NDDN Committee Report
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Stephen Fuhr, MP
Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, I am pleased to present the official Government Response to the Second Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence entitled: Canada and the Defence of North America: NORAD and Aerial Readiness, tabled in the House of Commons on 19 September 2016.
As you will recall, this past spring I invited the Committee to study issues related to the role of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in the defence of Canada and North America as input for the Government’s Defence Policy Review. The Government committed to an open and transparent defence policy review process as reflected in my mandate letter and the 2015 Speech from the Throne. Based on a robust external engagement plan, we have consulted broadly – with the public, through an online consultation portal and social media outreach; with experts through a series of roundtable discussions; with allies and partners; and with Parliament. Over 50 members of Parliament held consultations in their own ridings.
In addition to these broad consultations, I reached out to the House and Senate Committees on National Defence. Allow me to express my gratitude for the valuable input your Committee has provided for the defence policy review through your report.
Related to the new defence policy for Canada, of course, is our work to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter aircraft. In reference to your first three recommendations, on considerations for a CF-18 replacement, I will note that last summer’s consultation process with industry and governments in Allied and partner countries provided additional information that was quite helpful to the Government’s recent decision.
The Government of Canada, through the announced CF-18 replacement process, will replace our current fleet with an aircraft that meets Canada’s defence needs and equips the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with the aircraft it requires to carry out the missions the Government asks of it. I would add that the safety of CAF members is of paramount concern to the Government of Canada. We are committed to replacing the CF-18 with a fighter aircraft that offers a high degree of survivability and reliability in all environments, whether at home or abroad.
The Committee’s fourth recommendation, on air-to-air refueling, reflects an important capability for enabling some of the CAF’s key missions and has been a consideration as my Department assesses the capability needs of the CAF over the coming decades in the context of the Defence Policy Review.
In reference to your other recommendations, in order to provide comprehensive policy direction to National Defence, the review process will examine and assess the security environment, establish a vision for defence, and offer broad capability guidance. It will also explore thematic issues such as personnel, global engagement priorities, innovation and procurement, among others. The assessment of the security environment is an especially important piece. It includes careful consideration of the potential threats and challenges that Canada faces today and into the future, including both conventional and asymmetric threats.
Our new defence policy will address a number of the issues raised in your report. For instance, with regard to recommendations five through ten, the new policy will emphasize the importance of air sovereignty and awareness. This includes, of course, the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles, and the US Ballistic Missile Defence program. On all of these issues, inputs from the public and experts engaged on this issue were considered as part of our analysis.
Regarding Canada’s North, as mentioned in recommendations 11 and 12, the effects of climate change and growing interest in the Arctic are of concern to National Defence. They are generating greater demand for a CAF presence in the region, including through surveillance and monitoring. To that end, northern surveillance and defences, including the future of the North Warning System, are important issues that will be addressed through the new defence policy.
Finally, as noted above, the policy review’s assessment of the security environment examines a range of threats Canada may face today and in the future. This includes emerging domains such as cyberspace, as you highlight in recommendation 13 of your report. While the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring adequate safeguards are in place to protect Canada and Canadians from cyberattacks by foreign governments and non-state actors, it is important to note that Public Safety leads policy coordination under Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy. National Defence plays an important supporting role by protecting its own networks and working with federal partners to identify threats and possible responses. National Defence is also working to develop its cyber capabilities and workforce to fully integrate cyber operations into military missions. These efforts will be outlined in detail in Canada’s new defence policy. I would be remiss in not also mentioning Public Safety’s ongoing review of measures in place to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber threats.
Let me finish by saying that providing the CAF with the equipment and resources they need to carry out the tasks assigned to them has formed a key component of our consultations. Capability requirements for operations at home and abroad, situational awareness, and intelligence are all being considered. Our goal is to ensure the CAF have the tools they need to safely and effectively perform the missions set by our Government.
Again, thank you and the other members of the Committee for undertaking such a thorough study to produce this report. Be assured that your conclusions and recommendations have informed and will be reflected in Canada’s new defence policy.
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, P.C., O.M.M., C.D., M.P.