Thank you very much.
I'm here today as was just pointed out to discuss supplementary estimates (C), but first I would like to address a story that ran last night on CTV regarding an invitation officials sent to the families of our fallen soldiers regarding the May 9 National Day of Honour.
The letter was premature, incorrect, and contained false information as event plans have not been finalized. Our government is proud to commemorate our military's mission in Afghanistan and to provide Canadians with an opportunity to reflect on the courage and sacrifice made by our soldiers.
Throughout this mission in Afghanistan our troops demonstrated commitment, dedication, and valour. Sadly, many Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice during this mission and we owe their families a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. That is why it is the government's position that these expenses will be covered.
Now back to the subject of today's committee business.... As you pointed out, Mr. Chair, you've introduced those with me and I am pleased to be here this morning with them.
In a few moments I will also speak to you about the Communication Security Establishment, or CSE, and this is why, as was pointed out, I am joined by John Forster, the chief of CSE.
I understand that some members have a written version of the remarks from my last attempted appearance. I will however go through a number of my remarks to ensure that they are fully and appropriately on record.
Last time I spoke to you, I highlighted the good work of our men and women in uniform. I remain impressed each and every day with the incredible work of our military and the dedicated civilian team supporting them.
Let's take Afghanistan, for example. Just last month, I had the pleasure to welcome back the last rotation of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served in Afghanistan, and many served more than once. In many ways, it was a war that defined our military in the last 12 years.
With our NATO allies and partners, we helped Afghans reclaim their country from terrorism and provide security for the Afghan population. Today, Afghanistan's security forces stand at approximately 345,000 personnel, and they will take full responsibility for Afghan security at the end of this year.
Mr. Chair, to undertake such a mission abroad for 12 years, our military needed proper equipment, and we gave it to them. Through the Canada First defence strategy, the government made unprecedented investments in military equipment and successfully delivered on many procurement projects.
But at the same time, it's important to challenge ourselves to ensure that our procurement processes are as efficient as they can be. This is why I was pleased to announce a few weeks ago, with my colleague Minister Finley, the new defence procurement strategy. The defence procurement strategy is giving the defence team new tools to improve the way they do procurement. It helps us streamline the procurement process and improve efficiency.
Mr. Chair, in our supplementary estimates, we are requesting $57.8 million in new appropriations to fund the Aurora modernization and structural life extension project, funds for the force mobility enhancement project, and some transfers to other government departments. Of these funds requested, we are offsetting $49.5 million with previously appropriated funding, and $8.1 million with transfers to other government departments. This reduces our total request for new funding to only $311,000.
Some of these funds will be used, again, as part of the Aurora modernization and life extension program, which will ensure that Canada maintains a world-class airborne surveillance capability while ensuring value for Canadians.
Some of the funds requested will be dedicated to the force mobility enhancement project. This project will provide the army with a flexible multi-purpose capability that will enable them to respond effectively to any mission, now or in the future.
In addition, these estimates will allow the department to work with other federal agencies to leverage resources and enhance the security of Canadians.
Mr. Chair, you will see that the estimates include smaller transfers of $5.2 million and $2.7 million to Shared Services Canada in order to reduce duplication and inefficiencies within government institutions and also conduct information technology activities at the Carling campus.
In addition, you will see a funding transfer of $141,900 to Transport Canada as part of a multi-year commitment to the Canadian safety and security program.
Also, these estimates list a transfer of $25,000 from National Defence to the National Research Council of Canada in order to conduct surface and groundwater monitoring at two National Research Council sites in Penticton, British Columbia.
While the job of the defence team is maintaining the security of this country, this government recognizes that a strong and resilient economy is an important aspect of that security.
That is why, last year, the defence team launched its own internal business process review, called defence renewal.
The defence renewal process is an opportunity to improve the way we manage our people, assets, and resources. While excellence in delivering operations at home and abroad will always be our priority, we must streamline the defence procurement process and leverage Canadian tax dollars that are provided for defence.
Mr. Chair, at the committee's request, I take this opportunity to also address any of the committee members' questions on the Communications Security Establishment. Let me underline the important role that CSE plays in protecting Canada and Canadians. CSE's mandate flows from the National Defence Act and requires CSE to provide the Government of Canada with three key services.
First, CSE collects foreign signals intelligence that supports government decision-making by providing information on the capabilities, activities, or intentions of foreign entities, such as states or terrorist groups.
Second, CSE has a cyber-protection mandate and provides advice, guidance, and services that help secure government systems and networks and the information they contain.
Finally, CSE provides technical and operational assistance upon request to federal law enforcement and security agencies under their respective mandates.
Under both its foreign intelligence and cyber-protection mandates, CSE does not target Canadians anywhere in the world or any person in Canada. Under the agency's assistance mandate, CSE acts under the legal authority of the requesting agency it is assisting and is subject to any limitations to that authority, such as applicable court warrants.
The foreign intelligence activities of CSE are critical to fulfilling the government's commitment to address emerging threats to our sovereignty and economy posed by terrorism and cyber-attacks while ensuring that Canadians' fundamental privacy rights are protected.
Over the years, CSE has provided intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians by supporting Canadian military operations and protecting our forces from threats; uncovering the efforts of foreign-based extremists to attract, radicalize, and train individuals to carry out attacks in Canada and abroad; identifying and helping to defend Canada against the actions of hostile foreign intelligence agencies; providing early warning to thwart foreign cyber-threats to the Government of Canada and to critical information infrastructures and networks; and furthering Canada's national interests in the world by providing context about global events and crises and informing the government's foreign policy.
In fulfilling this important role, CSE operates in full accordance with the law, including the National Defence Act, the Criminal Code, and the Privacy Act. CSE is also subject to legislative measures in place to protect the privacy of Canadians and persons in Canada. Since 1996, a fully independent CSE commissioner—a series of esteemed retired or supernumerary judges—has regularly reviewed CSE activities for compliance with the law. The commissioner and his full-time staff and expert consultants have full access to all CSE personnel, systems, and documents. In more than 17 years, the commissioner has never found CSE to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSE's culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians.
Were the commissioner ever to conclude that the agency is acting outside the law, he would be required to report this immediately to the Attorney General and to me as the minister responsible for CSE. Both the chief of CSE and I take the findings of the commissioner in his reviews very seriously. CSE has implemented past recommendations of the commissioner related to privacy, and the agency is in the process of implementing those from the more recent reviews.
Canadians can continue to count on the efforts of CSE and the government to safeguard the security of Canada from foreign threats while at the same time acting in full accordance with the law and protecting the privacy of Canadians.
Mr. Chair, thank you once again for inviting me. I welcome any questions.