Today, the Centre for Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies at NPSIA along with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Centre for International Policy Studies (Queens) held a workshop that involved much of the Canadian defence academic community. The idea was to feed into the Defence Review Canada is running this summer.
Andrea Charron, our Centre's director, did a great job of organizing so that the day was very engaging. We were split into four groups: threat environment, the forces, readiness, and missions/allies. Each group was tasked to come up with five ideas/priorities. Then each group would Red Team (criticize, respond/react) to two of the other groups. My group was Missions/Allies led by Andrea C and Jim Fergusson. This group included Sjrdjan Vucetic and Thomas Juneau of U of Ottawa, Justin Massie of UQAM, Theo McLauchlin of U of Montreal, and Kim Richard Nossal of Queens.
I really didn't know what I was going to say going into the event, as I had never done something like this before (of course, anyone who knows me would have predicted that I would talk alot). Also, the missions for Canada are pretty established--that we will not be changing what Canada is likely to think its role is in the world: defending Canada, jointly via NORAD with US, NATO, UN, and occasional coalitions of the willing ops. We did come up with a bunch of questions that one should always ask when considering a mission--what are the rules of engagement, who is involved, what are the desired goals, etc. Kind of akin to the Dutch's Article 101 letter procedure (see the Dave and Steve book).
The big point I pushed was that the classic Canadian question of whether to provide small units in many operations or concentrate in one place for extended period of time should be resolved thusly: do the latter. If you want to make a difference, concentrate the effort and be patient.
The challenge for any review is that there is not much room to move Canada. That is, the budget is mostly set, 47% is dedicated to personnel, the big procurement decisions are decided/have a process of their own, AND Canada faces few threats and has limited capabilities. So, neither our review nor the big government one can really alter the path of the CAF and DND much. Still, it was a very useful exercise for thinking about this stuff and giving input to government.
Personally, it was mighty good for me both because I could connect with the many folks I know who attended and help set the stage for one of my major sabbatical priorities: applying for a partnership grant to create a Canadian Defence Research Network so that we can meet more often, develop shared research agendas, communicate our results and train the next generation of defence scholars.
In short, woot!