Security & Prosperity Strategic Planning

As Canada looks to the future of the 21st century, I believe there is a need to address two themes that impact the security and prosperity of this wonderful country – defence and security, and professional education and development – and how they are inextricably intertwined, even co-dependent.

It is often said that Canada “came of age” in April 1917, at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. For the first time, the four Canadian Corps divisions fought together, and they achieved a victory that had escaped allies in previous attempts to seize critical strategic high ground. Following the end of the First World War, with an Armistice on 11 November, at 1100, an annual memorial day was established to honour the millions of men and women killed in that horrific war – and that tradition has continued in Canada through times of peace and other wars.

But we also must recognize and remember the hundreds of thousands who returned from these operations, many with incapacitating injuries that have affected them and their families for the rest of their lives. War and military operations in general are always about the families, and they were not volunteers.

For the most part, members of the Canadian Forces have been volunteers. They willingly accepted a contract of unlimited liability – that they may be called to die for their country, its values and its interests. But the other side of that contract is sometimes forgotten, and that is an implicit agreement that they would not be committed “into harm’s way” capriciously, but only in the defence of the nation and its interests, and that they will be provided with the necessary education, training and equipment consistent with their being able to acquit themselves according to the expectations of the people of Canada and the Government sending them.

What have we learned from our military history?

  1. We have learned that peace and freedom come at a heavy price in lives lost and lives irrevocably changed.
  2. We know that Canadian Forces members can and do perform to a standard as high or higher than the rest.
  3. We are often not as ready for deployments as we should be – but go anyway to do our part as best we can.
  4. We are not reminded often enough that there can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government than the protection of its sovereignty and the safety and security of its citizens (to quote the 2004 statement of Canada’s first National Security Policy).
  5. We have learned that we forget the first four – especially in times of fiscal restraint.

We are not the first to have recognized that fifth reality. In 1953, Air Chief Marshall Sir John Slessor reminded the British Government:
“It is customary in the democratic countries to deplore expenditures on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.”

Should this quote be part of vision statements seen in every office in this city? I believe so.

When financial times are stringent, the large and apparently discretionary defence and security budgets are seemingly easy targets. However, without very careful analysis and assessment, this can be at best foolish; at worst, critical to the nation’s sovereignty and future well-being.

Most FrontLine readers know well the globalization environment facing us – a complex system of systems involving over 195 states and countless non-state actors and agencies. Events in any of these may impact the operation of the system as a whole, or as individual components, and their interests – and our interests.

Nov 2013 (Iloilo, Philippines) – Members of the Canadian Armed Forces Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) disembark a Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft during Operation Renaissance to provide humanitarian assistance to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

This requires systems thinking and analysis – strategic intelligence and analysis – to identify and assess potential impacts on Canada’s national interests – security, prosperity, a stable world order, and our fundamental values of democracy, rule of law, freedom and human rights.Indeed, it is from the perspective of our security and prosperity interests that we must understand this environment and ensure we have the capacity to respond as conditions may require. It is very much about planning for the future – which, of course, is always unpredictable, but unpredictability is not a reason to fail to understand and mitigate against potential hazards. It is about readiness to respond.

We need our best people – military and civilian – to have the education, training and experience to advise Governments of the day on the means to address the protection of national interests. This advice must reflect the ways and the means (personnel, equipment, and availability or readiness) – to ensure our sovereignty and security is not at risk., Significantly, Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson, in his Guidance to the CAF, has recognized “readiness” as a key pillar.

Whole of Nation
Although awareness was developing, even before the end of the Cold War, that security was not just a military matter, Afghanistan brought it home that the whole of government would have to be involved – a concept of comprehensive security. However, that was a difficult culture transition for many departments.

General Jim Jones, President Obama’s first National Security Advisor, said recently at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, that we have gone from whole of military to whole of government but this is not enough – we need a whole of country approach. It is not enough that the government understand the spectrum of security challenges, costs and risks faced in a globalized world, the nation at large must begin to grasp the importance of national security and the consequences and costs that can result if we don’t protect our interests.

A starting point to achieve this condition is professional development for both our military and public service leadership – at all levels, just not the top. If indeed security is the first responsibility of Government, isn’t it reasonable that all public ­servants, departments and agencies should understand their roles in contributing to the current and future security of Canada? This is the comprehensive approach.

But, just as defence and security resources are easy targets when savings are sought, even more vulnerable are the ­professional education and development programs. It is noteworthy and reassuring, however, that General Lawson has emphasized the need for operational excellence and professional education and development as two other of his four pillars in his CDS Guidance to the Canadian Armed Forces.

The current professional development system for both officers and NCMs was mobilized in the mid-1990s following Somalia Inquiry perceptions that it had failed. It is now recognized as perhaps the best in the world for countries and armed forces of our size. It has been the foundation for, and resulted in the excellence in CAF operations so widely praised by our allies – even recognized by the U.S., which uniquely placed some of its troops under Canadian command in Afghanistan.

In a complex world with many non-military threats and a need for a comprehensive security strategy, a concomitant commitment to a parallel professional development program by the Public Service for the senior managers and executive leaders would clearly be in our national interest.

Wrap up
Three quotes come to mind in summing up. First, when it comes to the education needs for the profession of arms, Thucydides, that great old Athenian general and Greek military historian said, over 2500 years ago: “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Second, as a current saying goes, and clearly relevant to professional education and development: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

And finally, for our country and our leadership: “If you think defence and security is expensive, consider the cost of defencelessness and vulnerability.”

It is time to consider the importance of National Security in terms of ensuring that resources are available and ready. Let us not forget these expensive lessons.

BGen Don Macnamara (Retired) was the recipient of the 2013 Vimy Award given by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute in November. This article is an edited version of his remarks on that occasion.
©FrontLine Defence 2013