Thursday, 7 November 2013


James Hasik’s long awaited report on the CCV project is now available on his web site. 

It would be fair to say that most of those with opinions on this program come to it with their prejudices fairly intact. From the left to the right, from the peace movement to those who never saw a military procurement program of any kind that they didn’t like, very few commentators have needed to know any of the facts surrounding this program to know whether or not they approved of it.

That being the case, it is unlikely that the information presented in Hasik’s report will change any minds, but it interesting to actually have some facts with which to back up our preconceptions.

James Hasik consistently provides intelligent, literate, and well reasoned economic analysis of military matters. One of his strongest points is his ability to rise above popular views and dispassionately evaluate proposals like the CCV program. Having said that, Hasik reports; “Earlier this year, I was sponsored to examine its importance to the Canadian Army, even in light of tightening military spending”

Long ago Canadian Defence Matters was advised by a colleague who dabbled in the dark arts, politics, that the first thing to do when evaluating a report of any kind was to ask who had paid for it. It would be interesting, and possibly enlightening, to know who “sponsored” this report.

In the report Hasik deals with the issues raised concerning the uses of a heavily armoured and armed personal carrier in modern and specifically Canadian warfare. Any discussion of the CCV program must deal with why we feel we will need this capability in the future.

To quote from Bob Martyn’s articleUnlearning Afghanistan”, written in the Canadian Military Journal;“Western nations are looking towards their militaries within the context of two concurrent factors, the winding down from combat operations in the Persian Gulf region and south-west Asia, and a global economic downturn. Military forces are an easy target for those clamouring for a post-hostilities ‘peace dividend.’ As noted, this is not a particularly new practice; one does not need to dust off the history books to look at 1919 or 1946, as many of us lived through the post-Cold War’s “decade of darkness” equipment draw-downs and training curtailments.

As these accounting-driven shadows descend on us once again, our military leaders and strategic thinkers ponder the lessons from our conflicts. Many of the markers along the way are dictated by economics and government policy, but there remain several choices to be made. A critical juncture early in the planning discussions has been labelled by our American counterparts, the ‘crusaders’ and the ‘conservatives.’ Have no doubt that these terms are simplistic merely to facilitate discussion; there are significant nuances to both. 

The ‘crusaders’ -- supporters of emphasizing a military geared for stability operations and countering insurgencies -- have been bolstered by the enthusiastic wave of research conducted in the 21st Century’s first decade. Non-military people often ‘weighed in’ on the debates in support of these strategies; after all “building schools and wells” is cheerier than “close with and destroy the enemy.” For those who accepted that the military had a role, it was often over-simplified to “providing security,” so that the NGOs and civil servants could work undisturbed. There was little understanding that providing security in the face of an adaptive, dedicated enemy was ‘easier said than done.’ In both Iraq and Afghanistan, COIN efforts were considered successful, not when regions were peaceful and democracy and human rights flourished, but merely in “the prevention of more bad headlines.”

 The ‘conservatives’ tend to see COIN and similar operations as a necessary but distinctly subordinate subset to conventional war fighting skills. Afghanistan, for all its costs in blood and treasure, provided an excellent proving-ground to confirm many of these skills and to determine equipment strengths and weaknesses. There is growing concern, however, that, because this has been a defining moment for so many of our soldiers, there is a growing disinterest in maintaining the skills that would be necessary against a ‘near-peer’ adversary providing a survival- or vital-threat to our national interests.  

Arguably, such a ‘high-tech’ conventional threat is not as statistically likely as turmoil in ungoverned spaces, failing states, or regional dictators threatening neighbouring states. Nevertheless, the results of failing to adequately prepare our military, through proper training and equipment, to succeed in such a conflict are much more horrific. Retooling the military as a constabulary force, particularly because of short-term economic expedience, would leave the Canadian government with much fewer foreign policy options in future conflicts, even those short of conventional war. Indeed, such a program would likely see Canadian soldiers bogged down in further unwinnable wars, to the detriment of responding effectively to continued conventional threats.”

The argument here is that those who bemoan the loss of hard won COIN experience are missing the point that it is the ability to conduct full spectrum warfare that confers the benefit of being able to transition to combat modes that feature less violence.
Hasik makes the point in his report that; “In specifying a vehicle concept, the DND ranked its candidate vehicles foremost on the basis of protection, then mobility, and finally firepower. That is hardly a holdover, for during the Cold War, the reverse order of priorities would arguably have held. Rather, the CCV initiative incorporates the lessons of modern asymmetrical and counter-insurgent warfare: force protection must be purchased first.”

In other words, the CCV has value over the full range of combat activities and Hasik further points out that: “the land forces of thirteen other North American and European countries are today buying or driving vehicles like those bid in the CCV competition. Seventeen or even twenty-five tons, they all say, is not always enough.”

On the question of cost, he argues that Canada can well afford the program.
“The rough lines of this table of equipment are important to the question of affordability. As a matter of public choice, CCV program has been decried for its cost: seemingly $2.1 billion in an annual defence budget of barely $20 billion. But the phasing of the expenditures is important to note. Of that total, only about $700 million will be spent buying new CCVs between next year and 2019, when the program should close out. The remaining $1.3 billion is an estimate of the cost of through-life support of the CCVs over the projected 25-year life cycle of the vehicles. It is pointedly not a marginal increase in DND's cost of operations. For if CCVs and TAPVs replace a significant portion of the admittedly aging LAVs in the Army, the effect on support costs may be far less.”

This is an important point missed by some of the CCV’s critics. Part of the associated costs of the program will be incurred no matter what vehicle the Army is driving around.

Hasik also reveals the force structure envisioned for the new vehicles.
“With receipt of these new vehicles, the Army will no longer be that LAV-based army, but a force with both heavier and lighter formations. The service’s current “asymmetric” fielding plan calls for the three regular brigades to re-role along lines familiar to the US Army, with heavy, medium, and light brigades:
Heavy—1st Brigade, with a Leopard regiment, two CCV battalions (CFB Edmonton), and one LAV-UP battalion (CFB Shilo)
Medium—5th Brigade, with three battalions of LAV-UPs (CFB Valcartier)
Light—2nd Brigade, with two battalions of TAPVs (CFB Petawawa) and one mixed battalion CCV/LAV-UP/TAPV (CFB Gagetown)”

Currently the Army maintains one of its three brigades at something like immediate readiness.  Each brigade contains one regiment each of artillery, armour, and combat engineers and three battalions of infantry as well as a service battalion (logistics), a headquarters/signals squadron, and several minor organizations. A tactical helicopter squadron and a field ambulance are collocated with each brigade. Currently 5th Brigade is tasked with the duty of being fully available for combat duties. It is not clear how the Army intends to maintain a multi-role capability at full readiness when the ‘duty’ brigade has a more single purpose orientation.

One of Hasik’s main arguments is that, essentially, procurement is too important to be left to the Generals. He points out that in the final analysis it is the politicians who must decide what kind of Armed Forces Canada should have. He also makes a strong economic case for providing suppliers with a stable environment so as to ensure that those suppliers will continue to be able to provide the CAF with what it needs.

Thus, this issue is bigger than just the CCV, or even the Army. It is bigger than a mere matter of political inconvenience. Ultimately, it is an issue of the commercial reliability of the Department of National Defence, and its commitment to the Canadian Army, whose troops deserve the world’s best equipment, whatever its origin.

Finally, maintaining programmatic stability with the CCV is not just a matter of avoiding political inconvenience. It is a matter of maintaining the credibility of the Department of National Defence as a business partner to the best suppliers around the world. Canadian soldiers deserve the best equipment the people of Canada can afford and the CCV is a strong step in that direction”

The best argument for the CCV may rest on the formulation advanced by Martyn; “Put very simply, the CAF is the force of last resort when Canadian interests are to be defended using force. Formulated this way, the commitment of combat-capable forces is a matter of choice, influenced significantly by whether these interests are categorized as matters of survival, vital, major, or peripheral: survival is self-explanatory; vital issues could result in serious harm to the state; major issues may adversely affect a state’s political, economic, and ideological well-being with corrective action usually occurring through diplomatic negotiations; peripheral issues affect private citizens or companies operating abroad, without adversely affecting our well-being”

 In the world that Martyn describes the full range of combat capabilities is needed to provide the maximum ‘choice’. The CCV is one component of that range, covering Peacekeeping to full scale war. Hasik would argue that Canada needs and can afford those choices.

Canada's CCV: the Need, the Cost, and the Commitment

Unlearning Afghanistan, by Bob Martyn
Canadian Military Journal