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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

3:20 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 Conservative 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 Conservative James Bezan

Mr. Kellway, now you have the floor.

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

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP 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 Conservative 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 Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

To move on, we have Mr. Alexander.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative 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 Conservative 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 Conservative 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—

3:35 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

Obviously the work they do is classified, so we can't say very much about it here.

I think in the post-Second World War period, signals intelligence was largely about satellite dishes and satellites and stuff like that. But since, I guess, the early seventies perhaps signals intelligence has been much more about computer networks and interception on computer networks. The skill set that's required to do that kind of interception doesn't look very different in the end from the skill set being used by people to develop malware and intrude on civilian systems to do bad things or criminal things or commercial things. I think it's that synthesis that has paid off for them.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

How has it paid off?

3:35 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

The people they have with expertise in one of those fields automatically have the expertise in the other fields. So when cyber-intrusion started to become a problem, not only did they understand exactly what was happening at a technical level, but they had probably already done it themselves, and therefore they were very much aware of what it would look like and what was possible and what was not.

I think that's the payoff: Those two things overlap technically to such a great extent that you get almost double the bang for every idea or expenditure or person that you put in that space.

3:35 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

I'll just tidy up a few things.

GDP as a measure of defence is not a very useful measure. What it does is suggest to people what the national effort will be. It's a measure of national effort. Out of 100% of our GDP, the effort we're willing to put forward is less than 2%. That's all it means. It doesn't mean anything more or less than that, because the 2% that we put out might be a hell of a lot better than 10% put out by somebody else.

As for cyber-warfare and so on, the Canadian armed forces have been involved in electronic warfare since early in the Second World War. On the base, here at the communications school, and in units, there is a Canadian electronic warfare unit. They go everywhere the Canadian Forces go. It's not necessarily cyber, but sometimes it is. Listening to the other guy talk about what he's going to do tomorrow is always a good thing if you're a military commander, and that's what they do--they listen to people, and they've been doing it for a long time.

So joining the military and cyber into some sort of new government department might be a good idea, but you're still going to have an electronic warfare component in the Canadian Forces. You're going to have to, because you can't operate without it.

We talk a lot about--and we talked about it here--threats to Canada from different things, cyber and who knows what. I try not to let my students talk about threats to Canada--and some of them are sitting behind me, or at least they were. It's not a very good measure when you're trying to write national security policy or national defence policy.

What you need to worry about is vulnerability. The world is full of threats. Everybody's a threat. There are all kinds of threats. You can't address them all, so you need to separate out threats from vulnerabilities. What are we vulnerable to? For a quick example, the Japanese economy is vulnerable to a shut-off of oil and gas. We're not. So we need to think about separating threats from vulnerabilities, and then you act to mitigate vulnerabilities, not to shut down all the threats.

As to where we're going to go and what we're going to do in the future, we will be able to do less with less, first of all. Second, we've learned to be perhaps more discreet about where we're going to go and where we're going to send people. Don't forget, Canada doesn't go to war in these places; Canadian soldiers go to war in these places. So if I may say so, it's your responsibility to make sure, as Joel Sokolsky has said, that they're properly equipped and properly supported. And sometimes politicians will say “Sorry, we can't go, period”.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

Monsieur Brahmi.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions are mainly for Professor Bland and to a lesser extent, Professor Skillicorn, and have to do with cybersecurity.

I tend to share your opinion with regard to one of the aspects you mentioned. I think that for a number of years now the Canadian Forces resources have been reduced, while the scope of their missions has been increased.

I rather agree with you when you say that the percentage of the gross domestic product or the gross national product does not really make sense. We can look to the United States for an example, where the United States Coast Guard has a very different responsibility that is not really taken into account in the expenditures of the armed forces.

We can also take search and rescue as an example. In some countries, that responsibility has clearly been assigned to the Department of the Interior or to civil defence authorities. Moreover, certain countries consider that emergency humanitarian aid is part of foreign affairs and not the responsibility of the armed forces.

Am I right to think that we have a tendency to add...? For instance, cybersecurity is a new responsibility for the armed forces. Is there not a tendency to reduce the resources of the armed forces, while increasing their responsibilities, over time?

3:40 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

I'm not sure—maybe I'm out of date—that cyber-defence is a Canadian Forces responsibility. Again, we need to get our definitions straight. There's a thing called national defence policy. There's another thing called national security policy. That's where there is a crossover. I don't think we have an adequately defined national security policy. Someone mentioned that a critical infrastructure report was just done at Queen's called “Canada's Critical Infrastructure”. The point is, we don't have any critical infrastructure policy in this country. There are a lot of bureaucrats, but no policy.

As far as the kinds of missions you load on to the armed forces, a favourite complaint of the armed forces is that search and rescue is not a military job. It just happens to be a military job by tradition or from habit. I was in a meeting with general officers and a defence minister, who I won't name, and the general said to the defence minister, “We want to get rid of search and rescue, go give it to Transport Canada or somebody”. And he said to them, “Fellows, the money all comes out of one pot as far as the government is concerned. We're going to have to pay for search and rescue, so we'll give the money to Transport Canada, and we'll take it away from you.” The general said, “Wait a minute, that wasn't what we're talking about. We were talking about keeping the money and your giving the job to somebody else.” Well, the world doesn't work like that, and Canadian governments don't work like that.

3:40 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

I think it's instructive to look at the history of intelligence. The British Security Service and the British Security Intelligence Service are still widely known as MI-5 and MI-6 because of their origins in military intelligence. With new, difficult-to-understand technologies and the resulting activities, it's often very helpful to do them within a military context first, because everything is much cleaner. It's better delineated. You have better command and control than trying to develop it in the civilian circumstance. It might move out into the civilian situation, but what I see in most western governments is a lot of thrashing around trying to decide where this piece of the puzzle should live. At the moment, it seems to me to be an easy solution, or at least a straightforward solution.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

I'd like to put another question to Professor Bland.

You stated that we are supposed to intervene within the framework of NATO. However, the ordinary citizen notes certain things with regard to recent NATO interventions. There are 27, 28 or 29 NATO member countries; I don't remember the exact figure. In the case of Libya, for instance, only three or four of these member countries intervened.

How does this unbalance the role of the Canadian army? After all, these interventions are supposed to take place within the NATO framework.

3:45 p.m.

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

Dr. Douglas Bland

Yes. It's an important impediment to rallying Canadian support for so-called NATO missions, and so on, when the other guys refuse to play completely in the program. It's an alliance problem. This stems from--not to lecture too much--article 5 of the treaty that people half-quote a lot of times. People think the article is "one for all and all for one", except the second part says that nations can join in as they think is appropriate for themselves.

The complaints that nations went to Afghanistan and didn't take part in that part of the mission--they dropped out of those kinds of things--is completely consistent with the North Atlantic Treaty. Ironically, for Americans who complain about this problem, it was the Americans who put that caveat into the treaty when it was written. The United States Congress would not sign any treaty that obligated the United States to take part in military actions that Congress hadn't approved. So the only way to get the Washington treaty signed in 1949 was to put in article 5 with big caveats that said "all for one and one for all, most of the time maybe”. So that's where it is.

We just have to live with that, or we take on commitments, or we go into operations as we did in former Yugoslavia and bomb people without NATO or the UN, and just take on the missions anyway. At the end of the day political leaders in Canada, the United States, and everywhere else will decide whether it's in the national interest to get involved in an armed conflict someplace, no matter whether the UN or NATO are interested. It's about whether we're interested. I think that's how we will form our policy.