Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados will forgive me, I hope, but like the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, I, too, “have got a little list.”
I posted it last year: 11 things that I believe are essential to our national defence. The list falls into four broad categories which I discussed in six posts: first, Top level things, then the Defence of Canada and North America, which includes Aid to the Civil Power and Civil Assistance tasks, then Expeditionary Forces, and next the not very glamorous but so essential Support Services and, finally and related to support services, the Defence Procurement muddle. Being me, I have some opinions on some parts of all of them.
My 11 capabilities are:
- 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.
I trust that I have been clear enough: some of those capabilities are absolutely essential, not discretionary in any meaningful way, and, beyond deciding (a political calculation) “how much is (just) enough,” not negotiable, either; a few tasks within many of the capabilities are being done quite well, even very well, now, by agencies and forces in being, even when, as is often the case the “doing” is on an ad hoc basis, sometimes by units that were not intended for such tasks. (The Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (Kingston class), for example, were conceived, approved, designed and built as, mainly, training vessels. They have, over 25 years, become real, operational workhorses of the fleet, doing some jobs that their bigger, more powerful cousins, the destroyers and frigates, cannot manage.)
Other tasks still have plenty of room for improvement and others, in my opinion, are in urgent need of major overhauls: the military’s C² superstructure and the defence procurement system, for example.
My stated fear, which some other well informed people whose opinions I trust do not share, is that the outcome of the Defence Review has been preordained by the not so bright lights in the PMO …
… because they are still in campaign mode, trying to reconcile promises, including a few about the military …
… with the new fiscal realities ~ they inherited a budget surplus and quickly turned it into a whopping deficit ~ and their many other promises to spend! Spend!! SPEND!!! on a whole range of social and green projects that are beloved of the limousine liberals in the Laurentian Elites.
Further, I do not agree, not even for a μsecond, with Professor Thomas Juneau of the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs that, as he put it in an article in the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Armed Forces should aim, after the Defence Review, to “do less with less.” He is quite wrong, naively wrong, for two reasons:
- It is not the military “way” to ever “do less with less.” Professional soldiers always try to do more with whatever they have ~ it is “hard wired” into their brains, part of their DNA, if you like; and
- It is never the political “way” to ever ask for less.
I think that Team Trudeau understands the first reason and, in fact, counts on it because they plan to ask for more, and more, and more from the Canadian Armed Forces even as they withhold the resources needed. Prime Minister Trudeau’s singular foreign policy vision seems to be to have that worthless seat on the United Nations Security Council. He will send an underfunded, understaffed, ill equipped military into harm’s way to get it, when the UN asks. The CAF will respond, as it always has, by “doing more with less.”
The Defence Review should tell the government that there are real limits to what it can, honestly and responsibly, ask its military to do if it does not provide adequate resources to face a dangerous world.