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

8:45 a.m.


The Chair James Bezan

Good morning, everyone. We're going to get going with meeting number 14 of the Standing Committee on National Defence. We're going to continue with our study, under Standing Order 108(2), on the readiness of the Canadian armed forces.

Joining us today is Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin, chief of the land staff, and joining him is Sergeant-Major Gino Moretti.

Welcome, both of you.

General, if you could give us your opening comments, we'd appreciate it.

November 22nd, 2011 / 8:45 a.m.

Lieutenant-General Peter J. Devlin Chief of the Land Staff, Department of National Defence

Good morning.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, it gives me great pleasure to be with you this morning along with Chief Warrant Officer Gino Moretti, Sergeant-Major of the Canadian army. I would also like to thank General Natynczyk, the Chief of the Defence Staff, for giving me the opportunity to—in fact, my first opportunity—to talk to you about a subject that is very dear to my heart, as commander of the Canadian army, the readiness of our troops.

The Canadian army maintains a presence in over 250 Canadian communities. Close to 4,700 Canadian Rangers are on patrol in the North. Some 44,000 service personnel, of whom 50% are reservists, are integrated into the larger Canadian community. And roughly 5,700 civilian employees serve on the Canadian army team. These men and women are grouped into ten reserve brigades and three regular force brigades, and can also be found on bases and in schools and headquarters. Each one of these individuals helps ensure the operational readiness of the army, as well as contributing actively to the army's force generation effort; in addition, 35% of the army's strength is integrated into other commands and services.

Canada's military keeps watch on potential instabilities around the world that could require advice or rapid response on behalf of the government, but it never knows where its people or assets may be deployed or the nature or type of mission required. As a result, the primary duty of the army, as well as the entire military institutional structure, is to stand ready with a capacity to respond to any challenge in any part of the world where it might be ordered to go.

The army is a different army than it was 10 years ago. In the decade following the attacks on the World Trade Center, the entire world security situation has changed dramatically, and we have been compelled to keep up with it. The Canadian army must be nimble, highly trained, and immediately responsive to a menu of new and unanticipated challenges. It must be trained, equipped, and funded to operate in numerous theatres, often simultaneously: from snow in the Arctic to jungles in Africa, from a potential train derailment and evacuation in Port Hope to flooding on the Red River. It must be flexible enough that it can get fresh water using the disaster assistance response team, DART, to a tsunami-affected area in the South Pacific while at the same time delivering relief efforts to Haiti.

These tasks are not mutually exclusive but rather parts of a Canadian Forces skill and asset matrix for domestic and international deployment that changes as the situation and government priorities deem necessary.

Your current undertaking of conducting an in-depth study of readiness is timely to ensure that the Canadian Forces deliver on the six core missions enunciated within the Canada First defence strategy. I understand that the committee has received copies of the Canada First defence strategy, which includes an outline of the six core missions of the Canadian Forces.

With these missions in mind, I would say that we really have two major vistas that we must take into account on our watch.

At home, domestic and community responsiveness is where the CF stands ready to provide disaster relief in Canadian communities and search and rescue services for Canadians; patrol our land, maritime, and air space; protect our ocean trade routes; enforce sovereignty in our north; fight the war on terrorism; help defend Canada's computer networks; and assist with security at international events hosted by Canada.

And away, international and allied responsiveness is where the CF stands ready to provide disaster relief in other countries; participate in peacekeeping operations like those ongoing in the Middle East; field a specifically trained combat-ready armed force; provide the capabilities to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions; work with our allies in NATO operations; participate in peace-building operations, which might require some armed intervention in world trouble spots; and contribute to international peace and security through missions like counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Africa.

Before commenting on readiness, I would like to emphasize a few central points about your army. We are centred on a soldier, a soldier who today possesses a warrior spirit—the confidence and skill that comes from fighting and is reinforced by respect from Canadians. Our soldiers live in units that provide them with core skills, assurance, and esprit de corps.The army equips the soldier, and our equipment programs, such as future land combat vehicles, deliver an important capability to Canada.

We operate in combined arms teams where we synchronize the complementary skills of these great Canadians and their gear to deliver effect on the battlefield. Also, I use the phrase that “Canada's army is the force of decisive action”, as there is nothing more decisive than committing boots on the ground.

Readiness, as you know, Mr. Chair, was defined by the CDS as the ability to get the right people with the right skill sets and the right equipment into the right place at the right time. It is a measure of the ability of an element of the Canadian Forces, in my case elements of the army, to undertake an approved task.

I'd like to refer you to my two handouts, “Army Field Force” and “Army Training Readiness”. One of the fundamentals of maintaining a combat-capable Canadian army resides in its institution. Field forces would not only be in jeopardy; they would not exist without the institution.

To depict the importance, I'd like to use a triangle. At the base we find the institution composed of 17 schools and training centres, like the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown, the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright, our 11 army bases, and various headquarters that all provide the leadership, the foundation training, and the support we need to prepare our troops and combined arms units being sent out to help Canadians at home or defend our values abroad.

At the middle of the triangle you find our units that form the field force working through a series of annual individual battle-task standards, individual skill sets, or new competencies such as learning to use new equipment, and participating in collective training events and exercises. This provides a field force with normal readiness and includes army formations and units, immediate response units, Arctic response company groups, and territorial battalion groups. These are army units ready to deploy to fight forest fires or assist with ice storms and floods.

For example, after Hurricane Igor hit eastern Newfoundland, it took only a few hours to have reserve and regular force army personnel there. This operation was supported by the institution, in this case the army base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, which maintained the 24-7 operations to sustain the deployed troops, and the Joint Task Force Atlantic headquarters, which provided essential command and control over the mission and linkage with the whole-of-government partners. A thousand people in uniform, mostly army, were helping fellow Canadians in dire need within 12 hours from the provincial request for assistance.

From the section to brigade or task force level, high readiness is acquired through rigorous training to a collective battle-task standard prior to being declared operationally ready. This results in an army highly capable of conducting decisive actions in carrying out missions across a broad spectrum of employment as a joint force and integrating the enablers from our sister services. Not all army units will reach the highest degree of operational readiness, only those that have been identified for a task or mission such as a rotation in Afghanistan or somewhere else where the Canadian government commits forces, such as the disaster assistance response team in Haiti, or the non-combatant extraction operation in Lebanon. These units or formations are at the apex of the triangle.

The army manages readiness through a 24-month cycle that we call a managed readiness plan. In this plan, units or formations that have been tasked or assigned for various missions--some ongoing, others as contingencies or commitments to NATO, all within the guidelines of the Canada First defence strategy six core missions--are trained and readied.

On a parallel, what we are currently doing in Afghanistan is helping the Afghan National Army build that triangle. We are helping them to build their institution, train their field force, and prepare those Afghan units for a higher state of readiness, ready to fight for their country.

In conclusion, I would tell you this.

The first priority of a robust and well-equipped Canadian Forces is to protect Canadians and defend Canadian sovereignty at home and abroad. To do this we need the right institutional support to get the job done. The centrepiece of any successful future army capability is the soldier, possessing a warrior spirit and supported with modern, effective tools and equipment.

Mr. Chair, let me thank you for this great opportunity to contribute to this committee's study on readiness. Mr. Moretti and I stand proud to represent our soldiers who serve this country so well.

I'd like to just provide Mr. Moretti the opportunity to say a couple of words. Mr. Moretti is my command team partner, a master gunner with over 35 years of experience. I am honoured to be standing next to Mr. Moretti every single day, particularly when we are surrounded by great Canadian soldiers.

8:55 a.m.

Sergeant Major Gino Moretti Canadian Forces

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, as a soldier, I would like to express my thanks for the honour you pay me in allowing me to be here and represent all those Canadians who served and continue to serve our country today. They represent our nation, wherever they are deployed, either internationally or nationally.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair James Bezan

Thank you for those opening comments, gentlemen.

With that, we'll go to our first round.

Ms. Moore, you have seven minutes.

8:55 a.m.


Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you very much for being with us today.

In his 2011 Report on Transformation, Lieutenant-General Leslie suggested replacing the existing sector and command structure with two army commands. A first division would be made up of regular force members and would conduct operations outside the country, and a second division, made up of reservists, would carry out operations inside Canada. He also suggested creating a joint instruction and operational readiness organization for land operations in order to optimize commonalities.

I would like to know what you think of this suggestion. Do you think this would be a way to move forward and, if so, how?

8:55 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much.

I think it's very important to point out that Lieutenant-General Leslie's report was designed to be

a list of options that the military needed to pay attention to and study.

I have a great deal of respect for Lieutenant-General Leslie and his ideas. But my vision is somewhat different in terms of a two-division structure.

We are a big country with regional uniqueness. We are a military, and an army in particular, that has a very rich integration of the regular and reserve forces that has been built over years, particularly over our period of time in Afghanistan in combat. I'm fiercely proud of the relationship that exists between the regular and the reserve. I think there is great strength in keeping them in the same formations, and there is risk in separating the regular and the reserve into two divisions.

In my view, there is greater strength for Canada, for the CF and for the army, in keeping our regional structure and keeping the regular and reserve forces

integrated, together, as part of a much stronger team.

9 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

I would just like to add one thing, if you don't mind. Under the current structure, there is a direct line of command all across the country, in the case of a national event. People always say that history repeats itself. But we must never forget that, before Canada established the Canadian Forces, there was one division per sector. Each group reported to a command in cases of emergency involving the Government of Canada.

Because of the way we are structured, carrying out the tasks assigned to us as soldiers is an efficient process, both in terms of communication and resources. I firmly believe that the system currently in place works very well.

9 a.m.


Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

My second question relates to reservists.

In one plans and priorities report, it was suggested that the complement of class C reservists be gradually reduced. I would like to know what brought about that suggestion. Is the idea to reduce the number of class C reservists in order to increase the complement in classes B and A? If not, what is the purpose? Perhaps you could provide clarification in that regard.

9 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin


There are three classes, A, B and C. I believe your question relates to class B.

9 a.m.


Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Yes, I had—

9 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Let me start with class C. The class C soldier is on an operational task, an operational deployment.

Class B is a full-time soldier operating here domestically, in Canada, in support of the institution. As an example, they would be tasked to an HQ, or they could be tasked at the Combat Training Centre to help deliver training.

Then there is the class A soldier, the part-time soldier--the vast majority. That's the centrepiece of our reserve army. Mr. Moretti and I are hugely proud of that reserve army, that class A reserve army.

The reductions are class B reductions. Class C is when you are tasked to represent Canada. I don't believe that is the issue; it's more tied to class B.

We have grown over the period of Afghanistan with class Bs to help staff all the work that has been associated with the conflict in Afghanistan, to assist with training because of our commitment there.

As we have moved out of the combat mission--we are now in the training mission in Afghanistan--and we look to manage within our means, there will be a reduction in some of the class B positions inside the Canadian Forces and inside the army.

9 a.m.


Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

So, will these individuals go back into class A? How do you intend to reorient them? Will you encourage them to join the regular force? Or will you leave them in class A? What do you intend to do with these people?

9 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Perhaps I can use the example of

a reserve unit populated with class A soldiers.

There is a regular element that in the past supported our reserve units. Because of the conflict in Afghanistan, you might find that some of those reserve units are now populated with full-time class B soldiers to help that unit train and to coordinate with their brigades. We are now posting regular force soldiers into those reserve units to do the tasks that over the past several years have been done by class B soldiers.

Some of those class B soldiers might find employment in other opportunities inside the army or the CF, or they will revert to a part-time class A position inside their unit, and they would seek other additional employment outside the Canadian Forces or outside the army.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair James Bezan

Your time is up. Thank you very much.

Ms. Gallant, please.

9:05 a.m.


Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Through you to our witnesses, I would first of all thank you for coming, General Devlin. It's wonderful to see you again.

Since you left Base Petawawa as brigade commander, it's only been sporadically that we've had a chance to chat, but I have followed your career in the south, over to Iraq and then Afghanistan, and we're very proud of you. Even before then, you had a remarkable record in being awarded the commander-in-chief citation for opening the Sarajevo airport. We just had a member of our committee visit Sarajevo for a week through the NATO parliamentary association, so on her behalf, thank you very much for doing that.

About a month ago we were in Wainwright, and we observed the brigade-wide exercise there. I think the last time, if I recall correctly, that there was a brigade-wide exercise in Wainwright, you were in charge of the brigade. Is that correct?