Editor’s Corner article

Defence Policy and Vital National Interests
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Jul 15, 2013

Should Canada make defence decisions based on the military’s perceived requirements, or should key national interests dictate what the military needs? This is a question being asked by many since the Jenkins Report was released earlier this year. The problem is, this cannot be answered until Canada actually defines what it believes its vital national interests are, and then establishes a ­comprehensive a defence policy.

The current Defence Policy is over a decade old, and was primarily influenced by the ending of the Cold War. Canada’s International Policy Sattement, issued in 2005 highlights the peacekeeping contributions made in a decidedly less-complicated battle culture. Subsequent to those times, the world has experienced a complete transformation in terms of threats, issues, and the prevalence of terror tactics that have the potential to ­compromise the safety and security of Canadians.

Based on the premise that current events change so often that policy would be an exercise in futility, the current government has not established a relevant defence policy. Not only does this relegate our leaders into a reactive posture, it shows a ­fundamental misunderstanding of the role and importance of policy in guiding both government decisions that reflect the national interest, as well as investment on the part of industry (which contributes to the GDP). With no clear statement from Government on what it deems to be critically important to the nation, Canada’s defence industry is kept in the dark as to which areas are ripe for investment. As for the military itself, this lack of any real policy also hinders its resourcing planning, as the CF may be guessing as to where to make cuts because it cannot back up those decisions with clear policy statements. Coordinating resources to provide readiness to answer the call of foreign policy, based on a clear defence policy, is what the military is good at. But, what roles are they going to be asked to undertake, and on behalf of what goals? Will they have enough resources to carry out those missions?

The current period of downtime and reflection could be used to get the best bang for the buck in terms of capital expenditures. Now that we are not in critical need, we should be able to negotiate agressively and start replenishing our key platforms, but instead, the government is forcing widespread cutbacks. Canada is missing a good opportunity here. We know full well that world violence is not abating, and the government of Canada has a mandate to protect the safety, security and prosperity of its Citizens.

Chris MacLean is the publisher of FrontLine Defence magazine.
© FrontLine Defence 2013 issue 4