Thank you, sir.
I must point out that these are personal comments, and they are not reflective of the opinion of the Department of National Defence. I'll read most of my statement.
As a historian, I am pretty loath to make any predictions of what the future is going to look like, except to know that the future is uncertain, but we have some certainties about what's going to be there. We know enough of the uncertainties to suggest some essential coping strategies for ensuring a robust response to emergent, though perhaps unanticipated, challenges.
The known knowns of the “Future Security Environment” start with the usual bromides, which you'll see everywhere. To summarize these points, we face an emerging, complex, challenging, and uncertain future security environment: rogue states, however and whoever defines them as such; the rise of Brazil, India, and China; the decline of our traditional allies within what you might call the “Anglo-sphere”; potential resource wars over water, oil, or rare earths—take your pick; new access to the Arctic northwest and northeast passages; atomic, cyber, biological, and chemical warfare and threat proliferation; and global al Qaeda and other transnational terrorist threats. To this mix, add the never-stable new fiscal reality. These and similar issues are not going to go away any time soon.
However, except for Arctic issues and sovereignty patrols, our forces are structured primarily for highly discretionary external deployment. With fifteen years of large-scale experience in such external deployment, the CF are arguably much better organized to deploy and to sustain these external commitments than ever before, and that experience includes all of our First and Second World War experiences. In particular, there are much better command, control, coordination, communications, and intelligence facilities, not just for the deployed forces, but also for our headquarters in Ottawa and for the national command authority. They are much better prepared now than in 1995, 2001, or 2008. I'll return to these significant developments before I close.
Our forces require the ability to remain part of the first-tier potential combatants, or to at least be close enough to be an attractive ally to those who are in the first tier. There's a big technological bill to be paid there. That places a burden on our forces to maintain and to keep all of the standard conventional technologies, as well as many of the organizational and administrative arrangements that make it look like a military, while also evolving and responding to bring in new capabilities, some of which are very non-traditional capabilities and capacities at that. Recapitalizing the Canadian Forces both to meet the known traditional issues and to deal with new ones will remain an ongoing challenge. The new technologies are too capable to ignore—weapons are faster, more accurate, more destructive, more stealthy, and of greater range. In the game of survival on a modern battlefield, all of those characteristics are of telling consequence, because one can't bet the short game on second chances: all of the technologies conspire to not give you a second chance. Our forces are not necessarily optimized for long, drawn-out mobilization and the slow buildup of forces; they are geared for the short game.
But readiness is not simply about the kit or the command and control. The most important element is certainly the people in the Canadian Forces and in the Department of National Defence. Both are dependent on attracting, developing, and retaining the right sorts of people—those with the personal strengths, mental agility, physical dexterity, and emotional resolve to thrive in harm's way, while upholding the best of Canadian values. Career and service conditions help ensure some of that robustness. However, to be agile in the face of changing circumstances and unpredictable demands, all members require a high degree of what American literatures refer to as cognitive readiness, which is the intellectual and mental disposition to rise to those challenges and to formulate new responses.
As you know, armed forces train according to doctrine, and doctrine, in theory, is based on captured experiences and reflections on that experience. But what is taught as rote knowledge in doctrine is almost always a step or two behind contemporary experience. As our forces draw back from large-scale external deployments, the range of experiences will diminish and hard lessons may be lost. This is most particularly true of the army. The navy must always have ships that float and make headway, just as the air force must know how to fly and will continue to do so, with or without external deployments. But an army must often sit and wait, and that can be corrosive in many ways. Active training regimes are expensive but essential. Moreover, we can learn a very good deal by watching and studying the experiences of others. To be ready for a come-as-you-are war or deployment, there must be an investment in the long-term preparation of minds for the travails of war—and substitute other things besides war if you'd like, such as conflict; defence posturing; alliance or coalition cooperation or coordination; the framing of new tactics; operational techniques; or the incorporation of, or responses to, unimagined new weapons systems. All of those things need well-prepared minds.
That means an investment in the minds for the strategic leadership and resource management skills from the lowest to the highest levels of the organization. Cognitive readiness at the tactical and operational and higher levels is the foundation of CF and DND agility but receives very little attention or recognition.
A little plug for RMC: What we do at RMC, at RMC Saint-Jean, and with our faculty at the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Toronto helps set some foundations for the cognitive readiness of the forces.
Attracting, developing, and retaining the best is an enduring challenge, but DND and the CF are not synonyms. The department has responsibilities--e.g., defence diplomacy, defence policy, things like security, CSE, and other capabilities--that are not part of the Canadian Forces. These also require consideration and attention when we consider all aspects of future readiness.
The experience of the past decade and a half has illustrated that such a cognitive foundation was not pre-existing at the highest levels of government. I could elaborate on examples and historical reasons DND was not, for instance, geared to be a war-fighting headquarters. The great strides made in developing national command-and-control coordination and intelligence assets over that period of 15 years illustrate the extent of some of the deficiency. As said previously, these capabilities and others, even more esoteric capabilities in, say, human intelligence and influence operations to name but two, are far more developed today than they were even a decade ago.
As we look to the future, the hard-learned lessons of the past 15 years should not be overlooked, but could be easily overlooked if not properly recognized. Whatever the future holds, it will be the people in the loop who make the difference between being prepared and not being prepared.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.