurity practices,” Carvin explained. “But also, if they are able to get in, to ensure that we have a quick response, that government systems or private sector systems can come back online quickly.”..

Carvin also noted that the Department of National Defence’s playbook mirrors another concept that has been promoted by Canada’s allies, particularly the U.S.

I’m thinking of the concept of ‘defending forward’: the idea that you need to take a more aggressive stance in cyberspace,” Carvin said. “Not necessarily for offensive purposes, but for defensive purposes — perhaps to preempt any kind of threat that may be coming to your country [emphasis added, see this post on “defending forward” in the bigger NORAD context: “NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat“].”

Just last month, western governments warned that Russia might ramp up its malicious cyber activity against critical infrastructure in response to sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

It wasn’t the first such warning. In January of this year, Canada’s cyber defence agency urged those tasked with defending the country’s critical infrastructure to be on guard against Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks.

According to the defence department’s playbook, the need to better gather, use and share intelligence extends beyond the federal government and should engage industry, internet service providers and academia. That’s been a priority for the Communications Security Establishment – Canada’s main cyber defence and espionage agency, which also reports to Anand – particularly during the global pandemic.

Similarly, industry representatives have recently called on the federal government to make it easier for businesses to report cyber incidents — possibly through so-called safe harbour legislation, which would shield businesses that report a cyber breach from legal liability provided certain conditions are met.

Read more: Cyber defence agency gets significant boost in Liberals’ Budget 2022

Last month, the Canadian government published the country’s position on cyber warfare and international law. The document hints at what Canada is willing to do in both cyber espionage and warfare, but also when the government would consider a cyberattack to violate Canadian sovereignty.

“The scope, scale, impact or severity of disruption caused, including the disruption of economic and societal activities, essential services, inherently governmental functions, public order or public safety must be assessed to determine whether a violation of the territorial sovereignty of the affected state has taken place,” the document read.

In plain language, Carvin said, “not every action that crosses or affects a state is a violation” of sovereignty.

“So probing a system may not constitute a violation of state sovereignty, even if the action might be considered illegal,” Carvin said.

“If, for example, another country sent a spy to collect the same information, only in person, Canada’s state sovereignty wouldn’t be violated, but the action would be illegal – something like breaking and entering.”..

[DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande wrote in a statement to Global News that] “Though we cannot release any further information on actual or alleged cyber operations, our Cyber Force is well positioned to plan and conduct cyber operations to defend military systems and infrastructure, and deliver effects outside of Canada, as authorized, in support of Canadian interests abroad.”..

Now here’s what the CAF say about this newish “trade“:

Cyber Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time


Cyber Operators conduct defensive cyber operations, and when required and where feasible, active cyber operations [emphasis added]. They liaise and work collaboratively with other government departments and agencies, as well as with Canada’s allies to enhance the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ability to provide a secure cyber environment. They monitor CAF communication networks to detect and respond to unauthorized network access attempts and provide cyber support to meet the operational requirements of the Navy, Army, Air Force, and joint enablers.

A Cyber Operator has the following responsibilities:

*Collect, process and analyze network data

*Identify network vulnerabilities

*Manage a computer network environment

*Conduct defensive and active cyber operations [emphasis added]

*Apply security and communications knowledge in the field of information technology…

And a 2016 post–it seems progress is being made but I believe that comparatively we spend a lot less on cybersecurity etc. matters than the US, UK or Australia (typical, eh?):

Offensive Cyber Capability for Canadian Forces? Is the New Government Cyber Serious?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Royal Canadian Navy Leads, and Schools, the Naval World on the Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) Tool

The Canadian government’s defence priorities on display at Proceedings, the magazine of the US Naval Institute:

1) From the “Editor’s Page“:

Against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, this month is our annual focus on international navies. A record 32 international navy chiefs accepted our invitation to describe their nations’ maritime security challenges

2) The resulting responses:

The International Commanders Respond

This year, Proceedings asked the commanders of the world’s navies, “How is your nation’s maritime security environment changing? Have new regional threats, climate change, or the COVID-19 pandemic caused you to alter your future assumptions? How is the changing environment impacting operations, budget, and personnel policy for your Navy and/or Coast Guard?”

[The Canadian contribution deals broadly with operations (no countries are named as “competitors or adversaries”; odd with that war going on and Canada’s actively assisting Ukraine), fleet recapitalization and personnel–the final part of the contribution is excerpted below.]


Vice Admiral Craig Baines, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy

Personnel…Like the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole, the RCN is taking appropriate measures to affect culture change. The RCN is using the government’s Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) tool to assess systemic inequalities and how diverse groups of women, men, and gender-diverse people experience policies, programs, and initiatives. Using GBA+ also ensures that future ships and submarines are not designed on incorrect assumptions that could lead to unintended and unequal impacts on particular groups of people. This will help ensure that the future RCN is an inclusive workplace in which Canadians feel comfortable and willing to serve.

The only other of those 32 contributions that even remotely deals with such, er, cultural matters is the one from the Republic of Korea:

The third pillar is the transformation of our organizational culture; a spirit and lifestyle shared by its personnel. To meet the needs of the time, society, and our sailors, we must reform everything from the administrative system to the military and organizational culture. The ROK Navy will implement the naval culture reformation through a disciplined navy spirit; a fair, efficient, and transparent unit management; and the 21st-century advanced naval culture that fosters respect, compassion, sympathy, and communication among sailors.

Crickets however from such progressive stalwarts as Finland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. We certainly are showing international leadership on that tool.

Here’s a PM Trudeau government-directed agitprop tweet from the Canadian Armed Forces–how much otherwise productive time is spent throughout the federal government on virtue signalling as this government conceives things?

And another tweet:

Keeping the true north strong and free. Lenses at the ready.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Now publicly, US Ambassador Puts Pressure on Canada over NORAD Defence Spending–PM Trudeau Talks about “Crown-Inuit partnership” (note June 7 UPDATE and June 11 UPPERDATE)

Hoo boy! They’ll love that at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. And that’s with a Democratic administration. As for Congress…

Further to this post in December last year,

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

now we get this from the American ambassador himself. A pretty direct message to the PM to get his government’s ass in gear and DO SOMETHING FAST. Love his diplomatic confidence but note those “candid conversations, i.e. tough talk from the Yanks. At the CBC:

U.S. ambassador says he’s confident Canada will strengthen its defences in the Arctic

David Cohen says he’s had some ‘candid conversations’ with senior cabinet ministers since December [see post at the start of this one]

Chris Hall · CBC News

America’s top diplomat in Ottawa says he’s been assured Canada will follow through this year on crucial investments to modernize its Arctic defence, even though this month’s budget didn’t include money for that work.

Ambassador David Cohen told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend [see just below] that Canada needs to make Arctic air and maritime defence a national priority. He said he’s made that point in “candid conversations” with senior cabinet ministers since he took up the post in December.

“So I think there’s an acknowledgement that this budget does not include funding for NORAD, for modernizing and improving the northern defence for Canada and for the United States, but that it will be forthcoming during the course of this fiscal year [emphasis added, we’ll see how serious much],” he said…

CBC News: The House 19:15 [audio here] U.S. Ambassador says Canada needs to make Arctic defence a ‘national priority’U.S. Ambassador David Cohen sits down with host Chris Hall to reflect on the state of the Canada-U.S. relationship and next steps on NORAD modernization, Arctic defence and integrated supply chains

Cohen acknowledged during the interview at the U.S. embassy that the budget did include another $8 billion in defence spending. But he said Russia and China’s increasing activity in the North must be countered by a more robust Canadian presence at the top of the world.”The United States has been told, I have been told and other officials in the White House and in Washington have been told that when we discussed the $8 billion increase in defence spending, (we’ve) been told that, remember, that doesn’t even include anything for NORAD modernization [emphasis added],” he said. “That will be an add-on as we continue to review what NORAD requires [this government won’t be eager to add that much soon].”

…the prime minister has been unclear about Canada’s position. Justin Trudeau told reporters this week that security is only one part of his government’s focus in the North. Addressing climate change and promoting economic opportunities for the Inuit are equally important [emphasis added, that sure will thrill the Americans], he said.

“We are in a time of of reflection around how we ensure Canada’s continued sovereignty in the Arctic, and in times past or governments past that would have happened through a military lens,” he said Thursday [April 21] after announcing a new engagement policy with Inuit.

“Can we put more bases in the North? Can we show that we’re ready to defend and control our Arctic? What this policy, and quite frankly, the relationship that we’ve built over the past number of years in the Crown-Inuit partnership [shows] is [that] sovereignty in the North passes through the people who live there and who have lived there for millennia [BLAH, BLAH. BLAH].

A spokesperson for Defence Minister Anita Anand said Arctic defence is a key government priority.

Daniel Minden wrote in an email that the budget did include $252 million over five years in initial military funding [$5O million–Canadian–a year, pathetic peanuts], “with new investments in situational awareness, modernized command and control systems, research and development, and defence capabilities to deter and defeat aerospace threats to this continent.”..

One cannot help but imagine Justin Trudeau as Bambi, frozen in the Americans’ headlights:

UPDATE: Nothingburger PM Trudeau and national defence minister Anand June 7 visit to NORAD HQ–Biden administration will not be pleased:

Trudeau, Anand meet with Norad commanders, U.S. defense secretary en route to L.A.

…as they wrapped up their visit, neither Trudeau nor Anand were able to offer any specifics about when details about the plans would be forthcoming.

“We have a number of initiatives on the table right now with the United States and we will be coming forward shortly with a plan to modernize Norad,” Anand said. “I will leave it at that.”..

UPPERDATE: June 11, beginning to feel like full-court press on PM Trudeau’s government by Biden admin. on NORAD etc.:

Relevant posts:

Canada/US Statement on Way Forward for NORAD–Very Little There There [Aug. 2021]

Here’s Looking at NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Way Ahead, or, Deterrence and Punishment [Dec. 2021]

What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE [March 2022]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

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

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

(Caption for photo of Australian drone at top of the post: “The Boeing ATS, developed in Australia, exploits artificial intelligence to achieve autonomy. Credit: Boeing.)”

Further to this post (do have a look for important background especially on Canada),

The Indo-Pacific, the Birth of AUKUS…and Canada (note “UPPERDATE”)

excerpts from a Dec. 15 article at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

Australia Joins U.S., Britain In Push For Technological High Ground

Bradley Perrett

Leaping ahead in strategic importance, Australia is entering the inner circle of UK and U.S. technological cooperation.

AUKUS, a “security partnership” created among the three countries in September, is starting out with five areas of technological collaboration. It will presumably move into more later.

*Nations will share cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum and undersea capabilities

*Australia is quietly avoiding economic reliance on China

Furthermore, Washington’s elevation of Australia to something like the status of the UK as a most trusted ally suggests Canberra will also gain wider access to U.S. technology that would formerly have been withheld {emphasis added: what? no Canada?].

Chinese aggression and the risk of war over Taiwan are driving this. Australia, in particular, has come to the fore because it is the only steadfast U.S. ally south of Japan. It has also been in the lead globally in resisting Chinese domestic intrusion, whether intended for political manipulation, espionage or gaining control of key infrastructure.

Moreover, Australia is making itself more useful to the U.S. with a rapid increase in defense spending, from 1.6% of GDP in the fiscal year to June 2013 to 2.1% in 2020-21 [way ahead of the Canadian percentage–and note the twist for our 2020-21 figure]. Further increases are likely. These are rising shares of an economy that tends to grow faster than the Western average, thanks to large-scale immigration.

The country’s location, beyond the reach of Chinese medium-range ballistic missiles, is also increasingly relevant to U.S. strategy. “In Australia, you’ll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you’ll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation [’emphasis added],” U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Mara Karlin said on Nov. 30, discussing the Pentagon’s latest force posture review…AUKUS is not an alliance; the three countries were already long-standing allies. “It’s basically a memorandum of understanding for sharing advanced technology, defense industrial capabilities and technical know-how,” says Ashley Townshend, director of foreign policy and defense research at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney.

The headline item in the AUKUS announcement was the willingness of the U.S. and the UK to share submarine nuclear-propulsion technology that they had kept between themselves for more than 60 years. Complete access is not being allowed, however, since Australia will not be shown how to build the propulsion plants; instead it will receive them complete, then work them into submarines that it currently proposes to build locally.

The other four areas in which the partners will initially cooperate are cybercapabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technology and additional undersea know-how [emphasis added]

Canberra said in 2020 it would spend A$15 billion ($11 billion) on cyber-capabilities this decade, including capabilities for deployed forces [planned Canadian federal spending on cybersecurity is quite, and probably deliberately, opaque–but certainly nothing approaching the Australian figure].

Australia has a strong background in quantum technology, which exploits fundamental behavior of light and matter and which in military affairs is expected to revolutionize sensing, encryption and communications. The U.S. and Britain are no doubt interested in Australia’s civilian research capacity in the field, since quantum technology appears to have had only a low profile in Canberra’s defense planning. It was mentioned only in passing in a force plan published in 2020.

Quantum technology was one of nine technical areas that Canberra designated in November for priority protection from foreign exploitation—obviously meaning, above all, Chinese exploitation. This is part of an Australian effort that amounts to partial technological disconnection from China, though it is not being called that.

Avoiding reliance on Chinese technology, trade and investment, and preventing technology transfer to China, is much discussed in other countries under the heading “decoupling.” In Australia it is already quietly underway…

Work on AI-enabled autonomy that Boeing and BAE Systems are doing in Australia on the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, a loyal-wingman drone, may be attracting strong U.S. interest. The U.S. Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, told Defense News in March that the drone offered impressive capability. The service had included aircraft modeled on it in a tabletop simulation of a war over Taiwan last year.

It is notable that cyber, quantum technology and AI are commonly regarded as occupying much of the high ground of future warfare, so mastering them is urgent. The three countries should be able to advance faster together than the U.S. could alone—and maybe faster than China can…

Because all this collaboration is described as initial, we can expect more to be added later as the AUKUS relationship develops. One area in which Australia may have much to offer its partners later is high-frequency radio technology, based on its work on over-the-horizon radars. On the other hand, it may already be sharing this know-how with them fairly freely…The AUKUS agreement does not mention hypersonics, another part of the technological high ground of future warfare in which Australia and the U.S. have been working together for many years.

The two countries began in November 2020 to develop an air-launched strike and anti-ship missile with a speed of about Mach 5 under a program called SciFire. Flight testing is supposed to begin in late 2024, with deliveries of the operational missile beginning in U.S. fiscal 2027 under the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program.

Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon were contracted in September for missile designs. Australia expects the weapon to be carried by Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and P-8A Poseidons and Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightnings.

Meanwhile in Canada our armed forces are in an increasingly parlous state. No wonder the US and UK are having increasing doubts about our defence capabilities whilst taking those of Australia increasingly seriously and eager to add to them. Remember the Aussies have just two-thirds Canada’s population and GDP but actually spend quite a bit more on defence and get a lot more bang for those bucks (see the comparisons here).

E.g. both countries have fighters but the RAAF’s are all modern Super Hornets, Growlers and F-35s whereas the youngest of the RCAF’s CF-18s are 40 years old (and some were bought used from Australia recently!). Both air forces have around 80 fighters now but the RAAF has some 30 more F-35As to come; Canada’s first new fighters (F-35A or Gripen E, winner yet to be selected) might arrive by 2026 with the fleet not completely renewed until the early 2030s.

Moreover both the RAAF and the Royal Australian Navy have a wider range of modern capabilities than their Canadian counterparts and have recapitalized much more of their forces over the last 15 years.

The following opinion piece at the National Post puts the almost FUBAR state of the Canadian Armed Forces nicely; our current government has perishingly little concern for actual defence capabilities as opposed to the forces simply being available for help with COVID-19 and for disaster assistance:

Canada’s neglected military reaching point of being ‘irrelevant’

The problem is that lack of military capacity is not a political issue. It’s not a subject that is close to Justin Trudeau’s heart

John Ivison

…In terms of personnel, training and equipment, CAF has rarely been in such rough shape. Government disinterest and lack of direction has reached the point where retired generals are speaking out, offering opinions they say are shared by senior officers still serving…

There are pressures on the Forces at all levels.Officials said last year the military is under-staffed by around 10,000 regular and reserve troops, while the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, Craig Baines, said recently he needs another 1,000 sailors...

The pandemic has hit recruitment and training, as well as creating unprecedented demands on the military to help domestically. “Nobody in uniform expected to be sent into a nursing home,” said David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute [see this earlier post: “COVID-19/Natural Disaster Response, or, Canada’s Coming Constabulary/Militia Armed Forces?“].

The requirement to provide assistance when floods and forest fires strike, has meant the Forces have had to deploy combat-ready troops to disaster zones.At the same time, the sexual misconduct affair has chipped away at the resolve of many in the officer corps, who feel they have been vilified as a profession.

…The mandate letter [new Minister of National Defence Anita] Anand received from the prime minister made a single reference to building a modern armed forces before turning, at length, to culture change [text of letter here]. “This reflects government priorities. Fulfilling social policy objectives comes first,” said one senior member of the Forces…

In addition to a dearth of personnel and training, the Forces have faced capability challenges because of aging equipment.

The government’s record on buying new equipment in the past decade, under both Liberal and Conservative ministries, has been abysmal.

We still do not have a fighter jet to replace the CF18s a decade after the Harper government decided to sole source Lockheed Martin’s F35 and then reversed itself…

Nor do we have a firm commitment to replace the obsolete [NORAD] North Warning radar system with more advanced technology, despite Sajjan issuing a joint statement with the Americans last summer saying we would do so “as soon as possible [see post below].”..

The lack of capacity has been long noted beyond Canada’s borders. “We are rapidly approaching the point where we are considered irrelevant, which I think is very unfortunate,” said Mark Norman, a former vice-chief of the defence staff. “I really think the Americans are going to start ignoring us because they don’t think we are credible or reliable [emphasis added]. They are not even putting pressure on us anymore [well not quite, see that post below].”

The problem is that lack of military capacity is not a political issue. It’s not a subject that is close to Justin Trudeau’s heart.

The prime minister and his closest advisers have never taken the armed forces that seriously, [emphasis added]” said Andrew Leslie, a former Liberal MP and ex-Canadian Forces lieutenant-general. Leslie said he found the decision-making process on military matters “breathtakingly centralized.” Often, nothing much happened because “PMO (the Prime Minister’s Office) does not see any real political payback on defence expenditures.”

Unless there are votes to be gained (and there aren’t in this case) programs tend to suffer from benign neglect [which in fact has now gone long beyond benign, under both Conservatives and Liberals]

Ultimately, Mark Norman believes that Canada just doesn’t have a culture that is overly concerned about national security or defence – a mindset that only changes when troops are engaged in combat…

As one says these days, absolutely!

That post:

NORAD Commander [US Air Force] puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Gen. Glen VanHerck said he gave a candid risk assessment to senior Canadian military and government leaders on Tuesday [Nov. 30] regarding hypersonics. (Corporal Jeff Smith, Canadian Forces Support Group Ottawa-Gatineau Imaging Services)”–from this CBC story.)

Further to this post,

NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat

US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck (dual-hatted as commander of US NORTHCOM, responsible for missile defence, amongst other things) goes to Ottawa to, it seems to me, lay down some markers for the prime minister’s government. That government has dithered for several years over committing definitely to necessary–and costly–actions to contribute to the renewal of NORAD that is badly needed and that the US government badly wants.

From a Canadian Press story:

Norad modernization awaiting political direction as China, Russia develop new threats

By Lee Berthiaume

The commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command says China and Russia are developing new ways to attack the continent as he waits for political direction to modernize Norad’s outdated early-warning system.U.S.

Gen. Glen VanHerck made the comment to reporters Tuesday during his first visit to Ottawa since taking over in August 2020 as commander of Norad, the joint American-Canadian command responsible for continental defence [in other words unilaterally getting his points our to the Canadian public].

VanHerck’s visit coincided with growing concerns about the development and deployment of long-range cruise missiles and so-called hypersonic weapons by Russia and China that are capable of striking North America.

Military officials have been warning for years that the string of 1980s-era radars responsible for detecting an attack on North America is unable to detect such modern threats, a message VanHerck says he repeated to Canadian officials while in Ottawa.

“The North Warning System is designed for a threat from 50 years ago,” VanHerck said. “A bomber that has to fly over the North Pole to drop gravity weapons, has to fly over Canada and North America into the United States to drop any of those weapons [emphasis added].”

Canada and the U.S. have committed for years to upgrade the entire system, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden most recently issuing a joint statement to that effect on the eve of the federal election this past August [see this post: “Canada/US Statement on Way Forward for NORAD–Very Little There There“].

Yet those efforts are still very much in their infancy, VanHerck said, adding he is hoping for direction soon from Defence Minister Anita Anand and her American counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, so work on meeting those threats can begin in earnest [emphasis added–this is telling Canada to get its ass in gear; the mention of the US defence secretary is diplomatic politisesse, as one is sure that Gen. VanHerck has already got the direction he needs from the US government].

“North America is only going to become more vulnerable to future capabilities being developed by potential adversaries,” he said. “And decisions need to be made in the not-too-distant future. So I’d love to see those happen sooner than later.”..

There have been questions about how much the entire effort will cost. Most experts predict the price tag will be in the billions, with Canada on the hook for 40 per cent of the total {emphasis added].

VanHerck admitted to having some preliminary cost estimates, but would not reveal any numbers until a decision is made on a specific modernization plan.

Political direction is needed to establish a framework in which each country will lay out its requirements and boundaries for a new system, such as whether the new system will include actual defensive measures to intercept incoming attacks [i.e. will Canada take part in defensive systems aimed at hypersonics as well as cruise missiles].

Such discussions have previously carried significant political sensitivity, notably when Canada opted in 2005 not to join the U.S. in developing and deploying a ballistic-missile defence system…

Much of the attention in recent weeks and months has focused on China’s rapidly growing military might, which includes dizzying technological advances that have included reports of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile test in August [see this post: “US Joint Chiefs Chairman over-hyper over PRC’s FOBS Hypersonics? (note UPDATE)”]…

Yet VanHerck noted China has yet to actually field hypersonic weapons while Russia has had them in its arsenal for years. To that end, he said, “Russia’s the primary military threat to North America. China’s about a decade behind [emphasis added, good on the general for downplaying the hypersonics hype].”

While Ottawa and Washington have yet to provide specific directions on what the next iteration of Norad should look like, VanHerck said his priority is to build a system that will provide military and political officials time to detect a threat and decide the appropriate response.

That will involve collecting data and intelligence from numerous sources not only in North America but around the world, and using artificial intelligence and other automated systems to analyze it faster, though he insisted people will still be in charge [see this post from March: “US NORTHCOM Thinking pre-emptively vs Russian Cruise Missiles, Leaving NORAD a Backwater?“].

“I’m not talking about machines making decisions,” he said. “Humans are still making decisions.”

NORAD has issued a press release about the visit. Only the NORAD commander’s “quote” contains any substance, another diplomatic US shot across our bow:

…With competitors now capable of striking discrete military targets and critical infrastructure in both Canada and the United States, the need for continued collaboration and support is key to the ongoing success of NORAD and the security of North America.

The Biden Administration is plainly losing its patience with PM Trudeau’s government’s unwillingness to take defence seriously. They have also just called them out over their failure to live up to UN peacekeeping promises made several years ago. Another Canadian Press story:

U.S. presses Canada to make good on promised 200-soldier peacekeeping force

An earlier post on our government and peacekeeping:

UN Peacekeeping: PM Trudeau and Liberals too Fearful to Meet their Pledges when they Realized the Realities of “Killer Peacekeeping”

And our government expects the U.S. to cut us some slack on trade issues when we won’t do our defence bit. Adolescents in the bilateral biz.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

COVID-19: Big Intel Failure by Canadian Armed Forces

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where people infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus were being treated, in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 18, 2020. Photo by STR/AFP”.)

Further to this post,

COVID-19: “A post-pandemic review of [Canadian] security and intelligence is essential”

that review sure looks ever more essential–this article by a Canadian intelligence expert tells a sorry tale:

Newly released records show defence intelligence officials downplayed the risk of COVID-19

It is now clear, thanks to a long-delayed release of records under the Access to Information Act, that the defence minister’s confident assertion about the quality of intelligence in early 2020 was incorrect

Author of the article: Wesley Wark

What…[has not been] publicly documented is another side of the military’s response to COVID-19, involving the work of defence intelligence and its medical experts in monitoring and assessing the threat posed by COVID-19 in the crucial early months of the outbreak, first in China, then globally.

The minister of national defence, Harjit Sajjan, told the House of Commons on July 22, 2020, under questioning from the Conservatives, that the government had made decisions in response to COVID-19 “based on sound intelligence to make sure Canadians are safe.” In a brief exchange on that day, he repeated the assertion no less than four times, while declining to divulge any specifics about the intelligence reports.

It is now clear, thanks to a long-delayed release of records under the Access to Information Act, that the minister’s confident assertion about the quality of intelligence was incorrect [emphasis added].

The Department of National Defence was alerted to news of an unusual “pneumonia-like” outbreak in China on Dec. 31, 2019, at the same time the story became available to experts at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). DND paid attention and began reporting on the disease outbreak early and regularly. The minister was first briefed about the novel coronavirus threat on Jan. 17.

DND operates the largest intelligence organization in the federal government, headed by CFINTCOM, a combined military-civilian agency dedicated to assessing threats to the Canadian military and the country’s security [website here]. For COVID-19 analysis, CFINTCOM could call on the staff in the CAF health services group, whose mandate includes assessing health risks to Canadian Armed Forces deployments overseas.

Defence intelligence came to a series of wrong assessments about the threat posed by the outbreak in China. On the eve of the minister’s first briefing, a regular reporting product called the “Defence Intelligence Daily” concluded that the outbreak had been contained and that “significant disease spread outside China is unlikely.” The Chinese government was credited later in the month with being “open and transparent” in communicating information about the disease.

The message about the unlikelihood of disease spread was repeated alongside assertions of the mild virulence of the disease and misleading statistics about low mortality rates among the elderly. Here’s the “Defence Intelligence Daily” for Jan. 23, 2020: “Given the low mortality (O.03 per cent of confirmed cases in older persons — average age is 75 — with underlying health issues) and apparently limited person-to-person spread thus far, we assess significant transmissions of the disease outside China is unlikely.”

While evidence mounted in January and February 2020 about the massive impact of COVID-19 in China and its rapid spread beyond China’s borders, defence intelligence, while tracking the case counts through various sources such as World Health Organization reporting, insisted that the risk to CAF personnel and operations was “negligible [emphasis added].” The defence minister was informed of this in a briefing note on Feb. 5, by which time there had been 24,324 cases reported in China (very likely an under-count), alongside 217 cases in 27 countries outside China. COVID-19 had also made landfall in Canada with an early count of five cases. The disease was on the move, as such diseases always will be.The risk assessment generated by defence intelligence was re-calibrated at “low” by mid-February and remained at that level until March 16, at which time, two and a half months after the initial warning, it was abandoned as the Canadian government belatedly declared an emergency. Three days earlier, for reasons unexplained, the minister’s weekly defence intelligence brief was suspended and was not resumed until May 15.

The DND’s “low” risk rating was matched in lock-step by one generated separately by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The PHAC risk assessment process was heavily criticized as wanting by the auditor general in a scathing performance audit released to Parliament on March 25, 2021. A similar independent and in-depth study of what went wrong in defence intelligence is needed.

What emerges clearly from the released records is that defence intelligence had little grasp of what was happening in China, was unable to generate any useful early warning about the disease threat to Canada, was rooted in optimism, scientific caution and an unwillingness to sound alarming [emphasis added]— something that defence intelligence analysts repeatedly blamed, as the record shows, on fast and loose media reporting.

Minister Sajjan may have believed his department was giving him “sound intelligence.” He should have thought again.

Wesley Wark is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa’s Centre on Public Management and Policy, where he teaches about national security and intelligence.

A post from 2016, Canadian Armed Forces intelligence has only grown since then:

The Scope of Canadian Forces’ Intelligence Activities (including HUMINT)

And note this from the 2019 Annual Report of the then-new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (actually in the executive branch)–starts at p. 75 PDF:

Chapter 4: Review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ Intelligence

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Rethinking and Remaking North American Defence, or, a Revolution in NORAD Affairs? How, er, Proactive?

Further to this post,

NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat

a great deal of thinking about how to reshape NORAD to be able to deal with the rapidly evolving treat environment (from Russia, China) is going on in the US and, it appears, in some circles of the Canadian Forces. But is our government more widely, both at the senior bureaucratic and the political levels, paying any serious attention to what is now being considered and the major impact the reshaping emerging would have on Canadian defence–and perhaps foreign–policy? One has seen no indication that is in fact happening and one wonders whether it actually will before the Americans may in effect start presenting us with a series of faits accomplis that they consider essential for their homeland defence in our rapidly emerging brave new networked world. Extracts from a report by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute of Ottawa:

NORAD Modernization Forum:

Information Dominance

Special thanks to our NAADSN rapporteur, Nicholas Glesby


The CDA Institute, in partnership with NDIA and NORAD/USNORTHCOM, hosted a virtual industry roundtable focused on the topic of achieving Information Dominance and the means with which NORAD and USNORTHCOM can achieve it in the digital age. The aim of this session was to allow experts from industry, academia, and government to break down silos and engage in direct conversations. More specifically, the goal of this event was to examine the architecture, infrastructure, data framework and policies needed for the integration of systems, as well as for deeper integration with allied partners.

This report, focused on Information Dominance, will outline the major points of consensus and contention reached by participants during the webinar, answers provided in the question-and-answer session, a synopsis of introductory remarks, updates on the Pathfinder Initiative, and a synopsis of the scene setter. This report was commissioned by the CDA Institute and is intended to read as an overview of the key points made by our invited experts.

NORAD Deputy Commander Lieutenant-General Alain Pelletier gave introductory remarks. An update on the Pathfinder Initiative at NORAD was given by Canadian team lead Colonel Robyn Hulan (OMM, CD, COO, COO for N2X/Pathfinder). Colonel Matt Eberhart, Special Assistant to Commander of NORAD/USNORTHCOM, provided the scene setter. Gordon Venner (CDA Institute), Former Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence and Canadian Diplomat and Ambassador, acted as Master of Ceremonies and moderated a panel discussion that included:

*Tom Karako, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Director, Missile Defence Project, CSIS

*Julia Scouten, Senior Manager, Cyber Security Team, KPMG

*Chris Pogue, CEO, Thales Canada

The report was produced by a rapporteur from the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN), a Department of National Defence MINDS Collaborative Network.

Executive Summary

North American continental defence is undergoing a transformational modernization amidst the digital age. Emerging technologies and emboldened adversaries are creating the environment necessary for NORAD and USNORTHCOM to achieve information dominance [emphasis added]. The Commander needs more information from an updated sensor network that includes data from all domains. This will allow for a fuller understanding of possible threats from adversaries and create more time for decision-making, with informed and trusted data needed to broaden the possible choices and options to achieve Decision Superiority.

NORAD is responsible for the aerial defence of the continent and warns of maritime threats approaching North America. The binational command has evolved from deterring Soviet long-range bombers during the Cold War, to countering Violent-Extremist Organizations in the wake of 9/11, to addressing new threats associated with the reemergence of great power politics. This has created a new reliance on Information Dominance and cloud computing to protect the continent. These new modernization capabilities will ensure NORAD and USNORTHCOM can move “farther left of bang” (i.e., before there is an attack) by preemptively deterring and detecting threats in competition and crisis [emphasis added]. Experts from across industry, academia and the command discussed a wide range of issues related to achieving Information Dominance. This included the Pathfinder Initiative, the military’s ability to leverage and maximize commercial and private input, the possibility of working beyond traditional binational NORAD structure, and the challenge of keeping pace with evolving and emerging technologies with new actors in new domains. NORAD Modernization is a large-scale moving target, and decision-makers are scrambling to meet existing challenges and those yet to emerge. The allocation of resources amid these rapid advancements means that achieving Information Dominance is necessary to protect the homeland, as it is no longer a sanctuary [emphasis added].

All-Domain awareness should enable Information Dominance, which creates Decision Superiority, the ultimate objective for the Commander. For NORAD to Deter in Competition, Deescalate in Crisis and Deny and Defeat in Conflict, the binational command requires Global Integration, Domain Awareness, Information Dominance, and Decision Superiority. Ultimately, Information Dominance will allow NORAD and USNORTHCOM to meet three goals: 1) Improved decisions in competition, crisis, and conflict; 2) Proactive options to deter, deny, and if required, defeat [emphasis added, note those “proactive options” to “defeat”–rather sounds like some sort of preemptive actions well beyond purely defensive to me]; 3) Global Integration across tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Points of Consensus

*NORAD Modernization seeks to provide time in the Commander’s decision space and Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop. The only way to provide this time is to trust the data disseminated from the legacy sensor network and creation of new sensors (including space, over-the-horizon, or elevated). Data must have secure pathways, secure access, accuracy, and time-efficiency.

*Adversaries can exploit gaps (in capabilities) and seams (of command jurisdiction). The United States Unified Command Plan (UCP) creates areas of responsibility which can be problematic. The future of war fighting does not have geographic lines as adversaries are no longer restricted by traditional battle spaces…

*Information Dominance requires Global Integration. This means that allies of Canada and the United States need a coordinated allied effort to provide, ingest, and aggregate trusted data to achieve Information Dominance [emphasis added].

Points of Contention

*There was debate regarding whether NORAD should remain focused solely on air and maritime domains or seek to become a revised All-Domain binational command with a new overarching mandate [emphasis added, good luck getting a Canadian government agree to that]

Agile Homeland Defence

NORAD Deputy Commander [RCAF] Lieutenant-General Alain Pelletier spoke of the agile homeland defence enterprise and Information Dominance. NORAD can employ more affordable defeat mechanisms by working with commercial, private, and industry partners. Information Dominance begins with data, and NORAD’s ability to respond to future crises will depend on whether Information Dominance can be achieved from sensors, including software and hardware infrastructure.

Ingesting, aggregating, displaying, and processing data quickly will lead to Information Dominance, and ultimately, Decision Superiority. NORAD and USNORTHCOM must leverage commercially-provided cloud based infrastructure and systems for machine learning (ML) initiatives, which will also make threat decision making easier. An all-domain data pipeline is necessary to ensure global integration, and ultimately, battlespace awareness from seabeds to cyber space.

Agile homeland defence must have flexible architecture that can be enabled for rapid expansion and scale, not bound by capacities of current systems. This requires globally integrated effects from allies and partners working together to outpace competitors through strategies, commands, and organizations. Agile homeland defence includes the involvement of both interagency cooperation and government actors beyond those associated with defence.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM has been leading a series of Global Information Dominance Experiment (GIDE) exercises. GIDE is a cost-effective data solution to increase decision space through earlier detection and warning by “enabling cross-Combatant Command collaboration to generate globally integrated effects using artificial intelligence (AI) enabled information.” [1] With proper security and data standards across allies and partners, information sharing with bidirectional data flow will allow for joint all-domain operations between NORAD and its allies [see this post: “NORAD (and NORTHCOM) Thinking Offense of some sort vs Russian Threats–what does Canadian Government Think?“].

Pathfinder Initiative

Colonel Robyn Hulan (COO, N2X/Pathfinder), the Canadian Team Lead for the Pathfinder Initiative at NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs, presented an update on the program. Pathfinder is an innovative initiative led by NORAD and USNORTHCOM that is defined as a “technology leap for homeland defence command and control systems.” Pathfinder has vastly increased the velocity of time critical processes by removing numerous human interactions in the decision-makers OODA Loop (“observe-orient-decide-act”).

Pathfinder is changing the relationship with our data.  Due to changes in technology, NORAD must adopt new methods of analysis that provide analysts with more information from more sources to create Decision Superiority in conflict, crisis, and competition. Pathfinder can process more sensor data, allowing the program to detect more information buried within the data. This has repurposed the existing sensor architecture. Pathfinder seeks to transform data from an independently managed data system, constricted by silos, into a data fabric that can be analyzed at the velocity of need with unbounded scale. Pathfinder is creating a new homeland defence cognitive ecosystem to support NORAD modernization efforts [see this post: “Maybe NORAD’s North Warning System can be Modernized without an urgent total Re-Do“].

The initiative is heavily focused on data engineering and automating ingestion to human-readable language. Once this process occurs, machine-learning models can be built to create algorithmic processes. Pattern of life and anomaly detection will lead to Information Dominance objectives. Beyond Information Dominance, predictive and prescriptive analytics come from Pathfinder and the GIDE exercises. This entire process, and Pathfinder writ large, seeks to give the Commander Decision Superiority [emphasis added].

…This program also provides flexible response options at strategic, operational, and tactical levels for the Commander. The Pathfinder Initiative will be key in NORAD modernization efforts in both Canada and the United States.

USNORTHCOM’s Evolving Threat Assessment

Colonel Matt Eberhart, Ph.D., U.S. Army and Special Assistant to the Commander, NORAD and USNORTHCOM, gave an overview of USNORTHCOM’s evolution relative to expanding strategic options and priorities in the current threat environment [and what. in some specific terms, is the Canadian government’s view of that threat environment?]

The two principal competitors to the United States – namely China and Russia – pose a variety of challenges and threats that decision-makers have not seen. These threats include Counter-Space, Ballistic Missiles/Hyper Glide Vehicles from peer-states, Ballistic Missiles from rogue states, Cruise Missiles and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles, Cyber-warfare, and Violent Extremist Organizations. These will challenge the forward-operating model of deployment (i.e., deal with threats far from the continent) and create greater risk towards critical infrastructure located in the homeland.

NORAD must prioritize missile warning, missile defence, cruise and hypersonic cruise missile threats to close capability gaps and provide a credible deterrence moving forward. [USAF] General Van Herck (Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM) states that he does not have many viable strategic options available below the nuclear deterrent threshold. The traditional option is to defeat in conflict at the tactical level, but with the speed, accuracy, and multi-domain aspect of threats today, this is very difficult. General Van Herck has requested strategic options focused on Domain Awareness and Information Dominance to increase time in the decision space, move further left of bang, and improve the ability to compete and deter [emphasis added, see “proactive” in following para]

Decision Superiority results from global integration, all-domain awareness, and information dominance to create more time at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels in the military, economic, and diplomatic spheres. Messaging in the information space can change the trajectory in a conflict. In short, All-Domain awareness leads to Information Dominance, which creates Decision Superiority for decision-makers at the highest levels. Ultimately, the three objectives are: 1) Improved decisions in competition, crisis, and conflict; 2) Proactive options to deter, deny, and if required, defeat [again, what does the Canadian government think?]; 3) Global Integration across tactical, operational, and strategic levels…

NORAD and the construct of U.S. Unified Command Plan for All-Domain operations

The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are always looking at the structure of the UCP, especially with the inclusion of the new Space Command. The geographic areas of responsibility mandated to each combatant command may be problematic because the future war fighting concepts do not have battle lines. This is much of what the NORAD and USNORTHCOM GIDE exercises seek to explain…

1] NORAD and U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs, “NORAD and U.S. Northern Command lead the third Global Information Dominance Experiment (GIDE),” 21 July 2021, https://www.norad.mil/Newsroom/Article/2703605/norad-and-us-northern-command-lead-the-third-global-information-dominance-exper/.

All of the above indicates a serious US intent effectively to re-invent NORAD–or perhaps relegate NORAD to some sort of backwater, with serious defence of the US in almost all, er, domains allocated to US NORTHCOM, if the Canadian government does not start getting its defence of North America ass in a much higher gear to cope with what’s happening now and coming down the road.

A Pentagon video and news release for the image at the top of this post are here.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds