Friday, March 17, 2017

CAF to Review Uniforms, Badges, and More for Greater Diversity

By: David Pugliese, The National Post

The Canadian military will review its badges, uniforms, flags and associated ceremonial activities to ensure they are welcoming to women, visible minorities, the disabled, indigenous people and members of the gay and transgender communities.

The move is part of the Canadian Armed Forces Diversity Strategy approved last May by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance.

It is now up to the Canadian Forces to figure out how to move ahead with Vance’s strategy, and in January of this year the military produced a diversity strategy action plan, which was forwarded to the Ottawa Citizen by sources inside National Defence headquarters.

The action plan focuses on Designated Group Members, which the Canadian Forces defines as women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Also included in the strategy is the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning and 2-Spirited) community. The plan includes a detailed list of initiatives the Forces can take to accommodate those members, among them:

• “Review current dress, badges, flags, music, lineages, affiliations, drill and ceremonial, etc. and ensure these customs complement and expand towards a more diverse and inclusive national military institution (Allow dress appropriate to one’s gender identity.)”

• “Consider family circumstances when posting CAF members, including if possible, geographic proximity to family for cultural reasons, when requested.”

• “Dedicate a room at the workplace where CAF members feel encouraged and not at risk to practice their religion.”

• “Develop policy and guidelines to address the spiritual needs of Indigenous CAF Members.”

Other initiatives to be considered involve examining military equipment and infrastructure to “accommodate the needs of Designated Group Members and other members with specific needs,” and ways to improve healthcare and family support for the various individuals, which would include “traditional healing, spiritual needs, specific accommodations – dietary needs.”

Messages about employment equity and diversity will also be included in all Canadian Forces advertising and displays, according to the action plan, and military leaders will have to undergo diversity training to be considered for promotion.

Department of National Defence spokeswoman Suzanne Parker said Vance approved the action plan earlier this year. The approach is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, she said, accounting for the many differences that exist among Canadian military personnel beyond the four designated groups.

“Many of the initiatives, programs and other activities identified in this Action Plan are already in place, are ongoing or will soon be implemented,” Parker said in an email. “The Diversity Strategy’s Action Plan is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2018.”

The military hopes the diversity strategy will help with recruitment.

It’s unclear at this point how equipment, uniforms, flags and ceremonial activities might be changed to be more accommodating.

In February, Vance was questioned at a defence conference in Ottawa about body armour and other gear not being properly fitted for women. The general agreed, and said that if the Canadian Forces wants to “become more diverse and inclusive, we’re going to have to change.”

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The Canadian military has tried previously to change or alter some of its equipment for women. In 1997 it earmarked more than $2 million for creating what it believed would be the world’s first combat bra. The project was eventually abandoned.

Over the last several years, the Canadian Forces have been under fire for incidents of sexual assault and misconduct, most of it directed towards women. In an April 30, 2015 report, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found that not only was sexual misconduct “endemic” in the Canadian Forces but that it was condoned by the military leadership.

During her year-long investigation, Deschamps interviewed hundreds of full- and part-time military personnel, as well as commanding officers, military police, chaplains, nurses and social workers. The interviews pointed to what she described as a “hostile sexualized environment” in the military, particularly among recruits and the junior ranks. “At the most extreme, these reports of sexual violence highlighted the use of sex to enforce power relationships,” said Deschamps’ report, “and to punish and ostracize a member of a unit.”

Vance has condemned such behaviour and has vowed to take a tough approach against involved in sexual misconduct. Although he has acknowledged that sexual misconduct is a problem in the Canadian Forces, he also recently blamed the news media for reporting on such incidents, saying the media has created a “toxic” narrative about the military.

CAF Developing Arsenal of Cyber-Weapons

By: Alex Boutilier, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Canada plans to take steps to “strengthen” its cyber-warfare arsenal, according to documents released by the Department of National Defence.

The documents are a rare public admission from National Defence that it is developing offensive cyber-weapons in addition to tools to defend against such attacks.

“Cyber ... (is) increasingly prominent among the security and defence challenges facing Canada and its allies,” read the documents, posted to the department’s website.

“(In 2017) we will advance our research in the future of cyber warfare to improve and strengthen both our defensive and offensive capabilities.”

There is some debate over what actually constitutes a “cyber-weapon” or an act of “cyber-war.” The most commonly cited example is a virus dubbed Stuxnet, widely attributed to the United States, which in 2010 sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program before spreading to the wider Internet.

More recently, Russia was accused of launching a cyberattack against Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, causing a blackout in the capital city of Kyiv.

When it comes to cyber-warfare, the Canadian government typically likes to talk about defence more than offensive capabilities. But that appears to be changing, with former members of Canada’s defence and intelligence agencies openly musing about future cyber-war.

In an interview with Postmedia earlier this month, Brig.-Gen Paul Rutherford said Canada will be sending “cyber-warriors” to Latvia this June to protect that country’s networks from Russian cyberattacks.

“First and foremost, we recognize cyber as a domain of warfare … We are constantly under attack,” Rutherford told Postmedia.

“We want to bring people into the trade to become what I call cyber-warriors.”

The documents posted by the department state the Canadian Forces will create a new military occupation called “Cyber Operators” to bring in employees with the skills required to conduct complex cyberattacks and defence.

“It’s maybe about time,” said Alex Wilner, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University.

“I think implicitly what (National Defence) is saying here is that in Canada we see the cyber-domain as a military domain. That’s the way the Americans see it, that’s the way the Russians see it.”

Other academics studying these issues stress that caution is needed before Canada fully embraces cyber-warfare — and note the challenges in even defining what “cyber-war” is.

“Cyber-war is challenging all of our previously held notions of warfare,” said Stephanie Carvin, a former intelligence analyst who also teaches at Carleton. “Who is and isn’t a combatant? What is an armed attack?”

The department raised the question of cyber-warfare in their sweeping Defence Review project, the results of which are expected later this year.

Wesley Wark, a professor focusing on security and intelligence issues at the University of Ottawa, said he read the documents as a go-slow approach on these issues

“Clearly there is a feeling that this is a future for Canadian military operations that the (Canadian Forces) is going to have to prepare for,” Wark said in an email. “But best that it do so openly rather than in the shadows.”

Wark told the Star in September that escalation and proliferation of cyber-weapons was also a concern — a point that even John Adams, the former head of the Communications Security Establishment who has pushed for the Canadian government to prepare for cyberwarfare, conceded at the time.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was travelling Thursday, and was not available for an interview. In a statement, his spokesperson said any use of cyber-weapons would be “approved by the government on a mission-by-mission basis,” and would adhere to domestic and international law.

In a statement, the Department of National Defence called developing a cyber-component a “key priority” for the Canadian Forces.

“As cyberspace evolves and expands, it is critical that we look to the future and determine the optimal approaches to strengthen our ability to defend mission-critical military systems, building the future cyber force, and integrating cyber operations into broader military operations,” wrote DND spokesperson Daniel LeBouthillier.

Will Super Hornet Acquisition Affect Arctic Sovereignty?

By: Matthew Fisher, The National Post

If the Liberal government goes ahead with its decision to purchase Super Hornet fighter jets instead of stealthy F-35s, Canada may be giving up its sovereignty over the High Arctic as it comes to depend on U.S. jets flying from airfields in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit and Alaska.

That was the unanimous opinion of half a dozen retired fighter pilots I spoke with recently, pilots with decades of experience flying over the continent’s northern margins and in senior positions at NORAD headquarters in Colorado: that Canada would be relegated to “second-tier status” in defending its own territory.

U.S. war planes such as the F-35 and F-22 would defend the bulk of Canada’s vast northern air space because they would be invisible to Russian radars and would be able to seamlessly share data and sensor information with each other and with airborne and ground command posts, the retired Canadian pilots said. Canada’s CF-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, operating much older technologies and much less able to deliver such complicated data fusion, would likely be tasked with defending North American cities far to the south or with shooting down any missiles that managed to penetrate the first line of defence, they said.

The 18 Super Hornets the Trudeau government has said it intends to buy are expected to cost between $5 and $7 billion. On Tuesday, the Canadian government sent a letter to its U.S. counterpart outlining what it’s looking for in a potential Super Hornet purchase, which the jets’ manufacturer, Boeing, will use to draft a formal proposal by this fall. If the price and timeline are right — and if the purchase would provide enough economic spinoff benefits for Canada — the Liberals hope to sign a contract by late this year or early next. The plan has drawn plenty of criticism.

“Will Canada be surrendering sovereignty? The simple answer is yes,” said Lt.-Gen. George MacDonald, who flew CF-18 Hornets from Bagotville, Que., for NORAD for five years and was the binational military alliance’s deputy commander before 9/11 and then served as vice chief of the defence staff in Ottawa before retiring in 2004. (He now works for CFN Consultants, which has as a client Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35.)

“The Russians would be delighted to see Canada flying Super Hornets in the north,” said Gen. Tom Lawson, the retired former chief of the defence staff and ex-deputy commander of NORAD, who sometimes works as a consultant for Lockheed. “The Super Hornets will be a big, bright object on the radars of Russian early-warning aircraft. With the F-35, the Russians will not see them until they are too close.”

Gen. Jean Boyle, a former chief of defence and fighter pilot who was Boeing’s vice-president of international business when the Super Hornet was coming online nearly 20 years ago, says he can see the argument against using Super Hornets in the Far North. “In times of increased tension there is no doubt that NORAD would put its best assets, the (U.S. Air Force’s) F-35 and F-22, forward instead of a Super Hornet, to ensure the defence is thorough.

“My position, even when I was chief and ever since I was a colonel and started to understand national security, is that Canada should have a defence capability where we can defend all the northern and maritime approaches to our country, 100 per cent, that it is fully paid for by us and that there are no arguments on that point.”

“I am loathe to say we should buy the F-35 but skeptical about the capabilities of the Super Hornet,” Boyle said. “Having been with Boeing when it was developed, I am relatively aware of what the Super Hornet can do. It is fourth-generation compared to fifth-generation.”

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A fourth retired Canadian air force general, who had not worked for either Lockheed or Boeing but whose company does not allow employees to be quoted by name, concurred. He highlighted “survivability issues” for Super Hornet crews because they could be seen by enemy radars, and warned that new Russian cruise missiles would be “a game-changer” if not confronted by a fighter with cutting-edge technology.

None of the former pilots interviewed for this article were among the 13 retired air force three-star generals who recently sent a letter to the prime minister decrying the Super Hornet purchase.

“I don’t know what the government’s calculus is but if they look to the threats in the future we should go to a competition quickly,” Lawson said. “Enough information is already available to develop an operational requirement to have a competition within one year to 18 months and to have the first aircraft delivered within three years.”

That is approximately the same timeline the government has been using to justify the need for an emergency purchase of Super Hornets rather than F-35s. The RCAF told parliamentarians last year that it can safely fly its existing CF-18s until 2025.

The F-35 and Super Hornet were both “tremendous airplanes,” Boyle said. “My position is to not buy from an interim proposal. We should move forward with an open competition. Put them up against each other and make a decision.”

Liberals Hope for Super Hornet Deal by Years End

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has taken the next step towards buying 18 Super Hornet fighter jets on an interim basis, a purchase it hopes to make official by year's end.

The government sent a letter to the U.S. government on Tuesday outlining exactly what it needs in the warplanes, when it needs them, and what type of economic benefits Canada expects in return.

Aerospace giant Boeing will use those requirements to draw up a formal proposal by the fall, with the government hoping for a contract by the end of this year or early in 2018.

The Liberals have said any deal will be contingent on getting the Super Hornets at the right price, at the right time and with the right industrial spinoffs for Canada, all of which is to be laid out in Boeing's offer.

"We will assess whether an interim Super Hornet fleet purchase will help ensure Canada remains a credible and dependable ally for many years to come," Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement Tuesday.

The agreement must also be approved by the U.S. Congress.

Boeing spokesman Becky Yeamans said the aircraft giant, whose defence and aerospace division is based in St. Louis, Mo., is ready to start working to respond to the government's request for a formal proposal.

"We believe the Super Hornet is the best fit for Canada, with low acquisition and sustainment costs, advanced capabilities, and economic benefits for Canadian industry," Yeamans said in an email.

The government announced in November its plans to augment Canada's aging CF-18 fleet with the new Hornets until a full competition to replace the CF-18s can start in 2019.

The Liberals say the Super Hornets are necessary because the air force doesn't have enough jets to meet the requirement, implemented in September, that it be ready to defend North America and take part in NATO operations at the same time.

But the Conservatives and a number of retired military officers, including former air force commanders, have warned that an interim fighter fleet will be more expensive in the long run.

They have called on the government to immediately launch a competition to replace the CF-18s, saying there is no reason to wait until 2019.

"It has taken the Liberals five months to make this request — five months that could have been used to launch an open and fair competition to actually replace our CF-18s," Conservative defence critic James Bezan said in a statement.

"Instead, the prime minister has delayed that process for another five years and is planning to spend billions of dollars on a Band-Aid solution that is not in the best interests of Canada or our allies."

Sources have said the Liberals plan to purchase the Super Hornets using money the previous Conservative government originally set aside for F-35 stealth fighters.

But experts say they will need to find additional money to replace the CF-18s, either through the Liberals' new defence policy or by cutting some other projects.

A 2014 report by National Defence's research arm, meanwhile, dismissed the idea of operating an interim fleet of fighter jets because of the "significant additional costs" it would incur.

That report has since been removed from the department's website.

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter