Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Writing in the "The Dispatch" Stephen Saideman  has reviewed the defence review and noted that there is a split between the academic defence community which has been advocating hard choices and those who speak for the retired military community whom he believes wish to avoid those decisions.

It is his belief that many retired military speakers think that "combat capable" means the same as “full spectrum” or "flexible" and that they assume that any choice to have less of one kind of capability would mean that the Canadian Armed Forces would not be able to do combat.

No matter what the conclusions of the Defence Review, the missions will not change nor, it seems likely, will spending patterns. The Defence Minister has already indicated that there will be no major changes on the issues of personnel and bases.

So the DND and the CAF will need to make decisions about where and how funds available are going to be spent and hard choices will have to be made and, as Saideman points out, there are no advocacy groups for spending money on readiness, exercising, and maintenance.  Yet these are the areas that will get cut, if no hard decisions are made, and getting those choices wrong  will get people killed.

Examples are not hard to find. As Paul J.Doyle makes clear in a paper entitled "Canada’s Air Force Kinetic Capability for the 21st Century: What Is Needed?" published in "Canadian Aerospace and Joint Studies, the Curtis papers  Vol. 1 • Book 1: 2009 | 2010 – Select Masters in Defence Studies"the Canadian Army was not prepared for combat in Afghanistan.

The stand-up of 1 Canadian Air Division, along with the dissolution of the air groups in 1997, started  the disengagement of the fighter force from the Canadian Army which accelerated through the 1990s. The end of the brigade-level Exercise RENDEZVOUS in 1997 also limited the large event training exercises for CF-18s with Army brigades. As the fighter force concentrated on independent missions  the number of fighter pilots qualified as FACs (Forward Air Controllers) steadily decreased.

The unintended consequences of these incidents led to the tragic events in September 2006 where a USAF A-10 mistakenly fired on Canadian troops, killing one soldier and wounding over 30 in a single strafing pass. As detailed in the DND inquiry into the incident there were many individual occurrences that led to this tragic event, from obscured visibility to fatigue, but one key contribution was the lack of a tactical air control party (TACP) with the Canadians at the brigade or battle group level.

As subsequent investigations discovered, by 2006 the Canadian Forces was not following doctrine, and TACPs had not been formed or deployed into the theatre of operations In the end it took this accident to bring this deficiency to light.

This is not just a case of each service following it's own path with no attempt at 'jointness". It is not enough to mandate cross-service cooperation in all stages of the military processes, from research, through procurement and into operations and hope that it works. Hard choices have to be made about priorities, The events of September 2006 show what happens when the hard choices are not made.

There is no constituency in the DND or the CAF for "jointness" any more then there is for  readiness, exercising, and maintenance. This has to provided by civilian and military leadership. If the Defence Review concludes that 'business as usual' results in more then political embarrassment, that the consequences are combat deaths, then it will not have been a waste of effort.

Reviewing the Summer of the Defence Review by STEPHEN SAIDEMAN

Canadian Aerospace and Joint Studies, the Curtis papers  Vol. 1 • Book 1: 2009 | 2010 – Select Masters in Defence Studies Paper
Chapter 5 –  Canada’s Air Force Kinetic Capability for the 21st Century: What Is Needed? Major Paul J. Doyle

Inquiry: A-10A Friendly Fire Incident 4 September 2006, Panjwayi District, Afghanistan Department of National Defence, Board of Inquiry Minutes of Proceeding