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

9:45 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you for your question.

I would like to make two points quickly, if you don't mind.

I believe that Lieutenant-General Leslie's views and my own are quite similar. He said that this was an option

that warrants further study. I respect that view, but I think there are greater strengths in maintaining a regional structure that has the reserve and the regular integrated.

So I'm thankful for his thoughts. I think he presented them as thoughts that we needed to at least give study to, as an option, which we did.

I don't think there is a need to change our doctrine. I don't think that was part of what was offered by General Leslie. I think our doctrine is sound.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Strahl, it's your turn.

November 22nd, 2011 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you.

Thank you for being here today.

As we've studied readiness, our committee has heard about a number of risks related to readiness and the choices you face. There is the danger--and many armies have done this--of preparing for the last war rather than for the next one. There is also the danger of preparing for so many scenarios that we are in fact ready for none. I think there's another one, which we've identified today, and that is so narrowly focusing on a single capability that the army wouldn't be flexible enough to respond to a wide variety of threats.

How does the army balance those three threats and achieve levels of readiness that are in fact relevant to the real world?

9:50 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much, sir.

The army alongside the Canadian Forces spends a fair bit of energy scanning for the characteristics of the battlefields of tomorrow to be able to identify and challenge those types of characteristics. I think we have maintained a level of integration inside the Canadian Forces, with the army working with the air force in particular, and lesser so with the navy. It also provides a level of flexibility for tomorrow.

Having a contemporary training scenario that is respectful of the characteristics and challenges of tomorrow allows one to adapt in the environment we are in. We train to level five--so the combat team, the combined arms team. We grow it once the Government of Canada identifies a particular theatre, a particular response that Canada will deal with. I talk from a conflict point of view.

On our ability to respond to natural disasters, we are always at a high level of preparedness and readiness, whether that be for water purification, health care, or engineering services.

I think it's a matter of being respectful of the challenges and characteristics of the battlefields of tomorrow; working alongside our sister services; keeping a regular and a reserve element close and tight; and achieving a level of base training from which we can grow with time.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I wonder if you wouldn't mind expanding on that. When we were in Wainwright, some of us were able to observe the training. General Bowes remarked how it had changed, and that ten years ago there wouldn't have been that cooperation between the RCAF and the army in training.

Can you expand on how the interoperability between the forces has developed over the last number of years, and what effect that has had on the readiness of the army?

9:50 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

That's an awesome point; a great point.

The army and the air force are closer than we have ever been, certainly since I have been in uniform. I think the real key is tied to respect in that there is a very healthy respect among soldiers and airmen and airwomen.

On the aviation front, having helicopters on the battlefield today--and I'm sure tomorrow--has grown in importance. We synchronize our training so that the air force has adjusted to our 24-month manage readiness plan. Our cycles are now synchronized. We harmonize the training events, as you saw in Wainwright, to get maximum goodness out of them.

So I think it is built on respect. There is the synchronization of training opportunities, and I think we have grown a lot over the past decade in particular, both the air force and the army.

9:50 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

If I may sir, from an NCO perspective, when allowed to work with the air force I have skydived static-line free-fall. I have rappelled from a helicopter and off a building. I have been on a naval ship. I've jumped into the ocean with the marine corps.

It allows soldiers to be enthused and excited about their training. We never know what environment we'll have to go into. It gives us confidence, and will consequently give to the next generation of soldiers some of the tasks and professionalism they need to grow.

We are working to get closer and closer. Everything is combined. This is a great nation. It's a big nation also. The more cooperation, the greater success we will have in the future.

9:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Could I emphasize one more point from a soldier's point of view?

As you jump on the back of an airframe today, as you jump on the back of a Chinook helicopter flown by Canadians, you'll probably see the regimental banner of the soldiers who are operating alongside our air force buds on the roof of that helicopter. They are unbelievably operationally focused at delivering the soldiers safely to their landing zone. If you jump in the back of a Herc or a C-17, there are guys and gals who are awesomely focused at their operational task, whether it be delivering gear or bringing gear back to Canada. You sense that as soon as you step on that platform.

That just reinforces Mr. Moretti's point. It's centred on respect. I think that is what's very much alive and vibrant today.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Caron, you have five minutes.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Lieutenant-General, Sergeant-Major, thank you for being with us today.

I am more interested in numbers. So, I would like to present some of the data we have been given and ask you to comment.

According to the 2010-2011 Report on Plans and Priorities for National Defence, in terms of readiness, the regular land force complement should increase from 17,400 to 18,200 between 2011 and 2013. That is an increase of about 800. Since we are withdrawing from Afghanistan, is that additional strength necessary?

How do you explain the fact that, even while the complement is increasing in size, funding will be 3.7% lower over the same period? So there will simultaneously be an increase in the land force complement, in terms of readiness, and lower base funding.

9:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you.

Changes in strength always occur subsequent to recruitment and military personnel retiring from the forces.

We balance our strategic intake with an attrition rate.

At the present time, the rate is about 7%, I believe. However, in terms of the staff complement, we do have exact numbers.

So it's expected--we expect--that there will be differences in effectifs over time, going up and down, with some of those effectifs based on their physical or emotional health. When you talk about the availability of a unit and how many soldiers out of that unit of 1,000 who live

in Valcartier and could be deployed today, I would say it is normally about 15%.

are not deployable. Perhaps there's a family issue, a pregnancy, a broken leg, or something along those lines. So our numbers go up and down. That's what we expect the adjustments in the budget in 3.6....

You did say 3.6%, didn't you?

9:55 a.m.

NDP

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

Actually, it's 3.7%.

9:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Perfect.

So we deal with those adjustments, which affects how much time we have in the field and the level of training we achieve.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

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

Let's talk about increased staff levels in terms of readiness. Given the current situation—a withdrawal from Afghanistan where a great many troops were on deployment—how can you justify planning for increased numbers of soldiers who will be ready for deployment?

9:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Are you talking about—