The importance of supply chains in CAF
Defence Minister Anand used a keynote speech today at the opening of CANSEC, the Canadian Association of Defence & Security Industries trade show in Ottawa, to underscore the importance of supply chains as the government modernizes the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Times of change can be times of opportunity and partnerships with industry will be crucial if we are going to modernize our military, if we’re going to streamline defence procurement, if we’re going to build up our innovation ecosystem,” Anand told a packed breakfast audience. “Every single one of you in this room has a role to play in that collaborative process.”
However, in thanking Anand for her commitment, Chris Pogue, President and CEO of Thales Canada, said that process includes “a number of challenges,” including what he described as “a crying need” for trust as major CAF procurements are planned and developed.
Pogue brings gravitas to his viewpoint. After 18 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he held senior positions at MDA, General Dynamics Mission Systems, and CAE Defence & Professional Services before joining the Canadian subsidiary of multinational Thales Group.
While he wasn’t specifically critical, there was no question he was talking about federal governments’ historical record of complicating procurements mainly to “Canadianize” equipment and to build domestic industrial capacity. Pogue said that if industry is “to move at the speed the minister wants us to be able to move at, trust […] has to be deep, fueled by transparency.” Without it, he says “we will continue to struggle.”
As for Anand’s speech, it touched on a wide range of priorities, including an announcement that Canada is establishing a cyber security certificate program in collaboration with the United States. “Contractors doing business in both countries will only need to be certified under a single entity,” she said. “It will ensure that Canadian companies can benefit from future procurement opportunities with our allies.”
On the international front, she said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now into its 16th month, has reminded the West that the cyber domain is crucial for national security because of how Russia has used aggressive digital disinformation campaigns against Ukraine and its European Union allies.
“Canada is not immune,” she pointed out. “Cyber threats are growing here at home too, where malicious cyber activities have targeted government and defence contractors and subcontractors.”
Calling the new certification program “a big win” for CAF modernization, she also highlighted other supply chain initiatives such as the $40-billion NORAD update announced last year but spread over the next two decades. It currently involves 19 projects and accelerated development of over-the-horizon radar to expand critical domain awareness in the Arctic.
A key element of modernized northern surveillance is the government’s $122-million contract with Inuit-owned Nasittuq Corporation to operate and maintain the system as it’s being modernized. It was evidence of the government’s commitment to “work with indigenous and northern governments to bring benefit from our investments.”
She also announced a new National Defence Indigenous reconciliation program which will provide up to $1.5 million annually for the next four years for projects that incorporate expertise and traditional knowledge in support of engagement, consultation and information sharing projects on CAF exercises.
As for overall CAF modernization, Anand suggested that the mostly international defence sector is obliged to collaborate on building industrial capacity within Canada “because investing in national security is a driver for economic prosperity” and an investment in the future for all suppliers.
“We are all trying to make a contribution to the growth of GDP in this country and to economic growth writ large,” she said. “At last count, our shared work contributed an average of $19 billion per year in GDP to our economy. The industry sustains roughly 294,000 jobs per year across the defence sector and its supply chains and we expect these numbers to grow as we continue to make much needed investments in the navy, army and air force.”
Despite his comment about the need for more industry-government trust, Pogue said the two sides have “a common purpose […] in trying to serve those who serve, those who put their life on the line for the things we believe in. It may not be the singular solution to the challenges we face in moving faster, but it’s a promising harbinger of the future.”
Ken Pole is a contributing editor for FrontLine magazine.