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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 23 - Evidence, September 24, 2003 - Morning meeting


QUEBEC, Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 10:40 a.m. to examine and report on the need for a national security policy in Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Good morning and welcome everyone. Today we will hear evidence on the preparedness of our Armed Forces, with particular emphasis on overseas operations.

My name is Colin Kenny, I'm a senator from Ontario and I chair the committee. Also with us today is the Honourable Senator Michael Forrestall, the distinguished senator from Nova Scotia and Vice-Chairman of the committee.

Allow me to introduce the other senators today present.

Senator Jack Wiebe, from Saskatchewan, was Lieutenant-Governor of that province and a member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly before being appointed to the Senate in 2000.

Senator Norm Arkins, from Ontario, joined the Senate in 1986. He has vast experience in the communications field and professional experience as an advisor to former Premier of Ontario, Bill Davis.

Senator Tommy Banks, from Alberta, is very well known to Canadians because he is one of our most versatile musicians and artists. He was named Officer of the Order of Canada in Canada in 1991 and senator in 2000. Senator Meighen is not here right now.

Senator David Smith, from Ontario, was a municipal councillor and deputy mayor of Toronto, as well a member of the House of Commons and Minister of State in Pierre Elliott Trudeau's government. He was appointed to the Senate in 2002.

Senator Jane Cordy, from Nova Scotia, is an accomplished educator, who had years of experience in community action when she joined the Senate in 2000.

Our committee is the first Standing Senate Committee to have a mandate to examine security and defence and, in particular, the need for a national security policy.

Over the past 18 months, we have published a number of reports, including ``Canadian Security and Military Preparedness'' in February 2002 and ``Defence of North America: A Canadian Responsibility'' in September 2002.

The committee is continuing its long-term assessment of Canada's ability to contribute to the security and defence of North America and is now assessing Canada's ability to defend its territorial waters and to take part in monitoring the continent's coasts.

Our first witness today will be Colonel Jocelyn Lacroix, Commander of the 5th Mechanized Brigade of Canada. Col. Lacroix has 25 years of service, having served in Germany and Cyprus and at the Military College.

Colonel Jocelyn P.P.J. Lacroix, Commander, 5th Group-Mechanized Brigade of Canada: Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce Chief Warrant Officer Ouellette of the 5th Brigade.

[English]

Although I will make my presentation in French, I am quite capable of answering any questions that the senators may have in English.

[Translation]

I would like to make a brief presentation to summarize the file submitted to your committee.

The two challenges I face as Commander of the 5th Brigade are as follows: first, maintaining cohesion within the force and my units and, second, the lack of trust that exists between the chain of command and the medical chain within my organization. I'll explain those two points in general terms.

As regards the first challenge, which is maintaining cohesion within my force, there are four main reasons why it is harder to maintain cohesion than in the past.

I dwell on cohesion because cohesion is the key to success for the Armed Forces, for an organization such as the 5th Brigade.

The four reasons making things more difficult now than 15 or 20 years ago are as follows.

First, as a result of our choices, we have a force which is much more heterogeneous than in the past. Second, we have a community, a society which has chosen to shift from a community based on collectivism to one based on individualism. So we have a vast distance between the fundamental values of the military profession and those of the people who join our profession.

Third, we lack stability because we don't have a lot of resources; people have to move from sector to sector in order to encounter all the tasks that must be performed. That means there's little stability within the units.

Fourth, the tool we used to use to build cohesion is less important. In other words, in the past, in order to train the team, there was regular collective training.

We have had to spread out and often do less collective training, which was conducted annually at all levels. So it is harder to build cohesion now than it was previously, for the three reasons I've just mentioned, plus the fact that we lack the resources to build that cohesion through collective training.

Potential solutions: At my level, we have addressed the education of leaders on what is changed. We have a few initiatives under way, including a university degree introduced for the army, for senior non-commissioned officers.

We also have a number of seminars in place to explain to people what's different and how they must adapt to those changes in order to develop cohesion, and the leadership styles that must be used.

We have also facilitated communications through internal measures that we have taken such as televisions in units, to try through various means to facilitate communication through the chain of command. New armed forces recruits are much hungrier for information than in the past. And it's important that that communication be established.

We've tried to achieve more stability within the 5th Brigade force by creating a minimum leadership standard enabling us to maintain at least 40 per cent of our officers year-round. The large number of tasks that must be performed previously forced that per centage down. We even have trouble maintaining this minimum standard. We're working on solutions to try to develop and maintain better cohesion.

The second major challenge I have is the lack of trust that exists between the chain of command and the medical chain, our medical specialists and officers.

In my view, there are two reasons why this has occurred. First, the mistakes made by certain members of the chain of command in the mid-1990s broke the trust with the medical chain.

Second, we've lost a lot of our doctors in uniform over the past 10 years. We have a number of young doctors in uniform who have entered the forces, but we've had to make up the difference with a number of civilians.

[English]

There is a cultural gap between the new people coming in on the medical side and the chain of command.

[Translation]

As a result of that cultural difference between the two groups, we do not understand each other as well and it is harder to work together.

This difficulty creates perceptions, such as the perception that it's easy to obtain a letter saying you're sick, and also a perception that it is easy to stay sick: perceptions we will have to work on.

Here are the kinds of solutions we have adopted. We've brought the two groups closer together through education and communication; education, by conducting a number of seminars in which groups from both chains have sat down together to get to understand each other better and to exchange challenges.

We've established a plan on the path to take to come closer together. Affiliations are being built between the various health workers and the chain of command.

Multidisciplinary committees have been established in the units to work together to solve a specific medical problem for a specific individual.

In the near future, we're going to work on protocols that will enable us to comply with the Confidentiality Act, to comply with the Code of Ethics of the various health workers, be they psychologists, sociologist, psychiatrists or doctors, while understanding the commander's responsibility and the chain of command's responsibility to develop an efficient force.

[English]

The members of 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group have been very much in demand since 1990. If they have achieved success, it is only because of the remarkable dedication and unselfishness of the individual members and the skill of the senior leadership in adjusting priorities to reflect their meager resources.

The achievements of Land Forces Quebec Area, LFQA, have come at the expense, in the medium term, of its infrastructure and the quality of the collective training given to troops not deployed on missions. The consequences of these decisions are difficult to measure at this point in time. The instability that has resulted from the combination of an accelerated tempo and a lack of resources has obliged Valcartier service personnel to constantly do more with less for over a decade.

In the short term, we are capable of providing adequate support to the operations planned for the coming year. Beginning in the fall of 2004, however, we will be forced to slacken our pace in order to catch our breath.

Thank you very much for your interest.

[Translation]

We're now ready to answer your questions, senators.

[English]

Senator Banks: As we travelled across the country, we heard of the problems that you have just described. We recognize that the capability of the Canadian Forces to function properly is, as you have just pointed out, primarily due to the quality of the people who are there and who are rising to the occasion in sometimes very difficult circumstances.

I hope that you have had an opportunity to read some of our reports with which we hope to influence public policies so as to address certain problems, particularly the shortfall in personnel and the training of personnel. As we understand it, to oversimplify the situation, part of the difficulty is that, when you send a unit overseas to function in the field, you must send people who are fully qualified and know what they are doing and those people, then, are stolen from the training process. It may be small comfort to you to know that we have heard and understand that message, and that we are wrestling with this problem and trying to address it in our future reports as we have, to a degree, in our previous ones.

I would like you to go further, if you would, into the first problem that you mentioned, and that is the challenges you face. Canada as now a more heterogeneous country and that is reflected in the makeup of the Armed Forces. That, in itself, presents difficulties in what you described as cohesiveness. By way of example, more than 30 per cent of the people who live in the city of Richmond, British Columbia are Asians. The country is changing, and that is ``good'' in the largest sense of the word, but you mentioned the problems that arise when you have people coming in who are from different cultural groups, different religions, and who may have different sexual orientation, and who are, as you described it, more likely to be looking for individualism which is something that does not work when Armed Forces personnel are in the field.

Can this something be managed? Are you able to deal with making the necessary changes to maintain a cohesive force, or is this an insurmountable problem? Could you expand on your earlier comments?

[Translation]

Col. Lacroix: Yes senator. First, it's important that we be a heterogeneous force which is a reflection of Canadian society. This wealth of difference is necessary if we want to be relevant today, not only in Canada, but in the world as well. This difference is an asset that is important to keep.

The problem is not insurmountable, on the contrary, but the education component must take place. In my opinion, the problem doesn't exist for the majority at the lowest level. New people are very open to all these social changes. Most of the young officers coming in are also open. They've been educated to all these changes.

In 1999, the Canadian Armed Forces made a significant change to the bachelor's degree curriculum of courses we give to our officers and non-commissioned officers. And that curriculum continued in 2001. The changes to the curriculum for senior non-commissioned officers started in the fall of 2003.

We currently have an educational void for giving our middle-level officers the necessary tools to correct the situation. Nothing's insurmountable. We have the tools to work on this. We've identified the importance of being able to conduct regular collective training in order to build the team. To do that, we have to be together, we have to work together.

That collective effort is currently being done in small doses, based on the operations we have. So, for a group that's coming up to strength, there's no problem, all the resources will be ready for that group. However, for the others, we'll have to steal people away from them for other instruction duties elsewhere. It's hard for those units to stay cohesive.

In conclusion, the problem isn't insurmountable. We have a number of the tools necessary to do that. It's currently a question of collective training in order to form these teams and, in my view, the growing problem of individualism is a much greater challenge than the challenge of being heterogeneous. Individualism is a much greater challenge because it diverts us from the fundamental values we need to succeed as a force.

[English]

The Chairman: Colonel, we have set a very ambitious agenda, but we do have one more question to put to you. Then, perhaps, you could proceed to further describe the program you outlined for us.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: Your last remarks make me think of something: in response to Senator Banks, you explained the solution, if I correctly understood, to the problems of integrating people from various traditions.

As you said, the problem of our society's values respecting the individual is that, in the army, it seems to me, you need a sense of community first of all. In your opinion, is that a problem of education, once in the Armed Forces? By training collectively, don't you believe that they'll nevertheless be able to combat not only the problems arising from various traditions, but also the rampant problems of individualism in our society?

Col. Lacroix: Absolutely. First, the problem will not go away; it is here to stay. We have a society which has selected those values and they won't disappear. We've been headed in this direction for a good 20 years, and that won't change.

The Canadian Armed Forces will never be able to work and succeed with individualists. So we don't have a choice; we have to change those individualists into people who are going to put the community and the welfare of their people and their fellow workers first. That's doable, but it takes time. And for that, you have to be able to keep the team ; you have to be able to keep the officer with his troops as long as long as possible.

Right now, to be able to meet its obligations within its budget envelope, the army has been forced to create an operational training cycle as a result of which not everyone has reached a certain level at the same time or an operational level at the same time. So we have a choice where, while some are on operations, others train, and still others are in reconstitution mode.

In practice, reconstitution mode means that the officers are no longer with the unit. Mostly, they must perform instruction duties elsewhere in Canada because those schools may not have all the instructors necessary to do the work.

This instability prevents us from training the team as we need to train it. That's not insurmountable. However, we have to be able to give the chain of command in place a certain degree of stability; a majority of officers have to remain in place year-round. The 5th Brigade has estimated that a minimum of 46 per cent of officers must remain in place year-round. If we can manage to do that, we'll build the team we need to build.

Senator Meighen: How will you manage to keep 46 per cent of officers in place? It seems to me we always come back to the same problem of mobile resources and human resources. I note your last sentence; you said: ``We have the lower the tempo in order to catch our breath starting in the fall 2004.''

I imagine you aren't unaware that our committee has previously recommended, not without some negative reaction, a stay of overseas operations by the Canadian Armed Forces for a period of two years.

We of course made that recommendation knowing that there would be a certain period of shock. However, when one thinks of it, reading your comments, I wonder whether that suggestion was not valid.

We can't continue at this pace. We can't continue placing an intolerable burden on the families of our military personnel and an insurmountable challenge on the chain of command. Don't you believe that a stay of one or two years would make sense? I asked the same question in Edmonton, so don't worry.

Col. Lacroix: I'm not at all worried. What I'm going to tell you I've already told my superior, so that doesn't trouble me at all.

You asked how we go about keeping 46 per cent of officers in place? By saying no. There's too much to do; there are things we can't do. We have to decide what things we won't do.

I've decided within my formation, and I've obtained my superior's support, that there are some things we won't do to be able to maintain a minimum. We haven't managed to maintain exactly what we wanted, but we're in a better position than we were last year.

Second, yes, I believe we need to take a rest break that remains to be determined. Is it for one or two years, whatever, I don't know.

I estimate that period at approximately 18 months for the 5th Brigade. However, we need resources in order to take a real break, a break during which we can rebuild collective training.

On the other hand, I wonder how we can do it. How can Canada tell its allies: ``We're tired: we can't help you any more for a period of time.'' I don't know. It's not up to me to decide.

I hope that, starting in the fall of 2004, the 5th Brigade will be able to rebuild as an organization and will have the necessary resources to keep itself at the collective level to maintain our efficiency.

I would like to close briefly on one point. We have to keep in mind that the soldier of today is not the one of 20 years ago. He's not required to serve in order to survive. The soldier of today is better educated; his or her spouse is better educated. They don't need wages from the Canadian Armed Forces in order to survive.

If we don't focus on maintaining a reasonable place, in 20 years, they're going to leave the forces because they won't need to stay.

In an increasingly individualistic world, how can we keep people in a profession that requires them to be altruistic and to give of themselves without relying on this kind of environment?

[English]

The Chairman: Thank you very much, colonel. As usual in these situations, we have a very tight agenda to follow. I recognize that other senators wanted to ask you questions, and I hope we can catch up with you on them. We have already fallen behind on our schedule. That being the case, I would ask our next panel to come forward.

LCol. Lacroix: Thank you very much senator. I will be available throughout the day, should you need me.

The Chairman: We will now hear from LCol. Frappier, LCol. Riffou and LCol. Ouellette. I understand that you have brief opening statements. I would presume that LCol. Frappier will be the first to speak.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Frappier, Commander, 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment, Department of National Defence: First, let me introduce the CWO and Regimental SgtMaj. Belcourt.

[Translation]

My brief presentation this morning will focus on the role of change in my unit and medium-term impacts.

The regiment's traditional role was to take direct mobile fire power to the battlefield; that mobility was provided by the protection of the tank and its ability to roll across fields.

Although an important role, reconnaissance, has always remained the secondary role, since only one-third of the armoured corps' strength was equipped to do it.

The interim restructuring of the Army reversed that reality; that is to say that more than two-thirds of our personnel are dedicated to reconnaissance, seven out of a total of nine squadrons.

This new reality raises two major challenges: maintaining the current joint operation situation and managing equipment.

We have a tactical army based on joint service cooperation. At the heart of those tactics was the combat team trained by the infantry and armoured branch, infantry and tanks.

The interim army model will limit those tactics to the brigade exercise, which, for my regiment, will take place once every three years.

The only ones who will maintain tank expertise will be my western counterparts. It will be impossible to maintain organized combat team operation capabilities.

In the near future, my officers and non-commissioners officers will no longer have the joint service expertise in the traditional sense of the word. We are working very hard to redefine our tactics and their application, but this change will have to come at a price.

Second, even more important I believe is the impact that this change will have on equipment management. The armoured corps will have seven reconnaissance squadrons in the country, in addition to the two that are deployed on mission, in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

We don't have the necessary equipment for all those squadrons. The proposed fleet management plan is to send the equipment to the unit that is training for a mission, at the expense of the other two.

Although this practice seems sound from a management point of view, we see some problems, including premature wear and tear on equipment.

The more users there are of a piece of equipment, the faster its wear and tear; this problem is aggravated by the lack of a team's sense of belonging to its equipment. The armoured corps trooper defines himself by his equipment. Our culture is mainly based on our tanks; without them, the trooper is only an infantry man without depth.

I anticipate a morale problem if I don't obtain the necessary equipment to equip my entire regiment. The troops will lose their sense of belonging and will question their role, which will have an impact on retaining our people.

Although understood in my presentation, I'm not addressing the lack of training resulting from the application of the interim army model, but I am available to discuss it during the question period.

In short, the regiment is currently equipped to respond to the various duties assigned it. However, without additional resources in the medium term, it may not be in a position to meet our citizens' expectations.

Thank you for your attention to my presentation. Although very brief, I hope it has given you an idea of the major challenges facing the 12th Armoured Regiment of Canada.

Lieutenant-Colonel François Riffou, Commander, 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, I am Lieutenant-Colonel François Riffou, Commander of the 1st Battalion. I took over the battalion's command in June of this year. I'm accompanied today by my Chief Warrant Officer Landry.

By way of introduction, allow me to remind you of the theoretical role of the infantry, which is to approach and destroy the enemy.

Well-armed, combative and tough soldiers are the essence of the infantry battalion. All the rest, weapons, vehicles, supplies and equipment, merely assist the infantry man in carrying out his mission.

The battalion emerges victorious from the fight thanks to the determination of the combatants and the judicious use of weapons and terrain.

The role of my battalion, one of two battalions, LAV III, in Valcartier, for 2003-2004, is to build up to LAV in order to be able to carry out the operational duties assigned by the brigade in accordance with the Army Training and Operations Framework, the ATOF.

Three unique problems affect my unit directly, and this is a bit similar to the brigade commander's comments.

First, I would like to tell you about turbulence in the 1st Battalion's leadership. Since the summer of 2000, the battalion has been in a rebuilding period. As a result, a significant portion of the unit, 29 per cent, has been in an instruction and high operational availability cycle together with the rest of the battalion which is in a support period, thus undermining the battalion's operational capability in the short and medium terms.

During that same period, since the summer of 2000, the 1st Battalion has performed more than 271 individual tasks, not to mention our reinforcing of the PALLADIUM operations in Bosnia, where we reinforced our unit with the equivalent of one company. Those individual duties last an average of 50 days and are normally assigned to non- commissioned officers and junior officers, that is officers from master caporal to the rank of major. I have 164 in my unit. So the task ratio among those ranks during that period was 1.6 per man.

As regards the collective training exercises, during the same period, the unit has conducted only one exercise, of scarcely four weeks, in Gagetown last fall.

During that exercise, only 60 per cent of the unit's strength took part and now that team has effectively changed in the intervening period.

[English]

The second issue that affects the unit is the conversion to the LAV III and the tactical command control systems being integrated into the vehicles.

[Translation]

These are very complex systems requiring us to acquire and maintain new skills on this equipment. You can imagine that, with the personnel movements, the problem is only worsening within the unit.

Lastly, the last single problem in the 1st Battalion is the recent change of mission. Until this summer, we were scheduled to take part in Roto 14 in Bosnia. However, as a result of a recent change in our commitments in Bosnia, the make-up of Canada's contribution has been changed.

In August, the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the duty of generating and training the tactical group. We'll take advantage of that change to rebuild the battalion team. However, once again, this will be done in one of my companies, which will be deployed with the 3rd Battalion in Kabul in January.

Ladies and gentlemen, that completes my brief presentation, and I'll be available to answer your questions following the comments of the commander of the 2nd Battalion.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Ouellette, Commander, 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment: I am Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Ouellette, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment. I am also Commander of the Citadel in Quebec City, which is a bit unusual for an infantry battalion in Valcartier.

I'm accompanied today by my Chief Warrant Officer, my unit area SM, Chief Warrant Officer Samson.

The 2nd Battalion returned from Bosnia last fall, in October 2002. So we are currently a battalion that is rebuilding, in the training cycle that Colonel Lacroix mentioned to you earlier. I'll come to that a little bit later to describe a few aspects and the impact that has on a combat unit.

The unit mission is to maintain multipurpose, combat-ready troops to carry out all missions assigned to the unit as such.

This year, the mandate I've been given is mainly to focus my efforts on individual training at the platoon level.

My financial resources for personnel and training priorities are very limited. When you refer to level 3 training, at the platoon level, that requires approximately 36 persons.

I have to do that within a company framework, but no collective training is possible at the combat team company or battalion level as such, a point that Colonel Lacroix mentioned earlier. That has an impact on the unit's combat structure, cohesion and deployability.

It's a motorized battalion, like the first battalion of the Royal 2nd Regiment. It's a battalion of 648 persons, and 178 vehicles. I currently have only 116 vehicles, being short about 60, roughly half; they are combat vehicles which are mainly used to reinforce ATHENA operations.

I've lost half of my combat vehicles, which were sent to offset the shortages for the operation currently under way in Afghanistan.

I also have responsibility for security and management of the Citadel as Commander of the 2nd Battalion.

We also have a few problems unique to the unit. The first is infrastructure. The infrastructure dates back to the 1970s. It is not adequate for the troops; it's cold in winter and the heating is inadequate. It is extremely hot in summer, and there's no air conditioning. The ventilation systems do not maintain adequate ambient air conditions year-round. There are various priorities established at the sectoral level. At the brigade level, these are known problems, but since the infrastructure is aging, we don't always necessarily have the funds to meet our needs.

Second, another problem unique to the unit is that my battalion has the highest average age, 33.

When I started at the battalion some 20 years ago, the average age was 24. So it's increased by 10 years in the space of 20 years; that's a lot for an infantry battalion.

That means that there are a lot more medical cases and far fewer people who are deployable on operational missions. I will come to that a bit later.

In my rebuilding and support phase, I lack personnel and materiel resources in the unit. I mentioned the lack of vehicles and the lack of personnel to provide the same minimum training level I'm asked to provide at level 3, at the platoon level as such.

The lack of collective training at the battalion company level necessarily limits the unit's operational capability and the interest the officers and troops have in training.

The instructional framework, the way the cycle is currently organized, is being validated, but is causing a lot of problems at the unit combat structure level.

In the infantry battalions, we've lost resources that were integral parts of those organizations: for example, the pioneer and mortar platoons are capabilities that take a certain degree of self-sufficiency away from the infantry battalions. They're capabilities we no longer have at this time.

The rate of medical cases and special cases in the unit is high. My strength is 648, and I currently have 118 in the unit.

I mentioned earlier that the average age of my unit was 33. Today, 118 persons in the unit can't be deployed on operational missions without doing training; so I start at 530.

Of that number, we have medical cases that have permanent medical conditions, temporary medical conditions, sick leave of over 30 days, special status cases, parental leave cases and all kinds of family-related or personal cases.

These illness cases limit my unit's operational capability. That's a concern, and that's a major everyday consideration.

The burn-out and very high operational tempo — Colonel Lacroix mentioned that earlier — require a lot of effort from the units because, to prepare a unit to deploy, we are very often required to take elements from two or three other units. We're required to provide personnel and equipment, which reduces our units' capabilities.

Colonel Lacroix mentioned that the minimum leadership standard was 45 per cent. Over the past year, that minimum standard was very hard to maintain. I'm currently at 28 per cent of my minimum leadership standard.

Just to give you an idea, in a battalion of 648, we have 148 officer positions; to maintain the 45 per cent standard, that represents 66 positions. Currently in the field, I have 42 officers to maintain the unit's combat structure, instruction and training. That's very little.

We're also using a vocabulary we didn't use in the past. For example, we use words like ``creativity'' and ``imagination'' for training so that they remain relevant and to maintain unit morale and cohesion. We spend a lot of time training the troops, talking to them to ensure that they understand the context clearly and to ensure that they don't lose their ability to raise the unit's combat structure and maintain the cohesion of the unit as such.

Those are the main points I wanted to raise with regard to the unit and the unit's problems, which are a bit particular but not unique to the 2nd Battalion. The 1st Battalion has also experienced those problems over the past year, and even over the past two years.

With respect to quality, I believe the officers, non-commissioned officers and troops are the best infantry troops, the best military troops in the world. We have excellent soldiers, excellent officers and non-commissioned officers, who are well supervised and who show a high level of good will, and who receive good training.

The pressure is very great for the resources we have, and, very often — what you're going to read between the lines — too much is asked of us for the capabilities we have in terms of resources.

[English]

The Chairman: We are struck with your presentations and the challenges you face.

Senator Smith: Gentlemen, I thought I would give you a few perspectives on the comments we have heard, and I would invite all of you to respond, if you so wish.

Our primary function here today is to listen. We can give you our views on certain things and perhaps tell you where some of our biases lie, but it is most important that we listen to what you have to say. However, it is also important that you understand that the members of this committee are sympathetic to Canada playing a meaningful military role. If we were not sympathetic to that, we would not be members of this committee. Eight of our nine members are here today. Our function is not, however, to ask you how much you need and then to sign a blank cheque.

It is very timely to have sessions like this for two reasons. We want you to be honest with us, and we will be honest with you. The two reasons from my perspective are: First, we have this ongoing debate which has not been definitively resolved and will not be for some time, if ever, on what the military requirements are in a post-Cold War era and a post-9/11 era, because those are quite different from what they were 15 years ago. We must make some tough decisions about our new requirements.

When I was growing up in Estonia, one of the Soviet states, I thought that the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall would exist for the rest of my lifetime. I cannot describe how excited the Estonian people were when the Berlin Wall came down. I have never been hugged so much in my life. It was a great moment in history.

Of course, you know all the details about 9/11.

The second reason for my particular perspective relates to the fact that we are undergoing a change of government in Ottawa. The same party will be in office, but it will have a new leader, and every new leader sets his or her own agenda. The leader determines priorities. The odds of having an election this spring are pretty high. A year from now, a new government will be in place, and it will be determining its priorities. If you have a case for what these priorities should be vis-à-vis our military, now is the time to articulate it.

One of my own biases relates to Canada's peacekeeping role. We will no longer be fighting conventional armies in the field, as was the case in Korea or during the Second World War. I believe that Canada has developed a certain niche in peacekeeping. We may not be as good at it as we were in the past because of limited resources and funding, but certain things have not changed. Canadians have an earned trust and respect throughout the world, and we should be proud of that.

We are not perceived as having other agendas like the Americans. As the only superpower in the world, it will always be perceived as having other agendas.

Did we go into Iraq? No. Might we be there in the next two or three years? I would not be surprised if that were to be the case. The Americans would welcome it.

I would also refer to the situation in Liberia. The Americans have troops on boats standing by, although they have not landed. When playing the role of policeman, one cannot police only oil states.

The Chairman: Senator, I apologize for interrupting, we only have 20 minutes left in the session. Perhaps you could go directly to your question and ask our witnesses to respond.

Senator Smith: My hunch is that Canadians will continue to play roles in places such as Bosnia and Afghanistan, where some of you will be going to sooner or later. I think there is a fair chance we will go into Iraq. Sooner or later, all western countries wind up doing something in Africa. What are the priorities? What makes sense vis-à-vis equipment and personnel such as tanks, armoured battalions or infantry? We are sympathetic and open minded. What would you like us to hear?

LCol. Frappier: Senator, I understand the Canadian stance and I understand your view on the use of tanks when it comes to Canada's peacekeeping role. I honestly do not have a problem with the idea of us losing tanks.

My point was that we have to consider what you want us to do. We need a clear policy. Now we are being asked to play a multi role, a multi combat capable force. From I was taught and what I understand, that includes the use of tanks.

If there is a review of what we are expected to do, and if the thrust of our role is peacekeeping, so that we require that type of force, then I am sure we will be able to look at it in that light and make choices.

The problem, to my way of thinking right now, with my culture, my background, is that my country is asking us to do one thing and we are being resourced for something else at a lesser rate than what is required for what we are being asked to do. In the medium ground, we are trying to make it happen with the resources we have.

I am not saying that what we are trying to do with the tanks and where we are going with that is wrong. I am just saying that there is a cost. The cost is that two thirds of those who had the experience or the know-how to direct fire support on the battlefield will no longer have that. We will become professional reconnaissance, medium reconnaissance soldiers.

What is the price of that? If we are ever asked to perform duties which are on the other side of the coin, so to speak, then we have limited forces able to do that. I just wanted to highlight the cost of doing business the way we are doing it.

The Chairman: Are there other comments?

LCol. Riffou: Sir, I think we are moving toward the discussion of the question: Do we train for peacekeeping, or do we train for war? In the army, people will tell you that, in order to be good peacekeepers, you must be a capable a war fighter. You cannot expect that those trained solely for peacekeeping, and who are working in a peacekeeping scenario in a volatile area which blows up, will be able to step up to fighting a war.

Certainly some people will sway the argument one way or the other because of the resource challenge.

Currently, I think that the army is moving toward a more flexible, more agile force. We would like to see it being more rapidly deployable, but that is not in the cards right now. We would like to see it being more sustainable in terms of the tail, because certainly in my unit, I have the bayonets, but I have no tail to go anywhere, because the tail is being robbed to support Bosnia and the force in Kabul.

The army is changing to try to do these things, but this again goes back to resources that are changing inside a fixed envelope. The result is that we are forcing changes that seem quite logical from a strategic perspective but, on the shop floor, our soldiers are feeling the impact.

Col. Lacroix spoke about the medical situation. Col. Ouellette spoke to you about the vehicles. We have spoken to you about collective training. I join Colonel Frappier in saying: Tell us what you want us to do, and give us the resources to do it.

Presently, we are trying to do our best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. That scenario has happened. You will speak to soldiers in my unit and other units who have been involved in peacekeeping missions under a UN charter, where they have had to put to use their war fighting skills. Had they not had that training, I do not know how well they would have done. We would have seen many more Canadian casualties coming home from some of those missions.

[Translation]

Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Ouellette, Commander, 2nd Battalion, Royal 2nd Regiment: Mr. Chairman, I'll make a few comments. I believe the best preparation for our troops, as Colonel Riffou has mentioned, is to prepare them for war, to prepare them so that they are combat-ready.

That preparation will better prepare us for peace missions because, with the three-block war, and with the asymmetrical threat we currently have, our soldiers, in a single day, can be called upon to carry out humanitarian missions, peace-keeping missions and combat operations. The best preparation is to train them for combat in order to do that.

What could also help us is probably another white paper on defence. I believe we need a minimum level of troops or armed forces. The minimum level should be 60,000 troops to establish a ceiling for deployment outside the country.

Sixty thousand troops means 2,000 troops outside the country, and, beyond that figure, we begin to seriously affect the units' combat structure, we begin to arrive at a much too high operational tempo. At one point, too much is asked of us, and we wear out our troops, who experience burn-out. They are sicker over the years because the constant pressure is too great. We should establish a maximum number of people we send outside the country.

[English]

The Chairman: Thank you.

Senator Forrestall: Earlier you talked about the delivery of medical care. When your men and women come home and need help, where do you send them? Do you have a den house or do you send them downtown?

LCol. Riffou: We had a meeting with most of the officers of the brigade only two weeks ago to speak of the now 28 programs that are in place here in Valcartier to support our soldiers and their families through medical, psychological, stress. These are all in-house programs in Valcartier.

Beyond immediate care, we are now developing better links with Veteran's Affairs. We have better links to support people for those who require long-term care.

Senator Forrestall: My concern is for the 18 year old, a young adult, who performs peacekeeping duties for 10 or 15 years and who comes home and is a little lost. He has no one to turn to, and we do not have, generally speaking, the level of care that we would desire throughout the Armed Forces to treat this kind of trauma.

Where are you treating your men who come home with problems? Where do you send them? Where do they find professional care?

[Translation]

LCol. Frappier: I believe that we at Valcartier are a leader in the Army with regard to the treatment of our stressed personnel.

As Colonel Riffou has just mentioned, we have developed 28 different programs to assist our soldiers. Those programs are open to all those who need them.

What is more important is that we underscore the problem within the chain of command and we've done a lot of work to educate the chain of command on these problems in particular.

[English]

We have highlighted the problem for the chain of command. In the past year we have made a major effort to train the chain of command so that we can recognize and treat those types of casualties. We treat them in-house. We have established a better link with those individuals who have to be withdrawn from the unit for extended periods of time.

Senator Forrestall: What do you do with the men and women of the reserve augmentation? Where do they go when then come home?

LCol. Riffou: I knew you were going to go there, sir. That was, probably a year ago, the weakest part of our entire system. We bring them in, we train them for six months, they go overseas with us, they come back, we take their kit back, finish the paper work, and they go back to their home units.

We are now developing a much tighter web to follow those individuals through to their home units. I cannot speak to the web beyond the unit, that is, if the individual leaves the unit and then comes back for follow-up. Certainly in the Quebec sector, in LFQA, we are establishing that web and, as my colleague suggested, through education of our own officers and NCOs, as well as those in the chain of command, that problem is being recognized. I think it is being addressed.

Senator Forrestall: They are important to you, so do not forget them.

LCol. Riffou: Yes, sir.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: Your English and French, both of you, are better than mine, but, since we're in Valcartier, I'm going to try to ask the question in French.

I'm intrigued by the tank question, colonel. What seems certain is that we can't afford and, in the short and medium terms, won't be able to afford to transport them overseas except by boat, and that takes time, and sometimes the company is depleted and we have trouble getting our tanks back.

Is it an option from a military standpoint to keep people in Canada for training purposes only and, overseas, for the infantry, to work with the tanks and military personnel of other countries? It seems to me the two must work hand in hand for me to be able to establish a complete operation.

Can we contemplate a practical solution in which Canadian tanks never leave the country? Or, in that context, do you think, from a military standpoint, we should abandon that capability and concentrate elsewhere?

LCol. Frappier: To answer the first part of your question, first, I don't believe it's feasible to train our individuals in Canada in joint service tactics in order to be employed with elements from other countries.

There's a very high level of battlefield chaos, a tug of war. One of the ways to cope with that chaos is cohesion. We talked about team cohesion and cohesion comes from training.

[English]

It comes through the trust that we have of our fellow servicemen, the trust we build up by going through the same types of challenges during collective training. You know that, when you deploy, you can trust that person.

The problem with working with another nation is: How can we trust them? Different cultures apply tactics differently. How do we overcome that situation?

[Translation]

I don't want to venture an opinion on the use of tanks overseas. It's important to define our overseas role. It's very important to define what Canada wants to embark on with respect to military forces.

If our country decides that we won't go alone and that we'll embark on missions, where will the military be employed in a restricted framework? Can we foresee being able to do that without tanks? I believe so because we've just done it in the past decade.

Will there always be a need for direct fire on the battlefield? Yes.

Are we looking at vehicle solutions that are more deployable than the tank? In the Canadian context, yes.

The arrival of this type of vehicle will require a change in attitude and tactics on the Canadian battlefield. We'll have to overcome that in our culture.

However, the ball is now in the court of our masters. It's now in the Canadian government's court to tell us what it wants and to tell us, if that's the case, ``We won't pay you to make tanks, so don't conduct operations in which you'll need them.''

Until we're told that, we can't turn around and scrap the tanks.

[English]

The Chairman: When we were being briefed before we came to see you, we were told that one of the principal problems was that a military person lives, functions and trains in a battalion and then when he or she is sent overseas, that person has to adjust to being in a battle group. Is that one of the reasons you are having difficulty with cohesion?

LCol. Riffou: Sir, coming out of Germany in the late 1980s, early 1990s, was one of the biggest stumbling blocks that we had to overcome because, in Germany, we had an isolated brigade with all of those units coming together and developing that cohesion. They worked together year in, year out. It brought the francophones and the anglophones together. There was a battalion of the Royal 22nd, and elements in all the other units were francophone.

When we pulled out of Germany and fell back to the three principal army bases in Canada, and we started begging and stealing from each other to create these units, we lost that cohesion.

LCol. Lacroix can tell you that this brigade has not exercised as a brigade group, with battle groups, in probably almost a decade.

The Chairman: The committee is convinced, and its reports have made it clear, that we have no doubt that there is a lack of funding and a lack of personnel. Is there also a structural question? Is there something that we are not focusing on adequately in our examination of these issues?

LCol. Frappier: I think it is better than it was. When I joined the brigade 17 years ago, there were huge walls between the units. With the up-tempo environment we have lived in, and having been deployed as battle groups overseas, we have broken those walls down. I think that cohesion is better today than it has ever been between units.

Could that be enhanced even more if we changed the structure? I do not have an answer to that, but I think we have gone a long way in the right direction towards rebuilding our cohesion with the few resources that we have. I truly believe that collective training is the way to build cohesion.

The Chairman: If it is not structural, we go back to question of resources. We go back to the numbers of people, and the reality that the demographics of Canada are changing, and Canadian institutions have to change with demographics.

LCol. Riffou: You must also understand that if we want to stay world-class, if we want to be able to be sent overseas on multinational missions, we will be called upon to work with others and develop those bonds of cohesion for those operations.

If we do not train to develop that cohesion here in Canada, across all units, if I am sent a squadron from one unit and a battery of guns from another, how can we be expected to work as a team once we are deployed overseas? Col. Lacroix will be building those bonds with the battle groups under his command. Those may be from other nations. If we do not practise it here at home, we cannot be expected to function at a world-class level overseas.

The Chairman: When was the last time that you trained with American and U.K. forces?

Senator Forrestall: What about French or German forces?

The Chairman: We, as usual, find ourselves caught with too many questions and too many people with knowledge from whom we would like to learn, and too little time. We will have a break in the afternoon at 3.10 p.m., when I gather, we will have an opportunity to regroup and perhaps, individually, we can pursue some topics.

Are there any concluding comments that you would like to make regarding the questions you have heard today?

[Translation]

LCol. Ouellette: Yes, it's when we deploy for missions such as that in Afghanistan. I can tell you that cohesion exists at the battalion group level, and all efforts are put into the military personnel, who are very professional, and cohesion exists and is ultimately achieved through collective training.

All training supervision, both for this fall and for preparations for Bosnia and Afghanistan, is adequate. Training makes it possible to maintain that cohesion.

When we refer to loss of cohesion, it's mainly in the units, which are not identified for deployment in operational missions. It's up to the troops that remain to maintain a certain level of training. They don't necessarily have the personnel and equipment resources to maintain that cohesion. However, I can guarantee you that the units we deploy have the necessary cohesion to deploy in order to do the job they're asked to do outside the country.

[English]

The Chairman: I would like to convey a message to you. The people of Canada have tremendous pride in the work that you are doing. We are here as a parliamentary committee to tell you that and to ask you to convey that to the men and women who work for you. We are all proud of the work that you are doing. We respect it, and we have some understanding of how difficult it is, although we do not really know how difficult it is. We want to convey to you the respect and pride that the people of Canada have in the important work that you are doing.

Thank you very much for assisting the committee this morning.

The committee adjourned.