I have a high regard for Israel, as a liberal democracy, as a modern, sophisticated, free nation and as a military power. I had the opportunity, while serving in the Canadian Army, to see the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) close up and, later, to work with Israeli scientists, officials and military officers on radio frequency spectrum matters.
The Israelis have a unique perspective on war fighting, conditioned by their own, particular, time and space ~ their geo-strategic situation. They, of course, have a grand strategy … it has changed in nuance over the years from Ben Gurion’s Israel, in the 1950s, to Netanyahu’s, 21st century, Israel, but not in its strategic aim: to preserve Israel’s independence, as a “home” for the Jews in historic Israel.
Now, Defence News reports on the IDF’s plans for the near to mid term future.
“Addressing an annual conference here of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS),” the article say, “Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, IDF head of planning (J-5), said … “Force buildup used to be done within the service branches, and the connection between them was not influential. Today we understand that force implementation demands interoperability; not just in the operational sense, but in the materiel we choose to invest in” … [and] … the new IDF 2030 plan — to be crafted concurrently to implementation of the existing Plan Gideon — will enable the IDF to leap to the end of the next decade by focusing on 12 key areas; each of which will be closely synchronized and coordinated by the IDF General Staff.“
The first, key point to note is that the IDF is a single, unified (joint) force ~ something like what Paul Hellyer envisioned for Canada in the 1960s ~ not the series of parochial “stovepipe” forces that the RCAF foisted upon Canada in 1975 when they undid the good ideas that Mr Hellyer had and kept only the silly ones, like fully integrated (single uniform) forces, and insisted that we organize the Canadian Forces around means of locomotion.
There are twelve key areas, or core competences, in the IDF plan. They are: “cyber, intelligence, ground maneuver, network centric warfare, air superiority, aerial defense, multi-dimensional strike, deep raid (long-range special operations), border security, naval defense, logistics, and the so-called war between wars.”
Leaving aside border security, which the CF needs to consider as part of its threat assessment process but which is the responsibility of other, competent, government agencies, the list is one that Defence Minister Sajjan and General Vance ought to consider, too. They are, mostly, joint functions, even aerial defence, and naval defence can, and normally should have multi-service inputs.
The concept of the “war between wars,” was, according to an article in the Jerusalem Post, coined in 2012 former IDF Chief of Staff y fLt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. He used it to describe the covert operations that the military’s special forces carry out during times of apparent quiet. This is, also, a concept that should be top of mind for Minister Sajjan and general Vance and their civilian and military planners and analysts. This is the condition about which US Army Chief of Staff Milley is quoted in an earlier post of mine entitled Change. Depending on how one wants to define “war” ~ and I’m not trying to channel Bill Clinton ~ we, Canadians, are in a “war between wars” period right now and, for us, for Canada, it is the desired ‘normal’ condition. We have taken some of the steps that the IDF did: one can argue that our Special Operations Forces Command is analogous to General Gantz’s Depth Corps. I like the use of the term “depth” because it indicates, to me, that General Gantz understood the strategic concept of depth as being more than just a geographic expression. It is also about time and effort.
I have, in the past, expressed my personal dismay at how the Canadian Forces are organized and “managed” by the defence staff. I believe our command and control (C²) superstructure is bloated, even morbidly obese, because it is based on the wrong models ~ and, yes, I know that Israel and NATO use that model, too. But, a model is not “right” just because it is in common use by the US and most European armies. I believe that the Canadian Forces need a “leaner,” simpler, clearer and lower ranked staff structure in which the chain of command is always, 100% crystal clear ~ a system in which a staff officer NEVER, under any circumstances, outranks the principle subordinate commanders of the commander (s)he serves and only in very rare situations is equal in rank to them. The military operational C² system needs to:
- Always give primacy, in all things, to operations;
- Serve a commander by relieving him or her of details;
- Help subordinate commanders by providing timely and effective resource management and control actions;
- Empower relatively junior officers by giving them early and regular exposure to the responsibilities of staff work so that they become better commanders;
- Create a joint knowledge and experience base and a joint “spirit” in the Canadian Forces; and
- Adhere to the principle of “economy of effort” by reducing the number and, where possible, size of HQs.
I don’t expect Justin Trudeau to pay much attention to the defence department or the military, but I do hope that some of his ministers and advisors ~ and he has some who understand both government efficiency and military management ~ will take a close look at the organization and management of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces and work, sub rosa if need be, to transform the military from a huge, fat, shambling bureaucracy into a “lean, mean fighting machine.” We, taxpayers, deserve no less.