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 soldiers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

9:05 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

This is the first time in several years that there's been a brigade-level operation, brigade-level training. I think that's important. To train at that level provides Canada with a level of readiness and flexibility that Canada deserves.

Over the past many years we have focused on those elements that are readying to deploy to Afghanistan, so it was at the task force level, readying a battle group, a forward support group or a national support element, and the enablers, who would deploy to Afghanistan. As I know you all know, we've had about 3,000-ish in the Afghan theatre over the past almost decade.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Over approximately the past five years, there was talk about an operational pause for the army. To be quite frank, I've really never observed an operational pause. It seemed that it was sometimes less than a year when we had our troops returning home and then being deployed again. You can tell by the medals and the bars on their chests, some of them have been there three and four times, willingly and happily so, but from the standpoint of it being declared that we were having an operational pause, we didn't see it.

I guess it was about October 20, General Bowes was here at committee and he talked about “reloading” the army. Can you tell me, is this attempt to reload the same sort of thing as an operational pause? What exactly did he mean by that?

9:05 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much. That's a great point.

It's a word that I use: your army reloaded, rechargé. We have been involved in the recovery of our people, our equipment, and our ideas from combat in Afghanistan, the reconstitution of the force, and the reorientation of the force. I bundle that whole bit up as “your army reloaded”.

It's really important, because we are an army that has great respect for the past, and great respect for the learning that has taken place, but we are an army that is looking forward to the future and the challenges of tomorrow. That's why the training that you and others saw in Wainwright is a different training package that we have undertaken over the past several years.

It is one of spirit, it is one of training, and it is one that is demanding of a level of readiness that Canada needs in order to be set and prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

The vehicle front is where we are bringing back our vehicles, 1,000 of them, from Afghanistan. There are some that are going through a line in Edmonton, now that we'll have vehicles coming out of that line next year. So it will be, to be precise, the fall of 2012 where we would have, again, a battle group-type force equipped with their protection, their armoured vehicles, ready to represent Canada with that level of strength.

That's all I mean when I talk about the term “reloaded”.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

I think I saw some of those vehicles headed back to Petawawa on Highway 17 on the way home last week.

Now, because we've just finished a conflict in which our soldiers were engaged in counter-insurgency, there is the notion that perhaps now our military should transition into just peacekeepers patrolling buffer zones. Is that what the army is being prepared for, and if not, why not?

9:10 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you.

The army is undergoing individual and collective training to be able to respond to a full spectrum of conflict. As you and others saw in Wainwright—and, if you weren't able to, we would be honoured to host you, and provide you the opportunity to see our young soldiers being trained--being trained with a near-peer enemy, a very complex battlefield that has civilians on the battlefield, has criminal elements on the battlefield, has an insurgency on the battlefield, and is demanding of a well-trained, well-equipped, agile soldier who is able to deal with that full spectrum of conflict.

That's how we train. We believe, and we have seen, that soldiers trained to that level, particularly Canadian soldiers, are incredibly versatile, strong and resilient. They can move from combat through stability to peacekeeping with ease. Canada deserves and demands that level of training.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Go ahead, Mr. Moretti.

9:10 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

I might add, Mr. Chairman, that as we train our soldiers, it's a diverse and in-depth process in terms of the circumstances in which a young soldier will make a decision. He understands the commander's intent, and he understands why the Government of Canada has put him in that country, but that individual private knows the rules of engagement, and that's why he needs to be trained in Canada with a full spectrum of operation, so he'll make the right action at the right moment in time of need.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. McKay, you have the floor.

November 22nd, 2011 / 9:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I know, Mr. Chair, you take such enthusiasm in reviewing the many questions that I might ask from time to time. I've kind of noticed that. So I thought, just to be helpful, I'd bring you The Power of Parliamentary Houses to send for Persons, Papers and Records and direct your attention to page 65, in the event you wish to read it.

I'm just being helpful, Mr. Chair.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. I'll take a look at it.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Yes.

Thank you, Lieutenant-General.

There's an article in this morning's paper by Jack Granatstein, which may have direct bearing on your abilities, your readiness, if you will, as a Canadian army. The article is entitled “NATO is a shell of its former self”. It's quite a thorough review of Britain's reduced capabilities, certainly the Greek reduced capabilities, and Italy's reduced capabilities. The shoe has yet to drop with the U.S., but it's pretty obvious that there's going to be a substantially reduced capability in the U.S.

Then he gets to Canada, and he says:

The $9 billion the federal government seems prepared to spend--even if almost no one except the defence minister really believes that figure--will skyrocket. If DND sticks to buying the F-35, therefore, other items will need to go. The big naval procurement plans, proudly announced a few weeks back, will certainly be slowed. So will the army's Close Combat Vehicle project, the refurbishment of the Light Armoured Vehicle fleet, and myriad other programs. Some informed sources have even suggested that the army's nine infantry battalions might be reduced to six.

That's a potentially significant hit on your readiness to do all the things the government has tasked to you to do.

I'd be interested in your thoughts as to how in effect you might defend the army's ability to project itself in all of the tasks you might be asked to do, and what you're trained to do, given the enormous constraints that pretty well all the armies around the world are under--and so also will be Canada.

9:15 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you, sir; great point, great question.

I'm fiercely proud of our army--50% regular, 50% reserve--an army that has three regular brigades, ten reserve brigades, and the battalions and regiments you talked about are the regular elements, the nine regular battalions that we have.

We have made adjustments. We continue to make adjustments in that those battalions are not all identical. We are moving so that three out of nine battalions will be light battalions, trained, equipped, and gifted at doing light infantry operations--

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Just for my own sake, because I'm not quite sure what that means, can you explain what a “light” battalion means?

9:15 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Perhaps I could roll back a bit. There is the future land combat vehicle system, which is doing an upgrade to our LAV III. It's purchasing 100-ish close combat vehicles and 500 tactical armoured patrol vehicles.

The end state will see close combat vehicles in a regiment of our infantry. It will see our three infantry regiments, each with three battalions that will have one light and two mechanized. There is a mix. It's an asymmetric approach because of the number of vehicles we have, the respect for the complexity of the equipment, the sparing, the maintenance, and the infrastructure necessary to be able to support those fleets.

So I believe we have made adjustments respectful of the budget, respectful of the plan to purchase those three major fleets--LAV III, close combat vehicle, and tactical armoured patrol vehicles--and we provide the Canadian Forces with the flexibility it needs to be able to respond to anticipated tasks in the future.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Given, if you will, the reality of government's desire to reduce the military budget, what is the difference between, if you will—this is a very poor phrase—the wish list and the reality list, in terms of the differences in those vehicles and also in terms of your personnel?