April 19, 2005

Defence policy review: first thoughts

The big document is here. Of note:

*No mention of a CF-18 replacement. As well, in the list of tasks the Air Force must do, the fighters are fifth and last, behind transport and patrolling tasks. On the upside, JDAMS for the fighters are specifically mentioned.

*The subs are still in play.

*Army overseas max strength pegged at 2.5 battalions, 2 battalions sustained. About right.

*Big focus on extending NORAD to land and maritime areas. Watch for Canadian troops offering to deploy to the next big U.S. disaster (earthquake, etc.)... we won't be needed, of course, but the offer will be made all the same. The lack of Canadian government assistance after Sept. 11/01 still rankles in some quarters.

*The U.S. may have rejected the Powell Doctrine, but we still like it, apparently.

*Land Force (ie, Army) Reserve Restructuring Phase 2 is in there, including a new information ops capability for the army reserve. That had been one rumour I'd heard that turns out to be confirmed. I know one staff planner in particular who should deservedly enjoy a beer tonight.

*I like the "identifying opportunities for potential staging bases" reference. Developing defence relationships in Africa, etc. that don't depend on American buy-in is a necessary condition for stepping in in Rwanda-type situations, and it's good to see it pursued.

Achievable? It really depends how large a role the New Democrats, BQ and left-wing of the Liberal Party plays in Canada's governing coalition over the next five years... that's the one direction this can be derailed from. There's nothing here the Conservatives would disavow, on the other hand. But as these plans go, it's not too bad.

UPDATE: Interesting that the Navy and Air Force are both specifically instructed to acquire UAVs, while the Army is only told to obtain "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems." Reading between the tea-leaves, that either means land UAVs are going to be all Air Force, with the army confined to ground systems, or the army could be restricted to a mini (handheld) UAV capability for close-tactical work.

SECOND UPDATE: Lew Mackenzie points out what I missed (Globe, subscription): no more "peacekeeping brigade."

Posted by BruceR at 04:52 PM