My plan …

A couple of my interlocutors have taken me to task on two accounts:

  • First, I keep arguing for more and more defence spending, until we get to 2% of GDP ~ which I guesstimate will be something like $55+ Billion by 2030 ~ but, beyond seeking some cuts to Headquarters and to our abundance of very, very high ranking officers, I never say what the new force should look like; and
  • Second, I refuse to say which ship or tank or fighter jet we should buy.

OK, guilty on both counts, I guess, but:

I have offered one look at my idea of the kind of force we need ~  but I will admit that it is sketchy.

I will continue to avoid telling anyone which ship or tank or howitzer or aircraft we should buy because, like all of you, I don’t know. No one person knows, not Prime Minister Trudeau, not Defence Minister Sajjan and not General Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff ~ they don’t know, either. They may have preferences, even informed preferences but the correct decision should, always, be made by a team that includes a committee of the cabinet, a team of engineers and accountants and lawyers from several government departments and agencies and a few well qualified naval and military officers, too. They will consider a range of factors including personnel, capital costs, infrastructure requirements, trade policies, life cycle costs, regional industrial benefits and, maybe, even the military’s operational requirements. Or, perhaps the decision will be taken for less well thought out reasons ~ maybe to retaliate against one or another country for screwing Canada in a trade deal. So, I still will not tell you which ship or armoured personnel carrier or helicopter is best because I don’t know and you shouldn’t care what I think.

But, back to the forces we need. I said we needed:

  • A streamlined and “lean” command and control (C²) superstructure;
  • New ships (20± first-rate, “blue water,” ocean-going combat vessels and a dozen coastal patrol vessels or corvettes) and fleet support ships and modern dockyards and support facilities;
  • An enlarged, modern and properly organized and equipped army ~ probably of five or six brigades, two or three of them being near full, combat strength;
  • New aircraft for NORAD and for expeditionary force employments, long-range (especially maritime) surveillance and patrol, and a “global reach” transport force; and
  • A suitable, efficient and effective supporting base, including a logistics (supply and maintenance) system and training schools.

I still think that’s about right but what does that mean if we have 2% of GDP to spend?

Command and Control

Well, first, let’s consider the command and control (C²) superstructure. I’m going to continue to argue that it is beyond “fat,” it is, now, morbidly obese and that condition actually poses a danger to our national defence. Too many cooks do spoil the broth and Canada has too many admirals and generals ~ all Type A personalities …


… without enough real ‘work’ to keep them all productively busy; so they send each other e-mails and fabricate crises for their own HQ to solve and, generally, just make a nuisance of themselves. Fewer admiral and generals (and Navy captains and Army and RCAF colonels) will be busier and more productive and less dangerous.

I have a couple of concrete suggestions:

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 13.40.50Start by reducing the rank of the Chief of the Defence Staff from four navy-vice-admiralstars (admiral or general) to three stars, vice admiral or lieutenant general. We only have something like 65,000 regular force military members and 25,000 reserve force members. In about 1960 the Canadian Army, alone, had nearly 50,000 regular force members and something like 30,000 in the militia (reserve army) and it was commanded by one lieutenant general. Now, some will argue that times have changed and increased complexity means that higher ranks are needed. I call bullsh!t! The Israeli Defence Forces, today, has over 175,000 full-time Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 13.45.33members and over 400,000 in reserve. Gadi Eizenkot, the Chief of Staff of the IDF hold the rank of Rav Aluf ~ lieutenant general, and he is the only Israeli Tt5s28y4_400x400officer to hold that high a rank. Now, let’s play a little mind game … suppose you are (four-star) General Joseph Dunford of the United States Marine Corps, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior officer in the world’s most powerful military; now suppose, also, that your phone is ringing off the hook for some reason and your aide calls in on the intercom and says, “I have (four-star) General Vance of Canada on line 1 and (three-star) Rav Aluf Eizenkotof Israel on line 2, sir.” Which line does General Dunford pick up? Of course, he isn’t impressed by Canadian General Jonathan Vance’s four stars; but he is mightily impressed by the size and power of the force that answers to three-star Lieutenant General Eizenkot. The argument that we need a four-star CDS just because everyone else has one is specious … it’s rubbish. The Americans have several four-star admirals and generals, they also have over 1¼ million active-duty military personnel and 10 aircraft Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 13.54.14carriers and over 4,000 nuclear weapons. India has a few four-star officers, the Indian Army, with over 1 million regular, professional troops and with almost 1 million reserve soldiers, has one, only one, four-star general. Canada does not need any four-star officers on a regular basis … our lieutenant generals, vice admirals, rear admirals and so on, including Navy captains and Army colonels, may all need generous pay raises but they do not need more gold on their shoulders and sleeves. Canada got its first four-star officer back during World War II, when we had over 1 million men and women under arms. The rank returned in 1951, after our main allies, America (in ff0553c198c598136b309150270ca0f21947) and Britain (in 1949) established unified Chiefs of Staff committees to coordinate joint operations, when General Charles Foulkes was appointed to the post, which he would hold for almost a decade. Lowering the rank to three stars (vice admiral or lieutenant general) and raising the pay, would set a good example for the rest of the military and, indeed for all of government, in setting senior executive compensation, including perquisites, and status at reasonable levels.

Another thing, which I have mentioned before, is that back in the 1960s, when Defence Minister Paul Hellyer was upsetting every apple cart he and his team decided that the best way to set ranks and pay was to “benchmark” some military jobs with civil service equivalents. Now, in the civil service the appointment of “director” is, usually, the lowest level of executive ~ it is the point where technical expertise meets up with broader government-wide responsibility and accountability, ‘ranks’ below that are specialists, ranks above it are, increasingly generalists. Now, anyone who knows much of anything about the military will agree that the first executive level in the Canadian Armed Forces is the captain of a major warship (a frigate, say) or the commanding officer of an Army regiment or battalion or of an Air Force squadron. Those ships and units are commanded by officers in the rank of commander or lieutenant colonel but for some reason, in the mid-1960s, the Hellyer team decided, probably just an error made in haste, that Navy captain and Army colonel and RCAF group captain were the appropriate ranks for directors and some very serious rank inflation was embedded inside the Canadian Armed Forces’ command and control (C²) superstructure … it’s an easy enough problem to fix although it will cause some short term disruption, and it means that the officers’ pay scales probably need to be reformed all the way down to the very bottom.

It has always seemed to me that the hallmark of a great army, of a great defence staff, especially, is a culture of excellence. The ranks of the staff don’t matter much, the staff act of behalf and in the name of the commander they serve. In fact, in a really good staff system the chain of command is always crystal clear because the senior staff are always, without fail, lower in rank (occasionally equal to) than the subordinate commanders. Thus, in an army corps (three or four divisions, perhaps 100,000 soldiers) the corps commander is a lieutenant general (three stars) and the subordinate commanders of divisions and of the corps artillery, are major generals (two-star officers); in a proper corps the chiefs of staff of the operations and logistics branches, who control operations on behalf of the corps commander,  are one-star officers ~ brigadier generals. Ditto in the division (20,000+ soldiers) where the major general is the division commander and brigadier generals are the brigade commanders, the two chiefs of staff (operations, which includes intelligence, and logistics, which includes administration and personnel) are colonels … in each case, the subordinate commanders outrank the senior staff officers. But the senior staff are listened to with great regard because they are excellent at their job and because they speak for the superior commander.


Way back when, almost three years ago, I listed eleven capabilities that I believe a country’s national security and defence system needs. The sections which follow aim to put a little more meat on those bones.

I’m going to use “about” a lot. There is a field called RAM-D engineering which analyzes Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Durability of a weapon system (say, a ship, or a tank or an aircraft) to tell us with some precision that if, for example, we need two aircraft in the air, two more parked, fuelled and armed at the end of the runway and two more waiting in the hanger then we need, perhaps, 18 aircraft in the squadron and two hangers and 39 pilots and 120 specially trained ground crew and, and, and … Now, experience has already taught us that, but RAM-D engineering lets us increase the confidence we have in our numbers. Maybe one of my readers is an engineer who really understands RAM-D; I’m not so I will use approximations and guesstimates.

The Navy

The main purpose of a navy is to project the nation’s power. It does it better than armies and air forces. Ships can travel the globe and stay ‘on station’ for prolonged periods. Power projection can be friendly, such as when from January to late April 2018, HMC is03-2017-0001-007Ships Kingston and Summerside deployed to West Africa and, now, when HMCS Calgary has deployed to the Asia-Pacific region beginning in the end of July on a liberia-1-1180x842“show the flag” mission that will last until December. Canada, not just the Navy, uses these missions to strengthen relations with civil and military leaders and with the people of various regions. Power projection can also be threatening to potential foes …

… and, simultaneously, reassuring to allies.

Canada is a huge country with three oceans. The Navy needs to be the one military component that we never allow to “rust out” because it is too time-consuming and costly to rebuild. Our three ocean Navy should have the following main components:

  • Two global task forces, each consisting of ~
    • HMAS-Canberra-L02One large troop and helicopter carrying vessel ~ something like Australia’s HMAS Canberra, perhaps, or, maybe, like the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Endurance class ships,
    • An escort force consisting of one or two air defence destroyers, two or three general-purpose destroyer/frigates and two or three anti-submarine corvettes and one or two submarines, and
    • One auxiliary/replenishment ship;
  • Two coastal patrol forces consisting of one or two destroyer frigates and two or three corvettes;
  • 1024px-U_34_in_FahrtAn arctic force consisting of six air-independent propulsion (AIP) system submarines; and
  • A training and support fleet.

My guess is that we need about:

  • Two, preferably three of the large helicopter and troop-carrying vessels;
  • 18 destroyer/frigate type ships ~
    • Six air defence ships, and
    • 12 general purpose/anti-submarine ships, which can be fitted with additional systems for task group command and control;
  • 12 to 16 corvettes ~ half fitted for anti-submarine operations and half optimized for fast coastal patrol operations;
  • Four auxiliary/replenishment ships ~ ‘tankers’ in Navy parlance;
  • Eight modern, air-independent propulsion system submarines; and
  • A fleet of auxiliary and training vessels, including inland/riverine vessels for use by Naval Reserve Divisions.

For Arctic and coastal operations Canada also needs, as I have discussed before, two other federal fleets:

  • A service fleet ~ the Canadian Coast Guard ~ that provides e.g. navigation support and ice breaking in inland and coastal waters; and
  • A constabulary fleet ~ found in an expanded Marine Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ~ that has large and small lightly armed vessels that can enforce Canadian and international law in inland and coastal waters and on the high seas, too.

Finally, the Royal Canadian navy needs its own, organic, Naval Air Service flying Navy helicopters, crewed by Navy pilots, off Navy ships. More about this in Part 2.

Remember, please that I am talking about a country that, after several years of steady, sustained budget growth, spends 2% of GDP on defence ~ about three times what Canada spend now, in dollar terms.

———- End of Part 1 ~ Part 2 (Army and Air Force) tomorrow ———-

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

11 thoughts on “My plan …

  1. Our flag officers do not ship stars on their shoulders. Should you wish to use slang rank, let’s use the Canuck versions, yes?

  2. A very well thought out proposal. Not an unrealistic goal for a nation the size of Canada, with three oceans. I would be surprised, and shocked, if we could achieve even one half of this strength of Armed Forces in my lifetime.

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