Evidence of meeting #41 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 nato.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Rasa Jukneviciene  Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania
  • David Perry  Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

12:45 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I'm not sure there are as many good examples as the one that you just raised where that kind of specialization can work. For instance, patrolling and keeping safe the airspace of a member that we're obligated to defend is in our interest as the rest of the alliance. I'm not sure to what extent there are many other opportunities that are that clear-cut, where it's simply much better for the rest of the alliance to ensure the security of that airspace than it would be to have it go poorly or undefended.

If you look at other situations, I think particularly in the context of crisis management response, the real issue is not whether or not you specialize and whether or not as an alliance you can gain more capability with certain people having certain things; that's great as long as you have a reasonable certainty that the people who have specialized to do X are actually going to send X on whatever operation you're currently involved in. If you don't have the confidence that they're going to be able to deploy what they've specialized in, then you really haven't gained much overall, right?

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Is this development of the new strategic concept largely not, I guess, a very meaningful one? Is that your suggestion?

Secondly, you talk at the end of your presentation paper about focusing Canadian smart defence efforts at this key group of France, Britain, and the United States. Can you give us some concrete notion of what that focusing might reap?

12:45 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

With respect to the first part, I'm not saying that the strategic concept overall is moot; it's just that smart defence, which is one component of the NATO program going forward, will be very challenging to implement, because I don't think....

I mean, the concept of an alliance that shares burdens is certainly nothing new. I think smart defence is an attempt to put a brave face on a pretty challenging fiscal environment and say that despite the fact that everyone is gutting their defence budget and everyone is disarming, we're still going to be able to do the same stuff we did before. I'm pretty pessimistic that we're not going to actually see the alliance as a whole being able to do less with less resources.

With regard to the focus on smart defence, targeting the smaller subset, again, this is going back to the comment I made that it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to me that you're going to have specialization with a whole bunch of people at the level of the alliance writ large, if not all of them are going to be there when you actually want to do something.

If you were to target some things, potentially things like ISR surveillance aircraft, looking at down the road acquiring that kind of a capability, that might be an area where you could work out some kind of cooperative arrangement with some of those partners and develop not at the level of the wider alliance—which I think, incidentally, is part of the reason that we aren't going forward with the AGS and the AWACS contribution.

There were concerns that despite the fact that we're contributing to this—and the amount of money was pretty small, about $20 million—that because it was common funded, and received part of the funding through NATO's common funding, when you wanted to deploy it to do something, everybody got a vote and a veto, essentially, and if you didn't have consensus, you might not be able to use it.

So if you could take even those similar types of capabilities, such as surveillance, within the smaller subset, that might be something we can build on.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

To try to bring this down to something a little more concrete, would this focusing on Canadian smart defence efforts impact, in your view, procurement plans for this country?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

Potentially, yes.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Do you have any notions about in what way?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

The plan to acquire UAV, I believe medium-altitude UAV, through the JUSTAS program might be one, for instance. That's the kind of surveillance capability that Libya showed was, one, in very short supply, and two, essentially a necessity now in any potential operational scenario.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Time has expired.

Mr. Alexander.

May 17th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Chair, for not forgetting the rest of us members of the committee. We're delighted to be part of this conversation.

Thanks for your testimony, Mr. Perry. Your work is extremely interesting.

I want to drill down a little bit into the concept of “leading from behind”. You made it clear that the United States provided enablers and leadership in other forms without which the mission literally couldn't have gotten off the ground. Was it the U.S. leading from behind, though, or the U.S in NATO leading from behind?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

That's a good question. I'm not sure about that.

I think overall it was largely a political decision in Washington that they didn't want to be seen to be out front, ahead of everyone else, on another intervention in that part of the world. There are also issues with President Obama's relationship with Congress, and about whether this was or was not a conflict that triggered a bunch of congressional involvements.

So there was a desire, definitely, to take a bit of back seat. I think that even applied before NATO assumed command. When Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched with the United States, Britain, and France, even then you saw President Sarkozy taking surely a more publicly prominent role in leading the charge, even before it transitioned to NATO leadership.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Right. But putting aside the issue of political will, which was expressed sometimes more visibly, sometimes less visibly, was the actual command and control form of leadership mostly from NATO commands—the operational one was led by Charlie Bouchard, but obviously there were higher commands above him—or was it mostly from U.S. stand-alone commands?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

It's my understanding, at least certainly with the air component, that it was done through NATO.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

And for the maritime component and the overall strategic direction?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I would have to check on that, but I believe it was also NATO-directed.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

So this concept of leadership from behind, which you've analyzed in the case of Libya, I think also has a current application for NATO in Afghanistan, to the extent that many nations are now shifting to a training mission as opposed to a first-echelon combat mission.

Do you see the concept of leading from behind, enabling the forces of non-NATO countries, as something that is compatible with this strategic concept?