Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, let me first thank you for the opportunity to appear before you and discuss NORAD. I also would like to extend the greetings of the NORAD commander, Admiral Gortney, who looks forward to your visit to the NORAD-USNORTHCOM headquarters in early May.
On May 12, 2016, NORAD will be 58 years old. Our story has been characterized by success and great service to both the United States and Canada. Our commander likes to remind us all that NORAD was born out of the Cold War and expanded to an internal threat focus after the events of 9/11.
The events of 9/11 were a turning point in our history. NORAD was able to evolve and adapt in the same way that we have always been able to do so in the presence of developing security concerns that affect North America, either directly or indirectly.
We do not operate in isolation. The nature of our operation demands a high level of coordination with law enforcement and domestic security agencies on both sides of the border. Our high level of integration with our U.S. twin command, U.S. Northern Command, and coordination with the Canadian Joint Operations Command produces continental effects that far surpass NORAD's current primary mandate of protecting North America's airspace.
Our perspective is unique in the sense that we deliberately watch for and anticipate potential security issues for the homelands, and our area of interest is global in nature. As such, we see much that is of concern and deserves our attention. The spectrum of threats and potential threats to our security range from traditional nation state military capabilities to individuals with access to increasingly destructive technologies.
Great power competition is back. This is now a prominent view in the United States. Potential adversary behaviour and continued efforts to develop advanced military capabilities, especially those that can reach North America, are a matter of critical importance for us. For example, Russia was able to deploy long-range, conventionally armed cruise missiles comparable to western systems this year. Indeed, this capability was on display as Russia employed heavy bombers, surface vessels, and a submarine to launch advanced conventional cruise missiles at targets in Syria. When combined with a high level of long-range aviation activity in the vicinity of our air defence identification zones in the last few years, we take notice.
We're also concerned about violent extremists and the enduring threat they represent to general and commercial aviation. We're concerned about ballistic missiles and related capability developments.
Our current missions include aerospace warning and aerospace control, and maritime warning in the defence of North America. In concert with our sister commands, we're observing threat streams that force us to adjust our aperture and pay attention to other domains, such as cyber.
I don't want to be perceived as crying wolf, of course, but while a worst case scenario of a direct conventional attack against North America remains unlikely, it is the responsibility of the commander of NORAD, on behalf of both governments, to plan for the eventuality and contribute to the deterrence of such an attack. The way we deliver our NORAD missions is through a spectrum of most likely to most dangerous courses of action.
We take pride in being as effective as possible, given our means and capabilities, when dealing with the most likely. Those are the operations that we conduct daily in the three NORAD regions: Alaska, Canada, and the continental United States. They include the part of Operation Noble Eagle that defends against 9/11-type scenarios and against any act attempting to use general or commercial aviation to threaten our security. They also include monitoring our maritime approaches, in concert with our partners, and the deliberate control of air traffic approaching or entering our air defence identification zones on the outside perimeter of North America.
The resources allocated routinely to the NORAD missions vary by region, but given intelligence and command assessment of developing operational requirements, regional commanders have the ability to scale up or down, as required, and relocate resources across their region to better respond to developing situations.
NORAD maintains very high readiness forces throughout the continent. To deliver effective operations, we have come to rely on a sophisticated system of systems, which allows us to fully exploit a spectrum of engagement, which includes indicators and warnings, detection, identification, and if necessary, the deployment of fighter aircraft to intercept and engage airborne tracks.
Our first defence, of course, resides in the multitude of men and women in uniform from both nations who have the honour of defending our nations and our citizens right here at home.
To be able to deploy and sustain any number of fighter aircraft vast distances away from their main operating bases requires the choreography and coordination of many parts of a system. Whether it is training, command and control nodes, our infrastructure, air-to-air refuellers, airborne early warning platforms, ground-based radars or fighter aircraft, we need to be able to communicate and have command and control over the entirety of the defended area. Each of these components must be as capable as possible and must be able to network with each other. This requirement to connect parts in a system will be a fundamental characteristic of future defensive systems for any domains.
NORAD's current structure of main operating bases, forward operating locations, and the north warning system was designed to counter a threat perceived in the late 1970s. At that time, ballistic missiles and Soviet long range aviation armed with first-generation cruise missiles were essentially the only systems capable of reaching North America and, given hostile intent, become a threat.
The north warning system was built between 1986 and 1992. As of now, the newest parts of the system are already 24 years old. We expect the system to last until around 2025, at which point we will be looking for modern solutions to replace its capabilities. We have to look forward to modernize the principal elements of the capabilities that constitute NORAD today, and that includes material solutions, of course, and non-material solutions such as the way we command and control our forces and the way we are organized to defend our nations.
Given all the above, we are actively pursuing a problem definition phase of the requirements for NORAD's evolution. Our commander will be providing advice to both his chains of command, to the Secretary of Defense on the U.S. side and to the Chief of the Defence Staff on the Canadian side, for consideration. As such, we are very early in the thinking about the future, but our work is timely.
To conclude, NORAD is a mature, bi-national command benefiting from a very well-developed network of partners. We are ready to face our most likely threats, and have plans to address our most dangerous scenarios.
North America is facing new threats, including increased nation state competition and the proliferation of advanced military capabilities that are challenging our ability to successfully defend Canada and the United States.
I thank you for your attention.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
I have to go back in history, I think, to differentiate what could constitute a threat to the United States and perhaps not to Canada, and vice versa.
In 1957 when NORAD was formed, there was an implicit recognition of the fact that as far as air defence was considered, it was better to deliver air defence with a continental point of view. This is how both nations joined forces and started to defend our air responsibility with the capability of a conventional air defence system of that time.
As we move through history—and maybe I'll go back to that later—the initial threat was Soviet long-range aircraft with gravity bombs. I might talk about how we defended against those later. Afterwards, we had ballistic missiles, the ICBMs that showed up, which became a threat to North America. Afterwards, we still had the long-range aviation with the first generation of cruise missiles. Now what we see is a new generation of cruise missiles, with very long-range and low observability, which are really challenging our way to prosecute, if you want, any approaches to North America.
From my perspective, it's very difficult to isolate a threat to the United States from a threat to Canada, and vice versa. If we talk about the cruise missiles, the advanced long-range cruise missiles that we have observed are not only still a threat in the aerospace domain but also in the maritime domain, because they are now being launched from submarines and surface vessels. So the maritime domain now is becoming a domain of interest that is really challenging us to think in terms of continental defence, as opposed to only from a perspective of U.S. or Canadian defence. So there I would say it's a common concern.
Ballistic missiles have been around for a long time, including short-range and medium-range ones. There are a lot of technical advances out there in the world. They are here to stay. The intercontinental ballistic missiles are the ones that we see. If you look at the latest manifestation of developments out of North Korea, the truth of the matter is that country is working very hard to develop this capability, despite its missile test last week being a failure.
With respect to the ballistic missiles themselves, it is very difficult for me to imagine that a single shot that hit a U.S. city, for example, Seattle, would not have any implications for Canadian sovereignty, the Canadian economy, and survivability. Even the threat itself, I find difficult to separate as far as being a U.S. threat only or a Canadian threat only.
I think it was when USNORTHCOM and Canada Command were formed and then eventually CEFCOM, which became CJOC, there was clearly an effort to try to protect North America from more than just the aerospace domain. At that point, the question of NORAD was discussed.
Since then, in 2006, the NORAD agreement was renewed forever, in perpetuity, and therefore we have been working in the aerospace domain and with maritime domain from a maritime domain perspective. The practical execution of continental defence now, if you want to call it this, is performed in our domains through NORAD but also performed with a combination of the operational output of NORTHCOM, CJOC, and NORAD. The three commands have tried to recommend staff talks about how we make progress on our agenda now, because we are working very closely together and we are producing joint effects. Let me give you an example, which also illustrates a little of the difficulties.
If you have a submarine approaching North America, that submarine is a problem for the maritime component commander in Canada under CJOC and then for NAVNORTH in the United States, which is their maritime component commander under the command of NORTHCOM. How to address that submarine approaching is done through a joint task force. Bilaterally we join forces, maritime patrol aircraft, surface ships, and so on, and we will pursue the target as it arrives.
As soon as that submarine launches a cruise missile, the cruise missile becomes a NORAD responsibility, which is perfectly in line. For that matter, it's a bit difficult but, ultimately, the point I want to make here is that as we prosecute the submarine bilaterally through a combined joint task force, which is fully under the command of the commander of NORTHCOM who is also the commander of NORAD, at the end of the day, it arrives back in Colorado Springs anyway.
This is how, as we look at the future under tri-command, we are now starting to challenge ourselves with questions such as whether the aerospace domain is sufficient to defend North America or whether we should think about going into a binational as opposed to bilateral approach. That's very important for us. Binational means that we're integrated and Canadians have a say; bilateral means that you arrive at what you have and that very often you're not in the command chain. Is it a better construct to defend North America? This is the advice of commanders now preparing to craft for both chains of command and look to the future, again with the common objective of providing in a NORAD type of construct, so binational, a continental defence perspective. I don't know if a solution is going to come out of it, but this is what we're preparing to craft.
Mr. St-Amand, thank you for being here today and for your service to our country.
We heard a little bit about the control part of surveillance. We've been talking a little bit about surveillance. I'm going to ask the question about the elephant in the room. As parliamentarians we have a responsibility to our citizens for their safety, and also a fiduciary responsible.
In terms of procurement, we've been hearing a little bit from witnesses about replacing our fighter aircraft and interoperability. Regarding current infrastructure in Canada, our landing strips in the north and so on and so forth are not currently long enough for certain aircraft.
We've heard that our tanker refuelling capacities are currently working very closely with our CF-18s. We've heard in the news recently that the U.S. Congress is split over funding the air force base in Alaska. I understand that for their F-35s, they are going to have to spend $500 million to retrofit the base in Eielson. We've heard that Australia is expecting to spend $1 billion for its base in Williamtown.
In your expert opinion, how important is it that any replacement fighter jet, whatever it may be, is able to work with our current infrastructure? In the event that something is chosen that cannot work with our current infrastructure, how many more millions, if not billions, will be required to retrofit our current infrastructure?
That's a two-part question, Madam, if I understand correctly.
The first one is about interoperability and the use of our current infrastructure. Perhaps the best indication that our current infrastructure might not be a good base of reference is to look at the structure. For example, the way NORAD is structured, our main operating bases are probably going to be permanent, but the four operating locations date back to a threat that was perceived in the 1970s. I can't say that the latter structure would be totally adequate for what's to come, especially if we're thinking about next 30 to 40 years. That's one comment.
The second comment is that interoperability is absolutely critical. When you think of what NORAD does, just image a triangle with fighter aircraft at the tip. That fighter aircraft, of course, is critical to control. This is how we control the airspace. It relies on a system which has platforms, long base radars, airborne early warning which can communicate data link, people that are qualified, the training system, the standards, and so on and so forth.
It is better to take a look at the tip as the result of the whole triangle and in the triangle, of course, you have the infrastructure. There's no doubt in my mind that changes may be required no matter what replaces the F-18. It may or may not be required because it's not only a matter of runway, operation, or base location, it's the whole system here. It involves the sensor to sensor ability to communicate, man-machine interface, the weapons that would be used, and so on and so forth.
It's a very difficult question to answer now. With respect to the amount of money that would be required, again, it would depend on which platform the Government of Canada decides to purchase. At this point, I would deflect the answer to Gen. Hood because I really have no idea.
I could describe NORAD's evolution in four ages.
The first age was Soviet long-range aviation with gravity bombs, in such a way at that time in the late fifties that the air battle was going to take place just north of our border. That's how the air defence system was designed. Really, the only threat was in the aerospace domain. That was the only thing that was capable of reaching North America. Later, we talked about the introduction of ICBMs. That threw NORAD into a bit of a self-questioning mode. Was a conventional air defence system useful at that point given another domain, really, a ballistic missile flying through space? After much debate, there was a conclusion by both nations that in fact a conventional air defence system as a deterrent was a part of the deterrence to such an attack, so NORAD survived.
The second age came about as a result of the first generation of cruise missiles. That forced us to push forward to the north and defend further up north, where the battle zone, if you will, was pushed to our northern perimeter and into Alaska. Again, still the only domains that were really capable of being used to attack North America were aerospace and, in space, ballistic missiles.
The third age, 9/11, made us look inside. We know the story there.
We're now in the fourth age. The fourth age is the age of these advanced cruise missiles, with their very long range, which is challenging our ability to intercept and kill those vehicles before they can cause us harm. They can be launched now by our maritime platforms. Maritime avenues and maritime approaches are now a domain that is more prominent than ever before in terms of a threat to North America or a capability to reach North America. That is a big change.
While all this is going on, of course, you have cyber, which is happening every day. While I can't go into more detail, it is apparent that this is something that we're all concerned about from a continental point of view, starting from the national point of view.
As I get into this description of what we see from Colorado Springs, then certainly the maritime domain is something that we should look at expanding into.
Again, cyber is very complicated. I am not sure that we could reach a binational one on cyber, other than just co-operation and the exchange of information. We're still probably not mature enough to envisage a continental defence against cyber. It is very national in nature, and there are a lot of sensitivities and so on and so forth.
From the land perspective, while it's probably the last domain, we still don't see a current threat. I'm not talking about counterterrorism, which is something that is totally different, but a traditional symmetric threat to the land domain is probably something that we're not totally concerned about yet.
To summarize: aerospace domain, maritime domain, cyber, and land, and there are more as far as evolution is concerned.
That is a complicated question, because there are military and political aspects.
The responsibility for giving military advice lies with the Chief of Defence Staff, who handles the entire military aspect.
I have observed three things that might help you in your discussions.
First, there are the ballistic missiles.
The missiles are here to stay.
I am not talking only about the intercontinental missiles, but also the short- and long-range missiles. In the future, we will perhaps see Canadians in theatres of operation that will be under threat of short- or medium-range ballistic missiles. We will be defended by coalitions and by NATO, so things are fine in that regard.
Some countries, notably North Korea, are working very hard to develop the capacity to attack North America. So ballistic missiles are here to stay. I think this is a threat that will continue to exist.
The second thing I have observed is this.
In terms of the approaches in North America, command and control are a little complicated in Colorado Springs. NORAD is responsible for assessing an attack or identifying a missile that might approach North America. The Canadians can tell NORAD that it is an attack on North America, but as soon as a decision is made, or a missile is identified, the defence is entirely up to the Americans.
The command of NORTHCOM and NORAD is somewhat separate for the same mission. For that same ballistic missile that is approaching, one element is under NORAD and the other element, under NORTHCOM, which is American only. If the missile came back into the atmosphere, NORAD would again be responsible for determining whether there is a nuclear explosion.
For NORAD and NORTHCOM, the command and control are complicated. We ask that decisions be made in the space of a few minutes, to defend against or to assess an attack. It is a bit complicated. If we were part of the missile defence shield, that would enable the binational commands to simplify command and control for that threat.
The third thing I have observed is this.
Given that Canada is not part of the system, it does not have access to the technology or to the strategy and planning, and it certainly has no influence on the decisions made. I am going to say the expression in English, because it is not coming to mind in French.
The United States doesn't have a need to share, and we don't have a right to know.
Anything we have, we have out of good will.
Certainly they cooperate with us. We have been very close allies for a long time, but we simply are not part of that mission.
The three things I have described give me the impression that it is an important matter to revisit. That is all I can say.
We're not seeing the same level of aggressiveness, that is very clear. But what we are seeing, if you look at the last, say, three years, is a peak in intrusions into our air defence identification zone. They have a right, of course, to operate there; it is international airspace. But at the same time, we have declared those identification zones so that we know what's coming towards America. So we have seen a peak, especially in 2014, and a difference in the degree of sophistication in how they approach us. Of course, at NORAD we are concerned about the behaviour of Russia as a whole, thinking about Crimea, thinking about Ukraine, thinking about even Syria.
This is why I said in my opening remarks that our area of interest is global for many reasons, and I characterize the reasons for that in this way: We should never let an adversary think even a second that North America is soft. Therefore, everything that we do, everything that is visible, our infrastructure in the north, our operations, this is all very visible, and there is a deterrence value to it.
We care about what's going on in the world; we haven't talked about China, for example, and the South China Sea. We're also concerned about it at NORAD. Now it's very far away, but what are the repercussions back to North America, both the U.S. and Canada, of what the U.S. is going to decide to do in that area? We're not sure.
So again, to summarize, there's been a peak in activity—although in 2015 there was a lull as a result of a crash, so the fleet was grounded for a few months. We expect the activity to peak again, but no aggressiveness in same way that we saw in the media.
In the context of NORAD, we've always looked north and we look at the Arctic as being an avenue of approach as opposed to a base of operation. We operate from the Arctic to do our job, but it's an avenue of approach for us. In the maritime domain, we have this mission, which is maritime warning, in which case we would know about a scenario like you just described, if we have the proper detection and the proper intelligence. We would get the information and therefore advise both governments of a threat in the north. But our role would be limited to that.
In that case, our role is simply to advise of something that will be coming in, but if that ship were undetected, of course, were to end up in the Northwest Passage or in our Arctic and was able to launch a cruise missile, that cruise missile would then become our problem. It's a NORAD problem because it is an air-breathing threat . So that would characterize the way NORAD would be concerned with the north.
Here is another aspect of the north. While our Arctic, our maritime approaches, say, close to 12 nautical miles north of our land mass, may or may not be melting, depending on which side of the argument you find yourself on, you have to look on the other side. The Russian northern maritime lines of communications are melting way faster, and for us that is a concern, because they could position capabilities there. They could put stuff there that could act as a deterrent, and when you have a deterrent that could affect North America, we take notice. Now it starts to affect our freedom of execution, freedom of manoeuvre, and so forth. That's why I say, from a NORAD perspective, our area of interest is global. We look further than our borders, and we really look far north in this case.
I'm not sure I answered the question, but that's the limit of our operation—
The perspective of a continental defence is what would probably surface nowadays. It's kind of a declaration of the fact that North America is a single security space. We can't detach ourselves from each other. Something happening in the U.S. will affect us; something happening here will affect them.
In this continental defence perspective, as opposed to a national defence perspective, the current debate is in what domains it makes sense. It is evolving as a result of evolving capabilities. I'm reminded of the Battle of Britain which took place 75 years ago and we celebrated last year. In the years prior to the start of World War II, Great Britain discovered that the English Channel was no longer the longest tank ditch in the world, in the sense that for years, they were immune to invasion. Then air power started and we saw the Battle of Britain, and we know what history brought.
In many ways in North America, we are finding ourselves now facing threats, ballistic missiles, of course, but long range cruise missiles as well. This means that the Arctic, the Atlantic, and the Pacific may no longer be sufficient. They are still formidable barriers, but as far as a nation out there that would like to cause us harm, we are now facing something new from different domains, cyber being one of those, which the oceans do nothing in stopping that nefarious activity.
If NORAD did not exist, we wouldn't be having this debate now. You're right, maybe it would be too expensive. Maybe we couldn't afford it, but since we have it and can [Inaudible--Editor].