|Members of the CAF during part of ARCTIC RAM-16. Photo: CAF Combat Camera|
Less than a decade ago, the Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP) compound northwest of Resolute on Cornwallis Island, Nu. could support about 62 people—today it can handle as many as 240 people.
“We’ve expanded four-fold in a very, very short time,” said acting PCSP Chief of Arctic Logistics Tim McCagherty.
Rapid expansion came thanks to cooperation integral to all operations in the high Arctic.
“If you’re not all working together, nothing happens,” McCagherty said. “Nobody stands alone in the Arctic.”
In this case, the cooperation is between his the PCSP—backed by Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans—and the Canadian Forces Arctic Training Centre (CFATC), via the Department of National Defence (DND).
In 2007, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received “the Canada First Defence strategy,” which mandated an increase in CAF Arctic presence and sovereignty defence.
“When (that) came up… the military turned around and said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to do an assessment of where we should place (a base of operations), and what should this facility do,” said Lt.Col Luc St. Denis.
The PCSP was established—albeit smaller—conveniently in the middle of the Canadian Arctic, and has one of the longest runways this far North, bar few, allowing for the kind of air projection vital to responding to sovereign threats almost anywhere North of Churchill.
McCagherty and company also offered 53 years of experience and an extensive network of contacts, pre-negotiated agreements, an established HF radio network and fuel caches.
“When we looked at all the factors, we needed mobility, we needed reach back to the south, we needed a central location and we needed good contacts,” St. Denis said of why CAF partnered the PCSP. “It was a win-win.”
He also said “training capability” was a primary need, hence the facility plan.
A planned expansion to the PCSP compound around 2009 allowed St. Denis an opportunity to propose the partnership, when he had his mandate and a $60 million budget to achieve his goals.
“I said… ‘I’ve got money, you’ve got the blueprint, what if we did a cut and paste, flipped it over and doubled the capacity to respond to my need?” St. Denis said.
He took the plan to DND in September 2010, it was approved by April 2011. Construction began the following summer and the ribbon was cut for the multi-departmental facility in 2013.
“That is something else,” St. Denis said. “The reason it worked is because of the partnership.”
McCagherty agreed with that sentiment.
“It’s kind of the case (of), ‘if you don’t bail and I don’t row, the both of us are going to sink in the boat,” he said. “So everybody has to work together and that relationship has been spectacular with the CFATC.”
From research to logistics
Today, the PCSP functions as a logistics provider. Originally founded in 1958, it was a base of operations for scientific research in the Canadian Arctic.
Now it provides support to more than 140 camps from the Resolute base, and has operated in more than 2,000 locations in the Canadian Arctic, touching every island there is.
It plans 18 months in advance by accepting submissions from researchers, public and government departments needing logistics support to work in their back yard. It provides flights, guides, accommodations and supplies to suit needs, and finds synergies between different operations to reduce costs.
The CFATC is managed by the Army, supports northern training to Army, Navy and Air Force members, and stages the CAF Arctic operations.