Tag Archives: State of the CF

Mark Collins – "Part 2: Interview with Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of [Canadian] defence staff"

At Vanguard magazine, with a link to Part 1–interesting (curious?) that there is no specific mention of either NATO or NORAD.

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

Mark Collins – Last RCN Destroyer Hors de Combat 2017

HMCS Athabaskan (commissioned in 1972!), last of the Iroquois class, will enter harbour for the last time:

Incoming capability gap [long-distance air defence]: Canada’s last destroyer leaves service in early 2017

Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) ATHABASKAN alongside Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Jarrod David FranaisHer Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) ATHABASKAN alongside Sydney, Nova Scotia…

Lots here on the planned Canadian Surface Combatant, some number of which are supposed some day to replace both the Navy’s destroyers and frigates.

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

Mark Collins – Defence Budget One Percent GDP: What Balance Between Canadian Armed Services?

A retired Army colonel regretfully assesses that the regular Army is too large–an excerpt from a very cogent piece at the “CDA Institute Blog: The Forum”:

Core Challenge for the Defence Policy Review: Creating the Right Balance

…Does Canada, with no credible conventional land threat and no legacy colonial responsibilities, but very substantial maritime and air approaches to police and defend, have the proportions right?..

It very much pains this proud former Canadian Army officer to conclude that this country very probably does not have the right balance. The Canadian Armed Forces have only a few “no-fail’ missions. Disaster response at home and, in a supporting role, domestic security are two of them but these will rarely require significant numbers of well-equipped and highly trained combat-capable forces. They need flexible, well-organized and disciplined troops in adequate numbers, and the means to get them to where they are needed quickly. Two missions that do need well-equipped combat-capable forces are protection of our maritime (surface and sub-surface) and air approaches, and it is a national imperative that we do these tasks well enough to hold the confidence of both ourselves and our US continental defence partners [note: defending our maritime approaches does not necessarily require the same  type of naval vessels as for blue water expeditionary operations–nor need they be built in Canada at extravagant cost other than for political reasons] .

Most other Canadian military capabilities have to be considered optional, or at least scalable to the level of national ambition. In the context of a pretty clear multi-party political consensus on limiting defence spending to about 1 percent of GDP, this means that appetites for maintaining and employing military forces also have to be limited and governments have to pay close attention to priorities. Capabilities needed to do the nation’s “no-fail” missions must be adequately resourced first. What’s left is what’s available to resource expeditionary capabilities for tasks like international peace operations…

Colonel Charles Davies (Ret’d) is a CDA Institute Research Fellow and a former Logistics officer who served for four years as the strategic planning director for the Material Group of the Department of National Defence and three years as the senior director responsible for material acquisition and support policy in the department…

As for air and maritime threats:

NORAD to Face Escorted Cruise Missile-Carrying Russian Bombers?

USN “Admiral Warns: Russian Subs Waging Cold War-Style ‘Battle of the Atlantic’”–and RCN?
[note “Comments”–and those subs can also carry cruise missiles, more here]

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

Mark Collins – Canadian Government’s Peacekeeping Heart: With France in Africa it Seems

Further to this post and “Comments”,

Latvia with NATO vs UN Peacekeeping: Where Government’s Heart Truly is

the well-informed Matthew Fisher of Postmedia writes that

Truck attack in France ups the ante for Canada’s peacekeeping mission in Mali

Canada’s impending peacemaking mission to Africa took on a more urgent tone Thursday night when a Tunisian man drove a truck through crowds enjoying Bastille Day fireworks on Nice’s palm-lined waterfront.

French President Francois Hollande immediately announced that France’s already overstretched armed forces would mobilize 10,000 troops and every member of the army reserves to guard French streets, border crossings and airports.

France needs Canada’s help — and Canada will answer the call. The army and air force will be heavily involved in Africa and no unit more so than the French-speaking brigade built around the Royal 22nd Regiment, known as the Van Doos [unofficial website here].

As Postmedia first reported on July 6, the Trudeau government intends to send troops to French West Africa [story here]. Mali is their most likely destination, but the Central African Republic and a couple of other nearby countries are in the mix, too.

Ottawa and Paris have been talking for some time about where Canadian soldiers would fit into one of France’s multiple troop deployments there. No date has been set for the mission. The Dutch and the Germans have already been helping France with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA [website here]). That is because even before the murderous attack in Nice, the Hollande government was having difficulty sustaining the tempo of its African missions as well as operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East and against terrorists on French soil. It is why the RCAF has already spent a lot of time in Africa, using its C-17 Globemasters to provide essential logistical support for French forces.

Canada’s Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, had intended to travel to French West Africa next month to help hammer out the details of Canada’s mission there. After France’s latest terror attack, and the call-up of forces to defend France, that trip may have to be moved up…

Read on, note the risks involved; this is not the “traditional” peacekeeping of which so many Canadians are mindlessly (and a-historically) enamoured.

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

Mark Collins – Canadian Defence Policy Review: CGAI Contributions

Below are essays submitted by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute as contributions to the government’s Defence Policy Review (the public process ends July 31–more here on the review):

2016 Policy Review Series


Click on “Defence Collection” for a complete pdf, click essay titles for individual pdfs, and click ‘bio’ for additional author information and photo.

Foreword and Introduction
by David Bercuson (bio)

Defence Policy Review Considerations: Canada’s Army
by Stuart Beare (bio)

Future Roles for the RCN
by Serge Bertrand (bio)

The RCAF and the Role of Airpower: Considering Canada’s Future Contributions
by Alan Stephenson (bio)

Canada’s Special Forces
by D. Michael Day (bio)

Reserve Options
by George Petrolekas (bio)

Fixing Procurement
by David Perry (bio)

Canada and Cyber
by John Adams (bio)

Making Canada’s Role in NATO More Effective
by Julian Lindley-French (bio)

Canada’s Space Policy and its Future with NORAD
by Andrew B. Godefroy (bio)

Realistic Peacekeeping Options for Canada
by Sarah Jane Meharg (bio)

Real and False Tradeoffs in the Defence Review: Size Versus Readiness, Not Hard Versus Soft
by Stephen M. Saideman (bio)

Canada’s Security Role in Asia-Pacific
by Marius Grinius (bio)

Collaboration Amidst Complexity: Enhancing Jointness in Canada’s Defence Instrument
by Doug Demptser (bio)

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

Mark Collins – Experts’ Submissions to Canadian Defence Policy Review (note Prof. Saideman)

At the official website:

Read submissions from Canadian defence, security and other experts who participated in a Defence Policy Review roundtable. Learn more about these issues and see how your views compare to these opinions and recommendations…

Note this one June 27 by Canadian Global Affairs Institute Fellow Prof. Steve Saideman, with focuses on NATO, readiness, personnel costs and the size of the Forces (maybe need to be slimmed), and the strengths and weaknesses of the services (already “specialized”). His cogent conclusions:

I do think that the best decision would be for Canada to spend more on its military, but I recognize that this is probably a non-starter. Whatever increases will probably not catch up to inflation. I also recognize that Canada will continue to spend more and get less due to the insistence on buying Canadian built equipment even when better/less expensive kit is available [see, e.g.: “The Extravagant Lunacy of Building RCN and Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Canada“]. Given these trends, the CAF is in for hard times ahead (although calling a new decade of darkness is a bit much)–expected to keep up the pace of operations while avoiding hard decisions about priorities. Perhaps the Defence Review will lead to some difficult decisions actually being confronted.

One suspects that final sentence may be a tad optimistic. Still…

More here on the review. Plus an excerpt on defence policy from a post of mine in February 2013:

…The [Conservative] government has said it will announce a redo of the CFDS [never happened] some time after the budget…But if each service tries to go on being as all-singing and all-dancing as possible each is likely to end up not performing all that well. The government needs to make some some very difficult choices to focus the services, and abandon some capabilities so as to be able to afford and maintain others. That means the government must decide what types of missions/roles each service must be able to perform (as opposed to “nice to have”) and how much it is willing to pay for the personnel and equipment so that those missions/roles can be carried out effectively and efficiently [e.g. should the RCN focus again on ASW in the North Atlantic with the new Canadian Surface Combatants? Are our four subs very useful for this purpose?]. But I doubt this government is capable of–or our services willing to–engage in such a serious review…

Now up to the Liberals.

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

Mark Collin – Canadian Surface Combatant Procurement Process Re-Float: So What?

First a February article:

Government considers changing course on $26B warship program in hopes vessels will be delivered sooner

The Canadian government is looking at changing course on the largest shipbuilding program in Canadian history and will now examine combining bids for new warships into one package in the hopes that will allow vessels to be constructed more quickly.

The $26-billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project [now lots more than $26 billion–see this March post: “RCN Canadian Surface Combatant Woes: Not Enough Dough“] will see a new fleet built to replace the navy’s destroyers and frigates. The plan established by the Conservative government was to have companies submit bids for the design of the ships, and to consider separate bids for the integration of the various systems on board those vessels.

But the federal government will now look at combining those two processes, with a designer and integrator submitting a combined bid…

“One competitive process versus two is much faster,” Lisa Campbell, assistant deputy minister for acquisitions at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in an interview Tuesday. “It takes out a whole bunch of the design technical risk of trying to fit together a combat systems integrator with a warship design that possibly was more customized.”

The warship designs will be off-the-shelf vessels, she added. “We’re talking about existing designs,” Campbell explained. “That eliminates a lot of technical risk and will get us to building ships sooner.”

[That was not news–see from Nov. 2015: “RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant Will be Foreign Design“; the firms are listed that were qualified to compete for the design and for the weapons systems.]

The first of the Canadian Surface Combatants were supposed to be delivered around 2026. But Campbell said this new process would allow for the first ship to be delivered in the early 2020s [but in this official government March report first delivery was still put at “Late 2020s–if you believe in a speed-up of several years, good on you mate].

She said Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding will still be prime contractor [emphasis added] for the surface combatants, but the government will ensure there is maximum use of other Canadian firms on the program [Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!]…

The government’s June 13 announcement–see here–only made the combining of the two procurement processes official (this claim in now made: “Ship construction is scheduled to commence after the completion of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships in the early 2020s…”). Whether this new arrangement will actually be more efficient, reduce costs, or get ships sooner knows only God.

And don’t buy the government’s spin that it has just now decided on that foreign design (and much of our media should not be buying it either: “Liberal government scraps plans to design new naval warships from scratch”). The February quote above makes that clear. And we still have no idea how many major surface warships the RCN will end up getting:

Liberals non-committal on number of replacement navy frigates
Minister maps out way forward in frigate replacement program, but won’t commit to 15 warships

Serious background from last year:

RCN: Detailed Examination of National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

To conclude: a delightfully depressing summing-up of Canadian defence procurement from Andrew Coyne of Postmedia News, one of our best-thinking columnists:

…Even where a competition is held, the criteria are as often political as military: that is, the “industrial and regional benefits” that are attached to every contract, in the form of local content, maintenance contracts and the like. The much-vaunted National Shipbuilding Strategy, now billions of dollars over budget and the subject of vicious inter-regional infighting, is a case in point.

Supposedly this was to be an example of a cleaned-up process, after the controversy surrounding the F-35 purchase, itself following on the EH-101 helicopter calamity, the submarine disaster and countless others. But the very decision to build the ships in Canada, at a time when there was no industry to speak of, rather than buy them off the shelf at half the cost from some other country, was a sign of what was really at work.

This remains the case, notwithstanding the government’s decision to use existing blueprints rather than build the ships from all-new designs [NOT A RECENT DECISION, see above–even Mr Coyne misunderstands things]. Defending the decision, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote tweeted that the National Shipbuilding Strategy was about bringing “jobs and prosperity to many communities” and “leverag(ing) economic opportunities for (the) Canadian marine sector and economy.” Oh? I thought it was about getting ships for the navy.

Please, let us not delude ourselves. Eh? The result:

The Extravagant Lunacy of Building RCN and Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Canada

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