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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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Merci.

Before we go to our third and final round, I want to ask Dr. Bland a question.

In your opening comments you made a fairly significant assumption about the deficit reduction action plan and the size of cuts you're expecting in the upcoming budget from National Defence. You painted such a gloom-and-doom picture. What percentage of cuts are you anticipating or did you base your remarks on?

3:45 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

Mostly, it's at least going to be 5% and probably 10%. We don't know, but that's what's being batted around. Officials I've talked to obviously don't talk about what's going to happen, and maybe they don't know, but that's where their minds are lurking, so to speak.

You have to understand, and perhaps do, that 50% of the defence budget goes to wages for military people and for public servants; 20% more goes to the capital program to buy stuff for the future force—ships, airplanes, and all that procurement stuff. Unless you're going to cut a whole bunch of people, and that's what we've done in big wallops over the years since 1962—you save money by cutting people—if you're going to cut 10% out of the budget, you're going to have to take it out of operations and maintenance, which is about $4 billion. Do you think you can find $2 billion of cuts out of $4 billion? I don't think so.

If it's a high percentage, there will be significant difficulties reaching those objectives without taking people out of the thing. I have a paper here, written by someone else looking at Andy Leslie's work, that speaks about “personnel reinvestment potential”, which is a nice bureaucratic way of putting things. In other words, these are people you can throw over the side. In the forces and in the department, the number comes out to 10,400 people who are now, according to Andy Leslie's report, perhaps redundant to the system. That's why I say the big cuts are going to go to the reserves—4,000 people, maybe, or something like that. There's no other way to make the cuts than to go into big numbers.

The point is, when they say they're going to “reset”—everybody has to use football terms in the military these days—the Canada First defence strategy, it means that we're going to keep the objectives, but we're not going to do them this year; we're going to do them next year. It's the way I do repairs on the cottage: “Next year I'll take care of that part.” You keep pushing things off into the future, when you'll have more money. We've been doing that year after year after year: we'll keep the program and we'll get the money next year when there's more money. Do you know what? Next year there isn't any more money, and then you start again.

That's my overly pessimistic view, Chair, of the position we're heading into.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

I'll take it in that context, as overly pessimistic, and hope for the best.

Comments were made also during today's testimony about resetting our foreign policy: rather than having our borders pushed out to some place over in Europe or Asia or even Africa, possibly having a western-hemispherical concept of what we do as a nation with our armed forces.

I wonder whether that's the way we wish to proceed in the future, from the standpoint of military readiness: working with our allies or our neighbours in the western hemisphere.

What do you see our forces looking like? Is it going to be still army, navy, air force, or is it going to be something different? Equipment needs change significantly.

Dr. Sokolsky.

3:50 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

Mr. Chairman, I apologize if I gave the impression that I was looking for a hemispheric.... I think we were making—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Dr. Bland definitely made that comment, but I know that you were also saying to change where the borders—

3:50 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

No, I think we will maintain a global foreign policy; we'll perhaps just be more discreet in where we go. I've personally never been attracted to a western-hemispheric approach. You'd have to ask yourself what's in it for the other nations of the hemisphere. What do we bring? We're already doing quite a bit. We're doing counter-narcotics. Is that something we want to do more of? Brazil seems to be a rising power.

But I believe we will maintain a global horizon, rather than just a hemispheric one, given the nature of our trade.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

But Doctor, you did talk about Canada. We have no apologies to make for the load we've carried at the international level.

3:50 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

That's correct.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Some of our NATO allies we can criticize for not doing enough. What do you anticipate is our role within NATO or in NATO's future?

3:50 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

NATO's flexible response is not just NATO's strategy—it is its whole life. It's able to cope with things, and unless there is some major crisis that breaks up the alliance it will continue to do certain things. It may well be involved in other activities.

There is no reason for us to push NATO contradictions to their logical conclusions. It will always be a contradictory organization. As long as it doesn't cost us a lot to stay in and have a seat at the table, there's no reason why we can't continue. Some of the nations we're able to work with on an ad hoc basis. We will also be interested in the Pacific, but the scope there may well be limited by resources.

Looking to the future, the main thing is our trade. Trade has to follow our security pulse. Does the fact that we trade more with China and others mean a greater security engagement? You can have a lot of trade without security leaks. I believe Canada has basically followed a realist foreign policy. In a sense, we've been closet realists. We don't always express it, but we always do it.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Dr. Bland, do you want to follow up?

3:55 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

You open up academics to argue with each other, but my friend Joel asked what was in it for Latin Americans if Canada were to take a greater role. I could ask the same question about east Europeans and others if Canada were to take a greater role in NATO.

To answer the first question, I have experience with Latin Americans and have worked with the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington over the last number of years. What's in it for Latin Americans if Canada is involved? We're not the United States. It's very big on their agenda that they have somebody to talk to who is not the United States, and they will say that to you all the time. They want to be allied with us. The Mexicans do too. Don't forget, we have a war going on just across the American border. Some 20,000 people have been killed in the last few years, drug runners and others. There are all sorts of problems. Latin Americans would like Canada to be involved in the discussions in international organizations that affect them.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

Since we're not in a real big rush, we'll do the third round. Gentlemen, I ask that you keep your responses to the point.

Mr. Christopherson.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to our witnesses. This has been very engaging and very helpful.

I have a macro question. General Leslie's report has been referred to a couple of times today. It's not a primary focus of our studies, but we can't escape the fact that it touches on issues of transition. It's difficult for us to be looking at readiness without coming to some kind of conclusion vis-à-vis General Leslie's report.

I would throw it open to any of you who would like to comment on the report, its relevancy to our work, and how much of it we should take to heart and include in our findings. Or perhaps you think it has the wrong focus and you would suggest that we look 180 degrees in the opposite direction. I would open it up to any witnesses who would like to comment.

3:55 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

I have read the report and talked to Andy Leslie. I have known him for a long time. He was given a mission by the minister to think outside the box, as people like to say these days, and he did that. He came up with a number of models for reorganizing the defence establishment, and that's where these cuts that could be made here and there and everywhere come from. He had a large team of military and civilian personnel. The civil servants were withdrawn from his team halfway through the project. But it was a good team.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Sorry. They withdrew...?

3:55 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

About halfway through the project, as I understand it, the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence decided that his part of the team would leave the process and General Leslie carried on with the remainder of the military team.

So it's not surprising in these kinds of things, when you start to suggest big complicated changes to complex organizations, that there's going to be strife. There has to be strife.

The thing that is interesting to me is this assessment of the state of the defence establishment, the armed forces and the department. They're two separate organizations in law. They're not joined in any way except in carrying out policies. This study should have been done before we went to Afghanistan or right as we were going into Afghanistan. The Canadian Forces and the headquarters were not prepared to go to war. That's why General Hillier started making his transformation, so he could get the armed forces ready to go to war, but what happened as the war continued, in the civil side especially, was the sense that it was business as usual and we'd just patch on more staff and more people to take care of this inconvenience of the war in Afghanistan.

I toy with the idea that it would have been interesting and we would have had a purposeful transformation of the Canadian Forces and the department and maybe lots of other parts of the government, if in 2003, 2004, or 2005, the government—whichever government happened to be around at that time—had said to the Minister of National Defence, “You're going to war, you're going to take on this business, and you're not getting any more resources. So go around your own department and go find them. Go find the efficiencies and use those efficiencies to carry on the war.”

But that's not what we did. As I said, they said, okay, we're going to war, and then grudgingly, incrementally, reluctantly, people started patching on a little bit of this, and we changed an idea and we're going to have the whole government concept...we'll patch on another piece and so on.

So you end up now with this large organization that is now going to be scaled back, but we hadn't done the transformation, not for fighting the kinds of wars some anticipate we're going to be in. So we haven't applied the lessons of the operation to what we're doing.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. McKay.

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I wanted to carry on this fantasism versus realism question. Professor Bland says that one of the air force, navy, or army has to go, and Professor Sokolsky says no. Professor Sokolsky says somehow or other, in some way, we're going to have a global presence throughout, and Professor Bland says not global, maybe not even hemispheric, and possibly mostly continental. You rightly say that less is going to have to happen with less. We are going to have to just sort of....

In some respects the argument is founded upon what Canada's interests are. If I look at my riding, I see there's virtually no conflict anywhere in the world that doesn't affect my riding. You name it, and there's a diaspora community that's represented in my riding. So if I'm projecting, looking forward, I'm seeing more call upon all of Canada's interests, all of Canada's abilities, as it projects itself into the world in various fashions, not entirely military but certainly rooted in military capability.

So I'm not sure. I certainly don't think I agree with Professor Bland. On the other hand, he does make a pretty significant point about what Canada's interests are. So I'd be interested in the dialogue between that side of the table and this side of the table as to how that circle is going to get squared.

4 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

Many issues around the world affect people in Canada. The issue before the committee is to what extent do the armed forces need to be prepared to meet them, and to what extent generally are the armed forces the proper instrument in policy?

Let's say we have narcotics as a problem. What do we do? From time to time we send a ship into the Caribbean. Can we afford it? Yes, it's just one ship. We keep it on station for a while, and then we withdraw it. When we withdraw it, does that mean we are no longer interested in it? No; it means we can't maintain it. Counter-terrorism is a threat to Canada. What do we do? We're in Afghanistan, but from time to time we rotate a ship into the Mediterranean. Can we afford it? Yes. Are we going to put five ships in the Mediterranean? No, because it's not that important. Somebody messes with our fishing? We'll put five ships out there because that's immediate.

You're right, these are shades of grey here. When I say we'll maintain a global presence, it may mean military-to-military contacts. We have been participating in the RIMPAC exercises across the Pacific for years. Does that mean we're a major player in Pacific security? No, but we've expressed our interest.

That's where I think we'll retain it. If we have to go ashore on a more concerted operation, that's more of a risk. As far as the hemispheric, I'll just come back to Doug's point. The Mexicans would like us to become more involved and they feel uncomfortable with the Americans. Unfortunately, we do feel comfortable with the Americans. The last thing we need is for Washington to look around and say Canada is joining the others because they feel uncomfortable with us. Our main trade is with the United States. Our main cooperation is there. There are problems on the U.S.-Mexican border. That's something we should completely stay away from.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Amen, brother.

4:05 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

We have no interest in it. It's apart from immigration. When it comes to homeland security—I'll be as blunt as Doug has been on other things—the last thing we want is for the United States to equate Canada with Mexico when it comes to homeland security.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

We're going to move on. Mr. Norlock, you have the last question.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much. I thought I wouldn't be as frustrated as I am. I have two gloom-and-doomers on the left, and two sort of positive guys on the right.

Mr. Bland, when you say 50% for wages and benefits, I come from one of Canada's largest police forces, and about 90% of the budget is salaries and benefits, so 50% is not too bad.

Mr. Sokolsky, I guess I'm not a very technologically apt person; as a matter of fact, I am very comfortable with pen and paper. I guess it's frustration. It's not anger, it's just frustration. Yesterday and today we had somebody come talk about cyberspace to us, and tell us everything that's wrong with what we are doing, but offered absolutely no solution, or very little in the way of solution. I'm just going to ask you to confirm this or not, sir. Is it because it's so new that we really don't know what we need to do? Or is there a best practice?

I'm a practical person, so I always look for somebody who has solved something better for me. The way I look at our military situation is the way we look at our financial situation. The world is shrinking every day. If somebody farts in the Middle East, our stock markets go wacky, and people say we better send a jet over. There's civil disobedience in some far-off country that hardly anybody knows about, and all of a sudden our sabres get rattling and the stock markets go this way.

It is a small world. I agree with Dr. Sokolsky: we're going to be engaged whether we like it or not. Or we can be shrinking violets and just sell a whole lot of stuff to the world and become very affluent. I don't see us being that. Canada has a history of always punching above its weight. When something needs to be done, we do it.

Mr. Skillicorn, is there a best practice? Do you have any solutions to our cyberspace issues that threaten our security?

4:05 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

Here's how we got into this position. The Internet was designed to work within government laboratories in the U.S. of the size of about ten; it now connects 12 billion computers, and it's rapidly climbing, with essentially the same technology. Nothing has changed. It was never designed for security and security isn't really workable.

The bottom line is an economic one. You can buy a PC; you can put Windows on it for a couple of hundred dollars. If you wanted that to be a secure piece of software with a secure network, you'd be looking at $50,000, and that's why we live with the software quality that we do. It's a long history of economic choices, all of which at the time seemed reasonable, but which have got us to a place that's very hard to get out of.