Interview article

Interview: General Ray Henault

Transforming the Canadians Forces
JOHN LEECH  |  Mar 15, 2004

“Transformation is not an option.”
This is the message that has been coming loud and clear from the very top of the Canadian Forces for some time now. ­John Leech had a welcome opportunity to have this reinforced and amplified in a face-to-face interview with General Ray Henault, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). Catching him in his office on a typically busy day, the CDS tells us first-hand how the policy, budget and equipment facets of this vital process are coming together to support the members of the defence team.

General Henault, government Ministers have spoken of a forthcoming defence review. When do you expect this review to be available and what do you expect from it?
The policy review is very welcome from the Canadian Forces and the Department’s point of view. Although the basic tenets of the 1994 White Paper are still intact, the global security environment in which we now operate has changed quite significantly, so our policy does need updating.

Last year’s policy update under Minister McCallum’s guidance was broad reaching and quite comprehensive – including an internet component which allowed anyone and everyone to make their views known, and it provided us with a starting point on the policy review.

Besides confidence in the foundations of the 1994 White Paper, it also pointed out that the CF required additional resources to do the job and some revision in the way we do business to adapt to the new security environment.

With the recent announcement that his term as Chief of the Defence Staff will be extended, General Henault (seen here at a press conference) is well-placed to continue directing the CF transformation. (Photo: Sgt Denisi J. Mah, CF Combat Camera)

The current review has been initiated under the umbrella of the International Policy Review (IPR) by Foreign Affairs, and we have a part to play, specifically with the defence component. We feel that’s pretty important because we want to ensure that the defence portion of the Review encompasses all aspects of the Department and the Canadian Forces, taking stock of the new security environment, and how we need to adapt this organization to ensure that we continue to provide the right kind of support on behalf of Canadians. We also want to ensure that we not only incorporate the international context of how we do business, but also domestic security requirements that flow from this new security environment that we’re in.

My expectation is that the IPR will be completed by sometime in the later part of this year. I fully expect it to be very well harmonized with some of our key partners including Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, and because of the security dimension they represent, the Coast Guard, and Fisheries.

We feel this is exactly the right approach: we are a very important part of security machinery of the Canadian Government but we’re not the only part of it, so we need to ensure that we harmonize our policy with those other stakeholders. It will give us a high level of confidence in what we’re trying to do in the process of transforming the CF. I think it’s something that’s timely, and the security environment after the attacks of Sept 11, demands that we do exactly this, take stock of where we are and where we are going.

I’ve always put as much effort as I possibly can into preparing the Forces for the future, so I’m always trying to balance off the needs of today with the requirements of tomorrow. But the IPR will do that much better – I’m very encouraged by what this Review will bring to us.

What position on the optimal role, size and resource allocation of the CF will you be taking into the review process? Are there existing capabilities we should be giving up?

I wouldn’t want to pre-judge the outcome of the Review, so I don’t think I would make this kind of prediction at this point. But I will say that there are elements of the Force which no longer fit into the new security environment. Whether it’s over the events of the last 5 or 10 years where we’ve been intimately involved on a global scale, or the events of Sept 11th, it has been made very clear to us that we need to transform the CF into a force that’s that much more deployable, much more interoperable with our allies, and much more capable of responding to the regional stability requirements that are all around the world.

We don’t think we are going to get involved in large-scale conflicts in the immediate future, but we do know that we’re going to be in demand to provide security and stability for the aftermath of regional conflicts. We could very well be involved in combat operations as we were in Kosovo, for example, and in Afghanistan during the initial part of our participation. We have to be prepared for the full spectrum, from the humanitarian assistance at home and abroad, through to combat operations.

25 Dec 03 – Afghanistan
LCol Don Denne (left) commanding officer of the Third Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment Battalion Group, on a dismounted patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, with General Ray Henault, Chief of the Defence Staff. (Photo: MCpl Brian Walsh, CF Combat Camera)

Being more deployable, agile and interoperable means that there are some legacy systems that do not fit the mould anymore.

I don’t like to focus on the equipment, because that isn’t the issue, it’s capability. Consider the direct fire capability of the tank: an absolutely essential requirement for the Army, but getting it to an operational theatre will continue to be difficult; therefore, we have proposed the mobile gun system, as a replacement. And that system will fit into a family of direct-fire systems which will provide better capability, but based on a wheeled, much more agile, aircraft-deployable system. It will be of more benefit to the Army in the long-term.

It’s those kinds of things that are framing our thoughts. It means that we have to have the communications, the C4ISR systems needed because of the global battle space that we’re engaged in, and the global awareness that are essential to make operations work.

I can remember when I came into the Headquarters, as Chief of Staff for Joint Operations for the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff in 1996, that trying to get in touch with an operational commander in the field, whether it was in Bosnia or Croatia or a ship deployed somewhere, or an air unit that was deployed in some particular location, was really very hard.

Having immediate contact, trying to project things like operational concepts, or even changes to their missions or tasks, was really a struggle. We certainly didn’t have the secure mechanisms that we have now, and we definitely didn’t have the imagery capabilities that we currently enjoy, and the advantages that come with that.

Now, I can probably get in touch with a commander with the only limiting factor being the availability of the individual, so we’re better able to maintain our awareness of force capabilities out there, and also influence how they do business, without micro-managing, but we’re able to be much more aware of what’s going on in a way that was never possible before.

It sounds like we’ve already started this transformation… how does it relate to the Defence Review?

The transformation is indeed already underway, as you may have seen in my last two annual reports. We are already doing the reallocations needed to shift funds and resources from lower priority to higher priority capabilities.

We are already in the process of modernizing the CF in a way that gives us much better global reach and much better awareness, surveillance and reconnaissance on the domestic front, whether it’s the air or maritime approaches.

We’re doing a number of things to upgrade some of the system capabilities that we know will be in operation for some time, the CF-18s for example, and the Aurora, which will have better surveillance capability, especially on the maritime approaches to our country. We’re doing a number of transformational things in the intelligence and surveillance and imaging transmission areas as well.

The Army is in a state of transformation that is virtually continuous right now, taking it to a structure that is much more modular. We’ll be able to prepare packages for deployment which will be much more consistent with the requirement, rather than having to break everything apart every time we have a mission, and then re-mend it.

We’ll be able to ‘plug-in’ all the right pieces, based on those smaller, modular capabilities being spread around the country, under a brigade umbrella, but one which will allow the Army to become more responsive to the kind of environment that we’re currently in.

So, transformation in that context has already started, things are shifting, we’re establishing much better simulation and training capabilities.

The Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC) in Wainwright, Alberta, will be able to take training in the Army to a much higher level, taking advantage of simulation technology to improve the way it does business. In the Air Force, the use of simulation technology is now totally imbedded in their thought process and that also extends to the Navy and even more so to the joint side of the organization which is now focused on the C4ISR requirement through everything that we are doing at the CF Experimentation Centre at Shirley’s Bay.

14 Jun 02 – General Henault is briefed by MCpl Mike Grimard on safety procedures prior to an afternoon flight with the famous aerial acrobat team, the Snowbirds. (Photo: Sgt Dennis J. Mah, Cf Combat Camera)

Every part of the organization, including the human resources side that is doing a project called “transforming the human resources military organization,” is on the path of transformation.

But I always remind folks that when I talk about transformation it is not just new equipment or modernized bits and pieces of kit. Transformation is a wholesale change in the way we do business. It means modernizing our equipment and upgrading our doctrine and procedures, improving our command and control capabilities, improving the level and educational capabilities of our members, focusing on family support and other support mechanisms and changing the culture of the organization.

Now, that’s easier said than done: but that’s what the policy review will help us to focus on. The targets will be established in the context of what the Canadian government, and by extension the stakeholders that provide the information and advice to the government will set for us as goals in the longer term.

It is becoming clear that the Canadian public does not approve of the deteriorated state of our CF – they want a stronger defence force. There have been a number of signals from the PM that he acknowledges that the CF needs more money to do the job. If more funding was made available, what are your budget priorities?

There certainly are a number of priorities for the allocation of dollars… including an increase in dollars, and I’ll qualify this a little bit. We also have to reallocate, we also have to make changes.

The increase in resources provided over the last several years is obviously welcome. The Government has already demonstrated its confidence in us through the injection it made last year, in Budget 2003, of $800M to our baseline. This year’s budget provides $300 million over the next two years to support CF operations, as well as additional resources required to cover the incremental costs of any future out-of-country new deployments. This new funding is critical because it will address the financial pressures associated with operations and allow us to ensure funding is available in other priority areas in DND and the CF. So clearly, the Government understands the need, and for that we’re very grateful.

As Minister Pratt has said on more than one occasion, additional resources certainly are welcome for the Canadian Forces, to allow us to provide what Government expects, to make it more influential and be able to provide more capability on the world stage. We’ve heard that said by the Minister, we’ve seen that in the Speech from the Throne and we’ve heard what the Prime Minister has said about his desire to have us play a more effective role on the world stage.

All of that is very encouraging to me, and is entirely consistent with what the Canadian public is saying. The Canadian public has expressed its view about the Canadian Forces, the pride they hold in what we do and how we do business. The polls are all showing that they very much recognize and appreciate what we do, the unlimited liability that we sign up to and they also recognize that having a stronger force means being more capable, modern, flexible and combat capable, something they would like to see.

Certainly the monies injected into the Forces now will be put towards a number of priorities that we have. I think that we need to continue investing in people; that would be our first priority, because that really is the lifeblood of this organization. Budget 2004 allows for this with the announcement that, starting 1 January 2004, the employment income that CF members earn while deployed on high-risk operations outside Canada would be exempt from income tax. The Minister has stated that he is considering extending this tax break to other operations. This tax exemption is in addition to the hardship and risk allowance that is already paid to CF members while on a mission, which is also non-taxable.

24 Jan 04 – CFB Trenton, Ontario
General Henault speaks to soldiers returning from Kabul, Afghanistan where they were deployed for six months as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). (Photo: Cpl Christopher Bentley, 8 Wing Imaging)

There are a number of human resource  initiatives, not the least of which is re-establishing our trained effective strengths, which are critical for the long-term viability of the force. The next priority is the modernization and transformation critical to long-term effectiveness of the CF. We are also applying funds to operations because we need to keep delivering on operations. Without a doubt we continue to do what has to be done from a reallocation perspective, to ensure we match any new monies that come into the Forces with an equal attention to reallocation requirements, putting the money in the right place to provide the right capability at the right time on both domestic and international fronts. That’s where we are going with the budget.

The recent Speech from the Throne specifically mentioned replacing the Maritime Helicopter and providing a mobile gun system. What other equipment programs do you see as having high priority?

There are equipment projects out there which are fairly well detailed and laid out in the Strategic Capability Investment Plan (SCIP),  which is another initiative we undertook about a year or so ago to develop. This plan, which in its initial ­construct was very equipment and capital equipment focused, is going to be extended. We are now starting to work it into a more holistic investment plan to include infrastructure, environment, research and development, human resources and so on.

Ultimately we are going to fold all of our strategic capability requirements into a single document, so that it lays out in a fairly well structured way how we need to invest in the next 10 – 15 years. This gives us a solid, affordable force as well. It’s based on what we currently know is affordable in the long-term plan or the long-term budget lines that we have.

It’s a very reasonable and well-reasoned document that isn’t a “pie in the sky” or a type of “demand document” without a mitigated demand. In the short term, a number of things that are important to us are really related to deployability, whether it’s the rationalization of our air transport fleet, the renewal of our support ship requirements or the technology capabilities for C4ISR. In fact, with the recent budget, we will be able to accelerate the delivery of modern Fixed Wing Search and Rescue aircraft in order to replace the older fleets of Hercules and Buffalo aircraft. To do so, the Government will provide Defence new funds of $300 million per year, starting in 2005-2006, until this procurement is completed. Other major acquisitions identified in the budget are replacements for the Navy’s replenishment ships.

04 July 03 – Afghanistan – While visiting Canadian troops, General ray Henault, meets with then-commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Lieutenant General Norbert van Heyst (German Army) as ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt Frank Hudec, CF Combat Camera)

I think we will hear a bit more in the not to distant future about some of the specific capabilities that we want to replace beyond the mobile gun system and the other ones announced. I don’t want to get too far ahead of it because the Minister will make those announcements.

How do you see the Canadian public being involved in the ongoing Defence Review?

I think you’ll find that the Minister, and the other Ministers involved in the international policy review, will consult very broadly. That’s exactly what Minister McCallum did with the policy update. I know that Minister Pratt is consulting widely across a broad spectrum of defence and Canadian Forces stakeholders. He has already started that with a roundtable in Calgary in March.

We had a session at NDHQ with former Chiefs of Defence. The Minister is going to continue to seek the views of academics, associations, and other stakeholders that contribute to the defence picture. He fully intends to consult with Parliament and his other colleagues, as well as all of the other departments. It will be broadly based, with wide consultation across the spectrum. The public will have an ability to feed in very directly. I expect we will have an Internet site, as we did for the update, which will provide the public an opportunity to make their inputs directly to the Department. I’m encouraged by that: I think we will get the views of Canadians at large. It’s time for this review. Other countries have had an opportunity to do this and it is time for us to do it under the security environment that we are in. It’s timely and it’ll be a great springboard for our continued transformation.

During your tenure as CDS, you have been seen and heard on many occasions, both by the members of the Forces and the Canadian public. What is the most important message you would like to leave with those two constituencies?

I would say that I’m proud of how the members of the Canadian Forces and the Department have responded to this new security environment that we’re in and have managed the operational tempo.

From my point of view I need to maintain my focus on ensuring that we invest in people in the right way over the next few years. I need to ensure that we continue balancing off the operational and other needs of today against the requirements of tomorrow.

But at the same time, I need to make sure we place the right focus on the long term because, after all, that is what’s most important from my point of view… a Canadian Forces perspective is for us to remain credible and relevant on the world stage well into the 21st century. So I’ll continue doing that, my prime focus being on people and the second focus being on transformation and everything it represents.

Transforming the Forces and the Department is one of our keys to success in the long term. So I’ll continue doing that in every way that I possibly can, as long as I am here.

MGen (ret) John Leech is our Defence Informa­tion Technology Editor and former GM of AFCEA Canada.
© FrontLine Defence 2004