Canada is a vast country with important, indeed vital interests all around the globe.
The Canadian Forces bear some (not all) responsibility for safeguarding our people and territory, at home and abroad and for ensuring our sovereignty over the land we claim as our own, the waters contiguous to it and the airspace over both and for helping to protect and promote our vital interests anywhere in the world.
We are not in the military “big leagues,” but we should be playing in the Triple-A Plus (AAA+) league.
The first A is: Appropriate … for a G7 nation with a large territory and global interests;
The second A is: Adaptable … the global strategic situation is both ever-changing and quite unpredictable. The only “constant” is a difference: a difference from what was planned, a difference from what was imagined, and another difference from that for which one is prepared.
The third A is Available … the days of time to mobilize, as in 1914 and 1939, are gone. We are in the age of the “come as you are” war. We will have to meet whatever threats and contingencies we imagine might be likely with the forces we have in being: regular and reserve.
What about the “Plus?”
The AAA+ is for Affordable. No matter what experts and politicians, admirals and generals might predict or demand the Government of Canada is limited by what the people of Canada say they can afford.
We need our government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s current regime and the next (Conservative, we hope) government, to take defence seriously and to provide Canadians with appropriate, adaptable, available and affordable military forces: combat ready, operationally effective, flexible and cost-effective (efficient).
We do not need a White Paper. A White Paper would do no real harm but they have been, by and large, a waste of time and money. What we need is a government with some vision and a plan.
We also don’t need advice from the ‘cheap seats,’ we don’t need retired admirals and generals and colonels, like me, saying buy this ship and that howitzer or APC and this many of these aeroplanes. The government of the day has, in the Privy Council Office, in the Departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finance, all the expert advice it needs.
What we “ordinary Canadians,” especially those of us who might be classified as “well-informed laymen,” can bring to the table is a sense of both:
- What capabilities we want; and
- How much we are willing to pay for it all.
I would say that we want (need) the following capabilities:
- A structure to collect and collate information, from all sources and from all over the world and provide useful strategic intelligence to the cabinet and operational intelligence to departments and agencies;
- A super-structure to make strategic plans and to control and manage our military forces;
- Surveillance and warning systems to cover our land mass and, especially, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
- Military forces to intercept, identify and, appropriately, deal with intruders;
- Military forces to contribute to the continental defence, especially to the protection of the US strategic deterrent;
- Military forces to patrol our territory, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
- Military forces to give “aid to civil power” when provincial attorneys general cannot manage with police resources;
- Military forces to provide “civil assistance” when disaster occur and the civil authorities in provinces and cities cannot cope;
- Military forces to conduct expeditionary, combat operations around the world ~
- Unilaterally for relatively small scale low and even mid-intensity operations,
- As part of “coalitions of the willing” for some low and mid intensity operations, and
- With our traditional allies for the full range of operations, including prolonged general war;
- Supporting operational and logistical services ~ telecommunications, engineering, intelligence, medical and dental, supply and transport, materiel maintenance, administration and policing ~ to support all other military forces; and
- An efficient and effective defence procurement system.
That’s a longish list, but …
I’m happy to hear what readers think we don’t need.
My guess ~ and I cannot overemphasize that word ~ is that we will need to ramp up defence spending to 2% of GDP (the NATO estimate) over, say, a ten year period, to give us what we want and need.
The key question is: will I accept an additional tax to get that? My answer must be a resounding Yes!
But, I doubt a major tax increase is necessary. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can cut back on some of his infrastructure plans (they are not all bad, but some, like social housing, are) and divert that money to national defence. He and successive (Conservative) prime ministers could opt or smaller, less expensive and less intrusive governments ~ good grief, Charlie Brown, we don’t need the government to be involved in everything! ~ and apply the savings, many, many, many very small savings, to defence.