Evidence of meeting #26 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 things.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Joel Sokolsky  Principal, Royal Military College of Canada
  • Michael Hennessy  Professor, Department of History, and Dean of Continuing Studies, Royal Military College of Canada
  • Douglas Bland  Chair, Defence Management Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University
  • David Skillicorn  Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University
  • Glenn Nordick  As an Individual

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

If there are cuts currently in the recruitment area or if it is not managed as well, are we not running the risk that our operational readiness will be jeopardized in 10 or 15 years, when the people who are currently in these positions will retire?

3:15 p.m.

Chair, Defence Management Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

Dr. Douglas Bland

That's absolutely the problem.

The population that we draw recruits from now is diminishing, so we're going to need some other model for recruitment. Frankly, I don't know what it is. Maybe somebody does, but I don't.

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I have a question I'd like you to answer briefly. We heard about cybercrime. I'd like some clarification. We are told that National Defence is dealing with that. Does CSIS play a complementary role to that of the armed forces with regard to cybercrime? That would seem logical to me. I'd like to know whether they play such a role.

My question is addressed to the person who knows the answer or has some idea of what it might be.

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

What the member wants to know is whether there's a formal connection between CSIS and the military.

I think it's a secret.

3:15 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

I don't know exactly how these relationships work. Some of them work informally, I know. I don't think there is very much formal connection. It's partly the problem that nobody quite knows who's responsible for anything in this area, so a lot of very scattered things are going on, not all of which make sense.

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

For interest's sake, Madame Moore is a veteran. She did serve three years with the forces.

We're now going to go to our other veteran. Mr. Chisu, you have the floor.

He is an engineer and very proud of it.

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I would like to address one of the issues that I think is important, and you outlined the type of threat, Dr. Skillicorn.

What are the problems and what are the issues with the cyber-threat?

I want to inform you that a report from the European Union's Security and Defence Agenda says that several countries are very interested in preparing for cyber-attacks or potential cyber-attacks.

For example, in 2011 the Finnish government announced plans to invest heavily in developing an arsenal of cyber-defence weaponry, such as worms, malware, and viruses to protect military, government, and private enterprise networks as well as the country's critical infrastructure.

In 2007 there were attacks on Estonia, and in October 2011 there were also attacks on our own parliamentary network and government institutions.

Some of the Nordic countries are highly connected. By 2015 Finland aims to be the world leader in information security.

There are a couple of issues I would like to hear your views on, your balanced opinion.

Is the cyber-threat one of the next important threats against the armed forces? How will these cyber-threats influence deployment readiness if everybody knows where we are deploying and the information is compromised?

3:20 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

The problem fundamentally is that so much of what we do in every way is computer-mediated. On the Internet itself it's one gigantic connected system, which was never designed to be world scale, and therefore you can get from one place to any other place and more or less do what you want with not terribly much sophistication, as such things go.

Militaries, in general, have tried to deal with that problem by air-gapping their network from the public network, and that works up to a point. But as several countries have discovered, devices such as USB keys and so on make it relatively easy to cross that air gap, and therefore military networks are not quite as separate as they are often thought of. Organizations in the intelligence world tend to be even more separate and to impose physical constraints on what you can carry across the boundary.

The threat, I guess, is things like having fighter jets show up for mid-air refuelling when the refuellers aren't there because they were told to go somewhere else, and that was done by corrupting some message somewhere inside some system. That kind of idea can be generalized in many different ways.

The trouble is that we build on an infrastructure that was never designed to be secure. Security is an incredibly difficult property to retrofit into any system, but especially computer systems, which are among the most complex things that humans have built.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

However, the report also says that Canada has interesting expertise, but those capabilities are not reflected in the government. This is Rafal Rohozinski, who runs the SecDev Group.

What do you think about this issue that Mr. Rohozinski is telling us about?

3:20 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

There are things that can be done, but there is no magic bullet, and therefore it's a case of hardening rather than solving this problem. The trouble with that is it's the weakest link that gets you every time, and it's very hard in advance to decide from what direction you might be attacked.

Although lots of countries are aware of the problem and they're trying to do something about it, not much optimism is really out there.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Turning to another question, if I have time, I would like to ask the panel, what are some lessons learned from the recent operations? What did the Canadian Forces learn from Afghanistan, from the torment in Haiti, and in their domestic operations? What are the lessons learned for future consideration?

3:20 p.m.

Professor, Department of History, and Dean of Continuing Studies, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Michael Hennessy

I'll jump into the fray.

For years in NATO discussions there was debate over what collective balanced forces meant, and NATO policy had been for years that every nation's responsible for ensuring they have a collective balanced force. Every country kind of iterates how they answer that question differently.

For many years Canada's response was largely we will provide what we provide and fit into a bunch of other resources that others have. I think the operational experience of 15 years is that we need a much more robust internally complete force structure so that we have the command and control, we have much of the intelligence, we have the very esoteric human intelligence types of resources that in the 1960s and 1970s we could rely on other parts of NATO to provide. We need those domestically.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Very briefly.

3:20 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

I think it indicates we need to have the capabilities to do the job on the ground. It indicates that not all allies will be as committed to the mission as we are, and we have to be careful about that. It indicates that these sorts of conflicts undertaken for the best of reasons can be ambiguous in their moral and strategic outcome, and it indicates that while the public very much supports the armed forces, it may not continue to support the mission.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Time has expired.

Mr. Kellway.