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Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?

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Logistics woes could strain military deployments

Post by Guest on Mon 15 Aug 2016, 05:58

Logistics woes could strain military deployments.

Canada’s military is gearing up for a busy period of overseas deployments but the big task of keeping those missions supplied could stretch resources thin, experts say.

Aug. 14, 2016

OTTAWA—Canada’s military is gearing up for a busy period of overseas deployments but the big task of ferrying troops and supplies to these dispersed missions could stretch defence resources thin, experts say.

With ongoing commitments in the Middle East and Ukraine, a newly announced force for Latvia and an expected mission in Africa, providing logistical support for these widely spread operations could be more than armed forces is able to handle, said retired general Lewis MacKenzie.

“What will make it borderline impossible is the logistics support,” MacKenzie said.

“Forget about asking whether we have the combat arms capability. It’s whether we have the logistics capability to support them properly,” he said in an interview.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is currently on a five-country fact-finding mission in Africa as the Liberal government weighs options for a peace support mission in the region.

But defence analyst Dave Perry said the challenge for Canada’s military won’t be finding troops for that new mission but supporting them in the field.

Having significant operations ongoing in five sites across the globe — Latvia, Iraq, Kuwait, Ukraine and Africa — would test military logistics to keep provisions, gear and troop rotations flowing, he said.

“It’s fairly taxing on the forces’ support capacity,” he said in an interview, noting that the Royal Canadian Air Force has just five CC-177 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft.

“When you get into doing a lot of missions, a lot of times it’s the logistics and support people that get worn out the fastest,” said Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked National Peacekeepers’ Day last Tuesday with a pledge that Canada would be doing more on that front.

“Moving forward, we will increase Canada’s support to United Nations peace operations,” Trudeau said in a statement, renewing his pledge to boost personnel and training to UN peace support missions.

Part of the mandate that Trudeau gave Sajjan was to have the Canadian military do more to help the United Nations respond quicker to emerging conflicts.

As well, Sajjan’s mandate letter spelled out the desire to see Canada lead an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations.

Canada currently has just 31 military personnel attached to UN peace operations. Almost 10 months into their mandate, the Liberal government still has not increased that number. But academic Walter Dorn expects an announcement soon.

“To be fair, they’ve spent a long time thinking about this issue and now it’s time to act,” said Dorn, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada Canadian Forces College.

Sajjan’s Africa trip is meant to “help inform Canada’s re-engagement in peace operations,” according to his office.

Sajjan, himself a veteran of Canada’s Afghanistan mission, is accompanied by Roméo Dallaire, the retired lieutenant-colonel who led United Nations forces in 1993 in Rwanda, and Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sajjan’s officials have cautioned not to read too much into his schedule, which will take the group to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Dorn sees three countries as potential locales for the new mission: Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. He said the Canadian forces has the capacity to have up to 3,000 people deployed worldwide without much difficulty, including 300 to 1,000 on a potential operation in Africa.

A sizable contingent could be deployed to Mali, where French and Dutch forces are already active. Smaller numbers could go to the other sites in perhaps a headquarters or support role.

Exactly where the deployment happens must be dictated by Canada’s own interests, Perry said.

“The government of Canada and the Canadian forces working on its behalf can go do good in the world in any number of its places,” Perry said.

“Beyond that, is there a particular mission set where there’s a closer connection to a Canadian national interest,” he said.

After engagements in Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia, Dorn said that Canadians understand that such operations can be dangerous.

“There will be times when our peacekeepers will need to shoot, but I think the public will understand that we are in these conflict zones and that it’s sometimes necessary to use force,” Dorn said.

Perry prefers to use the term “peace support” rather than peacekeeping.

“Most of these places . . . there is no peace to keep,” Perry said. “There is a very real probability that the Canadian people we send over there are going to be in harm’s way.”

Current and pending deployments for Canadian troops

Ukraine: Some 200 troops are deployed in Ukraine until at least March 2017 as part of Operation Unifier to teach local forces skills that include weapons training, marksmanship, and ethics training as well as explosive ordnance disposal, combat first aid and logistics.

Mediterranean Sea: 250 sailors onboard the frigate HMCS Charlottetown deployed on Operation Reassurance, part of a NATO effort to bolster its presence in eastern European countries in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Iraq/Kuwait: Just over 800 personnel are deployed on Operation Impact, Canada’s contribution to the fight against Daesh extremists. Special forces soldiers are in northern Iraq training local peshmerga forces. Additional personnel are in Kuwait, where an air-to-air refueller and two reconnaissance aircraft are based.

Latvia: The Liberal government has pledged a new force of 450 troops that will form the core of a battle group in the eastern European country. The soldiers are expected to arrive in early 2017.

Africa: The government is in the midst of planning a new deployment for Canadian forces to support peace operations in Africa. Defence experts say this new force could number up to 600 personnel.


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Re: Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?

Post by bigrex on Thu 07 Jul 2016, 13:37

Even if they buy all the best equipment, they are useless without the personnel to operate them. And in order to attract new recruits, out of a higher educated and aware populace, they need to treat serving members and Veterans a hell of a lot better than they have been. They need to vastly improve the perks for serving members. Like bring back affordable military housing, that are priced nationally, so it costs you the same amount for housing, regardless of where you get posted. Or how about extending access to military hospitals to the members family, so they aren't having to struggle finding a family Dr, every time they move to a new base. And if they are injured severely enough that it ends their military career, they should never have to worry about having to support themselves and their families.
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Re: Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?

Post by Guest on Thu 07 Jul 2016, 10:54

its a Canadian cultural problem . in general we worry more about debt than a strong military . that is reflected in our voting habits and thus that cultural problem turns into a political problem . no party can fix this without loosing the next election just to watch improvements scrapped by the incoming government .

look the minimum commitment expected by NATO is 2% GDP so that's where we should be come hell or high water . before JTs father it was almost double that but he cut it about half and successive governments have cut that by half again . yup that leaves us at about 1% with no sigh of improvement anywhere on the horizon .

I think a good START would be to back to the previous Trudeau numbers ya it sucked I know but beats the crap out of what we have today . its easy all ya got to do is DOUBLE the budget .that would get us back to NATOs minimum commitment . a commitment I might add Canada time and again has committed to but fail to live up to.

decade of darkness my frackin butt its been decades of darkness and will be a century of darkness I'm afraid .

to fix this you will need to change Canadian culture and boys that's a tall task indeed .



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Re: Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?

Post by RCN-Retired on Thu 07 Jul 2016, 06:01

Oh, so very true, not to mention Sea King helicopters that goes back to the last time the liberals defeated the conservatives. But hey lets just keep putting our soldiers in harms way and fight them in court when they come home broken. After all government assumes no responsibility for breaking them, they weren't suppose to come home broken. When will any flavour of government grow some knackers and equip the military before they deploy them.
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Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?

Post by pinger on Thu 07 Jul 2016, 00:26

Is Canada's 'capability gap' military or political?: Terry Milewski

First, the Conservatives bemoaned the Liberal "decade of darkness." Then, the Liberals bemoaned the Conservative one.

So they're both really good at moaning about the sad state of Canada's armed forces.

But will anyone actually fix it? A hardy band of defence experts is starting to wonder, and the aging ships and planes aren't getting any younger.

Sajjan going back to drawing board on fighter jets, launching consultations
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Take the navy's last functioning supply ship, the Protecteur. After 46 years of service ferrying fuel, food and water to the fleet, the old ship was already something of a wreck when the engine room caught fire off Hawaii in February 2014. It was a sorry end to a long career: adrift and alone in the ocean, then towed to port to be chopped up for scrap.

That left the Royal Canadian Navy with no supply ships at all. To grasp how ignominious that is, consider what it really means: the navy can sail out to sea but can't sail back — not without help from its allies. Any ship running short of fuel needs to beg and borrow from friends and that is what the navy has been doing, routinely, ever since the Protecteur flamed out.

Canada's defence minister, to his credit, makes no bones about this. Instead, at a Wednesday meeting with industry experts, Harjit Sajjan was quite blunt.

"If you do not address the capability gap," he said, "you will actually end up losing a capability. And that's exactly what's happened with our navy right now. Right now, we require Spain and Chile to assist with the re-supplying, because we don't have ships right now to re-supply us."

Protecteur paid off
Naval officers at HMCS Protecteur's paying-off ceremony in Esquimalt, B.C., on May 14, 2015. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

No disrespect to the fine Spanish and Chilean navies, but it's not an inspiring picture for Canada — a nation with the world's longest coastline. And the gap is not being filled. With three oceans to patrol and supply, Canada is now working on ... just one new supply ship.

OK, it's not really new at all, it's a second-hand freighter, being refitted in a hurry as an "interim" supply ship.

Another two new ones are certainly planned. There's no shortage of plans. But those two ships are to be built by Seaspan in Vancouver under the Conservatives' National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, which continues under the Liberals. Six years after the NSPS was announced — and 2˝ years after the Protecteur burned — the building of the two supply ships has not even started. So Canada will be begging and borrowing on the high seas for quite a while.

Oh, but one thing has changed under the Liberals. It's now called the National Shipbuilding Strategy. They've taken the "procurement" out of it. Maybe that will speed things up.

The fighter gap

And jet fighters? Of course, that's the zombie debate: it just won't die. After tormenting the Harper government for years, it's lumbering into view all over again.

Here, too, there's an urgent "capability gap," according to the minister. Out of 138 CF-18 fighters bought in the 1980s, Sajjan says only 77 are still airworthy — and that's not enough.

Lockheed Martin warns it will pull $825M in F-35 contracts if Canada buys another jet
MacKay says he regrets Conservatives' failure to buy new fighter planes
"Between our NORAD and NATO commitments, between how many jets are serviceable at one time, we cannot meet those both requirements simultaneously."

If so, that means a solution is urgent, right?

Wrong. Apparently, it's not that urgent at all. Sajjan refused to say when he might have a solution. First, he will listen. He will consult. He's done seven consultation sessions so far, building on the studies done by the Harper government, which produced an experts' report in December of 2014.

Those, in turn, built upon a long list of consultations going back to 2012.

What about political capability?

But, if the military "capability gap" is real, might there also be a political capability gap to deal with?

The question arises because of a ticklish communications problem facing the government — a conflict between two Liberal campaign promises.

The first was to rule out buying F-35 fighters and to use the savings to invest in the navy. The second was to "immediately" hold an open competition to choose a new fighter.

FedElxn Stealth Fighter 20150922
During the 2015 election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised not to buy F-35s and instead go with a cheaper alternative. (The Associated Press)

The problem is that it has to be one or the other. If you rule out the F-35, your competition is not open. So the question to be answered is not just which planes to buy, but which promise to break.

And while the government ponders all this, defence industry lobbyists are tearing their hair out. Years go by, and payday never comes.

As one said this week through gritted teeth, "This government needs to grow a pair and make a decision."
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