All posts by Global Affairs Staff

End of 3Ds Blog

CGAI regrets that the 3Ds blog will cease posting new material with immediate effect. Previous posts and comments will be archived and available for research on this site.

 CGAI is most grateful to Mark Collins for his careful curating of the 3Ds blog.

For additional content, visitors are encouraged to visit http://www.cgai.ca

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Mark Collins – “The fall of Aleppo shows us exactly what we have become”

Terrible Terry Glavin roars his rage; amongst other things he excoriates feckless and irrelevant Canadian word-mongering at the UN General Assembly–an excerpt:

The truth of it is we’d just rather not take the trouble [see end of post]. We aren’t prepared to suffer the sacrifices demanded of the commitments to universal rights we profess, so we absolve ourselves by talking about “the Muslim world” as though it were a distant planet. We talk about Arabs as though they were a different species. It’s easier on the conscience that way.

Between the drooling bigotries of the isolationist Right and the clever platitudes of the “anti-imperialist” Left, the only place left to address the solemn obligations we owe one another as human beings is in negotiations over the codicils of international trade agreements, or in the rituals of deliberately unenforceable resolutions entertained by the United Nations General Assembly.

Just last Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and his diplomats conducted just such a ceremony in sponsoring a non-binding General Assembly resolution demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities in Syria, humanitarian aid access throughout the country, and an end to the siege of Aleppo. It passed, 122 to 13. This is what counts these days as a diplomatic coup [and heralded by our government–wowsers: “UN General Assembly calls for action on Syria in Canada-led resolution”].

Canadian Ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard was pleased to claim that the resolution was already having an effect even before it was voted on, because the day before, Russia announced it was temporarily halting its bombing of Aleppo and had even offered to open corridors to allow civilians to flee. This is what counts these days as a diplomatic triumph.

The UN human rights office later announced that it had received credible reports that hundreds of men who crossed into Aleppo’s regime-controlled districts had gone missing…

Whilst Aleppo was falling our government issued this clarion call; one is sure it had Assad and Putin furiously reconsidering their course. Why do we bother with this worthless verbiage?

Canada demands that Assad regime and backers stop violence now and respect human rights in Syria

And if they don’t? Bah and humbug.

The start of a post from April:

The West and the Middle East: No Guts

I wrote earlier:

What to Do About the Bloody Middle East?

Poor bloody locals. If the West is truly willing to sort things out right now, are we then willing to rule–one way or another–for some decades or so to try to ensure things work out wellish? Triple double HAH! Given no willingness for, or today in the West intellectual acceptance of, such a prospect, then let us just face things honestly…

We don’t. Thank goodness we have Mr Glavin.

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

Mark Collins – South China Sea: Why is USN Admiral Leading on US Policy vs China? Part 2

Further to this post in May, the head of US Pacific Command is at it again, note my italics–one would have thought such statements should be for civilian policy makers (in any event President Trump unlikely to be bothered)–at Defense One’sD-Brief“:

The U.S. will cooperate with China, “but we will be ready to confront when we must,” said PACOM’s Adm. Harry Harris during a speech this morning in Sydney. “We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” he said. “The U.S. fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation. This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight [emphasis added, talk about robust]”. More here

More here on the South China Sea.

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

Mark Collins – Public Safety Canada’s Emergency Management May Suck

Just read between the bureaucratese at this report, damning stuff. The previous Conservative government cared little for this core federal responsibility; what about the new one? Not a sunny subject. From a January 2016 Public Safety Canada departmental audit:

Internal Audit of Emergency Management Planning: Leadership and Oversight

Executive Summary

Background

Under Section 3 of the Emergency Management Act (EMA [text here]), the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for providing government-wide leadership and oversight over the emergency management (EM) activities of federal institutions – including their emergency management plans, which include the following instruments:

– Strategic emergency management plans;
– Business continuity plans; and,
– Event-specific contingency plans.

Specifically, the Department is expected to:

– Promote a common approach to EM, including EM planning;
– Establish policies, programs, measures & advice for preparation, maintenance & testing of EM plans;
– Analyze and evaluate plans of federal institutions; and,
– Conduct exercises & provide education & training.

Public Safety Canada exercises its leadership and oversight role in this area through the Emergency Management and Regional Operations Branch (EM&RO [organizational and personnel details here, webpage here]). The Branch has been in existence since 2011 and has, since this time, undergone many changes to its structure, priorities and leadership [emphasis added]. The Branch operates in a complex environment characterized by multiple inter-dependencies, numerous stakeholders with competing priorities and, as noted, change.

EM&RO delivers its mandate through a range of specific programs, implemented by its directorates, which collectively are responsible for policy, planning, program development and regional service delivery. These programs are enabled by a management regime that supports the planning and allocation of resources and the oversight of performance. Collectively, this regime is referred to as a management control framework.

Audit Objective

The audit objective was to provide reasonable assurance that the core management controls in place across EM&RO Branch are adequate and effective to:

– support robust management and decision-making, in compliance with policy and legislation; and,
– fulfill the department’s roles in relation to EM planning leadership and oversight of federal institutions, in accordance with the EMA.

Summary of Findings

The point of departure for this audit was an examination of the EM&RO management control framework, which collectively provides a foundation for good management, program integrity and results. The audit noted positive efforts to strengthen governance through the establishment of formal management committees and through the introduction of strategic planning. While positive, the audit also noted that more deliberate and cohesive policy dialogue on the tenets and principles of EM as well as the roles and focus of EM&RO is needed to focus the directions of the Branch [emphasis added].

This, coupled with needed improvements to the planning and performance management regime of the Branch will lay a stronger foundation for priority-setting and targeted resource allocation, which were also concerns.

Specifically, the audit found that resource allocation processes are not sufficiently informed by priorities, expected results, risk and past performance. Efforts to enhance these mechanisms will have positive impacts, particularly given the current fiscal challenges being faced by the Branch. Finally, the audit noted that stronger leadership, including communication and management unity is needed to support the improvements in the formal controls.

The second major line of enquiry of this audit related to the adequacy and effectiveness of the practices that Public Safety Canada has in place to lead federal institutions in the discipline of EM Planning, as well as the mechanisms they have to oversee institutional activities and results, in accordance with Section 3 of the EMA.

Public Safety Canada’s leadership role is effected through the provision of guidance and through the establishment and management of fora for discussion and engagement with federal institutions. The audit found that guidance is provided to institutions in line with the EMA and Federal Policy on Emergency Management; however, opportunity exists to streamline and consolidate guidance, to enhance clarity and reduce unnecessary complexity. The audit also noted that government-wide structures are indeed in place, but, by most accounts, are in need of improvement – both from an efficiency and effectiveness perspective. These structures exist and provide a mechanism for information sharing from Public Safety Canada to federal institutions. However, in their current form and use, there is not a sufficient forum for substantive, government-wide engagement, direction-setting or signals-checking for matters related to EM Planning [emphasis added].

The Department exercises its oversight role through a variety of monitoring activities, including the assessment of institutional Business Continuity Plans, Strategic Emergency Management Plans and through National Exercises of selected contingency plans. The audit found that the monitoring of federal institutions’ EM planning is done in a fragmented and, in some cases, insufficient fashion [emphasis added]. Opportunities exist to strengthen the monitoring mechanisms by reinstating the assessment of business continuity plans, enhancing the robustness of methodologies, and examining opportunities for more streamlined and internally cohesive approaches.

In examining the national exercise program, the audit found that the national exercise calendar is developed, but concluded that the process for its development is not robust enough to ensure all necessary inputs are considered, particularly threat information [emphasis added]. As well, we identified opportunities to strengthen internal and external coordination and dialogue around the calendar’s development.

In light of the noted weaknesses in the monitoring of federal institutions, we are concerned that the Department does not have sufficient or effective mechanisms to appropriately gauge the readiness of federal institutions in the face of emergencies. As well, lack of monitoring limits the Department’s ability to gain insight into the strengths and challenges within federal institutions which itself should inform Public Safety Canada’s directions, policy and guidance [emphasis added].

Audit Opinion

In my opinion, the governance, risk management and controls in this area of departmental activity are not yet in a sufficient enough state of maturity to provide reasonable assurance that the objectives of Public Safety Canada will be achieved [emphasis added]. Opportunity exists to build on existing practices, some of which are already being enhanced, and to strengthen the adequacy (design) and effectiveness of internal controls…

Feel confident in the feds if a balloon really goes up? I had some experience with emergency preparedness and management with the Canadian Coast Guard; my confidence in things today is minimal. The country needs a single, dedicated, emergency agency, not a part (whose personnel are public servants coming in and out as they try to climb the greasy pole) of a department with many other difficult–and sexier (terrorism!)–responsibilities.

The feds, when I was on that job, once had such agency (scroll down here to “CANADIAN INITIATIVES”, cf. on a much smaller scale the US FEMA). But, for reasons I have never understood, our Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness was abolished soon after having been transferred (p. 3 PDF) to Public Safety Canada from National Defence in 2003. Its functions were then assumed within and as part of the broader bureaucracy. Not a good recipe for focus and success.

The government at the top of the Canadian food chain does not like thinking about, nor planning and paying for, emergency preparedness and response (hey, no Katrina here just that pesky 1998 central Canadian ice storm–where are the votes, eh?). So how much long-term dedication developing subject expertise might one expect from those greasy pole-climbing bureaucrats now on the, er, emergency job?

Related and very relevant at Public Safety Canada:

Canadian Government’s Crisis Ops Centre Sucks

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

Mark Collins – Big Dragon “Yikes!”–From 2010 to 2020 “China is set to nearly double its military spending…”

This should sure get the attention of PEOTUS Trump–the rest of the headline:

…as an arms race heats up in Asia.
China’s defense spending will balloon to $233 billion in 2020, up from $123 billion in 2010, according to a new report by IHS Jane’s.

Very relevant:

Can the US Cope With a Big War Against a Major Power? Part 2

USAF “Officers Give New Details for F-35 in War With China”

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Rising Sun’s Yen for Defence Spending, Part 3

Take that Dragon! Indian PM Modi Embraces the Rising Sun (plus the Eagle and the Bear)

A real Asian military cockpit, what? Meanwhile quite a few Canadians want to embrace the Chicoms.

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

Mark Collins – World Defence Spending 2015/2016

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

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

Mark Collins – 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–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.” However, given how procurement blunders have “degraded the Canadian military,” he argues a better way must be found to replace them than the largely dysfunctional procurement system that exists at present.

Charlie Foxtrot — military shorthand for “clusterf—” — is particularly relevant today because the Liberal government is seemingly intent on equaling if not surpassing the their Conservative predecessors’ brutal mishandling of the multi-billion dollar programme to finally buy new fighter jets [see “What Stinking RCAF Fighter “Capability Gap” for NORAD and NATO?“]…

It has not only been the politicians who are to blame for Canada’s politicized procurement process. The media treat procurement as political theatre. There is little dispassionate analysis of the choices and the dilemmas involved in buying equipment that must last for decades in an environment where technological advances can render many acquisitions quickly obsolete [emphasis added, OH SO SADLY TRUE].

The government, for its part, has never hired enough procurement specialists, a problems that bogs down every purchasing process. Nossal argues that if Canada matched what its allies spend on a GNP basis, a lot of these problems would disappear. As it is, he writes, too many programs are always chasing too few dollars.

Nossal’s inevitable conclusion is that the “root cause” of Canada’s procurement failures has been an absence of political leadership. Governments have been able to get away with botching procurement for years because “the consequences of decisions made by one Parliament will not be felt until much later, usually well past the next general election.”

The only practical solution, Nossal says, is for Canada’s two leading political parties to create a bipartisan approach to defence procurement…There is zero chance that even an exceptionally brave Canadian politician would dare embrace such an obvious and honourable idea [OH SO SADLY TRUE]. Still, Charlie Foxtrot is worth reading to understand how much Canada would benefit if its leaders confounded voters and actually took the high road.

Lots more here on the constant Canadian procurement morass.

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

Mark Collins – PM Justin Trudeau Makes Foreign Policy’s “leading global thinkers of 2016”

I guess the world does need more Canada; who’d a thunk him, eh?  The prime minister is in “the decision-makers“.  I didn’t notice any Canadians in the other categories.
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – The Foreign Office in 1985 (and the Trans-Siberian)

The start of a piece by Simon Winchester in the NY Times Book Review:

Thirty-one years ago, while on a railway journey between London and Hong Kong, I stopped off in Mongolia and to a briefly illustrative encounter.

At the time the British had the sole Western embassy in Ulan Bator — at 30 Peace Street, if I remember — and I thought I might interview the ambassador and present him, as it was early December and he was said to cut a lonesome and homesick figure, with a Christmas plum pudding. I rang the mission’s doorbell and must have looked faintly taken aback when it was opened by a young man of evidently Caribbean origin.

“Don’t be startled,” he said cheerfully, in a broad Welsh accent. “I’m Trevor Jones, first secretary. From Cardiff. I think I’m the only black man in the diplomatic service, and look see, they pack me off to bloody Ulan Bator!”..

The FCO more recently here and here.

By the way in 1972 I took the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Beijing via the Ghobi Desert. I travelled hard-class, no bed just a roll-up mattress of sorts–the only white amongst Asians (Chinese, Vietnamese, a few others); soft-class was exclusively white Commie Euros. Talk about a racial divide. The divide was in fact in fact the restaurant car with us at the back end and them at the front.

My compartment mate was a North Vietnamese Army major with whom I got along swimmingly in some French. We ate breakfast togther in the dining car, ham and eggs being the only decent food served until we got a Chinese dining car after Mongolia. Otherwise we shared the food each had brought along.

My Asian compatriots generally, including the Chinese, were most friendly and I played a fair amount of cards with them. On the last day before leaving the USSR all the young Vietnamese–many had been doing vocational training in Czechoslovakia–got hammered with dining car booze, spending their last roubles as they could not be taken out of the country. They then proceeded to snake dance and sing through our section of the train. Their favourite tune was “Yellow River” by Christie:

Ah, the joys of youth.

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