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Broadsword or rapier? Canadian Forces involvement in 21st century coalition operations

In July 2007 the Canadian Defence Academy/Canadian Forces Leadership Institute was tasked by the Strategic Joint Staff to determine the requirements, expectations and capacity of the CF and Canada to act as both a partner and a leader in current and future coalition operations.

In a report title Broadsword or Rapier?, a multi-disciplinary team consisting of uniformed military officers, a civilian academic, a Canadian foreign service officer on academic leave and a retired senior CF officer identified fourteen major issues or themes during the project’s analysis. Each is important, and all need to be addressed on their own merits.

Intellectual agility
Most of those interviewed accurately described an operating environment of great complexity and unpredictability. Many of those who had experienced these complex situations saw the need for greatly improved problem-solving and decision-making skills; that is to say, different and more sophisticated cognitive capacities. The CF must develop CF members who can transcend the deeply embedded cognitive orientation towards linear analytical and reductionist thinking. This must be done by educating, training and experiencing CF members in systems thinking. Methodologies to accomplish this include soft systems methodology, recognition-primed decision making theory and systemic approaches to operational design.

Whole-of-government approach
The requirement to address operations in failing and failed states in a coherent, whole-of-government manner was formally recognized in policy terms with the publication of the International Policy Statement of 2005. Broadsword or Rapier made a number of recommendations to enhance DND/CF ability to prosecute such operations:
· A centre of excellence should be established comprising experts from all relevant departments to ensure an integrated approach to developing doctrine, training and education for “whole of government” operations.
· The CF needs to develop greater cooperation between different education systems such as Canadian Defence Academy, Canadian Forces College, Canadian Foreign Service Institute, Canadian Police College and the Canada School of the Public Service. This cooperation should include curriculum development, course design and implementation.

Full spectrum operations
Afghanistan is certainly the most complicated, costly and dangerous operation that the CF has undertaken since Korea. In addition, the current “vision” of operations in the CF foresees continued involvement in dangerous conflict in littoral zones and more land-centric operations elsewhere. Preparing for the full spectrum of operations clearly requires that the CF retain its multi-purpose combat capability policy. However, the CF must remain cognizant of the wide variety of missions undertaken since the end of the Cold War and what this may portend for the future. Therefore, the CF should retain expertise and capacity to participate in the full spectrum of multilateral peace operations, including those led by the United Nations.

Tactical versus operational/strategic perspectives
Historically, the CF was employed on operations at the tactical level. Separate land, sea and air elements were assigned to operational-level headquarters of either other nations or international organizations. This continued to be common practice even after the Cold War and, in fact, it is only recently that true operational-level headquarters and a dedicated strategic staff was established in the CF.

Therefore, many, if not most, Colonels and Flag/General officers retain a tactical perspective and lack insight and capability at the operational and strategic levels. Consideration should be given to seek a modest increase in the number of Flag/General Officers in the CF to provide the necessary redundancy to seize strategic/operational employment opportunities at the operational and strategic levels in coalition headquarters, NATO headquarters and at the UN, both in New York and in select missions.

Capability enhancements
The most obvious capability gap that mitigates against Canada’s ability to fully assume lead nation status in joint coalition operations is the CF’s lack of formation level forces. Furthermore, assuming full leadership of coalition operations demands a rapidly deployable, standing operational level headquarters. Any such headquarters must be designed to include the full range of both civil and military capabilities from the pre-deployment phase.

In addition, the Navy needs to improve its capability in the whole area of amphibious operations in terms of doctrine and expertise.

Command and control
There are inherent tensions and contradictions involved when a military command and control construct is overlaid with a “whole of government” approach to operations, which is then further complicated in multinational settings. Common understanding, terminology and practices will have to be developed at all interfaces between military forces and civilian agencies.

Unity of effort is the desired outcome when unity of command is inappropriate, or frankly, impossible. In fact, there is already some quasi-formal doctrinal discussion going on in the U.K. and the U.S. suggesting that, for example, for complex, multi-agency operations the concepts of Focus and Convergence may be more effective in achieving mission success than those of command and control.

Cultural intelligence
To develop the capacity for cultural intelligence, the CF must develop formal doctrine and introduce this subject into its professional development framework. The CF should seek opportunities for officers and NCOs to be assigned to exchange positions with foreign militaries, attend allied courses and be seconded to Foreign Affairs (at home and abroad), CIDA, other OGDs and appropriate NGOs. These positions should be selected strategically to build up strategic partnerships in key regions and/or issues of importance to Canada.

Linkages should also be strengthened between the Canadian Foreign Service Institute of Foreign Affairs’ Centre for Inter-Cultural Learning and CDA, CEFCOM and Chief of Force Development.

Information operations
The CF does not yet understand information operations (IO) sufficiently well nor is it practiced effectively, notwithstanding the acceptance of the importance of IO in irregular warfare and the need to look closely at the real allocation of resources to the IO function in all staffs.

The concept of IO is the coherent employment of information, broadly defined, to support the objectives of coalition operations generally and to enhance the prospects of each major line of operation (MLO) in an integrated manner. IO directly targets the opposition to refute their master narratives and undermine support both locally and internationally, for their actions and objectives.

The CF needs to foster a better understanding of IO. IO should figure prominently in all formal CF professional development. Up-to-date joint IO doctrine needs to be produced. This should be a formal tasking from the Strategic Joint Staff that provides appropriate guidance and designates an office of primary interest for its development and completion.

Mission command
Mission command in coalition operations is difficult to achieve for at least three reasons. First, nationally, the nature of coalition operations often generates enormous political pressures demanding near-instantaneous and continuous “full situational awareness” in Ottawa. This causes both strategic and operational level headquarters to frequently err on the side of micro-management. This situation can only be mitigated by on-going dialogue and focused efforts to educate policy makers and senior officials on the nature of these operations and to build ever-greater trust and mutual confidence in each other’s intentions, capability and performance.

Second, CF officers need to remain sensitive to the fact that many potential coalition partners do not understand or practice mission command. This will often be particularly true on UN operations.

Third, most coalition operations of the type discussed in the Report will be conducted on a whole-of-government basis. The CF’s inter-agency partners do not practice mission command as it is defined doctrinally by the CF. They operate more in terms of focus, convergence and consensus. Military leaders must be cognizant of this reality and adapt their expectations accordingly.

Training
Training at the tactical level has improved vastly over the past five years. This applies especially to kinetic operations but such improvement does not necessarily extend to the integration of non-kinetic components. There remains considerable difficulty in getting the whole-of-government team together for early and extended training. Everyone agrees that once deployed, the teams are committed to “making it work” and they generally do. However, most of those involved stated that this often took up to two months as people grappled with different “operational” philosophies, procedures and organizational cultures. A number of measures discussed under the headings of Whole-of-Government and Professional Development will greatly assist in mitigating the problem by helping partners understand each others’ perspectives even if the ideal training scenarios cannot be achieved.

Professional development
Development through experience generally involves broader exposure to other environments and institutions through joint and combined assignments, exchange jobs with other government departments and allied militaries, and maximizing educational experiences with civilian universities.

Formal professional development in the areas of education and training is currently based on the General Specification (GS) system. However, the OGS/NCMGS system is an industrial age mechanism that is unresponsive to the operational demands of complex, non-linear irregular warfare. A new competencies-based framework is required to identify the full range of competencies necessary. This approach, called the Professional Development Framework (PDF), is being developed at the Canadian Defence Academy.

The PDF addresses five meta-competencies spanning four levels – junior, intermediate, advanced and senior. The five meta-competencies are: expertise, cognitive capacities, social capacities, change capacities and professional ideology.

Developing indigenous security forces
Training indigenous forces, military and police, will remain a key role of the CF and it may often be its main role in future coalition operations. Such training and mentoring must extend from the tactical level through to the political-strategic and be integrated into holistic security system reform programs developed in accordance with sustainable models of development.

Mentors and trainers must be carefully selected and trained. Their military skills must be first-class and they must be trained to operate in small groups, often at a distance from Canadian command and support systems. To that end, the CF should seek increased opportunities for selected junior officers and sergeants to attend the U.S. Army Special Forces course, while also looking for opportunities to develop Canadian courses and/or curricula.

Troops assigned to train local forces require a far higher level of Cultural Intelligence than their counterparts in Battle Groups and CSS units. In addition, selected troops with high Modern Language Aptitude Test scores should be provided with about three months of intensive language training and cultural exposure.

Leadership lessons learned
No one interviewed for this project felt that he/she had been thoroughly debriefed personally from a strictly “leadership lessons learned” perspective. Clearly, there appears to be a requirement for a rigorous and disciplined system for “debriefing the leader” that allows “softer” lessons of leadership challenges to be captured and injected formally and in a timely manner into the Chief of Force Development lessons learned framework. These kinds of issues can only be accessed through a leader-oriented lessons learned process. Such a process must be operated centrally. It must be mandatory for all of those identified by this new Centre to attend a one- to two-day debriefing based on a structured protocol. Analyzed results must also be linked directly to the CF’s professional development system.

Non-Canadian perspectives on coalition operations
It was widely agreed that Canada is better at force projection than most other NATO nations and retains a strong reputation in NATO and in coalition operations. As one officer stated, “Canada has made itself expeditionary.” However, several observations were raised that should be addressed.

Operational/Strategic leaders must always be looking out two to five years in terms of the operation in question. Many leaders at this level get too distracted by tactical issues. As one officer said, the danger is that “you lose the operational/ strategic aim for tactical success.”

Conclusion
The Strategic Joint Staff, with the support of CDA/CFLI is currently developing an implementation plan that will provide guidance, and direction where necessary, to make improvements in all of the areas identified in Broadsword or Rapier? in the coming months.

LCol Bill Bentley is Research Officer with the Canadian Defence Academy. To view the entire report, including a bibliography on papers and books on this and related topics, visit www.cda-acd.mil.ca/cfli/engraph/home_e.asp.

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