Jointness in the Canadian Forces, Challenges and Recommendations for Chile

In the process of developing capabilities, one looks to others for examples, both for those to emulate, and others to avoid. In the development of joint force capabilities, is Canada an example to emulate or avoid? The Canadian Forces have been a unified, single force since 1968; but is that reality or illusion? Are they Joint? How did this capability develop?

The Canadian experience
“Joint”, an adjective used to describe activities,
operations, organizations in which elements
of at least two services participate,1
is the “Buzzword”
of the day, with most forces trying to
identify as, or demonstrate joint capabilities.
Why? Field Marshall, the Viscount Montgomery
of Alamein is quoted as saying:
If the United Kingdom were today a recently
created state organizing her fighting forces, it is
inconceivable that they would be separated into
three services.
The separation of a country’s military forces
REVISMAR 1 /2014 21
conceive of anything else. Why? Anecdotally, it
can be seen in the nature of the naval seniority
among the three services within Canada and
other Commonwealth forces. The British Navy
was established as a permanent force as early
as the sixteenth century, while armies were
raised for particular campaigns or actions.
The anecdote further explains that a standing
organized and trained army was always a threat
to the Monarch. A nobleman with the loyalty of
the army could contest the King’s authority and
position. The Navy, on the other hand, could only
wage war offshore and as such did not threaten
the Monarch’s authority.
Given our history of separate services, why go
joint now? In the conflicts of today, the scope
of the conflict is greater, involving all aspects
of a nation’s capability. The co-ordination of all
forces against an adversary’s centre of gravity
can greatly improve the effectiveness of that
effort. Joint activities are a means to integrate
or unify that effort.
The Canadian Government, leading a “recently
created state”, has been trying to integrate and
/ or unify the Canadian Forces since they were
created. The Royal Canadian Navy was created
4 May, 1910. The unification process began in
1922, with the merger of the departments of
the Navy and Army into one department for
National Defence, though little integration was
achieved. The second significant step was taken
in 1947 when Defence Minister Brooke Claxton
tried to reduce the inefficiencies of the three
services, particularly in support functions such
as supply, administration and medical. However,
as his solution was to have one institution (the
Army) support the other services, leaving the
Navy and Air Force without control over their
support, this initiative failed. However, he did
succeed in unifying the service colleges into
one tri-service college for all cadets, providing
common basic training for all officers facilitating
better understanding between officers of the
different institutions.
The first development with significant success
was the integration and unification of the Canadian
Forces in the 1960’s. Defence Minister Paul
Hellyer set about restructuring the forces to
resolve many problems related to command
and control, wherein each service chief had a
veto over defence decisions, and there were
over 200 inter-service committees in various
aspects of defence policy and planning, causing
many decisions and initiatives to be stagnated.
His analysis was supported by both the Glassco
Commission and the Special Commission on
He enacted Bill C-90 to integrate the
Canadian Forces, including a change to one
Chief of Defence Staff, a single command over
the Navy, Army and Air Force, with one national
staff, Canadian Forces Headquarters (CFHQ).
This streamlining of strategic command and
staff processes was intended to reduce costs,
allowing more money for capital investments, as
well as reducing the rivalry that existed between
the services.
This action was followed by Bill C-243 in 1967,
which unified the Canadian Forces. Firstly, it
merged the civilian “Department of National
Defence” with CFHQ (the military command
structure). It also eliminated the Royal Canadian
Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air
Force, creating one “Canadian Armed Forces”.
It eliminated the distinctions of the individual
services, establishing one common green uniform
for all. Ironically, it undid many of the benefits
of the integration of 1964. The combination of
the military and civilian staff increased strategic
bureaucracy, while the three commands, Maritime
Command (the Navy), Mobile Command (the
Army) and Air Command (the Air Force) continued
much as independent services. The elimination
of service distinctive uniforms and identifiers
resonated in the hearts of sailors and soldiers
alike, who taught and reinforced distinctions
and rivalries at every opportunity. Canada’s
forces were unified (and by definition joint) in
name only.
Additionally, at this time, Canada’s defence was
focused on the cold war and as such, her US and
NATO allies. National defence was entrenched in
inter-operability with her allies, which operated
within distinct services. Maritime Command
conducted most operations, training and activities
3. The Glassco report, as quoted in Bland, Douglas, The Evolution of Post-Cold War command and Control in the CF, 2. Organization (Kingston School of Policy
Studies, Queen’s University, 1998) 70.
ESCENARIOS DE ACTUALIDAD: Jointness in the Canadian Forces, challenges and recommendations for Chile
in coalition with other NATO navies. The Army
and Air Force did likewise.
Some aspects of “joint” did develop however.
Key among them was a change that made
anything that flew an Air Force asset. Shipborne
helicopters were Air Force aircraft flown by
a detachment of Air Force pilots and crew.
Likewise, Army helicopters for troop movements
and observations were also Air Force. While this
made every activity and operation, by definition,
joint, it created many problems. Little effort was
expended establishing joint doctrine, resulting in
more stagnation and bureaucracy. Tactical level
problems were resolved as they were essentially
organic assets; however Command and Control
remained an issue, as the Air Force retained
operational Command, limiting naval/army
commander’s flexibility in their employment.
As well, air detachments frequently experienced
conflicting orders from their air and naval/army
chains of command. The stability of the cold
war did little to encourage anyone to resolve
to these problems.
The end of the cold war and emergence of other
conflicts highlighted the deficiencies in Canada’s
defence organization. For the first Gulf War of
1991, NDHQ did not have the capacity to plan
and execute an operation of this magnitude, as
most of the staff capability had been devolved to
the three environmental Commands. Secondly,
the US shift to Joint Operations, as mandated by
the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 meant that
Canada had to plan and lead in a joint manner,
or be left out of the coalition decision process.
The UK’s decision to also shift to a joint command
structure further solidified the need for change
in Canada. The controversy over a unified or
“joint” structure versus a service level coalition
with allies became a non-discussion. To work
in coalition with her allies, Canada needed to
become joint.
Developing a joint capability
How did Canada develop a true joint capability?
Several steps were instrumental, one of which
was the establishment of the Joint Task List,
which defined force development in terms of
joint national requirements rather than service
threats or requirements. It allowed for better
co-ordination, evaluation and prioritization
of diverse acquisition and force development
projects. The Joint Capabilities Review Board
assures that resources are allocated to counter
the highest national risk.
Secondly, Canada’s forces were reorganized
to separate force development from force
employment, placing all operations under
joint operational commanders. 1 February, 2006,
Canadian Expeditionary Force Command was
established to command all operations beyond
Canadian (and US) boarders. Canada Command
would command all domestic operations (in cooperation
with US NorthCom). Canadian Special
Operations Command and Canadian Operational
Support Command completed the operational
command structure. The service commands
would be responsible for the development and
deployment of forces. While these replaced a single
Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, which commanded
(on behalf of the Chief of Defence Staff) only
major operations and deployments, DCDS never
had the staff to adequately plan and execute
these operations and relied upon significant
staff support from other commands. These new
commands were built with sufficient staff power
for command and control of operations and
removed the grey area when smaller operations
intensified to warrant national command.
While these commands clarified and simplified
many aspects of operational command and
control, they resulted in significant duplication
of structures and overhead. As a result, CEFCOM,
CANADACOM and CANOSCOM were combined 5
October, 2012 to form Canadian Joint Operations
Command, one joint authority for all operations,
with the exception of Special Forces operations.
It was structured with sufficient staff assets to
control the full breadth of Canadian Operations.
So how have these steps contributed or
detracted from Canada’s joint capabilities?
Canada has sought to integrate her forces
throughout her military history. In many ways,
this integration is a joint capability, taken one
or more steps further. Numerous attempts have
been made over Canada’s history to achieve
better integrated capabilities, truly innovative and
ahead of their time. These efforts have generally
REVISMAR 1 /2014 23
yielded to intrinsic reticence to
change and determination to
maintain the status quo. In reality,
it was not Canadian innovative
thought that finally drove Canada
to joint capability, but the more
assertive action of her allies that
Canada followed. It was the shift of
the combined environment from
service based to joint operations
that dragged the CF into the joint
So has Canada achieved “Joint”?
Let’s look at the integration of
her services, the intentions
and achievements. First and
foremost, a unified command
structure was sought, to be able
to prioritize actions and needs
from a perspective of the entire
defence, and not just maritime
or aerospace defence. This was
technically achieved in 1968 with
unification. However, the strength
and influence of the environmental
commanders and the need for
consensus among them watered
down the effectiveness of this
command. It was not until the
2000’s that strong leadership, a restructuring in a
joint fashion and a separation of force generation
from employment enabled the establishment of
a strong Central Command.
The common administration of the CF was
achieved in 1968, with common standing orders
and operating principles, though many aspects
have improved with time. The merging of many
aspects of training, establishing common courses
where feasible has enhanced a sense of teamwork
and interoperability of people within the three
services. This includes a single military college
and staff college.
Have these developments created “joint”?
It can certainly be argued that the integration
of the three services has contributed to better
understanding and co-operative nature
between the services. Common training in a
joint environment is a particularly significant
contributor. But this integration has, for the most
part, been in support and administration, not in
operations where joint activities contribute to
better military effectiveness. Three key events
have led to the most significant developments
in joint capabilities.
Firstly, the shift of Canada’s key allies from
service based operations to joint operations
dragged Canada into the joint environment.
The separation of force development (largely
service based) and force employment greatly
supported this change. It has driven a command
perspective of the total force package and best
utilization of all available assets toward objectives
and requirements. Lastly, the establishment of
the Joint Task List and related processes to assure
that overall force development is based upon a
balanced, national needs perspective, rather that
specific improvements to individual services.
Has this made Canada “Joint”? One would have
to state “no” at this point. Canada’s development of
joint capabilities has been very recent, despite the
ESCENARIOS DE ACTUALIDAD: Jointness in the Canadian Forces, challenges and recommendations for Chile
illusion of 50 years of integration and unification.
Canada still has many doctrinal issues to be
addressed as joint becomes defined and processes
refined. But progress is being made and is
advancing rapidly.
Can the Canadian experience be useful to
a country like Chile?
How can Chile benefit from these experiences?
Some of the aspects of the Canadian situation
are truly Canadian. Chile is a distinctly different
country, in a different geographic region with
different threats and advantages. Though the
countries have forces of similar sizes and both
represent middle power nations, their current
force capabilities and needs are very different.
Canada faces few threats to her territorial integrity
with a very close political and military alliance
with her only neighbour. By contrast, Chile’s
environment in South America does not have the
same degree of political and military cohesiveness.
South America has seen several armed conflicts
within the last few decades and full confidence
and trust in neighbours as allies has not been
as clearly established. As such, Chile’s forces
are more geared to independent operations
rather than combined operations with other
forces. Chile’s path to joint must be “made in
Chile”. However, the evaluation of Canada’s path
indicates several attributes which could assist
Chile in her path to Joint.
Firstly, the foremost obstruction to achieving
joint capabilities was the strength and authority
within the individual services over that of the joint,
national overall perspective. The commander of
the Navy, for example, is by definition tasked to
produce the best navy possible. It is difficult for
a service commander to “slow” the development
of his command, to allow another to grow, even
if it is in the nation’s best interest. It is important
that the aspects of Joint Command be of higher
rank and influence than that of individual service
institutions. Within Canada, the Joint Commander
(CDS) was one rank higher and technically in
command of the three service chiefs. However,
the level of influence of these commanders,
through access to the minister/political level,
and the influence of non-military interest groups
REVISMAR 1 /2014 25
(honorary colonels, retired officers) frequently
overpowered the joint aspects of the CDS.
Secondly, the needs and benefits of joint must
be clear to all, and particularly the leadership of
the services. When Canada’s allies were not joint,
no amount of political push resulted in significant
joint development. With Canada’s key alliances
going joint, Canada had to follow in order to
remain influential in the command decision
process. Though Chile’s operations are largely
independent, consideration must be made to
her involvement in combined activities such as
MINUSTAH and PANAMAX. Combined operations
of today are changing quickly to “joint” structures
and a nation’s ability and influence within these
organizations is based upon their ability to work
in this joint environment.
Lastly, Canada could not develop joint
capabilities without developing a leadership
with joint understanding and knowledge. This
is more than just academic instruction, but an
understanding of how the different environments
work and think. The different aspects of warfare
lead to different thought processes that need
to be understood at the joint level. The more
training common to the three services (such as
cadet academy training and staff training) that
can be taught in a joint environment will assist
in developing a cadre of joint officers.
So is Canada’s path to joint a process to be
emulated or avoided? There are aspects of both
present and the challenge for Chile is which to
emulate and which to avoid. Despite a long
history of attempts, Canada’s joint capability is
new and incomplete. Those aspects to emulate
are firstly, a clear vision of where Chile is going
with respect to joint capabilities and more
importantly, why. Secondly, the authority and
influence of joint aspects needs to predominate
over the services. A joint command structure will
ensure that you get the army or navy needed,
while the opposite is not assured. Finally, every
opportunity should be taken to study and train
in a joint environment, fostering improved
understanding and compatibility. These are the
lessons from Canada’s struggle that portend the
greatest benefit to Chile.

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