Evidence of meeting #14 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was army.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

We are withdrawing from Afghanistan at this time, where we previously had deployed a lot of soldiers. At the same time, we are seeing an increase in the available land force complement in the coming years, in spite of that.

9:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

I'm not sure I understand your question.

10 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

Allow me to take that question.

We are continually seeking to improve the effectiveness of our staff. However, it is also important to understand how the Canadian Forces are divided up. For example, 35% of our members provide additional support to the other commands, including the Canada Command, CENTCOM and COMSOCAN. Those members wear an army uniform, but serve under another command.

In order to maintain an effective organization, we have to constantly make adjustments based on requirements. Members in all of our units can carry out tasks assigned to them by their commander. That is why when Canada proceeds with a deployment, we have the option of using class C reservists in a proportion of 25%, as the gentleman mentioned. That guarantees us 100% operational readiness in cases involving the highest level of risk.

In Canada, we do in fact have the necessary efficiency to be able to ensure that each command can carry out all the tasks assigned to it here in Canada, 24/7, or any additional tasks that may arise in times of crisis.

10 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

We want to keep the same staff level in the Canadian Forces, except in the reserve force, where we are trying to bring the complement up to 20,000 from its current level of 17,000.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you very much, Mr. Caron.

Mr. Norlock.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Through you, to the witnesses, thank you for coming this morning.

General, when I listen to some of the questions, it reminds me of a conversation I had with some folks at CFB Trenton just before we were elected. I can recall one of the people who worked there telling me that the base commander didn't have enough money in his budget for simple things, such as cutting the grass and things like that.

I think we're in a different time when people talk about cutting back. Of course, that's not strange to people like me, who worked for the Ontario government for years in a paramilitary way as a police officer. Certain governments said that if you went...or our directives were that if you went over 100 kilometres in a patrol vehicle, you had to explain why because of budgetary restraints. But if anybody wants to know what the difference is between budgets, we now have a base commander whose biggest challenge is to organize a huge investment in his base.

To give folks at home a scale of what's occurring, one of the hangars being constructed for the new C-17—which I don't believe the Canadian armed forces would have other than through the election of our government—has half the steel. That building, one of the largest of its kind in Canada and for sure in the Canadian armed forces, has—to give folks the scale and the size of the building—half the steel of the Eiffel Tower and half the concrete of the CN Tower. So that's some degree....

My question's going to focus on training, in particular training in Canada's north, because it is a priority for this government and, I believe, for the Canadian armed forces. I'm wondering how the army uses the training operations in the Arctic to prepare itself, not only for domestic purposes and missions, but for missions abroad. I really don't see on the horizon any conflicts or any need for Canada...outside of our own Arctic sovereignty, which is of paramount importance to our country. Could you comment on that?

Also, I have friends who are associated with the rangers. During the training exercises in the north, how do the regular armed forces and the rangers cooperate, and what's their level of cooperation during those exercises?

10 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much, sir.

Perhaps I could deal with both of those questions at the same time.

There is a need to exercise presence and sovereignty, and to train, to achieve a level of readiness in our north. The army takes that very seriously. There are at least two significantly large exercises per year in the north, as well as Operation Nanook, which takes place in the summertime. Our winter training exercises normally take place in the February-March timeframe, involving approximately a thousand soldiers in each of those two venues, one oriented west and one oriented east, as well as those involved in Operation Nanook.

Every single time we go to the north, we liaise in advance with our ranger patrols—4,700 rangers, part of the army, part of the Canadian Forces. They are the link with the community, they are the link with the leadership, and they are the folks who have a tremendous understanding of the local terrain and the challenges in the community in which they live. We always work with them. We always coordinate with them, even prior to being deployed.

Part of being a soldier is working as part of a team. Whether you're working in the desert or in the Arctic, there are great benefits that come from training in one environment or the other, none the least of which are training, discipline, and understanding challenge. I think that all comes from operating in the north. It is an extremely demanding environment, one that demands a level of discipline and one that demands a level of respect for the environment and the communities in which we operate.

I think it's all done with Canadian army training focused on the north. It's one of having an understanding and respect for the north, for the locals, for our equipment, and for the need to train and participate in operations.

10:05 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

If I may, sir, just with the ranger perspective, we commanded a mission earlier, and Canada's diversity and our culture.... Going to the north, the ranger allows us to go into a certain community, over 110 communities up north. We could not just go in there and talk to the elders. By having the ranger act as the liaison and gain the trust, it allows the young soldier to understand the process of culture, a different environment. So when we take some of those soldiers to Afghanistan, they understand that there's a certain person who has a certain key role in that perspective.

In addition to the ranger, we also have the junior ranger, another program within the CF, which allows the youth of the northern region a better foundation of living for the future years, because they do own the next generation.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. Time has expired.

Chris, how are you doing?

November 22nd, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Very well.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

You have the floor.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thanks to our witnesses, General and Sergeant-Major, for being here. It really is so important to our study to have you here. While I'm very sorry not to have been here for the first hour, I can see from your presentation that you've given us a couple of the major inputs that are going to be most useful for us by laying out exactly what constitutes readiness in the eyes of the army and how you're preparing for that.

Just by way of explanation, the Atlantic Council of Canada is having a conference with some of your colleagues over in the Pearson Building, so I was asked to make a presentation to them. I would much rather have been here from the start.

Peter, it's great to be with you. I think back to those days in Kabul when you were commanding the multinational brigade, and neither of us had any idea of just where that mission would be going in the years to come. So congratulations on the achievements then and everything you've done since then.

The same for you, Sergeant-Major Moretti. I know how important your role is in the army today.

I see from your introduction that you have covered a lot of ground, and I really want to just focus on one or two issues--not the prospect of a train wreck in Port Hope, which I'm sure has thoroughly alarmed Rick Norlock, whose riding includes Port Hope....

You just had one? Okay--and I know it was completely hypothetical, on your part.

But thinking of today's army, thinking of the challenges that we know you face, I want to ask about capabilities. How capable are we in the experience we've gained in Afghanistan, that we're trying to institutionalize in Gagetown, with regard to countering the threat of IEDs? I know you've touched on it. I know you know a lot about it. But it strikes me that wherever we go with boots on the ground, IEDs are going to be a part. Almost certainly, if it's more than peacekeeping, IEDs are going to be one of threats we face.

How do you feel we stand up compared to our past, also compared to our peers and allies?

10:10 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you.

We've already addressed, sir, just so you're aware, a bit of that issue. I would say that Canada stands in a position of strength. I believe it is tied to capabilities that have been institutionalized--whether they be the counter-IED task force, the counter-IED squadron as part of 4 ESR in Gagetown, or part of the ASIC, the all-source intelligence cells--in our approach to how aware we are of the battlefields and the challenges of tomorrow. I think it's tied to our relationship with our allies, and I did mention that we are hosting a counter-IED international symposium early next month in Quebec City.

So we have achieved what we need to achieve to be respectful of that threat, and again, we've had to make tough decisions to be able to balance capabilities with the resources that have been provided.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

My final question, Mr. Chair, is the related issue of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. We could have a whole study just on that. Obviously, Canada's capabilities through the acquisition of new vehicles, UAVs, and so forth have evolved and improved.

Situate us with regard to our peers in that frame. What are some of the choices and opportunities that may be available to the army and Canadian Forces in that area that would have an impact on our readiness?

10:10 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much; a great point.

You know, the army's strategy is called “advancing with purpose”, and it's a great title, in my somewhat biased view. We advance with purpose because of an understanding of the battlefield and the threat. It comes from a level of awareness that comes from UAVs. It comes from fighters that have a remarkable level of optics that provide detailed information on the threat and on the battlefield. It comes from balloons and towers. It comes from how we bring all those bits of information together. We assess it, and we advance with deliberate purpose.

I think as technology evolves, sir, the opportunities are tied to how we exploit space. It's how we can continue to grow our UAV capability. As I think you all know, it was leased over the period of time in Afghanistan. There is a project—one that I think the Canadian Forces needs to have to use UAVs—that is a few years out. Our challenge, like the challenge on the counter-IED front, is how we keep that level of awareness in the minds of commanders at all levels so that it's properly incorporated into training, so that when we do get those capabilities—or when we have access to those capabilities from our international partners—we are skilled at the use.