Tag Archives: State of the CF

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

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

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

Whither, indeed whether, three serious combat-capable armed services for this country? Further to these excerpts from posts in 2020,

COVID-19 may well be the End of the Canadian Armed Forces as we have Known them…and of our Effective Sovereignty

…It is not improbable that the Canadian military, if the Liberals win the next election, will effectively end up as a constabulary/militia force with domestic response to natural disasters of various sorts as its primary function along with very token commitments to UN peacekeeping missions…

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

I fear the CAF may over time be turned into services whose main mission is domestic response to emergencies of various sorts (cf. RCAF SAR [search and rescue]) with actual mlitary/defence capabilities a distant concern…

the following excerpts from an opinion piece at the Globe and Mail give one furiously to think in view of the generally warm and fuzzy predilections, and progressive political preferences, of many of our politicians:

Military efforts at home are increasingly the norm. A Joint Task Force Canada is the next logical step

Christian Leuprecht is Class of 1965 Professor in Leadership at the Royal Military College, cross-appointed to Queen’s University and senior fellow at the Macdonald Laurier Institute.

Two years ago, few could have imagined that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) would end up managing a global supply chain for national vaccine distribution and backstopping the provincial mismanagement of 54 long-term care homes. The pandemic also showed that no one in government fully understands national supply chains across Canada. Still, no part of the country ran out of personal protective equipment even when supply was critically short, because CAF logisticians had the managerial savvy to locate it, CAF planners executed without having to rely on other partners or equipment, and the Royal Canadian Air Force transported it where it needed to go.

Time and again, the Department of National Defence has been called on as the only federal organization with the highly trained, well-educated and experienced roster of specialists and assets to plan and execute complex and large-scale operations in short order. Under Operation Laser, the CAF had a COVID-19 plan that it was able to execute while coming to the assistance of other government departments…

Over the past decade, Canada has become more reliant on the CAF to respond to domestic emergencies: the number of CAF’s domestic taskings has doubled and tripled over the two previous decades. These operations have proven well within the capabilities of the CAF. But in the event of floods, forest fires, or a grave international crisis, CAF assets currently dedicated to the pandemic may have been unavailable. Climate change is bound to multiply the frequency of crises such as wildfires and floods in the coming years, and that will increase demand for CAF resources. The pandemic is a harbinger of future CAF domestic operations that are more frequent and complex, longer and larger without the ability to rely on help from allies. Although the CAF has been able to deliver, after 15 years of efforts focused on counterinsurgency and building partner capacity, Canada’s military still has much to learn and re-learn about large-scale operations.

For decades, the CAF has prioritized a strategic culture premised on Army expeditionary operations despite the fact that Afghanistan represented the only such mission in the past 60 years [but see just below this paragraph, Prof. Leuprecht is being rather selective]. Since the late 1950s, CAF leaders have vehemently resisted anything seen as diluting the combat role: they argue that it is easier to “scale down” from combat than to “scale up” from domestic operations. But that is a false dichotomy, and politicians are looking for a broader contribution to national security from their annual defence investment of $22-billion…

[Afghanistan has been the Army’s only combat expeditionary mission since 1960 and then only from 2006-11. But there have also been several major and sometimes dangerous Army “peacekeeping” missions with both the UN and NATO, e.g. in Somalia, in former Yugoslavia, in Kosovo and Macedonia (a hybrid operation: the RCAF engaged in bombing and then the Army in peacekeeping) and in Afghanistan itself 2003-05. Plus a major army contribution to NATO in West Germany from the 1950s through the 1980s, and since 2017 a significant Army presence leading the forward NATO multinational force in Latvia. And substantial numbers of Canadian special forces have been engaged in a variety of activities in Iraq since 2014.]

Evidently, domestic operations are no longer a part-time sideshow, yet the CAF still responds to emergencies with pick-up teams. CJOC [Canadian Joint Operations Command] needs a dedicated Joint Task Force (JTF) for domestic operations, composed of regular and reserve forces. The newly appointed Chief of the Defence Staff, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, is experienced at conducting domestic operations: he was the commander of JTF Pacific from 2016 to 2018 and ran humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as maritime component commander of JTF Haiti in 2010. That background should come in handy as the CAF ponders how to optimize its force structure in response to growing domestic, continental and international demands on its limited assets.

Guess where most governments, the populace and the media will favour putting Canada’s future “defence” priorities and efforts. Especially given almost everybody’s intense aversion to taking fatal casualties in anything beyond the most minimal numbers, see:

Afghanistan, Canadians’ Self-Obsession and Blood

Now the Navy is the armed service least relevant to domestic activities. And all parties love shipbuilding’s jobs to buy votes. Moreover Canada hasn’t had a naval combat fatality since three sailors were killed during the Korean War. So maybe the remaining major combat-capable service of the Canadian Armed Forces will become the Royal Canadian Navy. Which could perform a very important and major anti-submarine role in the North Atlantic vs Russkie subs–‘twould be nice if the Navy and government actually talked about this NATO mission (see 3) near the end of this post).

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Canada’s Perfect (Politically) Defence Procurement System

(Caption for image at the top of the post: “An artist’s rendering of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Lockheed Martin’s proposed design [it is the one selected] for Canada’s $60 billion fleet of new warships. Photo by Lockheed Martin Canada”.)

Matt Gurney (tweets here) lays bare at the National Post the brutal truth behind all the FUBARs–the start and finish of a piece that deals mainly with the forever acquisition of new Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) frigates for the Royal Canadian Navy. The project was officially approved in 2012 (in 2010 it had been announced that 15 ships would be procured for $26.2 billion); the first ship will probably be delivered sometime in the latter half of this decade:

Matt Gurney: Supporting local industry shouldn’t be the first consideration in military procurement

Rather than worrying about where things are built, a better question is: will Canadian soldiers be properly equipped? That’s all that matters

It is almost a truism in Canadian public policy: We are terrible at military procurement.

You hear that often. I’ve said it often. But it really isn’t true. We only think we’re terrible at military procurement because we are confused about what we’re trying to do. Our military procurements are not about actually procuring equipment for the military. They’re about creating jobs and catapulting huge sums of money into key ridings across the country.

Once you shift your perspective and look at it that way, you realize very quickly that our military procurement system is amazing. It bats a thousand. The problem isn’t with the system. We’ve just labelled it badly. If it were called the Domestic Defence Industry Subsidy Program instead of our military procurement system, we’d all be hailing it as a shining example of a Canadian public policy triumph.

This is terrible. It has cost us the lives of our soldiers, and probably will again. But it’s undeniable. Canadian politicians, Liberals and Conservatives alike, have long had the luxury of seeing defence as a cash pool, not a solemn obligation. And they sure have enjoyed that pleasure.

…Treating military procurement as just another federal jobs-creation program is engrained in our national thinking. It would have been good if COVID had knocked a bit of sense into us and forced us to, at long last, grow up a bit. But no dice. Oh well. Maybe next time.

For more on the CSC program see here, here, and here (last link is politically-attuned “defence” journalism aimed at stirring things up).

The start of a very relevant post from 2016; plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose:

SNAFU, or, Canadian Defence Procurement

The start and end of a book review by Matthew Fisher, a rare Canadian journalist who is actually interested in matters military and has a real understanding of them [2020 UPDATE: Mr Fisher now writes for Global News and tweets here]–and note the deleterious role of our media generally:

New book pleads for fix to Canada’s dysfunctional military procurement system

The new book Charlie Foxtrot: Fixing Defence Procurement in Canada [see here] is a ‘cri de coeur’ for political leaders to forge a bipartisan approach when deciding what to buy for the Canadian Armed Forces.

The author, Kim Nossal, is not delusional. The Queen’s University professor [more here] recognizes that for this to happen ‘involves a considerable leap of faith.’..”

NO KIDDING. It’s an excellent book with several case studies.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The RCAF in the Face of the Likely COVID-19 Canadian Budget Crunch

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “A portion of Canada’s CF-18 fleet is set to receive a major upgrade as the government plans to enter the final phase of negotiations with bidders for the Future Fighter Capability project. Credit: Erica Seymour/Royal Canadian Air Force”.)

Steve Trimble (tweets here) of Aviation Week and Space Technology outlines all the procurement programs in play–Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux as to where cuts will hit (figures in story in US $):

Can Trudeau’s Defense Plan Survive Canada’s Next Fiscal Crisis?

Defenders of an ambitious defense spending uptick in Canada must face the fiscal effects of a soaring national budget deficit just as several major acquisition programs hit key milestones in 2021.

*Final negotiations on fighter contract set to begin

*Soaring national deficit puts pressure on defense

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s $388 billion (C$497 billion) defense investment plan, rolled out in 2017 to guide spending over the next two decades, entered 2020 mostly unscathed. However, the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic generated an estimated deficit of $302 billion—exceeding the total budget in 2019 by about 8%.

The specific effects on the Canadian defense budget have not yet been itemized, but the industry is bracing for more than a pinch.

David Perry, vice president and senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, has estimated that Trudeau’s “Strong, Secure, Engaged” investment plan translates to roughly $13.7 billion in budget requirements for 2021 on capital equipment and procurement spending by the Department of National Defense (DND). 

Any cuts would come at a critical time for several major defense acquisitions. Over the next 12 months, Canada is scheduled to enter the final phase of negotiations for a permanent McDonnell Douglas CF-18 replacement, open competitions for a BAE Systems Hawk trainer replacement and new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and start analyzing options for replacing the Lockheed CP-140 Aurora and Airbus CC-150 Polaris fleets.

A long-delayed modernization of the North Warning System (NWS) also is competing for the DND’s limited investment budget. The prevailing picket line of ground-based radars above the Arctic Circle was designed to be retired in 2025. These existing radars may be unable to detect Kh-101 and nuclear-armed Kh-102 cruise missiles now fielded on Russian bombers, according to a 2019 study by the University of Manitoba. Hypersonic glide vehicles such as Russia’s nuclear-tipped Avangard also pose a new threat to the nearly 30-year-old radars jointly operated at the NWS sites with U.S. Northern Command [see this post, note “Comments”: So Will the Canadian Government Put Some Big Bucks into Modernizing NORAD’s North Warning System?“].

The DND is also under pressure to complete several ongoing modernization projects in the aviation sector. The Royal Australian Air Force has delivered six Boeing F/A-18C/Ds to Canada as part of an interim replacement program, but 12 more are due to be delivered by the end of 2021. A subset of Australian and remaining F/A-18C/Ds also are scheduled to receive major upgrades, including Raytheon APG-79(V)4 active, electronically scanned array radars.

Meanwhile, three Beechcraft King Air 350ER aircraft will be assembled and modified to serve as manned airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft in 2021. Deliveries will be completed in the following year. Finally, the DND is funding service-life extension programs for the fleets of AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorants to 2042 and Bell CH-146 Griffons to at least 2031.

As budgets tighten, however, the focus will be on the CF-18 replacement contract. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the agency managing the competition, received bids in midsummer for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Block III, Lockheed Martin F-35A and Saab F-39E/F.

The presence of the F-35A already has created awkward moments in the competition. The DND agreed to relax stealth requirements that previously had ruled out other fighters. At the same time, the DND was forced to loosen its Industrial Technological Benefits (ITB) policy to allow the F-35A to remain in the competition since, as a charter member of the fighter’s international development partnership, Canada is unable to demand guaranteed work share for local companies in exchange for the contract award.

As the competition moves into the final phase of negotiations next year, the fiscal crisis imposed by the country’s COVID-19 response could drive the PSPC to value the ITB elements of each bid. The Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries released recommendations this fall calling for the government to “aggressively apply” the ITB policy on defense contracts.

Previous administrations in Ottawa have proposed large budget increases for the DND, including Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, with his Canada First plan. But higher spending levels for defense rarely survive fiscal crises in Ottawa. In 2021, the question will be if the Strong, Secure, Engaged plan can remain intact

Very relevant earlier post, note my analysis at the latter part:

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

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Relying on the Canadian Armed Forces for Emergency Responses–not a Good Thing but perhaps their Fate

Further to this post earlier this year,

COVID-19 may well be the End of the Canadian Armed Forces as we have Known them…and of our Effective Sovereignty

a news release from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, probably Canada’s most vibrant think thank (at least for those of a small “c” bent):

The Moral Hazard in using Canadian Armed Forces as Provincial First Responders: New MLI Commentary by Christian Leuprecht

Ottawa, ON (December 8, 2020): For some provincial governments, the pandemic has effectively transformed the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) into provincial emergency first responders. Yet this new responsibility will likely only further burden the Canadian military in the future.

In a new MLI commentary titled “The Moral Hazard in using Canadian Armed Forces as Provincial First Responders,” MLI Senior Fellow Christian Leuprecht argues that leveraging the CAF’s operational capacity to assist in emergencies has created a moral hazard which comes at a cost to the armed forces, its members, and taxpayers.

“After all, 55 members contracted COVID while serving in long-term care homes, an operation that cost $53 million dollars, while the total cost of the military’s overall pandemic response is approaching $500 million,” explains Leuprecht.

Responding to domestic emergencies is transforming into a new normal for the CAF. From 2010 – 2020, the CAF were deployed to 31 domestic operations; the frequency and size of these operations are only rising. Moreover, transport aviation to evacuate communities and airlift relief supplies and personnel is in high demand.

The increasing volume of domestic missions creates three problems, according to Leuprecht. First, by backstopping provinces that underinvest in emergency response capabilities, the federal government’s use of the CAF as a first resort – rather than the last – creates a moral hazard. Should the armed services have to deploy overseas in a crisis, CAF resources might well be unavailable for domestic operations – with potentially deadly results.

Second, the demands in Canada’s Federal Emergency Response Plan require solutions that the CAF is ill equipped to provide. While the CAF possesses significant operational resources, there is a lack of adequate resourcing of the civilian emergency management function in the federal government [for sure, see post noted at end of this one].

Finally, overreliance on the CAF fails to address a deeper, underlying problem. Specifically, how will the federal government surge general or semi-skilled labour in an emergency? Continuing to demand the use of the CAF is especially disruptive to the armed services’ combat training and readiness, potentially harming our military’s ability to achieve its crucial defence duties.

Leuprecht recommends that Ottawa consider alternative emergency response models that do not lean so heavily on the CAF. The best option may be for the federal government to reprioritize, along with a slight formal expansion of the CAF, to support its domestic role: create a combined capability of about 2000 Regular and Reserve Forces soldiers to aid in infrastructure in Indigenous communities and community deployment in the summer, which could be postponed or rescheduled if they were called out to a flood or wildfire instead.

“For Canada, the pandemic is thus an object lesson in military autarky. And it turns out that the organization has much to learn, and re-learn,” writes Leuprecht.

To learn more, read the full commentary here.


Christian Leuprecht (PhD, Queen’s) [website here] is Class of 1965 Professor in Leadership, Department of Political Science and Economics, Royal Military College, Director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, Adjunct Research Professor, Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, Charles Sturt University, and Munk Senior Fellow in Security and Defence at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

A post from 2016–I doubt much has really changed since then–with some personal observations at the end on the federal government’s (generally dismal) approach to emergency preparedness and response, based on my time doing such work much earlier before I retired:

Public Safety Canada’s Emergency Management May Suck

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

COVID-19: The different 2020 Canadian Remembrance Day–and in particular a Path-Breaking Air Intelligence Officer

Her name is Lieutenant-Colonel (ret’d) Susan Beharriell–from a Canadian Press story:

Veterans connect with students online in lead-up to pandemic-era Remembrance Day

Susan Beharriell, an Air Force veteran living in King City, Ont., estimates she’s spoken in front of 80,000 people from elementary classes to university students over the years.

Her Memory Project requests have been more varied this year, with one school asking her to pre-record a segment for a produced, virtual Remembrance Day broadcast.

One of the biggest changes has been the lack of live reaction from her audience, Beharriell said, but she’s making it work.

“I’m sitting at my laptop, I can see myself, I can talk to myself but I have no idea what happening on the other side,” she said. “I just ignore it and I pretend that there’s an audience in front of me.”

Students and teachers are interested in hearing from a woman veteran, said Beharriell, whose barrier-breaking career included being part of the first platoon of women to complete the same basic training as men, as well as a stint [a whole lot more than that, see below] as an intelligence officer.

The retired lieutenant-colonel remembers a senior officer in the formerly male-only intelligence branch telling her, “You’d better measure up, or we’ll never let another woman in,” when she was accepted.

For Beharriell, the odd experience of recounting her personal story to a computer screen is worthwhile, adding her account captures complex historical nuances that amay be lost in other media.

“Knowing that you’re doing something for other people is wonderful,” she said.

Local legion branches have also adapted to the digital world to connect with their communities for Remembrance Day this year…

That “whole lot more”:

Effecting change – Susan Beharriell

Following her first year of university, Susan Beharriell, O.M.M., CD, Artsci’77, started down a career path that wasn’t easy, to say the least.  Beginning her career in the Canadian military, she faced institutional barriers and blatant discrimination because of her gender.  Over the years, she overcame numerous hurdles put in her way, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and becoming a leader in the field of air intelligence…

In 1986, Beharriell was posted to Winnipeg as the senior staff officer in charge of intelligence at Air Command Headquarters, and then was one of three women to attend the Canadian Forces Command and Staff Course. Posted to Germany, she became the analyst and briefer at NATO’s Allied Air Force Central Europe Headquarters during the First Gulf War, from 1990-1991. She spent nine intense months providing intelligence support to the senior staff.

In 1992 she was seconded to the Privy Council Office writing intelligence analyses for the prime minister, cabinet ministers, the governor general and international allies. Two years later, she returned to Winnipeg as the command intelligence officer running intelligence for the entire Air Force. Beharriell then served as the deputy commander of the Combined Intelligence Centre for NORAD/US Space Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was on duty on September 11, 2001.

Finishing her career at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, she helped design and deliver a new National Security Studies curriculum. Retiring in 2008, after more than 35 years of service, she was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Military Merit…

And audio here recounting her career:

Veteran Stories:
Susan Beharriell

Air Force

Mark Collins
Twitter: @Mark3ds

What’s the Poor US Army to do when the Main Adversary is the PRC?

Further to this post,

Western Pacific, or, US Navy vs US Army for Funding, US Army vs US Marines for Missions

all the US services are scrambling to re-purpose themselves to retain maximum relevance in a strategic world truly being turned on its head. The authors of this piece at War on the Rocks suggest for one thing that, since the US Army will essentially have a supporting role vs China, it should put a major focus–through the reserves and National Guard–on various homeland missions:

The Headwinds Looming for the U.S. Army

The rise of China and the primacy of the Indo-Pacific as the U.S. military’s most important theater of operations upend the Army’s longstanding role in American defense. For the first time in decades, land will not be the most critical domain of warfare, and it may not even be the decisive one. In a future war with China, the air and sea domains, together with space and cyber, will define the shape of the conflict. As a force organized, trained, and equipped for land warfare, the U.S. Army clearly will be at a huge disadvantage in both the strategic arguments and budget fights to come. Its budget, end strength, and force structure will all face significant cuts, which could easily exceed the cuts of the sequestration era. In order to adapt successfully to these tectonic shifts, the Army will have to grapple with becoming a supporting service, the shift from maneuver to fires, the growing mission of homeland defense, and rebalancing active and reserve forces.

Taking on a Supporting Role

Though the 2018 National Defense Strategy stressed great-power competition with both China and Russia, the Department of Defense is now explicitly prioritizing China over Russia. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has clearly stated that his goal is “to focus the department on China,” since he sees China as “the pacing threat” that the U.S. military must prepare for. And even though a potential Biden administration would voice much stronger support for NATO and U.S. allies in Europe, China will nevertheless remain the U.S. military’s most dangerous threat. The reasons why are simple and sobering: Only a rising China has the immense economic power, the cutting-edge technological prowess, and increasingly, the advanced military capabilities that could match (or even exceed) those of the U.S. armed forces — and potentially defeat them [see this post: “Does US Lose Non-Nuclear War with China? Part 2“].

The Army will be a supporting service in any potential conflict with China, tasked with enabling the other services in a conflict that would span the vast air and maritime domain of the Western Pacific [emphasis added].

That will be a seismic shift for the Army, since it will no longer conduct the primary combat operations against the nation’s greatest strategic threat. It will fundamentally upend the central warfighting roles and missions the Army has traditionally played against the most dangerous U.S. adversaries for over 75 years. Its ground combat forces will remain essential for deterrence (and, if necessary, fighting) on the Korean peninsula, but otherwise its role in the Western Pacific against China will remain limited. Yet despite this shift, the Army is planning to conduct littoral operations throughout the region that in many ways duplicate missions the Marines have traditionally performed, and updated in their most recent doctrine and Commandant’s Planning Guidance. Instead of competing with the Marines for a major role in the littorals, the Army should instead focus on providing critical enablers to the rest of the joint force in the Pacific [emphasis added]. These include capabilities like land-based air and missile defense, theater-wide logistics and engineering, electronic warfare, and potentially, long-range precision fires. The service’s new Multi-Domain Task Forces, with their integrated cyber, space, fires, and electronic warfare functions, may also provide other innovative capabilities to the Pacific fight that could be more useful than maneuver forces.

The Army’s traditional ground combat capabilities will still be required in Europe. Russia remains the most capable and dangerous potential U.S. adversary in the land domain, and U.S. Army forces will still be required to defend Europe from Russian aggression and buttress NATO’s defense. But those missions, which were the main U.S. strategic priority for many decades, are now a lower national priority than deterring and possibly fighting Chinese aggression in the Pacific [emphasis added–and in fact, were they willing to spend the Euros (and pounds), the Euros could pretty well look after themselves; Trump very much has a point there, see this post: “Euro NATO Willing to try to Deal with a Growling Bear as US faces the Dragon Ascendent?“]

…Traditional artillery used to support maneuver troops generally has a range between 15 and 25 miles. Today, land-based precision rockets and missiles are being developed with potential ranges of over 1,000 miles.

This unprecedented technological leap-ahead is completely altering the roles of fires and maneuver. For the first time, land forces will be able to strike adversaries at strategic ranges without having to utilize nuclear weapons — and that means that they might be able to deliver strategic effects. In the near future, the Army may be able to use precision long-range fires to shatter adversary units, command and control networks, and vulnerable logistics and supply routes. The Army’s main contribution to a future war in the Pacific could soon involve using these new and powerful weapons to strike a wide range of naval and island targets, without utilizing its maneuver forces at all [emphasis added–but the Marines are going for that role too, along with the US Navy and AirForce].

This means that the Army is now overinvested in brigade combat teams. These major maneuver forces will not play a significant role in any conflict with the nation’s primary strategic threat, and so will need to be cut as force structure and end strength decline…The Army should try to reinvest some of the resources freed by these cuts to procure more new long-range fires and further enabling capabilities for the Pacific.

The Growing Mission of Homeland Defense

The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that the United States is better prepared to defend its vital interests overseas than to protect its citizens from attacks at home. Yet for all of the human suffering that the pandemic has caused, basic necessities like food, water, and power remain widely available. But a massive cyber attack against the United States could far too easily disrupt the supply chains that make these essentials available…Any future conflict with a major foreign power will almost certainly spill over into the homeland, with potentially devastating consequences.

…Throughout the nation’s history, the Army has been the principal military service that has provided for the protection of the United States and its citizens at home…

Active Army forces will only have a limited role to play in this vital mission. In a conflict that occurs mainly at home, or an overseas campaign that engages relatively few Army forces, the active Army could help provide logistics, communications, and engineering support for civil authorities within the homeland. But the Army’s reserve component, and especially the Army National Guard, will be far more critical for this mission. The National Guard operates day-to-day under the command of state governors, and is the first military entity on-call to respond to civil disruptions that exceed the capacity of local authorities. During the pandemic, both National Guard and the Army Reserve forces have supported local authorities in missions like food distribution, and providing capabilities like medical augmentation units and mortuary affairs to hard-hit areas. In a major homeland calamity, the reserve component would take on even broader missions, such as providing humanitarian assistance, restoring power and water, and preventing civil disorder. Regardless of the budgetary constraints to come, the rising vulnerability of the homeland means that the Army will have to increasingly prioritize capabilities that can respond to catastrophic domestic events.

…the coming era of fiscal austerity combined with the growing threats to the homeland may well require inverting that traditional relationship. Reserve forces are a wise strategic investment during lean budgetary times, because they preserve both combat and support force structure at far less cost, and provide vital capabilities for both domestic and overseas scenarios. Future wartime demands may find these forces pulled in both directions, but they nevertheless remain a cost-effective investment across a huge range of missions. As the budget axe falls, the Army should not simply make equal cuts to active, reserve, and Guard end strength and force structure in order to share the bureaucratic pain equally. Instead, it should consider preserving some more reserve capabilities above active capabilities, in order to strengthen the total force’s ability to defend the homeland effectively while also husbanding critical war-fighting capabilities in the most economical way possible [emphasis added]

Navigating the Army’s New Strategic Environment

Taken together, these changes will challenge the Army’s traditional identity as the service that delivers war-winning outcomes on land for the nation. It is going to get smaller, and become a supporting service in the nation’s primary theater of potential conflict. Its missions will also expand to include a greater role in homeland security, and the importance and relevance of its reserve component may eclipse that of its active forces in some domains of future conflict [emphasis added]. Navigating the Army through these tremendous challenges will require imagination, resilience, and resolve at every level of command, especially as resources decline. Army senior leaders will need to challenge some of the assumptions that have long guided the force, and overcome deeply ingrained orthodoxies about the relative priorities of warfighting versus support, fires versus maneuver, and active versus reserves. Doing so successfully will help assure that the Army can remain a relevant and vital component of the nation’s military power as it transforms in the years and decades to come.

Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, U.S. Army (ret.) and Dr. Nora Bensahel are visiting professors of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and senior fellows at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. They are also contributing editors at War on the Rocks, where their column appears monthly. Sign up for Barno and Bensahel’s Strategic Outpost newsletter to track their articles as well as their public events.

Now that is truly bold, revolution in army affairs, thinking. Chances of its success…? Would that we had such bold thinking and mission re-evaluation in Canada. Have a look at this earlier post (my thoughts at the end):

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

And this post deals with the possibility, in view of COVID-19 and natural disasters, that the Canadian Army may end up with a much greater focus on domestic activities (my thoughts at the end again):


Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds