Good morning, distinguished members of the standing committee and ladies and gentlemen. Bonjour
I've already been introduced by the chair. Thank you very much for that.
I've also been engaged at the industry level, I might add, for about 10 years now, ever since my retirement. I've brought that to this sector as well. I also had the great privilege last year of being one of the four members of the minister's advisory panel for the defence policy review that was published in June of last year.
I'm very pleased this morning, obviously, to be here with you. Thank you very much for the invitation to speak about NATO.
Mr. Chair, I will mostly be speaking in English. You have already been sent a translation. Afterward, I will be glad to answer your questions in the language of your choice.
My service to NATO is long standing. As I think most of you know, it included the command of a helicopter squadron in Germany in the late 1980s, one that Charlie also commanded; and direct oversight of the Canadian contributions to NATO as the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, and then later on as the Chief of Defence Staff from 2001 to 2005. I served as the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, the highest military position in the alliance, from 2005 to 2008. That's a position for which a serving chief of defence is elected by his peers.
My responsibilities as the chairman, by the way, were to represent all the NATO chiefs of defence at NATO headquarters; to provide consensus-based military advice to the North Atlantic Council; and to translate political guidance, through the military committee, into military orders for NATO forces and partners.
As a number of you know, I was the Chief of the Defence Staff when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place. These attacks occurred only a few months after I had taken command. Obviously, they significantly defined my priorities and my actions as chief of the defence staff during the four years that followed.
My follow-on service at NATO headquarters as Chair of the Military Committee was also marked heavily by the follow-on to Afghanistan—ISAF, as it's commonly called—and was underscored early in my term by the alliance's transition to the combat phase of Afghanistan, with which I know you're very familiar. I therefore had the privilege of participating first-hand in NATO activities at many levels during and after the Cold War, and during the post-9/11 era, when NATO engaged heavily in out-of-area operations.
The evolution of NATO's regional mission with a more global reach has been challenging for the alliance, as I think we're all aware. It has severely tested NATO's centre of gravity, which has always been, from my perspective, solidarity, in both political and military terms.
Committee members here will be very aware of NATO’s and Canada’s dedicated involvement in the Balkans in the 1990s, including the Kosovo air campaign in which I played a prominent part in terms of public portrayal of what was going on. Many of you will also be aware that the mission in Kosovo represented the first and only time that NATO engaged in combat operations without a UN Security Council resolution, under the umbrella of international humanitarian law. By the way, that mission continues to this day after now 18 years in Kosovo with some 4,000 troops.
It should also be remembered that NATO’s response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, after which article 5 was invoked for the first time in the history of the alliance, resulted in the deployment of NATO airborne warning and control aircraft to the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. That response also resulted in the commitment of maritime assets to the Mediterranean for the counterterrorist mission there, which lasted until 2016 and has now transitioned to a maritime security operation. Still, longevity was what counted there.
The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, is a mission that's firmly embedded in all of our minds as Canadians with strong Canadian involvement alongside all of our NATO members and, of course, at a very heavy price. I would add for you that NATO recently announced that they would be adding 3,000 more trainers to that mission, which will take it up again to about a total of 16,000 troops, which is still a significant commitment for NATO in that country.
More recently, Russia's reaction to the European missile defence shield, its annexation of Crimea, the destabilization of the Ukraine, and threats to the eastern flank have created some significant tensions for the alliance. Again, Canada has admirably stepped up to the plate on all of these with appropriate air, naval, and land contributions to the enhanced forward presence in eastern and central Europe, and in the Baltics in particular. Not the least is the leadership and contribution of forces to the multinational battle group in Latvia, which has been very successful so far.
I should note for you that the decision by Canada to lead that multinational battle group in Latvia was very important from a credibility perspective for Canada. It re-established much of their credibility, lost as a result of a number of things, but not least the withdrawal from the NATO airborne warning and control mission in Geilenkirchen, which Canada, as I know you're aware, has re-engaged COD in, at least in part, from a funding perspective; its withdrawal from the air and ground surveillance project; and also Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The majority of the foreign officials we met during our time in Brussels expressed their gratitude to us. The public consultations held with the Alliance were very productive. All the foreign officials we talked with about NATO and Afghanistan were very happy that Canada had renewed its commitment to NATO.
These actions by Canada, especially the leadership actions that we took in Latvia, were a very strong message for NATO.
There are lots of pressures, as you're well aware. Operations like the one in Libya, which is a while back now, but in which Charlie was the commander; the ongoing expansion of Chinese military capability, which has caused issues for many in the Asia-Pacific region; everything that we see in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East; a divided European Union, although I would add that relations between NATO and the European Union are much better now than they were during my time in NATO and are improving steadily; the North Korean threat; the pressures of climate change, which are often forgotten; mass migration; and expanding terrorism have certainly put the alliance to a severe test in the last little while.
Through it all, the member states, including Canada, have been going through, as all of that's been happening, a very significant process of transformation. All have adapted to varying degrees to this changing security environment.
From my perspective as a former military practitioner, and as someone who maintains awareness of defence and security because of my current job in industry, I certainly remain a staunch supporter of NATO as a regional and political-military organization and, for me, a guardian of the rule of law and democracy, of course.
I also firmly believe in NATO's consensus-based decision-making process, despite the problems associated with it, especially in the North Atlantic Council and in the military committee. The decisions taken greatly boost NATO's credibility, especially during operations.
It's a tough way to make decisions, I can assure you, but it's a very important one. It provides not only the credibility that's required but also the commitment and the conviction by nations to continue the missions, especially when they get more difficult.
All of this has sustained NATO quite successfully in its political-military consensus, if you like, having won the Cold War without a shot, so to speak. It really has adapted and been transforming continuously. It was transforming when I was there, and it continues to transform in this day and age.
There are some who don't agree, by the way. I know that some are not of the view that NATO is as useful as it used to be. From my perspective, though, NATO is very important from a number of perspectives, not the least of which, from my point of view, is the establishment and maintenance of the transatlantic link, which to me is one of the guiding strengths of NATO.
With that as a backdrop, I just quickly want to say a few things about how NATO has transformed in the last little while, in light of a NATO that maintains a clear focus, though, on its three primary missions: collective defence and deterrence, crisis management, and co-operative security through strategic partnerships.
The Wales summit was a bit of a watershed and was done in a period of much uncertainty, but it was an important time in which the recognition of terrorism and what it does, and the problems of mass migration, which were very prominent at that point in time, were very important. These are complex challenges. They continue to challenge the collective capabilities of NATO, and NATO has really responded as it should have.
To address those problems, and especially that security environment that was evolving, NATO's partners and allies laid out a plan to create the readiness action plan. That was a very important plan, in my view, an extension of the NATO response force, which was a great initiative but one that took a lot of time to put in place.
This readiness action plan comprises both assurance and adaptation measures, which really do increase the readiness and responsiveness of the alliance. Assurance is a number of things. It's a broad range of land, sea, and air exercises, which we see continuously. Adaptation is the longer-term changes that you would expect, including, amongst others, the NATO response force, the readiness action plan that I talked about, the very high-readiness joint task force, and enhanced standing naval forces.
Having spoken to the commander of the navy just a few days ago as well, I know that the navy component remains very active, as does the air component of Canada's forces.
More recently, and as a result of the 2016 summit, there has been a renewed emphasis on defence, deterrence, and projecting stability, which will be key components of the upcoming summit in July of this coming year. NATO has clearly delivered on the defence and deterrence commitment through the enhanced forward presence that we're aware of in the Baltics.
As previously mentioned, Canada's leadership in Latvia is absolutely crucial, and was very well received once again.
In addition—again, these are not very visible but are important to note—allies have established a forward presence in the Black Sea region over the last while, with increased numbers of forces, as well as exercises and training under multinational division southeast, which is located in Romania. This headquarters achieved operational capability just last year, in June 2017.
Because of other challenges and threats in NATO's southern region, allies have also established a component called “framework for the south”, which enhances situational awareness and also co-operative efforts on the southern flank. That is very important because of what's happening in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. This is created through a hub, which is located in Naples, that reached operational capability in September 2017. All of it is very important for that complete maintenance, if you like, of the deterrence and defence posture, complemented by such other things as nuclear, cyber, and civil preparedness capabilities.
Finally, with respect to projecting stability—again, this in keeping with the agreements at the Warsaw summit in 2016—NATO has put equal emphasis on the projection of stability, and that will form an important component of the upcoming summit.
Without giving you too many examples, this projecting stability is very important, and demands a lot of troops, of course. Those are encompassed in the operations in Afghanistan, Operation Resolute Support; the Balkans, which I mentioned; capacity-building in Iraq; training, which is coming up; the fight against terrorism; and the co-operation with some 40 partners worldwide. A large component of what I did during my time there was establishing, maintaining, and nurturing these relationships, not only with the members but also with the partner nations.
In this environment, NATO is certainly very aware, as well, of fighting terrorism and what that means, and is very focused on fighting it but also on ensuring that NATO member nations particularly are capable of doing it themselves. Canada, in my view, has very capably demonstrated its concurrence with this whole NATO approach that I've just described, through the commitments it has made to defence through “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, the new defence policy published last year.
In conclusion, I remain firmly of the view that NATO is a premier contributor to peace, security, and stability across the very wide spectrum of threats and challenges that we know of. The solidarity amongst what is now 29 member nations—it was 26 when I was there—is embedded within this political military machinery that governs that decision-making process, the consensus process that I talked about. It has achieved significant interoperability with its partners worldwide, and it has enjoyed success for nearly seven decades and counting, marking it again in my view as the most successful alliance in history.
There are a number of things that are also ongoing in terms of dialogue, and I don't want to get into too much of that given time. Certainly the NATO-Russia Council remains an important one. That NATO-Russia Council, despite all of the pressures that are currently experienced with Russia, has met six times in the last two years, three times in 2017. That dialogue, which NATO is very committed to maintaining, is one that's going to remain very important, especially with the missile defence capability that's now embedded in the European sector.
We as a founding nation, of course, have a commitment, in my view, and a responsibility to maintain the success that NATO has known and has maintained over its lifespan. To me, maintaining the strength of our transatlantic link with the alliance is all important through the effective and meaningful contributions that we continue to make through capability, people, and funding.
I've had the privilege of serving the alliance at the highest level of its military command structure. As you can tell, I remain one of its strongest and most loyal supporters. I speak about it quite often. I look forward to the outcome of the Brussels summit, which I hope will set them on an increasingly positive path.
With that, thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, I will be speaking to you in the language of Shakespeare, but I will be able to answer your questions in the language of Molière, if you wish.
You all know who I am, in some ways. I've had the distinct honour to serve my country in the Canadian Forces for over 37 years. I retired from uniformed service in 2012. I have since continued my engagement in defence and security matters through support to the Canadian Forces as a senior mentor. My commitment to the security and defence of Canada continues today, as I am currently employed as chief executive, Lockheed Martin Canada.
It's a pleasure to be here today to address this important matter. In 2001 I wrote a paper in staff college essentially concluding that the alliance was bound for failure unless major changes were to take place. Events of 9/11, my assignment to NATO Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, and my subsequent appointment as theatre commander for Operation Unified Protector drastically changed the face of NATO and my attitude towards it. I witnessed the awakening of a vibrant alliance, albeit a slow one. Today I believe that NATO remains relevant and is a cornerstone of Canada’s defence and security policy.
My relationship with NATO goes back to 1977 when as a young lieutenant I was flying tactical helicopters on Reforger in Germany. A few years after General Henault, I too commanded 444 squadron. In fact I was the last commanding officer, and took the squadron back to Canada on completion of my tour. On the morning of 9/11, I was on duty as deputy commander of the U.S. NORAD region. In an article 5 response, as the general mentioned, we saw NATO AWACS come to North America to help defend the United States. As a U.S. general commented to me at the time, we saw the blood flowing backwards. I also served as commander of the Canadian NORAD region and deputy commander of NORAD, and I witnessed then a resurgence of Russian bomber activities on the northern slopes of North America.
My colleague General Henault spoke to you about the strategic imperatives of NATO. I'll focus my comments at the theatre level, where strategy meets operations and delivers the application of controlled force.
I am content to see NATO forces being engaged on multiple fronts on land, at sea, and in the air. The general mentioned them, so I will not, but they all serve as a sterling example of the many versatile capabilities of the alliance. We need to remain engaged lest we will yield our democratic freedom to nefarious entities.
To be clear, the threat remains present. In light of Russia’s hostile activities, I offer to you that we are in a second Cold War. My concern, however, is that there may be only one side spending money on it. NATO has suffered a long period of reduced funding, and we are seeing some of the results today. In Canada, we have a willing Canadian Armed Forces that suffers from a lack of appropriate funding and a resulting reduction in capabilities due to a lack of modernization.
Actions from China, North Korea, and Iran are other clear indicators that a threat to our society exists through either direct actions, indirect attacks, or even the mere potential to act.
Actions of despotic governments and their criminal acts against their own people must also be taken into consideration. Such have created mass migrations of refugees. Today there are over 66 million displaced persons. Military casualties are decreasing but civilian casualties are increasing. Frequent small-scale attacks on harmless civilians are easier to hide, yet create as much harm as any conventional combat action. We have a responsibility to protect those who cannot defend themselves and to create an environment in which diplomacy and self-government may take root. R2P is hard to avoid, but it must be approached in a holistic manner.
These threats will exist for the next decades, and therefore, when addressing our needs and capabilities, we must build an armed force that can keep our country secure for the next 40 years and beyond. Our force composition, posturing, and equipping must be tailored to these long-term requirements that transcend the mandate of any single government.
I, with many others, fully support the new defence policy of a strong, secure, and engaged Canada. I congratulate the government on the new policy and can only ask that the commitment to seeing it through remains, regardless of the political party in power. We have heard such plans before, and I would hope that we will learn from the past and we will see its evolution unabated.
From a commander's perspective, the mission I was assigned in Libya was an out-of-theatre R2P operation. We were given the task of taking all necessary action to protect the population. This was not a regime change, as some have mentioned. In fact, my wish was to see Gadhafi in front of the International Court of Justice to bring closure to this sad period in the lives of Libyans. This was a true R2P mission conducted by NATO.
Glaringly missing from the directions provided was the absence of a clear end state. This must be the second question answered before forces are committed. Lacking such, we ended up stating our own understanding of the end state, which was subsequently approved by the North Atlantic Council. It's important for me to say that the political end state is essential to any military commander.
I view my selection as commander for the mission as the result of a long career in the military, but also—and really, what's important to me—I was known to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, SACEUR, and the commander of Joint Force Command Naples. I believe that a Canadian in command was politically acceptable to the alliance, and, having served in the U.S. for many years, the country as well. My point here is that when we have Canadians in NORAD, they help in the bigger picture as well, because it enables us to put people in leadership roles and positions.
This mission, as with all military operations today, extended beyond the purely military realm. We adopted the comprehensive approach of “PMESII”—political, military, economic, social, information, and infrastructure—as the analytical start to assess the operational environment. This is an important point I wish to make, because conflict resolution today requires a full-spectrum approach, not just a military response.
Three major lessons were reinforced to me and my team. This is a matter of relationships, and one should not be exchanging business cards on the first day of the conflict. In fact, this is a job that must be taking place today.
I know that this committee is doing that in its travel. Congratulations, sir, and your team.
Doctrine and procedures are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of the fools. We must remain flexible, and cannot adapt the next conflict based on the last one. We are the ones who must adapt.
Agility of the mind is something that does not come easily sometimes with 32 nations, especially in large alliances such as NATO.
I'll take the next few minutes to cover some more specific lessons learned. I hope they apply as much today as they did in 2011.
The first is readiness. It took NATO 12 months to begin combat operations in the Balkans. We had three weeks to get ready and assume command of the mission. A crisis today and the decision to act will not take months. We will only have a few weeks at best, or more people will die. We must have the right force structure and readiness that will allow fast and decisive engagements. We must have readily deployable, interoperable Canadian Armed Forces.
Next is intelligence. Situational awareness is the key. “Need to know” is a thing of the past. Today there is a pressing need to share. During the mission, I was part of Two Eyes, Canada and the U.S.; Five Eyes, Canada, the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, and Australia; and of course the various NATO classifications. This created conditions where not all members of the team had access to information. I took the deliberate decision to extend the passage of information to every member country that flew combat missions. I could not accept losing a single member of the force because we did not share information, thus potentially affecting my own centre of gravity, which was the alliance cohesion. This also created resentment from some of the countries that were part of it, because they felt they were not given the full picture. Acknowledging the existing agreements in effect, we must retain the flexibility to share, and not be encumbered by policies.
Next is boots on the ground. We conducted the mission without NATO forces on the ground. This was imposed by the United Nations Security Council resolution not to have occupying forces deployed in theatre. This artificial limitation, made for valid political reasons at the time, forced us to adapt in a way that had not been done before. We should be mindful of imposing such restriction on any commander in any future mission. On the other hand, I believe we showed that a mission could be accomplished using air and maritime power projection, without any casualties to our own forces. Further, force disengagement took seconds.
With regard to weapon systems, interoperability is essential. We must maximize the potential of future force structures and composition. The more we have in common with other NATO forces, the more effective we will be. Further, conflicts are now taking place among the population. We must therefore have the right small-yield weapons that will minimize collateral damage. Even a tactical mistake will take on strategic implications in a few hours, placing an entire mission at risk.
Next is cultural awareness. We can no longer impose our own standards on those we are trying to help. We conducted operations during Christian Lent and Ramadan. We adapted accordingly. I would have considered it a failure if we'd had to have a hearts and mind campaign during the mission. This was ours to lose from the start, and it influenced the way we conducted operations. A diverse force, be it gender, religious, or political diversity, must be the new norm.
In terms of information operations, the use of all means to achieve the objectives must include non-kinetic activities. Social media has become a critical element in the commander's arsenal. The risk is that it will extend beyond the geographical area of operations, and we must be prepared for that. A server in China or a server in Russia could have to be dealt with outside the geographical location that political entities may have given us a task. I believe greater efforts must be placed on understanding this concept, this problem, and on facing it, because strategic communication activities are truly important.
I'm running out of time, so let me conclude. Much has been written on whether the intervention in Libya was successful. On this I quote NATO, that the UN mandate was carried out to the letter and the mission was terminated on 31 October 2011 after having fulfilled its objectives. I was confident that I had the support of the Government of Canada and that of the leadership of NATO and its partner countries. The challenge, however, was that while the military portion was completed, much more was needed and is still going to be needed in the future. Social, political, constitutional, legal, academic reforms, amongst many others, were never followed through.
This is an important discussion that must take place today, before the next engagement. We must have a plan after the military has done its job. This was clearly lacking. I will offer to you that we have not learned from Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. It was good work from the military, but how about this comprehensive approach. Wherever we send our sons and daughters in the future, we will need to have a plan for the next phase of the campaign or accept that our effort may be for naught.
NATO provides the world with a political, diplomatic, and military capability that has no equal, and we must safeguard it. It brings international legitimacy to conflicts, and it tells the world that we will not stand idly while innocent civilians suffer or our national sovereignty and freedom are at risk. NATO is stronger today, but it must continue to evolve. I believe that Canada must continue its quest to retain, and indeed increase, its contribution and lead the change.
My time is running out, sir. Much more can and should be said, and I'm pleased to see that you are having these discussions today. I pledge to you my support in this endeavour. I congratulate you on your work and your commitment to NATO. It's a journey, not a destination.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for the invitation to speak today and to give you some information on NATO and the NATO Communications and Information Agency, for which I'm general manager.
It's an honour to be with you this morning. I came to Ottawa for the first time in 1983, as a graduate student from the University of Texas. It was a small grant from your government to study the Auto Pact, which of course was a predecessor of NAFTA. I've had a warm affinity for Canada ever since and been up here several times. It was fortunate that my travel from Brussels happened at the same time as this committee hearing, so I'm happy to be here.
My name is Kevin Scheid. I'm an American originally from Pennsylvania, but I've been living in Alexandria, Virginia, for the past 30 years. I recently retired from the American civil service, where I worked for 10 years at the White House Office of Management and Budget, 10 years in the U.S. intelligence community, and about 10 years at the Department of Defense. I took the position of general manager of the NATO Communications and Information Agency on July 1, 2017. I live in Brussels, Belgium, now.
I'm joined this morning by the Chairman of my agency oversight board, my supervisory board, Mr. Guy Charron of Canada. He's part of your Department of National Defence. I'm also joined by U.S. Army Colonel Joyce LuGrain, who heads up my Executive Management Office, and Ms. Virginie Viscardy, who represents my office in North America and will be making more visits to Ottawa as well as Washington. She works out of Norfolk, where we have NATO's Allied Command Transformation.
As you know, NATO is composed of a political headquarters in Brussels and has two military commands: one for operations in Mons, Belgium, at SHAPE, and the other for transformation in Norfolk, Virginia. There are two agencies. One's for support and procurement, and the other is for communications and information infrastructure and other technology capabilities. I'm the general manager for the latter.
Together, NATO as an organization, as a bureaucracy, has about 17,000 civilians and military staff and operates with a budget of about two billion euros annually. We strive to support the nations who protect over a billion citizens, from Ankara to Honolulu.
NATO Communications and Information Agency was established after a significant reform effort in 2012 that saw the consolidation of five NATO agencies and offices in order to realize some funding savings and manpower reductions, and to increase effectiveness. My agency provides support to both the political and military leadership of NATO. Our responsibilities are deeply rooted in the North Atlantic Treaty, which is 69 years old as of next week, and focuses on consultation of the 29 NATO members, which is article 4—we provide the communications to allow that consultation to take place at a political level—as well as collective defence, article 5. We support NATO troops in the field, particularly in Afghanistan, where I have about 200 staff and contractors.
Our history goes back to 1955, with the establishment in The Hague, Netherlands, of the SHAPE Air Defence Technical Centre, a centre that I'm certain has provided support to these two gentlemen when they were in combat and leading various parts of NATO. Today we work to ensure that missile attacks are thwarted, that military aircraft fly safely in European and North American airspace, that NATO troops have the secure and readily available communications they need to conduct operations, as well as to make sure that the Secretary General has a secure cellphone to use.
NCIA does not receive an annual appropriation but is funded through revenues we earn by delivering services and executing technical programs of work for the commands and NATO headquarters, or work directly with the nations. During this fiscal year, NCIA projects an operating revenue of about 250 million euros, and will contract out with NATO national industries about 630 million euros for goods and services. These range from communications networks in Afghanistan, as I mentioned, networks across Europe, cybersecurity capabilities, software-intensive programs such as air command and control, and “C2” for missile defence.
NCIA has a workforce of about 3,000 employees; roughly 1,500 civilians, 1,000 military, and 500 contractors. We have three campuses—Brussels, The Hague, and Mons. We're also expanding into a new training facility that the nations have invested in. It's common-funded, so Canada participates in this. It's a training facility in Oeiras, Portugal.
NCIA employs 61 Canadians, 51 civilian and 10 military. The latest estimate from this morning is that there are 435 Canadians throughout the 17,000 NATO employees, so Canada is well represented, and well represented in NCIA. I think we have the largest percentage of Canadians of any of the organizations. They mostly work in The Hague and in Mons in the technical areas. Their responsibilities range from executing highly technical engineering and software programs, such as the maritime program that Canada just won as a contract; NATO-wide defence planning projects; in the defence planning program we have a Canadian leading that effort; and project and program management and oversight.
Canadians are major contributors to NCIA, to NATO, and represent Canada very well with their quiet dedication, professionalism, and grit. And I mean that seriously. Some served in Afghanistan with us, and they pull their weight.
Today NCIA's priority is the digital transformation of the NATO enterprise. NATO nations, including Canada, have made large investments in a new NATO headquarters, which represents a significant improvement in NATO's IT capabilities. The new headquarters essentially is a network surrounded by glass and steel, and it includes modern data centres, sophisticated cybersecurity, and thousands of desk-top and mobile user devices.
As the Secretary General recently stated, the new HQ is a modern building for a modern alliance. It goes to what these gentlemen spoke to, that we need to modernize the capabilities of NATO and make sure that we're doing the best we can to facilitate the nations' engagement when they need to deploy. NCIA is very proud of our central role in the new headquarters transformation.
Similarly, we're transforming the digital infrastructure of the NATO commands through a project we call—cleverly, I'll say—“IT modernization”. We're deploying modern infrastructure with multiple redundant data centres and moving NATO towards the cloud, thereby centralizing services and support for the commands in order to reduce our cybersecurity vulnerabilities as well as improve effectiveness. All these efforts are protected by about 200 staff, who are monitoring and protecting NATO's networks on a 24-7 basis, whether in Europe, Afghanistan, or North America, as well as on NATO-deployed ships and aircraft.
These efforts as well as others represent what I like to call NATO's digital endeavour, the digital transformation of the NATO enterprise, so that we can support the member nations of the alliance better and become more effective and efficient. This will not happen immediately but is something that is going to occur over the next several years.
A critical aspect of what I do as a general manager is engage with the industries of the NATO member nations, the industries who actually deliver those capabilities. Last evening, and even this morning just before arriving here, I met with several leaders of the Canadian defence industry to learn more about their experience in working with NATO. This engagement follows from NCIA's industry conference held here in Ottawa last year, which attracted more than 700 participants from Europe and North America. This was the agency's most successful of these engagements to date, and the first one to be held in North America. Our next industry conference, NITEC'18, will be held in Berlin on May 22-24.
Last December I was very proud to award the largest NATO contract ever to a Canadian company, MDA. The project is Triton, and it supports our maritime operations. Your permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council, Ambassador Kerry Buck, participated in the signing ceremony at the NATO headquarters just before the Christmas holiday. In fact, I met with MDA leadership this morning just to get my own personal assurances, eye to eye, that things were on track and the program was moving forward.
Triton, which is the project that they won, will replace the operational-level functionality of the current maritime command and control information system, or MCCIS, and other operational support functions. Once Triton reaches its full operational capability, it will become the main platform for conducting all military maritime operations throughout the alliance. Nations and commands will be able to share their maritime information in a live environment, mutually benefiting from the shared data, so that Triton may live up to its name, “messenger of the sea”.
In conclusion, from my perspective as somebody who works in the trenches of the NATO bureaucracy, Canada is an essential part of NATO. It always has been; it always should be. NATO benefits, I believe, from the outstanding military and civilian talent that you send to operations as well as to Brussels. The alliance also benefits from your direct support through activities such as air policing. The alliance would not be as capable of deterring threats from NATO's east flank, or southern flank, which these gentlemen have discussed, without Canada's steadfast participation.
Thank you again for this opportunity to speak and to brag a little bit about my agency.
I'd be glad to take questions.