The newly appointed Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, has tabled some far-reaching proposals for the structure and employment of the Canadian Forces.   His vision of joint task forces deploying quickly to troubled spots in the far reaches of the world will clearly call up the demand for not only the reallocation, but also an infusion of new resources.

Canadian soldiers are among the best in the world, but that level of competency does not come cheap.  As a nation, we can ill afford to have these highly skilled soldiers doing tasks that can be accomplished in a more efficient manner.  As such, the military will have to continue to seek innovative ways in which to channel and use its resources to best advantage.

One of these innovative measures, the use of contracted support, has been evolving and maturing at a rapid rate.  During the tumultuous 90s, the Canadian military found itself stretched to the limit.  The Army was reduced from four brigade groups to three, while the number, intensity and location of missions kept increasing.

Realizing that the focus of military capability must reside within the sharp end, the Canadian Forces developed and implemented an innovative, and highly successful, programme to augment its capabilities to provide logistic support.  Born of necessity, but given life through its success as part of the changing face of logistic support, the use of contracted support is now firmly entrenched as an option for support to deployed forces.

Contracted support is of course not a new concept.  In Vietnam, military and pseudo-military forces were using contractors not only in the rear areas but in the front lines as well.  One US-based contractor, PAE Government Services, had more than 30,000 employees serve during the Vietnam conflict, suffering a casualty rate in excess of 10 per cent.  The first Gulf War saw more than 9,500 contractors deployed throughout the Gulf region in direct support of the coalition effort.

For the Canadian Forces, their own major foray into the world of contracting began with a specific contract to support our forces in Bosnia.  Demands for a more flexible programme that could be used in any future theatre led to the creation of the Canadian Contractor Augmentation Programme (CANCAP).

The strategic intent of CANCAP is to provide the CF with operational flexibility through an enhanced support capacity.  The Contractor workforce replaces military personnel of a deployed contingent, thus permitting their re-deployment for other purposes. The use of CANCAP thus frees up military personnel for employment where their military skills are needed most.

The CANCAP Contractor provides the capability to plan, mobilize, and deploy key employees and equipment, hire local labour, and manage the delivery of a broad range of support services. In some circumstances, CANCAP may provide specific support services from the inception of an operation, if the situation permits.
CANCAP also facilitates the mobilization and deployment of support capabilities that do not exist within the CF. available domains . In the initial stages of an operation, contractor support can free up strategic lift resources for operational priorities and provide an additional delivery methodology for critically needed resources.  The contractor also provides additional flexibility to commanders when a cap is placed on the number of uniformed personnel that may be deployed to a given theatre.

Let in December of 2002, the CANCAP contract was awarded to a joint venture, SNC Lavalin/PAE.  As a joint venture, SNC Lavalin/PAE comes with quite a lineage.  Both of the parent companies, SNC Lavalin out of Montreal and Pacific Architects and Engineers out of Los Angeles, are international companies with offices and projects literally around the world.  This was to come in handy during the early stages of the current Afghanistan mission when the joint venture was able to leverage the capabilities of PAE, which was already operating in Kabul.

Once in place, the Canadian Forces quickly discovered just how useful the programme could be.  Following its use to support the Army’s major training exercise in 2003, CANCAP soon became a major player in support to the Canadian Forces in Bosnia – support that continued until closure of that mission in December of last year.  However, the major focus since early 2003, and continuing to this date, has been supporting the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.
Located just to the south west of the city of Kabul, Camp Julien is the home away from home for the majority of the Canadian soldiers  in Afghanistan.  Despite the challenges of living and working in that part of the world, Camp Julien has set an enviable standard amongst the NATO contingents.  Although it might be under canvas, every effort has been made to provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for our soldiers when they are not patrolling the streets of Kabul or the surrounding countryside.

The contractor is a key player, providing a wide range of services in everything from food services to bottled water to waste disposal.  By taking the initiative to drill wells and bottle water on site, the contractor has not only saved the Canadian government considerable money, but moreover ensured a reliable and safe water supply.  Establishing a modern waste disposal capability was not without its challenges, but this has become a key capability in meeting the high environmental standards pursued by Canadian Forces regardless of where in the world they operate.
Not only is the service good, but the CF has also reaped the benefits of not having to deploy highly trained soldiers to do tasks that can be done much cheaper by a contracted employee – one who comes fully trained and is only paid for the period of contracted employment.

Recent announcements about a continued and increased presence in Afghanistan will likely lead to a continued employment of CANCAP capabilities.  The current contract restricts support to the Canadian Forces, and only on deployed operations.  However, the Programme’s success might well lead to a broadening of the concept.

The recent emphasis on a “triple D approach” — involving defence, diplomacy and development — could create a demand for similar support to other government departments, including the various civilian police missions that Canada has proven to be so very good at.  The prime customer to date has been the Army, but with “jointness” on the rise, pressures on the Navy and Air Force to find support options using other than highly trained sailors or air men and women will likely grow.

The CANCAP approach, using a highly motivated contractor such as SNC Lavalin/PAE, with its worldwide capabilities, must certainly be an option.  Although contracted support was not used for the recent deployment of the DART, perhaps providing contracted logistic support might allow the DART to focus its efforts on its operational role.  If nothing else, this is food for thought.
By all accounts, General Hillier comes across as a no-nonsense commander with little time for those stuck in the past or procrastinators who might impede his march to a more flexible and capable Canadian Forces.  Anyone who is mildly engaged in the military debate will quickly appreciate that this dictates a focus on operational capabilities.  By relieving the need to employ highly trained military members on support duties, CANCAP has the potential to serve General Hillier well in this quest.


Ernest Beno, Brig Gen, (Ret’d), Senior Consultant Canada, PAE Government Services Inc.