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.
Contents via a message from the CDAI:
Ottawa, 1 December 2016 – The CDA Institute is pleased to release the latest issue of ON TRACK which features thoughtful and informative articles by experts from Canada and abroad on security and defence issues.
“Editorial – Canada is Back – The Defence Budget Must Grow…Significantly” by Tony Battista and Dr. David McDonough
“Defending Canada in the 2020s?” by Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson (Ret’d)
“Vérité, Devoir, Vaillance : Le CMR Saint-Jean retrouve son statut universitaire” par Oksana Drozdova
“Les stratégies arméniennes pour garder le contrôle du Haut-Karabakh” par Michael Lambert
“Paranoid or Pragmatic? What Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan can tell us about international rivalry” by John Mitton
“L’hiver Yéménite” par Alexandra Dufour
“Chemical Weapons use in Syria and Iraq: implications” by Dr. Jez Littlewood
“2016 Vimy Award – Acceptance Speech by recipient Dr. James Boutilier”
“Evaluating China as a Great Power: The Paradox of the ‘Responsible Power’ Narrative” by Adam MacDonald
“Supporting an Informed Public Debate: Seven Important Facts to Know about Military Requirements Planning” by Colonel Chuck Davies (Ret’d)
“Australia and Canada – different boats for different folks” by Dr. Andrew Davies and Christopher Cowan
“Space and the Third Offset in the post-post-Cold War period – Lessons for Canada and Australia” by Dr. Malcolm Davis…
The conclusion of a November 14 presentation by CGAI Senior Analyst Dave Perry to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence (the sort of serious discussion of broad defence issues we rarely see reflected in our media with their focus on procurement and scandal, real or potential):
With respect the Canada’s ability to counter possible air or space based threats to Canada, I think we do face some operational capability gaps.
Canada has no defence whatsoever against ballistic missiles. North Korea has been developing this technology for several years and is now working to launch these missiles from their submarines. While the United States has developed, a Ground Based, Mid-Course Defence against these missiles, and previously asked Canada to participate in that system, Canada declined to do so, and has subsequently never formally revisited that decision. This decision should be revisited. We should discuss the possibility of Canada joining Ballistic Missile Defence with the Americans, and if the terms are favourable, formally join.
Russian Air and Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles
The Russian military has significantly upgraded its air and naval forces in recent years and continues to do so. Over the last two years, the Russians have demonstrated this new equipment’s effectiveness as well as their willingness to use it to advance their own interests.
Russian forces successfully employed in Syria a new class of sophisticated conventional air and sea launched cruise missiles that have greatly enhanced range, are difficult to observe and are capable of precision targeting. Three aspects of this development are problematic. First, these weapons come in both nuclear and conventional variants. Second, they can be carried by Russian Long Range Patrol Aircraft and their newest and most capable submarines. Third, because of the increased distances at which these new missiles can successfully hit targets and their low observability characteristics, the current arrangements for defending North America, based on NORAD and the North Warning System, must be upgraded to counter them effectively [see “The Bear’s Bears: New NORAD Radars for Canadian North…“].
Because of this increased Russian activity around North America, we also need to enhance our ability to know what it happening in all three of our coastal approaches, and especially in the Canadian arctic. Since 2007 the Russians have conducted long range aviation patrols towards Canada’s Arctic airspace, and done so in ways that indicate an inclination on their part to link this activity to strategic confrontations with Canada elsewhere in the world. Similarly Russian submarine patrols in the Atlantic have recently reached levels not seen since the Cold War. We therefore need an expanded mix of air and space based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms [see “RADARSAT Constellation: New Canadian Satellites and Maritime, Arctic Surveillance, Part 2“].
As well, we need to maintain our ability to respond to aerial threats to North America. As Russia continues to modernize its air forces, this will require Canada to keep pace with improvements in Russian technology. As such, we need to move quickly to purchase a fleet of fighter aircraft capable of detecting the most modern Russian aircraft and sharing that information with the rest of the North American defence system [emphasis added, i.e. the F-35 which would be most compatible with the USAF]…
Further to this post (note Senegal as logistics hub in “Comments”),
the national defence minister gives a timeline and some details of types of mission but not yet where–and sensibly makes clear that new “peace operations” will not be like “traditional peacekeeping”:
Canada committed to three-year deployment in Africa
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada has committed to a three-year deployment in Africa that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact.
Canadian troops headed to Africa will operate in dangerous territory where peacekeepers have been killed, says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
In an exclusive interview with the Star from Vancouver Sajjan said Canada has committed to a three-year deployment that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact.
It will be spread among a number of unspecified African countries, have a major focus on training and increasing “capacity” of the host nation as well as other countries’ troops, and build on existing social, economic and deradicalization programs on the ground.
“These missions, all of them, have the level of risk where peacekeepers have been hurt, they have been killed. And we’ve been looking at the risk factor in a very serious way,” said Sajjan.
Asked about his approach to deploying Canadian forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations — something the previous Conservative government was keen to avoid in Africa when it turned down requests to deploy soldiers to Congo and Mali — Sajjan said “some of it is going to be the reduction of radicalization in certain areas, in other parts it will be developing the capacity of the host nation [i.e. Mali].”
Just back from Mali, which hosts the deadliest United Nations mission in the world right now, Sajjan says it’s clear there are risks there. He said the same risks exist in the other African missions under consideration by the Liberal government.
But, he added, there are also risks to Canada of doing nothing to counter insurgent groups that are terrorizing populations and radicalizing new recruits, and suggested he and the Liberal government have made this clear to Canadians from “day one.”
“This is not the peacekeeping of the past — we need to look at what the challenges are of today and develop the peace operations for today’s challenges.”
After having travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in late summer, and Senegal and Mali in the past week — Sajjan said he believes the UN mandate for and rules of engagement with hostile forces are “robust” enough to address the risks, particularly in Mali. The UN mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has seen 106 casualties since it was established in 2013, including 69 from “malicious acts.”
“One thing I did learn, the mandate for the mission is robust so there no concern that our troops would be limited in any way,” said Sajjan. “I had a very direct conversation with the political leadership of the UN and the force commander about that, and the safety of our troops is always paramount.”..
Sajjan stressed that a big part of the federal analysis underway — as he, two other federal ministers, and military and civilian fact-finders have travelled to Africa — is examining how Canada’s contribution of some 600 soldiers and up to 150 police can have a maximum impact, whether it’s through military training, building on economic development programs and opportunities like on the “agriculture side” in Mali, or combating sexual violence, including by UN peacekeeping troops…
Sajjan said Canada is looking at spreading its various contributions — military, police and civilian — among a number of UN missions [see list here], not African Union-led missions, in Africa. But it will support African Union efforts at the same time…
Right now, he said, much of the public attention is on exactly where soldiers will be sent.
But he said Canadians should expect a broader mission that could see troops sent to one end of Africa while other elements of Canada’s contribution will be sent to a different part. He said there are troop and police training centres across Africa, and “a small number of troops or even RCMP can have significant impact in other areas, to make a training centre far more effective.”..
Sajjan said the government has “narrowed” the ultimate destinations for its Canadian mission, but did not tip his hand on his preference.
He said there is nothing to be read into the countries he’s travelled to, nor the fact that he recently went to Mali, saying he couldn’t fit it into the earlier trip to central and East Africa. Although he has not travelled to the Central African Republic, Darfur, or South Sudan, Sajjan said he has addressed the same questions around those missions at meetings in Ethiopia late summer.
He said the decision on where to dispatch Canada’s peace support mission is expected to be finalized by the federal cabinet before end of year [emphasis added]…
So a Schwerpunkt in Mali with several penny-packets elsewhere it seems.
November 8 in print edition–scroll down to the third letter at “War and peace” (links added):
Your editorial recommends that Senegal be the focus for renewed peace operations by the Canadian military (Start In Senegal, For The New Peacekeeping, Nov. 4). But the government has made it clear that the point of such missions is to support UN-led peacekeeping operations; unfortunately, there is no such UN operation in Senegal to support.
It seems much more probable that the government will commit some military personnel to the UN mission in Mali, with Senegal serving as a logistics hub to support both them and the UN mission more broadly.
The editorial also states that “a counterinsurgency in a chaotic, arid country such as Mali … would be outside the experience of most members of the Canadian Armed Forces.” That “arid country” sounds like Kandahar province in Afghanistan where thousands of Canadians fought a counterinsurgency against the Taliban from 2006 to 2011.
How soon we apparently forget.
Further to this September post,
the Italians are indeed in along with others–company-sized contingents from Canada and the rest plus a Canadian HQ? NATO’s Secretary General makes the announcement:
I am proud to announce that many other Allies confirmed contributions to these forces today [Oct. 26].
Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia will contribute to the Canadian-led battalion in Latvia [coherence, effectiveness?].
Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Norway will join the German-led battalion in Lithuania [coherence, effectiveness?].
Denmark and France will contribute to the UK-led battalion in Estonia [looks militarily sound–large British contingent with tanks].
And Romania and the United Kingdom will join the US-led battalion in Poland [pretty decent].
Our forces will be truly multinational. Sending an unmistakable message: NATO stands as one. An attack on any Ally will be considered an attack on us all.
In Warsaw, we said that we expected to deploy the four battalions in early 2017.
I am pleased to confirm that we are on track…
But how militarily effective might such motley crews be? Interesting that most northern and southern look best. And a tweet:
Good luck, tripwires.
The Conference of Defence Associations and CDA Institute 2016 Ross Munro Media Award
Call for Nominations
The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) and the CDA Institute invite nominations for the 2016 Ross Munro Media Award (RMMA).
Initiated in 2002 to recognize Canadian journalists who have made a significant and extraordinary contribution to increasing public understanding of security and defence issues of importance to Canada and Canadians, the RMMA commemorates Ross Munro, the celebrated Canadian war correspondent who reported on the Second World War in Europe.
Recipients of the award will have produced outstanding work regarding security and defence and the role of the Canadian Armed Forces at home and abroad. The award consists of a statuette in the likeness of Ross Munro and $2,000. Previous recipients of the award are Stephen Thorne, Garth Pritchard, Sharon Hobson, Bruce Campion-Smith, Christie Blatchford, Matthew Fisher, Alec Castonguay, Brian Stewart, Murray Brewster, Rosie Di Manno, Adam Day, Louie Palu, and Chris MacLean.
The nominees’ body of work must be considered as having had an important role in educating Canadians on matters of national and/or international security and defence and on the role of the Canadian Armed Forces. The work will have been widely acclaimed as significant, be distinguished by its style and clarity, show clear evidence of research, and be considered noteworthy for its objective analysis. The entries may be selected from print and electronic media. Work produced collaboratively may be considered only if the individual who contributed the most to it is identified and merits individual credit and recognition for the work.
Past winners of the Ross Munro Media Award may be nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Award, separate from the regular annual award. The nomination process is the same; however, the work and materials cited in the nomination must date from the time period following the previous award.
Only individuals may submit nominations, and can do so in either of Canada’s official languages. All nominations must consist of a clear summary of the reasons for the nomination, at least two letters of support, and examples of the nominee’s work. Electronic submissions are preferred.
Nominations must be received by 12 December 2016, and addressed to:
Ross Munro Media Award Selection Committee
Conference of Defence Associations and CDA Institute
151 Slater Street, Suite 412A
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3, Canada
The Award will be presented on 16 February 2017, the first day of the CDA and CDA Institute Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence. Registration for this Conference will be up on the CDA Institute website shortly. One can also register by emailing Robert Legere at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please direct any questions regarding the Ross Munro Media Award to Cybèle Wilson at