The Canadian Forces are building for a new future based on experiences of the past ten years. Continuous combat in Afghanistan, earthquake relief operations in Haiti, and support to domestic contingencies such as the Vancouver Olympics and G8/G20 Summits have compelled the military to become more rapidly adaptable.

Now, as it examines the larger picture and attempts to institutionalize the best of what has been learned, the CF faces the challenge of validating those lessons. While the navy, army and air force have gathered and assessed best practices gleaned from their respective fields, to date there has been less progress in gathering and learning ‘joint’ lessons at the operational and strategic levels – the lessons of joint and integrated operations that can help prepare the force for whatever new challenges lie ahead.

To this end, the CF is in the process of developing doctrine for integrated operations. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, has articulated a vision that emphasizes a self-reliant, integrated and operationally-focused military force, working with and supporting other government departments and civilian agencies both domestically and internationally.

Last summer, National Defence stood up the Canadian Forces Warfare Centre (CFWC), a joint capability development innovation centre and testbed for the CF. Under the direction of Chief of Force Development, the CFWC assesses and experiments with new and emerging concepts – from how to conduct joint and integrated operations to identifying required command and control structures and processes. Focused at the operational and strategic levels, the CFWC major business lines include joint concept development, doctrine, lessons learned, experimentation and training.

Colonel Ken Chadder, the commanding officer of the CFWC, sees this unique unit as an ‘enabler’ to ensure that CF level lessons observed are validated, leading to new best practices and doctrine, what he calls “institutionalizing strategic learning.”

“Effective stewardship of CF joint lessons learned is important,” says LCol (ret’d) Dave McComb, the centre’s joint capability development team lead. “We’ve done a great job at the tactical level, and to a degree at the operational level (Canadian Expeditionary Force Command and Canada Command). But more work is needed at the strategic level. We must be able to translate this learning into real change that enhances our abilities as a military force, a department and a nation to respond quickly and effectively to the next crisis or operation. Once we put in place a more effective and formal process supported by a smarter and friendlier Lessons Learned Knowledge Management System (KMS), all three operating levels will be intrinsically linked together and, moreover, the process will become a part of the CF’s learning culture. This institutionalized approach to learning will lead to new and updated best practices and doctrine based on this culture of continuous learning. If it is not the top priority for the CDS at the moment, it is very close.”

Leveraging expertise
Tucked away at the back of a research park at Shirley’s Bay in Ottawa’s west end, the CFWC is little more than a handful of trailers latched together, prompting Col Chadder to jokingly refer to his staff as “trailer trash.” The CO also noted in a bow to austerity, that “with a possible move to a new facility on the horizon, we have avoided erecting permanent buildings; we simply add more trailers as required during experiments in which the usual coterie of 50 staff can grow to over 200.”

The CFWC may be a new unit, but it has a strong pedigree of excellent work to build on courtesy of its predecessor, the CF Experimentation Centre (CFEC), created in 2001 to lead national and multinational concept development and experimentation. LGen Andrew Leslie, then the newly appointed Chief of Transformation, on behalf of the CDS, officially changed the name on 17 June 2010.

Its foundation may lie with CFEC, but CFWC’s mandate is much broader, says McComb, a former fighter pilot who has worked in both organizations. “In addition to experimentation, we conceive and develop joint concepts, produce and manage joint doctrine, manage joint lessons learned and facilitate joint, combined and distributed education, training and mission rehearsal – we support these activities by connecting folks over a national and international joint training and experimentation network so that they can communicate with each other and share data.”

In a nutshell, he said, “this is about developing new capabilities and laying the foundation for the delivery of those capabilities.”

For the most part, the CFWC focuses on a one- to 15-year timeframe, what the Forces refer to as Horizons 1 and 2, but its concept development work extends out 20-25 years and it also has customers looking for near-term solutions that may be required within months. It is a balancing act between directly supporting today’s operations and those of the future.

With such a wide mandate, the CFWC is still defining its initial operating capability, McComb said. “Our capacity is quite limited at the moment for what we do. It’s not a matter of capability; we’ve got some great skill sets, we just don’t have enough of them.” He expects that to change over the next several years as the demand for capability development requirements increases. “For the resources we have, we are punching well above our weight,” Chadder adds.

In part to counter the present shortage of people, the centre leverages relationships within the larger CF force development community including the environmental warfare centres, the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis and Defence Research and Development Canada, as well as the broader Canadian and international science and technology communities.

CFWC growth hinges to an extent on DND/CF Transformation, which will ultimately shape the CDS’ priorities. “We think we’re doing a good job, but Transformation will drive where we are going,” Chadder acknowledges. “Strategic Review and Transformation have opened everyone’s eyes to the fact that we need to do things smarter and leverage expertise and other capabilities at all levels to avoid duplication and to recognize that the force development process is an interdependent activity.”

To help influence transformation priorities and to enhance collaboration, he chairs a meeting twice a year of the CF Force Development Community of Practice, aimed at enhancing understanding of what each of the services and national force development staffs are doing and how their activities can be synchronized and integrated. “This is in support of the joint agenda, for the most part, and at the operational and strategic levels,” he noted. “Indeed, over the last year and a half, there has been a real consensus to work together to move the joint agenda forward.”

Joint battle laboratory
The centrepiece of the warfare centre is the Joint Battle Lab (JBL) and the Integrated Test Bed (ITB) representing a networked-enabled environment for experimentation and training. This rapidly reconfigurable test bed is built upon four large databases – command and control, communications, geomatics and modeling and simulation. The JBL can connect training and experimentation facilities and events across the country as well as with allies. With a range of networks and tools, the CFWC provides a flexible ‘sandbox’ that can be configured to support a range of unclassified and classified activities including the replication of joint, combined and interdepartmental operations or coordination centers. “Our interest has been on C2 systems, along with modeling and simulation and intelligence, but in the future we are adding cyberspace, electronic warfare, space, weather, including enhanced global geospatial information, and CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) capabilities,” said McComb.

At present and for the near term, the centre’s emphasis is on furthering the development of Joint Fires Support (JFS) capabilities, assisting in advancing the CF’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) agenda while enabling the development and training of 1st Canadian Division Headquarters. The CFWC will also collaborate closely with international partners, in particular US Joint Forces Command, the Five Eyes (Canada, US, UK, Australia, and NZ) and NATO Allied Command Transformation across a wide range of joint and combined (international) capability development and collective training activities that support Canadian defence policy and CF operational requirements.

The list of events and activities currently on the CFWC radar scope is a long one: the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID), the CFWC/DRDC Joint Fires Support Technology Demonstration Project, the Coalition Attack Guidance Experiment series, Allied Auroras, the Multi-National Experimentation series, Coalition Virtual Flag, Exercise Empire Challenge (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), the Bold Quest series (Combat Identification-focused) and JOINTEX (Joint Exercise). (For more on the JFS technology demonstration project, see page 28.)

JOINTEX represents the direction that the CFWC is heading with regard to facilitating collective joint education, training and mission rehearsal. With a vision of developing and conducting a series of exercises designed as a catalyst for furthering CF joint capability development at the operational level, the CDS’ intent is “to use this…to reinforce the joint and integrated efforts initially undertaken in Transformation and continued under the CF Structure Review,” said Chadder.

The centre will plan, conduct and report on JOINTEX Stage 3, which includes a CF General Officer/Flag Officer joint operations seminar and an international scenario-based, distributed and classified joint training event. The primary purpose of Stage 3 is to enable 1st Cdn Div HQ’s capability development and training. Applicable CF operational commands (Canadian Expeditionary Force Command and Canadian Operational Support Command) will also be involved.

Innovation leader
An important part of Chief of Force Development and CF Integrated Force Development efforts, the CFWC’s most significant attribute is likely providing leaders with validated information to support informed decision making. The centre can directly and indirectly enhance the CF’s ability to operate across the spectrum of conflict and range of operations, from the tactical through to the strategic levels. Its modus operandi of exploiting technology, forging partnerships, and being future-focused should ensure that solutions to problems are identified, tested, validated and put into the hands of operators sooner than ever before.

Its motto, Virtus per Innovatus (excellence and strength through innovation) is, indeed, fitting as it strives to be a capability innovator, leading the development and generation of a more integrated, relevant, interoperable and agile force.