Planning the army’s future
Canada has a great army – one steeled in combat and possessing a special warrior ethos. The ranks are filled with highly motivated, confident and well trained soldiers and leaders who make me fiercely proud of their skill, strength and devotion. Tomorrow will be different and it is these differences that demand study so that the army is prepared to exploit opportunity and is poised for the future.
The issues that concern me are: our transition from Afghanistan in 2011; the Family of Land Combat Systems (FLCS); anticipated resource challenges; and the continued and necessary movement towards increased jointness. I believe that a process of reorientation and development is required that will lead to a powerful 2021 Army of Tomorrow concept consistent with Canadian Forces 2020 strategy.
Building a combat effective force for the asymmetric threats and non-contiguous battlespace of the future will require an amended approach to training and our Managed Readiness Plan (MRP); structural adjustments based on some guiding principles; and a rebalance between the field force and the institutional army coupled with a reinvestment in Combat Service Support to ensure sustainability.
The army will continue to be an infantry-based, medium-weight force, capable of full-spectrum operations, which exploits the concepts and culture of the combined arms team. The priority will remain force generation and support to deployed operations. However, as the July 2011 transition in Afghanistan approaches, we will take this opportunity to consolidate what has been gained by almost a decade of combat experience, and shift our attention to the recovery of our soldiers and equipment, the re-set of our fleets and the integration of new capabilities.
The acquisition and integration of FLCS – modern systems that will serve the army for many years – will offer our soldiers better protection, improved mobility and precise lethality. Fleet renewal includes procurement completion of the Leopard 2 main battle tank; light armoured vehicle (LAV III) and long-range surveillance systems upgrades; and the acquisition of close combat vehicles, tactical armoured patrol vehicles, armoured engineer vehicles and armoured recovery vehicles.
The army leadership will also look carefully at the potential offered in continued joint operations along with the interdependencies that will be created by joint enablers such as a joint support ship, medium/heavy lift helicopters, and the JUSTAS unmanned aerial vehicle. There are other joint initiatives that are vital to our ability to fight on the battlefields of tomorrow including enhanced command and control, space-based enablers and cyber defence, to name a few.
The senior leadership of the army is focusing renewed attention on all elements tied to manning and structure, resources, and the capacity that enables the force generation of both Regular and Reserve field forces. We intend to place renewed emphasis on rebuilding training and sustainment structures through internal re-investment. Much of the preparation for the future will be planned through the Army’s Force 2013 Comprehensive Review, designed to leave the army on a stable platform from which to advance towards 2021. Force 2013 will look at a broad array of issues, beginning with individual and collective training; the Managed Readiness Plan; further integration of the Regular force and the army Reserve; FLCS; army structure; jointness and joint enablers; CF Strategic Review; CF 2020 and CF Transformation; and, balance and sustainment.
Train to excite
We have determined that Level 5 live-fire combined-arms training must be the minimum level of training for all units. Anything less would be a grave disservice to Canadian soldiers. The army will identify mission-specific training required for units that have been put on notice for deployment on a particular operation. Further, the Managed Readiness Plan will be lengthened to eight months to respect soldier skill and sustainment needs.
We must also emphasize the need for training that will challenge our personnel both intellectually and physically, training I have called “train to excite.” The army will renew emphasis on training for parachute and airmobile operations, as well as winter warfare and presence in Canada’s North. We will consider the construct of properly resourced light infantry battalions as well as an airmobile capability based on a unit construct in order to optimize the potential of the medium-heavy lift Chinook helicopters that will be based in Petawawa. We will also develop an improved understanding of the skill-sets required for operations in mountainous, jungle and amphibious environments.
Professional development for soldiers will receive renewed focus over the coming years. The operational tempo in Afghanistan has meant that many junior officers and senior non-commissioned members have been training for deployment or leading soldiers on operations; they will now have an opportunity to complete courses and further enhance their qualifications.
In our planning for the way ahead, we will seek a structural balance that is conducive to managed readiness, further integrates Regular and Reserve forces, and effectively integrates force enablers. I have asked that this be done respectful of area, base and training area capacities, and that it be done based on operational taskings. As examples, our heavy fleets should be concentrated where we train with them and the army should leverage the focus provided by the Reserve Territorial Battalion Groups.
Further, asymmetry within both Regular and Reserve force Combat Mechanized Brigade Groups and Combat Brigade Groups, as well as within corps and branches, is acceptable given that the way the army will fight for the foreseeable future will demand task-tailored forces. Inter-corps or branch bias, cultural barriers and tradition will not be allowed to influence the search for effective solutions.
We have developed a number of capabilities for the fight in Afghanistan, such as counter-IED and intelligence support, to name only two. The army will conduct a review of these force enablers and decide whether they are to be permanently integrated into existing units, newly-formed units or sub-units, retained as a centre of excellence function or divested completely.
Reinvestment and rebalance
Creating a more sustainable Land Force will require reinvestment in the Combat Service Support and Support communities. This is especially important given the complexity of fleets that will be introduced into the field force, as well as the complicated nature of dispersed operations in the future. Force 2013 will help determine the manning and qualifications that will be required to maintain the army’s new fleets of combat vehicles and assist in the planning for courses and sustainment of those fleets.
Results of the army’s review and planning process will be designed to dovetail with the results of the CF Strategic Review and the CF Transformation initiatives underway. Results from these studies are expected to begin in the Spring of 2011.
The army is at a unique juncture in its history as we repatriate the force from nearly 10 years of sustained engagement in combat operations. We must smartly institutionalize “the goodness” from this experience while it is fresh. The joint, combined and interagency lessons learned need to be fully synthesized, analyzed and codified in a way that captures our full experience to the benefit of future capabilities. This is perishable – if we are not imbued with a sense of urgency, institutional memory will fade. Moreover, the debate that is part of this process will make the army stronger.
I believe that the future will be complex and uncertain. It will be dominated by continuous globalization, technological advances, demographic change, resource demands, climate change, radical fundamentalism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We will see conflict change from the above trends with increasingly diverse actors. The response to the threats of tomorrow will demand an army capable of the full-spectrum of operations inside a strong CF and alongside multinational partners, supporting civil authorities, while deterring and defeating a complex enemy. Our army will be flexible, agile, lethal, interoperable, expeditionary and sustainable.
The Canadian army needs to be combat-capable, built on units that foster strong branch and corps skills as well as powerful espirit de corps. Our units will be part of formations that conduct relevant combined arms training. Battle groups will be built on sub units deliberately selected for their expertise, where the all-arms capability is well coordinated and synchronized to deliver precise effects on the battlefield. Canadian soldiers will shoot, move and communicate with agility and precise lethality.
The future is bright and I am resolutely optimistic about the strength of our army and the direction in which we are moving. By harnessing the efforts of the great men and women who make up the Land Force, we are on the road to making our great army an even better one for the future.
Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin is Chief of the Land Staff. A version of this article was originally published in the Canadian Military Journal.