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A Triple A+ Military for Canada

Two recent articles focused The Ruxted Group’s attention on military organization.

In the first, some retired generals suggest that the pace of ongoing operations (Afghanistan) has derailed General Hillier’s attempts to ‘transform’ the military.

In the second Vice Admiral Robertson posits that the Navy must focus on a wide range of possible threats. It is more, in other words, than just a ”big honkin’ ship” and its protective force. Admiral Robertson is right; Canada needs flexible forces – navy, army, air force, police and e.g border services to meet a wide range of potential threats to our sovereignty, at home, and to our vital interest around the world.
In order to understand the importance of organization, Ruxted reminds the reader there are essentially three parts to our armed forces:

1. The support infrastructure – everything from supply depots and military schools to contractor managed engineering groups and research labs staffed by (mainly) civilian scientists – which sustains the operational forces;

2. The operational combat, combat support (including operational command, control and communications) and combat service support forces – ships and army and air force units and flying bases and dockyards and some deployable civilian support functions; and

3. The superstructure which manages both.

The first two matter; the third does not – well, not too much, anyway. Command and Control (C2) is important but the “how” is always debatable. We need to separate the operational C2 of forces (which does matter) from the corporate management function, which doesn’t. HQ reorganizations come and go – in reality they come and come but never do seem to go, except in reverse. In fact there are several viable, effective top level management models which will serve the Canadian Forces; General Hillier’s transformation project incorporates just one such model and it is no worse than many of its competitors. We can be certain that new Chiefs of the Defence Staff will impose their preferred new corporate management models. The military will survive if the government has attended to items 1 and 2: infrastructure and operational forces.

The overarching priority of the Government of Canada and, especially, of the Department of National Defence must be to refill the hollowed out military’s operational, support and infrastructure components. Tens of thousands of additional people are needed, soon. Those tens of thousands of new people need new and better equipment and both people and kit have to be managed, trained, sustained and, when required, employed in operations here at home and overseas. When the operational bone and muscle have been restored we can then fuss with the nervous system; the brain is intact, in Ottawa, in the form of Minister MacKay, Deputy Minister Fonberg, Chief of Defence Staff Hillier and their subordinates.

We need more and better operational forces and we need better infrastructure to support those operational forces.

By way of operational forces we, in The Ruxted Group, would stress the need for:

1. Balance between naval, land and air forces, between combat and support and heavy and light forces, between strategic and tactical forces as well as between conventional and special forces and so on. Ruxted has no magic formula and none is necessary. We have, previously, described the essential components.

At any time the emphasis – in personnel, equipment procurement and funding must go to operations. However, other forces must not be forgotten or allowed to wither and die. That is the value in considering Admiral Robertson’s point. Even as the lion’s share of resources goes towards rebuilding and sustaining land forces engaged in Afghanistan it is important to remember that Canada will face other threats; there will be other crises; the government of the day will need options from which to choose and the military must be able to offer at least one viable option for every likely (even remotely likely) threat. Balanced forces provide those options.

2. Combat capable and combat ready forces which can go anywhere in the world to fight effectively and win either unilaterally or as part of a United Nations authorized coalition or with our (few) close and traditional allies. This means the ability to project power not only on land, but also at sea, in the air and space, as well as command and control of information in cyberspace and the media to deal with the expanded modalities of warfare.

3. Flexibility in planning for, conducting and supporting operations. This is where a solid command and control/management system is necessary –that ought to mean a robust, flexible and responsive system which serves, top to bottom, politicians in Ottawa and the sailors at sea and troops in the field.

In short, The Ruxted Group advocates a ‘Triple A+’ military, one which is:

Appropriate for the needs of a G8 country which aspires to be, once again, a leader amongst the middle powers;

Adaptable to a constantly changing strategic environment;

Available, on fairly short notice, to go anywhere; and, for the plus in Triple A+


We need to worry less and less about how headquarters are structured, and even whether or not we have too many underemployed admirals and generals, and focus on building, staffing and sustaining enough (many more than we have now) ships, and army and air force units – combat units and support units alike. Ruxted has posited that we will need much more than $20 billion by 2010 for the defence budget. It will have to grow by tens of billions and we will have to find that money year after year for decades to come if we are to pay a lead role in the long, arduous war which we face.

This needs to be presented to Canadians in a Throne Speech. A responsible Canadian government needs to be elected on a promise to make Canada a leader in the world and to give Canada the armed forces which will make that possible. Then it needs to keep that promise. Canada is a modern, sophisticated and, above all, a rich country. We can help the less fortunate in the world; we can lead the other middle powers in the quest to “do the right thing.” It takes will and it takes money.


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Sid Vicious on :

Doesn't "triple" imply three, not four?

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