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 forces.

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

3:20 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

Is there time for a response?

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Only if you can be very concise.

3:20 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

That's always difficult for me.

What we're being forced into is a situation where defence capabilities are falling, the amount of capability you get for a dollar is falling, and some governments eventually are going to have to make a choice whether we're going to be a worldwide nation, we're going to be a continental nation, or we're going to be perhaps an army or a navy or an air force, but not all of them.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Mr. Kellway, now you have the floor.

February 14th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses. Your contribution this afternoon has been, from my perspective, extremely welcome.

Even though they're kind of complicated issues, you have introduced what appears to be a very simple concept of discretion. There is discretion over what we do and how we deploy externally. Dr. Sokolsky, your notion of how far we project our borders is kind of an interesting metaphor for exercising that discretion.

Dr. Sokolsky and Dr. Hennessy, you seem to be saying that agility is a key characteristic of what our forces need going forward. I'm particularly interested in equipment, because my particular critic area is military procurement. What do agile Canadian Forces look like, going forward, in terms of equipment? Maybe the question, as Dr. Bland said, is whether we have an army, a navy, and an air force all at the same time or just one or two of those elements.

Let me open that up to you, please.

3:25 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

What do they look like?

We are going to have a naval capability that is able to operate in home waters and overseas. We're going to have to have some sort of high-seas capability, although the contribution of maritime power in certain areas may well be limited. But it's unlikely that we will need that, because it's something we need at home. As I mentioned, we don't have an armed coast guard and navy.

We need a minimal capability to provide air sovereignty protection for Canada and to contribute to NORAD. Although air defence isn't as important as it once was, we're unlikely to abandon modern jet fighters, and we probably want to retain a capability to use them overseas.

We'll need small-combat capability. We can only have a small one overseas, but we'll need the ability to send professional armed forces to various missions overseas when it's in our interest.

I'm not generally an optimistic person, but in fact we're going to have an army, a navy, and an air force. And they will not be simply continental. No matter how low we go, it will never be an exclusively continental or domestic force, because frankly there's not enough business domestically or on the continent for the military. The security of North America, homeland security, is largely in the hands of civilian agencies.

We will not have an amphibious capability. We've gotten on fairly well without an aircraft carrier. Most countries do. Our strategic lift has actually improved since the acquisition of the C-17s. If anyone thought we would have been able to acquire this capability so quickly before, they might have been mistaken.

I think we will maintain a broad capability. Can we sustain it in long struggles overseas? Probably not.

Again, I'm not a generally optimistic or happy person. But before whose capabilities need we be embarrassed? Where is the other country around the world, of a similar size, that has done more in the last 15 years than we have? A lot of the time we've asked a lot of the armed forces. We didn't give them enough. But frankly, I'm a little tired of having to apologize for what Canada does around the world, because when I look out, few have done as well. Perhaps it's the Snoopy approach: Canada is not much of a dog, but then again, who is?

As I suggested in my testimony, people are not going to step up and fill any void that America creates. The Europeans can barely afford to run their own countries. They're not going to be able to afford a major defence expenditure. We should not be lulled by the siren's call that others expect it of us. We can expect of others, too. I think we should.

We're going to have a smaller armed forces. It's going to be highly professional. It's going to be capable. The great danger is not in not going somewhere; it's going somewhere where we can't do the job. In your family life, if you can't afford to do it, you don't do it, particularly if it's a dangerous thing to do.

I think we'll have a broad capability. We have a good shipbuilding program coming on. We have obligations in the Arctic. We're engaging there. We will simply maintain that capability.

Fortunately, because I think we have to choose, we will be secure.

3:30 p.m.

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

Dr. Michael Hennessy

I know I have to keep this short.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

You're already out of time.

3:30 p.m.

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

Dr. Michael Hennessy

Okay, that's about as short as I can go.

The problem for our forces deploying overseas is they tend to have a very simple mission set. They have to be able to shoot, to move, communicate, and protect themselves, and those are all very situational, depending on what they're thrust into.

The experience of the past 15 years is that we don't want to return to having overseas deployed officers with no ammunition for their weapons. We had a general officer meet the second UN deployment to Somalia on the ground at the airport, in shorts, sandals, and with an unloaded weapon, while we sent in combat troops because the state wasn't prepared to fully support what he was doing. We don't want to return to that.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

To move on, we have Mr. Alexander.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you.

I just want to clarify the percentage of expenditure on GDP. My calculations—correct me if I'm wrong—are that today we're somewhere around 1.25%, with $21 billion or $22 billion of spending on $1.7 trillion of GDP. But that's nominal numbers. I know there are different ways of analyzing it. If you take a purchasing power parity version of our GDP, it's higher and has risen more over 2003-04.

But that wasn't my main point. I just want, for the record, to say we're spending more than 1% of GDP on national defence.

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

[Inaudible--Editor]

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

And, yes, we're all awaiting what will happen next month. I'm grateful for your speculative comments in that regard. It will be in the budget, and no one and no other forum will accurately predict what will be there.

My question, though, is about readiness for the future. I was fascinated by all of your comments, but I have a really simple question. Given that many of our allies are slashing their defence budgets and their capabilities—“transforming” is one way of putting it, but really, in absolute and relative terms they're going down—are there going to be more demands upon us away from our borders in expeditionary mode, the same, or fewer?

Of course this depends on your analysis of threats facing the world and what our national interests are, but give me your unvarnished opinion in that regard.

I'd like to start with Dr. Sokolsky. I think he addressed this most directly, but I wasn't quite sure where he was coming down on it.

3:30 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

I can anticipate more situations in which international organizations or our allies will cast about looking for assistance in the coming years and that Canada may receive further requests for these things. As I'm suggesting, we're going to have to ration that.

I believe that may well be the case, but as you know, what goes into a decision to say yes is who else is going, what they're sending, and what priority it is in Washington and London and Berlin, with a glance towards the domestic situation and hopefully on the advice of the Chief of the Defence Staff. Nobody deploys overseas for one reason alone, and it may be somewhat playing out before us if there's any movement toward any deployment into Syria.

It's who is going, who is supporting, and what they're sending. All I'm saying is that just like any other country, we make the decision based on our own calculation and interests with regard to the obligation we owe the men and women of the armed forces.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Great. I want to hear from Mr. Bland on this, but let me get in one more question. This is for Dr. Skillicorn, and a few of you can comment very briefly.

Yours is the first testimony we've heard where it points very clearly towards a signals intelligence organization as the natural home for cyber-security. That will be debated in our committee and elsewhere, but tell us a bit more about why you think GCHQ has it right and what proof there is of that. I heard the statement, and I've actually heard it from others, but I haven't heard it argued for in a very—