CDA Institute Board Member MGen David Fraser (Ret’d) recently presented at the government’s official Defence Policy Review roundtable in Toronto. We are pleased to present an edited version of his written statement on our Blog: The Forum.

I will introduce six areas which affect our collective defence and security, which need to be considered as part of the Defence Policy Review discussions:

  • Defence and security paradigms – whole-of-government approach
  • Canada’s geography – our participation in NORAD and NATO
  • Canada and the United States
  • Refugees and displaced people
  • Capability based planning and force structure
  • Funding and industrial capability to support defence policy

The review of our Defence Policy after an intense 15 year period of activity operations is warranted. While, in my opinion, the fundamentals of our Defence Policy remain sound, it is time to see how those fundamentals are being affected by the changes in the defence and security environment.

No one can predict the future defence and security environment; however, there are indicators that we can study which will shape it. The delineation between defence and security has blurred over the past decade and recent operations demonstrate that these two paradigms are closely aligned. The creation of the ‘team Canada’ and whole-of-government approach other countries took in Iraq and Afghanistan will become the norm for future operations. Working together is better than silos of expertise and whatever we can do to create policies towards a more holistic approach will strength our overall resolve to protect our nation at home and national interests abroad.

Canada’s geography has for most of our history spared us from conflict on our soil. Participation in NORAD and NATO have been successful at deterring state threats against Canada. Both organizations continue to allow Canada to participate in a collective defence approach that meet our national interests. Working with others, Canada can share the burden of defence and security while maintaining our sovereignty. What was the immediate threat during the Cold War, diminished after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the re-emergence of a new Russia threatens our sovereignty in the Arctic and our national interests abroad. NORAD and NATO will play key roles in deterring traditional state actors like Russia. Our participation in these organizations will allow us to influence and mitigate economic and military threats to Canada.

Climate change continues to grow in our region and these changes will create new economic opportunities in the Arctic that we need to shape. The Arctic as a geopolitical buffer will disappear and we need to be prepared for what happens next. Our presence there is a must.

Canada’s abundance of resources has created the wealth and prosperity for all of us. This factor has led to our economy being closely tied to the United States. We will for the foreseeable future be each other’s major trading partner. As the world evolves into global trading blocks, the Canada-United States relationship is important fundamental to our economic prosperity. Working with the United States will remain a priority for Canada.

The rise of terrorism on the global stage has reinforced the need to become more ‘joined-up’ with our civilian security professionals. Operations over the past years in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and what is going on in Syria illustrates, in the absence of stable governments, terrorism has found a niche to spread their philosophy and terrorize the local population. In the past, this situation was regionally focused with few cases of exporting terrorism to our shores, like the Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. Today, terrorist organizations including ISIL use the internet and cyberspace freely to recruit, disseminate their message, and organize attacks, from the violence of lone wolves in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in 2014 to the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. Canada’s geographic separation from these threats no longer exist.

We need to become more adaptive to the new realities and evolving threats. Cyber security must become a priority and capabilities need to be developed that work across the silos of expertise in our country and are complimentary to other nations. This threat will grow rapidly and challenge our ability to adapt and stay abreast to these changes. One way to address this may be to engage Millennials who are far more connected to this form of communications.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 50 million people are either refugees or displaced people. Within this group, there are an estimated 2.5 million Syrian refugees. Canada has done an admirable job taking in a number of Syrian refugees. Canada is a nation of immigrants and our future rests with immigration. While we manage this, the sheer volume of this situation world-wide will put tremendous strain on national social institutions and societies. This situation along with regional instability should be areas where Canada can contribute to prevent conflict. The UN is the institution where Canada can make a tremendous impact on the rights of individuals, rule of law leading to stability prior to the need for intervention of forces or, if necessary, intervention of peace support capabilities.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has always used a capability-based planning concept. The CAF has evolved over the past 15 years because of the situation. A review of the current capabilities that the CAF has and their applicability is warranted. Capabilities necessary for tradition symmetric threats are needed and their states of readiness should be reviewed and validated in comparison to asymmetric threats and their states of readiness. Do we have what we need and are they in sufficient quantities and states of readiness that support our defence and security requirements? For example, the new pressures resulting from terrorist groups like ISIL and their use of the internet should cause us to focus on whether we have what we need both in terms of policy and in terms of assets. Do we have the right balance of capabilities necessary to meet our nation’s need first at home and for our contributions abroad? A further discussion of what we deem discretionary and non-discretionary defence and security requirements will be an element of this discussion affecting CAF capabilities.

A review of our Defence Policy Requirements cannot be done in isolation from the cost and funding envelope necessary to support this review. Defence is a management market and like all other nations, our industrial basis is an element of our defence and security capability. There should be a discussion about the relationship of our industrial base and its relationship to support (and vice versa) our defence and security policy. Sourcing of our defence capabilities to off-shore industries is an option; however, when circumstances arise when we need to generate these capabilities and sustain them, will those conditions be met or will there be international competition at the same time we need to sustain these capabilities? Afghanistan demonstrated the need to have some Canadian strategic industrial assets and we should review this from a holistic approach to the Defence Policy Review.

I commend the government on this Defence Policy Review. While the fundamentals are sound, as describe, there are many new factors that complicate this issue and maintaining the status quo is not good enough. We need to refine our policy and be more inclusive with the participants to protect our nation.

This blog post is based on the written statement that the author presented at the Defence Policy Review Roundtable held in Toronto on 20 May 2016.

David Fraser retired as a MGen after a 30 year career with extensive experience including command at every level from platoon to division. Now the Chief Operating Officer for Inkas Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing, he also is a Board member of the CDA Institute and mentor of the Ivey Business School. (Image courtesy of Department of National Defence.)

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