According to “Canadian Forces Joint Publication CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine: The Role of Military Forces” “Military forces in democracies are subordinate to the elected civil authority and are prohibited from operating outside the bounds of jurisdiction set by that authority. In addition to combat operations, they are often used for domestic missions such as search and rescue, assistance to other government departments and agencies, aid to civil power and for disaster relief operations both at home and abroad.
However, despite the inherent flexibility and domestic utility of modern military forces, their raison d’être remains armed conflict. This distinction separates military forces from other security arms of the government such as police and border patrol.”
Subordination to the elected civil authority means that that government direction involves defining what the Canadian Armed Forces must do for the nation and in turn, at least in theory, the military dictates how those objectives can and should be achieved.
By stipulating what general military objectives are to be achieved, government defence policy gives the CAF the orders it needs to get on with the job of enhancing the safety and security of Canadians, supporting the Government of Canada’s foreign policy and achieving other national security objectives.
Defence policy also indicates into what military capabilities the Government is willing to invest in order to achieve its objectives. This is an important point as Government direction comes in two forms: defence policy and the provision of resources.
It is this last point, the provision of resources, that concerns us here. Writing for the CBC Tony Keene has suggested that there is a myth widely accepted by many in the military, by veterans and by the civilian public that the Conservatives are the party of the Canadian Armed Forces. He points out however that defence spending in Canada raises and falls no matter which government is in power. The argument can even be made that almost all significant improvements in equipment, pay and allowances and family support came under Liberal regimes.
It can be argued that governments, particularly Canadian governments, often use the “provision of resources” as their main form of direction. Those governments, regardless of party, have found it easy to say that they support defence spending while restricting the resources available to the CAF to those necessary to carry out the government’s actual policies.
This is an easy theorem to test.
Writing in the Air Force Journal in an article entitled “What Air Forces Do” Lieutenant-Colonel Brian L. Murray observes that “Air forces exist to provide four fundamental services to the nation: control of the air, movement of things through the air, observation of things from the air and space, and when necessary, attacking things from the air.”
If this is true then the question becomes, has the government provided the resources for the RCAF achieve these ends. The answer is no. Even the provision of 16 new C-295’s for Fixed Wing Search and Rescue has little or no effect on the core responsibilities of the Air Force. These are responsibilities which it cannot meet with the resources provided by this and previous governments.
The government of Canada’s general military objectives would appear to be clear. They want a military which appears to be capable of enhancing the safety and security of Canadians, supporting the Government of Canada’s foreign policy and achieving other national security objectives but one in which they do not have to invest the amounts necessary to actually achieve those objectives.
With words having little or no meaning in our new ‘post truth’ environment it is only the provision of resources that can signal the governments true direction to the Canadian Armed Forces and tell them, and us, what it is that they want them to be able to do for the nation.
Canadian Forces Joint Publication CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine: The Role of Military Forces
The myth of one-party support for the Canadian Armed Forces
Trudeau was Canada's top defence spender: study
What Air Forces Do, Lt. Colonel Brian Murray