Dec 19

First posts here and here on notable CF procurement screw-ups. Then this one looked in pretty dire straits:

RADARSAT Constellation Earthbound Two More Years

Now it seem the Centre has stepped in to sort things out:

Stephen Harper steps in to save Radarsat upgrade after budget cutbacks threatened satellite program’s future
Three new Radarsat satellites would complete the surveillance coverage of Canada’s coasts, not only in the north but on our east and west coasts. Canadian Space Agency

The Harper government has approved funding for Canada’s world-beating [bit of boosterism there] surveillance satellite program, just as it seemed that it may become the victim of spending cutbacks.

Sources say the Prime Minister intervened personally to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to move the next generation of Radarsat satellites off the drawing board and into production. A public announcement of the funding deal is expected soon.

Stephen Harper has lauded Radarsat — a series of satellites monitoring Canadian territory from space — in his annual visits to the Arctic, saying they can “pick up a breaching whale through the fog … so we will be able to see what the bad guys are up to.”

But the future of Radarsat was in doubt when the 2012 federal budget did not include new funding to cover the 50% increase in costs from the original price-tag of $600-million for the three new Constellation satellites [more here on the satellites].

Mr. Harper directed the departments that would make use of the program, including Natural Resources Canada, Environment, Fisheries and Oceans and National Defence, which came up with more than half of the required funds, to make up the shortfall.

Radarsat has been developed by Vancouver-based Macdonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA [more here])…

…when there was no funding in the 2012 budget, the company warned that its teams of engineers and technicians would find other work. Analysts said that Canada was facing a space “brain drain,” as employees moved to the U.S. and Europe, in the face of government cuts. MDA laid off 100 people, while the country’s other main space firm, COM DEV, cut 31 staff. At the same time, the Canadian Space Agency had its budget cut by $60-million.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission — a series of three satellites and associated ground-based stations — was initially announced in 2005. The project was designed to replace the existing Radarsat-2 surveillance satellite.

The federal government has previously acknowledged its plan to begin the program in 2014 has been delayed by at least two years. The Department of National Defence had warned the satellites had to be in place by 2015 at the latest or Canada would be left without any space-based surveillance capability…

Here’s hoping. And see here for the CF’s related Polar Epsilon projects.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 18

Further to this post, based on DoD Buzz, AOL Defense weighs in, a flavour:

Where’s The Beef? Krepinevich Slams Vagueness Of US Strategy


Where’s the strategic beef? That’s what Andrew Krepinevich wants to know.

“When the administration came out with its strategicguidance [in] January, I thought the guidance made a lot of sense in terms of setting priorities,” the head of the influential Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said this morning [Dec. 18] at the headquarters of the Air Force Association. “Western Pacific No. 1, Persian Gulf region No. 2, that certainly made a lot of sense. But what I haven’t seen since then is the strategy. If these are the objectives, how do we go about meeting those objectives?”

When we talk about a possible conflict with the Chinese, for example, “what do we want [Pacific Command chief] Adm. Locklear to do?” Krepinevich asked. “Do we want him to defend the first island chain [running from Japan through Taiwan and the Philippines to northern Indonesia], think about blockading any adversary, [or] do we want to practice nuclear brinksmanship, appeasement, accommodation?”

Krepinevich has been the leading non-government advocate of the Air Force-Navy “AirSea Battle” concept>, seen largely as a war plan against Iran and China. But even that idea, he said, is still vague and underdeveloped compared to its inspiration, the Cold War “AirLand Battle” doctrine for defending Western Europe from the Soviets and South Korea from the North during the Cold War. It’s so inchoate, in fact, that officials from America’s Pacific allies have been showing up at CSBA, wanting more detail that the Pentagon apparently isn’t giving them.

Figuring out what we want to do is particularly important when we can no longer afford to everything

…stealth aircraft and submarines, manned or unmanned, are some of the most expensive systems the Pentagon can buy. “How do you reconcile the ends-means disconnect?”…

Krepinevich did, however, steer clear of mentioning CSBA’s long-time skepticism of the Air Force’s and indeed the whole Defense Department’s largest program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the think tank has criticized as too short-ranged to penetrate the deep “anti-access/area denial” defenses of a country like China. In a recent “budget wargame” simulation run by CSBA, six out of seven teams decided to cut the F-35 over the next 10 years — and the seventh cancelled it outright.

That’s not advice anyone at the Air Force Association wanted to hear. But if you read Krepinevich and company closely, they’ve got plenty of bad news for everyone.

One wonders to what extent such US thinking–such as it may be–will affect the Canadian Forces’ internal future planning. And if the political level is considering these matters (hah!), potentially of very serious concern to Canada. Might we risk getting drawn into something…? Is DFAIT paying attention? Relevant:

So What States Might the RCN Fight?

Eastward Ho! For the CF Too?

The RCN at the (Chinese) Seaside? And a Canadian Tilt Towards India?

CF’s Pacific “Surge” at RIMPAC Exercise

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 18

Further to these posts,

The CF and Canadian Western Hemisphere Neo-Imperialism

One Wonders About Canada Command’s View

The Three Defence Amigos

National Defence Minister MacKay’s Weltpolitik and Weltanschauung
[lots on the south of of the Americas]

there does now appear to be a developing focus that way within this wide-ranging CP story (links added):

Military soul-searching as Afghan training mission winds down amid tight budgets

Canada’s long-standing military contribution to Afghanistan enters its last full year in 2013, giving way to a serious bout of soul-searching in a restless, battle-hardened military that’s been thrust into an era of fiscal austerity.

Senior commanders appearing before parliamentary committees have often faced the same question from MPs and senators: How do you keep troops engaged and interested after a five-year guerilla war in Kandahar?

There is no shortage of turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, but leaks regarding modest roles on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war suggest the Harper government has learned Afghanistan’s hard political lesson: boots on the ground are an extreme last resort.

The establishment of a quasi-al-Qaida state in northern Mali, the west African country where Canadian interests run deep, is actively debated, at least in academic circles, as the next Afghanistan [see “Canadian Forces for Mali? And All Sorts of International Activity“]…

In some respects, the military as an institution has begun adjusting to the new reality and cast its eyes towards more modest, yet nuanced opportunities closer to home.

Spurred by a set of defence agreements quietly signed by the Conservative government this year with countries such as Colombia, the army has been actively studying and pursuing partnership opportunities in Central and South America.

Indeed, The Canadian Press has learned Ottawa is currently trying to negotiate a defence partnership with Chile.

Briefing notes prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay show Canada’s military is eager to court Brazil as a partner because of its growing participation in international operations.

Canadian special forces have also been helping train Jamaican commandos. And Canada is also poised to deliver a modest stock of non-lethal military supplies to Belize.

Establishing and improving the country’s links within its own hemisphere makes sense, said Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, Canada’s special-forces commander.

“It doesn’t take much of an imagination to come up with an emergency situation where Canada’s interests might be involved,” Thompson said.

“If you can pick up the phone, dial it and get somebody you know … it’s much easier to make operations happen when you already have a relationship with the person.”

From a more hard-headed security point-of-view, the man in charge of Canada’s military operations at home and overseas draws a direct line between Latin and South America.

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare said partnerships take a front seat with most South American countries, but the burgeoning illegal drug trade that winds its way through Central America makes co-operation there more imperative.

HMCS Ottawa was recently credited with intercepting a major drug shipment, worth $145 million, in the eastern Pacific off Costa Rica [see “Canadian Forces: Drugbusters?“].

The army conducted a study two years ago on potential military co-operation with Latin American countries, which noted the region is “occupying an increasingly important position in Canadian foreign policy.”

And in a nod to the government’s reluctance to put troops in harm’s way [sensible in most cases, see “Just Because the Canadian Forces Are Good…“], an internal briefing [when?] for army chief Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin described the Americas as “the only region that may demand use of what are relatively modest Canadian Army resources [emphasis added].”

At every turn within the military, the discussion is prefaced by questions of money…

The fiscal question has pushed almost everything else off the table, including a much-anticipated rewrite of the country’s defence objectives. The next iteration of the Canada First Defence Strategy has been postponed until sometime in 2013 [more here]…


Canadian Joint Operations Command Activated/Canadian Forces’ Budget Issues
[note further links at end]

Andrew Godefroy - The wages of peace: lean times ahead for Canada’s military

J.L. Granatstein - Delays, deficit-fighting and no direction

Philippe Lagassé - Defence procurement problems run deeper than the F-35

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 17

Further to this post,

The Pentagon’s New HUMINT Service, Part 2–Plus the CF

now via

The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, say internal National Defence documents. A briefing note prepared for the country’s top soldier shows the army has pushed the military’s chief of intelligence to permanently staff “high-readiness” intelligence positions within brigades and all-source intelligence centres that could be called upon to deploy overseas. The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, also show the army is anxious to protect its network of human sources and operatives, known as HUMINT, and to better resource its counter-intelligence abilities. With the end of the war in Afghanistan and a shrinking defence budget, there is a fear those disciplines could face “degradation.” The army’s budget by itself has shrunk by 22 per cent ….”

Now if some of that human intelligence gathering isn’t carried out by covert, paid, sources I’m Smiley’s uncle.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 17

…just wait until this study come out in fall 2013 (and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also of F-35 fame, is looking at the matter too! See here, with lots of further links):

Auditor general turns attention to feds’ $35-billion shipbuilding plan [links added]

Months after his scathing F-35 report shook the Harper government’s plans to buy the stealth fighter, Auditor General Michael Ferguson has turned his attention to another military procurement project: the Harper government’s $35-billion shipbuilding plan.

Ferguson’s report on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is due in fall 2013 and — depending on what he finds — could be far more explosive than the F-35.

Ferguson’s office isn’t saying much about what exactly the study will look at.

“When determining what to audit, the office focuses on the areas in which federal government organizations face the highest risk,” spokesman Ghislain Desjardins said in an email. “Examples of high-risk areas are those that cost taxpayers significant amounts of money or that could threaten the health and safety of Canadians if something were to go wrong. Acquiring military ships … is one of those areas.”

…amid problems with the F-35 stealth fighter program and other military purchases, the Conservative government has held up the shipbuilding strategy as an important success for military procurement and a means to leverage tax dollars into massive economic spinoffs.

But there have been repeated indications that the strategy is in danger of running aground [see the posts here]— which would have military, economic and political ramifications far greater than those associated with the F-35…

Parliament Budget Officer Kevin Page is examining what financial implications the joint support ship project [more here] will have on the federal government, with a report expected early next year.

Page is also planning to do a similar examination of the Arctic vessels project [more here]…

As far as I can see there is no way the planned ships can be built on time or on budget, since this government (as any other would) insists they be built by Canadian shipyards that are simply not going to be up to the job for some time to come–if ever. Moreover the government bureaucracy itself is ill-equipped to manage things:

The Canadian Government’s Ignorance about Shipbuilding, Design, etc.

There’s a real shipwreck in the making. I do not believe the number of planned ships, with the intended capabilities, can be afforded if the government insists on continuing its current approach. In particular, from the end of an earlier post:

the RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant plans, if carried out, would likely eat the other services’ budget lunches [$41 billion for acquisition of 15 CSCs and in-service support! and that figure is doubtless unrealistic]

Maybe a different mix of vessels should replace the current destroyers and frigates, see end of this post. The government should be asking if its defence policy requires that the RCN maintain a large blue water fleet. But this government is unwilling to ask–or answer–those fundamental questions about what the things the Canadian Forces are realistically supposed to be able to do, and what it is willing to pay to maintain and equip the CF to be able to do those things effectively and efficiently.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 14

Further to this post and its further links,

Canadian/US Military Cooperation in Arctic: No Threats Hoo-Hah

some background on the thinking of that US general (note who’s in the photo–and the emphasis on cooperation with Canada):

America, Allies, & The Arctic: NORTHCOM Commander Talks Polar Strategy - EXCLUSIVE

In an exclusive interview in advance of Wednesday’s new US-Canadian agreement on Artic cooperation, Gen. Charles Jacoby – the Army four-star who leads both the US-Canadian NORAD and US Northern Command – spoke to AOL regular Robbin Laird about the national security aspects of US policy at the top of the world, where global climate change is creating new opportunities for trade, for energy exploration, and for conflict. What follows is Dr. Laird’s analysis and extensive excerpts from the interview.

…Russia in Asia and Russia in Europe become connected, upending the naval balance in the Pacific. With the Northern Sea Route, Moscow’s Pacific fleet can easily reinforce those in the Atlantic and vice versa, overcoming the two-front problem that has bedeviled Russian strategy as far back as its devastating defeat in the Tsushima Straits back in 1905. Russia will be able to shape a strategic reality at the top of the world and leverage that position for power projection southward.

Most ominiously, an increasingly assertive China has clearly marked the Arctic as a domain of strategic significance by their land grab for rare earth minerals in Greenland, their building of new icebreakers, and their focus on the strategic impact of the new transportation routes for commercial and military purposes. Much as the recent Chinese e-passports lay claim to resources in the South China Sea and India, their activities in the Arctic are clear indications of intent.

For Gen. Jacoby, the key to success is having a clear idea about the way ahead and investing in key capabilities. In addition, working closely with allies, above all the Canadians, is crucial to Arctic security that is both effective and cost-effective.

First, he said, we need to identify what we’re missing that is needed to meet the requirements for Arctic security and defense.

“Earlier this year, [U.S. Coast Guard Commandant] Admiral Papp and I identified four key capability gaps in the Arctic. Those are communications, domain awareness, infrastructure and presence,” Jacoby told me. “We need to focus our investments in enhancing capabilities in each of those areas over time.”..

“We simply cannot afford to have unnecessarily redundant facilities in the Arctic region. The different stakeholders need to work together to share in building these capabilities. We need an inclusive approach to this challenge, and in this case, an opportunity as well,” the general said. “We are using our exercise programs to explore those capabilities gaps and look for high-payoff investments that we can make. We are working with our components, especially the Navy and Air Force, to help build to those capabilities. And because we are taking an allied and whole-of-government approach, capabilities can be leveraged not just from the services, but from other agencies, from the commercial sector, or from allies like Canada.”..

Gen. Jacoby emphasized that we have time to prepare wisely, not time to dither foolishly. “Three or four NORAD commanders from now, the Secretary of Defense or the Canadian Minister of Defense is going to ask, who is coming back and forth through the Bering Straits, what are they doing in the Arctic, what are their capabilities, and does that represent a threat?” Jacoby asked. “We can wait and surge capabilities to respond and spend enormous amounts of money in a crisis, or we can try to shape the capabilities we need over time to be prepared to answer those questions.”

My interpretation: not much to bother about right now in terms of defence…but down the road…

Do keep in mind that the US military does tend to worry about worst cases; and that NORTHCOM is clearly making a pitch for greater resources to deal with the greater attention the commander is arguing the US needs to pay to the North. Still, in a time of very strained budgets plus much more high profile hot spots around the world, one wonders how successful the commander’s pitch will be. Americans do not share Canadians’ neurotic concern with the North that our government has been able so successfully to exploit.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 12

Further to these posts (and further links at them),

The Arctic: Canadian Perception, International Reality

1) Canadian perception: threat! threat! threat!..

WikiLeaks and Arctic Hyperbole

So much for all those nasty threats to our Arctic sovereignty…

note the bolded bit in this DND/CF news release:

Canadian and U.S. Commanders Sign Arctic Cooperation Framework
NR - 12.261 - December 11, 2012

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. – The Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, and the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command, General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr. (US Army) signed two documents – the Tri Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation and the Tri Command Training and Exercise Statement of Intent – during the 230th meeting of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defense [more from the US ambassador to Canada’s blog], in Colorado Springs, Colorado today.

The Tri Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation acknowledges that defence issues do not drive Arctic affairs and that the Canadian and US militaries will support other departments and agencies in response to threats and hazards in the region when requested and directed. In that context, the goal of the Framework is to promote enhanced military cooperation in the Arctic and identify specific areas of potential Tri Command (Canadian Joint Operations Command, United States Northern Command and NORAD) cooperation in the preparation for, and conduct of, safety, security and defence operations. It strengthens an already unique and mature partnership with deep military bi-national coordination and cooperation ties. Areas of potential improved cooperation in the Arctic include planning, domain awareness, information-sharing, training and exercises, operations, capability development, and science and technology.

Both the Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command and the Commander of NORAD and United States Northern Command have areas of responsibility within the Arctic. The Commands have complementary missions and work closely together to meet individual and collective responsibilities including support of civilian authorities when required.

The second document, the Tri Command Training and Exercise Statement of Intent, enhances joint and combined readiness in support of safety, security and defence missions through combined training and exercises and reinforcing partnerships and collaboration among the Commands.

The signing of the Tri Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation and the Tri Command Training and Exercise Statement of Intent follows on the Tri Command Strategy, which identifies a series of joint initiatives designed to strengthen the Tri Command operational relationships concerning mutual support and cooperation…

Notes to editor / news director:

Still imagery is available from Canadian Joint Operations Command:

For more on the defence relations between Canada and the United States go to the backgrounder at:

The US NORTHCOM news release, slightly different at end, is here. More on the US and the Arctic:

Arctic: US Looks North, Somewhat

At Least the Americans are Not Howling about “Arctic Sovereignty”

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 11

1) More broadly:

UK military in talks to help Syria rebels International coalition could offer air and sea support as well as military training

A plan to provide military training to the Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime and support them with air and naval power is being drawn up by an international coalition including Britain, The Independent has learnt...

The head of Britain’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, hosted a confidential meeting in London a few weeks ago attended by the military chiefs of France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, and a three-star American general, in which the strategy was discussed at length. Other UK government departments and their counterparts in allied states in the mission have also been holding extensive meetings on the issue…

Britain, France and the US have agreed that none of their countries would have “boots on the ground” to help the rebels. The training camps can be set up in Turkey. However, the use of air and maritime force would, in itself, be highly controversial and likely to lead to charges that, as in Libya, the West is carrying out regime change by force.

Furthermore, any such military action will have to take place without United Nations authorisation, with Russia and China highly unlikely to back a resolution after their experience over Libya where they agreed to a “no-fly zone” only to see it turn into a Nato bombing campaign lasting months [see “Syria and R2V“]…

2) Canadian Forces

Canada ready to join NATO coalition if chemical weapons used in Syria

Amid growing fears that the Syrian regime will use chemical weapons against its own people, Canada has developed a contingency plan to join a NATO coalition ready to deal with the worst-case scenario, CTV News has learned.

If NATO asks for assistance, the federal government is ready to deploy the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which handles chemical, biological and radioactive attacks.

Canada will also send a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to provide clean water in Syria, as well as engineers and staff who can help set up a field hospital.

A navy frigate already based in the area will also be on standby [more here]…

Another angle:

The Canadian Forces admitted over the summer it was drawing up its own plans on how to intervene in Syria.

But it said such planning is done as a matter of course to ensure the military is ready should the government call upon it to get involved in the conflict [special forces to provide training? apparently there is thought to using them in Mali]…

I do hope our government steers as militarily clear as possible of what truly is a quagmire. As for the U.S.:

Holy Cats! US Might Need More Troops for Syria…

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

Dec 06

The new CDS’s maiden speech, delivered to the Royal Canadian Military Institute, is up on YouTube:

Speakers Dinner, Dec 5 with Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson: “Today’s Canadian Forces and What the Future May Hold”

Eric Morse is Vice-Chair, Security Studies at Royal Canadian Military Institute and a writer of op-eds on foreign relations  

Dec 06

Further to this post,

Afghanistan: Last Post, that is, Report

from a message from the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (note at link “2013 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security, 21-22 February 2013″):


OTTAWA, 6 December 2012 - In a study released today, Canada’s leading think tank on defence and security, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDA Institute) analyzes the Government of Canada’s “Whole of Government” approach to the country’s engagement in Afghanistan, with a specific focus on the final year of Canada’s engagement in Kandahar.

Authored by Dr. Howard Coombs, the study, entitled “Canadian Whole of Government Operations: Kandahar 09/2010 - 07/2011“, focuses on both successes and challenges of the Canadian-led Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team as well as the Canadian Forces-led Task Force Kandahar in that time period.

The paper advocates that Canada must capture and consolidate the knowledge acquired through our mission in Afghanistan in order to preserve the whole-of-government capability that will likely be used in the years to come in other international engagements, which will not be traditional peacekeeping but will require combining the skills of civilians and the military in complex environments.

The study draws together 4 key lessons:
- the need for expertise across domains that are integrated prior to deployment;
- the strength of civil-military & bi-national teams;
- the need for agencies to better communicate with the media; and,
- the greater need to involve justice sector reform.

Dr. Howard Coombs is a former civilian advisor to the Commander, Joint Task Force Kandahar 2010-2011, in addition to being an Assistant Professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and a reservist officer who commands 33 Canadian Brigade Group, Ottawa…

From personal experience in various parts of the federal public service (External Affairs, PCO on secondment, Solicitor General, and Canadian Coast Guard) I think it most unlikely that Dr Coombs recommendations will be acted upon in any serious way by the Canadian government. Government departments, other than in emergency, find it awfully hard to look–especially long-term–beyond their own boxes. A true pity.

Meanwhile the way ahead for the US:

U.S. reducing plans for large civilian force in post-2014 Afghanistan

Everyone’s long-term commitments are slip sliding away.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger