The Strategic Outlook for Canada

Vimy Paper 2012: The Strategic Outlook for Canada

Backgrounder

21 February 2012, Ottawa – A major study released today by Canada’s leading defence, foreign affairs and security institute calls for a major re-examination of the national security policy and strategy that guides and shapes the size, structure and capabilities of the Canadian Forces and the work of the Department of National Defence. The report, which makes 16 recommendations for the reform of defence thinking and defence planning, comes two days ahead of the sold-out 2012 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security, and weeks ahead of a federal budget widely expected to target Defence for major reductions.

“For too long there has been too little public discussion of the emerging international security environment and of Canada’s defence and security needs in the years ahead,” said Alain Pellerin, the executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDA Institute). “We face considerable financial restraint at home and even more pronounced fiscal problems with our closest allies who in many respects have harder choices to make than we do about government spending priorities.”

“Add to that mix the current battles afoot regarding yet another round of CF transformation, and you have a perfect defence policy storm,” said Pellerin. “Our paper looks both to start the discussion, and to inform it.”

The report, “The Strategic Outlook for Canada,” is the fifth in the CDA Institute’s Vimy Paper series – an annual study that addresses a critical defence and security issue for Canada and Canadians. Previous papers examined the procurement model, defence requirements for Canada’s Arctic, Asia-Pacific security, and energy dependency.

“We’re living in a different world than the one which produced most of our thinking about how to preserve international peace and security,” said Paul Chapin, a former senior Foreign Affairs official and one of the principal co-authors of the study. “It’s time for a comprehensive review of the strategic landscape, what the dangers are out there for Canadians, and what to do about them.”

“Our intent is to tie the strategic landscape to the need for a made-at-home national security strategy that matches what we see going on in the world,” said George Petrolekas, the study’s other principal co-author. “Less is probably the reality for the near future; and, it provides the opportunity to transform in some fashion. There’s an immutable law of economics at play, and with less monies in the budget, something – in personnel, or capital projects, or capacity will have to give. There will inevitably be trade-offs – but hopefully trade-offs based on a strategy that is purpose-built for our current and future Canadian security requirements.”

The Vimy Paper is also informed by a veritable Canadian “who’s who” of the defence and security community, including two former Chiefs of the Defence Staff, a former Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, retired Ambassadors, a Senator, eminent historians and academics, as well as NATO field commanders, strategists and experienced military staff officers. Among the major recommendations of the report:

  • Canada’s national interests are at stake when ruthless regimes are striving to get their hands on nuclear weapons; when allies and trading partners cannot rein in their sovereign debt; and when radicals employ subterfuge, coercion and violence to advance ideologies contrary to the most fundamental beliefs of Canadians. In the fact of these challenges, spending cuts to Canada’s foreign policy operations and national defence programs are likely – without a discussion of the options that present themselves. The CDAI therefore calls on the Government to follow up on its initiative of establishing a National Security Committee of Cabinet, and commission the preparation of a comprehensive National Security Strategy for Canada;
  • The Government has made a very serious effort to address the many long-standing equipment deficiencies of the Canadian Forces. But cumulative years of turning back money at the end of the fiscal year have led to the perception that the Department of National Defence is flush with cash – when the reality is that financial and other accountability systems and a lack of project management staff have not kept pace with recent budget increases. Forthcoming cuts, CF transformation and major new equipment purchases make for a situation that calls for policy clarity. The CDA Institute therefore calls on the Government to update the Canada First Defence Strategy, articulate the first principles to guide the work, critically evaluate the Defence Investment Plan, and permit reprofiling of lapsed capital funds to future years when the available funding will align more practically to actual project spending projections;
  • Canada is uniquely positioned to influence the direction of US thinking on international issues and to discuss future contingencies with allies. The CDAI therefore recommends that the Government redouble its efforts to ensure Canadian advice on international security issues carries the weight it deserves and that Canada begin discussions with allies on developing an international security architecture designed to meet 21st century needs;
  • In 2012 and the years immediately following, Canada is very likely to be faced with a host of decisions related to the crises in the Middle East, in the Arabian Gulf, and on the Korean peninsula. The CDA Institute therefore calls on the Government to develop contingency plans for possible Canadian involvement in resolving these crises, to become more diplomatically engaged, and build up the regional expertise of the Canadian Forces and the Foreign Service;
  • Canada has made an extraordinary contribution to the peace and stability of Afghanistan, and is committed to staying the course there until the end of 2014 in the all-important role of training Afghans to assume responsibility for the defence of their country. But there is a possibility that NATO partners will start leaving Afghanistan before the job is finished. The CDA Institute therefore urges the Government to argue forcefully at the NATO Summit in Chicago in mid-May that allies abide by the strategy they agreed on at their summit in Lisbon in November 2010.
  • The rise of narco-traffickers and trans-national criminal organizations in the Americas constitutes a direct and growing threat to this country. The CDA Institute therefore calls on the Government to match their expressed interest in the Americas region with the development of a defence and security engagement plan to ensure greater unity of purpose and effort between departments and agencies.
  • Following the Prime Minister’s visit to China, the time is right for a comprehensive review of Canada’s strategic interests in Asia-Pacific, including exploring with allies the parameters of a new collective security arrangement in the region, and an exploration of the balance of CF commitments between East and West; and
  • Political stability and the continued advancement of democracy in Africa are in Canada’s interests. The CDA Institute therefore calls on the Government to consider increasing Canadian military and police capacity-building programs in Africa, and to assist the African Union to become a more effective regional security organization.
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