Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 5 - Evidence - Meeting of May 31, 2010


OTTAWA, Monday, May 31, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4 p.m. to examine and report on the national security and defence policies of Canada (topic: the state of the Canadian Forces).

Senator Pamela Wallin (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. We are pleased today to be speaking over the course of the next three hours to the three commanders in charge of our three services — the army, the navy and the air force — to get an overview of the state of the nation. We have had a very high operational tempo, as they say, right across the services.

We begin today with Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff. He is joined by Chief Warrant Officer Wayne Ford. The general will assume a new post in June as Chief of Transformation. His military career started when he joined the 30th Field Artillery Regiment of the reserves. He transferred to the regular forces in 1981. He initially served with the regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Germany. It was the regiment that, like his father before him, he eventually commanded.

Lieutenant-General Leslie served in Germany, Cyprus, the former Yugoslavia, Manitoba and Quebec, and he eventually became commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. That was in 1997. In 1999, he was promoted to brigadier-general. Lieutenant-General Leslie was appointed Commander Task Force Kabul and Deputy Commander for the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan. He became Assistant Chief of the Land Staff. Then, in June 2006, he became Chief of the Land Staff.

As Chief of Transformation, he will be dealing with the military's command structure, annual federal budgets and the acquisition of new equipment for the army, navy and air force.

That is the lay of the land. I am assuming you have opening statements, sir.

Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff, National Defence: Yes, I do.

[Translation]

Good afternoon, Madame Chair and distinguished committee members. It is a pleasure to be back with the committee and to have this opportunity to answer your questions about the army.

[English]

Before proceeding, allow me to express my most profound sympathies to the families of the fallen and wounded, be they soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, members of the foreign affairs community and CIDA, journalists or non- government workers doing their duty.

[Translation]

The dedication and commitment of our regular and reserve soldiers, civilians and Rangers has ensured an impressive record of excellence for the army that has been recognized by the Canadian public and our allies. The army has made outstanding contributions to CF operational mission successes both at home and abroad, and has maintained a very high level of individual and collective training. The operational tempo, enemy fire and the harsh terrain in Afghanistan have caused casualties to our personnel and the deterioration of our vehicles and equipment. However, the army as an institution will be able to maintain its future operational capacity despite our long service in Afghanistan.

The greatest lessons learned and reaffirmed from Afghanistan are as follows: the army must maintain a balanced capability set based upon the combined arms team; we must be adaptive to ever and rapidly changing circumstances; our command and control must be studied to permit flexibility at all levels; we must be tactically responsive in widely dispersed operating areas; and we must be aware of the balance of tension between why we are doing something and how we get it done.

Over the past several years, while fighting a cunning and ruthless enemy, we have been forced to learn and relearn the critical nature and immeasurable value of unit level integration, adaptability and decentralized command and control. It is clear that the army that first deployed to Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 is not the army that will return to Canada in 2011. We now have one of the best trained, equipped and respected armies in the world, and this is thanks to your support and that of all Canadians.

The army mission is to generate combat-effective, multi-purpose land forces to meet Canada's defence objectives. Fulfilment of this mission will require the army to continue to evolve, reorient its structures, processes and capabilities to meet the evolving defence requirements of the post-Afghanistan period. Reorientation is thus an objective central to the achievement of the army's core mission. Specifically, the army must switch from a mode of operation in which all force generation activities are focused on a single line of operation to a mode of operation that takes into account the requirements of the Canada First Defence Strategy, which aims to support the six fundamental missions of the Canadian Forces in the context of an overall effort to reorganize the Canadian Armed Forces post-Afghanistan. Successful reorientation encompasses two key processes: recovery and reconstitution.

Recovery represents the complex, multi-agency repatriation of vehicles, equipment and materiel from the Afghan theatre to Canada, in accordance with the structure of post-mission force generation. Reconstitution is a process whereby core capabilities and functions are analyzed to identify baseline critical assets that enable program efficiency and effectiveness.

The department's response to these stated needs and its support have produced the following very impressive results: we now have stable and continued funding despite internal adjustments that were deemed necessary to support acquisition efforts and national procurement demands; we have witnessed support for the integration and implementation of counter-improvised explosive device equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, Chinooks, upgraded armoured systems and enhanced surveillance systems; we have grown the army's regular and reserve forces, the civilian employees and Rangers, who are part of the army; we employ significant numbers of reservists both on operations and in critical posts here in Canada, and our civilian personnel continue to provide continuity and depth to the army's mission; the family of land combat vehicles project is on track and delivery of essential modifications to our light armoured vehicle fleet will support the army's needs into the near future; the army's training system is an organization that ensures that our forces are deployed into the most difficult operational circumstances with the knowledge, skills and abilities essential to win the fight, or whatever the mission calls for, be it Afghanistan, the Olympics or Haiti.

And lastly, the joint headquarters renewal project is advancing and the initial elements of this essential joint command and control capability will stand up in Kingston.

In the coming year, the army will focus its efforts on consolidation, which will follow the end of operations in Afghanistan, with the objective of instituting a new readiness framework and rationalize our structures to meet the challenges of the future strategic environment. As regards the consolidation constituting its mandatory framework, the army will have to take into account three themes: reorientation, readiness and resources. I have already spoken to you about the first two themes, so I will focus my comments on resources.

It is clear that the army's budget has enjoyed sustained growth over the past several years, and that is excellent. Our challenge is to adjust the army's training, equipment, people and infrastructure to achieve a sustainable balance in keeping with demands and expectations placed upon us.

In summary, our army is ferociously busy. The young soldiers have achieved amazing things at sometimes tragic costs. New equipment is arriving at an unprecedented rate, our training is superb, our overall funding line continues to increase, and we are getting the job done.

Madam Chair, allow me to express my deep pride and gratitude for the opportunity I have had to work with the dedicated men and women who serve the army. They are a great credit to the country, and I know they can count on this committee for continued support.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you. I am sure they appreciate your words, and they know they have the support of this committee.

We have a lot of ground to cover today and we have a long list, so we will begin as we always do with our deputy chair, Senator Dallaire. We will try to keep our questions short and focused.

[Translation]

Senator Dallaire: I am delighted to see you here and to be able to ask you a few questions. Your presentation shows a quite remarkable optimism or degree of satisfaction. However, the budget scenario from 2009-10 onward is tending downward or at least has remained at the anticipated level.

To what extent can you maintain the units' level of operational competence in the coming years, in view of the large number of veterans and the Afghanistan mission which will be ending soon, from the standpoint of resources, maintenance, ammunition, reserve funding, training and development? Do you anticipate a stagnation or regression that might have the effect of redirecting certain material acquisitions to the right as a result of unavailable funding in the coming years?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Thank you for your question, senator. First, let us talk about the budget. With respect to the salaries of regular forces members, the amounts directed to the army today amount to $3.9 billion. That figure represents an increase of some $1.6 billion, a 43 per cent increase over 2005-06.

[English]

The army budget has increased again this year by several tens of millions of dollars. In terms of the required funds for ammunition, for training and for spare parts, obviously it is a consultative process within the Department of National Defence, but my vehicle rates are getting better. A variety of innovative measures have been put in place by a bunch of folk around town. Obviously, our ammunition expenditure rates have been focused mainly on the road to war and on getting those soldiers, both regular and reserve, ready for the complexities they will face overseas. That has drawn away a great deal of the ammunition stocks, but they are still relatively plentiful.

In terms of the training, the laser-like focus that your army has had on both its domestic missions, job one, be it supporting the G8, the G20 or, more recently, the Olympics, and, of course, the large mission in Afghanistan, means that every effort we have is predicated on train to need. If you are on deck to go overseas, both regular and reserve — and bless the reserves for stepping up to the plate in such large numbers — you receive, arguably, the best training in the world.

I am very happy with the current state of the army. There are pressures all over. There obviously are pressures with an army that has been essentially running for many years. Our numbers have gone up and our budgets have increased.

Senator Dallaire: In the five-year budget line, with Afghanistan rolling down, have you seen the necessity of reducing the operational effectiveness of the forces? In so doing, what capacity would you have to deploy post- Afghanistan?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Right now, we could deploy a light battalion group on whatever task the Government of Canada might wish it to do, commensurate with a relatively light scale of protective equipments, composed of both regular and reserves. As you know so well, we just finished doing that in Haiti. Should there have been a requirement for more robust rules of engagement in protective equipments, a modest amount could have been made available.

What the investment of the Canadian people in their army has acquired for them is a world-class army that has a higher degree of responsiveness and readiness than I have seen in many a decade — indeed, an extraordinary period in terms of the sweep over the last three decades. We are at a state where we are truly running hot.

Senator Dallaire: And your budget will sustain that?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, I believe it will. There are funds that are specifically allocated by the Government of Canada towards the Afghanistan mission. Obviously, once we come out in 2011, they will no longer be available to us. That as well caters to repair of equipments that are being directed solely towards Afghanistan. What those numbers are and what they will end up being, I do not know.

Senator Meighen: Welcome. Good to see you back, general. I have a couple of specific questions referring to previous testimony that we have heard from you here.

As I recall, the last time you appeared you were concerned with the difficulty of recruiting and retaining specialized trades. That is not unique to the army; it is also a problem with the navy and the air force. Have you made any progress there? I know there has been demand from the civilian side of the economy for these highly trained people, and it has been hard to keep them, particularly when they can opt out of the Armed Forces at a relatively young age with a relatively attractive pension and triple their income.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: To answer the question of recruiting, your army has grown by approximately 3,075 regulars — I count every one — over the last four to five years. The largest percentage of increase has happened in the last 12 to 18 months. We currently have infantry battalions that are over their authorized manning levels to the extent that I have had to impose some control measures. If you want to join the infantry, which is the tip of the spear for the Canadian army — and bless all those young men and women who choose to do so — you can expect a considerable wait. We are over our establishment in infantry. In the more specialized trades, currently the vehicle technicians are at 90 per cent of their establishment, and the schools are over 100 per cent full of great young Canadians who have chosen to join their army in those specialized endeavours.

It will take approximately two years to turn a soldier into a technician you can use on the battlefield. As an interim measure, the Government of Canada, by the end of May, is about to make a positive pronouncement on a civilian contract in five of the army's major bases to refurbish equipments, therefore freeing up military technicians to go out to the field both in a training and in a deployment support role.

Quite frankly, it is good news. Overall, your army is at 99 per cent of its recruiting figures, which is unprecedented. I think the credit goes to those who allocated the funds and also to the new vision and the new leadership in the Canadian Forces recruiting group.

Senator Meighen: That is very encouraging indeed and quite a turnaround from a few years back, when even the processing took so long, and young men and women got discouraged at not hearing from the Canadian Forces and at the delay in getting them onto the effective list.

I want to know about the equipment specifically. It is my observation, and I think it is true, that Afghanistan has been terribly hard on our equipment. There must be a good portion of it that even with all the best mechanics in the world you cannot save. Plus, there must be some question about the advisability of spending the money to bring that equipment, in whatever state it may be, back to Canada when our engagement is finished. There are challenges in doing that. For example, can the tanks be brought back by air, or do they have to come by ship? Are they worth bringing back? I do not know how many Leopard 2s are there compared to Leopard 1s. Presumably we will want to bring Leopard 2s back at all costs.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Your soldiers have done magnificent things with the equipment acquired for them. This investment has resulted in a higher level of readiness and protection for our soldiers when they do the dangerous sorts of things that they do. It is not only the soldiers, of course, because much of the equipment transports Foreign Affairs workers, diplomats, CIDA representatives and the like. The equipment has been hard used, and hundreds have suffered combat or battle damage. Much of it is repaired by the excellent people in Kandahar and by some civilian contractors from Canada, who do not go outside the wire.

We have to bring this equipment home. A variety of subprograms in the overall army or Canadian Forces program cater to relieving an enormous burden of man-hours of work in preparing this equipment for wherever the government may wish to send us next. If I may, let us talk about the Light Armoured Vehicle, as an example.

The LAV arguably has a design weight of somewhere between 40,000 and 45,000 pounds. Your tax dollars have put an additional 10,000 pounds of armour on the bottoms and sides. That has an impact on the long-term sustainability of the vehicle because it has more weight to carry. The LAV upgrade projects, over $1 billion in tax dollars — thank you — will start in 2012. The LAV is a Canadian invention. Our American friends and allies have bought thousands of these great machines. We will make the LAV harder, tougher, faster and more survivable for the young men and women inside them. Bringing all those LAVs home takes the enormous burden of fixing them off the army and gives it to Canadian industry. As a small point, General Dynamics Land System, which owns the design authority for the LAV, has about 400 subcontractors across Canada in every province. There are many thousands of person years of employment in the automotive sector to get that done.

The decision to leave equipment behind will be made by the Government of Canada in due course. Certainly, I would recommend highly against leaving any of our newer equipment behind because it is difficult to predict, and no one can do so with any degree of accuracy, where we will be in 10 to 15 years from now. I mention that because the army purchases equipment with a long-range view. New equipment introduced last year will be in the Canadian inventory with some upgrades over its lifespan for 20 to 30 years. The Leopard 2, to which you referred, is the single most protected vehicle that we have. Its role is to support the infantry, bringing the fight to the foe, with an absolute focus on protection.

For other equipment types, it is the decision of the Government of Canada as to what will or will not come home. As we consider options, none of which is yet on the table, one must be aware of the second- and third-order consequences: If we provide a relatively sophisticated equipment type to the Afghans and leave it behind when we go, who will support it? Who has the expertise to maintain it? Who will protect the people who will maintain it? What resources — money — are we willing to dedicate to such activity?

Senator Meighen: Who will protect the equipment?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, sir.

Senator Meighen: You would not want the equipment to fall into the wrong hands.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, sir. Also, for some of the weapons systems that are not purchased solely in Canada but have foreign content, you need to obtain the concurrence of the various governments that hold the licences for the equipment; and the list goes on.

The Chair: To wrap that up, your sense is though that we have the ability to extract whatever equipment we need to extract.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, Madam Chair. We will have six months to bring tens of thousands of tonnes of your army's equipment home. It is a complex process involving many, many moving bits, as one might imagine. It is further complicated by access to transportation mechanisms. I am absolutely sure that aircraft will be heavily involved, because most of our heavy equipment was deployed to Afghanistan by aircraft. For that, I say thank you for the C-17s, the C-130Js and the Chinooks. It might not be entirely logical to fly it all the way from Afghanistan to Canada, which is an expensive proposition. There is likely an intermediate point where we will put it aboard ships for transport and save a great deal of your tax dollars.

Senator Lang: I was pleased to hear your comments about the state of the army and your observations of exactly where we are. My part of the world, Yukon, appreciates everything the army does, too. More Canadians should hear what people like you have to say because it certainly gives an overview of what our army has become. It reinforces what I have come to believe — that we are second to none.

The project approval process is a significant bureaucratic process that you are required to go through for any significant purchase. What are the results of the effort by the Assistant Deputy Minister (Infrastructure and Environment) to streamline the process? Is it working? Obviously, you have been doing a lot of work in this area.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: I think the efforts have been intense over the last 12 to 14 months. I will provide an example to better explain how there has been some progress and to assume responsibility and liability for some of the issues that cause delays and frustration. Under normal circumstances, the command team, such as the Army Sergeant Major and I, can expect two to three years at a variety of levels. Let us say we have a battalion in a base and there is a requirement to build a new building. That command team has a vision of what it needs. It is put up the chain of command; costing is done; and project documentation is started. It makes its way up the priority list, and two years go by. The battalion then moves, and the new command team comes in and says it wants a slightly different building, for all good reasons that you fully understand. Those modifications cause a ripple in the process chain. That second team then leaves because the ripples have introduced a time delay.

Senator Lang: It is five years into the process now.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, sir. As well, there have been two commanders and still no new building. Then the third team comes in and has a great idea.

The process is happening now inside the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Assistant Deputy Minister (Infrastructure and Environment) Scott Stevenson and his team are working with the deputy minister, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the Defence Staff are corralling the various projects run by the environments, who did quite a good job, and imposing a certain degree of standardization and trying to reduce the paper flow to get things done faster.

The response from the infrastructure expenditures in recently announced initiatives of putting shovels into the ground to build new facilities has been impressive. There are still some delays, obviously, but they are certainly fewer than they were. Over the last 12 to 14 months, the attention to trying to reduce process and to come up with a DND/ CF priority list that becomes locked has paid good dividends.

Senator Banks: It is rare we have the privilege and honour of hosting a member of such a distinguished military family as yours is in both directions.

May I ask about your next job? You are about to deal with reorganization, as the chair has indicated. In the past, you have told us that you think headquarters needs to be reorganized, reduced, changed and made more efficient. Can you tell us your view of that and how you will do it?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: First, the exact terms of reference for my next job as Chief of Transformation have not been worked out, which is my fault. I am focused like a laser beam and reminded by my Army Sergeant Major, for whom I really work, to stay focused like a laser beam on, between the two of us, running your army. I have not been able to go to my Chief of the Defence Staff and present him with a set of draft terms of reference so that we can sit down and chart the way ahead.

The second point is that it is very much a team effort. My principal proposal will be to provide advice and assistance and perform whatever tasks are assigned to me to the Chief of the Defence Staff, the deputy minister and the Minister of National Defence.

I will call headquarters and the like ``overhead,'' if I may. I believe that the scope, and I am speaking about the army, in a post-Afghanistan context, is to take a cold, hard look at our overhead and try to reinvest in the field force across all sorts of structures. Of course, the army is the single largest entity within the Canadian Forces. Not surprisingly, we are people-power intensive. In terms of philosophy, we equip our soldiers; we do not actually man the equipment, per se.

There is scope to get young men and women back out into the field for us and out of static jobs, which grew up, naturally enough, in this period over the last four to five years with the focus on Afghanistan and elsewhere. It remains to be resolved as to what that is, how many people and what the savings will be, keeping in mind that it is not necessarily predicated on savings but on getting the right people with the right skill sets out at the pointy end instead of doing the management of activities.

Senator Banks: The good news you have brought us today about the effective force is very good news. We have heard in the past that there were stoppages in the training pipe because the people who knew how to train had to be sent out to do it, whatever it was. That is to say, if you need someone here to show someone how to do job X properly, if the persons who know how to do job X properly are off fighting in Afghanistan or elsewhere, there is a problem in the pipeline.

Has that been resolved? If not, given that we are going to leave Afghanistan, as Senator Dallaire has said, will that end that problem?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: There will always be friction between trying to give the area, brigade, battalion and regimental commanders all they think they need to get the job done and the army and my team setting the priorities on where we think it has to get done.

I already referred earlier to the hundreds of vehicles that have been damaged through enemy action or misadventure in Afghanistan. When such occurs, they are priority one. You call up the air force — bless them — and arrange for a C-17 to be waiting on the ramp in Trenton or wherever the vehicle is. You fly a new one over right away because it is operational primacy. That comes out of training stocks. While the vehicle overseas is being repaired, you have to sustain that level. That, in turn, has drawn down some of the training stocks that we have had here in Canada. However, the solution has been the announcement made by Minister MacKay — and the Army Sergeant Major and I were there in Gagetown — of over $5 billion worth of army equipment. It introduces four new vehicle fleets that will not have the same associated wear and tear that we have seen in Afghanistan and coming back from it, will increase the numbers of training stocks available for use here in Canada and will replenish our sustainment base for international deployments.

This announcement for the army was truly a game changer for our vehicle status and our vehicle off-road rates. As we look ahead to plan the many tens of thousands of man-hours of technical support required to keep the fleets going, we know that in the case of the LAV, to which I have already referred, we do not have to worry about that issue too much anymore because it will go through a factory-level upgrade. The introduction of the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle will allow us to retire a whole bunch of other fleets that are past their point of useful use.

Senator Banks: In the past, there has been a little shortfall in terms of reserves, in particular, training on the kind of vehicles and with the kind of equipment that they will actually be using when they get into theatre. Will the program you just talked about address that?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Not right away as it will take time to reconstitute. It depends on the complexity of the equipment and what type it is. For example, our usage rate of medium machine guns overseas has been high. It is a tough fight. We have had to strip machine guns from regular and reserve units here in Canada, which then has an impact on the training availability until such time as we can purchase new barrels or new weapons systems. That, in turn, has led to some frustrations, because courses are planned to start on such-and-such a date, but either the instructors or the weapons systems have been called forward.

The training concept is to train to need. It is starting to permeate the army system that we are currently in a tough fight until 2011. However, after 2011, the expectation that a whole bunch of soldiers will receive the same intensity and type of training is not sustainable because it is not training to need. That is a bit of a culture shift that we will all have to go through.

Senator Manning: I want to welcome our guests and thank you on behalf of Canadians for your service and all your men and women in uniform.

I know we all have learned some valuable lessons with Afghanistan, but I am sure you have learned many more when you are closer to it. Could you give us some idea of some of the lessons the army has learned from Afghanistan? You certainly addressed the equipment need, but perhaps you can give us an idea of some of the lessons you have learned in theatre that you would not have otherwise.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: After I take my first probably slightly incoherent stab at answering your question, I will ask the Army Sergeant Major to tell you, as he does all the time, what is really going on.

I would say the basic drills that we try to instill in our young men and women — reacting to fire, battle drills, situational awareness and personal survival skills — are important. There is a cry back to basics, and it is very true.

The gun fighter program is a key tenet, where we teach our young men and women how to handle the weapons systems and how to correctly develop the site picture and the awareness one must have under complex circumstances.

At a slightly higher value, the combined arms team has been proven once again, as it has so often in our history, wherein no one arm is predominant, though we all exist to support a 24-year-old infantryman or infantrywoman. It is the value of all the enablers, the artillery, the armour, the communications, the intelligence, the medical and the engineers that produces that marvellous synergy that allows us to do what we have to do.

There is the importance of thinking through doctrinal evolution and getting it out swiftly to the field. Our new counter-insurgency manual is now a year out of date, and we are rewriting it already. It does not mean it is obsolescent, but new ideas have developed.

Some of our other doctrinal issues, how we train and teach our young men and women, have undergone dramatic changes, but we do not want to lose that edge in terms of our lessons learned reporting system and getting the sometimes tragic lessons we have learned overseas into the hands of the trainers at lower levels here in Canada.

There is the importance of intelligence, of knowing, to the extent one can ever know, who our friends are and, equally important, who they are not, and what to do about them. There is the reinforcement of the basic values of Canadians when they join their army: We will extend a helping hand to you. We want to work with the local population and protect them. However, when it is required, we close with and destroy the foe.

On the importance of the night and equipping our soldiers to better operate at night, a lot of time and effort has been spent on such — acquiring the right equipment, trying to do the right training. We enjoy a huge technological and psychological advantage at night, and we do not want to lose that lesson.

At higher levels above that, it is the idea of joint, inter-agency, operating in a public domain, working with the indigenous forces and adaptation to new cultures.

Last but not least is language, something that I, as the army commander, did not do a great job on when I first took this position four years ago. I should have put more focus on learning the local dialects, learning Pashtu. Although we hire hundreds of Afghans to do so, it would have been wiser to have put more time and effort into developing soldiers' language skills. The downside of that of course is that you extend the training period.

Chief Warrant Officer Wayne Ford, Army Sergeant Major, National Defence: I would like to touch briefly on that from the perspective at the level of the soldier and perhaps a notch down. One of the greatest things we learned coming out of Afghanistan is the strong leadership at the senior non-commissioned officer, NCO, level and the junior platoon commander level. In Afghanistan, the war was a platoon and a section-level fight. We needed strong leadership at that level, and that is one of the strong things that came out.

In conjunction with that, we had to adapt as well and teach our soldiers battle conditioning. We taught them how to fight and train and do things for short periods of time. In Afghanistan, there are extended periods of time when soldiers go on lack of sleep, food and the necessities and niceties we are accustomed to. Battle conditioning was very important to ensuring that our soldiers were set up for success.

We need to maintain certain capabilities, and the army commander touched on them — explosive ordnance disposal, information operations, those kinds of things. We had those a while back, and at one point we decided they were not necessarily as relevant as they should be and perhaps we did not need them. We learned that lesson; we do need them, and we need to maintain them.

Finally, I will talk briefly about training. We need to maintain a level of training that allows us to be capable to ramp up for any operations — not to let our training slip so far back that it takes us a long time to get from the bottom to where we need to be. We need to maintain that level at all times.

Senator Manning: Lessons learned hopefully will prepare us for the future.

You touched on some of the positive things that have happened with regard to recruitment, which seems to be well addressed, and with regard to new equipment that you have and hope to have in short order. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Canadian army today, as you conclude your work in Afghanistan?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: The Army Sergeant Major and I were in Valcartier a couple of weeks ago, talking to the next battle group based on the 1st Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment.

[Translation]

These are superb people and soldiers. They are very proud of their occupation and of having chosen to go to Afghanistan. As usual, hundreds of volunteers have come forward, in addition to the establishment.

[English]

There are more volunteers than we have to go. Maintaining the enthusiasm and the energy between now and the end of the Afghan mission is not a problem. Your young men and women want to serve.

One question the Army Sergeant Major and I often get is related to continuing an operational tempo. That sounds almost confusing, because some people, a few, have been overseas three or four times in the last five or six years, but the vast majority now are joining their army to serve in either Haiti or the Olympics or the G8 and G20 or Afghanistan. Therefore, we have a much younger army than we did in the past, both regular and reserve. That is the first point.

The second point is that I asked thousands of reservists to go on full-time service because we were short of manpower in the regular army. Now those numbers have been made up; we are at 99 per cent of establishment. Many of those full-time reservists — bless them all — are doing great work, but as we come out of Afghanistan, the relatively tough message that the Army Sergeant Major and I have been passing on to them is that they have all done a great job, but it is not entirely sustainable to expect we will have the same number of reservists after Afghanistan on full-time employment as we have now. They were hired for a specific period of time — either one, two or three years; essentially the reserves have been partially mobilized, and they have done magnificent work.

My aim is to get back to the Class A model, the part-time reservist; I would like to grow the size of the Class A model. To do so, when we have finite funding — and everyone does — we have to take a hard look at our overhead and what we needed for Afghanistan. In a post-Afghanistan world, we do not need as many full-time reservists as we have now.

Senator Segal: General Leslie, first let me share the tremendous appreciation we have not only for your work and for the Army Sergeant Major's work, but for all the men and women in uniform whom you represent and serve so well. I think they have done the country outstanding service in a fashion that has been in the national interest not only in those ways we understand in Afghanistan but in ways we may never with respect to the Olympics and elsewhere.

I want to drill down on two issues. The first one is the reserves. I thank you for having raised the reserves and the demands that you made of them, which other service chiefs have made as well of the reserve units in their areas of activity, and your response to Senator Manning's question.

Let me express a concern. I invite you to tell me whether it is misplaced, ill-informed or exaggerated. We have gone to the reserve units and engaged them to work alongside and within regular force units in Afghanistan. I think it is fair to say they have performed remarkably well. When they are in Afghanistan, and as part of the regular force, they face the same risks, they get the same pay and they take, in percentage terms, sadly, the same level of serious casualties.

Then the government of the day, or Parliament, makes a decision about withdrawal, which everyone seems to be sticking to, I will say sadly — that is something I am allowed to say but I understand you are not allowed to comment on that — and many of these reservists who have been part of this very defined and specific tempo of combat-ready service will essentially be decommissioned.

My worry is that in so doing — and I understand the financial and real-world constraints that impose that decision upon you — we will perhaps, for the same financial reasons, reduce the capacity of reserve units to maintain their present complement, maintain the amount of training days, nights, evenings, weekends, that they need as part of maintaining the readiness, which is what the reserves are all about. I know that would not be your intent, but I worry that sometimes things happen that are not intended, despite the best of efforts.

My further worry is that the kind of people who you referred to who are now joining the forces for reasons unrelated to Afghanistan are actually I think the kind of people who join the forces at the reserve level because they believe in the country, in the importance of the reserves in supporting our regular forces wherever they may be deployed, for whatever reason. What will happen if we take the position — and this is perhaps a political problem — that there will be no more active combat engagements, that we have decided as a matter of military planning and transformation — setting aside the politics for a moment — that we do not need the capacity that we have had in Afghanistan, that it is not necessary? You said they will not be going through intense training because it will not be training to need, because those needs have changed.

My colleague, Senator Banks, says ``maybe.'' I like to think you are right. Nothing would make me happier than if the need for those combat, Afghanistan-type engagements dissipated. However, nothing I read in the news gives me any confidence that we will be able to say to our forces that we will be in a more Bosnian or Haitian kind of context and therefore do not need to train for the superb combat capacity they exercised over there. Perhaps you have different intelligence sources than I have access to.

I would be interested in your thinking on that as well as your plans, which I am sure exist, to protect the reserves and their ability to continue the vital training and support activity that is not only fundamental, if I may say so, to the support of the regular force but also fundamental to the presence of the military in our communities. We do not have enough military in our communities, and the more Canadians see the military as part of their day-to-day life in a constructive fashion, the stronger our common citizenship is enhanced in a host of different ways.

Some of this question is unfair, and you may want to set it aside, but I leave it with you to do your best with.

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Our ultimate role is to plan for the worst case, which is why you have us. We have a force not necessarily of last resort. We will do that which the government tells us to do, cheerfully and well. Some of the mission sets may involve combat in the future, some not.

However, the predictability of whether or not we will be engaged in a life or death struggle once we get on the ground is at best uncertain. Therefore, I fully support what you are saying about the requirement to ensure we train our young men and women to ensure they can get the job done, win the firefight and have a reasonably good chance of coming home in one piece.

That is predicated on having combat skills, because that is the worst case. We have seen peacekeeping missions in years gone by that people thought were the classic blue beret interventionist force go rapidly downhill. A certain level of combat training is a must for your army. We call that level 5, which is at the combat team level in a battle group and brigade context.

Now let me try to segue into the reserve nuance of that question. You mentioned capacity and the shortfalls of leaders in some of the reserve units. I happen to have a chart in front of me that tells me that there are about 1,100 reserve captains, who are doing excellent work. The army could not have accomplished what it has done over the last little while without the reserves. We would not have succeeded. Bless them all.

Of those 1,100 reserve captains, somewhere between 40 per cent and 50 per cent are on full-time service because they are doing that which I have asked them to do as the army commander for the last four years. Many of them are no longer serving with their reserve battalions and regiments; they are doing deployments, are in training institutions, are running courses or are in headquarters.

Therefore, the leadership cadres in the reserve units are starting to suffer. As well, we are creating, if you would, an imbalance in those reserve units in terms of their ability to do low-level training themselves. How do we address that?

You mentioned reserve soldiers who have done so brilliantly overseas and are used to a certain level of training and equipment, and they come back and do not get the same thing. I understand. It is a train-to-need scenario. Very often the highly specialized equipments we use for missions such as Afghanistan are in limited supply, and we also have the constant drain of battlefield damage and need to replace gear.

How do I best address this question? I am trying to develop an analogy in my mind. If a reserve unit has not received orders to provide people or volunteers — because they volunteer twice, unlike regulars — to go and do a specific type of mission training post-Afghanistan, they will not get it. They simply will not get it. They will do basic training, much like the regular force counterparts. As we build towards a readiness management framework, they will build on to the level 5 training, in whatever large training base that is. There is no other solution for that if we are to grow the size of our Class A part-time army, which are the true seeds of those young men and women who have volunteered in such large numbers — reservists — to go overseas.

We will still have thousands of full-time reservists post-Afghanistan, by the way.

If soldiers who have been to Afghanistan want to do this full time, I write them a letter, and the Army Sergeant Major helps me with that, and I offer them a transfer to the regular force. There is a caveat here: If you join the regular force, we will post you right away, and you will not be going back to your reserve unit in all probability. We will send leaders, which we are still short of because it takes a while to develop senior captains and majors and sergeant majors. The paradigm of 10 years ago has flipped. We are now asking reserves to send their leaders to the regular force to join the regular force.

As a matter of fact, I am going to a change of command parade here in Ottawa on Wednesday night. A very competent reserve lieutenant-colonel has decided after a mission to join the regular force. He is leaving the reserves and joining full time.

Senator Segal: As a major?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Yes, as a major, its equivalency and skill sets, but his salary will be roughly the same, I hope.

The Chair: We have about two minutes left, and Senator Pépin has a question.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: A year ago, you talked about the need to plan for an operational break. More recently, your name has appeared in the media in connection with the idea of sending Canadian Forces to the Congo. Should the Canadian Forces be deployed elsewhere or do they need an operational break?

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Senator, the Canadian Forces have changed enormously in the past 12 to 14 months; a lot of young Canadians have joined our ranks. They train superbly and have become very good soldiers.

In addition — and we thank you for this — we have received billions of dollars that will be used to equip the army. Most of our heavy equipment, the Leopards, tanks, have been deployed. If we want to redeploy on these kinds of missions, there is always a need. We needed a period of administration and maintenance in this regard.

[English]

If you want a battalion, we can send it. It is available, as we just showed in Haiti.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: With regard to military members' families, as Chief of Land Staff, have you taken initiatives to reflect the importance you attach to support for the families of military members who are under your responsibility? What are the main challenges for the families of army members? How do you address those challenges as leader?

[English]

Lt.-Gen. Leslie: Families are the single most important thing we have. We come from them; they support and sustain us and give us the love and encouragement we need; and we return to them when our careers are over.

[Translation]

Under the leadership of General Natynczyk, the Canadian Forces are focusing on our families. Tens perhaps hundreds of initiatives have been introduced in consultation with families and family support groups in all our regions.

And that is not just for the army. General Semianiw and his team have done a remarkable job to develop a sense of family. He is playing a critical role in all our affairs.

[English]

We have come a tremendous way. There is still more work to be done. General Natynczyk and Major-General Semianiw would be delighted to discuss this issue.

The Chair: Thank you, Lieutenant-General Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff, who will become Chief of Transformation in June. We will talk to you about that at a future date. Our thanks also go to Chief Warrant Officer Wayne Ford.

In our second panel today, we are pleased to welcome Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff. We also have Commodore J.E.T.P. Ellis, Director General Maritime Force Development, who is a procurement expert, and Robert Cleroux, Command Chief Petty Officer. Welcome to both of you.

Vice-Admiral McFadden joined the Canadian Pacific Fleet in 1978. He is a navigation specialist who served on patrol boats and destroyer escorts. He was a navigator instructor at the Naval Officers Training Centre. He served overseas with NATO and led the joint task force group that supported disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

In 2005, he was appointed Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic. He was appointed rear-admiral in July 2006 and assumed command of Maritime Force Atlantic as well as the recently formed Joint Task Force Atlantic. Admiral McFadden was appointed a vice-admiral and assigned as Commander Canada Command in 2008. He was appointed to his current post in June 2009. I cannot list all of his accomplishments; he has been a busy man.

Welcome. Please proceed with your opening remarks.

[Translation]

Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff, National Defence: Thank you Madam Chair and distinguished committee members. My purpose this afternoon is to discuss the state of Canada's navy in this, our centennial year. I propose to do so by speaking briefly to the navy's purpose, its platforms and its people.

[English]

You are well aware of the counter-piracy, the counter-terrorism and, to a degree, the counter-narcotics missions in which we have been involved in the past year. We were also involved in the rapid response to Haiti and the support we gave to the Olympics. Therefore, I will go directly to talking about some of the issues I think are of specific interest to you with respect to our platforms and our people.

Let me begin with our Victoria-class submarines. Cornerbrook is operating in the Atlantic performing missions to a level that gives great confidence in the class as a whole. Victoria will be operational in 2011 when she will prove the heavy weight torpedo firing capabilities for the entire class. Windsor will be operational in 2012. Chicoutimi has already been delivered to the Washington Marine Group for the first of eight extended docking work periods envisaged for the class through 2023 under the auspices of the Victoria Class In-Service Support Contract.

Work to deliver the government's Canada First Defence Strategy is also well under way. The first frigate, HMCS Halifax, has already been removed from operational assignment in the Atlantic Fleet to prepare for her mid-life extension and modernization. She will be followed next year by Calgary, the first frigate coming out of the Pacific Fleet. Work related to three major Canada First projects — the Joint Support Ship, the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship and the Canadian Surface Combatants — is progressing steadily, with each project at different stages of development. I am excited about the potential for these to be brought to fruition within the context of a long-term, sustainable shipbuilding strategy.

Building the new fleet is not only about getting the right tools in the hands of our men and women at sea, although that is essential. Building the fleet is also about investing in Canada's future, a future in which, I would suggest, ocean politics are likely to move toward the centre of global issues in the 21st century, as we are already seeing in our own High Arctic. For that reason we must get on with the rebuilding and renewal of a fleet that has been driven hard to achieve some great things but that is inexorably getting older.

The Canada First Defence Strategy is more than a statement of general intent. It is a clear articulation of what the future fleet must be — one that is deployed and sustained globally, centred in combat and capable of asserting our sovereignty in three oceans against a broad range of defence and increasing security threats.

[Translation]

The Canada First Defence Strategy describes the fleet in terms of quality and quantity, and assigns resources over the necessary planning period needed to bring the fleet to fruition. In short, it is a roadmap to the future.

[English]

However, getting to that highly capable fleet crewed by officers and sailors in sufficient numbers and skilled in their most demanding profession will require hard work over the next several years while we take measured decisions to manage the risks we are confronting today. That is essentially what I get paid to do.

By ``risks'' I do not mean threats to Canadians but rather that as we modernize or replace virtually all of our existing surface combatants we must maintain our ability to train, to conduct ongoing operations and to be ready to respond to contingencies with fewer platforms available.

The move of the frigate Halifax into its mid-life is the start of a period of significant transition that will gain momentum during my watch but that must be seen through to completion by a number of my successors, who will also see existing capabilities gapped as we decommission old classes of ships before their replacements can be introduced into fleet operations.

We have been in this situation before — in the 1990s, during the most recent what I would call echo of a boom-bust cycle. We replaced steam destroyers of the Halifax-class frigates; we modernized the Iroquois-class destroyers to their current configuration as command platforms; and we brought the Kingston class into service for coastal defence. Accordingly, we have a solid understanding of what needs to be done to deliver the Canada First fleet and a plan to get us there.

First, we will introduce and increase our focus on core fleet training to ensure that we make best use of available platforms and sea days to develop our people. That is all the way from ordinary seaman to fleet commander. Senators, this is the most priceless asset we have, without which nothing else is possible.

In that regard, I do not think it is too modest to note that Canada's navy is widely recognized, tonne for tonne, sailor for sailor, as one of the best navies in the world, but that leads me to the second part of the plan. Continued success in operations today will require us to manage core readiness with increased rigour, ensuring that we can align resources, including funding, with core operational outcomes, including the ability to rapidly deploy a contingency task group and the requirement to protect our sovereignty in our ocean approaches.

The third element of the plan is to ensure the navy as an institution is also equally poised to succeed in the future by implementing the Canada First Defence Strategy, as well as preparing ourselves as a war-fighting organization to operate that future fleet to the very limits of its capability. To achieve balance in this institutional sense between today's challenges and tomorrow's, we have been examining our structures to ensure we are optimally organized to both recapitalize the fleet and crew it effectively.

In the near term, that capacity to crew ships is undoubtedly a limiting factor. We are short of the officers and sailors we need, especially those in the middle and senior ranks whose skills and expertise make them in demand not only in uniform but in industry. Last year we met our targets for naval recruiting. That reversed several years of successive decline, even as the Canadian Forces as a whole had been growing. We achieved that only through a dedicated and I would compliment a whole-of-department effort. For that reason, I am guardedly optimistic, given that it will be sustained and it will take over the better part of the coming decade to restore all of our naval or hard sea occupations to health. We cannot afford to let up on navy recruiting.

[Translation]

As you well know, the navy this year is celebrating its first century of service to Canada. In a country as young as ours, the centenary of any national institution is an important event.

[English]

We are very proud of what our predecessors accomplished both in peace and in war to help Canada take an honoured place in the community of nations. As I look forward, I cannot foretell all the challenges that await us, but I know that in front of me with the Canada First Defence Strategy I have a priceless opportunity to bequeath to our successors a better navy than the one we inherited. That is precisely what we need to get on and do. Thank you very much. I would be delighted to take your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Vice-Admiral McFadden. It is nice to hear these optimistic words that things are going well. We will have questioning from all of our members here. We begin, as we always do, with the deputy chair of the committee.

Senator Dallaire: Admiral, has the introduction of the C-17 fleet taken pressure away from the navy to have a role or advance the capabilities of strategic lift of the army?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Has it is it taken away from? No, but we need to ensure we have the capability across the whole of the Canadian Forces to do the strategic lift as a joint integrated force to deliver effect. There is no doubt that the C-17s substantially increase that. They do not provide heavy lift capability. There is no doubt that today 90 per cent of things that move in this world, if they are to be transported internationally, move by sea. It is more efficient. You can load much more weight and volume. The C-17 certainly helps with a rapid strategic deployment over long distance, but it is not the only thing that is required to be able to both develop and sustain the deployment of the Canadian Forces.

Senator Dallaire: Is there disconnect in our ability to rapidly deploy but not necessarily sustain the deployment because our naval strategic lift is not there to do that? The actual capability is moved off to the right.

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Sir, I would like more ability to have strategic lift. To do that, I need to move into a fleet replacement program. I have a plan to move into a fleet replacement program, but we need to get on and do it.

Senator Dallaire: I will not go into the naval reserve and the manning of the Kingston class and problems there. However, do you see a responsibility that the navy has with its ship designs and its requirements to encourage a synergy in Canadian maritime industry in shipbuilding and sustaining shipbuilding in this country?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Absolutely. I made a comment about my excitement about the potential to have a shipbuilding strategy in Canada that builds ships in a fundamentally different way. I think I commented upon boom, bust and echo. We have traditionally built ships in this country — for example, the Halifax class. I am biased, but she is still one of the finest frigates in the world, and some of them are between 15 and 20 years old now. When that ship rolled off the line, we undoubtedly built the best frigate in the world. However, we built all 12 of them in a reasonably short period of time. The consequence of that boom is that 15 and 20 years later, they all get old as a group. Today I see the echo of that boom. All of them will need to come off-line in a fairly compressed period of time to go through the modernization and the life extension program so I can get another 15 or 20 years out of them.

I absolutely support us engaging in a conversation that would allow us to look fundamentally at the way we do that. I think we have before us an opportunity that, if not unique, certainly does not present itself very often, perhaps once in a generation. The Canada First Defence Strategy actually lays out tens of billions of dollars for, from a navy's perspective, some 25 ships, more with the Coast Guard, over a 20-year build program. That is quite an order book. That order book allows for a conversation between government and industry that is not simply predicated upon one specific project, the Halifax class, Joint Support Ship, Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship, or Canadian Surface Combatant. The ability to have a road map upon which you can have the type of discussion about building a sustainable, strategic shipbuilding and support capacity in this country is why those discussions are ongoing extensively at the moment. I am a big fan.

Senator Dallaire: Do we have the capability or should we of building nuclear-powered submarines?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Nuclear-powered submarines are not in the Canada First Defence Strategy. They would be an extraordinarily expensive asset. I think we found that out the last time we looked at that program. Nuclear power would require a fundamental reassessment of how much money was spent broadly on defence for the whole country. Would this country have the capability to do so? I may be Pollyannaish, but I think if this country set its mind on building them, we would build them. However, it would be extraordinarily expensive.

Senator Segal: My question is not about the Canadian navy. I realize you will be troubled by that, but I will get you into other waters, waters in which we have national interests.

With respect to the ramp-up of the Chinese, the People's Liberation Army Navy has been quite substantial in the last period of time. There is also a commitment by our Russian friends to an enhanced military presence in the Arctic with respect to their re-entry into the Mediterranean and the establishment of new bases perhaps in places like Syria and the Ukraine, which all suggests that the general mission of our navy in context with its allies and alliances will become at least more complex, without presaging the nature of political or other conflicts that may emerge.

If any government were to say to you that they think the present strength of the Canadian Forces is insufficient and therefore the size of the navy is insufficient and they wanted to go to 150,000 members of the Armed Forces by their one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, which is 2017 — which I think would imply almost a 40 per cent increase in your complement — and if they were to tell you they have the budget and will provide the investment necessary for the platforms, do you have the capacity now, in your judgment, within your command structure, to say ``Ready, aye, ready?''

Vice-Admiral McFadden: This navy grew from 1939 to 1943 at a rate that was exponential, I think beyond what anyone thought was possible, but it was under wartime conditions and a crisis that the entire nation devoted itself to. Could we see a 40 per cent increase over a 50-year period? Absolutely.

I suppose, if you would let me, I would re-characterize the question to some degree. I do not think it is simply the growth of the People's Liberation Army Navy or the growth of military capability by Russia in the Arctic and other parts of the world. I commented and fundamentally believe that we will see ocean politics move to the centre of the issues we need to address in the 21st century. I have no doubt that the needs of this country for a navy will grow in the 21st century. If someone asked me whether I thought the navy needs to grow in size above its establishment, I would say the 21st century will answer that question by saying ``yes.''

The interest in which Canadians certainly have quite an emotional understanding is our own High Arctic, but the Arctic is simply a parable for many things that will happen in the 21st century as we work through what has been more change in the legal regime governing the oceans in the last 30 to 40 years than in the previous 400. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea affords legal authority and exclusive economic jurisdiction to coastal states, extending that jurisdiction further and further onto the oceans than had ever been the case before that law came into play. The ocean space over which that jurisdiction extends is of greater and greater importance to humankind.

Most people in this world get their protein from fish. There is value, not just in monetary terms but to be able to sustain what we are seeing as the movement of more and more people from the hinterland of nations to the coastal regions, which are coming under greater pressure as a result of those demographic shifts and becoming more dependent upon what we would call the littoral zone, the coastal areas. People need to have access to that type of resource and to energy resources. I suppose it is the next step down from food resources, but it is still extraordinarily important for the development of nations. A whole bunch of that is within the grasp of coastal states to establish jurisdiction. In some cases, ourselves included, as we establish those zones of regulatory authority, we will have disagreements with our neighbours.

I think what I am seeing evolve in the Arctic is a means whereby those differences of opinion can be legally resolved. You can have a conversation with the states in the Arctic, even though formerly the Soviet Union and the other nations would have been on opposite sides of an ideological divide. I have watched the Norwegians and the Russians achieve agreement on a maritime boundary dispute they discussed for 40 years, both sides using the United Nations convention as the means by which their lawyers argued their case to find a bilateral agreement.

There are not many other places in the world where the pressures are not even higher than we have in our own Arctic. Imagine trying to see that occur in Southeast Asia, in the vicinity of the Spratly Islands where there are believed to be some substantial energy and gas reserves, where five nations claim the same amount of water. There and in other places where historic levels of animosity continue, those disputes will need to be reconciled.

I do not forecast resource wars without end, but there is no doubt that the pressures upon that environment are going up. It is not only in our own ocean estates, the area over which we claim jurisdiction. Canadians have seen disputes that Canada has been engaged in. I think that with the pressures in other parts of the world, when you add not just historic animosities but failed and failing states that cannot have the capacity to establish their own jurisdiction — and we are watching ocean environments being pillaged in many parts of this world — there will be more pressure upon the ocean estates, and Canada will engage not only in our own estates but also in the world, because a regulated ocean is in our essential interests. I think the navy will be bigger in the 21st century, yes.

Senator Manning: I want to thank you for your service to our country and all the men and women in uniform.

I am interested in and I agree with your comments regarding the 21st century. It certainly brings me to the question of recruitment. I am delighted that in your comments you spoke about meeting your targets last year. Before you, the Chief of the Land Staff said the army has reached its targets as well. As a matter of fact, it is hitting close to 100 per cent.

As you are getting into the new year now, how are things looking? Are any new ideas or plans being put forward to increase your members in the navy? I know it is early on in the year, but maybe you can enlighten us on how things are looking this year.

Vice-Admiral McFadden: We are off to a good start. I have established no higher priority than recruitment and retention. I do not think the numbers we were talking about were generally understood, nor that we had been in decline in the navy. Just for comparison, 8,500 people is the full size of the Canadian navy regular force. Even what sound like relatively small numbers will have a substantial effect upon a force that size.

Since the middle of the last decade, we have been setting targets for our intake plans of 800 and 700, and we were failing to meet those. We did not fail to meet them by big numbers, but when we set a target of 800, we achieved 700. The next year we set a target for 700 and we made 600. The problem is that we dug a hole one shovelful at a time. The only way to fill that hole in is one shovelful at a time.

In the last two years, we set our targets not at 700 or 800 but at 1,100 and 1,200. Last year, for the first time, we exceeded that target. I am optimistic, but I am optimistic because I know we started to fill in that hole. We need to keep doing it.

What initiatives do we have under way? I have been absolutely shameless in making use of the centennial activities to be able to get the navy in front of Canadians, because I do not think Canadians know enough about their navy. That has been an opportunity for us to talk about it and to explain to Canadians what their navy is about. It also gives us an opportunity to explain to our own sailors, who are our best recruiters, why what they do is not discretionary; it is essential for the defence and security of this country, and it will be more so in the future.

There is no doubt the centennial has afforded us a stage. Yes, I think it is appropriate to commemorate the navy; I think it is appropriate to recognize from whence we came, but it is also an opportunity I will not miss to explain to Canadians what they have and why they need to care about it. They need to do more than simply care about it; they need to talk about their sons and daughters joining that institution.

A large part of it has been outreach. I bring a sailor home now from a deployment to the far end of the earth and he visits his high school. He talks about it. At a personal level, we connect. The commanding officers of the ships go out and talk about what they do and why. We are sending ships into the Great Lakes. One of the difficulties with a Canadian Forces recruiting methodology has been that the navy got a little bit lost. When you go into a recruiting centre and see a sergeant with his third tour in Afghanistan, you cannot help but be impressed. I needed to find the resources to put sailors into those recruiting centres and talk about what the navy was doing, as well.

There are the issues of resourcing it, talking about it, choosing to make choices, even though money is tight — it is always tight — to pay for that Great Lakes deployment and put a ship into the lakes to connect with a part of the country that is a long way from the coast. Often the people there do not know they can connect to the coast. However, when you see a ship sitting in Toronto, you know that.

We have five navy recruiting buses that we have paid for that are touring this country. General Leslie said to me, ``Now that I have it at the gate of Petawawa, at least Petawawa has a bus service.'' It is at the gate of Petawawa because, if there are men and women who might well not continue to serve in the army, I would love to see them transfer from one uniform to another. We need to grow our size.

However, it is not just that type of outreach ourselves. I definitely need a particular type of individual. The navy is a very technically sophisticated organization. We have done outreach with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. That is some 40 colleges and CEGEPs. We have subsidized education programs. I think there are 350 trades for which we will subsidize education, and there are 350 spots a year; of those, 200 are now going to the navy. There are 25 trades across the Canadian Forces to which we will offer recruiting bonuses; 10 of those are in the navy.

We are talking about it and, as important, we are putting our money where our mouth is about actually resourcing recruiting.

The Chair: I will interrupt you there briefly, because Senator Meighen wanted to ask a supplementary.

Senator Meighen: You have partly answered one of the supplementary questions I had, which was about what you are doing to recruit more skilled trades. That has been a historic challenge for you to the extent that, in some people's opinion at least, it limited your ability to put to sea.

What about retention once you have recruited people? How are you doing there, or what is your plan for keeping them?

I have always been an admirer of the navy's ability to effectively use reservists, and the Kingston-class ships are a prominent example. Where do reserves fit into your plan going forward? Have reserves manning the Kingston-class vessel been a success?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I will address retention first. One of the biggest things I always thought we did not do well enough was telling our sailors how much they meant, not just to us, but to this country. You do not have to tell that to soldiers. You have not needed to tell that to a soldier for a decade. Sailors spend a lot of time under way. There is not a lot of public scrutiny and no cameras out where we have been. Service at sea is a long slog. There are no hills to take. There is no moment of glory. It was no different in the Battle of Atlantic: You started in 1939 and stopped when the war ended. It is a constant engagement all the time.

To some degree, understanding why they were not discretionary was a part of what we needed to do for retention. By the same token, one of the difficulties of having perhaps a focus upon the immediate output to the exclusion of where you will be in five or ten years is that you are driving people beyond a level that is sustainable. That is what readiness is about. It is ensuring you can answer the mail today and tomorrow.

We have put substantial pressure on the men and women of the Canadian navy. They have carried that. To some degree, however, we need to ensure that is a sustainable process. Nowhere has that pressure been felt more than in the naval reserve.

I would say that we do many things differently in the navy, and how we employ reservists is different. General Leslie was here, so he can correct me if I am wrong. There would be no difference between a regular forces soldier and a reservist in terms of the level of development of an infantry soldier, depending upon the mission and the training you would give them. I am speaking out of my lane now, so perhaps the general will correct me. Someone in the reserves can be substituted for someone in the regular forces.

We are not substitutable between the regular navy and the reserve navy. We made the choice to give the naval reserve a mission set. Twenty years ago, that gave them a real raison d'être. A big part of the homeland security mission, which is how we define it today, was given to the naval reserve, along with the assets to allow them to do that job — the coastal defence forces. It was not just that. It was also port security and port inspection divers. They are extraordinarily sophisticated skill sets, but they are not substitutable.

As we have made the Kingston class busier and busier, there is no doubt that we have been putting pressure on people who volunteer twice. To some degree, they have been working so hard, doing so much sea time, that we have been victims of our own success in that a number of reservists reach a point where they say they are transferring to the regular forces because then they will get some relief from the sea time they are doing.

Senator Manning: I am interested in the Joint Support Ship contract. You said these projects are progressing steadily, each at different stages of development. Could you give us some idea of what stage of development the Joint Support Ship contract is at, in your view?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: There is an ongoing discussion at the moment with respect to a shipbuilding strategy. My desire would be to have the ship as a part of that shipbuilding strategy, and therefore a strategy comes in place. We put a strategic relationship in place between government and industry, and the Joint Support Ship would be one of the ships that go into that program.

I think you will appreciate that that program had reached a stage of being sufficiently well defined. It was cancelled in 2008 because neither of the bids from the two companies was compliant, as a result of cost. In the interim, we have not been sitting on our hands but have been getting to the process of project definition so that we would be able to advance to the stage of direct discussions with industry. The determination is whether that is within the context of a shipbuilding strategy or independently. We would be prepared to do either of those in the short time frame. I would hope to do it in the former.

Senator Banks: I will continue. This was not planned, but Senator Manning has raised an important question. You could buy a Joint Support Ship off the shelf from a number of places. They are proven. They work. It would be a lot cheaper and certainly faster than waiting for the scenario you have described in which we have established a long-term shipbuilding strategy.

This committee was once upon a time on record as saying that with respect to certain immediate needs of the navy, we ought to buy off the shelf. I think it is fair to say — Senator Meighen may want to correct me — that we changed our mind. We have the longest coastline in the world. The question about whether we ought to have a robust navy is a stupid question, given that.

Between the refurbishing of the Coast Guard and its needs, and what you have as needs, it would make sense to put into place a long-term national shipbuilding strategy. The shipbuilders have told us that if you are not going to tell them about a long-term shipbuilding strategy, then they will not rev up a shipyard and hire thousands of people because they cannot, and tell them a few weeks later that because we have finished these 12 ships the work is over now.

The Joint Supply Ship is fundamentally important to the question of lift and delivery of the kind of thing that everyone thinks we will likely see in future conflicts. I should be addressing this question to Commodore Ellis. If you could get a Joint Supply Ship within two years as opposed to an indeterminate, fuzzy, maybe sometime later, what would you do if you had your druthers?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Perhaps I will start and Commodore Ellis might want to add.

A national shipbuilding strategy for me is not about process; it is about product. We cannot afford to wait longer to move to the actual getting on with these ships.

Your comment that we can go and buy this off the shelf, with all due respect, sir, is wrong. There are ships out there that are doing many things in other people's navies, but your navy operates in the harshest waters in the world. We intend to operate more in waters that are even harsher, at distances even in our own ocean state that are of an order of magnitude different from anyone else and that will be in an environment that is frigid cold even if the water has not frozen over.

I watch lots of product out there. We are not trying to solve any general problem different from what many other globally deployable navies are looking at, but if all I wanted to do is operate in low latitudes, in what would be fairly benign environmental conditions, there is more choice. I do not want that ship just to be able to go to the Persian Gulf.

Senator Banks: Do you want a Joint Supply Ship that is ice capable?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: No, I want a ship that certainly has the ability to operate in freezing cold temperatures. It is not just whether the water has frozen over, but whether the outside water temperature is one or two degrees and whether there are air conditioning systems in that ship. Many of them are built for much more benign environments than your navy operates in on an ongoing basis. February in the North Atlantic, on the Grand Banks, is as harsh a place as anywhere on earth. To say there is a store I could go to and simply take things off the shelf is wrong. There will be unique Canadian requirements that we need to make sure that ship is capable of operating in the environments we actually put it in.

Senator Banks: Not to put too fine a point on it, would it not be a practicality to consider taking — to use the best example — the American versions, of which there are a couple, and adapt them to the specific needs you are talking about, rather than starting over from ground zero?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: The Americans have under way oilers that are not run directly by their navy. The Americans continue to have a force that is big enough to be able to do an oiler amphibious support ship, and theirs, such as Iwo Jima, are capable of amphibious assault, for assured access across the beach against a threat that you would need to be able to remove. That is not in the Canada First Defence Strategy. That would be a level of amphibious capability that would require a fundamental change of the things we are looking at.

What we have is an operational sustainment capability. To be able to maintain on station for long periods of time, our ships require you to take the gas station and your logistic support out into the area where you are going to operate. That is an under way operational sustainment capability.

The Chair: Before you move on, would you like to have Commodore Ellis make a comment on this, or are you happy with that?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I would.

It is not quite as simple as buying one off the shelf. Having said that, it is about product, not process. I need to move. Those ships are 40 years old.

Commodore J.E.T.P. Ellis, CD, Director General Maritime Force Development, National Defence: There is not much for me to add. You have covered most of the ground. I would like to echo again that there are some unique factors in our operating environment, and it is not just about where we operate but also getting through our ocean areas to get there, even if it is international. There are Canadian environmental regulations. There are all kinds of unique things that invariably mean that anything that as a starting point was in the ballpark on military off the shelf would need to be adapted anyway.

Certainly, as part of our research, we look at what is out there and what is building. Of course, we get many representations from industry, which invariably will offer their wares and will provide an insight into where they think they are going.

Overall, it would be great if it were that simple, but my four years in this business — I am not a procurement expert, but more a requirements expert — has led me to the conclusion that it is really not that simple.

Senator Banks: My question was based on misinformation provided by those offerings, for which I apologize.

Vice-Admiral McFadden: It does not mean that we are not examining military off the shelf. We need to know what is in the store, but it is not quite as simple as going to the store and buying something.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: I know we have invested in our navy in recent years. I also know that the chief of military personnel is responsible for families. Of those amounts invested in our navy, what amount has gone to families and in what form? Has it improved their quality of life?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I do not know what amounts have been distributed to the navy. As General Leslie said, this is definitely a very important initiative for the Chief of Staff at National Defence.

[English]

The support of the family is extraordinarily important to us. To some degree, it is how we have needed to live our life, not just in the deployment phase. As a matter of course sailors serve at sea, which means the separation from family, although it is not permanent, is an integral part of service in the navy. Our training ground is not on the base. Our training ground is leave the base and go out onto the ocean, and that is where we train. Every time I went to sea, to tell you the truth, my wife did not really care too much what I was doing out there. She just knew the ship had left harbour and she wanted some idea of when the ship would be coming back into harbour.

Perhaps I might ask the chief to make some comment on that. We have always paid a great deal of attention to the military family support construct. When it was thought 15 years ago that perhaps we did not have the resources to maintain the military family resource centres, the navy never gave them up. We understand that the structural support needs to be in place permanently, so we have devoted a substantial amount of our resources and energy to ensuring that we are connected with families. For example, when a ship deploys today from the Gulf, before we go, every family is invited to the military family resource centre. We talk through the entire mission set and explain the process that will happen. We now have the technical capability to out-brief the families directly. The commanding officer comes on and briefs the families that we bring into the military family resource centre. We understand what long-duration separation is about over many, many years.

The impacts upon people doing the job are different to some degree in a naval mission than in a land combat mission. We have seen post-traumatic stress disorder and become much more familiar with it as a matter of course in the conduct of land operations. The stresses are different when going to sea over a long duration. We have had examples of the same types of stresses that we have needed to deal with, for example, when we had the fire in Chicoutimi. Undeniably, we needed to make sure that we understood and resourced that well. The first hospital in this country to use a multidisciplinary way of looking at mental health issues was in Canadian Forces Base Halifax, which is not just a military hospital. Much of that came as a result of our experience in Chicoutimi.

We devote an extraordinary amount of our effort to the divisional system. To some degree, our sailors think that perhaps we are too engaged in their lives. It is the responsibility of the young officers, the chiefs and the petty officers to understand the needs of their sailors. In a world where people want to maintain a certain amount of privacy, it takes a while for us to indoctrinate culturally our recruits as to why we are interested in their mortgage payments and in the education of their children. It is a balance that we call the divisional system.

[Translation]

Command Chief Petty Officer Robert Cleroux: This year I am celebrating 25 years of marriage, and I have spent 16 years at sea. The importance of family is a very important to us as a result of our experience.

The support centre for the families of military members on both sides is very effective. General Semianiw said in his presentation that he knew how to take care of families. I am proud that the navy has always known how to take care of families and of its members.

[English]

Senator Mitchell: It is quite inspirational to listen to all three of you. Your passion about this is not lost on us.

Vice-Admiral, I would like to pursue your speculation about the future of the navy. I would like to say ``drill down,'' but these days that is not a good thing to say about ocean-going considerations. I was intrigued by your point about our need for a regulated ocean. What would be the implications of that for equipment, strategies and tactics? Basically, would it be patrolling? If so, what kind of ships would you need, and are they in this list of ships that you are talking about?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I will start by saying that we have a regulated ocean. The problem is that the ocean, which is available for people to use, is under threat from the expansion of lawlessness in many areas. That is what piracy and the illegal movements of people are about. The smuggling of humans is occurring in increasing numbers. It is difficult to know what is going on across the oceans. However, there has always been a means whereby a regulated ocean was in everyone's interest, and they understood it. There is no doubt that that is coming under greater pressure. The type of maritime force you need is defined in our doctrinal terms as a ``sea-controlled navy.'' That does not necessarily mean you exclude other people, but it means that you have the ability to conduct surveillance so that you know what is going on. That is an absolute sovereign requirement in your respective ocean estate. The ocean estate over which Canada claims jurisdiction is 75 per cent the size of Canada's land mass. People know how big Canada is, but the ocean estate over which we claim jurisdiction is 75 per cent of its size.

To develop the capacity to know what is going on in your own backyard is the start of the regulated use of the oceans. Within our regulated space, we make the rules, so I do not think ``drill down'' is necessarily a bad term, senator. There are consequences of the rules potentially not being sufficient to the problem. Who decides what measures you need to put in place before you get a licence? Who decides that there will be licences? Who decides which areas will be exploited and which ones will not be exploited? That is what I mean by regulation upon the ocean. It is becoming more and more important because that environment is coming under more and more pressure as the resources available from it become of greater importance — the living resources in the coastal estates and in the shallow continental shelf. There are few resources in the deep ocean. Those resources come under coastal states' jurisdictions out to 200 nautical miles, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. You can claim more than 200 nautical miles of exclusive control of the seabed to decide who gets a licence to drill. There is no doubt that we have put a framework in place that needs to be worked through so that all of the boundaries between areas can be sorted out. Most of them will be sorted out by lawyers getting rich, but not all of them in that way.

Senator Mitchell: Other than lawyers, is a group sorting that out now? Is it under the Department of Defence? Where does that sorting happen?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: The discussions occur between nations, not navies. We contribute to the type of discussion in that what you see in a counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa is a collection of maritime capability, not necessarily in alliance or in coalition but undeniably in common purpose. We see people who understand why it is important. NATO and the European Union are there. We have Chinese, Russian and Indian task groups at sea. All of them need to operate and coordinate, to a degree, to address the same problem. An unregulated ocean is in no one's interest. It is simply an example of the effect that piracy has upon the price of any commodity in Toronto. The effect is not great, yet.

Is there an area that we would allow to be placed beyond the pale and become so lawless that we would have to leave it and concentrate on other places? That would be an extraordinarily difficult and bad strategic decision to make, and many other countries are coming to the same conclusion. You need to engage to ensure that there is a respected form of regulation.

Senator Lang: I draw attention to the North for an update on a couple of issues. Are you still on course to complete the Nanisivik port facility by 2014?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Contracts have been awarded for two things, and activity is under way. The first of four design contracts has been awarded to a company from North Vancouver for just under $1 million in the first phase. The design contract is to move toward construction.

In addition, we will put interim facilities in place this summer, and we have started the process of a site clean-up. The ground is not pristine; it had been used before. One part of it requires cleaning up before the government takes responsibility for it. That cleanup should start this summer. Construction would be under way after the design phases are complete by 2012. The intent is that over 2012, 2013 and 2014 there would be the initial ability to be able to deploy the first ship there, and the intention is that we would be fully completed by 2015.

Senator Lang: Regarding the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship, I understand the contracts are to be awarded this August; is that correct? Are the first of six to eight ships expected to be delivered in 2014?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I do not know when the contract would be let, and it is back to the same issue: Significant discussions are ongoing with respect to a national shipbuilding strategy. There is no doubt that the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship would be a part of essentially what is the whole construction program along with the other constructs, but it remains in the design phase, although that design is mature. We would be ready to go with offering to industry either within a national shipbuilding strategy or without a national shipbuilding strategy.

Senator Lang: Are the designs for these ships in place?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: I obviously need to get approval at a government level to say yes, but we are in the final stages of being able to bring that to fruition.

Senator Lang: Therefore, things are moving on.

Vice-Admiral McFadden: Yes.

The Chair: Could I have a closing comment from you on remarks that you gave in a speech that the concept that the seas cannot be made sovereign and hence are free for all to use and the equally valid concept and idea that the seas can be made sovereign to the limits of effective state control. Can we do that?

Vice-Admiral McFadden: It is that balance between the seas being free for all to use and there being a progressive encroachment of authority upon them. I do not necessarily mean encroachment in a bad sense; it is simply a fact that state control upon the oceans is progressively going further and further out onto the oceans.

Achieving that balance will be one of the great strategic challenges of the 21st century. Can it be done? It must be done. Canada claims a 200-mile exclusive economic zone because we have signed on to the United Nations convention. An immense amount of research is ongoing in the Arctic because the law allows you to claim further than 200 miles, not for the living resources in the water column but for the continental shelf that would extend beyond that. Those things will need to be worked out. Most of them will be worked out, I think, through negotiation, legal argument and diplomacy. Not all of them will be worked out in the world that way in the 21st century.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff. We would also like to thank Robert Cleroux, Command Chief Petty Officer, and Commodore J.E.T.P. Ellis.

Happy one hundredth anniversary. That was quite a recruiting mission you did today for us as well. Thank you for joining us.

As we said earlier today, we are examining the state of the three Canadian Forces, and we have been hearing from the commanders in charge of two of our three services, the army and navy, and now it is the turn of the air force.

I am pleased to introduce Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, Chief of the Air Staff. He is flying solo today. Lieutenant-General Deschamps joined the Canadian Forces in 1977. Graduating from pilot training in 1978, he has flown as a fighter pilot, served as a tactical pilot for transport planes and, of course, instructed. He has served in three of the five Air Force Commands and has had the privilege of commanding Squadron 2 NATO Airborne Early Warning, which is one of the operational NATO AWACS squadrons, and many other things, including feeder support in Afghanistan. Prior to his appointment as Chief of Air the Staff, he served as the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff. He was appointed to his current position in October 2009.

[Translation]

Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, Chief of Air Staff, National Defence: Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak about Canada's Air Force and the Canada First Defence Strategy. The Canada First Defence Strategy was welcome news for the Air Force because it provided stability to allow us to continue modernizing and building the air force of the future.

[English]

As commander of Air Command, I focus on three main areas of concern. The first is success in operations through support to the six core missions of the Canadian Forces. The foundation of operational success is a strong readiness posture, which we clearly confirmed in the first quarter of this year.

Afghanistan has been and continues to be a key area of focus. Our assets and personnel continue to deliver high-impact effects in the theatre of operations, to both Canadian and allied commanders.

Throughout early 2010, we provided strong support to the whole-of-government relief efforts in Haiti and successfully supported the Olympics. We are well prepared for the G8 and G20 summits next month.

[Translation]

Amidst this period of unprecedented activity, we continued to carry out day-to-day operations in Canada, North America and abroad.

My second priority is integration of our new fleets, many of which were confirmed in the CFDS. Our Globemasters have been a huge force multiplier since we took delivery of the fleet in 2007.

[English]

We have new CC-130J Hercules arriving in early June, within days.

The Cyclone maritime helicopter has been conducting sea trials with HMCS Montreal in Halifax, and we are encouraged by this important step in certifying the aircraft. We are expecting to be able to accept the first aircraft for the Canadian Forces sometime this fall.

The F-model Chinooks will be a valuable addition to the Canadian Forces, and we look forward to starting our transition to this platform in the 2013 time frame.

[Translation]

We are also looking forward to the capabilities announced under the CFDS, including: next generation fighters; new unmanned aerial vehicles that we will acquire under the JUSTAS project; fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft; and a maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Aurora.

[English]

My third priority is personnel, another pillar of the defence strategy. In spring 2010, the air force had approximately 13,000 regular force and 3,200 reserve force positions established to meet our defence obligations.

While the number of regular and reserve force members who are trained and operating in those positions is short approximately 1,000 personnel respectively, the air force is taking immediate action to overcome these shortages and move towards a future that includes a balanced and sustainable workforce.

The shortfalls are due in large part to two things: aging demographics and delays in our training system.

[Translation]

We are constantly improving our training system to ensure it is as efficient and as effective as possible. We are using technology — simulation, synthetic environments and networked online learning, for example — to tremendous advantage.

As far as recruiting and retention go, the problem is not attracting people to the air force; it is keeping them once they reach a certain number of years in service.

Like all employers, our biggest challenge remains retention — we are faced by the aging demographics of Canadian society and the implications for future recruitment are of concern.

[English]

However, based on current trends, we expect to close the gap in our manning in most occupations by 2013-14 and expect to declare all of our military occupations as green by 2015. By green, I mean within 5 per cent of our establishment.

Like the rest of the Canadian Forces, we have a significant gap in personnel who possess a mid-range length of service. Thus, we are focused on enhancing the careers of our personnel and encouraging them to stay with the forces. This includes revamping several occupations to ensure career structures are optimized; training, experience and tasks are aligned; and opportunities for career advancements are improved. We also continue to work on improving the support to military families.

[Translation]

Now, what does the future hold for us? Clearly, we need to remain both affordable and fully combat-capable into the future. We will ensure our new fleets are quickly integrated and our people well trained — ready to take on whatever the domestic and international security environment sends our way.

We are putting mitigation strategies in place to adjust to the short-term environment of fiscal restraint. I will ensure, however, that we fully support essential and high-priority commitments.

[English]

Last but not least, within our domestic focus, the Arctic will continue to permeate what we do. We have always had a presence in Canada's North, and we are developing an Arctic action plan to ensure our contribution to the North and Northern security is strengthened even further.

All that is to say that we in the air force are living in extraordinary times. We have many challenges and opportunities ahead of us, and I am confident that, with ongoing investment and support, we will continue to provide the high degree of service Canadians have come to expect from us.

[Translation]

Senator Dallaire: General Deschamps, the Dutch deployed F-16s with their troops in Afghanistan. Has the Air Force stated a specific reason why we did not supply our F-18s in support of our troops in Afghanistan?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: If we go back a year or two, there were discussions; of course, our F-18s were ready to go. The need in the theatre was not really for fighters, but for tactical transport. The need was not really for additional fighters, but there was great demand for helicopters and transport aircraft such as the Hercules.

That is what NATO requested from us, even though our F-18s were ready to go. It is not because we were not able to go, but rather because that is not what they were looking for. They were really looking for more specific tactical support.

Senator Dallaire: Nevertheless, the Dutch made the decision that they wanted to have their aircraft. Are the helicopters, both for the army and for the navy, part of the air force's capital program managed by the Air Requirement Staff, or are they the responsibility of the army and navy?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: All our programs related to the Canadian Air Force go through my department. Our clients, our partners, that is clearly for the air force; helicopters, for example, that is the army; for navy support, that is the Chief of Maritime Staff. We coordinate needs with them, but we manage the acquisitions and operations programs.

Senator Dallaire: As regards management of the funding allocated to those projects, is that included in your capital acquisitions envelope?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: It is in an investment plan, the department's plan.

Senator Dallaire: You have nevertheless set Air Force priorities.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Yes.

Senator Dallaire: Will the Chinooks be set aside as a result of budget cuts, or will they stay where they are?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The program put in place by the government protects capital acquisition funds. The pressures are more on the day-to-day operations budgets side. Major capital projects are currently protected within the investment plan. We are assured that the money for the Chinooks is available.

Senator Dallaire: Do you see a need to deploy Hercules and Chinooks in the High North on a permanent rotation?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: That is one of the things I want to put in place, that is to say to increase the operating capability of all my aircraft in the Arctic. The Hercules has always operated; it is capable of operating all year round. Other aircraft have more challenges, especially in winter as a result of the very difficult environment. Helicopters can operate, but on a limited basis, as a result of icing and other problems that limit their operating capability. However, with the new helicopters, particularly the Cyclone and the Chinook Foxtrot, that will give us more flexibility in the Arctic, which we previously did not have with our smaller helicopters.

Senator Dallaire: Will that make it possible to deploy them permanently, on a rotational basis?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: We will be able to deploy in Canada. The frequency will depend on planned operations and the support of other departments. We will be ready. The frequency issue will have to be determined with operational commands.

[English]

Senator Lang: You referred in your opening comments to an Arctic action plan and your responsibility in Canada's North. I would like to follow up on search and rescue. To put it into perspective, right now, when looking at the three northern territories, Ungava, Northern Quebec and Labrador — what we consider the North — you are dealing with half the land mass of Canada. Our northern coastline, as you well know, is longer than the East and West Coasts.

We have a formidable task from the point of view of servicing that part of Canada and also in view of the expansion that will take place in the 21st century. Search and rescue is a major component of that.

My understanding is that, presently, what we do to take care of our search and rescue, and airplanes, is becoming obsolete to some degree, and you are looking at some possible changes in the neighbourhood of about $3 billion. Can you elaborate on that?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Search and rescue is a challenging file for us. Canada has the largest search and rescue area in the world. We have approximately 15 million square kilometres of jurisdiction. Those are strategic distances.

We have a mixture of platforms to deliver search and rescue in Canada: helicopters, based on the Cormorant, across Canada, and Griffons in Trenton, specifically; Buffalo aircraft on the West Coast; and C-130 Hercules across the rest of Canada. That is our current footprint of aircraft. They hold different degrees of readiness for being able to respond to incidents in Canada.

The fixed-wing airplane will normally go first when there is an alert, because they go fastest and farthest. They do the search and the rescue part, because the search-and-rescue techs will go immediately finding a crash site. The helicopters are used, when required, to extract people from a location where you cannot get to them otherwise. Typically that is the way it works out: The airplanes will go out first because they are fastest, deliver immediate aid with SAR techs and equipment, and then the extraction will be done through either ground means or water-based means, or we can contract civilian helicopters if they are closest.

We use everything out there. We have great partnerships with the Canadian Coast Guard. We have a joint rescue centre manned by the air force and the coast guard, because we also have to support maritime search and rescue. Between those elements, we also have great networks across the provinces and territories with local authorities.

We know what is out there as far as the immediate resources we have to augment search and rescue. In fact, we are just working on an agreement in the North to formalize what we have in the South, which is an organization called CASARA, Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, which is a civilian air search and rescue group. They are volunteers but funded through the air force to defray their immediate costs. They use their own airplanes. They do searches for us. We provide training and oversight, and in return they provide us with a large network of volunteers — approximately 400 aircraft across Canada and 3,000 volunteers. We defray their operating and training costs.

In the North, it is more challenging because there are not that many private operators in the Arctic. They are mostly commercial operators. In Whitehorse, we recently had discussions with them to see how we could bring that kind of commercial operating inside a volunteer organization such as CASARA. Indications are very positive that they are willing to participate along the same lines, so that we will defray their costs if they actually train and deploy. That is positive because those operators are knowledgeable about the Arctic and would be a great force multiplier for us.

We also use caches. We have equipment cached throughout the Arctic at airfields. We can quickly deploy some of those Arctic survival kits early.

We have done a range of things to increase the flexibility we have in the Arctic, using people on the ground who have knowledge of the Arctic plus bringing our resources from the South, as required. We have large resources we can bring to bear for major disasters. We have a major air disaster kit that is air-dropped out of a C-130. That brings accommodations, shelter and transportation for 300 people, so we can take care of a large aircraft that goes down in the Arctic.

These are layers of responses we can bring to bear, depending on the size of the challenge in the Arctic.

We are constantly re-evaluating our posture to see if it is delivering what needs to be delivered. There have been observations through different incidents that there should be more. Right now, we have looked at the number of responses, where the resources are and the level of response, and it is effective. It still meets the service, given the density of population in the High Arctic plus the high density down South. The balance is still reasonable. Will that change in the future? It is possible, and we have to re-evaluate as conditions change.

We are currently doing a study to re-validate what we did in 2003 and 2005. We did studies on basing and climate to see where bases should be to support SAR incidents in Canada. There was a lot of debate over East Coast basing of assets. We have been directed to redo another validation of the most recent study to ensure the weather data and the incident plots have not changed substantially to the point where it would cause us to revisit where we base our current assets. We are constantly looking at that process to ensure that what we do is still valid and appropriate to what is happening around us in search and rescue.

Senator Lang: In the neighbourhood of $3 billion has been cited to replace equipment and various other aspects that have to be dealt with in the aging fleet. It is my understanding some countries, such as Australia, I believe, have actually privatized their search-and-rescue responsibilities. I imagine Australia's responsibilities are almost as vast as if not vaster than ours.

Are we thinking outside the box to see whether a partnership with the private sector or something like that could be done so that we can get more mileage for our dollar and get better security and better coverage than what we presently have?

From the perspective of the North, if I could go a little further, the response time to deal with an actual calamity can be very great, depending on where it happens. I am sure you have heard this. I suspect as time goes on, and you mentioned it yourself, we will see more and more traffic. We will have to deal with a disaster here at some time. Unfortunately, it is in the cards. Perhaps you can comment.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: I will address the issue of privatizing. Right now, search and rescue is a defence mission, so I cannot speculate as to what government would wish us to do. It is given as a defence mandate. Our fleets have partnership with industry in support of our fleets. The Cormorant fleet is maintained by a civilian workforce. Most of my training establishment is all through civilian contracts with Bombardier and Allied Wings.

We do have models of partnership with industry, but what we do is still military. I am not sure we could go to a totally civilian search-and-rescue construct. We have not looked at it because it is not part of our mandate. If you think it will be less costly, I would probably say that is not the case, given what cost escalation we see in the contracting process. It would be very expensive because they would have to build a lot of risk into what they do because we would hold them accountable. It would not be easily done.

It has been looked at in Great Britain because they do not do fixed-wing search and rescue. They just do helicopter coastal response, so theirs is a much smaller area than we are talking about. In fact, to try to build a scale here for comparison, it is like the corner of this desk versus this entire room.

There are places that it might work, given their geographic models and their expectations. However, for us in Canada right now, it would be difficult to see that work as a solution space.

We currently have a model that works, and I would suggest it is not that expensive, writ large, although it is expensive when you have to replace equipment. However, it is certainly reasonable for us to do this. I cannot see who else would do it with the expertise we have built over 63 years.

The Chair: Senator Dallaire has a supplementary.

Senator Dallaire: You are the commander of the air force and you have your capital acquisition envelope for the air force, and the SAR aircraft are part of that. Do you sometimes find yourself having to trade off combat operational capabilities to meet SAR capabilities? Do you face that scenario, or is search and rescue separate from your general capital program?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Each capital program has its own fixed envelope of money inside the investment plan. Therefore, it is protected. The challenge is that if it takes a long time to get the money, inflation starts eating away at the capital fund, which is not adjusted. Inflation takes a toll on how much money is left in the envelope for procurement if there is any delay in the programs.

Usually, the money has been identified and safeguarded for the large programs. The pressure occurs when we are operating equipment for in-year maintenance and repair regarding the national procurement. That is where we have a collision of needs when demand exceeds supply. It is not on the acquisition piece where you will find the friction.

The friction is not in regard to acquisition of equipment. The friction is once we are trying to operate the equipment with cost escalations. We have a supply program to maintain balance between the fleets when there are budget constraints.

Senator Lang: Are we looking at a $3-billion envelope of money for replacement of search-and-rescue equipment?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: I am not at liberty to talk about the specific amounts, but it is not $3 billion. The acquisition budget is less than that.

Senator Lang: Why can you not talk about it?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The precise amounts are on advice to government. Also, if we indicate the exact amount of money we have, it puts us in an awkward situation with bids from industry. It is like when you buy a house, you will not tell them how much money you can afford to spend. We have to protect some of those discretionary values for government.

Senator Dallaire: The $3-billion figure includes life cycle management and not only acquisition.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: That is correct. There are two sides to procurement. One is to buy the asset, and the other is to support it for 20 years. They are the usually about the same amount. The global amount would be for procurement and 20 years of sustaining the equipment built into that amount. Simply buying the assets is about half of the overall cost of the program.

Senator Banks: I will refer back to an answer you gave to Senator Dallaire on his first and second questions. You said the budget problem you have does not have to do with buying the equipment but with operating it. I presume that you meant both the life maintenance you just talked about and also what the navy calls steaming. Have you the resources, people and money to buy fuel, to do the amount of flying that you want to do for training and operational purposes?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: I will go back to the process. The money is protected in the capital program. Spending the money could be a challenge if we cannot get to a contract. We have had such challenges. Once we buy the equipment, we move to operating it.

There are two sides to that coin. First is the capital side, which is repair and overhaul, normally dealt with through the Assistant Deputy Minister (Material). The other side is operating costs — the steaming or what we call the yearly flying rate. Our lifeblood is the number of hours we can generate to support our colleagues.

Senator Banks: That is what I am talking about.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Those two amounts are connected. I can have money to buy fuel, but if repairs of the fleets are not keeping up, fuel is in the tank that I cannot burn because I do not have enough airplanes to fly. We must constantly work with our partners on the procurement side to ensure balance as they rationalize need and supply with what we must provide to the Canadian Forces and government.

We always have the debate over finding the balance between what is desired, achievable and essential. We recently completed it for this fiscal year. When we finally allocate a portion of the money, both sides can deliver at least the essential agreed elements required. This process usually takes several months by the time we rationalize all those complex parts.

Senator Banks: Regarding people, you were careful to add the word ``respectively'' in your opening remarks when you said the regular and reserve force members trained and operating in those positions were short 1,000 personnel respectively. I take that to mean 1,000 regular forces and 1,000 reserve forces.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: That is correct.

Senator Banks: That totals 2,000 members. In the air force, the nature of the involvement of reserve members is fundamentally important in a way that is different from the other forces.

Then you said — and we understand this because we have been hearing it for years — that as far as recruiting and retention goes, the problem is not attracting people, but keeping them once they reach a certain level of expertise. You spend a lot of money and time to train a first-class electronics technician; you post him to Cold Lake, Alberta, and an oil company offers him twice as much money as you are paying him. How will you deal with the retention problem?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: It is not difficult currently because the economy is soft. Our attrition rates are relatively low.

Senator Banks: You are betting against a boom.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: When things are booming, we struggle, and vice versa. That is the cycle we have seen for decades. When the economy is booming, it is certainly challenging. Twenty years ago, salary disparities were significant between military pay and the commercial world. We could never compete on par.

The concept committee made clear recommendations to close the disparity gap in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which made a big difference. Salary is no longer a point of contention. You rarely hear, ``I do not get paid enough.'' That is not usually why people leave the forces. They used to leave because they had to go somewhere to make enough money.

Recruits with four kids still show up as privates. They bring their previous history before joining the military, and they have what they have. However, by and large, the salary baseline is good across the different ranks. That is no longer a big problem.

People leave because of family life and the number of moves involved, especially when they have been in the military for 20 or 25 years. They reach a point where the family decides they are finished moving, or spousal employment limits their options. That is when people look at exit points, because they have pensionable time they can apply. People will leave as they make choices to become more stable. This is an area where we have looked at different ways to deal with that specific issue to retain that experience at a critical time in people's careers.

There is no magic solution that achieves everything we want. Some things work. You have heard from other witnesses that different things challenge us. The military has to deal with each province for medical care, access to day care, schooling, and employment. They are all the challenges of military life. We have seen progress across those fronts, but there is no unified solution that satisfies everyone. We are doing better in some provinces than others. We see more attrition when people are less pleased with the outcomes.

We are challenged with how to stabilize the family question. My predecessor used to say that we recruit individuals and retain families. The challenge is to retain the families when expectations go up. At some point, we reach a limit of what is practical for us to do.

Senator Banks: Some things never change.

The Chair: I would like to hear more on that. I am sure Senator Pépin will ask about families and your response to families.

Have we gone so far down the road that it has become a serious issue in terms of retention? You do recruit the individual, and your ability to retain that individual is now dependent on the family, which is not what the military really is focused on.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The military is focused on the social fabric of the family.

The Chair: The family does not fly the planes.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The challenge is to find balance. Social programs are expensive, to a degree. We do what we can within our federal mandate as a military force. We have to deal with individual provinces and territories because they have the legal mandate over health care, education and day care. We struggle here because we have to strike deals with each area specifically to try to find that balance. We are more successful in some areas than others, and that is why people sometimes are not happy. They see base X with great programs because that base found a way to forge a great partnership with local municipalities or the province, and those relationships work. Some other provinces, maybe because they are more isolated, are less fortunate, and therefore they are still struggling and not happy.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: I am very pleased to see that your priorities include improved support for members. As Chief of the Air Staff, what initiatives have you taken to show the importance you attach to support for the families of military members who are under your responsibility? In addition, what do you think are the challenges for military families, and, as leader, how do you go about addressing them?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: We have set ourselves a fairly high ambition level to meet the needs of families in all the areas I mentioned: education, health and others. We are seeing progress. Each squadron has found a way to make progress in a number of areas. Bagotville is a good example where we have found a partnership with the municipality for childhood services and medical services. They have a solution that works for the community.

We have found others that are working in Trenton. We are trying to find a solution in North Bay; it is not working entirely as well because it is not the same economic environment and social support is not quite up to the same level.

We are having success in certain regions, and we are still facing a challenge in others. The challenge for us is: what can we provide if we cannot find a solution at the municipal or provincial level? What are we entitled to do? That is where we have to be careful not to encroach on the jurisdiction of the provincial authorities. There is also the public money that we are entitled to spend for things already covered in the social area which is not public or provincial.

So there is always some flexibility that we have to be aware of. We are pushing as far as we can to try to provide service that will meet needs, but sometimes we have to limit ourselves because there is a reality that has to be respected and, beyond a certain line, we intrude into provincial jurisdiction and would have a legal problem spending money beyond what is acceptable.

We have not found the ideal balance yet. We are having success in certain places and less so in others, but we are working on it. It is moving forward, but slowly. Quebec has an advantage with regard to child care centres because they are not expensive. They are expensive in Ontario. People who move from Quebec to Ontario are not happy when it costs $40 or more per child, not $7.

Senator Pépin: Do you have a child care centre on the base?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Yes, we have child care centres.

Senator Pépin: But you have to go to the outside because that is not enough.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: This is under provincial jurisdiction. We have to work in partnership with the municipalities and the provincial government to meet standards. The union, wages, all those things are a provincial responsibility, and that is where we encounter difficulties. This is a lot more costly for people who move from a base like Bagotville or Valcartier to Ontario or Alberta. And then there is nothing we can do to lower the costs because we are limited at the provincial level.

That is why people sometimes do not want to move. They see the costs and, if they have a large family, that becomes very costly.

Senator Pépin: Are matters improving with regard to health insurance? When people move from one province to another, there are still problems depending on where they come from. I know the government was being pressed to try to facilitate matters for military families.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: I do not know whether everything has been resolved. General Semianiw, who is responsible for the needs of military members, has long been trying to find solutions. Once again, this has to be managed with the provinces, and that takes time. Progress has been made in some cases; in others, matters have not advanced as far as we would like. This is one of the things causing friction. Moves are disruptive for families, and, when there are financial problems in addition to that, it is not ideal. People are not really encouraged to move when they see the challenges they have to face on arrival.

We are trying to reduce that. The money that is provided for travel costs is generous. We have eliminated a lot of the frictions that there were a few years ago, but some points still have to be improved. This is one of them. The wait for medical services is a big issue that families are really not happy about. They can wait two or three years. As they move every three or four years, they never get to the top of the list. These are regions where we are trying to find local solutions. I would say that, in the air force, half of our squadrons have found solutions where we can have medical clinics on the bases, associated with the municipality. There is immediate access for families through these relationships.

Senator Pépin: This has helped.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: It has helped a lot, but there is still work to be done.

Senator Pépin: There has been a major improvement.

[English]

Senator Manning: Welcome, and once again thank you for your service.

You touched on a couple of the challenges you face in retention and recruitment, including one of the shortfalls, delays in our training system. Would you elaborate on that for us, please?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: In military manning, there are three envelopes to look at, sort of a triangle. One is establishment. Establishment is how many positions the department has given to hire people into. I can recruit a certain number. Manning is how many warm bodies actually occupy the chairs. Trained effective strength is how many people out of that manning pool are qualified to do the job. Three things drive us in this process: what I am allowed to recruit and train to, establishment; how many people are actually being paid in uniform; and how many of those people are qualified to do the job. That is usually where you will see a difference in numbers.

As I said, my establishment is just under 13,000 people. I actually have 13,800 people in uniform right now, but most of those people are awaiting training. They have not started a course yet, or they are undergoing the various stages of training. Some of those people are on medical leave. There are different statuses. They may not be active.

It looks good. I am over my establishment, but I have trained effective only about 11,500 people. Those are people who are fully certified and can do their job day in, day out without immediate supervision. The difference between that and establishment is that pressure we have to deal with, which is how quickly we can train those people waiting for certification.

We have seen great improvements in the last year, but there is a backlog on our pilot side. Some trades are more backlogged than others. On our technician side, in the last two or three years we have had great success in accelerating the training process by revamping it from stem to stern. For technicians, it used to be that the time between when people came in the door to when they were certified to sign for maintenance on an airplane could take three and a half to four years because of the course length and the apprenticeship period, and then they were certified to do the business without someone looking over their shoulder every five minutes. Now that time is down to two and a half years, through automation, use of simulation and a totally different approach to training. That has been a great success.

We have increased the throughput, the number of people we can push through the schools, by 50 per cent with its being 40 per cent faster to reach the operational functional point. That has been a great success. We still have a backlog to get rid of now, but that is working quite well for us. We have seen improvement in other trades that have been waiting for folks to get their courses.

Part of the challenge is how many instructors I can afford to run. If you remember, my three priorities were support to operations, transition to new fleets and sustain the air force, which is the establishment piece. I have had to rob to pay the first priority, because we cannot afford to fail on the missions we have right now. We have had to man the operational units doing all these high-value missions to 100 per cent, or as close to it as we can get, and transition to all these new capabilities. I need more people to do that transition and still keep the lights on in the old categories of airplanes so that we do not lose capacity as we transition to new fleets. I have had to put more people, so I have had to rob somewhere. We had to take some risks or go slower in our training piece, because I cannot fail at those two.

Post-Afghanistan, I expect they will be able to shift some of those priorities around. Operations should go back to more routine operations; therefore, I can afford now to re-prioritize people out of my operational units back into my other two important streams, which are training and the transition to new capabilities.

I have another year before I can start robbing those operational units to start paying my institutional bill, which is the training piece. In the meantime, we have been using various ways of meeting up with the difference — contracting, using civilian skills in many areas to augment the military training piece — and that has helped a lot.

Senator Manning: I asked one of your colleagues this question earlier today. Would you elaborate for us, from an air force point of view, on some of the lessons that your group learned from the mission in Afghanistan that you can carry forward or will be carrying forward?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The air force had been in theatre in Afghanistan since 2001 or shortly thereafter, with tactical transports and so on. The big lesson for us was to integrate at the tactical level with the army in a very complex fashion. We brought all the assets we had in theatre into one cohesive organization and linked it directly into the army's needs. We knew how to do that in the past, but we sort of lost it over probably the last decade or so. We had not practised it.

We had to relearn some of those skills, such as close air support, tactical air control — the people on the ground who call in airplanes that deliver firepower to suppress enemies on the ground. We had lost those skill sets because we had not used them for many years.

We had to relearn things we used to know. That is expensive, both in time and in making mistakes. I think we now have reached a level of maturity. We have a good understanding of what that looks like now; and hopefully we can institutionalize that so that we do not go through a period where we unlearn.

This is where all our doctrine centres come in. The air force, the navy and the army all have doctrine centres. We are taking what we have learned in Afghanistan and looking at how we keep this as we move forward post-Afghanistan. What will the Canadian Forces look like post-Afghanistan with respect to force structure and to what we will do when we go offshore? If we want to do what we did in Afghanistan, from a readiness perspective, there are certain things we need to keep doing at home.

The Chair: How do you do that? The kind of training and expertise — and even the attraction of people to the air force — has been very much because we are in Afghanistan.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: That is correct. Some of what we do in Afghanistan right now is not replicated in Canada because it exists only for Afghanistan. For instance, although we have a program to acquire the unmanned aerial vehicle, there will be a time lag between the time we leave Afghanistan and stop using those vehicles and the time we acquire our own long-term vehicles. There will be a gap there.

We are looking at how to maintain the skill sets so that we do not have to relearn this again in four or five years when we have our own capacity. We are looking at ways to institutionalize what we learn so that that skill does not fade. There will be a pause between leaving Afghanistan and getting our own Chinooks, but that will be a manageable pause. Institutionally, we will not lose what we have learned in Afghanistan.

Will what we put in Afghanistan as far as capabilities, numbers and the type of capability be required at that same scale in the future? If it is, we need to look at the home game and see how we train and structure ourselves so that we are able to do what we do now in Afghanistan for future missions without having to do three or four years of learning to get to the stage we are at now.

The Chair: How can you do that? You cannot predict that Haiti will happen or that the planes would have flown into the towers and we would be in Afghanistan. How do you train and plan and create a new structure when you do not know what the mission is? You cannot possibly know.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The key to being able to respond to an unknown threat is institutional and tactical agility. The way you achieve that is by buying equipment and training people in such a way that they can adapt to whatever is presented to them in new and unforeseen events.

A good example is that before the committee went to Afghanistan and decided we needed tactical helicopter Chinooks, we did not have them in Canada. We had not had them since 1993; yet within eight months, we had fielded the capability with trained crews to operate them.

The reason we were able to do that is because my predecessors, through great foresight, had invested significant amounts of monies and effort in our training system. We have probably one of the best training systems in the world for technicians and aircrew. The folks we are producing are very agile. They are able to adapt quickly to circumstances we have not predicted because we have invested in that training.

It is the same with the army. Money spent on training is never wasted because this is where you create agile institutions and individuals.

How you bring it together is a conceptual piece that we have to look at as a structure. We have seen the models. We know what we can expect. As long as we can come together reasonably quickly and form those tactically agile formations, we can pretty much deal with the unforeseen. However, if you do not have that training piece right and you do not have the big pieces — the equipment that gives you that agility — then you are struggling and starting from behind the start line.

Right now we have a good balance. The challenge is to maintain that into the future sustainably, both the expensive training and the readiness, which is that equipment, people and the amount of training and effort you can invest to maintain that agility at all times — and how much of it do you want?

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: I have two brief questions for you and a third that is perhaps a little more general.

[English]

On reintegration of former pilots, as I recall, having had the privilege of sitting on this committee for a number of years, one of the problems was the red tape. It was fearsome for someone who had been in the air force, perhaps been lured out by boom times in the aviation industry on civvy street, and then desired to come back. It was difficult to do so. Has that situation improved, if I have described it accurately?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Yes. We have been effective at taking advantage of the slightly slower market environment. In 2008-09, we had 12 ``re-enrolees,'' as we call them, that we went out and scouted. This year we have 24. Next year we expect to have more.

We have an individual who does that full time. He tracks all the people who have left and gone to airlines. Occasionally, he will call them up and do a ``how is it going'' kind of call. We are active in making sure they are aware we will welcome them back, if they are ready to come back.

We also have many airline pilots in the reserve forces. They have the option of quickly going from reserve to regular force. We are successful in keeping a balance between people coming back after a 15-year absence into the system. Usually we invest those people in the critical jobs such as training, where we need that experience, and they are happy to go there.

We are also getting a lot of Commonwealth pilots coming in, British and Australian. There have been big force adjustments in the U.K., so we are also benefitting from being able to draw some of their expertise into our system as they reduce their forces. We are not having any difficulty attracting pilots. We are doing well getting people in the door. It is a question of keeping them 20 years from now.

Senator Meighen: We discussed search and air rescue. Can you bring me up to date on the seemingly interminable problems of the Cormorant and the cracking in the tail rotor?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: There is good news on that front. Three or four years ago, we had some significant issues of cracking. It took a lot of effort between us and industry to find mitigation strategies until they could find a long-term solution.

The current mitigation strategy is working well. We have replaced all the faulty components. The monitoring systems put in place have been excellent. Since then, we have had no cracks.

However, that is still using the old technologies. We are looking at the articulated tail rotor, a totally new tail rotor design that is now complete. We are testing it on the airplane. Eventually, that problem will go away totally. Right now, it is very manageable; we have had no issues with the interim solution.

Senator Meighen: Are they still under speed and height constraints?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: We have removed some of those restrictions. They can now fly for four hours; in the past, they had to land every two hours and check for cracks. Now it is up to four hours, which is almost maximum mission length. There are still a few limitations so we do not get the cracks coming back. The full envelope is not cleared yet. Within the next year, with the new parts coming in, we will see that go away.

Senator Meighen: What lessons learned do you take away from Afghanistan now that it is starting to wind down as far as the air force is concerned?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: As I mentioned, we want to make sure that we are trained the right way. We prepare our people with the right skill sets. We have had to learn some interesting lessons. For example, back in the 1990s when we restructured and downsized, we amalgamated all of our technician trades into four large trades from twelve. We used to have air weapons technicians, who looked after all ammunition and weapons that went on aircrafts. That trade was subsumed in the jack-of-all-trades group. When deployed to Afghanistan, these technicians are dealing with improvised explosive devices, IEDs. Certainly that is not a part-time job, and you must know what you are doing. A hard wake-up call for these technicians has been moving from weapons as a secondary duty to IEDs in Afghanistan as a primary duty. The Canadian Forces needs that specialty. We have had to review how these people were trained and deployed in Canada. We have restructured and are bringing that trade back out as a specialty. We have seen the price paid in Afghanistan for not being able to do that job well. Perhaps we have to move away from efficiency back to effectiveness in those trade structures to ensure that we are ready for the demanding scenarios where it has to be a full- time job. There is a price to pay, but it will be a wise move.

It validates some of our concerns with readiness training and is going well with the army and how we are bringing ourselves into their training. We speak the same language and understand their environment, and they understand ours. In the past, that was a challenge, because we could not find the money sometimes to train as a group. You would show up at the event and have to figure it out. Having a chance to do this far better has been a big plus.

We also have seen what kind of equipment works, what does not work and what is limited when you push it in the extreme environments.

There are many lessons for us to absorb. We see stuff come up every day, given that the Taliban continue to try different things. We will have to adapt as they pull new tricks out of their hats. They are becoming more adaptive in developing counters for aviation attacks, so we will have to roll with those punches as those skills develop.

The Chair: Could you elaborate briefly on that? What are they doing now that they were not doing before that makes you a target? Back to an earlier point, can you describe how active you are in the training of both allies and Afghans on the ground?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: The air force or the Canadian Forces?

The Chair: The air force.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: As an air force, we are not directly engaged with the Afghan air force. The American's have a large organization in Kabul to do that. We have some staff embedded with them, but we do not have a large investment in that domain. We do collateral support through the task force. Our members are in the headquarters and they assist, but we do not have a dedicated air force to air force program.

The Chair: There seems to be a lot of informal activity. For example, at the airfield, American technicians just walk over and take a lesson on how to fix a helicopter.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Absolutely. Amongst the allied or coalition air crew, those lessons are shared instantly. If something has happened, they talk amongst themselves to make sure no one is surprised on the next flight. A very active after-action network occurs on the airfield and between the crews and the nations. No one keeps everything secret in their little pocket. They talk about everything to make sure no one is surprised out there. We have civilian contractors who fly in Afghanistan as part of our troops, and we do our best to ensure that they are kept safe. They do not have access to all the classified material, but liaison officers spend time making sure that their planned missions are safe. We have a good network of folks talking to each other to make sure no one is surprised by a turn of events in Afghanistan.

The Chair: What do the Taliban do about the surface-to-air weapons?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: They have not been terribly active with the more advanced weaponry, but we are seeing more clever use of conventional weapons, such as heavy machine guns. They are setting up traps to lure assets in and then engage them. They are becoming more sophisticated in using what is at hand, but they can be quite effective simply by changing some of their practices and their predictability. They use that tactic as a way of potentially getting us into trouble. We expected these changes and will likely see them happening in Kandahar in the not-too-distant future, given that they are becoming so much craftier at drawing in our aviation assets. A big goal and morale booster for the Taliban is to shoot down a helicopter, so they try very hard to succeed at that.

The Chair: Have we lost equipment?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: No. There have been some losses, but not to Canada.

Senator Dallaire: Rapidly, how many CF-18s will be upgraded and operational? Do we go back to RV exercises funded by the centre to get the fire support coordination sorted out and not go into a learning curve like you described earlier on? Do we keep the Air Defence Anti-Tank System, ADATS?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: ADATS is an army system. You will have to ask General Leslie what the plan is for ADATS.

Senator Dallaire: They are at Cold Lake.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Yes, that is where they train. We partner with these guys when we do our exercises, but I am not sure what the actual army outlook on ADATS is right now.

We have 80 modified CF-18s, although we lost one. We have 79 available R2 versions. The program began in 2002 and was completed this year with L3. It has been a long program with different updates on the airplane, and has taken 8 years to do all the updates on all the airplanes to bring them up to world standard. Today, the airplanes are capable of interoperating with anyone in the coalition anywhere in the world. The sensor system is certainly world-class. The airplanes are viable to the end of this decade. The challenge is that the airplanes will be 30 plus years old by the end of the decade, so the air frame will need to be replaced at some time. The avionics are all good and new in the fourth generation sense of the current capability. For the next decade of 2020 and beyond, they will lag behind the competition because there is a fifth generation capability, which is another leap in technology beyond the F-18. With the investment made so far, it is certainly viable to the end of this decade as a war fighter anywhere.

The Chair: Do we make any contribution to the upgrade of the Airborne Warning and Control System through NORAD? Do you do that directly? Is there a NATO requirement?

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: We participate in NATO AWACs, and we have Canadians flying on U.S. AWACs, which employ our Canadians. Under NATO AWACs, we pay a percentage of the acquisition costs and the operating costs of the platform. We contribute and we participate under NATO AWACs, but in the U.S, we simply show up, and as part of an understanding with the Americans, we fly on their crews. It is a slightly different arrangement. One is a contributor nation in NATO, and the other is as a partner in North American defence.

Senator Dallaire: We command those squadrons.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: Yes, we do so in Europe.

The Chair: We are making no contribution to the upgrade of that.

Lt.-Gen. Deschamps: That is a U.S. program.

The Chair: Thank you. We are right out of time. We appreciate your appearance before the committee today. This concludes our look at the state of the nation of the three forces. We appreciate the participation of senators and all of our commanders.

We will adjourn and go in camera for committee members only. I ask that those not directly involved leave us. Thank you. The public meeting is adjourned.

(The committee continued in camera.)